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Giustino Fortunato (1848-1932), a writer and politician, was a right-wing Italian parliamentary deputy from 1880, and in 1909 was nominated senator. He opposed the advent of fascism and played a part in the reconstitution of the Italian Liberal Party (1925). He was an attentive scholar of the problems of the South, and in his numerous studies and analyses – for example, La questione demaniale nelle provincie meridionali (1882) and Questione meridionale e riforma tributaria (1920) – denounced the area’s conditions of backwardness, stressing their natural and social causes and pointing out economic and political measures to solve them. The text we present in this issue is taken from the second edition (1926) of his volume Il Mezzogiorno e lo Stato italiano (1880-1910). It is the transcription of a speech to the Chamber of Deputies which now, a century on, is as interesting and topical as it was then, at a moment in time in which the federalisation of the Italian State is again raising the question of the economic differences between North and South and of how they can be compatibile, on an economic plane, with the slackening of nineteenth-century ‘economic constraints’.