Resources and Industry in the North

December 30, 2011

In a recent post I showed how Italian geography favors the North when it comes to farming, trade and industry. The latter is a primary source of wealth in the modern world, and even though Southern Europe's coal reserves are small and of poor quality, Northern Italy has been able to compensate with hydroelectric power because of its geographical features and natural resources.

The objective of this article is to analyse the importance of one of the new energy sources, electricity, since the end of the nineteenth century until 1945, from the point of view of natural resource endowments. Not all countries had good or equivalent endowments of coal, the energy-producing mineral of the nineteenth century, and for this reason not all of them had the same opportunities to use it, given that the transport cost was very high due to its weight in relation to its caloric power. Electricity reduced the dependence on coal resources as it could be produced not only from coal but also from water.


The accessible coal endowments available...are presented in Table 1, both in the form of total coal reserves and coal reserves per capita in each country. Well endowed in coal were Canada and the US in North America and Germany, the UK, Austria and — in an intermediate position — France in Europe. The Northern European countries Denmark and Sweden and the Southern European countries Italy, Greece and Portugal all had poor coal endowments. Looking at coal quality, Spain and especially Italy lacked good quality coal; as for the cost of extraction, this was particularly high in France and Spain, due to the characteristics of its seams.


Natural resources also had effects on the type of electricity being produced in these countries when electricity eventually arrived. [...] The situation was worst in Italy because of the scarcity of coal and its low caloric power. As a result, coal had to be imported. For that reason, electricity was generated by hydraulic power, once the problem of long distance transmission was solved by means of the alternating current. The most important hydraulic resources were concentrated in the Alps and the Po Valley, between the Alps and the Apennines in the North of the country. The regions endowed with the most important sources of waterpower were the Piedmont and Lombardy, the Po Valley (Adda, Adige, Ticino, Tevere, etc.), the Venetia region and that of Umbria.


We have calculated the proportion of hydroelectricity and thermoelectricity in the total electricity production of each country. As shown in Figure 1, at the top of the countries using hydroelectricity were Canada, Italy and Spain. Hydroelectricity accounted for over 80 per cent of their electricity production. At the bottom, using less than 60 per cent, as already commented, were the coal intensive countries, i.e. the UK, the USA, and France, although, France had a lesser proportion of thermoelectricity.


The degree of electrification advanced substantially from the end of the nineteenth century until WWII, the height of the process being 1925, after WWI, when real electricity prices fell considerably. The behaviour of the relative prices electricity-coal, coupled with the new technical opportunities for electrification in the manufacturing sector where electricity competed with steam, produced important possibilities for economic growth. There was also a relationship between the accumulation of physical capital and electrification process and the increase in labour productivity, manufacturing and income per capita, especially in the countries that were badly endowed with coal deposits, but enjoyed better opportunities for the production of electricity.

Concha Betrán. "Natural Resources, Electrification and Economic Growth from the End of the Nineteenth Century until World War II". Revista de Historia Económica, 2005.

Related: Geography and Industry

Russell Peters' Comedy Routine

December 15, 2011

I don't know how much of stand-up comedians' material is based on real experiences and how much is just made up, but in this routine Canadian Desi comic Russell Peters claims that he was mistaken for a native when he traveled to Italy. He says a guy approached him on the street and spoke to him in Italian, and then was shocked to find out that he's Indian. Based on this, he invites all "brown people" to go to Italy and be "freaked out" like he was when they're mistaken for Italians. There are several problems with his story that point to it being at least partly untrue, and to him not being very good at interpreting situations.

  • Russell Peters is of Anglo-Indian descent, but he still looks very South Asian. I'm not sure I'd even buy him as West Asian, much less Southern European. His brown skin and quasi-Australoid facial features would make for a very tanned and odd-looking Italian who, if anything, would be viewed with suspicion by locals. But the story works for American audiences because it panders to stereotypes they have about the "darkness" of Italians, and I think Peters is well aware of that.
  • When you're in a foreign country, being spoken to in the official language of that country instead of your own is totally normal and in itself not evidence of anything. What language did Peters expect the Italian guy in Italy to speak? English? Hindi? Unless you're booking a hotel room or strolling around town in khaki shorts taking pictures of the Colosseum, locals would have no reason to speak to you in any language other than Italian, and even then there's no guarantee.
  • South Asians are actually one of the largest immigrant groups in Italy, numbering in the 500,000s (not to mention the ~300,000 Gypsies, who are of Indian descent), so I doubt that any Italian would be shocked to see one, or as unacquainted with their appearance as Peters suggests. It sounds like a scenario made up by someone unfamiliar with Italy's demographics who just assumes that the country is homogenous and has no foreign population, which again plays well with equally clueless American audiences.

