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The Economic Thought in the Counter-Reformation Age: Giovanni Botero and Antonio Serra

La pensée économique à l’ère de la Contre-Réforme : Giovanni Botero et Antonio Serra
Rosario Patalano
p. 39-91

Résumés

Si la centralité des œuvres de Giovanni Botero dans la littérature politique de la première moitié du XVIIe siècle est largement reconnue, le rôle joué par l’ancien jésuite dans la pensée économique de la Contre-Réforme catholique n’a pas encore été suffisamment analysé. En effet, les œuvres de Botero révèlent que l’existence d’une mentalité favorable au développement des activités productives et commerciales était répandue dans la période post-tridentine. En particulier, les thèses exprimées dans le Breve trattato d’Antonio Serra présentent des affinités évidentes avec la pensée de Botero et, à la même époque, en Espagne, la littérature se concentre sur des thèmes similaires pour tenter de contrer la décadence de la société ibérique. Les analyses de Botero et de Serra sont complémentaires et s’inscrivent pleinement dans l’esprit de la Contre-Réforme, offrant une perspective historiographique différente sur la relation entre le catholicisme et la genèse de l’économie capitaliste.

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Texte intégral

  • 1 A first evaluation of Botero’s economic thought was proposed by Breglia (1928) and De Bernardi (193 (...)
  • 2 For Max Weber:
  • 3 According to Werner Sombart, Jewish minorities and heresy as such, therefore regardless of the conf (...)
  • 4 For a general critique of Weber’s theses, see Groethuysen (1927), Robertson ([1933] 1959), Fischoff (...)

1Although the centrality of the works of Giovanni Botero (1544-1617) in the political literature of the first half of the seventeenth century is widely recognized, the role that the former Jesuit had in the economic thought of the Catholic Counter-Reformation has not yet been sufficiently analyzed, despite the contributions made by several authors.1 In fact, Botero’s works reveal that the existence of a mentality favorable to the development of productive and commercial activities was present and widespread even in the ambit of post-Tridentine Catholicism and that the so-called “spirit of capitalism”2 cannot therefore be considered an exclusive product of Puritan Calvinist religious movements (Weber, [1904; 1905] 2012 and Tawney, 1926) or of other “heretical” Christian doctrines and Jewish minorities (Sombart, [1911] 2001).3 As is well known, Hugh Trevor Roper challenged the theses of Max Weber and Werner Sombart, recognizing that a capitalist mentality, aimed at increasing wealth, was already present in medieval and Renaissance Catholic Europe and that there was no contradiction between Catholicism and the capitalist development of the economy (Trevor Roper, 1967, 22).4 However, Trevor Roper also accepts Weber’s thesis about the institutional cradle of capitalism, attributing an anti-capitalist spirit to the Counter-Reformation which, he argues, inhibited productive activities by determining the emigration to the Protestant North of active Catholic minorities in search of spaces of freedom, leading to the spread of production techniques and commercial ventures in a more favorable environment. Following a liberal approach, Trevor Roper argues that the Counter-Reformation Church would have favored a bureaucratic reaction in Catholic countries by supporting conservative policies of the princes and favoring a rent-oriented economy to the detriment of investments in commercial and industrial activities. In this context the conditions of capitalistic development were incompatible not with the Catholic religious doctrines, “but with the social forms of the Counter-Reformation” (Trevor Roper, 1967, 29).

  • 5 For a recent critique of Fanfani’s theses, see Novak (1993, chap. I). The thesis on the compatibili (...)
  • 6 The social doctrine of the Catholic Church formulated in the encyclicals Rerum Novarum (1891), Quad (...)

2In a more radical way, the thesis of the incompatibility between Catholicism and capitalism was proposed in the 1930s by Amintore Fanfani, according to which “there is an unbridgeable gulf between the Catholic and the capitalistic conception of life” (Fanfani, 1934, 118; Fanfani, 1931; see also Toniolo, 1893).5 The dogmas of the Catholic Church, defined by the Aristotelian-Scholastic doctrine summarized in Thomas Aquinas’s Summa, define a super-natural order to which the order of human life is subordinated, and therefore also the rational economic calculation, at the base of the capitalist mentality (Fanfani, 1934, 107-108). The Catholic social doctrine has historically characterized itself as anti-capitalistic, and the capitalistic mentality was born outside of it, and “all the circumstances that, in the Middle Ages, led to a waning of faith explain the progressive establishment of the capitalistic spirit” (Fanfani, 1934, 137). And “it was the international trade ventures that did most to favour the rise of the capitalistic spirit”, because only in trade with non-Christian peoples could the accumulated wealth be justified (Fanfani, 1934, 135).6 The objectives of accumulation, expansion of consumption and production, typical of the capitalistic mentality, would therefore be completely extraneous to the Catholic view, which would instead promote a subsistence and autarkic economy, strictly connected to the satisfaction of primary needs. The anti-capitalistic climate promoted by Italian Fascism, which in the 1930s elaborated the political and social doctrine of Corporatism, was not extraneous to the formulation of this thesis, finding widespread support in the Catholic Church.

3From a different point of view, Oscar Nuccio has also emphasized the contrast between Catholic dogmas and economic reality by identifying the root of the capitalistic spirit in the reaction of medieval lay jurists and civil humanists to the hierocratic conception based on the Holy Scriptures elaborated by the scholastic theologians and canonists. According to Nuccio, the lay jurists interpreted the natural law (ius naturalis) not as a work of God, but as a human fact, designed to regulate society rationally (Nuccio, 1984; 2008). In this context, the pursuit of personal enrichment by any means is justified as long as it is not harmful to others (Malanima, 2022, 100).

  • 7 Bruni notes:
  • 8 Bruni’s thesis of a civil and altruistic Catholic capitalism, based on the charismatic role of the (...)
  • 9 “For many aspects, the economic ethics of the Counter-Reformation returned to being that of four ce (...)

4Finally, in a recent article, Luigino Bruni and John Milbank argue that the Catholic Counter-Reformation stopped “the non-capitalist market economy that emerged in the Middle Ages and evolved into Civil Humanism, which was simultaneously personalistic and communal, capable of reconciling individual freedom and the common good” (Bruni and Milbank, 2019, 227; see also Bruni, 2022, 273-274). The activity of the Franciscan order is at the basis of the relationship that was established in the late Middle Ages between Catholicism and the nascent market economy (and which Bruni calls “meridian capitalism”), justified on the basis of the theological distinction between “good merchant”’s legitimate profit and the usurious interest, economically and morally illicit (Bruni, 2022, 100).7 Renaissance Catholicism softened the positions of medieval theologians to define a new Catholic Humanism in which was central a vision of economic life mediated by the role of institutions and “communal” relationships. This type of Catholicism created the conditions for a civil economy very different from anonymous “nordic capitalism” based on individualism and accumulation of wealth.8 While Protestantism favored the development of modern capitalism, post-Tridentine Catholicism did not propose an ethically valid civil economy, but it is opposed to capitalist modernity exalting the moribund rural society, supporting the process of “re-feudalization” and condemning commercial and artisanal activities of the city (Bruni and Milbank, 2019, 226-229).9

  • 10 Trevor Roper defines Botero as “the social propagandist of the Counter Reformation” and “the theori (...)

5Contrary to these theses that oppose Catholicism (tout court, or in its Counter-Reformation version) to the mentality favorable to the development of entrepreneurial activities, in the various forms of market-oriented commercial or productive activities, Botero’s economic thought, strictly linked to the highest hierarchies of the post-Tridentine Catholic Church, privileged industrial activities, considered a sure source of enrichment and political hegemony, exalting the historical experience of the commercial economy of the Italian city-states, and countering the process of “re-feudalization” seen as an obstacle to economic development.10

  • 11 “Since Machiavelli was scarcely popular in Europe, especially in Catholic circles, Botero took care (...)
  • 12 “The literature of Reason of State recognized with particular clarity the connection between the in (...)

6Botero’s works were widely disseminated and certainly contributed to form the economic thought in the first half of the seventeenth century, synthesizing opinions, beliefs, desires and policy choices that, at that time, “floated in the public mind” (Schumpeter, [1954] 2006, 36). His influence was particularly significant because his thought fully responded to the needs of the new Tridentine Catholicism, which subordinated political power to the primacy of Christian morality and religious dogma. Nonetheless, Botero did not give up on a realistic vision of society, accepting the essence of Niccolò Machiavelli’s approach, and his program shows how to develop and maintain a powerful State without departing from the principles of Christian morality, reaffirmed against the Protestant heresy.11 This interest in politics is a hallmark of Counter-Reformation culture, and many writers “recommended the political life to citizen and Prince as a way of Christian life” (Bireley, 1990, 28).12

  • 13 The term “mercantilism” used to define economic thought between the sixteenth and eighteenth centur (...)
  • 14 On the literature about Serra, see Reinert (2011), Patalano and Reinert (2016) and Tiran (2020b).

7Botero therefore summarizes ideas common to other writers of the period,13 not only Italians: this is demonstrated by the clear affinity with the theses expressed in the Breve trattato delle cause che possono far abbondare li regni d’oro e d’argento dove non sono miniere, con applicazione al regno di Napoli (Short Treatise on the causes that make kingdoms rich in gold and silver, where there are no mines; Serra, [1613] 2011), the only known work by Antonio Serra, published in Naples in July 1613, and destined to have great weight in the Italian economic culture of the following centuries. Indeed, the first part of the Breve trattato presents strong affinities with Botero’s arguments and it is legitimate to combine the two visions in a single model of development.14

  • 15 “Hundreds of years of often extremely successful economic theory and policy under the labels ‘merca (...)
  • 16 On the complex relationship between religions and economic development, see Wilson (1997), McCleary (...)

8The relationship between Botero and Serra has been generically raised by various scholars (Barbieri, [1940] 2013, 73-74; Firpo, 1948, 29; Grilli, 2006, 71-72; Reinert, 2011, 37-46; Reinert and Fredona, 2020, 128-130) and found a first in-depth analysis in an essay by Eric Reinert (Reinert, 2016), which places their analytical contribution at the foundation of modern development economics.15 An in-depth comparative analysis of the two writers in the context of the culture of the Counter Reformation is still missing in the literature: the aim of this article is to fill this gap. As will be shown in this contribution, the analyzes of Botero (Section 1) and Serra (Section 2) are fully complementary and offer a different historiographical perspective on the relationships between Catholicism and the genesis of the capitalist economy.16 Section 3 concludes, placing Botero and Serra in continuity with the late scholastic and humanistic tradition.

  • 17 Trevor-Roper himself recognizes this: “The early Jesuits contrived to breathe into it some of the o (...)

9Botero and Serra are not the only examples of a focus on the development of productive activities in the Catholic world: in the same period in other Catholic countries, Spain and France above all, the literature focused on similar themes in an attempt to counteract the decadence of the society (see Elliott, 1977; Baeck, 1988; Howard, 2014; Hörcher, 2016). Many of the writers belonging to the Catholic clergy, and in particular to the new order of the Society of Jesus (of which Botero had been a member), were particularly careful to reconcile religious dogmas with the demands of economic reality.17

1. The Botero Model: Reason of State and Economic Development

  • 18 See also about Botero, Waley (1956), Firpo (1971), De Mattei (1979), Sénellart (1989), Nuccio (1991 (...)
  • 19 On Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, see Barbieri ([1940] 2013, 25-58) and Raviola (2018).

