In This Review

The Oxford Handbook of the Italian Economy Since Unification
The Oxford Handbook of the Italian Economy Since Unification
Edited by Gianni Toniolo
Oxford University Press, USA, 2013, 816 pp

In this volume, experts grapple with one of the great mysteries of modern economic history: Italy’s erratic growth. During the Renaissance, parts of the Italian peninsula were among Europe’s richest regions, yet the country stagnated from then until well after unification was completed, in 1870. In the early twentieth century, growth picked up, only to be dampened by war, global depression, and fascist mismanagement. After World War II, Italy unexpectedly became western Europe’s fastest-growing economy and second-largest exporter. Yet over the past decade, it has again suffered a severe setback, which these authors attribute to large budget deficits, poor adjustment to globalization by big firms, low investment in education and research, perverse wage demands, and the crushing effect of the euro on competitiveness. As one might expect from research sponsored by Italy’s central bank, the book downplays that final factor perhaps more than the detailed evidence warrants.