on-line - Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche e Sociali
UNIVERSITÀ DELLA CALABRIA
DIPARTIMENTO DI SOCIOLOGIA E
DI SCIENZA POLITICA
Quaderni di Storia e Scienze Sociali
Vittorio Cappelli, Ercole Giap Parini, Osvaldo Pieroni
Redattori e collaboratori
Luca Addante, Olimpia Affuso, Rosa Maria Cappelli, Renata Ciaccio, Bernardino Cozza (†), Barbara Curli, Francesco Di Vasto, Loredana Donnici, Aurelio Garofalo (†),
Teresa Grande, Salvatore Inglese, Francesco Mainieri,
Matteo Marini, Patrizia Nardi, Saverio Napolitano, Tiziana
Noce, Giuseppina Pellegrino, Maria Perri, Luigi Piccioni,
Antonella Salomoni, Manuela Stranges, Pia Tucci
Direzione e redazione
Dipartimento di Sociologia e di Scienza Politica dell'Università della Calabria
87036 Arcavacata di Rende (Cosenza).
Tel. 0984 492568-67-65
E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected];
Direttore Responsabile Pia Tucci
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Numero 2/2009 on-line
Numero 21/2009 seguendo la numerazione della precedente edizione cartacea
Pubblicato on line nell’OTTOBRE 2009
Questo numero di Daedalus è dedicato ad
Aurelio Garofalo che lo ha fortemente voluto immaginando una discussione finalmente
senza stereotipi sul Mediterraneo. Glielo
consegniamo sperando di non aver tradito
le sue intenzioni
LIQUORICE JUICE PRODUCTION IN CALABRIA
1 – Liquorice: the root and the juice.
The subject of this paper is the extract of liquorice, the juice obtained
boiling in hot water the crushed root, finally filtered and dried.
Fig. 1 The plant and the root of liquorice
The four or five botanical varieties of liquorice used for commercial
purposes are diffused inside a Euro-Asiatic belt that goes from the Iberian
Paper delivered at the 2nd Mediterranean Maritime History Network Conference, Messina, May 2006.
peninsula to the North-Eastern Chinese province of Liaoning, between the
30th and the 45th degree of Northern latitude.
Fig. 2 Production of liquorice juice at McAndrews & Forbes plant, Camden,
In this belt the plant grows wild in relatively small areas with a dry and
warm climate and in sandy, deep soils, generally along big rivers.
Fig. 3 The spatial diffusion of Glycyrrhiza
The medical properties of the root were well known from ancient times
in the whole Eurasia. This circumstance allowed the development of liquorice trades between the production areas and much wider consumption
areas, where the plant did not grow. These trades could be on short distances but also they could be extended for thousands of kilometres. The
amount of root exchanged over the long distances was always very small if
compared with that of strategical goods like spices, cereals or tissues.
Nonetheless they were quite costant all over the centuries and from the Early Modern Period increased progressively.
On the Western side of the liquorice belt, we have evidences of trades
on the long distance at least from the 12th century: around 1191, in fact,
bales of liquorice root were regularly sent from Constantinople to Regensburg in Bavaria through Kiev. In the following centuries, there are more
evidences showing the existence of two main trade flows, the first moving
from Eastern Spain to Provence, Flanders and England; the second from the
big Syrian emporiums of Antioch, Aleppo and Acre to Marseille and Venice.
Fig. 4 The medieval trade of root
2 – The “modern” juice.
The greek, latin and medieval medical treatises often described juices of
liquorice or compounds in which liquorice was an important ingredient.
Anyway, none of them showed clear evidences of a product similar to what
we call pure liquorice extract. Thus, it is consequently difficult to determine
the exact period when began an international trade of this peculiar good.
For instance, we don’t know where and when the liquorice juice took the
actual commercial features, even if, probably, the solid extract went
through a process of standardization in the first decades of the 16th century.
In the 40s of that century, in fact, for the first time some botanical and medical treatises described a product that is clearly the one we know today.
