Less than a month ago, on 18 October, Palazzo Koch hosted a presentation of the first volume of Gianni Toniolo's History of the Bank of Italy 1893-1943. A second volume was to follow on the Bank of Italy's actions from post-war reconstruction to the European Economic and Monetary Union. Professor Toniolo had just set out on this new project, but he will not be able to complete it. He left us unexpectedly.
In 1982, when the Governor of the Bank of Italy, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, launched a research programme on the history of central banking in Italy ahead of the hundredth anniversary of its foundation in 1893, Gianni Toniolo, then a young scholar, was asked to join the project from the very outset. He was the only contributing scholar to work on three of the volumes scheduled for publication. He edited The Bank of Italy and the War Economy 1914-1919 (1989) and The Bank of Italy and the Banking System 1919-1936 (1993, with Giuseppe Guarino), and wrote 'The Bank-Business Relationship in Italy in the Fifties' (1999, co-authored with Alfredo Gigliobianco and Giandomenico Piluso, in Stability and Development in the Fifties, edited by Franco Cotula).
If the Bank of Italy, in its policy-oriented research, has been able to meet the need identified by former Governor Ciampi for a rigorous approach integrating theory with statistics in a historical perspective, failing which no study may be qualified as economic analysis (C.A. Ciampi, Presentation of the Bank of Italy's Historical Series, Rome, 14 June 1990), we owe it largely to Professor Toniolo.
His scientific path was always closely interlinked with the Bank of Italy's research activity. The volume Italy and the World Economy since Unification (2013), which was published to celebrate 150 years since the birth of the nation, was planned and edited by Professor Toniolo, who gathered a team of world-class economists and economic historians from Italy and abroad. Professor Toniolo also led the study on Competition and Growth in Italy in the Long Run (2017), which investigated to what extent weaknesses and setbacks in Italy's economic growth stemmed from a lack of competition. Both volumes are perfect examples of the integrated approach advocated by Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, whereby economic theory and statistics blend in a historical perspective.
Carlo M. Cipolla wrote that clever economic historians can be a valuable guide for economists: by shedding light on the roots and evolution of economic institutions and issues, they will provide precious insights on how to govern those institutions and solve those issues (C.M. Cipolla, 'Teoria economica e storia economica', in Moneta e Credito, 1951). Gianni Toniolo pioneered a history-driven approach to economics that has since become common practice in Italy's central banking.