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The Cost of Empire.

The author and editors are to be congratulated for making a real effort to make this book as easy to read as is possible. For example, translations of non-English words and terms are consistently supplied, saving trips to the dictionary. The extensive footnotes are placed at the bottom of the page where they are conveniently accessible. The considerable and very clear charts and graphs, which are well placed, make possible comprehension of what might otherwise be a bewildering array of facts and figures. The maps and the charts explaining weights and measures, monetary units and exchange rates, at the beginning of the book are welcome. Detailed appendices supply additional information for the specialist reader.

The volume begins with a formidable introduction which may prove daunting to some readers. This reviewer would not have proceeded beyond the first page had he not been committed to review the tome. It is not a book for laymen (except as noted hereafter), but experts will find it useful. Those who find statistical and quantitative history unexciting, as does this reader, may find it a chore to read through the entire volume. However, in the end the effort of trying to digest massive amounts of statistics proves to be indispensable, for the data are necessary to make the author's points.

Conventional wisdom labels the south as the backward and economically poor part of the Italian peninsula. Professor Calabria shows in this volume that this was not the case in the early modern period, that in fact Naples was a prosperous and thriving kingdom in the mid-sixteenth century. Those who persevere in reading this book will find answers to why southern Italy, once the thriving breadbasket of the rest of the peninsula, fell into poverty under Spanish rule. The answer offered, and amply supported with facts and figures, is that overwhelming public debt incurred to support the imperial schemes of the Spanish monarchy, ruined the Kingdom of Naples. In the present period of deficit financing and massive public debt perhaps this book should be required reading for all political leaders. There are useful lessons to be learned from it.
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Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:McCue, Robert J.
Publication:Canadian Journal of History
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 1993
Words:353
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