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Economic inequality in northwestern Italy: A long-term view (fourteenth to eighteenth centuries)

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  • Guido Alfani

Abstract

This article provides a comprehensive picture of economic inequality in northwestern Italy (Piedmont), focusing on the long-term developments occurring from 1300 to 1800 ca. Regional studies of this kind are rare, and none of them has as long a timescale. The new data proposed illuminate many little-known aspects of wealth distribution and general economic inequality in preindustrial times, and support the idea that during the Early Modern period, inequality grew everywhere: both in cities and in rural areas, and independently from whether the economy was growing or stagnating. This finding challenges earlier views that explained inequality growth as the consequence of economic development. The importance of demographic processes affecting inequality is underlined, and the impact of severe mortality crises, like the Black Death, is analyzed.

Suggested Citation

  • Guido Alfani, 2014. "Economic inequality in northwestern Italy: A long-term view (fourteenth to eighteenth centuries)," Working Papers 061, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
  • Handle: RePEc:don:donwpa:061
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    File URL: ftp://ftp.dondena.unibocconi.it/WorkingPapers/Dondena_WP061.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Dobado González, Rafael & García Montero, Héctor, 2010. "Colonial Origins of Inequality in Hispanic America? Some Reflections Based on New Empirical Evidence," Revista de Historia Económica, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(02), pages 253-277, September.
    2. Prados De La Escosura, Leandro, 2008. "Inequality, poverty and the Kuznets curve in Spain, 1850–2000," European Review of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 12(03), pages 287-324, December.
    3. Jord Hanus, 2013. "Real inequality in the early modern Low Countries: the city of ’s-Hertogenbosch, 1500–1660," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 66(3), pages 733-756, August.
    4. Thomas Piketty & Gilles Postel-Vinay & Jean-Laurent Rosenthal, 2006. "Wealth Concentration in a Developing Economy: Paris and France, 1807–1994," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(1), pages 236-256, March.
    5. Guido Alfani, 2013. "Plague in seventeenth-century Europe and the decline of Italy: an epidemiological hypothesis," European Review of Economic History, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(4), pages 408-430, November.
    6. Guido Alfani, 2010. "Climate, population and famine in Northern Italy: General tendencies and Malthusian crisis, ca. 1450-1800," Working Papers 027, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    7. repec:cai:poeine:pope_704_0559 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Samuel Cohn, 2007. "After the Black Death: labour legislation and attitudes towards labour in late-medieval western Europe," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 60(3), pages 457-485, August.
    9. 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.
    10. Rossi, Nicola & Toniolo, Gianni & Vecchi, Giovanni, 2001. "Is The Kuznets Curve Still Alive? Evidence From Italian Household Budgets, 1881 1961," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 61(04), pages 904-925, December.
    11. Francesco Ammannati & Davide De Franco & Matteo Di Tullio, 2014. "Misurare la diseguaglianza economica nell‚Äôet√† preindustriale: un confronto fra realt√† dell‚ÄôItalia centro-settentrionale," Working Papers 065, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    12. Guido Alfani, 2011. "Population Dynamics, Malthusian Crises and Boserupian Innovation in Pre-Industrial Societies: The Case Study of Northern Italy (ca. 1450-1800) in the Light of Lee’s "Dynamic Synthesis"," Rivista di Politica Economica, SIPI Spa, issue 2, pages 23-56, April-Jun.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. About the Historic Gap between Rich and Poor Italians
      by bbatiz in NEP-HIS blog on 2014-07-14 12:04:50

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. Guido Alfani & Federico Tadei, 2017. "Income Inequality in Colonial Africa: Building Social Tables for Pre-Independence Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, and Senegal," Working Papers 594, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    4. Guido Alfani & Marco percoco, 2014. "Plague and long-term development: the lasting effects of the 1629-30 epidemic on the Italian cities," Working Papers 508, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    5. 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.
    6. Esteban A. Nicolini & Fernando Ramos Palencia, 2016. "Decomposing income inequality in a backward pre-industrial economy: Old Castile (Spain) in the middle of the eighteenth century," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 69(3), pages 747-772, August.
    7. Guido Alfani & Elena Roberta Frigeni, 2013. "Inequality (un)perceived: The emergence of a discourse on economic inequality from the Middle Ages to the Age of Revolutions," Working Papers 058, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    8. Alfani, Guido & Ryckbosch, Wouter, 2016. "Growing apart in early modern Europe? A comparison of inequality trends in Italy and the Low Countries, 1500–1800," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 143-153.
    9. Guido Alfani & Francesco Ammannati, 2014. "Economic inequality and poverty in the very long run: The case of the Florentine State," Working Papers 070, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    10. repec:bla:revinw:v:62:y:2016:i:4:p:785-791 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. repec:eee:exehis:v:67:y:2018:i:c:p:62-79 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Guido Alfani & Wouter Ryckbosch, 2015. "Was there a ‘Little Convergence’ in inequality? Italy and the Low Countries compared, ca. 1500-1800," Working Papers 557, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    13. repec:spr:cliomt:v:11:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11698-016-0152-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Modalsli, Jørgen, 2018. "The regional dispersion of income inequality in nineteenth-century Norway," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 67(C), pages 62-79.
    15. Wouter Ryckbosch, 2014. "Economic inequality and growth before the industrial revolution: A case study of the Low Countries (14th-19th centuries)," Working Papers 067, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    16. Guido Alfani & Matteo Di Tullio, 2015. "Dinamiche di lungo periodo della disuguaglianza in Italia settentrionale: una nota di ricerca," Working Papers 071, "Carlo F. Dondena" Centre for Research on Social Dynamics (DONDENA), Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi.
    17. Milanovic, Branko, 2016. "Towards an explanation of inequality in pre-modern societies:the role of colonies and high population density," MPRA Paper 74877, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. 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).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Economic inequality; social inequality; wealth concentration; middle ages; early modern period; Piedmont; Sabaudian States; Italy; plague; Black Death;

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