Boundaries, Structures and Strategies
Edited by Andrea Colli and Michelangelo Vasta
The volume that follows is the outcome of a multiunit project sponsored by the Italian Ministry of Universities that involved scholars from Bocconi University and the Universities of Milano (Bicocca), Bologna, Modena, Firenze, and Siena. The task of writing this foreword falls to me as coordinator of the project but the reality is that this book had two determined editors as well as excellent authors so my role is almost superfluous. I cannot help but remind readers that this is an important book as it represents a significant moment for reconciling the two ‘souls’ of Italian business history. On one side there are those who, having studied in depth several cases of companies or sectors, thought that the story of Italy could be considered in a Chandlerian perspective in the sense that big business was absolutely critical to the nation’s development. On the other side are scholars with a strong quantitative inclination. Using an extensive database, Imita.db, on Italian joint stock companies, these scholars seemed inclined to consider the role of large firms as of secondary importance and thought that for Italy there was a more realistic path to development with its emphasis on the weight of small businesses and non-heavy industrial sectors. I am known as belonging to the former group and once, having written that at the end of the 19th century the word ‘industrialization’ in Italy was synonymous with ‘steel’, I was semi-seriously accused of not offering quantitative support nor archival evidence of my affirmation.1 Indeed, ‘Chandlerians’...