The Department of Economics and Statistics of the University of Torino is the heir of one of the Italian most ancient and most prestigious institutions for the study of economics: the Laboratorio di Economia Politica, funded at the beginning of the academic year 1893 – 94.
It was promoted by Salvatore Cognetti de Martiis (1844 – 1901), Professor of Economics in the University of Torino since 1878. Today he is considered the most distinguished Italian exponent of 19th century Positivism in Economics. The Laboratorio di Economia Politica was established as a separate branch of the Economics section of the Institute for Law and Politics of the School of Law. Afterwards it became part of the Royal Industrial Museum of Torino, which was then merged with the School of Application for Engineers to create the Polytechnic of Torino in 1906. Thanks to public and private funds, the "Laboratorio" created a library that has constantly been growing over time; today it represents one of the most important libraries for economics in Italy.
According to Chapter 1 of its charter, the Laboratorio aimed at “promoting and easing the scientific study of the economic life and of the related issues.” It shaped its organization drawing inspiration from the “German seminars on government, the Social Museum of Paris, the London School of Economics, and the Economics Colleges of the United States of America.” According to the charter, the chair of Economics was also the director of the Laboratorio. Students and members were used to present and discuss their researches publicly in seminal form. At the beginning these researches focused mainly on applied economics, and dealt with issues related to labour, emigration, industry and local public finance.
Under Cognetti’s direction and immediately after, the Laboratorio moulded several young students, who then established themselves also in spheres different from economics: Luigi Albertini, editor of Corriere della Sera; Luigi Einaudi, Pasquale Iannaccone, Attilio Cabiati, all economists famous in Italy and abroad. Also Giuseppe Prato (secretary of the Laboratorio since its establishment), Antonio Graziadei, Riccardo Bachi, Eugenio Masè Dari, Emanuele Sella and Gioele Solari (who then became an illustrious philosopher and political scientist) are among the alumni. The majority of the researches of the Laboratorio were published in La Riforma Sociale. This journal, funded by Francesco Saverio Nitti and Luigi Roux in 1894, together with the Giornale degli Economisti, had been the main economics journal in Italy, since its foundation to its suppression by the fascist censorship in the mid-Thirties.
In 1901 Cognetti died prematurely and, being the chair of economics vacant, was succeeded by Gaetano Mosca as director; he was professor of constitutional law in the School of Law of the University of Torino and lecturer of Economics since 1901 to 1903. Since 1906 the Laboratorio was named, after his founder, Laboratorio di economia politica “S. Cognetti de Martiis”. The new chair of Economics and director of the Laboratorio was Achille Loria (1857 – 1943), one of the most famous Italian economists between the two centuries. He was in charge for almost thirty years, since 1903 to 1932; since 1908 he was assisted by Luigi Einaudi (1874 – 1961), who was deputy-director. This position appertained to the chair of Economics and Industrial Law of the Polytechnic (held by Einaudi up to 1935). Under their direction the Laboratorio was partially transformed: in 1926 it was separated from the Polytechnic, while in 1935 the School of Economics of the University of Torino was established. The Laboratorio became a seminar (and then an institute) of the School of Law.
At the beginning of the 20th century Einaudi became the leader of what may be called the Turin school of economics, grown around the Laboratorio and the two reviews, La Riforma Sociale - of which he became sole director in 1908- and La Rivista di Storia Economica. The majority of alumni of the Laboratorio, since before the First World War, were students of Einaudi. Among others, Attilio Garino Canina, Gino Borgatta, Francesco Antonio Repaci, Mauro Fasiani, Renzo Fubini, Gustavo Del Vecchio, Ernesto Rossi, Mario Lamberti Zanardi, Mario De Bernardi, Carlo Rosselli, Piero Sraffa (the latter two were also strongly influenced by Attilio Cabiati). Vittorio Porri and Giovanni Demaria were instead students of Prato.
