Keywords: Montecatini, Chemical industry, Great crisis, Autarky, Industrial policy.
This article reviews the history of Montecatini between 1929 and 1940. The impact of the Great Crisis on the strategies of the Italian chemical industry and its leading company is a crucial but still neglected episode in Italy’s industrial history. The disintegration of international markets forced Montecatini to abandon the internationalization strategy pursued during the 1920s and to focus on the internal market. For Montecatini, increasing State intervention during the 1930s, which culminated in the launching of the «autarky plans» in 1937, presented an opportunity to shift its «technological trajectory» from its dependence on hydroelectricity towards the use of coal and coal byproducts, in particular coke oven gas. In spite of the fascist regime’s apparent goal to reduce imports and achieve economic self-sufficiency, the scaling-up of production and the development of new products and processes was achieved through the use of imported coal.