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

Working paper n°: 61

Author(s): Guido Alfani

Year: 2014

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.

Guido Alfani

Universita Bocconi, Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics


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


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