Railways and Economic Growth in Mediterranean Countries: Some Methodological Remarks

  • Gianni Toniolo
Part of the St Antony’s/Macmillan Series book series


The complaint that ‘these Italian trains go at about the rate of an American funeral’ must have been rather common in the 1870s and 1880s when comtemporaries often criticised the Italian railway network for widespread inefficiency combined with high rates both for passengers and freight (1). As late as the early 1900s it was apparently more convenient to deliver goods by wagon rather than by rail up to distances of about one hundred and twenty miles (2). Almost any town in central or southern Italy is within that distance from a good seaport. Even in the Po Valley, rivers and canals could offer a viable alternative to railways.


Social Rate Supply Elasticity Domestic Saving Total Labour Force Supply Side Effect 
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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    H. James, The Portrait of a Lady (London, 1978) p. 327.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    G. Baglioni, ‘Per la riforma ferroviaria’, ‘Critica Sociale’, 1910.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    R. Fogel, ‘Notes on the Social Savings Controversy’, Journal of Economic History, XXXIX 1979, p. 50. In that year about 16,000 kilometres of rail in operation over the Peninsula seem to have been carrying, in ton-miles, the equivalent of about 10 per cent of the German traffic. Data from B. R. Mitchell, European Historical Statistics, Macmillan, London, 1957, p. 328.Google Scholar
  4. 5.
    P. McClelland, ‘Social Rates of Return on American Rail-roads in the Nineteenth Century’, Economic History Review, XXX 1972, pp. 471–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 6.
    J. A. Schumpeter, The Theory of Economic Development, (New York, 1961) p. 85.Google Scholar
  6. 7.
    S. Fenoaltea, ‘Railroads and Italian Industrial Growth, 1861–1913’, Explorations in Economic History, vol. IX (Summer 1972) pp. 327–8. Consistent with this view of infinite factor supply elasticity, Fenoaltea considers ‘supply side effects (as) negligible’ and carries on his analysis on lines other than ‘social savings’.Google Scholar
  7. 8.
    The exercise can be conducted by comparing the population and the industrial censuses for the year 1911. For the first, see O. Vitali, Aspetti della sviluppo economico italiano alla luce della ricostruzione della popolazione attiva (Rome, 1970). For an analysis of the second and for general considerations about the labour market, see V. Zamagni, Industrializzione e equilibri regionali in Italia (Bologna, 1978).Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    For a survey of some of these studies and bibliography, see G. Giorgetti, Contadini e proprietari veil’ Italia moderna (Turin, 1974).Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Even taking into account all possible inaccuracies, the order of magnitude of the figures is such as to leave no doubt about the existence of disguised unemployment. J. Harrison, An Economic History of Modern Spain (Manchester, 1978) p. 69.Google Scholar
  10. 11.
    P. Voles Bou, Historica de la Economica Española en los siglos XIX y XX (Madrid, 1974) vol. I, pp. 91–2.Google Scholar
  11. 12.
    R. Romeo, Risorgimento e Capitalismo (Rome, 1958).Google Scholar
  12. 14.
    P. McClelland, ‘Social Rates of Return on American Railroads in the Nineteenth Century’, Economic History Review, XXX 1972, pp. 471–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© St Antony’s College, Oxford 1983

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  • Gianni Toniolo

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