chapter  7
Statistical Expertise and the Twilight of Liberal Italy
Pages 20

In Italy, as well as in a number of other belligerent countries, assessing the cost of the First World War became an object of public and political debate from 1918 on. Overall, Italy had su ered much more severe losses than had been initially expected by those who had pushed for intervention. And with the Wilsonian principle of self-determination hanging over the peace settlement, territorial gains that had been promised did not materialize. Despite the fact that Italy had correctly chosen the winning side when it entered the war in 1915, its situation a er the armistice resembled in many respects that of defeated Germany. Once the European powers had ceased ring upon each other, it became imperative to measure soundly how many resources had been engulfed in the con ict, in what demographic and economic state each country remained, and how foreign debts that had been contracted to nance the war e ort could be sustained. Given the sour taste of victory and the social and political turmoil in which Italy was rapidly plunged, it would be di cult to conduct such an exercise with impartial detachment. Yet, a host of economists and statisticians would bring their expertise to it over the period that goes, from a technocratic point of view, from the establishment of the Commissione per il dopoguerra in March 1918 to the 1925-6 settlement with the United States regarding the war debt, or, on a political timescale, from the 1919-20 social crisis known as the biennio rosso to the consolidation of the Fascist regime and the rapid transition to open dictatorship that followed the assassination of Socialist MP Giacomo Matteotti.