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Comparative Advantages in Italy: A Long-Run Perspective


  • Giovanni Federico

    () (European University Institute, Florence and Universit� di Pisa)

  • Nikolaus Wolf

    () (Humboldt University Berlin and CEPR)


The history of Italy since her unification in 1861 reflects the two-way relationship between foreign trade and economic development. Its growth was accompanied by a dramatic increase in the country's integration with European and global commodity markets: foreign trade in the long run grew on average faster than the overall economy. Behind the dynamics of aggregate trade, Italy's comparative advantage changed fundamentally over the last 150 years. The composition of trade, in terms of both commodities imported and exported and in terms of trading partners, developed from a high concentration of a few trading partners and a handful of rather simple commodities into a wide diversification of trading partners and more sophisticated commodities. In this chapter we use a new long-term database on Italian foreign trade at a high level of disaggregation to document and analyze these changes. We will conclude with an assessment of Italy's prospects from a historical perspective.

Suggested Citation

  • Giovanni Federico & Nikolaus Wolf, 2011. "Comparative Advantages in Italy: A Long-Run Perspective," Quaderni di storia economica (Economic History Working Papers) 09, Bank of Italy, Economic Research and International Relations Area.
  • Handle: RePEc:bdi:workqs:qse_9

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. Italy and the World Economy: celebrating Italy’s 150th birthday with some data crunching
      by missiaia in NEP-HIS blog on 2012-01-23 16:08:19
    2. Italy and the World Economy: celebrating Italy’s 150th birthday with some data crunching
      by missiaia in NEP-HIS blog on 2012-01-23 16:08:19


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    Cited by:

    1. bertrand blancheton & becuwe stephane & meissner chrispother, 2016. "The First Great Liberalization : Competition, Quality and Productivity," EcoMod2016 9248, EcoMod.
    2. Algieri, Bernardina, 2015. "An Analysis of Regional Export Patterns: The Case of Calabria in Southern Italy - Un’analisi dei modelli di esportazione regionale: il caso della Calabria," Economia Internazionale / International Economics, Camera di Commercio Industria Artigianato Agricoltura di Genova, vol. 68(3), pages 297-322.
    3. Stéphane BECUWE & Bertrand BLANCHETON, 2016. "French Textile Specialisation in Long Run Perspective (1836-1938) : Trade Policy as Industrial Policy," Cahiers du GREThA 2016-17, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée.

    More about this item


    international trade; 19th-20th century; Italy;

    JEL classification:

    • F14 - International Economics - - Trade - - - Empirical Studies of Trade
    • N73 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N74 - Economic History - - Economic History: Transport, International and Domestic Trade, Energy, and Other Services - - - Europe: 1913-

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