Regardless of whether or not that incident really happened the way Peters describes it, any "brown people" following his advice are going to be very disappointed when they're immediately recognized as foreigners in Italy (or possibly mistaken for Gypsies), since only a tiny fraction of South Asians can dream of ever convincingly passing as Italian, and even then only via cosmetic and surgical enhancement.

Here's a little test that should be nearly impossible if Peters is to be believed. Try to spot the South Asian individual in each of these photos of Italians:

Really tough, huh?

Regional Soccer Player Composites

December 3, 2011

I've been trying out this new morphing software that detects faces automatically and puts the control points in place for you. It has a few kinks but it saves a lot of time, so I made some quick regional versions of the earlier soccer player composites. They still look very similar, but breaking the samples down like this reveals minor differences not only between the North, Center and South but also within each of those areas. Many of the new samples are quite small though, and remember that some surnames may hail from neighboring regions, so these are not perfect representations.

(N = 10)
(N = 49)
(N = 95)

(N = 20)
(N = 9)
(N = 43)

(N = 44)
(N = 21)
(N = 44)

(N = 7)
(N = 58)
(N = 35)

(N = 19)
(N = 25)
(N = 11)

Software: Abrosoft FaceMixer

Geography and North-South Disparities

November 19, 2011

Books like Guns, Germs, and Steel and The Botany of Desire, and discoveries like the impact of infectious disease on IQ and climate shifts on the fall of Rome, have shown what a huge role geography and environment play in shaping development and the course of history. Stanford economist Thomas Sowell describes this phenomenon at work in modern Italy, showing how socioeconomic and other disparities between North and South that are often attributed to behavioral or biological factors actually have deep roots in the lay of the land.

Arable land is both scarce and scattered in southern Italy, leading to many isolated settlements — contributing in turn to the linguistic and other cultural differences. Moreover, there are very few long navigable rivers to facilitate trade and communication. Such modern means of travel or communication as broadcasting, railroads, and airlines were of course not yet in existence, or were not yet significant in southern Italy, when the massive immigration to America was taking place. Even in the middle of the twentieth century, however, geographical isolation was still extreme in some southern Italians villages.


The climate and terrain of southern Italy contributed to its poverty. While the temperatures are relatively mild, rainfall is both low and concentrated in only a few months. The growing season is dry — "drought may endure for six months or more." When the rains finally come, they are torrential, causing erosion. The dryness during the growing season in turn limits the use of fertilizers. The impermeability of much of the hilly soil facilitates rapid water runoff when it does rain, and the deforestation of southern Italy's once heavily wooded areas adds to both erosion and the collection of water in stagnant pools, breeding malaria. Italy has been the most malarial country in Europe, and southern Italy more so than the rest of the country. In addition to the direct suffering and death caused by malaria, disease also exacted an economic toll. Because the most fertile lowlands were also the most malarial, peasants and agricultural workers lived up on hillsides in order to be away from the malaria-bearing mosquitoes at night, when they bite. This in turn meant that much of the day was spent going to and from home and work — often miles apart — instead of actually working.

While much of southern Italy is hilly and mountainous, the highlands are at just the wrong height for agricultural purposes. They are too high and rugged to be good cropland and too low to collect snow, which would melt and give a slow, steady runoff of water during the spring. In addition to lacking these advantages common in some other European countries, Italy also does not have its sod broken up by nature through successive freezes and thaws during the winter. The southern Italian farmer must perform the vital function of breaking up the soil entirely by his own efforts and that of his animals pulling the plow.