10A Jesuit since 1560, Botero left the Order in 1580 due to conflicts with his superiors, and from 1582 he won the trust of the prestigious family of Borromeo, becoming the first secretary of the archbishop of Milan, cardinal Carlo Borromeo, who protected him after his exclusion from the Society of Jesus and made him join the Congregation of Oblates.18 The Milanese prelate between 1583 and 1586 commissioned to Botero various publications on preaching, ascesis, rhetoric, and epistolography conceived in the purest spirit of the Tridentine reform (Marchetti, 1992).19 In 1585, commissioned by Carlo Emanuele I for a secret mission, Botero went to France. On his return to Italy, he was tutor to Carlo Borromeo’s cousin, Federico, settling in Rome for fourteen years, while making frequent trips to Italy and Europe, especially on behalf of Propaganda Fide. In Rome, he became a consultant of the Congregation of the Index, alongside the most prominent ecclesiastical intellectuals of Pope Sixtus V, including Roberto Bellarmino and Silvio Antoniano, contributing to the drafting of the new Index Librorum Prohibitorum. He was recalled to Turin in 1599 by Carlo Emanuele, and for eight years he served as tutor to the Savoy Princes, accompanying them in their stay at the Spanish court. Then he was left free to attend to his studies (see Firpo, 1971).

  • 20 “Botero’s small book (3 + 79 pp) The Cause of the Greatnesse of Cities (first edition Botero, [1588 (...)
  • 21 This work had ten editions (see Firpo, 1948, 461-463; Waley, 1956, xi). For Louis Baeck: “it was th (...)
  • 22 The fifth part of Relationi was published posthumously in 1895 by Carlo Gioda (Gioda, 1894, vol. II (...)

11In a matter of years, between 1588 and 1595, the former Jesuit Botero published his three fundamental works: Delle cause della grandezza delle città (The Greatness of Cities, published in Rome in 1588),20 Della ragion di Stato (Reason of State),21 his most famous work (published in Venice in 1589) and finally the first part of the Relationi universali (Universal Relations, published in Rome in 1591, followed by three more parts published respectively in 1592, 1594 and 1595).22 These three works merge into

  • 23 Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are by the author.

[an] organic unity, constituting a sufficiently orderly and complete encyclopedia of political sciences, in which Reason of State touches preferably on internal political problems, The Greatness of Cities on economic-demographic issues, and Universal Relations on geographical-statistical aspects, providing an updated manual for foreign policy issues, while the historical compilations perform didactic and formative functions in a more modest tone (Firpo, 1948, 28).23

  • 24 An unfavorable opinion on Botero’s political thought was expressed by Friedrich Meinecke, an opinio (...)
  • 25 According to Michel Sénellart, Botero considers the economic strength as the answer to the problem (...)

12In this organic framework, the central nucleus of Botero’s political thought is built around the concept of prudence as the foundation of the art of government, as opposed to cunning and fraud.24 The prudent attitude therefore underpins the power of the Prince, who expresses himself not only in obedience to the precepts of the Tridentine Church, but in the sound management of the wealth of his own State.25 Botero certainly could not ignore the tragedy of Philip II’s monarchy with the three bankruptcies of 1557, 1575 and 1596, the decline of productive activities, the inflationary fever caused by the influx of precious metals from the New World and the financial drain caused by Habsburg imperialism.

  • 26 On the origin of the concept of Reason of State, see De Mattei (1979).
  • 27 See also Botero ([1589] 2017, 4).

13According to Botero, if power can be preserved only if the State is well managed, reflecting on the causes of wealth becomes essential. In Botero’s view the prudent Prince becomes the incarnation of the Reason of State, which “cannot be reduced to an intelligent calculation or the manifestation of a higher will. It is technical knowledge that the Prince, a worker in his own State, uses to increase his power through common prosperity” (Sénellart, 1992, 38-39).26 In the words of Botero: “Reason of State is the knowledge of the means by which such a dominion may be founded, preserved and extended” (Botero, [1589] 1956, 3).27 A Prince, Botero points out, acquires a State by force but preserves it using wisdom, and “many are mighty, but few are wise” (Botero, [1589] 1956, 6).

Prudence serves the Prince as his eyes, without them he would be a blind man, and in order to be able to exercise it he must have full knowledge of the nature, talents and inclination of his subjects, so that he can temper them with the rules of good governance, just as in war he must have full awareness of military matters (Botero, [1589] 1956, 34-35).

14In this perspective, Botero pays particular attention to the causes that determine the development of cities, considered as the foundation of civilization and political and economic power. Botero, following geo-economic criteria of classification, provides the first example of the application of the “principle of economic utility, as the first normal motive of human actions and policies” (Breglia, 1928, 126).

15Botero identifies the city as a center of human agglomeration and, if certain conditions are met, as the main places of production and distribution of wealth:

A city is said to be an assembly of people, a congregation drawn together to the end they may thereby the better live at their ease in wealth and plenty. And the greatness of a city is said to be, not the largeness of the site or the circuit of the walls, but the multitude and number of the inhabitants and their power (Botero, [1606] 1956, 227).

16Men can aggregate in a place—Botero observes—as a result of the authority of wise legislators, or by force and necessity, or due to the ruin of neighboring lands, or to delight characterizing the site, but all these reasons are not enough if there is no profitable utility and commodity:

Not authority alone, for if the place where to men are drawn through the authority of any afford them no commodity, they will not abide nor tarry there. Neither yet necessity, for such a congregation and collection of people increaseth, multiplieth and lasteth for many years, and necessity is violent, and violence cannot produce any durable effect. … Much less then is pleasure and delight of any moment. For man is born to labour, and most men attend their business, and the idler sort are of no account nor reckoning, and their idleness is built and founded upon the labours and the industry of those that work. And pleasure cannot stand without profit and commodity, whereof she is, as it were, the very fruit (Botero, [1606] 1956, 233-234).

17Then “to make a city great and famous, the commodity [convenience] of the site, the fertility of the soil and easiness of conduct helpeth sufficiently enough” (Botero, [1606] 1956, 234). For “convenience of the site”, Botero understands that particular geographical position, which allows the city to be both a necessary passage for the trade of neighboring peoples, and a commercial warehouse; in other words, the site must be an integral part of a traffic area and not a simple “pass” (“partaketh with both”; Botero, [1606] 1956, 234): this is the case of the development of cities such as Genoa, Venice, Antwerp and Lisbon which have grown as useful “warehouses” and not only as outlets for the neighboring people (Botero, [1606] 1956, 234-235).

18The second cause that, according to Botero, can explain the development of a city is the fruitfulness of the soil, which obviously guarantees the existence of an abundant population and wealth, if an exportable surplus is formed. However, this cause alone does not fully guarantee urban development, it must be added to the convenience of transporting goods by water or by easy overland routes (“commodity of conduct”; Botero, [1606] 1956, 235-243).

  • 28 Botero eliminates the chapter about industry from the successive editions of Greatness to insert it (...)

19The physical requirements, set out in Book I, constitute a condition for urban development, but they are not sufficient without other contingent human factors which for various reasons attract population. These factors are: the provision of asylum, privileges and immunities granted to the citizenry, the availability of entertainment, the existence of colonies to avoid overpopulation and guarantee citizens a comfortable life, the presence of religious and study sites, the presence of courts, the provision of particular rare goods, the presence of infrastructure and public works, the residence of the Prince and nobility, and finally the most important element, the presence of industries (Botero, [1606] 1956, 247-273):28

Nothing is of greater importance for increasing the power of a State and gaining for it more inhabitants and wealth of every kind than the industry of its people and the number of crafts they exercise. Some of these are essential or useful for civilized living, others are required for pomp and ornament and others for luxuries and for the enjoyment of leisure. These crafts cause a conflux of money and of people, some of whom work, some trade in the finished products, some provide raw materials and others buy, sell and transport from one place to another the fruits of man’s ingenuity and skill (Botero, [1606] 1956, 150-151).

20Industry counts more than agriculture as a factor of economic development, because:

the products of the manual skill of man are more in number and of greater worth than the produce of nature, for nature provides the material and the object but the infinite variations of form are the result of the ingenuity and skill of man (Botero, [1606] 1956, 151).

  • 29 This topic will be developed by Antonio Serra.

21As the example of Italy shows, industry guarantees greater wealth and the exploitation of natural resources, as in the case of mines, produces more revenue if it is accompanied by collateral activities of an industrial nature (Botero, [1606] 1956, 152). Consequently, even a country that does not have deposits of precious metals, such as France or Italy, can have a high level of wealth as a result of the development of productive activities (Botero, [1606] 1956, 152).29

22The Prince’s policy must therefore be aimed at introducing manufacturing activities into the cities, attracting skilled artisans and merchants from foreign countries, rewarding technical innovations and properly protecting the raw materials necessary for industrial activities:

  • 30 Botero explicitly refers to the emigration of persecuted religious minorities as a factor of econom (...)

A Prince, therefore, who wishes to make his cities populous must introduce every kind of industry and craft by attracting good work men from other countries and providing them with accommodation and everything convenient for their craft, by encouraging new techniques and singular and rare works, and rewarding perfection and excellence. But above all he must not permit raw materials, wool, silk, timber, metals and so on, to leave his State, for with the materials will go the craftsmen. Trade in goods made from these materials will provide a livelihood for a far larger number of people than will the raw materials; and the export of the finished manufactured article will provide the ruler with greater revenues than will the material alone (Botero, [1606] 1956, 153).30

  • 31 “The invariable hostility to the innovations by the guilds has been deeply and convincingly revised (...)

23In Botero’s view, productivity is as a source of wealth and development. To increase it, it is necessary to guarantee specialization, which is why children must do the job of fathers, as established by Chinese laws, because two benefits derive from them: “that great excellence in crafts is attained and that every man has the opportunity to learn in his own home a trade that will keep him” (Botero, [1589] 1956, 92). Botero therefore defends the role of corporations as efficient structures for organizing production.31 In China, where begging is not allowed, even the blind and the lame are employed within the limits of their strength. Lazy poverty is also the greatest danger to the stability of the State and it is convenient to expel the indigent population from the country, or send it to the colonies or the army, or force it into productive activities (Botero, [1589] 1956, 92-93).

24Once the city, and therefore the entire country, has reached a high level of development due to natural and human causes, it will need to be preserved over time to avoid decay. A first element of conservation—Botero observes—comes from natural resources since means of livelihood and population must always be in equilibrium, and, if this does not happen, famines, epidemics and other similar events will providentially restore the proportion (Botero, [1606] 1956, 235-243). Population growth is therefore not an end in itself, but only a condition for the development of national wealth: more population equals more productive power. A second element is human and concerns the policy that the Prince must follow, ensuring justice, peace and plenty (Botero, [1589] 1956, 75-78). This policy theme, best suited to the preservation of power, is the central element of Reason of State, in which Botero outlines various precepts that the Prince must follow to avoid the ruin of his own domain which is always determined by internal collapse. Ensuring abundance is undoubtedly the first task, favoring the development of agriculture and industry (Botero, [1589] 1956, 148-153), also with a suitable policy of public works (Botero, [1589] 1956, 106), and guaranteeing the widest circulation of wealth, but the excess of wealth can be just as dangerous as famine and poverty (Botero, [1589] 1956, 72).

  • 32 According to Cosimo Perrotta, Botero’s arguments against usury reproduce the traditional medieval c (...)

25Usury and parasitic rents are the greatest obstacles to the circulation of wealth in a society that has reached a certain degree of development. Botero’s condemnation is not based on the traditional moral and religious precepts, but he invokes economic arguments:32

Usury is nothing other than larceny, or even worse … . And how does it help the Prince if he does not burden his vassals immoderately but allows them to be ruined by the avarice of the usurers who without working nor contributing any benefit to the republic consume the wealth of individuals? So much for individuals. Usury also destroys the public treasury and ruins the public income. Customs and taxes create adequate income when real commerce flows, entering and exiting your States and as it passes through paying tribute at seaports and river crossings, at city gates and other suitable locations. Now commerce is not able to flow properly if money is not invested in it. And who does not know that those who want to grow rich through usury give up trade because one cannot engage in it without risking one’s wealth and without exertion of body and mind, and with a piece of paper selling partly time and partly the use of money, draw interest from money and so enrich themselves without effort? (Botero, [1589] 2017, 22)

26The effect of usury practices is devastating:

So in this way, since everyone prefers to earn without effort, the town squares are necessarily deserted, the arts are abandoned, commerce is interrupted because the artisan abandons his shop, the peasant his plow, the nobleman sells his inheritance and changes it into money, and the merchant, whose calling requires him to travel untiringly from one country to another, remains at home. Inasmuch as the cities lose whatever they have that is beautiful and good, taxes decline, customs produce no income, and the treasury is depleted, and the people, reduced to extreme misery and desperation, desire a change in the State (Botero, [1589] 2017, 22).

