Just a couple of weeks ago, we remembered pioneering Nora Herlihy from Ireland, and today we look at the life of Luigi Luzzatti – probably less well-known to many British and Irish credit unionists, but an important individual in the development of community and co-operative finance (and also briefly the Prime Minister of Italy) .
182 years ago today Luigi Luzzatti was born in Venice, Italy. Born into a wealthy family, Luzzatti utilised his privilege to advocate for struggling families and small businesses. He wanted to protect those in economically vulnerable positions from borrowing from untrustworthy moneylenders and allow them to escape the restraints of poverty. Starting small scale, Luzzatti’s co-operative banks proved a dependable force the Italian people could rely on through-out economic crisis. The institutions became a resource to all of society. From those in trade or agrarian professions to business people, the innovative and community-based style of lending and borrowing that Luzzatti developed succeeded as a secure foundation while other organisations collapsed under financial pressure.
His ideas were heavily influenced by German politicians Franz Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch and Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen, who were the pioneers of credit unions in urban and rural Germany (look out for a post on Raiffeisen soon!). Luzzatti’s conceptualisations of co-operative financial institutions evolved into the banca popolare, or the people’s banks, now a mix of co-operative and privately owned institutions.
Pioneers like Luigi Luzzatti remain inspirations to modern co-operators.