At the beginning of the 19th century when the effects of the Industrial Revolution in England began to be felt in continental Europe, the most dynamic centres in the fields of culture, finance, manufacturing and technical innovation had already moved from the Renaissance cities of northern and central Italy to North-Western Europe, between Paris, London and Amsterdam. According to a wide range of literature on the topic,1 within this triangle

Belgium was the first, even before France and Holland, quickly to follow England’s example. The Industrial Revolution was already producing a rapid increase in the rate of development of the production of goods and services, and was thus exerting a strong influence above all on the continent, to acquire the new manufacturing techniques and main inventions. The networks of relationships matured over the previous centuries in Eastern

Europe were not excluded, as already mentioned, from this influence. This region was already sensitive to the topics of modernity promoted mainly by the Enlightenment and the new economic theories of the 17th and 18th centuries (from cameralism to physiocracy) due to the diffusion of the press, universities, academies and high schools, as well as economic and trade ties which over time had linked East European agricultural production to markets in North-Western Europe. The diasporas, intellectuals and a part of the nobility showed the most vivid interest in becoming part of the dynamic framework of changes, to receive the stimuli and re-elaborate them in relation to their own interests and the surrounding political climate. However, institutional and legislative conditions, social relationships, and

religious, cultural and mental predispositions varied according to region, forcing local political and economic players to measure for the first time so overtly the existing distance between the potential for development and the obstacles which, depending on the situation, impeded growth at the feverish rhythms perceived elsewhere. The topic of backwardness and how to overcome it became part of the political agenda, generating controversial aspirations to bring about a huge structural adjustment which essentially imposed on each society the alternative of either accepting, mixing with or rejecting the development model generated by Great Britain.