The Kingdom of Two Sicilies and the Italian unification – Industries

The Exposition Universelle was held in Paris from 15 May to 15 November 1855; the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was honored as the third most industrialized nation in Europe, the first in Italy.
Furthermore, if we consider the data of the first census of 1861 and calculate the ratio of the employed population in industry and total employment in agriculture, industry and trade, we get for the Neapolitan provinces 30.1% and 38.6% for Sicily, compared to a national average of 26.6%.
The claim that the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was the most industrialized of the rest of Italy is, in these data, a point in its favor. On the other side, we must consider that the data of the first census have to be carefully managed, since at that time the South was still under a state of war.
The industry of the Kingdom was born towards the end of the eighteenth century by virtue of government intervention and based on a system of encouragement, relief, facilitation and organizational efforts that, albeit with flaws and contradictions, had favored business initiatives and attracted foreign capital.
It was a protected industry, as always were anti still are the industries in the newly industrialized countries, whose funds were provided in part by the state and partly provided by private entrepreneurship.
There was a strategy of industrial development, controversial and imperfect perhaps, but still a strategy that was still bearing fruit.
Below, some information on the emerging industry of the Two Sicilies:
• There were over 100 mechanical engineering factories, out of them 15 with more than 100 employees and 6 with over 500 employees. Pietrarsa was the largest mechanical industry in Italy, out of three factories able to produce locomotives in Italy (Pietrarsa, Guppy and Ansaldo), two were in the South (Pietrarsa, Guppy). The steel and metalworking industry counted 20,000 employees at the South, to be compared with about 60,000 of the whole peninsula, the steel complex of Mongiana, founded in 1768, was the first Italian producer of raw materials and semi-finished products for the metalworking industry.
• The merchant fleet was 80% of the Italian fleet and was fourth in the world, with over 250 thousand tons of ships, out of them one hundred were steamships, forty shipyards and 25 shipping companies. The shipyard of Castellammare di Stabia, with 1,800 employees, was the first of the Mediterranean.
• The textile industry was flourishing, particularly in the province of Salerno. Textile production in Italy had the two most advanced production areas in Lombardy and Campania; Lombardy had the production of 16 million meters of fabric while Campania had 13 million meters,
• More than 200 paper mills, including Fibreno, the largest in Italy with 500 employees.
• The mining industry was concentrated in Sicily, with the cultivation of the sulfur mines. Near Naples there were some chemical industries for the production of starch, chloride of lime, nitric acid, muriatic acid, sulfuric acid and chemical colors.
• Tanning industry was particularly developed, in particular in Naples, where the factories of gloves came to produce 755,000 pairs (1855), the second European production after Britain.
After the unification, the new governments adopted free trade rates, the lowest in Europe along with England and Belgium. Free trade on one side had a positive effect on commercial outlets for agricultural products but on the other side was disastrous for the emerging industry, which still was not able to compete on equal terms with the industries of countries where the industrial revolution was already in advanced stage: as a result free trade favored the import of industrial products from France and England.
The southern industry, exposed to a new system to whom was not prepared, had to suffer perhaps more than the northern, but did not disappear, indeed there were attempts of reaction, mergers and restructuring, and even new initiatives. In the thirty years following the unification, however, the consequences of a liberal policy for which the Italian system was not yet ready, as well as the complete lack of industrial strategy from the national governments, caused irreversible damage: the southern industry was unable to lead to the process of expansion and continuous growth that characterizes the transition from pre-industrial stage to industrialization, and then began a phase of decline, while investments moved back to agriculture.
It must be said, for the sake of objectivity, that the unitary state was rather more effective in building infrastructure, in particular rail and road.
One might ask at this point, why the industry succeeded in taking off in the North and did not succeed in the South. The turning point came in 1887, when tariffs were restored, albeit the fruits became visible only in the early twentieth century, after the modernization of the banking system.
In Italy this year is the starting point of the economic dualism that still exists today. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the gap was not yet so pronounced, and at least some industrial areas of the South held their structures: the province of Naples in 1903 had a population equal to 5% of Italy and a number of factories equal to 5% of the national total, only the provinces of Milan and Florence were industrially stronger.
Since then the North began to develop for the known effect of agglomeration, according to which industrial activities tend to be located where there are other similar activities, together with services and infrastructures.
The same phenomenon produced a deterrent effect from engaging in activities in the South, with renewed preference for the agricultural enterprise. A good part of the responsibility is to be found in the work of the politicians, and in particular of some Southerners politicians in search of votes and consensus through an assisted development policy, that failed.

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