Fig. 5. Germany 1572: the “modern” juice
In the following century, the evidences of international trades of liquorice juice became more clear and numerous, while consolidated the renown
of small northern European centres of root cultivation and juice production,
like Pontefract in England and Bamberg in Bavaria. In this period the global consumption of juice in Northern Europe seemed to increase significantly. The juice came from these local centres and especially from mediterranean areas like Spain, Crete and, by the last decades of the century, from
Fig. 6 Production and trade of juice, end of XVII century
At this early stage, the Spanish production gained a solid reputation
bound to endure for centuries, even when the Italian juices, already in the
18th century, exceeded in quantity and quality the Spanish products. Still
today in England the expression “Spanish juice” is synonymous with pure
3 – Origin and characteristics of the Italian production areas.
Southern Italy, and more specifically Calabria, entered this young international market in the second half of the 17th century with a good quality
juice that conquered quickly the favour of merchants and final consumers.
The oldest evidence we have about an Italian juice production for the
Northern European markets dates back to 1678, but we have also a great
number of documents about the following years showing the establishment
of a strong liquorice district in the Northern Ionian part of Calabria. During
the 18th century North-Eastern Calabria, Sicily and North-Eastern Abruzzo
established themselves as the main Italian areas interested by the manufacturing of juice. But while Calabria has been producing liquirice juice since
the 70s of the 17th, Sicily began probably around the half of following century and Abruzzo in the decade after 1760. There were also two less important areas, the South-Eastern Calabria and the plain of Capitanata, in Northern Apulia.
Fig. 7 The Italian manufacturing districts
An important difference among the three main production areas is that
Abruzzo and Calabria, at least in the 18th and 19th centuries, did not export
root but just juice. During some periods they experiencing even a lack of
raw material for their manufacturing needs, while Sicily, on the other hand,
continued exporting both juice and root.
It is to say, anyway, that also the fortune of these three areas has been
different. While Abruzzo was able to preserve and progressively expand its
manufacturing heritage, the Sicilian firms have totally disappeared and Calabria keeps only one of the many important firms of the past.
Fig. 8 The great Calabrian firms (“The Chemist and Druggist Diary” 1894)
4 – The Calabrian leadership and its features.
In spite of its quite sad end, the Southern Italian area where the production of liquorice juice has been historically more succesful was the Northern Ionian Calabria. For more than 250 years in its factories often has been
produced per year the largest quantity, and always the best sorts, of Italian
liquorice juice. Usually, it was also the best payed on the world market.
This leadership was based at least on three elements: the excellent quality
of the local raw material; the soundness of the main firms; the high technical standards of production. About the first aspect, quality, the root from the
Ionic area has one of the most harmonic balances among the different components and, in particular, between the active principle, the glycyrrhizin,
and sugars, a feature that has been always strongly appreciated both in the
pharmaceutical and the confectionery industry.
Regarding the business aspects, Calabria experienced for more than two
centuries a peculiar mix of small and medium firms, often of very short life,
and big firms embedded in aristocratic latifundia. For the owners of these
latifundia, the production of liquorice juice was usually the most profitabile
among their many activities, and it was carefully pursued to improve the
global economic balance of the estate. Moreover, the large amount of land
owned by these families allowed to obtain more easily the root, often scarce
and subject to a strong commercial competition.
This kind of business structure allowed the formation, during the 18th
and 19th centuries, of a solid network of great Northern Ionian enterprises,
very long-lived and whose trade-marks became soon famous all over the
Fig. 9 The geography of Calabrian manufacture
The high technical standards, finally, were the result of two main factor:
the entrepreneurial soundness and the existence of a traditional nucleus of
well skilled workers coming from a small mountain district in the neighbourhoods of Cosenza. This territory, suspended between the hard plateau
of the Sila and the basin of the Crati river, was a typical area of seasonal
migration: its inhabitants were used to spend the summer months looking
after the lands and woods of the Sila, and in wintertime they were engaged
in several specialized works in the hills around the Crati river or on the flat
coast of Calabria and other provinces.
Fig. 10 The Casali of Cosenza
From the second half of the 17th century some of these seasonal migrants became the keepers of the best technical knowledges about the manifacture of liquorice juice so that they were soon largely recognized as the
masters of this art, employed not only in Calabria but also in Sicily, Apulia
and even in the far Abruzzo. Some of these men, moreover, were not manual workers but technical managers, often able to transform themselves in
indipendent businessmen. This local dinasty of masters would have dominate the Calabrian liquorice manufacturing scene far into the 20th century.
Fig. 11 Manufacturers from the Casali: the Longo family
5 – The rise and fall of Calabrian juices.
From its apparition, at the end of the 17th century, to the first half of the
20 century almost all the Calabrian juice was exported in Northern Europe
and in some extra-european countries. Until the end of the 18th century
most of the Sicilian and Calabrian production reached the foreign markets
through the port of Leghorn: the cases of juice were sent there directly from
the places of production or through the port of Messina. Leghorn merchants
successively sold and sent the juice mainly to Marseille, Amsterdam, Antwerpen and London. Smaller amounts reached the Northern Adriatic (for a
short time Venice and then Trieste), often through Messina, and were then
sent to the markets of Central and Eastern Europe.
Fig. 12 The new directions of trade: from Calabria to Venice and overall to
After the Napoleonic wars, these flows seemed to undergo important
structural changes, probably due also to a strong increase in demand, as
well testified, for example, by the British trade statistics. In Italy, this
growth had as consequence the birth of many new companies and plants, a
strong rise in the exportation of juice and the confirmation that the national
and especially Calabrian products were the most appreciate by the Western
markets. The structure of trade was semplified: the number of brokers decreased, the great Calabrian producers took often advantage by the purchase
of their whole production by a single buyer for a period of several years;
Leghorn disappeared as an intermediate trade center and the big producers
began to arrange by themselves the shipment of their liquorice to the
Northern harbours from the warehouses they had established in Naples.
This global success of the Calabrian manufacturers was nevertheless
undermined by some internal weaknesses and by some major transformations of the international markets that became more and more evident at the
turn of the 19th century.
Fig. 13 Loading of liquorice boxes at the Corigliano harbour, 1850ca
Regarding the Calabrian manufacturers, it is necessary to stress that
they had always been able to control only the first step of the cycle, while
everything concerning the placement of the juice remained constantly in the
hands of the merchants. This situation prevented them to have a clear
knowledge of the markets, of their changes, and to develop adaptive strategies. When the dramatic political and economic events of the first half of
the 20th century upset the international flows of trade, even if only temporarily, or when the liquorice market experienced changes that made less strategic the high quality Italian juices, the great Calabrian producers were not
in condition to reshape their supply and to build new, still profitable, commercial relations. The access to alternative, conspicuous sources of income
led these aristocratic families to give up easily the manufacture of liquorice
when it seemed to require too expensive efforts.
An exception to this model were the Amarellis, a relatively small family
of Rossano, who were able to survive enlarging the range of commercial
items and diversifying the final markets, by counting only on their autonomous entrepreneurial effort. The same strategy was adopted by the small
capitalist producers of Abruzzo.
Fig. 14 Amarelli, the survivors
Anyway, other major changes reshaped, from the middle of 19th century, the international trade of liquorice juice and, inevitably, damaged the
Italian manufacturers: the born in the 1830s of a network of innovative
Provençal producers able to invade Europe with juice and confectionery
liquorice-based of medium quality at competitive prices; the outbreak of a
big British capitalist company (MacAndrew and Forbes) bound to dominate
the international market until now through the creation, for the first time, of
a real global market for liquorice; finally the progressive sostitution in the
pharmaceutical industry of high quality liquorice extracts with synthetic
Fig. 15 New markets and new competitors: a global business
In conclusion, even if in Calabria only few traces of this important productive history remain, it has been thanks to the liquorice juice that this
Region took part in the creation of a global market of manufactured goods
in the last three centuries.
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