Economic inequality and poverty in the very long run: The case of the Florentine State

Working paper n°: 70

Author(s): Guido Alfani, Francesco Ammannati

Year: 2014

ABSTRACT This paper provides an overview of economic inequality in the Florentine State (Tuscany) from the late fourteenth to the late eighteenth century. Regional studies of this kind are rare, and this is only the second-ever attempt at covering such a long period. Consistent with recent research conducted on other European areas, during the Early Modern period we find clear indications of a tendency for economic inequality to grow continually, a finding that for Tuscany cannot be explained as the consequence of economic growth. Furthermore, the exceptionally old sources we use allow us to demonstrate that a phase of declining inequality, lasting about one century, was triggered by the Black Death from 1348 to 1349. This finding challenges earlier scholarship and significantly alters our understanding of the economic consequences of the Black Death. We also take into account other important topics, such as the change over time of the patrimony of the Church and of poverty. Particular attention is paid to the latter, and estimates of the prevalence of the poor in time and space are provided and discussed, also taking into account the definition and perception of the poor.

Guido Alfani

Bocconi University, Department of Public Administration and Management

Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy and IGIER


Francesco Ammannati

Bocconi University

Dondena Centre for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy


Keywords: Economic inequality; social inequality; wealth concentration; middle ages; early modern period; Tuscany; Florentine State; Italy; plague; Black Death; Church property; poverty; Florence; Prato; Arezzo; San Gimignano


The paper may be downloaded here.
















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