The Origins of the Telephone in Italy, 1877–1915: Politics, Economics, Technology and Society

Gabriele Balbi


This article aims at identifying the turning points in the early history of Italian telephone (1877–1915) considering at the same level political, economical, technical, and social dimensions and trying to reconstruct conflicts and connivances among relevant social groups. The early history of the Italian telephone can be subdivided into four periods: the urban networks building during the 1880s; the nationalization attempt, concentration process and failed building of the long-distance network during the 1890s; the nationalization process between 1903 and 1907; and the failure of public management and return to private operation between 1907 and the First World War. This analysis helps identify some characteristics of Italian telephone history that configure a kind of Italian style in telecommunications: the relevance of old media (electric telegraph in particular) for the new one, political uncertainties, foreign investments, difficulties in interconnecting different systems, a lively and overlooked demand.

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