Maria Stella Chiaruttini

Telling figures: a new dataset on the regional origins of Italian Central Banking and the rise of piedmontese finance before 1861

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his article represents a first attempt to compare the development of the Italian banks of issue before unification on the basis of a new dataset with data disaggregated at regional and provincial level. While previously banks of issue in pre-unification Italy have only been the subject of isolated, mostly qualitative studies, this dataset provides new evidence on the diverging development of regional banking markets prior to 1861. It clearly shows that the hegemony enjoyed by the Piedmontese Banca Nazionale (the forerunner of the Banca d’Italia) in post-unification Italy had its roots in the Piedmontese ‘financial revolution’ of the 1850s. Crucial to this success were not simply the individual characteristics of the bank but its embeddedness in the structural evolution of the Piedmontese economy. As a result of wide-ranging institutional changes, Piedmontese banking was thus able to combine the advantages of centralisation and proximity to state power – features also to be found in the South – with those of private enterprise and geographic accessibility typical of the Tuscan system.


  • Banks of issue
  • regional financial development
  • preunification Italy
  • North-South divide


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