Francesco Ammannati, Davide De Franco, Matteo Di Tullio

Measuring Economic Inequality in the Pre-industrial Era: A Comparison of Different Areas of Northern and Central Italy

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This article aims to discuss the use of estimative and fiscal primary sources to analyze and reconstruct economic inequality in some localities of Piedmont and Tuscany from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries. Specifically, we focus on the nature of these primary sources, on their evolution over time, and on changes in the concept of wealth as it relates to changes in the estimation procedures. Thanks to a long-term and a comparative analysis, the article shows the continuity and change of both the ability of local authorities to value the «real» wealth of households and of the evolution of the same concept of wealth in time and space. While adopting a rigorous criticism of the primary sources, this article demonstrates the ability to reconstruct the trends of economic inequality starting from high-quality preindustrial estimative and fiscal sources, which were subject only to minimal errors and not unlike current statistics.

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