  • 33 Botero, like Antonio Serra, showed great admiration for Venice (see Botero, 1605; Bottaro Palumbo, (...)

27Wealth consists—Botero states—in the real exchange of the products of the land and industry, in imports and exports, the usurer not only does none of this, but, by fraudulently taking money for himself, takes away the means from others to do business (Botero, [1589] 2017, 23). Usury and rent favor the concentration of wealth and weaken the State as demonstrated by the case of Genoa which, by building its fortune in the banking sector, has “increased private wealth beyond measure but has greatly impoverished public revenues”, unlike Venice which by engaging in trade, has become “moderately rich as individuals but infinitely rich in common” (Botero, [1589] 2017, 23).33

28Growing the “middle class” without over-burdening it with taxes (Botero, [1589] 1956, 132) and basing taxation on assets, and not on “individuals”, can guarantee justice and stability (Botero, [1589] 1956, 136). A prudent management of the Prince’s treasure, avoiding debts and waste, can provide the State with sufficient means to respond to emergency situations without burdening the population excessively. However, hoarding must not harm trade, taking away a lot of money from circulation (Botero, [1589] 1956, 139-140). Finally, trade must be left to private individuals, but the Prince can directly exercise mercantile activity when private individuals do not have sufficient capital, when private individuals acquire great wealth from trade, and when trade is necessary for public health (Botero, [1589] 1956, 165).

29According to Botero, China, more than any other country, seems to approach this political and economic model:

The King of China has a revenue of more than a hundred million in gold, which some find incredible. But I do believe it. If all is true that has been written of the huge size of his kingdom, its fertility, its mineral wealth and the countless multitudes of artisans and merchants, the convenience of the paved roads throughout the kingdom, the advantage of navigable rivers, the number, size and density of the cities; and also of the cleverness and industry of the people, who do not waste so much as an inch of ground nor an ounce of material, however poor, but turn everything to some purpose, as John de Barros and others say, so that even their carts have sails to help them along (Botero, [1589] 1956, 143).

30Spain is a negative example, not only because it expelled productive classes, like Jews and Moors, for the benefit of other neighboring countries, but also because:

  • 34 The production development proposed by Botero called into question the power of the farmers gathere (...)

an abundance of raw materials and a variety of crafts enrich both the individual and the State. If Spain is accounted a barren land this is not due to any deficiency of the soil but to the sparseness of the inhabitants. For the land is good and suitable for the production of everything requisite for daily life, and if it were cultivated it would be capable of sustaining an infinite number of people (Botero, [1589] 1956, 145).34

31And even Italy with its lack of infrastructure does not facilitate trade and production:

  • 35 Botero noted:

some Princes in Italy are much to blame, in whose countries in the winter-time horses are bemired in sloughs up to the belly, and carts are stabled and set fast in the tough dirt and mire. So that carriages by cart or horse are thereby very cumbersome, and a journey that might be well dispatched in a day can hardly be performed in three or four (Botero, [1606] 1956, 258).35

32Botero traced, as Luigi Firpo writes, “for the first time, a scientific theory on topographical dislocation and on the growth of urban agglomerations, which identifies precise relationships between the natural environment, economic resources and demographic development” (Firpo, 1971, 356).

  • 36 Other scholars have wanted to consider Relationi as a work that anticipates the method of statistic (...)
  • 37 Botero does not mention the Italian principalities, as his goal was probably to tell the world outs (...)

33The same classification method is applied to that richly documented “compendium of the world” which is Relationi Universali (Universal Relations), considered a prime example of geopolitical analysis (Albonico, 1992; Descendre, 2005; 2009).36 The four parts of the Relationi analyze the whole world then known from the point of view of physical and human geography (Part I), from the political and economic point of view (Part II) and finally from the point of view of customs and religions in the Old and New World (Part III-IV), providing the reader with a sort of geographical encyclopedia (Baffetti, 2003). The second part is certainly the most interesting for a reconstruction of Botero’s economic thought. The wealth of information provided, derived from the most varied sources available from ambassadorial reports to missionary travel reports, is articulated on three levels: economic resources, military power and the system of government (Descendre, 2005, 54). The geopolitical space is distinguished in the emerging national monarchies (France, England, Sweden, Russia, Poland; Botero, 1595, 8-50), the imperial entities (Holy Roman Empire, Spanish and Ottoman Empire, Tartar Khanate, China, Great Moghul, Persia; Botero, 1595, 50-79, 94-109, 130-154) and a special role, at the end of the compendium, is attributed to the Roman Pontiff as the guide of the Christian kingdoms (Botero, 1595, 161-169; see also Botero, 1605).37 According to Botero, the State power is the result of different factors: the multitude of peoples, the value of the inhabitants, the wealth, the geographical position and the political opportunities (Botero, 1595, 2-6). Much of the work is then dedicated to various African and Asian countries, evoked in a mixture of legend and reality, whose economic-political situation is described in great detail, with a masterful use of secondary sources.

  • 38 According to Perrotta, Botero “is a stateless mercantilist” who elaborates universal principles, bu (...)
  • 39 Thus, Carlo Maria Cipolla defines the ephemeral recovery of the economy of Northern Italy in the ea (...)
  • 40 Between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, the nobles, who moved to the cities, which had beco (...)

34A careful reading of Botero’s work reveals elements of undoubted interest to understand the economic thought in the age of the Counter-Reformation.38 Because of his position in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the former Jesuit Botero can be considered an intellectual organic to the Counter-Reformation, a bearer of demands and expectations acceptable to ecclesiastical power. The emphasis placed on industry as the most solid source of wealth underlies a social model in which economic initiative, productivity and trade are encouraged and considered positive elements. His ideal universe is the urban economy based on the central role of corporations, considered as efficient structures for work organization. Botero re-proposed the model of development followed by the Italian mercantile centers since the commercial revolution of the thirteenth century, a model that at the beginning of the seventeenth century still appeared solid (the Italian economy was experiencing its “Indian Summer”) and even more widely praised.39 It was a model that represented a balanced compromise of interests between the urban aristocracy and the merchant class, which had first been achieved with the Italian Signories and then, more solidly, with the nascent national monarchies.40 Botero does not hesitate to consider the middle class as a pillar of this industrialist model, while he looks distrustfully at social extremes, the poor and the rich. The purpose is to prevent the aristocracy and the merchant class from abandoning productive activities for positions of income, in the sense of a “return to the land” (Beltrami, 1956) or a “re-feudalization” (Romano, 1962; Villari, 1967, 161-175; Romano, 1980, 128-129; Malanima, 2022, 96-98; Villari, 2012), which would result in a reduction in productive investments and a stagnation of industrial and commercial activities. The social model that Botero proposes is therefore opposed to the society of rentiers of land and finance, which is founded on wealth separated from a solid productive activity. It is an ethic that is typical of the Jesuit vision of which Botero is in fact a popularizer. It is not by chance that Boterian reflection on China, considered an example of an advanced society, comes entirely from the travel reports of the missionaries of the Society of Jesus (see Botero, 1659, 96-97, 290).

  • 41 Traces of the influence of Botero’s thought can be found in England (in particular on Walter Raleig (...)

35Botero’s works had a large circulation in Europe and numerous translations were made when the author was still alive.41 Such success is due to the ability to systematically display central themes for the nascent modern State, such as tax collection, military organization, the role of trade and industry, good governance and the legitimacy of power (Firpo, 1971, 357). A vehicle for the diffusion of Botero’s works consists of network of contacts and relationships built up by the Jesuit Order.

36In France, Botero’s Reason of State found an immediate echo in De republica by Pierre Grégoire (Grégoire, 1596; see also Baldini, 1992a and Quaglioni, 1992), a jurist in the faculty of jurisprudence of Toulouse, which was largely dominated by the Jesuits. The Flemish Jesuit Leonard Lessius (1554-1623) proposed a realistic approach to the moral problems raised by economic and financial questions, directly observing the practice of business in Antwerp and declaring that the moral precepts against the lending of money established by the Thomistic school were by then a thing of the past (Lessius, [1605] 2016).

  • 42 “In Spain, Philip II himself ordered the translation of the Ragion, confiding it to his royal chron (...)

37But it was in Spain that the Botero model was adopted, becoming a central element in the debate on the decline of the Habsburg empire.42 Botero was one of the first to notice the symptoms of the Spanish decline (Perrotta, 2012, 283). In fact, his work

became the blueprint of the provincial and regional forces in Europe in favour of a balanced development policy. In Spain, where the cosmopolitan policy in trade and industry was undermining the national middle classes by favouring a transit economy, Botero’s ideas were well received (Baeck, 1988, 395).

38In particular, the group of writers known as arbitristas (Gutiérrez Nieto, 1986; Dubet, 2000; Dubet and Sabatini, 2009), welcomed Botero’s development philosophy, strongly opposed to the hidalgo mentality:

  • 43 “The political economists were critical of the policy of the Habsburgs in a populist fashion. They (...)

The arbitristas proposed that Government expenditure should be slashed; that the tax-system in Castile should be overhauled, and the other kingdoms of the Monarchy be called upon to contribute more to the royal exchequer; that immigrants should be encouraged to repopulate Castile; that fields should be irrigated, rivers be made navigable, and agriculture and industry be protected and fostered. In itself there was nothing impossible about such a program (Elliot, 2002, 301).43

  • 44 On Pedro Ribadeneira see Bireley (1990, 111-135), Fernández-Santamaría (1992) and Howard (2014, 69- (...)

39The arbitristas Sancho de Moncada (1580-1638), González de Cellorigo (1559-1633) and Juan de Salazar (1575-ca. 1635) cited Botero on different arguments (Grice-Hutchinson, 1978, 156), while Gaspar Juan Escolano (1560-1619) refuted Botero’s thesis on the Spanish decline (Gil, 2017). Economic programs consistent with the Botero model were drawn up by Jesuit priests Pedro Ribadeneira (1526-1611), Luis de Molina (1535-1600), one of the most influential economic thinkers of the sixteenth century (Schüssler, 2014, 257), Francisco Suarez (1548-1617) and Juan de Mariana (1536-1624). Ribadeneira in his Christian Prince shared the interest in economic problems, stressing the importance of balanced taxation, extensive and orderly trade and proper management of State revenue, but unlike Botero, the Spanish Jesuit gave priority to the development of agriculture over industrial activities (Ribadeneira, [1595] 1948, Book II, chap. IX-X).44

40In a more general context involving the difficult relationship between ethics, religious dogmas and concrete economic interests, Luis de Molina and Juan de Mariana with a pragmatic approach, stressed different economic matters such as taxation, free markets, monetary policy and price regulation, contributing to the separation of analysis of economic activity from religious dogma (Pribram, 1983, 27-30; Rothbard, 1995, 97-134; Alonso-Lasheras, 2011; Schüssler, 2014; MacGregor, 2015).

41The main feature of this generation of Jesuit theologians is pragmatism and “in their discussions of questions of economic policy [they] favored various institutions of early capitalism” (Pribram, 1983, 30). According to Hector M. Robertson:

  • 45 Against Robertson’s thesis see Brodrick (1934). See also Samuelsson (1993).

