Keywords: Liberal Italy - Business history - Nationalization of network services
This article investigates the economic and political aspects of the establishment of the first telephone companies in Italy between 1880 and the First World War. The author traces the history of the firms from the initial parcelling out to the emergence of a single company, which assumed a dominant position, taking in account the crucial role played by the intervention of the Banca commerciale italiana and exploring the partial nationalization of the service occurred in 1907. The article focuses on some crucial issues for the history of industry and business at the turn of the nineteenth century: the conflicts and the relationships with politics; the development of technical and industrial networks; the investments; the role of international investors; the attitudes towards private consumers. The essay contributes to a better understanding of the role played by private companies and public administration in developing Italian industry and services at the beginning of the twentieth century.