Italy's natural deficiencies are both agricultural and industrial. About three quarters of the land area of Italy consists of mountains and hills. Only about half of the land is arable, and most of that is in northern Italy. In the south, the mountains "reach so close to the sea that arable land is limited to mountain villages, high plateaus, or coastal plains" — the latter being generally "very narrow." Italy is also lacking in both the quantity and quality of coal and iron ore needed for producing iron and steel — a mainstay of modern industry.

History has added to the problems created by nature. Southern Italy was long a battleground for contending empires and dynasties, which fought back and forth across the Italian peninsula for centuries, going back at least as far as the Roman Empire. For two centuries during the Middle Ages, invasions were "frequent and almost annual." At various times, southern Italy was conquered by a variety of foreigners, including the Lombards, the Arabs, and the Normans. Massacres, pillage, rape, and enslavement were the common fate of the population.


Northern Italy has been better treated by both nature and man. The rain falls in the spring and summer, when it is needed for agriculture. It has "several rivers, whose waters are kept at a relatively steady level by melting Alpine snows," and those "provide considerable water and power for agriculture and industry." In addition, northern Italy has "a system of irrigation that has been nowhere excelled and rarely approached" — at least during the era of massive immigration to America. Northern Italian agriculture has been described as "luxuriant under cultivation," yielding "a notable variety of crops." Deforestation and other natural and man-made evils of the south were less prevalent in the north.

Thomas Sowell. Ethnic America: A History. New York: Basic Books, 1981.

Related: Resources and Industry in the North

Hair Dye and Wigs in Ancient Rome

November 10, 2011

When Nordicists aren't trying to claim Ancient Romans as their own, they say that the Romans dyed their hair blonde, or wore blonde wigs made from Germanic hair, because they envied the physical and moral attributes of "superior" Northern Europeans. But that narcissistic fantasy couldn't be further from the truth. Hair coloring was indeed popular in ancient Roman society (as it also is in modern British society), but its history, functions and significance were much more complicated.

In her reference book Encyclopedia of Hair, Victoria Sherrow explains that blonde hair in Rome was linked with prostitution at first, and obtained from slaves:

In ancient Rome, blond hair was initially considered to be a symbol of a prostitute, and these women were required to bleach their hair blond or wear blond wigs. After slave girls were acquired from Scandinavia and Germany, noblewomen began to wear more wigs made from their hair, and the stigma attached to blond hair diminished. Women also began dying their hair lighter shades using infusions made from saffron flowers. Unfortunately, some dyes and bleaches caused such severe damage to the hair that people resorted to wearing wigs. People also wore false hairpieces to augment their own hair or create special effects.

Popular anthropologist Desmond Morris describes in an amusing passage how blonde hair lost its prostitution stigma, how and why it gained in popularity, and what it represented (hint: not high morals):

Roman prostitutes were carefully organized. They were licensed, taxed, and actually required by law to wear blonde hair. The third wife of the Emperor Claudius, the wild nymphomaniac Messalina, was so excited by the idea of sudden, brutal sex with strangers that she would sneak out at night clad in a whore's wig and prowl the city. So violent was her lovemaking that it is rumoured she frequently dislodged her blonde hairpiece, returning to the royal precincts in all too recognizable condition.

Other Roman ladies of fashion were soon imitating her, and the lawmakers were impotent to stem the trend. Their blonde-wig-whoring law was ruined, but the element of wickedness and abandon by now associated with blondness was to survive down the centuries, repeatedly re-surfacing as an opposing strand in contrast to the image of fair-haired virginal innocence.

Prior to that (and probably long after as well), Romans were much more likely to use dark colored dyes, often to hide gray hair and restore their natural color. Victoria Sherrow explains again:

Hair dyes were popular in ancient Rome, and historians have found more than 100 different recipes that the Romans used for bleaching or dying hair. Early Romans preferred dark hair, and at one time, blond hair was the mark of a prostitute. Light hair became fashionable after Greek culture reached Italy and the Roman legionnaires began bringing back fair-haired slaves from Gaul. Women, and some men, applied bleaching agents to their hair and then exposed it to the sun to achieve a golden or red color. Wealthier people could afford to sprinkle actual gold dust on their hair to create a blond look, as did the ancient Phoenicians. Another way to achieve a lighter shade was to cover the hair with flower pollen and the crushed petals of yellow-colored flowers. When harsh bleaching agents caused hair loss, Roman women resorted to wigs made from the hair of blond slaves.