Weber has not proved that the Puritans introduced a new economic ethic. The Protestants as well as the Catholics spoke with an ambiguous voice. But as a rule the Calvinistic contribution to the capitalist spirit was the same as that of the Jansenists or stricter school of Catholics, consisting of the encouragement of industry, thrift, order and honesty; while the Jesuits went further and favoured enterprise, freedom of speculation and the expansion of trade as a social benefit. It would not be difficult to claim that the religion which favoured the spirit of capitalism was Jesuitry, not Calvinism (Robertson, [1933] 1959, 164).45

42This focus on economic activities would then find its fulfillment in the Jesuit reducciones of Latin America, managed like real companies on criteria of economic efficiency (Macera, 1968).

2. The Botero Model Applied to the Kingdom of Naples: Serra’s Breve trattato

  • 46 If this is the framework in which Serra moved we can also formulate an interpretative hypothesis on (...)
  • 47 The crimes of monetary falsification and complicity in the famous anti-Spanish conspiracy hatched b (...)
  • 48 For guesswork about his life, see De Rosa (1965), Groenewegen (1987), Nuccio (1991c), Roncaglia (19 (...)

43While the figure and intellectual path taken by Botero are known, Serra appears shrouded in mystery: the only certain information is to be found in the Breve trattato, his only known work. He was well-educated doctor (probably in law) born in Cosenza in the late sixteenth century, and with practical experience in trade and finance, probably acquired as a member of families of Genoese origin (the Serra), transplanted to the Kingdom of Naples and dedicated to commercial and financial activities.46 In 1613 he was prisoner in the Neapolitan jail of Vicaria, for unknown reasons.47 In addition to the exiguous information obtained from Breve trattato, his existence is testified by another source, which describes a meeting occurred on Wednesday, September 6th, 1617 between Serra, “incarcerated in the Vicaria for a long time”, and the Duke of Osuna, Viceroy of Naples from 1616 to 1620, in order to discuss a reform plan, which was deemed unrealistic and probably did not change his condition as a prisoner (Zazzera, 1667, 78).48

  • 49 The complementarity between Botero and Serra is also underlined by Eric Reinert, according to whom: (...)

44Despite the fact that the Breve trattato, as it is known, is motivated by the polemical intention of refuting the positions in favor of political control of the exchange rate (proposed by Marc’Antonio De Santis, a Neapolitan merchant advisor of the Regia Camera della Sommaria, a superior court with exclusive jurisdiction in administrative and financial matters; see De Santis, [1605a] 1994a; [1605] 1994b; Casella, 1991), the first part of the work addresses the general theme of the causes of wealth in countries that do not have precious metal mines. The identification of these causes presents significant elements of affinity with the treatment outlined by Botero.49 Although never mentioned in the Breve trattato, it cannot be excluded that the works of the former Jesuit were known to Serra, given their wide circulation in the first decades of the seventeenth century and the wide influence they had in the economic and political culture of the time.

45Serra, like Botero, believes that prudence is an essential virtue in the art of government and that the latter should be exercised using specific knowledge, but in this matter:

everyone presumes to understand it. Whatever danger may threaten, however difficult it may be, even the most ignorant bumpkin will suggest a remedy, declaring that such and such a measure should be taken or such a law passed, and that if he were the ruler, he would adopt such and such a course of action. The opposite happens in any other science or art: no one dreams of discussing them unless he has first acquired practice and experience in them, either in whole or in part; this may be seen in philosophy, astrology, mathematics and other disciplines, and in all the arts (Serra, [1613] 2011, 109).

46Knowing how to govern kingdoms and republics is therefore a very difficult art comparable “in difficulty and uncertainty to medicine” (Serra, [1613] 2011, 111) for which the prudent warning of Hippocrates is valid: “Art is long, life is short, judgement difficult, experience dangerous and occasion sudden” (Serra, [1613] 2011, 111). Politics, the art of government, can never reach an absolute truth, it cannot proceed by demonstrations as in mathematical science (it “is so difficult to understand even for experts”; Serra, [1613] 2011, 111), but can proceed only “by enthymemes and topical arguments” (Serra, [1613] 2011, 111). This is a central point for understanding Serra’s method: in Aristotelian logic, enthymemes are particular syllogisms based on plausible statements, in which one of the premises is not certain but only probable and therefore does not have a demonstrative purpose but a persuasive one, in relation to ethical or political issues. Serra probably wants to underline the persuasive and practical implications of his argument, appealing to the art of rhetoric, of which the entymeme is a central figure.

47In a nutshell, according to Serra, the art of government must be supported by a careful analysis of reality so that choices are not rash and do not lead to ruin. And it was the wrong policies that precipitated the poor Kingdom of Naples,

and does not let it breathe, not enjoy the fruits that nature has given it, and which has made it become far worse than the other parts of Italy—to relieve it, I say, from the immense debt which grip all the communities, a debt which by virtue of its size seems irremediable, and which is constantly increasing so that, if it is not countered, many of those communities will be forced to leave the homeland and live elsewhere. (Serra, [1613] 2011, 105)

  • 50 Serra advises the Prince who owns precious metal mines to implement policies that do not take into (...)

48To favor the appropriate political decisions to solve the dramatic situation of the Neapolitan kingdom, fallen into the paradox of being rich in foodstuffs, but completely devoid of gold and silver, Serra wants to proceed “with scholarly rigour” treating the “cause in general” which determines the wealth of a country (Serra, [1613] 2011, 115).50

49The foundation of wealth for countries that do not have mines of precious metals is the result of the co-operation of different factors (“accidenti”), which Serra distinguishes as “proper”, that is linked to natural conditions, and “common”, because “they occur”, or may occur, in any kingdom (Serra, [1613] 2011, 118).

50“Proper” factors derive from the fertility of the soil and the favorable geographical position for transit trade (the same argument developed by Botero), while “common” ones come from a “multiplicity of manufacturing activities”, an “enterprising population”, “extensive trade” and “enlightened and provident government, or effective government” (Serra, [1613] 2011, 119).

51Serra’s argument is in many respects entirely analogous to that of Botero, of which he is in some respects a development. In the first place, Serra delves into Botero’s theme of the greater wealth created by manufacturing, highlighting four reasons: (1) the greater certainty that characterizes the productive result and the consequent gain compared to the uncertainty that instead marks agricultural production (“robba”), subject to the vagaries of the climate; (2) industrial production guarantees higher yields than agricultural activity; (3) the sale is safer since the artifacts are easier to keep than agricultural commodities and therefore can even reach distant markets due to the continuous improvements in transport; and, finally, (4) industrial products have greater added value than agricultural products (Serra, [1613] 2011, 120). According to Joseph Schumpeter, these notes by Serra define, for the first time in the history of economic thought, “the idea that industrial and agrarian production as such follow different laws” (Schumpeter, [1954] 2006, 248). Moreover, Serra identifies the link between productivity and market size, specifying that:

the relationship between them is such that the one complements and enhances the other; for the extensive trade helps and improves the accident of a multiplicity of manufacturing activities, by multiplying the number of manufacturing activities; and the multiplication and the improvement of the manufacturing activities helps and improves the trade (Serra, [1613] 2011, 141).

52Another element that Serra examines in depth is economic policy (called the “provvisione di colui che governa” or “effective government”), considered the most important factor of development, which

contains all the other accidents, and can cause them, move them for its purpose and preserve them. Some might object that, if this is so, I should have put this accident in the first place, before the accident of a multiplicity of manufacturing activities. But my reason for choosing the order I did is that the accident of a multiplicity of manufacturing activities is certain, whereas that of effective government is uncertain—uncertain, that is, not in itself, but with respect to the agent, because of the difficulties that I have mentioned. I have taken the view, in other words, that certainty of realization has precedence over nobility of subject (Serra, [1613] 2011, 131, 133).

  • 51 Serra recognizes that the wealth accumulated in Rome and used for the great monumental works belong (...)

53The example of good government that Serra refers to as a model is the policy followed in the Papal States by Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590), former inquisitor general in the Venetian Republic and for this reason “to the cardinals gathered in conclave in the spring of 1585 [he] seemed the most suitable person to lead the Church of the Counter-Reformation” (Landi, 1996, 722).51

  • 52 Unlike what Luca Addante writes, the reference to Sixtus V is not inserted for a requirement of “pr (...)

54Beyond his doctrinal role, Sixtus V implemented a policy of supporting productive activities by embodying the “industrialist model” proposed by Botero. In fact, during his brief pontificate he promoted a policy of public works (reclamation of the Pontine marshes, urban restructuring of Rome), supported and encouraged agricultural activities and the trade of wool and silk, allowed Jews to carry out commercial activities, implemented a reform of the public administration, improving its efficiency.52

  • 53 On the economic conditions of the Kingdom of Naples, see Calabria (1991), De Rosa (1994) and Tiran (...)
  • 54 Even Botero considers the Genoese as an example of economic activism (Botero, 1601a, 64-67).
  • 55 The fertility of the Neapolitan kingdom, especially Calabria, is also emphasized by Botero (1601a, (...)

55The scheme thus outlined serves as a tool to understand the reality of the Neapolitan Kingdom.53 According to Serra, the Kingdom of Naples is entirely lacking in common factors of development and as for proper factors, it possesses only fertility of the site. By contrast, the economic power of Venice and Genoa is the effect of a successful combination of proper and common development factors. Venice offers the example of a favorable geographical position, which together with the quality of the craftsmen, allowed a considerable and very lucrative amount of commercial intermediation, reinforced by the appropriate policies of the government. Genoa’s success is determined by the particular quality of its people who have been able to find commercial spaces and are extremely adaptable.54 Finally, Rome offers the example of how the foresight and prudence (“provisione”) of he “who governs” can alone be a decisive cause of wealth. Serra has a realistic view of the role of the South Italy in international trade, considering it dependent on foreign countries for most spices and drugs, for metals (iron, lead, tin), for colonial products (sugar), for industrial artifacts, in particular clothing, for glass and mirrors, for artistic products and even for publishing, and finally also for wheat, despite the fertility of its soil.55

56Serra is therefore fully aware of the peripheral condition of the Neapolitan kingdom, although there is no reference in his Trattato to the sums of money that were withdrawn and sent towards Madrid and Rome, and which constituted as is known the most consistent “loss” of the Neapolitan Kingdom (De Rosa, 1994, xlvi-xlvii).

57In this context the only possibility of rapid development could come from craft and industrial activities. But the application to the Kingdom of Naples of a model of manufacturing development, for Serra, cannot be based on the local population, which is unfit to perform this type of activity:

The inhabitants of the country are so unenterprising that they do not trade outside their own territory—not even with the other parts of Italy, let alone with the other nations of Europe, such as Spain, France and Germany. And such local industries as do exist are run not by Neapolitans themselves, but by people from other places, chiefly other parts of Italy—Genoese, Florentines, Bergamasques, Venetians and others. But although the Neapolitans see these people running businesses in their own country and growing wealthy as a result, they lack the initiative to follow their example and set up businesses in their own homes. In this they are the exact opposite of the Genoese, who have few opportunities at home, but, not content with the business that they do in other parts of Italy, put up with all kinds of hardship and danger, travelling not just through every nation of Europe but through the other parts of the world, even, if they can obtain a licence from His Catholic Majesty, as far as the New Indies. The effect of their action illustrates the importance of this accident of an enterprising population. For although their country is barren, the Genoese have money in abundance, whereas the citizens of the Kingdom of Naples, although their land is fertile, are extremely poor (Serra, [1613] 2011, 123, 125).

  • 56 As Cosimo I de Medici had done in Tuscany, favoring the immigration of artisans from abroad (Reiner (...)

58This is a fundamental passage of Serra’s treatise: if this local incapacity existed, posited as a sort of anthropological datum, it is obvious that the space had to be given to those who were able to organize and direct manufacturing, that is, to foreign merchants who needed freedom of action to use local resources in order to enter international markets. This purpose could be achieved by attracting technical and entrepreneurial skills from outside, through policies favoring the immigration of artisans from abroad, who would constitute the productive class, compensating for the absence of local entrepreneurial skills.56

  • 57 For his defense of the free flows of goods and money, Serra cannot be considered a mercantilist in (...)

