Published by EH.NET (April 2010)

Simone Selva, Integrazione internazionale e sviluppo interno: Stati Uniti e Italia nei programmi di riarmo del blocco atlantico (1945-1955) [International Economic Integration and Home Growth: The United States and Italy in the Western Bloc Rearmament Programs, 1945-1955]. Rome: Carocci, 2009. 383 pp. ?40 (paperback), ISBN: 978-88-430-5253-0.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva, Department for Structural Economic Analysis, Bank of Italy.

This book examines the economic and political relationship between Italy and the United States from the start of postwar reconstruction until the mid-fifties. The complex events characterizing those crucial years are depicted in the light of the rearmament program following the establishment of the North Atlantic alliance in 1949. The analysis highlights the main steps of the process of integration of Italy into the international economy and the strategy pursued by national authorities to trigger a successful growth process. To this end the author makes use of a broad amount of archival evidence from a large number of national and international sources.

The book is divided into six chapters. The first considers the link between the defense strategy of the U.S. and the industrial policy in the countries involved, particularly regarding its impact on productive capacity and aggregate demand in domestic markets. The growing worry that the military objectives of the rearmament plan could be in conflict with the goal of achieving stronger growth and investment in Europe initially brought about a separation of military and non-military expenditures, and of corresponding financial resources.

The second chapter analyzes the impact of rearmament as an engine of growth, starting from the institution of the Medium Term Defense Program (MDAP) in 1949, tailored to not interfere with the European Recovery Program (ERP). In the following years, however, this stance was replaced by one of larger support of European military production to the end of reinforcing Atlantic defense goals. Growing political pressure by the Europeans followed, aimed at achieving stronger U.S. support of the external and domestic imbalances created by costly military expenditure.

The third chapter moves to the policy of military foreign aid to Italy in the initial period of Atlantic alliance. Following the gradual shift from British to U.S. involvement in Italian military defense, Italy’s manufacturing sector progressively enhanced its role in producing military supplies, while nonetheless meeting financial constraints which were only partially alleviated by U.S. foreign assistance. The outbreak of the Korean conflict, with its heavy impact on international commodity prices, threatened the recovery outlook of Italian economy, thus inducing Italian authorities to use U.S. military aid as a means to alleviate the negative effects of the war on internal prices and production.

The fourth chapter discusses the impact of the 1947 Peace Treaty on the Italian aeronautical industry. The involvement of some major industrial groups in the attempt to boost and reinforce Italian productivity and exports testifies to the authorities’ continuing aim to achieve growth and stability in the fifties. During that period complex negotiations were carried out by the Italian government with the Mutual Security Agency (MSA), NATO, and the U.S. Department of State. A special role was played by the Off-Shore Procurements (OSP), which were orders for military items produced in Europe and destined for the armed forces of the producing countries or to those of their NATO partners. As one of the most relevant playing fields of the diplomatic dialogue between the U.S. and European partners, the OSP can be viewed as a relevant indicator of the complex interplay of the different policy objectives of the partners involved.

Particularly interesting is the description, in the fifth chapter, of the interaction between the OSP to the Italian aeronautical industry in 1953-54 and the political negotiations associated with relevant issues characterizing Italian postwar reconstruction such as the territorial question of Trieste, threatened by the Yugoslavian claims; the balance of payments difficulties experienced by Italy within the EPU following the almost total removal of trade barriers; and the U.S. preoccupations arising from the 1953 general elections in Italy.

The final chapter covers the years 1954-55. It is shown that in this period financial assistance to Italy, mostly represented by the OSP, became more strictly tied to the political objective of fighting communism in Italy. This orientation, started in 1954, was strongly supported by U.S. Ambassador Claire Luce, largely as a response to the unfavorable electoral results in the previous year. Quite interestingly, in that period the fight against unemployment became a top priority of U.S. foreign policy in Italy, and particular attention was paid to the task of improving the economic conditions of the Italian Mezzogiorno. The focus on prosperity as a means to counter communism, so closely resembling the original flavor of Truman doctrine, paved the way for a number of financial initiatives in favor of Italy in mid-fifties.

Simone Selva’s book once again confirms the Italian authorities’ ability to reconcile the country’s internal targets with its commitment with partner countries and allies throughout the fifties and the sixties [see Cavalieri and Martinez Oliva (2009)]. The commitment of the Italian authorities to a system based on Atlantic cooperation remained in place in spite of occasional difficulties. This allowed the achievement of the full-fledged integration of the country into the international environment, and the realization of the Italian ?economic miracle? of the 1950s and 1960s.

Simone Selva has carried out a very helpful investigation into a particular aspect of complex Italian-American relations in the years of Europe’s postwar recovery. The huge number of documents quoted testifies that there is still plenty of material for new research on issues related to the cold-war diplomacy of the early years of Italian Republican history. Recent decades have shown a growing interest of Italian historians in that particular period under a large number of viewpoints. Selva’s book is a further contribution to better knowledge of those years and worth reading for those who want to have a closer look at a very crucial juncture of Italian economic and political history.


Elena Cavalieri and Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva, “Between National Interest and International Cooperation: Italy and the Bretton Woods System in the 1960s” in: H. James and J.C. Martinez Oliva (editors), International Monetary Cooperation across the Atlantic, Adelmann GmbH, Frankfurt am Main, 2009.

Juan Carlos Martinez Oliva is a Principal Director in the Department for Structural Economic Analysis of the Bank of Italy. His research work includes various contributions in international economics and economic history, among which are “Too Much for One Country: The United States and the Bretton Woods System, 1958-1971” (with Harold James) in: H. James and J.C. Martinez Oliva (editors), International Monetary Cooperation Across the Atlantic (2009) and ?The Italian Stabilization of 1947: Domestic and International Factors,? Institute of European Studies, Paper 070514, University of California, Berkeley, 2007. He can be reached at: