Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Political economy in the salon of Emilia Toscanelli Peruzzi

Poettinger Monika Barbara Maria , Polimoda, Florence

Emilia Toscanelli Peruzzi (1827-1900), from the high bourgeoisie of Pisa, married, in 1850, Ubaldino Peruzzi, scion of an ancient Florentine family, politically active in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany as in the later unified Italy. Conscious of her role in strengthening her husband’s position, she immediately opened the salon of the Florentine mansion to politicians, literates, bankers and whomever she deemed might contribute to a lively discourse. Her correspondence followed up the discussions held in the salon and with its consistency of ten thousands of letters constitutes today a precious archival source for the understanding the critical role of salons in the Italian political and cultural scene of the second half of the nineteenth century. At that time the professionalisation of economists was still in its infancy and the salon Peruzzi was crucial in the formation of several young economists – lato sensu - who would later hold important positions in academia, in the administration of the Italian state and in major companies. While the case of Vilfredo Pareto has been researched, a general evaluation of the influence of Emilia Peruzzi on Italian political economy is still lacking. This paper will firstly reconstruct the economic ideas of Emilia Peruzzi herself, as related to the environment in which she grew up and her marriage with Ubaldino. Then, the analysis will encompass the wide network of friends and correspondents that Emilia built in time, trying to understand the logic of its functioning and the use that both Emilia and Ubaldino made of it. After 1871 Emilia dedicated her attention increasingly to a young generation of protégés, selected by Ubaldino but nurtured by her to become a political élite alien to the logic of parties but of high morals and profound culture. In the same years Ubaldino switched his attention to political economy and so, these young protégés, all born in the 1840s, increasingly studied and anlysed economic and social questions. Among them: Vilfredo Pareto, Sidney Sonnino, Carlo Fontanelli and Francesco Genala. While the political mission of the salon, salvaging liberalism and political representativeness, was lost, a major legacy consisted in the habit to analyse questions based on accurate empirical studies.


Keywords: Emilia Toscanelli Peruzzi, Vilfredo Pareto, liberalism, 19th century, Italian economic thought

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