"For her good temperament and moral behavior": Women's Access to Credit and Bank Policies during the Italian Economic Miracle (1950s-1960s)

Maria Rosaria De Rosa

How did Italian banks chose the right clients to finance the reconstruction after the end of World War Two and how did they decide who deserved their trust? In this paper I have analysed some cases in which the risk connected with credit intermediation became sustainable for the bank, and the ways in which a bank had to defend its choices and the finance accorded to clients. The historical discourse on credit has often seen the XXth century as an important divide: according to this point of view the success of the bank system caused the decline of the informality logic which was typical of the modern age, in order to improve formalised and impersonal credit practices. Contemporary dynamics of credit are indeed much less linear. Through the analysis of specific case studies it is possible to show that one of the most important Italian banks, The Banco di Napoli, was not only attentive to real warranties offered by clients but also gave great importance to moral behaviour and to the social and professional status of the client. In particular I have analysed the access of women to bank services during the 1950's and the 1960's and the consequences of their unequal juridical status due to the dowry regime that was present in Italy at the time, which was abolished only in 1975. It is able to offer a different interpretation of modern credit markets but also a wider definition of women's roles as citizens and consumers in the contemporary age.