Demographic History of Italy

Note : this page is conceived telegram-style and selective (lists of wars deemed destructive, lists of epidemic diseases, years of famine etc.)

Aging Society
Due to a decrease in the birth rate and increasing life expectancy, since the 1960es the average age of the Italian citizen has gradually increased.

Deportation, Expulsion & Genocide
Episodic expulsion of Jews
Waldensians, expelled from Piemont in the 1680es, 1692
Holocaust, 1943-1945. An estimated 7,500 Italian Jews perished.

Emigration to the U.S.A. (since 1870), to Latin America (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay), to Australia, to French North Africa etc.

Ethnic or Religious Minorities : Albanians
. Two groups have to be distinguished : the Arberesh, christian Albanians who fled Ottoman conquest and settled in southern Italy (Apulia, Basilicata, Sicily, Calabria, Molise) in the 15th and 16th century, and refugees who fled Albania at the time of the collapse of Communism in the early 1990es.

Ethnic or Religious Minorities : Catalans
. a tiny community of a few thousand, in the city of Alghero (Sardinia).

Ethnic or Religious Minorities : Croats
. refugees fleeing the Ottoman conquest in the 15th century; the Croats settled in Molise. Today estimated at c. 2000.

Ethnic or Religious Minorities : Cymbr or Tzimbar
. speakers of Tauch, a Germanic language. Their ancestors, carpenters, had been invited by Italian lords in the 13th century in order to exploit the wood of forested areas, where they settled (13 communes, 7 communes, near Verona).

Ethnic or Religious Minorities : Gypsies

Ethnic or Religious Minorities : Jews
Presently, the Jewish population in Italy numbers c. 40,000. During the Republic of Salo, Italian Jews were subjected to deportation and genocide; an estimated 7,000 Italian Jews perished. Italy's Jews were granted emancipation within the unified Kingdom of Italy soon after her establishment. While Italy was politically divided, Jews were exposed to rigid discrimination and episodical expulsion in conservative states such as the Papal State and the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, to less rigid discrimination in the Republic of Venice, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

Ethnic or Religious Minorities : Slovenes
Concentrated in eastern Friuli, Gorizia, the city of Trieste. Estimated at c. 10,000.

Ethnic or Religious Minorities : Südtirol (ethnic German)
. The Province of Bozen (Bolzano) in 2001 had a population of 460,600, the majority of whom spoke German as their first language. The region Trentino-Südtirol enjoys political autonomy since 1946; in 1972 Bozen-Südtirol (Provincia autonoma di Bolzano, South Tyrol) was granted separate autonomous status.

Ethnic or Religious Minorities : Val d'Aosta (ethnic French/Provençal)
. population 113,000, majority speakers of French/Provençal. The region enjoys cultural autonomy in 1948. The city of Gressoney has a German-speaking population element.

Epidemic, Pandemic Diseases
1348 Bubonic Plague (Black Death)
17th C. Diphtheria
1884 Cholera
1910-1911 Cholera
1918-1919 Spanish Influenza


Internal Displacement

Labour Migration : Emigration
15th to 19th C.: Italian architects, painters, musicians, composers, dancers, to European courts
19th, 20th C.: industrial workers, miners etc., to Switzerland, France, Austria, Germany, Belgium etc.

Labour Migration : Immigration
13th C. : Cymbr of Tzimbar (German carpenters; settled near Verona)
16th C.- : Swiss, German mercenaries (Swiss Guard)
Early 19th century : Swiss, German textile manufacturers
1950es- : Italy's soccer league (Seria A) attracted foreign players
1990es- : Moroccans

Political Refugees : Emigrants
Italian Patriots, during the Risorgimento, 1830-1859
Communists, Socialists during Italian Fascism, 1922-1945
Italian Jews during later Fascism, 1938-1945

Political Refugees : Immigrants
14th-15th C. : Albanians (c.300,000), Croatians, settled in Kgd. of Naples
18th C. : Albanians
1938 : Austrians, many of them Jews
1975- : Eritreans, Somalis
1980 : Vietnamese Boat People (ethnic Chinese)
1990es : Albanians, Chinese, Philippinos, Romanians, Sudanese & other Africans
1992- : Bosnians
1995- : Kosovans