To color gray hair, the Romans used a mixture made from ashes, boiled walnut shells, and earthworms. Another recipe for dark hair dye combined boiled walnut shells, charred eggs, leeks, leeches, and other ingredients. They also discovered that lead-coated combs dipped in vinegar would leave a dark residue on the hair. The color deepened over time as repeated use of a comb left more lead salts on the hair.

Indeed, according to archaeologist Elizabeth Bartman, Romans also imported black hair from India, while their use of blonde hair had political significance. Unlike the Indian hair, which was acquired through trade, Germanic hair became a symbol of Rome's subjugation of barbarians:

Ample literary sources document women's (as well as men's) use of wigs and hairpieces, and the extensive vocabulary they employ suggests a wide range of options. Capillamentum, corymbium, galerum and τρίχωμα are favorite, but by no means the only, terms attested. Most wigs in antiquity were made of human hair and fashioned with a level of beauty and craftsmanship largely unobtainable today. (In modern times synthetic hair has replaced natural human hair in all but the most expensive wigs.) Although no Roman wigs have survived, evidence from pharaonic Egypt attests to the high quality of ancient hairpieces. The blond hair of Germans and jet black of Indians was preferred for artificial attachments, but it is unclear whether their desirability stemmed from their color or texture. While black Indian hair, documented in a late source, was no doubt obtained through trade, the blond hair of Germans was one of the spoils of war, at least in the early Imperial period. Both Ovid and Martial refer to "captured" hair (captivos crines), making an explicit link between the commodification of hair and Roman power.

Bartman also stresses the artificiality and extravagance of popular hairstyles, which would often combine light and dark shades. This indicates an ornamental function rather than an attempt to look like a natural Northern European blonde — something that would have been looked down on:

Notwithstanding its implications of Roman conquest, a blond braid interwoven into the dark tresses of a Mediterranean crown presumably announced the fictive nature of the coiffure rather emphatically. This unabashed flaunting of artificial locks contrasts with the generally negative image of wig wearing conveyed by many of the literary sources.

...Roman female coiffures bespeak human intervention. When looking at sculptural rendering today, we frame our discussion of cultus largely in terms of the shape and construction of Roman coiffures, but we should recall that artificial color provided by dye, bleach, or powder, and the sheen acquired by gel or pomade, also advertised the hairdressers' effort. By contrast, we today favor the so-called natural look in female hairdressing; whether styled in an Afro or Princess Diana bob, contemporary women's hair professes to be close to its natural state. [...] To the ancients, however, "natural" was a term of opprobrium, suggesting a lack of civilization and social control — a state close to beasts and barbarians. So Paola Virgili and others have appropriately linked the notion of cultus, implying refinement and civilization, to the elaborate coiffures of imperial Roman women.


  1. Victoria Sherrow. Encyclopedia of Hair: A Cultural History. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2006.
  2. Desmond Morris. The Naked Woman: A Study of the Female Body. New York: Macmillan, 2007.
  3. Elizabeth Bartman. "Hair and the Artifice of Roman Female Adornment". Am J Archaeol, 2001.

Moors Expelled from Sicily and Southern Italy

October 31, 2011

It's often claimed that Italians south of Rome are mostly descended from Moors who invaded in the Middle Ages. But according to historian Julie Anne Taylor, the large scale presence of Muslims in medieval Italy was restricted to just two southern locations (first Sicily and then the area around Lucera) and in both cases ended with mass expulsions. Her narrative is consistent with the available genetic data, which estimates only low levels (2-4%) of gene flow from Arabs and Berbers into those two locations, and even lower levels (0-1%) in the rest of the country.

When tensions between the Christians and Muslims in Sicily in the first decades of the thirteenth century disrupted life on Frederick II's island, the emperor did what the Christian rulers of Iberia had done in the eleventh century: he removed the Muslims from his kingdom. Instead of expelling them, however, he deported them to Lucera, a town previously inhabited by Christians in Apulia, forty miles or so from the Adriatic Sea in the southern Italian peninsula. The first deportations began in the 1220s and continued for twenty years. By mid-century, Sicily's Muslim population no longer existed. Some had fled to North Africa while the majority had been settled in Lucera and small villages in the same region.


Rebellions of Muslims in villages around the island prompted Frederick to find ways to rid Sicily of them, but not to the point of depriving himself completely of their talents and uses. He shipped them off to Apulia, forced them to settle in Lucera, and put them to work in the service of the kingdom.


When Charles I of Anjou took possession of the colony in 1265, life became increasingly difficult for the inhabitants until, in 1300, Charles II decided to liquidate the colony entirely. He had all the Muslims in southern Italy sold into slavery, took the gold from their sale, and confiscated all of their property. Officials took inventory of all the grain and agricultural products stored there before carting them off to feed the Christian populations of southern Italy.

Sally McKee. "Review: Muslims in Medieval Italy: The Colony at Lucera, by Julie Taylor". The American Historical Review, October 2004.

Our estimates of NW African chromosome frequencies were highest in Iberia and Sicily, in accordance with the long-term Arab rule in these two areas. The chromosome frequencies in the two samples were not significantly different from each other (Fisher's exact test P=0.83) but were both significantly different from the peninsular Italy sample (P<0.01). An inspection of Table 1 reveals a non-random distribution of MNA [medieval North African] types in the Italian peninsula, with at least a twofold increase over the Italian average estimate in three geographically close samples across the southern Apennine mountains (East Campania, Northwest Apulia, Lucera). When pooled together, these three Italian samples displayed a local frequency of 4.7%, significantly different from the North and the rest of South Italy (P<0.01), but not from Iberia and Sicily (P=0.12 and P=0.33, respectively). Arab presence is historically recorded in these areas following Frederick II's relocation of Sicilian Arabs.

Val Badia 0.0
Veneto 0.9
Central Emilia 0.0
Central Tuscany 1.2
Tuscany-Latium border 0.0
Northeast Latium 0.9
Marche 0.7
South Latium 0.0
East Campania 2.4
Northwest Apulia 3.3
Lucera 1.7
West Calabria 0.0
South Apulia 0.7
Sicily 3.8
Colonized locations 2.8
Rest of country 0.4
Whole country 1.1

Capelli et al. "Moors and Saracens in Europe: estimating the medieval North African male legacy in southern Europe". Eur J Hum Genet, 2009.

Related: Mediterranean Sea as Genetic Barrier

Jersey Shore: Before They Were Guidos

October 20, 2011

Here are some childhood photos of the (fully) Italian cast members of MTV's reality show Jersey Shore when they still looked normal, prior to the harmful effects of steroids, tanning beds, hair gel and hip-hop.

Mike Sorrentino:

Paul DelVecchio:

Sammi Giancola:

Vinny Guadagnino:

Deena Nicole Cortese:

Another Richard Lynn Refutation

October 6, 2011

They just keep coming. The others can be found here.

As stated at the outset, the aim of this analysis is not to demonstrate that IQ in Southern Italy is the same or higher than that in the North. On the other hand, a simple statistical exercise, based on correlations among variables, such as that by Lynn, is far from conclusive. Recent studies have shown a significant statistical relationship (p-value = 0.008) between the presence of storks in the European continent and the birth rate (Matthews, 2000); an association which seems particularly remarkable in the case of Germany (Höfer et al. 2004). We know how hard it is to explain causality by means of statistical exercises and certainly causal relationships are not captured by simple statistical correlations.

Our previous discussion suggests a different relationship among the variables analyzed by R. Lynn and those collected in the present article. Allowing that school tests are representative of differences in IQ, we have seen that:

  • they clearly show how the North-South difference in cognitive ability does not exist at the age of 7. The correlation between regional educational achievement (INVALSI) and regional per capita income becomes positive (0.44) at the age of 10, but is, however, considerably lower than that found through PISA test scores;
  • the IQ-average income relationship did not exist in the past, although if it had derived from a genetic difference, it would consequently have done so;
  • knowledge of genetic differences in Italy does not support Lynn's opinion that peoples from North Africa and the Near East strongly influenced the genetic structure of the Southern Italian population. Genetically, the influence of the Phoenicians and the Near East populations accounts for a very small fraction, while the predominant genetic influence derives from the long phase of Greek colonization.

