Antonio Serra wrote in 1613 an outstanding analysis, on the economy of the Reign of Naples, which is still very little known out of Italy; where he is largely recognized as the founder of the "Southern question". This article proposes a larger view of Serra’s pioneering achievements, by putting him in the context of the mercantilist approach for development, and of the general analyses both of backwardness and dependence. We try to show that mercantilism was in fact committed to the increase in production, not to the increase in gold (as the enduring bias wants). In this sense Serra was fully a mercantilist. He was the first to analyze the general features of economic backwardness: lack of manufactures, absence of a stable government which encourages export, investments and trade; lack of entrepreneurial occasions; poorness of trade. Serra also - together with the Spanish mercantilists - introduced for the first time the analysis of dependence, i.e. of the process that makes a backward economy dependent on - and blocked by - the prevailing interests of stronger economies. Apart from a few authors, this was to be rediscovered only in the 1960s by the economics of development.
Keywords: Serra, mercantilism, development, dependence, backwardness
Jel Code: B11, B31, O10