59Serra, like Botero, recalls “in practice the attitude of the sovereigns of the independent kingdom aimed at enhancing, with encouragement and relief to entrepreneurs, economic activity and the birth of industries” (Caracciolo, 1966, 152). Serra defends the role of foreign merchants, especially Genoese, as creators of wealth and at the same time warns them, praising the supremacy of industrial activities, to avoid investing capital in land and public debt and to avoid trade, opposing a trend that by the beginning of the seventeenth century had become very clear (Calabria, 1991, 5-6; Musi, 1991, 168; Villari, 1967, 173; Galasso, 1994; 2006). The debate between Marc’Antonio de Santis and Antonio Serra focused on the contrast of different models of development. De Santis proposed a process of development focused on the mobilization of local forces against the Kingdom’s subjection to foreign investors and rentiers, based on the myth that Southern Italy’s natural fertility would confer upon Naples an advantage in terms of trade (De Santis, [1605a] 1994a, 14, 29-30). Antonio Serra defended the role of the foreign investors, proposing as model the commercial and manufacturing development of the Northern Italian city-states (Genoa, Florence and, above all, Venice), based on the free circulation of currencies and goods (Serra, [1613] 2011, 213), an opinion clearly in contrast with bullionist policy.57 Underlining the conditions of backwardness of the southern economy, Serra confirms its condition of dependence on the most developed manufacturing and financial centers.

  • 58 About the debate on monetary measures in the early seventeenth century in the Kingdom of Naples, se (...)

60Monetary policy must of course be subordinated to this development goal and there should therefore be no adoption of administrative measures on the exchange rate, no restrictive intervention on outgoing cash flows or on the entry of foreign currencies (which must be valued by the mint by weight; Serra, [1613] 2011, 221), but a return to the old theme of the stability of money (Serra, [1613] 2011, 223), including that intended for the retail trade (Serra, [1613] 2011, 225), and the preservation of the right proportion of legal value among the different money metals (Serra, [1613] 2011, 235).58

  • 59 Even Botero praises the institutions of the Venetian Republic (Botero, 1659, 682, 720, 735).

61These principles, according to Serra, must be the basis of the most appropriate monetary policy both for a country forced to import and which aspires to enter international trade and for a producer of industrial goods. The principle of the stability of money is essentially reaffirmed as the foundation of the monetary policy of the mercantile republics since the thirteenth century, a principle particularly appreciated by Genoese creditors (Arrighi, 1994, 155). The monetary system was therefore not irrelevant in the development process, even though it constitutes a secondary cause, the effect of the “foresight and prudence” of those who govern. Serra’s attention to monetary policy represents his greatest element of originality compared to Botero, who completely ignored this issue in his analysis. The praise then of a stable government as an essential factor of development leads Serra to identify in the oligarchic institutions of the Venetian Republic the perfect form of government (Serra, [1613] 2011, chap. X, Part One; Addante, 2001), implicitly condemning the Viceregal institution with its political discontinuity, the result of the changing external interests of the Castilian monarchy.59

  • 60 In similar terms later also Fabio Frezza, another exponent of the “people”, formulates the same con (...)

62The industrialism proposed by Serra, similar to Botero’s approach, contrasts with the state of backwardness of the Kingdom which at that time was grappling with a generalized subsistence crisis attributable only in part to the normal fluctuations of the agricultural cycle, as the celebrated fertility of the land of Southern Italy was only a myth (a myth also shared by Botero). The seriousness of the problem is represented by the recurrent food crises that put pressure on the Annona (administration of grain supply) for long periods. This problem however became central in the thought of some intellectuals, providing an alternative model of development to the one based on the priority of expanding manufacturing activities. In 1604, Francesco Imperato in his Discorso politico intorno al regimento delle piazze della città di Napoli (Political Discourse about the Government of the City of Naples) emphasized the importance of State management of the Annona, placing among the principal duties of the Prince that of remedying the bad harvests with his own resources, without imposing new taxes, even by making use of imports, if necessary. But the government’s most important task was to know the real state of agricultural production, so as to avoid price speculation (Imperato, 1604, 30-31).60

63The theme of subsistence was addressed in more decisive terms by Tommaso Campanella, in his Arbitri sopra le entrate del regno di Napoli (Discourse about the Income of the Kingdom of Naples; see Firpo, 1973), written in 1605. Campanella proposed drastic solutions to counteract the merchant class’s speculation on the supplies of grain, inviting the government to take charge directly of the grain silos, and to negotiate with merchants and intermediaries before sowing (Campanella, [1605] 1973, 87). In a broader perspective, in La Città del Sole (The City of the Sun), Campanella reaffirmed the primacy of agriculture as the basis of wealth and prosperity (Campanella, [1623] 1981, 83) contrasting its ideal model of society with the state of misery and privilege that characterized the situation in the capital.

64The issue of subsistence and the primacy of agriculture would receive a theoretical treatment (Lepre, 1981; 1986, 241) in the Trattato dell’abbondanza (Treatise on Abundance) by Carlo Tapia. “Among all of men’s industries”—Tapia wrote—“agriculture in the most laborious, the most necessary and the one that requires the most diligence and engagement than all others, and many tools are needed for this activity” (Tapia, [1638] 2018, 77). Famines do not have only natural causes, but are the result of incorrect production decisions or of the speculative activities of the merchant class, considered a natural enemy of the peasant (Tapia, [1638] 2018, 83-84; Lepre, 1986, 242). Also in this case, the solution directly called the State into question with the establishment of public warehouses (in which it was compulsory to keep the tenth or twentieth part of the harvest), the necessary price control, the setting of severe penalties for those who harvested wheat, the abolition of all fiscal impediments to the internal circulation of grain and the prohibition of exports (Tapia, [1638] 2018, 86-98). In this type of literature, a development model based on the ability of the agricultural sector to generate surplus and guarantee abundance which is not completely opposed to the Boterian model is proposed, but it constitutes a variant in which the emphasis is well placed on primary activities. A strong industrial position automatically solved the problem of subsistence, as favorable terms of trade would ensure a secure and advantageous supply from outside. The Venice and Genoa affair showed that what mattered for enrichment was commercial enterprise, even if the territory was not able to ensure the necessary subsistence.

3. Concluding Remarks

  • 61 Monetary stability is a typical topic of the Italian economic literature of the period, in particul (...)
  • 62 Another protagonist of the counter-reformist culture like Scipione Ammirato expressed similar opini (...)

65The Spanish arbitristas’ analysis and that of Serra present numerous points of contact with Botero’s theses, and it is legitimate to combine the visions in a single model of an industrialist nature, which can be called “Boterian model”. In sum, the elements of this model can be outlined as follows: primacy attributed to manufacturing activities; defense of private initiative in the entrepreneurial and commercial field, but within the framework of guild privileges, also granted to foreign merchants; defense of monetary stability against political power;61 role of the State in protecting economic activities, intervening in strategic sectors and promoting a public works policy.62

  • 63 In Naples, various reforms approved and promoted by several Viceroys, in particular Pedro Fernández (...)

66In this model it is possible to recognize typical elements of commercial capitalism characterizing the economic development followed by the Republics and Signories of Central-Northern Italy since the commercial revolution of the twelfth century (Trivellato, 2020). The widespread use of the Botero model and the policy followed by some Italian Princes, such as Sixtus V and Cosimo I de’ Medici, as well as some attempts at economic reform made by the Spanish Viceroys, opens up a new historiographical perspective on the economic culture of the Counter-Reformation age.63

  • 64 On the debate concerning these theses, see Fanfani (1934, chap. 2), Novak (1993, chap. 1) and Pelli (...)
  • 65 “Pope Pius V was certainly aware of this when he dictated a letter to the King of Spain requesting (...)

67The Boterian model and the experience of economic policy pursued by some important Catholic principalities of the early decades of the seventeenth century confirms that the economic thought in the Counter-Reformation Church was not anti-capitalist, but tended on the contrary to exalt mercantile and productive activities.64 The numerous regulations promulgated by the Church were intended to promote work, both manual and intellectual, as a legitimate means of acquiring wealth. This explains the constant opposition against any form of usury or parasitic gain in order to protect productive activities:65

Where the intent was to invest in productive activities, the Church had no objection to credit, although the Council of Trent certainly restored and extended prohibitions due to the insurmountable difficulties encountered for some time in the alliance between capital and work and other forms of company and business that in the previous centuries had been the normal means of investing savings … . The Church, which intervened in the material aspects of the life of people only where there was a spiritual need to do so, indirectly fought against the feebleness of Italians by opposing credit and preaching the importance of work over capital, bringing together rich and poor in a common effort to benefit society as a whole. Added to this were the measures introduced to combat luxury and the frivolous use of wealth, so that Church legislation reflected the needs of the community for economic growth, at a time when the economy itself—for a number of reason—was falling into decline (Barbieri, 1940 [2013], 59).

68This tendency was explicitly expressed by the Jesuits who not only supported the development of productive activities in their theological writings, but strove to reconcile the Holy Scriptures with the phenomena of individual enrichment, justifying usury and profit (Robertson, [1933] 1959, 164; Pribram, 1983, 30). The existence of a mentality favorable to the development of productive activities within the Counter-Reformation demonstrates that the genesis of the so-called capitalist spirit was not an exclusive product of Protestant or heretical ways of thinking (Sombart, 1911), but was also present and widespread in the ambit of Catholicism (Trevor Roper, 1967, 63).

  • 66 According to Joseph Schumpeter:

69The wide diffusion of Botero’s writings and his closeness and collaboration with the most important Tridentine ecclesiastical authorities (such as Cardinal Carlo Borromeo), demonstrates that his model was widely known and shared in the Catholic world of the first decades of the seventeenth century. Furthermore, the Boterian model is in continuity with medieval Late Scholasticism’s economic thought and the Italian humanistic tradition: between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, theologians and preachers, heirs of the Thomistic tradition, considered trade as a bonum commune (common good) founded on the free circulation of use values and on the stability of money. In this perspective of commercial utility, religious literature opposed the mercator industrius (industrious merchant) to the usurarius manifestus (usurer), considering as legitimate all merchant practices aimed at production and investment and condemning usurious practices and wealth hoarding, referred to as avaritia (De Roover, 1955; 1971; Langholm, 1992; 1998; Rothbard, 1995, chap. 3).66

  • 67 The period in question was not marked by any substantial break in continuity of adherence to tradit (...)
  • 68 According to Sombart, a typical example of a capitalist mentality is represented by Leon Battista A (...)

70Moreover, the focus on the development of productive and commercial activities is also in continuity with the Italian humanistic tradition: according to many historians,67 Renaissance Humanism embraces and enhances the capitalist spirit (the “pedagogy of profit”; Nuccio, 1995, 172-173) already widespread in the economic culture of Northern Italy in the late Middle Ages (see Pirenne, 1925; Sapori, 1967) and many exponents of the Italian humanistic tradition extol the industrialist model as opposed to the parasitic use of wealth implied by the negative concept of “avaritia” (“avarice”).68

  • 69 Machiavelli wrote:

71Even Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527), albeit not in a systematic way, promotes the development of productive activities as a factor of political stability. In particular, the secretary of the Florentine Republic firmly sustains, in his best-known book The Prince, that frugality of the sovereign and of the people is at the basis of stable State systems, in which social conflicts and internal struggles are absent (Machiavelli, [1532] 1891, chap. XVI). Frugality favors the industriousness of the subjects that the Prince must support by guaranteeing and rewarding their initiatives (Machiavelli, [1532] 1891, chap. XXI, 76), but without allowing an excessive accumulation of wealth that could invalidate social distinctions because “in well-regulated republics the State ought to be rich and the citizens poor” (Machiavelli, [1531] 1883, I, chap. 37, 176). The theme of thrift is also repeated in the Discourses, in which Machiavelli condemns large absentee ownership of property by the “lords in castles” and land rent (Machiavelli, [1531] 1883, I, chap. 55, 210), and praises the example of the Venetian aristocracy which instead derives its wealth from merchant activities (Machiavelli, [1531] 1883, I, chap. 55, 212; see also Nuccio, 1991b, 831-890 and Reinert, 2011, 20-21).69

  • 70 “The medieval and Renaissance Church, in its various components, it was by no means unanimous in ma (...)

