Marco Molteni

Measuring Bank Failures in Interwar Italy: Sources and Methods for a Comparative Account

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: bank failures, bankruptcy, Italian banking history, Great Depression

This paper gives a quantitative and geographical description of bank failures in Italy in the interwar period. It builds the first all-embracing account of Italian commercial banks filing for bankruptcy between July 1925 and March 1936. Using both secondary sources and primary documents from the archives of banking supervisors preserved at the Bank of Italy and the Archivio Centrale dello Stato in Rome, I create a dataset that provides future scholars with an accurate reconstruction of the magnitude, timing, and geography of outright bank failures. Using this evidence, I argue that the distress of small and medium banks was not negligible, that Italian bank failures were endemic and widespread throughout the period, and that there were important regional variations. At least in this last respect, this work makes one concrete contribution to the existing literature: it allows the first comparative assessment of regional trends, showing that bank failures in interwar Italy were more severe in the South, backing existing qualitative narratives with hard facts. However, this research only lays a foundation and raises more questions than it answers, spelling out an agenda for future research.

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