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The determinants of wealth inequality in the Republic of Venice (1400-1800)

Author

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  • Alfani, Guido

    (Dondena and Igier, Bocconi University; Stone Center for Research on Socio-Economic Inequality, City University of New York; Cage, University of Warwick)

  • Di Tullio, M

    (Università di Pavia)

  • Fochesato, M

    (Dondena, Bocconi University)

Abstract

This article analyses wealth inequality in the territories of the Republic of Venice in mainland Italy during 1400-1800. The availability of a particularly large database of homogeneous local inequality measurements allows us to produce the most in-depth study of the determinants of inequality at the local level available so far for any preindustrial society. First, we explore the ability of economic development, population and the intensity of regressive taxation to explain overall inequality trends in the long run, arguing for a particularly strong impact of regressive taxation. Then, to explain inequality variation between communities, we introduce a full set of geo-morphological variables. Finally we explore the impact of the terrible 1630 plague, which killed 40% of the inhabitants of this area. Although the plague itself had only a limited egalitarian impact (if any), it was able to determine a structural break in the way in which some key variables affected inequality.

Suggested Citation

  • Alfani, Guido & Di Tullio, M & Fochesato, M, 2020. "The determinants of wealth inequality in the Republic of Venice (1400-1800)," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 483, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
  • Handle: RePEc:cge:wacage:483
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    File URL: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/research/centres/cage/manage/publications/wp483.2020.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alfani, Guido & Murphy, Tommy E., 2017. "Plague and Lethal Epidemics in the Pre-Industrial World," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 77(1), pages 314-343, March.
    2. Esteban A. Nicolini & Fernando Ramos Palencia, 2016. "Comparing Income and Wealth Inequality in Pre-Industrial Economies: Lessons from 18th-Century Spain," Working Papers 0095, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    3. Mikołaj Malinowski & Jan Luiten Zanden, 2017. "Income and its distribution in preindustrial Poland," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(3), pages 375-404, September.
    4. Alfani, Guido, 2015. "Economic Inequality in Northwestern Italy: A Long-Term View (Fourteenth to Eighteenth Centuries)," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 75(4), pages 1058-1096, December.
    5. Santiago-Caballero, Carlos, 2011. "Income inequality in central Spain, 1690-1800," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 48(1), pages 83-96, January.
    6. Esteban Nicolini & Fernando Ramos Palencia, 2016. "Comparing Income and Wealth Inequality in Pre-Industrial economies. Lessons from Spain in the 18th century," Working Papers 16.01, Universidad Pablo de Olavide, Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Economic History.
    7. Branko Milanovic, 2018. "Towards an explanation of inequality in premodern societies: the role of colonies, urbanization, and high population density," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(4), pages 1029-1047, November.
    8. Fochesato, Mattia, 2018. "Origins of Europe’s north-south divide: Population changes, real wages and the ‘little divergence’ in early modern Europe," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 91-131.
    9. Guido Alfani, 2017. "The rich in historical perspective: evidence for preindustrial Europe (ca. 1300–1800)," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(3), pages 321-348, September.
    10. Erik Bengtsson & Anna Missiaia & Mats Olsson & Patrick Svensson, 2018. "Wealth inequality in Sweden, 1750–1900," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 71(3), pages 772-794, August.
    11. J. L. Van Zanden, 1995. "Tracing the beginning of the Kuznets curve: western Europe during the early modern period," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 48(4), pages 643-664, November.
    12. Wouter Ryckbosch, 2016. "Editor's choice Economic inequality and growth before the industrial revolution: the case of the Low Countries (fourteenth to nineteenth centuries)," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(1), pages 1-22.
    13. Guido Alfani & Marco Percoco, 2019. "Plague and long‐term development: the lasting effects of the 1629–30 epidemic on the Italian cities," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 72(4), pages 1175-1201, November.
    14. Jaime Reis, 2017. "Deviant behaviour? Inequality in Portugal 1565–1770," Cliometrica, Springer;Cliometric Society (Association Francaise de Cliométrie), vol. 11(3), pages 297-319, September.
    15. Guido Alfani & Francesco Ammannati, 2017. "Long‐term trends in economic inequality: the case of the Florentine state, c. 1300–1800," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1072-1102, November.
    16. Erik Bengtsson & Anna Missiaia & Ilkka Nummela & Mats Olsson, 2019. "Unequal poverty and equal industrialisation: Finnish wealth, 1750–1900," Scandinavian Economic History Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 67(3), pages 229-248, September.
    17. Fusaro,Maria, 2015. "Political Economies of Empire in the Early Modern Mediterranean," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9781107060524, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Guido Alfani, 2020. "Epidemics, inequality and poverty in preindustrial and early industrial times," Working Papers 2020-16, The George Washington University, Institute for International Economic Policy.

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    Keywords

    Economic inequality; wealth concentration; poverty; middle ages; early modern period; plague; Black Death; Italy; Republic of Venice JEL Classification:;
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