72Botero, following late scholastic and Italian humanistic traditions, reconciles Christian principles with the new needs arising from the growing importance of the State apparatus as an instrument of political power, placed at the center of secular reflection in the humanistic period. The Botero model is therefore a successful synthesis between Christian moralism and the legacy of humanistic political thought. The Counter-Reformation with the rigid apparatus of the Inquisition had eliminated every hotbed of heresy and dissent. Unlike the medieval and Renaissance Church, the post-Tridentine Church was certainly more unanimous in terms of social doctrine and economic ethics.70 The ascetic component of Catholicism which had found its concrete realization in the political project of the Dominican friar Gerolamo Savonarola, precisely in the Florence of the Medici, was marginalized and directed towards monastic life. In large part, the position of the Jesuits and Botero was a response to the ascetic and millenarian movements present in the Catholicism which, identifying civil life and religious life, condemned all forms of wealth, considered as demonic vanity (Ranke, [1833] 2013; Weinstein, 2011; Reinert, 2016, 47).

73Placed in its historical context, Botero’s thought appears to be one of the possible responses to the economic crisis of the early seventeenth century, especially out of concern about the unproductive use of wealth. Botero and Serra, despite belonging to very different economic contexts, propose a development model that privileges industrial activities, still considering it as a sure and certain source of enrichment and hegemony, as shown by the history of the mercantile republics. For the Kingdom of Naples, the prospect could have been even more optimistic, since the “fertility of the site” would have ensured greater independence and a more secure basis for growth. It was therefore only necessary to transplant industrial activities, facilitating the immigration of artisans and entrepreneurs.

74Such a possibility did not appear unrealistic at the beginning of the seventeenth century, because the traditional Italian manufacturing centers, Genoa, Florence and Venice in the first place, lacked neither capital, nor entrepreneurial spirit nor insight and commercial organization (Cipolla, 1952). However, there was a tendency to reduce risky investments in favor of safe investments in real estate rents (land holdings and noble fiefdoms) and financial investments (government bonds, exchange rates). Although still rich, the Italian merchant classes were no longer willing to risk their capital, not only for the existence of safer jobs, but also because the increasing competition of English and Dutch merchants reduced the external market outlets, while internally there was no longer any possibility of profitable investments (Pagano de Vitiis, 1990).

  • 71 The abundance of manufactured goods and the particular skill of Italian craftsmen was recognized by (...)

75The industrial proposal of Botero’s model appears to be clearly in contrast with the pursuit of rents and the tendency to unproductive spending, which characterized the slow Italian decline. At the beginning of the seventeenth century, this process did not appear irreversible and the extension of the manufacturing capitalism of Northern Italy to the area of the South could provide a solution to the stagnation of productive investments, providing new and profitable outlets.71

  • 72 See Razzi (1568), Tommasi (1580), Assandri (1616), Frigerio (1629) and Menochio (1656). See also Ar (...)

76However, in the same years, a literature was emerging that exalted the private management of wealth, and the economy returned to being the Aristotelian oikos, the domestic economy, aimed at the family and the home, expressed in a religious and devotional version, as “Christian economy”.72 The dominant theme was no longer the increase in social wealth, but the good management of noble land ownership and the exaltation of bucolic life. This new mentality was destined to prevail proposing a new model of virtue, based on reputation and honor, the exercise of arms, the study of letters and worldly pleasures, virtues which were obviously very far from the exercise of commercial and manufacturing activities, considered vile practices and therefore left to lower classes. Thus, the detachment from commercial and industrial activities, which had made the fortune of Italian cities, is looming in the mentality of the ruling classes. In this changed context, Botero’s work was looked at with growing suspicion: in 1624 the Relationi were included in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum by Pope Clement VIII (Baldini, 1992b).

  • 73 “The distress and sensational failures of the Italian bankers must probably have influenced the con (...)
  • 74 “Large families always participate with their own capital in limited partnerships for wool and silk (...)

77Italian decadence is therefore not a consequence of religious precepts unfavorable to entrepreneurial activities, but is the effect of changed economic interests in the Italian ruling classes in a context in which commercial traffic has become more difficult due to the presence of stronger competitors who act under the protection of solid monarchies.73 The Italian wealthy classes deprived of independence, subjected to the heavy financial demands of the Spanish monarchy, marginalized from the main commercial currents located in the Atlantic and the North Sea, found in land ownership a secure source of investment and a means of prestige and social mobility.74

  • 75 An example of this anti-Botero historiographic tradition is offered by the critical notes of Oscar (...)

78The exaltation of Italian industrial and commercial primacy, the great diffusion and recognized influence of his thought, reduce the strong negative opinion on Botero formulated by Antonio Gramsci, who had a great fortune in the Italian historiographical tradition.75 According to Gramsci:

Botero is one of the most typical cosmopolitan and a-Italian writers of the Counter-Reformation period. He discusses Italy in the same way he discusses any other country, he is not specifically interested in its problems. (Gramsci, 1996, Sixth Notebook, §.I47, 112-113).

79But Botero seems aware of the limits of Italian culture which he succinctly describes in a few lines:

  • 76 However, Botero strongly underlines the Italian primacy in the field of geographical discoveries (B (...)

We Italians do flatter ourselves too much, and do admire too partially those things that do concern ourselves, especially when we will prefer Italy and her cities beyond all the rest in the world (Botero, [1589] 1956, 269).76

  • 77 Just two years after the publication of Breve Trattato, Antoine de Montchrestien in his Traicté de (...)

80The extolling of the Italian industrial model is indicated, however, as the major limitation of the analysis of Botero and Serra. Unlike other contemporaries, like the Frenchman Antoine de Montchrestien, both Botero and Serra ignore what appears to be already evident to other careful observers of the economic reality in the first decade of the seventeenth century: the rapid Dutch development and the growing and aggressive English presence in the Mediterranean.77 Finally, in the analysis, a reflection on the new sources of accumulation based on long-distance colonial trade is completely absent (see Patalano, 2016).

81The “Dutch miracle” (Swart, 1967, 2; Israel, 1995), as the rapid development of the United Provinces rebels has been called, is now a consolidated and recognized fact, so much so that even imperial Spain was forced to recognize it, signing a truce with the “Protestant heretics”.

  • 78 For Botero’s judgment of the Dutch and the English see Botero (1601a, 95-98; 1659, 43-44, 50, 256-2 (...)

82The mythologizing of the Italian manufacturing primacy has certainly weighed on the analysis of Botero and Serra, moving them away from a critical view of the limits already shown by that model when faced with the new growth factors marking the development of the United Provinces and England.78

83Although their analysis of the causes of economic development is substantially correct and applicable also to the Dutch case, the policy conclusions were placed in a narrower, one might say more provincial horizon, unaware of the irreversible transformations that would reduce the economy of Northern Italy to a semi-periphery (as an exporter of primary and semi-finished products and no longer as a maker of manufactured products) and condemn the Spanish South to an even more marginal role, as a simple reserve for the war economy of the Hapsburg Empire and as a market outlet for Dutch and English goods.

I am especially grateful to two anonymous referees for incisive comments and to Managing Editor Francesco Sergi, for his careful advice during the printing phase of the paper. The responsibility for the content and any remaining errors remains exclusively with the author.

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Notes

1 A first evaluation of Botero’s economic thought was proposed by Breglia (1928) and De Bernardi (1931). Scattered considerations can be found in Firpo (1971, 356), Baeck (1988, 394), Sénellart (1989, 201), Bireley (1990, 64) and Sénellart (1992). More recently, some scholars have expressed interest in Botero’s economic thought: see Descendre (2003; 2009, 173-212), Maifreda (2012, 164), Reinert (2011, 37-46; 2016, 23), Belligni (2019, 86), Rössner (2020, 164) and Reinert and Fredona (2020, 128-130). Nuccio (1991a, 1341-1408), Stumpo (1992) and Perrotta (2012, 285) instead have expressed an unfavorable opinion on Botero’s economic thought.

2 For Max Weber:

the religious value set on restless, continuous, and systematic work in a vocational calling was defined as absolutely the highest of all ascetic means for believers to testify to their elect status, as well as simultaneously the most certain and most visible means of doing so. Indeed, the Puritan’s sincerity of belief must have been the most powerful lever conceivable working to expand the life outlook that we are here designating as the spirit of capitalism (Weber, [1904-1905] 2012, 116).

Weber’s thesis has had very few supporters among historians (see Chaunu, 1975, 474-475; Bairoch, 1997, vol. I, 62-63; Becker and Woessmann, 2009).

3 According to Werner Sombart, Jewish minorities and heresy as such, therefore regardless of the confession considered heretical, were clearly the cradle of capitalist entrepreneurship, since they powerfully strengthened the interest in profit and favored commercial skills. Heretics, excluded from participation in public life, considered wealth as the only path to social mobility. Heresy is therefore at the basis of economic rationalism, which

expresses itself in three ways. (1) There is a plan, in accordance with which all things are ordered aright. And the plan covers activities in the distant future. (2) Efficiency is the test applied in the choice of all the means of production. (3) Seeing that the cash nexus regulates all economic activity, and that everywhere and always a surplus is sought for, exact calculations become necessary in every undertaking” (Sombart, [1911] 2001, 113).

Sombart argued that the “rationalism that characterized Jewish thought was identical to the ‘spirit of capitalism’ of the Puritans: the desire to make money dominated both groups (Sombart, [1911] 2001, 134).

Weber also recognized the affinities with Sombart, who did not neglect the ethical characteristics of capitalism, “however, in his train of thought, capitalism calls forth this ethical aspect. We must, on the contrary, for our purposes, take into consideration the opposite hypothesis” (Weber, [1904-1905] 2012, 170). On the Weber and Sombart thesis, see Fredona and Reinert (2020, 10-15) and Caffero (2020, 42-48).

4 For a general critique of Weber’s theses, see Groethuysen (1927), Robertson ([1933] 1959), Fischoff (1944), Sprinzak (1972), Kamen (1976, chap. III), Viner (1978c), Marshall (1982), Hudson (1988), Samuelsson (1993), Pellicani (1994, chap. 2) and Rothbard (1995, chap. 5). Werner Sombart’s thesis was anticipated by Wilhelm Roscher (1863). Weber claimed that his thesis on the relationship between religion and the birth of capitalism was anticipated by William Petty (see Weber, [1904-1905] 2012, 10, 121, 167, 241). See William Petty:

It is to be observed that Trade doth not (as some think) best flourish under Popular Governments, but rather that Trade most vigorously carried on, in every State and Government, by the Heterodox part of the same, and such as profess opinions different from what are publickly established (that is to say) in India where the Mahometan Religion is authorized, there the Banians are the most considerable Merchants. In the Turkish Empire the Jews, and Christians. At Venice, Naples, Legorn, Genoua, and Lisbone, Jews, and Non-Papist Merchant-Strangers, but to be short, in that part of Europe, where the Roman Catholic Religion now hath, or lately hath had Establishment; there three quarters of the whole Trade, is in the hands of such as have separated from the Church. (Petty, [1691] 1899, vol. I, 263)

See also William Temple (1673).

5 For a recent critique of Fanfani’s theses, see Novak (1993, chap. I). The thesis on the compatibility between market economy and Christian principles, supported by Michael Novak, was also proposed by Alejandro Chafuen, who considers the medieval late scholastics of the Salamanca school as the precursors of the liberalism of Adam Smith and of the Austrian School (see Chafuen, 1986).

