The statistics of the IIA: voicing concerns of agriculturalists

AHR article 2017

My new article – with the unappealing title “Agricultural statistics in their international aspect” – is out on the recent issue of the Agricultural History Review.  A whole section of the issue – introduced by Juan Pan-Montojo and Niccolò Mignemi – is dedicated to “International organisations, transnational networks, and agriculture, 1905-1945,” and contains articles by Madeleine Dungy on the League of Nations, by Amalia Ribi-Forclaz  on the International Labour Organisation and by me and Niccolò Mignemi on the International Institute of Agriculture.

I am particularly happy to be part of this crowd. Amalia, who published a brillant article on the First World Agricultural Census and recently co-edited a book on “Governing the rural,” has long been interested in the International Institute of Agriculture and we share the persuasion that the importance of economic and social expertise in forming the actors’ awareness of the world between the world wars cannot be overlooked. Niccolò concentrated on agriculturalists’ associations both in a comparative and in a transnational perspective and together we organised a panel session at the 2017 EuRHO conference on transnational associations (Amalia was also part of it).

In particular, I tried to show how the IIA statistics stemmed from a vocal agrarianist agenda that did not survive intact the Second World War and was superseded by different concerns, not simply because the IIA got to be identified with Italy’s fascist ruralismo but also because the IIA, in contrast with the League of Nations, failed to update its economic expertise. On the other hand, the Institute’s statistics of trade in agricultural commodities and agricultural production came to durably structure the vision of the world economy and interpretation of the Great Depression.

By focusing on the three main international organisations that operated in the Interwar period, all contributions to this issue showed how pervasive agriculturally related topics were at that time and how central agriculture must be for a global history of the interwar period.

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