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The geography of innovation in Italy, 1861-1913: evidence from patent data

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  • Alessandro Nuvolari

    ()

  • Michelangelo Vasta

    ()

Abstract

In this paper we provide a systematic appraisal of the spatial patterns of inventive activity in Italy in the period 1861-1913. Our main source of evidence is a data-set containing all patents granted in Italy in five benchmark years (1864-65, 1881, 1891, 1902, 1911). Our geographical unit of analysis is the province, an administrative district of the time. First, using some simple descriptive statistics, we introduce a characterization of the spatial distribution of patents and of its evolution over time. Second, we perform an econometric exercise in which we assess the connection between different forms of human capital and patent intensity. We are able to establish a robust correlation between literacy and “basic” patent intensity and robust correlation between secondary technical education and scientific and engineering studies and “high quality” patent intensity. Third, we study the connection between patents and industrialization. Our exercise shows that patents exerted a significant role in accounting for the level of industrial production. Interestingly enough, in this context, the role of patents was possibly more relevant than that of the availability of water-power and of the level of real wages (two factors that were pointed out by the previous literature, mostly on the basis of rather impressionistic accounts of the evidence). Our study warrants two main conclusions. First, domestic inventive activities were an important element of the industrialization process, even in a late-comer country such as Italy. Second, at the time of the unification, Northern provinces were characterized by more effective innovation systems. This factor contributes to explain the growing divide in economic performance between the North and the South of the country during the Liberal age

Suggested Citation

  • Alessandro Nuvolari & Michelangelo Vasta, 2015. "The geography of innovation in Italy, 1861-1913: evidence from patent data," Department of Economics University of Siena 724, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
  • Handle: RePEc:usi:wpaper:724
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Emanuele Felice & Michelangelo Vasta, 2015. "Passive modernization? The new human development index and its components in Italy's regions (1871–2007)," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 44-66.
    2. Carlo Ciccarelli & Tommaso Proietti, 2013. "Patterns of industrial specialisation in post-Unification Italy," Scandinavian Economic History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 61(3), pages 259-286, November.
    3. Zamagni, Vera, 1997. "The Economic History of Italy 1860-1990," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198292890.
    4. B. Zorina Khan, 2015. "Knowledge, Human Capital and Economic Development: Evidence from the British Industrial Revolution, 1750-1930," NBER Working Papers 20853, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Crafts, Nicholas & Wolf, Nikolaus, 2014. "The Location of the UK Cotton Textiles Industry in 1838: A Quantitative Analysis," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 74(04), pages 1103-1139, December.
    6. repec:ssa:lemwps:2013/20 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. Carlo Ciccarelli & Stefano Fenoaltea, 2013. "Through the magnifying glass: provincial aspects of industrial growth in post-Unification Italy," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 66(1), pages 57-85, February.
    8. Allen,Robert C., 2009. "The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521868273.
    9. Carlo Ciccarelli & Anna Missiaia, 2013. "The Industrial Labor Force of Italy's Provinces: Estimates from the Population Censuses, 1871-1911," Rivista di storia economica, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 2, pages 141-192.
    10. Vittorio Daniele & Paolo Malanima, 2014. "Due commenti finali," Rivista di storia economica, Società editrice il Mulino, issue 2, pages 243-248.
    11. Emanuele Felice, 2012. "Regional convergence in Italy, 1891–2001: testing human and social capital," Cliometrica, Journal of Historical Economics and Econometric History, Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), vol. 6(3), pages 267-306, October.
    12. Alessandro Nuvolari & Michelangelo Vasta, 2015. "Independent invention in Italy during the Liberal Age, 1861–1913," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 68(3), pages 858-886, August.
    13. Felice, Emanuele, 2014. "Il Mezzogiorno fra storia e pubblicistica. Una replica a Daniele e Malanima
      [Southern Italy between history and journalistic books. A reply to Daniele and Malanima]
      ," MPRA Paper 55830, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    14. Mokyr, Joel, 2005. "The Intellectual Origins of Modern Economic Growth," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 65(02), pages 285-351, June.
    15. Gerschenkron, Alexander, 1955. "Notes on the Rate of Industrial Growth in Italy, 1881–1913," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 15(04), pages 360-375, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Carlo Ciccarelli & Matteo Gomellini & Paolo Sestito, 2019. "Demography and Productivity in the Italian Manufacturing Industry: Yesterday and Today," CEIS Research Paper 457, Tor Vergata University, CEIS, revised 16 May 2019.
    2. repec:spr:cliomt:v:13:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s11698-018-0172-6 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Paolo Di Martino & Emanuele Felice & Michelangelo Vasta, 2017. "The curious case of the coexistence of two “access-orders”: Explaining the Italian regional divide," Department of Economics University of Siena 758, Department of Economics, University of Siena.
    4. repec:afc:cliome:v:13:y:2019:i:1:p:127-161 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Ciccarelli, Carlo & Weisdorf, Jacob, 2018. "Pioneering into the Past: Regional Literacy Developments in Italy Before Italy," CEPR Discussion Papers 12582, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    6. Giacomo Domini, 2019. "Exhibitions, patents, and innovation in the early twentieth century: evidence from the Turin 1911 International Exhibition," LEM Papers Series 2019/04, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.

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    • N00 - Economic History - - General - - - General

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