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Rivista di Storia Economica

The Rivista di Storia Economica (RSE) was established in 1936 by Luigi Einaudi (1874-1961), one of the most prominent (liberal) economists in Italy and more, because the government had shut down La Riforma Sociale, which he was then editing, as it was not sufficiently aligned with the Fascist regime. Einaudi had a keen interest in economic history, and the Rivista was a way to pursue his academic (and, indirectly, political) agenda in an illiberal environment.  Einaudi published the Rivista until 1943, when he had to flee the country; he did not resume its publication after the War, as he was successively appointed Governor of the Bank of Italy (1945), Finance Minister (1947, the independence of central banks being unheard of in those years), and President of the Italian Republic (1948).


A new series of the Rivista was started in 1984, as a personal initiative of two then youngish scholars, Gianni Toniolo, of the University of Venice, and Pierluigi Ciocca, of the Research Department of the Bank of Italy. In the forty years since the end of the first series, the world of economic history had changed profoundly. It was taught in most economics curricula in the West (and also, with a totally different approach, in socialist countries) and, in the wake of the cliometric revolution, the most novel and exciting research employed economic theory and econometrics to explore the big issues in economic history. Italy’s economics departments had a long tradition of teaching economic history, and many exponents of “the Italian tradition” reacted quite negatively to these methodological innovations. In their first editorial statement, Ciocca and Toniolo invoked Einaudi’s methodological stance as a compromise. They made six points: i) economic history is a specific subject, neither history nor economics; ii) it requires (the thoughtful use of) economic theory; iii) quantification and statistical analysis are not strictly necessary, but they help a lot; iv) economic facts can be explained by non-economic causes; v) the relevance of issues, sometimes with an eye on the contemporary situation, is an important criterion for selecting good articles; vi) the task of the economic historian is to explain, and not just describe, economic events. The second series of the RSE has been published continuously since 1984, under the stewardship of the founding editors. It has fulfilled their original agenda quite well, publishing important papers on Italian economic history, as well as forays in comparative history. Bibliometric measures show quite a high impact for a national journal from a ‘quasi-peripheral’ country with an unsupportive academic environment.


Recent developments have made some changes necessary. The RSE has been a victim of the success of its internationalization agenda.  While many Italian economic historians remain unconvinced of the virtues of the Einaudi approach, a small but growing group is now publishing research in top international journals. This is surely to be welcomed, but it has deprived the RSE of some of the best output of Italian researchers. Thus, the members of the editorial board of the RSE have decided to  set up the Associazione di Storia Economica (ASE), to appoint a new team of editors and, if possible, to transfer publishing rights to the new association. The new editors have spelled out their policy in the opening statement of a recent issue of the RSE. In essence, they hew to an “Einaudi Line” in their approach: “a pluralistic methodology, one in which measurement and formal models are complemented by an interest in the full range of sources, multiple causation, and institutional detail.” ASE fully endorses this view, and offers its best wishes to the Editors.

  • Managing editor:
    • Alessandro Nuvolari
  • Co-editors:
    • Brian A'Hearn
    • Giovanni Federico
    • Giovanni Vecchi
  • Marco Cattini
  • Elio Lo Cascio
  • Giorgio Lunghini
  • Marco Magnani
  • Paolo Malanima
  • Giangiacomo Nardozzi
  • Gianni Toniolo


Looking backward, moving forward

This article takes stock of the progress of the journal over the 32 years since the start of the "Second series". Additionally, it outlines the strategy for the future development of the journal against the backdrop of recent developments in economic history and in economics. 


Una rivista, lungo un quarto di secolo

L'editoriale dovuto a Pierluigi Ciocca e Gianni Toniolo riconsidera sinteticamente l'indirizzo di metodo e di contenuto seguito dalla Rivista nei venticinque anni, rispetto alle intenzioni che animarono la ripresa della testata einaudiana nel 1984.


Una nuova serie della "Rivista di Storia Economica"

The opening statement to the second series of the Rivista di Storia Economica.


Editors' Picks

Decentramento o accentramento: obiettivi e limiti del sistema amministrativo locale scelto con l'Unità del paese

This article addresses the neglected topic of local political economy in Italy's unification. It guides the reader through the parliamentary debate on local government, the legislation regulating its functions, and the available statistics documenting local public finance before and after unification.


Il valore aggiunto regionale. Una stima per il 1891 e per il 1911 e alcune elaborazioni di lungo periodo (1891-1971)

This is the first attempt to produce estimates for Italian GDP disaggregated by region, starting from the work done by G. Rey's research team at Banca d'Italia. Estimates suggest that regional differences were already there in 1891, but widened considerably in the following 20 years, during the first phase of sustained growth of the Italian economy.


Production and Consumption in Post-Unification Italy: New Evidence, New Conjectures

Post-war historians have considered the 1880s in Italy as a period of crisis, in agriculture and the economy at large. This paper overturns this view and shows that the 1880s were years of great prosperity. The argument masterfully blends history, economic theory and quantitative methods. The narrative is riveting.


Italian Cities 1300-1800. A quantitative approach

This is an important paper containing a major reappraisal of the quantitative history of Italian urbanization. In retrospect, the paper may be seen as having a pivotal role in connecting the classical studies of De Vries and Bairoch with the current approach to the use of urbanization as a proxy for economic performance in the middle ages and in the modern period.