6 The social doctrine of the Catholic Church formulated in the encyclicals Rerum Novarum (1891), Quadragesimo Anno (1931), and Gaudium et Spes (1965), adopted a decidedly anti-capitalist orientation, condemning individualism and the primacy of the market on the human needs. This orientation contrary to the spirit of capitalism has more recently been mitigated by the encyclicals Centesimus Annus (1991) and Caritas in Veritate (2009), which largely justified the market economy condemning individualistic excesses and inequality.

7 Bruni notes:

The Franciscans were important, perhaps essential, in birth of the market economy because, unlike the monks, philosophers and theologians, for a charismatic instinct they placed their convents in the middle of the squares of the new cities traders, came down from the mountains and inhabited the civitas, they became friends with the merchants, and so they understood them, because they saw men in flesh and blood, and not just abstract prohibitions and legal rules (Bruni, 2022, 29-30).

The Franciscans, however, recognized the legitimacy of a tenuous interest of 5% practiced by the Mounts of Piety, a rate that was legitimized by the Papal Bull Inter Multiplices promulgated by Leo X in 1515.

8 Bruni’s thesis of a civil and altruistic Catholic capitalism, based on the charismatic role of the Franciscans, contrasts sharply with the historical reality of the late medieval and Renaissance Church, which on the contrary was an example of corruption and greed. The ecclesiastics themselves based their power on usury, rents and corruption. Bruni completely ignores heretical movements and figures such as Girolamo Savonarola who denounced clerical corruption, despotic government and the exploitation of the poor. The post-Trident Church sought to define an ethical renewal in discontinuity with the Renaissance Church. On the corruption of the Renaissance Church, see McClung Hallman (1985).

9 “For many aspects, the economic ethics of the Counter-Reformation returned to being that of four centuries earlier, … . The virtues to be praised once again became the aristocratic, noble and agricultural ones, no longer the civil ones of the market. The good income once again became that which came from the rent, no longer from commerce and industry, much less from credit. Italy and southern Europe knew one profound re-feudalization, the clock of history was reset back to eleventh-twelfth century society” (Bruni, 2022, 274). A vision that takes up the theses of Gino Barbieri: “It is not difficult to see that the economic spirit which inspired the Church law of Sixteenth and Seventeenth centuries was the logical continuation of Thomistic thinking in relation to business” (Barbieri, [1940] 2013, 182).

10 Trevor Roper defines Botero as “the social propagandist of the Counter Reformation” and “the theorists of the Counter-Reformation States” (Trevor Roper, 1967, 40, 42). Borelli notes:

Botero’s intellectual enterprise constitutes an attempt, successfully completed, to relate the needs and problems experienced by the Roman Curia at the end of the sixteenth century with discourses and political codes coming from outside the Catholic tradition of thought: first of all, with late Renaissance culture, and again with the new suggestions produced by the lively debate underway in France (Borrelli, 2012, 162).

11 “Since Machiavelli was scarcely popular in Europe, especially in Catholic circles, Botero took care to attack Machiavelli explicitly and pro-forma. But that was merely a ritualistic cover for Botero’s adoption of the essence of Machiavellian thought” (Rothbard, 1995, 197). For Botero, Machiavellianism is a negative category if placed in relation to a power politics independent of confessional constraints. “The teaching of Machiavelli was, in its essence, fully accepted and capable of contributing vast material to the discussion of the rapport of the ragion d’interesse with all other values to which Botero referred” (Garin, 2008, vol. II, 554). On Botero’s Machiavellism, see also Firpo (1948, 12), De Mattei (1969, 52), Bireley (1990), Bonnet (2003), Scichilone (2011, 21) and Prosperi (2013, 260, 262).

12 “The literature of Reason of State recognized with particular clarity the connection between the increasing functions of government and the need of revenue, Botero more than any other was responsible for this insight” (Bireley, 1990, 64). See also Baldini and Battista (1997).

13 The term “mercantilism” used to define economic thought between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries is too general a concept to be useful and will not be used in this article. Following Raymond De Roover: “The trouble is that the word mercantilism does not stand for a clear concept, but lends itself to confusion. The great specialist Heckscher, himself, has to admit that mercantilism is simply a convenient term for summarizing a phase of economic policy and economic ideas” (De Roover, 1955, 182-183).

14 On the literature about Serra, see Reinert (2011), Patalano and Reinert (2016) and Tiran (2020b).

15 “Hundreds of years of often extremely successful economic theory and policy under the labels ‘mercantilism’ and ‘cameralism’—including the emergence of Europa and the U.S. as world economic powerhouses—testify to Botero’s and Serra’s main points” (Reinert, 2016, 35).

16 On the complex relationship between religions and economic development, see Wilson (1997), McCleary and Barro (2019), Becker et al. (2021) and Friedman (2021).

17 Trevor-Roper himself recognizes this: “The early Jesuits contrived to breathe into it some of the old Erasmian spirit. They cultivated the laity, modernized the philosophy of the Church, sought to reassure merchants and other laymen of the usefulness of their calling” (Trevor Roper, 1967, 29).

18 See also about Botero, Waley (1956), Firpo (1971), De Mattei (1979), Sénellart (1989), Nuccio (1991d), Baldini (1992b), Descendre (2003; 2009; 2011), Continisio (2013), Ghiringhelli (2013), Prosperi (2013), Borrelli (2017, chap. 3), Figorilli (2020), Raviola (2020) and Andretta et al. (2021).

19 On Cardinal Carlo Borromeo, see Barbieri ([1940] 2013, 25-58) and Raviola (2018).

20 “Botero’s small book (3 + 79 pp) The Cause of the Greatnesse of Cities (first edition Botero, [1588] 2012) was the first economic bestseller, reaching a record 40 editions before 1850, 38 of them between 1588 and 1671” (Reinert and Carpenter, 2016, 16).

21 This work had ten editions (see Firpo, 1948, 461-463; Waley, 1956, xi). For Louis Baeck: “it was the Italian Botero who formulated the first coherent socio-economic ideology for the upcoming modern State” (Baeck, 1988, 394).

22 The fifth part of Relationi was published posthumously in 1895 by Carlo Gioda (Gioda, 1894, vol. II, 620-659). The definitive and complete edition of the Relationi was published in Brescia in 1598 (Botero, 1598). According to Eric Reinert, the Relationi Universali had 83 independent editions between 1591 and 1796, “published in Italian (from 1591), German (first two editions in Cologne, 1596), Latin (first two editions in Frankfurt and Cologne, 1598), English (first edition in London, 1601b), Spanish (first edition in Valladolid, 1599), and Polish (first edition in Krakow, 1613). Botero’s bibliographer Giuseppe Assandra (Assandra, 1926; 1928) informs us that the Relationi was a prohibited book in France. In terms of the number of editions of his books, Botero comes out favourably compared to Adam Smith, whose 1776 Wealth of Nations—in an immensely more literate period than the seventheenth century—reached 94 editions before 1850 (data from Bullock 1939)” (Reinert, 2016, 22).

23 Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are by the author.

24 An unfavorable opinion on Botero’s political thought was expressed by Friedrich Meinecke, an opinion which has had a great influence in historiography (Meinecke, 1925, chap. II). For a critical view on Meinecke’s assessment, see Howard (2014, 8-10).

25 According to Michel Sénellart, Botero considers the economic strength as the answer to the problem of legitimizing political power, based on common prosperity (Sénellart, 1989, 201). In short: “Botero puts the economic question at the heart of political thought and State theory” (Descendre, 2003, 311). For Eleonora Belligni, Botero defines an “ethical mercantilism” (Belligni, 2019).

26 On the origin of the concept of Reason of State, see De Mattei (1979).

27 See also Botero ([1589] 2017, 4).

28 Botero eliminates the chapter about industry from the successive editions of Greatness to insert it in Book VIII of Reason of State, his major work.

29 This topic will be developed by Antonio Serra.

30 Botero explicitly refers to the emigration of persecuted religious minorities as a factor of economic development for the countries that welcome them:

the cities of Levant and Barbary became great through the multitude of Jews that Ferdinand the King of Spain and Emmanuel the King of Portugal cast out of their kingdoms, as in particular Salonica and Rhodes. And in these days in England many cities have much increased within few years, both in people and in trade, through the resort of the Low Country people to it: and especially London, where unto many thousands of families have resorted themselves (Botero, [1606] 1956, 230).

31 “The invariable hostility to the innovations by the guilds has been deeply and convincingly revised by those scholars paying more attention to the political, legal, and market context of the crafts (primarily by Epstein, 1998; 2008). Quality control by the guild has been seen as an attempt to fight asymmetric information, meet consumer tastes, and provide protection against fraud; apprenticeship has been considered as the teaching of good rules and salary control as a safeguard for the manpower” (Malanima, 2022, 103).

32 According to Cosimo Perrotta, Botero’s arguments against usury reproduce the traditional medieval condemnation (Perrotta, 2012, 283).

33 Botero, like Antonio Serra, showed great admiration for Venice (see Botero, 1605; Bottaro Palumbo, 1992, 117-121).

34 The production development proposed by Botero called into question the power of the farmers gathered in the Honrado Concejo de la Mesta (see Klein, 1920).

35 Botero noted:

The kings of China have deserved all praise that may be. For they have with an incredible expense and charge paved with stone all the highways of that most famous kingdom, and have made stone bridges over mighty great rivers, and cut in sunder hills and mountains of inestimable height and craggedness. They have also strewed the plains and bottoms with very fair stone, so that a man may there pass either on horse or afoot as well in the winter as in the summer time, and merchandise may be easily carried to and fro there by load, either on carts or on horse, mules or camels (Botero, [1606] 1956, 258).

On the role of China as a model, see Descendre (2005, 55). According to Erik Reinert, Botero represents “the start of an economic tradition that became a key building block for the type of economic theory which built the Europe that soon would take over world economic leadership from China” (Reinert, 2016, 23).

36 Other scholars have wanted to consider Relationi as a work that anticipates the method of statistics and anthropogeography (see Magnaghi, 1906; Albonico, 1990). Against this interpretation of Botero as a precursor of modern political geography, see Solari (1907) and Chabod (1934). See also Pichetto (1992) and Headley (2000).

37 Botero does not mention the Italian principalities, as his goal was probably to tell the world outside of the well-known Italy.

38 According to Perrotta, Botero “is a stateless mercantilist” who elaborates universal principles, but fails to give a theoretical foundation to the mercantilist economic approach (Perrotta, 2012, 285).

39 Thus, Carlo Maria Cipolla defines the ephemeral recovery of the economy of Northern Italy in the early seventeenth century, destined to become stagnant (Cipolla, [1959] 1993, 189; see also Cipolla, 1952; Galasso, 1965, 172-173; Calabria, 1991, 9; Malanima, 2022, 159).

40 Between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, the nobles, who moved to the cities, which had become the fulcrum of economic and political life, often practiced commercial activities, using intermediaries, exploiting the opportunities offered by the expanding trade. During this time, these opportunities guaranteed much higher earnings than those offered by the traditional noble agricultural income, less risky but also less profitable.

41 Traces of the influence of Botero’s thought can be found in England (in particular on Walter Raleigh, 1653; Symcox, 2012; Trace, 2017), in Spain (Gil, 2017) in Germany and Sweden (Stolleis, 1992; Reinert and Carpenter, 2016) and in Poland (Tazbir, 1992). Botero’s works achieved a wide circulation: a detailed summary of the different editions can be found in Reinert (2016, Table 1.1 and 1.2, 17-19).

42 “In Spain, Philip II himself ordered the translation of the Ragion, confiding it to his royal chronicler Antonio Herrera de Tordesiilas” (Gil, 2017, 272). On the reception of Botero in Spain, see Cavillac (2004).

