Autarchy and multinational corporations: the case of Snia Viscosa, by Valerio Cerretano
The article examines the relationship which Snia Viscosa developed with some of its European competitors, while reviewing some of the investments that that firm made in the 1930s. Snia Viscosa produced rayon (a man-made fibers industry), one of the very few high-tech goods in the development of which Italian firms played a leading role after 1918. This article shows that inward foreign investments proved crucial in the development of Snia Viscosa; that the company’s relations with foreign competitors, irrespective of geopolitical strains, remained strong even after 1939; that autarky ensured the creation of a domestic market for rayon, smoothing the firm’s vertical investments in other sectors. In addition, this article shows that the regime gave its blessing to those international connections. There are here suggestions about new avenues of research in relation to autarky and to co-operation among big European firms, an aspect in European industrialisation and integration that remains understudied.
Keywords: Fascism, Italy, Multinational Corporations, Economic History.
The Casale trial during the autarchy. Between industrial successes and experimentations, by Renato Covino and Lorenzo Francisci
The Casale’s process played an important role in the period between the two wars and it had wide international circulation. In this period the ammonia was widely used as a base for the production of fertilizers, explosives and fuels, in place of the raw materials of which Italy was lacking. The analysis of the most innovative aspects of the process and its applications at the plants in Nera Montoro and Siri aims to highlight how the productions and the industrial researches in Terni have been crucial for the country’s autarchic needs. However, there is another aspect to be emphasized. The Siri quickly came out of ammonia production, delegated to the Nera Montoro’s plant and to the “Terni”, which subsequently sold the Siri’s shares. The latter specialized in two sectors: the search for new fuels and the sale of Casale’s plants abroad, where it gained significant markets shares. In other words, it was configured as a company strongly projected onto global markets even before the autarkic turn escaping the monopoly constraints imposed by Montecatini on the utilization of the patent in Italy.
Keywords: Casale’s Process, Autarky, Terni, Ammonia Engine, International Market .
The transformations of a multinational company. Saint Gobain and its strategy in Italy during the fascist period, by Marco Bertilorenzi
After investing in Italy in 1889 with one producing unit, Saint Gobain progressively obtained a large control of the whole Italian glass industry during the 1920s and the 1930s, expanding its interest outside its core-business (the plate glass). During the fascist period, the French multinational was able to increment its business in Italy, exploiting the weak position of the Italian firms through an intense phase of acquisitions during the international openness of the Italian economy in the 1920s and exploiting the possibilities of the autarchic markets in the 1930s. Saint Gobain was also able to stem the penetration of one main competitor in its core-business, Vetrocoke, a firm created during the 1920s by Fiat group of the Agnelli’s family. Saint Gobain carried out a deliberate strategy to take advantage from the Italian opportunities during the Fascist period. It performed a strategy of adaption more consistent to the new economic and political context than its Italian counterpart, while it provided to the Italian glass industry both new technologies and financial aids.
Keywords: Glass industry, Autarchy, Business-Politics relationships, FDIs, Multinationals.
Solvay in Italy. The case of the Rosignano investment 1918 -1947, by Philippe Mioche
Solvay, a leading Belgian family firm, became a multinational between its creation in 1863 and the First World War. It was a leader in the production of soda and it operated 21 factories worldwide during this period. Since the beginnings of the 20th century, Solvay has become interested in the emerging Italian market: its factory in Rosignano (province of Livorno in Tuscany) was built and developed during the Great War. The Belgian multinational realized a remarkable industrial space and, linked to a great sample of factory town. Operational in the early 1920s, this unit became the main producer of soda in Italy and, during the fascism, it undertakes an adaptation to the new political and social environment. On the one hand, Solvay was able to keep the Rosignano unit, against any attempt of the national producers to threaten it, by locally supporting the fascist party and multiplying diplomatic approaches to Rome (including the interview with B. Mussolini in 1941). On the other hand, Solvay benefited from the autarchic markets, as it shows the growth of the production of soda ash and caustic soda.