In 1932 Pasquale Iannaccone (1872-1959) became Director of the Laboratorio, while Einaudi was deputy-director. He held it in the darkest years of fascism: at that time that cradle of liberal democratic values that stemmed from the Laboratorio and La Riforma Sociale survived with difficulty. La Riforma Sociale was suppressed by the fascist authorities in 1935 - but immediately replaced by La Rivista di Storia Economica, founded by Einaudi. This review, together with La Critica by Croce, was "one of the few free ports of culture not enslaved" (in the words of Norberto Bobbio). The Laboratorio was forced to reduce its activities. Jannaccone held the position of Director of the Laboratorio until 1944, when he handed it over to Valentino Dominedò, one of his students and newly appointed professor of economics.
After World War II, the Laboratorio has counted among its members prestigious economists, such Siro Lombardini, Francesco Forte, Claudio Napoleoni and Franco Momigliano, thanks to whom it has gradually come to be regarded as an important center for economic research in Italy.
Since 1969, the Laboratorio has collected, beyond professors of the School of Law of the University of Turin, also economists and statisticians of the School of Political Sciences and other Humanities (School of Literature, School of Communication and School of Education).
In 1988 the Laboratorio formally turned into the "Dipartimento di Economia S. Cognetti de Martiis" that was the birthplace of several research centers, such as: LABOR (labor economics), CHILD (economics of work and family), LEI & BRICK (business innovation), Ebla (economics of cultural heritage), CESMEP (history and methods of economics), CIRPET (emerging economies and developing countries), IRIS (sustainability and environment, created in collaboration with the Department of Human Biology). Other important areas of research are public economics, development economics and cooperation, comparative economic studies, industrial economics and multinational corporations, behavioral economics and complexity. The Department has also helped to establish postgraduate programs in Piedmont: CORIPE Piemonte with its specialized Masters, together with other economic departments of the University of Torino and Piemonte Orientale; some Masters in collaboration with the ILO-ILO in Turin; the PhD program in economics of Piedmont Universities, in collaboration with the Collegio Carlo Alberto and UNESCO.
In the context of the new university reform in 2012-13, the Department (now Department of Economics and Statistcs “Cognetti de Martiis”) has become competent not only for research but also for teaching and launched an educational project built on those historical-methodological principles that made famous the Laboratorio. Its broad perspective establishes an essential relationship between historical-empirical work and economic theory, and tends to emphasize the importance of interdisciplinary contributions. The ultimate goal of this educational project is to combine in a virtuous manner the various skills of the department with the needs of the labor market, in a national and international context.
List of Directors since foundation:
- 1893-1900 Prof. Salvatore COGNETTI DE MARTIIS
- 1900-1904 Prof. Gaetano MOSCA
- 1905-1931 Prof. Achille LORIA
- 1932-1943 Sen. Prof. Pasquale IANNACCONE
- 1944-1948 Prof. Valentino DOMINEDO’
- 1949-1963 Prof. Francesco Antonio REPACI
- 1964-1966 Prof. Emilio ZACCAGNINI
- 1967-1971 Board of Directors: Prof. Terenzio COZZI, Prof. Danila CREMONA DELLA CASA, Prof. Francesco FORTE, Prof. Siro LOMBARDINI, Prof. Claudio NAPOLEONI, Prof. Gianni ZANDANO and Prof. Emilio ZACCAGNINI
- 1972-1980 Prof. Francesco FORTE
- 1981-1985 Prof. Attilio GABOARDI
- 1986-1989 Prof. Vittorio VALLI
- 1990-1994 Prof. Mario REY
- 1995-2001 Prof. Ugo COLOMBINO
- 2001-2004 Prof. Walter SANTAGATA
- 2004-2010 Prof. Cristiano ANTONELLI
- 2010-2012 Prof. Pier Vincenzo BONDONIO
- 2012-2015 Prof. Roberto MARCHIONATTI
- 2015-2018 Prof. Federico REVELLI