43 “The political economists were critical of the policy of the Habsburgs in a populist fashion. They looked at development from a Spanish-nationalist standpoint. They were of the opinion that the development of Spain was sacrificed in favour of the imperial policy of the Habsburgs” (Baeck, 1988, 396). According to Earl Hamilton: “History records few instances of either such able diagnosis of fatal social ills by any group of moral philosophers, or of such utter disregard by statesmen of sound advice” (Hamilton, 1932, 237).

44 On Pedro Ribadeneira see Bireley (1990, 111-135), Fernández-Santamaría (1992) and Howard (2014, 69-96). See also Pedro de Guzmán (1614).

45 Against Robertson’s thesis see Brodrick (1934). See also Samuelsson (1993).

46 If this is the framework in which Serra moved we can also formulate an interpretative hypothesis on his meager biography, hypothesis that was initially advanced by Rodolfo Benini at the end of the nineteenth century (Benini, 1892, 222-248; Colapietra, 1973, 28, note 47). According to this hypothesis, Antonio Serra was a member of a family of Genoese merchants, very active in the last decades of the sixteenth century. Beyond the onomastic traces, his praise for the merits of the Genoese nation undoubtedly places him among the supporters of the Genoese party in comparison with the local merchant class. On the Genoese presence in the Kingdom of Naples, which dates back to the privileges granted since the twelfth century, see Abulafia (1977), Musi (1996) and Brancaccio (2001).

47 The crimes of monetary falsification and complicity in the famous anti-Spanish conspiracy hatched by Tommaso Campanella, considered the cause of his imprisonment by nineteenth-century historiography, have never been confirmed by archival sources. Recently, in the Neapolitan State Archives, I have discovered two further Viceregal dispatches that mention the name of Antonio Serra and which can shed light on the causes of Serra’s imprisonment (see Viglietti originali, Segreterie del Viceré, N. 6 1613-1614, Archivio di Stato di Napoli). The first, dated 18 June 1613, is particularly interesting because it reveals a connection between Serra and Miguel Vaaz, Count of Mola, a converted Jewish Portuguese merchant very close to the Count of Lemos, Viceroy of Naples in the period from 1610 to 1616. The dispatch says “Antonio Serra, see the Viceroy; bring him this afternoon when the Count of Mola arrives”. The second one, dated 28 June 1613, mentions a Serra facing legal charges for debt. It is probable that Serra had entered into a conflict with members of the Portuguese merchant class, close to the Viceroy Count of Lemos, and probably for this reason he was imprisoned on some spurious accusation. On the role of Vaaz and the Portuguese merchants in Naples, see Sabatini (2016).

48 For guesswork about his life, see De Rosa (1965), Groenewegen (1987), Nuccio (1991c), Roncaglia (1999; 2012), Reinert (2011), Patalano and Reinert (2016) and Addante (2018).

49 The complementarity between Botero and Serra is also underlined by Eric Reinert, according to whom: “sweet commerce— ‘doux commerce’—is clearly not the key to wealth, it is rather a much less poetic ‘sweet increasing returns’ or ‘doux rendements d’échelle croissants’. In 1588 Giovanni Botero gave us the narrative explaining this, and in 1613 Antonio Serra added the key theoretical point: the key lies in what happens to a nation’s production costs as production increases, that is, in increasing and diminishing returns to scale, and the resultant market conditions” (Reinert, 2016, 35).

50 Serra advises the Prince who owns precious metal mines to implement policies that do not take into account these natural endowments (Serra, [1613] 2011, 117).

51 Serra recognizes that the wealth accumulated in Rome and used for the great monumental works belonged “to visiting foreign Princes, ecclesiastical dignitaries and ambassadors who are there because of the presence of the pope, which also attracts people from all over Christendom on various kind of business” (Serra, [1613] 2011, 131). As Luigi De Rosa observes, Serra does not mention the fact that the money came from abroad, and even from Naples, and that even the Spanish ambassador in Rome was supported with money from the Kingdom of Naples ... . Serra believed an obligation to send money to Rome, and does not consider that in any case it is a flow of money that came out of Naples, and weakened not only the balance of payments, but also the monetary circulation” (De Rosa, 1994, xlvii). This omission in a lucid analysis demonstrates that Serra accepts the primacy of the Catholic Church, in line with the Tridentine precepts.

52 Unlike what Luca Addante writes, the reference to Sixtus V is not inserted for a requirement of “prudence” (see Addante, 2001, 146), but of a real political model. On Sixtus V, see Landi (1996). As mentioned, Botero was one of the pontiff’s collaborators.

53 On the economic conditions of the Kingdom of Naples, see Calabria (1991), De Rosa (1994) and Tiran (2020a).

54 Even Botero considers the Genoese as an example of economic activism (Botero, 1601a, 64-67).

55 The fertility of the Neapolitan kingdom, especially Calabria, is also emphasized by Botero (1601a, 76-77).

56 As Cosimo I de Medici had done in Tuscany, favoring the immigration of artisans from abroad (Reinert, 2011, 38-46). According to a widely accepted historiographical thesis (Trevor Roper, 1967; Kamen, 1976), in England and the Netherlands, capitalist development was largely caused by immigrant minorities.

57 For his defense of the free flows of goods and money, Serra cannot be considered a mercantilist in the strict sense, contrary to what argued by Perrotta (2013).

58 About the debate on monetary measures in the early seventeenth century in the Kingdom of Naples, see Rosselli (2000) and Costabile (2016).

59 Even Botero praises the institutions of the Venetian Republic (Botero, 1659, 682, 720, 735).

60 In similar terms later also Fabio Frezza, another exponent of the “people”, formulates the same concept (Frezza, 1623).

61 Monetary stability is a typical topic of the Italian economic literature of the period, in particular Bernardo Davanzati (1529-1606) and Gasparo Scaruffi (1519-1584). See Scaruffi (1582) and Davanzati ([1638] 1696).

62 Another protagonist of the counter-reformist culture like Scipione Ammirato expressed similar opinion by exalting thrift and productive activities as primary sources of wealth; see Ammirato (1594, Book II, Discourse VIII).

63 In Naples, various reforms approved and promoted by several Viceroys, in particular Pedro Fernández de Castro, count of Lemos (1610-1616), constituted a major overhaul for Neapolitan public finance. The institution of viceroy was not a simple bureaucratic office totally subordinate to the Court of Madrid but an instrument of mediation between the imperial strategic necessities and local interests (see Musi, 2013).

64 On the debate concerning these theses, see Fanfani (1934, chap. 2), Novak (1993, chap. 1) and Pellicani, (2006, chap. 2). For Luigini Bruni it is post-Tridentine Catholicism that destroys the mercantile spirit (Bruni, 2022, 273).

65 “Pope Pius V was certainly aware of this when he dictated a letter to the King of Spain requesting him to extirpate usury among the Jews in Lombardy, because he believed it would lead to the ruin of a previously industrious and prosperous population” (Barbieri, [1940] 2013, 59).

66 According to Joseph Schumpeter:

while the economic sociology of the scholastic doctors of this period was, in substance, not more than thirteenth-century doctrine worked out more fully, the ‘pure’ economics which they also handed down to those laical successors was, practically in its entirety, their own creation. It is within their systems of moral theology and law that economics gained definite if not separate existence, and it is they who come nearer than does any other group to having been the ‘founders’ of scientific economics (Schumpeter, [1954] 2006, 93).

About medieval late Scholasticism, see De Roover (1955; 1971), Viner (1978a), Pribram (1983, 23-25) and Rothbard (1995, 65-96).

67 The period in question was not marked by any substantial break in continuity of adherence to traditional medieval patterns of belief. The “Humanism” of the Renaissance was not predominantly an anti-religious or sceptical Humanism, but was a “Christian Humanism” (Viner, 1978b, 123).

68 According to Sombart, a typical example of a capitalist mentality is represented by Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), who, in the Libri della famiglia (Books of the Family, 1432-1434; 1440), praises work as the foundation of human dignity, legitimizing the accumulation of wealth through “buying and selling, lending and collecting” and defending that of the merchant as an honorable and socially useful profession (Alberti, [1432-1434] 1980, 170-171). The opposite thesis is proposed by Cosimo Perrotta:

There was in fact a strong affinity between the Greek philosopher and these authors. It lay in their hostility towards economic growth, its classes and its activities. Just as Aristotle had condemned the development of Athenian trade, so his sixteenth century followers condemned the development of manufacturing and commercial capitalism (Perrotta, 2004, 102-103).

69 Machiavelli wrote:

When I speak of gentlemen, I say that those are so to be styled who live in opulence and idleness on the revenues of their estates, without concerning themselves with the cultivation of these estates, or incurring any other fatigue for their support. Such persons are very mischievous in every republic or country. But even more mischievous are they who, besides the estates I have spoken of, are lords of strongholds and castles, and have vassals and retainers who render them obedience. Of these two classes of men the kingdom of Naples, the country round Rome, Romagna, and Lombardy are full; and hence it happens that in these provinces no commonwealth or free form of government has ever existed; because men of this sort are the sworn foes to all free institutions (Machiavelli, [1531] 1883, 167-168).

70 “The medieval and Renaissance Church, in its various components, it was by no means unanimous in matter of ethical evaluation of currencies, trades, interests and usury. It was a plural and antagonistic reality, in theology and in matter of civil action, more than at the time modern and contemporary” (Bruni, 2022, 149).

71 The abundance of manufactured goods and the particular skill of Italian craftsmen was recognized by foreign travellers, such as Thomas Coryat (1611), while foreign markets abounded in Italian goods (see Guicciardini, 1567).

72 See Razzi (1568), Tommasi (1580), Assandri (1616), Frigerio (1629) and Menochio (1656). See also Arienzo (2014).

73 “The distress and sensational failures of the Italian bankers must probably have influenced the conservative evolution of the Italian mercantile bourgeoisie” (Romano, 1977, 111).

74 “Large families always participate with their own capital in limited partnerships for wool and silk manufacturing, but remain extraneous to the actual practice of the arts. The investment of capital, already used in trade and manufacturing, in real estate, pushes grand dukes and aristocracy to trade in grain and agricultural products” (Romano, 1977, 34).

75 An example of this anti-Botero historiographic tradition is offered by the critical notes of Oscar Nuccio, who considers Botero the heir of the Aristotelian tradition, promoter of moralistic precepts substantially extraneous to the problems of economic development, see Nuccio (1991d, 1341-1408).

76 However, Botero strongly underlines the Italian primacy in the field of geographical discoveries (Botero, 1601a, 2).

77 Just two years after the publication of Breve Trattato, Antoine de Montchrestien in his Traicté de l’oeconomie politique (Montchrestien, 1615) devoted many pages to the new Dutch power, hoping for a process of imitation in his own country. In England, Walter Raleigh (died in 1618) in the same years analyzed the Dutch commercial success (see Raleigh, 1653). Also in subsequent years, Thomas Mun, Josiah Child and William Temple made a detailed analysis of the factors that made the Dutch miracle possible.

78 For Botero’s judgment of the Dutch and the English see Botero (1601a, 95-98; 1659, 43-44, 50, 256-257). Botero recognizes the industriousness of the Dutch, but considers them victims of heresies and therefore destined to perpetual war. While evaluating the English maritime power, Botero highlights only its predatory characteristics. See Boterbloem (2020).

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Rosario Patalano, « The Economic Thought in the Counter-Reformation Age: Giovanni Botero and Antonio Serra »Œconomia, 14-1 | 2024, 39-91.

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Rosario Patalano, « The Economic Thought in the Counter-Reformation Age: Giovanni Botero and Antonio Serra »Œconomia [En ligne], 14-1 | 2024, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2024, consulté le 23 mai 2024. URL : http://0-journals-openedition-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/oeconomia/16999 ; DOI : https://0-doi-org.catalogue.libraries.london.ac.uk/10.4000/oeconomia.16999

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Rosario Patalano

University of Naples “Federico II”, Department of Law. rpatalan@unina.it

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