The existence of differences in IQ, as revealed by school tests and other tests (supposing that these actually reveal "fundamental" diversities in intelligence), seems much better explained as being socially, economically and historically influenced rather than being genetically determined. Capabilities in problem solving are enhanced by a developing and stimulating environment, according to the so-called "Flynn effect".

In the past, the Southern Italian economy has at times been more advanced than the Northern one; for example during both the Roman antiquity and the high Middle Ages. Perhaps the North and the Centre were more advanced than the South in the late Middle Ages; although nothing certain can be said on the matter. The following decline of the Italian economy as a whole, from the late Middle Ages until the end of the 19th century, probably cancelled the existing economic differences. When per capita GDP diminishes and approaches the level of bare subsistence, differences among regions disappear. In the 19th century, Italy was a relatively backward country both in the North and the South. The statistical material available from the end of the 19th century onwards, does not actually indicate a deep North-South divide, in economic terms. The start of modern growth from then on affected the North much more than the South and economic disparity began to exist between the two parts of the country. In 1891 the North-South difference in per capita GDP was less than 10 percent; it was 20 percent on the eve of World War 1, and 45 per cent after World War 2. In 2010, per capita GDP in the South is about 60 percent that of the North. As ordinarily happens, relative backwardness implies the accumulation of adverse influences. While literacy and years of education grew in the North with respect to the South, infant mortality diminished much more quickly in the North than the South. Institutions, including families and schools, work much better in prosperity than backwardness. Estimates of IQ are likely to be higher where families, municipalities, provinces and regions invest more in education. Remarkable emigration from the South to the North, especially between 1950 and 1975, increased the North-South diversity since emigration, in Italy as elsewhere, is always selective. Since IQ registers education and years of schooling to a greater extent than intelligence, the relative position of the South compared to the North deteriorated in both the cultural environment and the economy more or less contemporaneously.

Daniele and Malanima. "Are people in the South less intelligent than in the North? IQ and the North-South disparity in Italy". Journal of Socio-Economics, 2011.

Anti-Immigration and Pro-Italy

September 29, 2011

A recent survey of global attitudes compared Italy to several other nations on a variety of issues and found that anti-immigrant sentiment is greater there than anywhere else and seems to go hand-in-hand with a strong sense of national pride and cultural superiority. Negativity about immigration peaks in Northern Italy, possibly because that region attracts more immigrants, but even in Southern Italy it's still greater than in any other nation.

Strong Concerns About Immigration

Immigration, however, may be the issue on which Italy is most distinctive. Like much of Western Europe, over the last few years Italy has wrestled with how to successfully integrate and assimilate its Muslim minority. Additionally, the recent influx of Romanian immigrants — especially Roma, or gypsies from Romania — into Italy has led to new controversies over immigration. The 2007 Pew poll included a number of questions on immigration, and on each of these, Italians held the most negative opinions of any Western public. Nearly two-thirds of Italians (64%) believe immigration is a very big problem for their country. In no other Western nation did a majority rate immigration a very big problem (Spain was the closest at 42%). In fact, Italy's level of concern was the highest, not only among Western countries, but among all 47 nations included in the survey.

Similarly, roughly three-in-four Italians (73%) say immigrants are having a bad effect on their country, considerably more than any other Western public, and second only to South Africa (75%) among the 47 nations in the study.

Fully 87% of Italians say there should be tighter restrictions on people coming into their country — up seven points from 2002, and again, the highest percentage among Western countries. Italian attitudes are overwhelmingly negative toward immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa, as well as immigrants from Eastern Europe. Two-thirds say immigration from each of these areas is a bad thing.

National Pride

Despite all these signs of a rather dark mood, many Italians still reject the malaise argument, including Giuliano Amato, the country's interior minister. A week after Fisher's article appeared, Amato struck back in a letter to The New York Times, trumpeting his country's economy and health care system, and its recent successes in fighting the mafia.

Certainly, Amato is not alone in taking pride in his country, especially its culture. Italians are much more likely than their fellow Westerners to believe in their country's cultural pre-eminence. About two-in-three Italians (68%) agree with the statement "Our people are not perfect, but our culture is superior to others."

By contrast, in neighboring France — a country well known for having pride in its language and culture — only 32% say their culture is better than others. Italians are even more confident in their cultural superiority than Americans (55%), who themselves are well known for their strong national pride.

