Napoleon in Italy: A Legacy of Institutional Reform?

Mark Dincecco, Giovanni Federico

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The economic consequences of French conquest and rule in Italy remain unclear. Recent GDP estimates suggest that the early 1800s were characterized by a short-lived rebound, interrupting a long-run decline from the 1720s to the 1870s. We evaluate the extent to which French rule can help explain this rebound. Similarly, we study to what extent the economic policy of the post-1815 Restoration can explain the return to a downward economic trajectory. Finally, we analyze the legacy of institutional reforms initiated during the Napoleonic era for modern economic growth in the late nineteenth century. Overall, our analysis draws a distinction between the short run and the long run. The evidence suggests that the short-run economic and social costs of French rule in Italy outweighed any economic gains. By improving the underlying institutional environment, however, Napoleon's economic legacy may have been beneficial to long-run development, but only after several decades and the establishment of further institutional reforms, pioneered by Piedmont from 1848 onward, and adopted throughout Italy after the political unification of the peninsula in 1861.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationLibrary of Economic History
EditorsPatrick Karl O'Brien
PublisherBrill Academic Publishers
Number of pages28
StatePublished - 2022

Publication series

NameLibrary of Economic History
ISSN (Print)1877-3206


  • Italy
  • Napoleon
  • Parliamentary Government
  • economic development
  • fiscal capacity
  • international trade
  • market integration
  • political institutions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance (miscellaneous)


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