Keywords: Chemical industry, Solvay, Fascism, Rosignano.
From globalization to autarchy. The Montecatini Firm and the relationship with international markets in the years between the two world wars, by Mario Perugini
Lack of energy and raw materials long prevented the development of a modern chemical industry in Italy. The leading chemical firm Montecatini, established in 1888 as a mining company, diversified towards chemicals only in 1920 by taking over of the major Italian producers of superphosphate fertilisers. During the 1920s, Montecatini was able to make an early entry into the emerging nitrogen industry, which led to the development of a proprietary technology, the licensing of patents abroad and then finally through foreign direct investments in Belgium and in The Netherlands. The Great crisis of 1929 stopped this internationalisation process and the fragmentation of global economy in the following years forced the company to refocus on domestic market. This article analyses the effect of the “deglobalization” on Montecatini’s strategy. The increasing state intervention during the 1930s, which culminated in the launching of the “autarky plans” in 1937, represented for Montecatini an opportunity to catch-up with the major European and American producers – ICI, Du Pont, I.G. Farben and Rhône-Poulenc – which had diversified into almost all the principal branches of modern chemical industry. This would seem to confirm the argument that the autarky policy of the late 1930s represented the Italian version of a neomercantilist approach to industrialization, rather than a contingent byproduct of fascist foreign policy.
Keywords: Chemical Industry, Montecatini S.A., Autarchy, International Markets.
«E terassi per bilancio». Administrative practices and accounting management in Florentine hospitals of the fifteenth century, by Sergio Tognetti
The essay analyses the summary accounting (ledgers) of the five major hospitals in Florence in the 15th century. The aim is to verify whether or not the historiography on Italian hospitals of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, recently very interested in good practices of financial management of care, is right in talking about the hospitals of the time in business terms, i.e. with an approach that assesses the management of income and expenditure as similar to that followed in contemporary private companies. The Florentine case, certainly one of the most documented at a European level, also because of the close ties established with the world of mercantile guilds, reveals a reality made up of chiaroscuro elements, even if there are evident elements of progress in the administration of hospital institutions between the beginning and the end of the 15th century.
Keywords: XVth Florence, History of accounting, Hospitals finances, Welfare and mercantile guilds.
The Real Monte di Pietà of Barletta and “his” orphans: assistance and women’s biographies through archive papers (17th-19th century), by Angela Carbone
This essay introduces the reader to the history of one of the most important Puglia charitable institutions and its archive. Founded in 1578, the Real Monte di Pietà of Barletta, received in 1585 the royal assent for the foundation of the archconfraternity, whose main purpose was the assistance to the orphans. The research, against the background of the evolution of welfare policies between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, intends to propose, through an original archival study, a path aimed at reconstructing the life stories of assisted girls. The sources allow to analyse the motivations of the entrance, the daily life in the orphanage, up to the definitive exit of the girl from the institute, through multiple directions: the marriage, the request from a relative to return to the family, the expulsion for indiscipline, the monk, the death. Thanks to single feminine biographies, the archival sources give a long-hidden voice to historical subjects, adding new pieces of knowledge to historical research.
Keywords: Real Monte di Pietà of Barletta, assistance, orphans, archival sources, feminine biographies.
“Passive women”? The formation of the modern Middle East from a gender perspective, Lorenzo Kamel
The article, based on primary and secondary sources in Arabic, Farsi and English, offers a gender perspective on the construction and the development of the late-modern and contemporary Middle East. A special attention is devoted to the cases studies of Egypt, – historically the most populous and important Arab country – Iran, – the heart of “political Shi’sm” – and the “Holy Land”, the cradle of the three major monotheistic religions: many of the revolutions and the anti-colonial movements and struggles that have shaped the most these areas and the broader region have been ignited and/or strongly influenced by local women.
Keywords: Gender Nationalism, Middle East, North Africa, Egypt, Iran.