Richard Wike. "Italy's Malaise: La Vita Non É Cosí Dolce: Italians' Spirits Are Flagging — But Not Their Sense of Cultural Superiority". Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2008.

More than 1,000 immigrants have been evacuated from southern Italy after a recent wave of violence against African farm workers. Surveys conducted by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project over the past decade find that anti-immigrant sentiment is widespread in Italy.

For example, in 2007, Italians overwhelmingly said that immigration was a big problem in their country and that immigrants — both from the Middle East and North Africa and from Eastern European countries — were having a bad impact on Italy. More recently, in the fall of 2009, more than eight-in-ten Italians said they would like to see tighter restrictions on immigration.

Italians were more likely than any other public included in the 47-nation survey conducted in 2007 to see immigration as a big problem in their country. More than nine-in-ten Italians (94%) considered immigration to be a big problem, including 64% who said it was a very big problem in Italy.

By comparison, a much narrower majority of South Africans (53%) — the second most likely to rate immigration as a very big problem in their country — shared that view.

Majorities of Italians across demographic and regional groups saw immigration as a very big problem, but those who lived in the northern parts of the country were especially likely to say that was the case.

About three-quarters (74%) of those who lived in the north saw immigration as a very big problem in Italy, compared with 54% in the south, where the recent violence has been concentrated.

Juliana Menasce Horowitz. "Widespread Anti-Immigrant Sentiment in Italy". Pew Global Attitudes Project, 2010.

Related: Anti-Minority Sentiment, Nationalist Attitudes Highest in Italy

Italian Beauty: Monica Bellucci

September 13, 2011

Actress and model from Città di Castello, Perugia, Umbria.

Coon's Bizarre Conclusion Explained

August 29, 2011

In the chapter on Italy in his book The Races of Europe, anthropologist Carleton S. Coon describes Northern and Southern Italians as being very similar in both subracial make-up and pigmentation (which I've confirmed with facial composites):

In the population of [northern Italy] there is a strong prevalence of Alpine and Dinaric types, especially the former, but approximately one-third of the population is long-headed or nearly so. [...] In other words, the southern Italians are a blend for the most part of Alpines and small Mediterraneans, while among the northern Italians the most important dolichocephalic strain is the Atlanto-Mediterranean. [...] The pigmentation [in northern Italy] is lighter than in southern Italy, but still prevailingly brunet.

Small Mediterranean


But then in the last paragraph, he concludes with this bizarre statement that seems to contradict (or at least greatly exaggerate) everything that came before:

No country in Europe in which one language and one cultural tradition prevail shows a greater diversity of race between its southern and its northern extremities than does Italy.

To unravel this mystery, we need to understand that Coon's book started out as a revision of an earlier work by William Z. Ripley, also called The Races of Europe. I was looking through it recently and found this nearly identical statement, with an added twist at the end:

We have now seen how gradual is the transition from one half of Italy to the other [with] profound contrasts between the extremes of north and south. These must ever stand as witness to differences of physical origin as wide apart as Asia is from Africa.

It seems pretty clear that Coon's statement is a holdover from Ripley. So are Northern and Southern Italians really as different from each other as Asians are from Africans? Not exactly. Ripley's book dates back to the 19th century, and his analysis, which fell into what Coon called the "prestatistical school", was accordingly very rudimentary. He based his conclusions almost entirely on the single craniofacial trait of cephalic index. This led him to believe that brachycephalic (round-headed) Alpines and Dinarics were similar to Mongoloids, and dolichocephalic (long-headed) Mediterraneans and Nordics were similar to Negroids, an absurd notion that must have seemed reasonable given the limited knowledge of the time. Here's the passage where he explains his peculiar classification system and how Italians fit into it:

The most conspicuous feature of our map of cephalic index for western Europe is that here within a limited area all the extremes of head form known to the human race are crowded together. In other words, the so-called white race of Europe is not physically a uniform and intermediate type in the proportions of the head between the brachycephalic Asiatics and the long-headed negroes of Africa. A few years ago it was believed that this was true. More recently, detailed research has revealed hitherto unsuspected limits of variation. They are roughly indicated by our portraits of living European types at page 39. In the high Alps of northwestern Italy are communes with an average index of 89, an extreme of round-headedness not equalled anywhere else in the world save in the Balkan Peninsula and in Asia Minor. This type of head prevails all through the Alps, quite irrespective of political frontiers. These superficial boundaries are indicated in white lines upon the map to show their independence of racial limits. There is no essential difference in head form between the Bavarians and Italian Piedmontese, or between the French Savoyards and the Tyrolese.