Population Statistics
Italy : census 1861/62, 1871/72, 1881/82, 1901, 1911, 1915, 1921, 1931, 1936, 1951, 1961, 1971, 1981, 1991, 2001

Rural Population
In the time of the Barbaric Peoples' Migration the rural population was exposed to atrocities; some areas were claimed and settled by the invaders. In the High Middle Ages extension of cultivated areas; in the 15th and 16th centuries influx of Albanian and Croat settlers into Kgd. of Naples, some into Sicily. In the Mezzogiorno (Naples, Sicily) landed property since Antiquity concentrated in the hands of a few families (Latifundia); the landless poor dependent on the padrones. In the 18th and 19th century, in the Mezzogiorno, occasional peasant rebellions / banditry; since the later 19th century migration in search of labour, to N. Italy or abroad.

Italy was a comparatively urbanized society since the days of Roman Antiquity. In the years of the Barbarian People's Migration, city walls could provide safety; Venice was founded as a city in those days, protected not by a wall, but by a lagoon. In the High and Later Middle Ages (Renaissance), Italy's major cities flourished (the Crusades, Trans-Mediterranean trade, a flourishing textile industry, early capitalism etc.); northern Italy was Europe's most urbanized region by 1500. The 16th to early 19th century were a period of stagnation; Industrialization affected Italy comparatively late, again Northern Italy stronger than the south. In the south, cities grew not because their factories attracted labour, but because part of the countryside fled poverty there. Following Italian Unification, the population of Rome, the new capital, grew; that of Milan and Turin, as the country's leading industrial centers, too.

Volunteers in foreign Wars
1936-1939, in the Spanish Civil War (80,000 regular soldiers on the Falangist side; civilian volunteers on the Republican side

Wartime Destruction : Battlefield Italy (selected wars)
Neapolitan War 1494-1495
Milanese and Neapolitan War, 1499-1504
War of the League of Cambrai 1508-1509
War of the Holy League 1510-1516
Habsburg-Valois War 1521-1529
Sacco di Roma 1527
Habsburg-Valois War 1535-1539
Mantua War of Succession, 1627-1630
Franco-Spanish War, 1635-1659
Genoa 1684
War of Spanish Succession 1701-1714
War of the Quadruple Alliance, 1718-1720
War of Polish Succession 1733-1735
War of Austrian Succession 1741-1748
1st War of the Coalition, 1792-1797
2nd War of the Coalition, 1799-1803
First War of Italian Independence, 1848-1849
Second War of Italian Independence, 1859-1861
War of the Poor, 1860-1865
Third War of Italian Independence (Seven Weeks War, 1866)
World War I, 1915-1918 (dates for Italy)
World War II, 1940-1945 (dates for Italy)

Before 1939: installation of totalitarian regimes, from History of International Migration Site, at Univ. Leiden
History of International Migration, by Marlou Schrover
Rebecca A. Bishop, History of the Bubonic Plague
Time-Chart of European Economic History 1300-1750, from Economics.UToronto
Article Val d'Aoste, Arbereshe, Molise CroatDialect, South Tyrol, Famine in Europe, History of theJews in Italy, from Wikipedia
Cambridge Survey of World Migration, by Robin Cohen
Timeline : Italy and the Jews, from Jewish Virtual Library
DOCUMENTS Historical Population Statistics : Italy, from Population Statistics, Univ. Utrecht
REFERENCE B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics 1750-1988 [G]
Karola Fings, The Killing Fields (Story of Gypsy and Roma in NL, B, Scand., Balkans), to be published by Univ. of Hertfordshire 2002
Rudolph J. Vecoli, The Italian Diaspora 1876-1976, pp.114-122; Gerard Noiriel, Italians and Poles in France 1880-1945, pp.142-144, Rossettos Fakiolas, Italy and Greece : from Emigrants to Immigrants, pp.313-315, in : Robin Cohen (ed.), The Cambridge Survey on World Migration, Cambridge : UP 1995, KMLA Lib.Sign. 304.809 C678c

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on March 14th 2006, last revised on May 23rd 2006

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