Abstract: Building a Protestant Network: "Ethnic Entrepreneurs" in Nineteenth-Century Italy

Daniela L. Caglioti


This paper explores the behavior of a group of foreign merchants and entrepreneurs who settled in Italy during the nineteenth century, opening branches, building religious communities, importing technologies, machines, patterns of management, and frequently also technicians and workers. These entrepreneurs were resourceful and could draw on considerable capital. They shared a high level of training and culture and they all belonged to Protestant denominations. Focusing on the foreign entrepreneurial community in Naples and Southern Italy, the paper examines the role played by friendship, kinship, origins, education and religion in shaping a network that linked Protestant businessmen throughout Europe. In particular, it shows how this network facilitates international trade by reducing the problem of contract enforcement and also by providing information about trading opportunities and how cooperation, solidarity, and closeness worked together by consolidating and perpetuating the manufacturing firms throughout more than three generations.