From what has been said, it will appear that these Alpine populations in purity exceed any known tribes of central Asia in the breadth of their heads. Yet within three hundred miles as the crow flies, in the island of Corsica, are communes with an average cephalic index of 73. These mountaineers of inland Corsica are thus as long-headed as any tribe of Australians, the wood Veddahs of Ceylon [Sri Lanka], or any African negroes of which we have extended observations. A little way farther to the north there are other populations in Scotland, Ireland, and Scandinavia which are almost as widely different from the Alpine peoples in the proportions of the head as are the Corsicans. An example of extreme individual variation downward is shown in our Teutonic type at page 39, which has a lower index than any recorded for the longest-headed primitive races known. Nor is this all. Pass to northern Scandinavia, and we find among the Lapps, again, one of the broadest-headed peoples of the earth, of a type shown in our series of portraits.

So remarkably sudden are these transitions that one is tempted at first to regard them as the results of chance. Further examination is needed to show that it must be due to law. Proof of this is offered by the map itself; for it indicates a uniform gradation of head form from several specific centres of distribution outward. Consider Italy, for example, where over three hundred thousand individuals, from every little hamlet, have been measured in detail. The transition from north to south is, as we shall see, perfectly consistent. The people of the extreme south are like the Africans among our portraits at page 45 in respect to the head form; gradually the type changes until in Piedmont we reach an extreme perfectly similar to that depicted on our other page of brachycephalic Asiatic types. So it is all over the continent. Each detailed research is a check on its neighbor. There is no escape from the conclusion that we have to do with law.

Two distinct varieties of man, measured by the head form alone, are to be found within the confines of this little continent. One occupies the heart of western Europe as an outpost of the great racial type which covers all Asia and most of eastern Europe as well. The other, to which we as Anglo-Saxons owe allegiance, seems to hang upon the outskirts of Europe, intrenched in purity in the islands and peninsulas alone. Northern Africa, as we have already observed, is to be classed with these. Furthermore, this long-headed type appears to be aggregated about two distinct centers of distribution — in the north and south respectively. In the next chapter we shall show that these two centres of long-headedness are again divided from one another in respect of both colour of hair and eyes and stature. From the final combination of all these bodily characteristics we discover that in reality in Europe we have to do with three physical types, and not two. Thus we reject at once that old classification in our geographies of all the people of Europe under a single title of the white, the Indo-Germanic, Caucasian, or Aryan race. Europe, instead of being a monotonous entity, is a most variegated patchwork of physical types. Each has a history of its own, to be worked out from a study of the living men. Upon the combination of these racial types in varying proportions one with another the superstructure of nationality has been raised.

Sure enough, when we look at his map of cephalic index in Europe, the extreme North and extreme South of Italy are farther apart in average cephalic index than any other nation in Europe. But of course, we know that this isn't a racial difference, and that when multiple craniofacial traits are analyzed, all Caucasoids cluster together, away from Asians and Africans. Coon knew this as well, which is why he ignored Ripley's rejection of a unified white race, and was able to identify Dinarics as "Mediterranean derivatives" despite their different head shape. So the only reasonable explanation for his retaining Ripley's erroneous conclusion about Italians is that it was an oversight.

Soccer Player Facial Composites

July 15, 2011

I've made facial composites out of large random samples of Northern, Central and Southern Italian soccer players from the RaiSport website, using both birthplace and surname origin as the criteria for inclusion. This is the third (and by far the biggest) regional comparison of this sort that I've done now, and it's the third time that the composites have come out looking almost identical.

Northern Italian
(N = 227)
Central Italian
(N = 116)
Southern Italian
(N = 152)

Here's an animated GIF of the three composites morphing into each other in an endless loop. You have to look closely to see the changes.

Software: Sqirlz Morph

Related: Regional Soccer Player Composites