This paper aims at measuring as precisely as possible the changes in the level of protection in Italy from the 1870s to the 1920s i.e. during the first phase of the country s industrialisation. It shows that, contrary to conventional wisdom, protection was quite low with the possible exception of a short spell of time in the late 1880s 90s. Therefore the static welfare losses were small, but also the alleged dynamic role of protection in fostering industrialisation seems small as well. In the last section of the paper we speculate on the implications of these findings for other countries. This evidence is not conclusive, but it does cast some doubts on the relevance of protection in 19th century Europe.
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