Advertisement

Cliometrica

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 321–348 | Cite as

The rich in historical perspective: evidence for preindustrial Europe (ca. 1300–1800)

  • Guido AlfaniEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

This article provides an overview of long-term changes in the relative conditions of the rich in preindustrial Europe. It covers four pre-unification Italian states (Sabaudian State, Florentine State, Kingdom of Naples and Republic of Venice) as well as other areas of Europe (Low Countries, Catalonia) during the period 1300–1800. Three different kinds of indicators are measured systematically and combined in the analysis: headcount indexes, the share of the top rich, and richness indexes. Taken together, they suggest that overall, during the entirety of the early modern period the rich tended to become both more prevalent and more distanced from the other strata of society. The only period during which the opposite process took place was the late Middle Ages, following the Black Death epidemic of the mid-fourteenth century. In the period from ca. 1500 to 1800, the prevalence of the rich doubled. In the Sabaudian State, the Florentine State and the Kingdom of Naples, for which reconstructions of regional wealth distributions exist, in about the same period the share of the top 10 % grew from 45–55 to 70–80 %—reaching almost exactly the same level which has recently been suggested as the European average at 1810. Consequently, the time series presented here might be used to add about five centuries of wealth inequality trends to current debates on very long-term changes in the relative position of the rich.

Keywords

Economic inequality Wealth concentration Richness Top wealthy Middle ages Early modern period Italy Low Countries Catalonia Black Death Property structures 

JEL Classification

N300 N330 N930 D310 

Supplementary material

11698_2016_151_MOESM1_ESM.docx (62 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 61 kb)

References

  1. Alfani G (2009) Prima della curva di Kuznets: stabilità e mutamento nella concentrazione di ricchezza e proprietà in età moderna. In: Alfani G, Barbot M (eds) Ricchezza, valore, proprietà in Età Preindustriale. 1400–1850. Marsilio, Venice, pp 143–168Google Scholar
  2. Alfani G (2010a) Wealth inequalities and population dynamics in northern Italy during the early modern period. J Interdiscip Hist 40(4):513–549CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alfani G (2010b) The effects of plague on the distribution of property: Ivrea, Northern Italy 1630. Popul Stud 64(1):61–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alfani G (2013) Fiscality and territory. Ivrea and Piedmont between the Fifteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. In: Vester M (ed) Sabaudian Studies. Political Culture, Dynasty, & Territory 1400–1700. Truman State University Press, Kirksville, pp 213–239Google Scholar
  5. Alfani G (2014) Back to the peasants: new insights into the economic, social, and demographic history of northern Italian rural populations during the Early Modern period. Hist Compass 12(1):62–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Alfani G (2015) Economic inequality in northwestern Italy: a long-term view (fourteenth to eighteenth centuries). J Econ Hist 75(4):1058–1096CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Alfani G, Ammannati F (2016) Economic inequality and poverty in the very long run: the case of the florentine state (late Thirteenth-Early Nineteenth Centuries). Econ History Rev (forthcoming)Google Scholar
  8. Alfani G, Caracausi A (2009) Struttura della proprietà e concentrazione della ricchezza in ambiente urbano: Ivrea e Padova, secoli XV–XVII. In: Alfani G, Barbot M (eds) Ricchezza, valore, proprietà in Età Preindustriale. 1400–1850. Marsilio, Venice, pp 185–209Google Scholar
  9. Alfani G, De Franco D (2015) Economic and social inequality in a preindustrial society: building a social table for northern Italy (Sabaudian State, 1613). In: Paper given at the European historical economics society conference, Pisa, 4–5 Sept 2015Google Scholar
  10. Alfani G, Di Tullio M (2015) Dinamiche di lungo periodo della disuguaglianza in Italia settentrionale: una nota di ricerca. Dondena Working Paper No. 71Google Scholar
  11. Alfani G, Ryckbosch W (2016) Growing apart in early modern Europe? A comparison of inequality trends in Italy and the Low Countries, 1500–1800. Explor Econ Hist. doi: 10.1016/j.eeh.2016.07.003 Google Scholar
  12. Alfani G, Sardone S (2015) Long-term trends in economic inequality in southern Italy. The Kingdoms of Naples and Sicily, 16th–18th centuries: First results. In: Paper given at the economic history association conference, Nashville, 11–13 Sept 2015Google Scholar
  13. Alvaredo F, Atkinson AB, Picketty T, Saez E (2013) The top 1 percent in international and historical perspective. J Econ Perspect 27(3):3–20CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ammannati F (2015) La Peste Nera e la distribuzione della proprietà nella Lucchesia del tardo Medioevo. Popolazione e Storia 2(2015):21–45Google Scholar
  15. Ammannati F, De Franco D, Di Tullio M (2015) Misurare la diseguaglianza economica nell’età preindustriale: un confronto fra realtà dell’Italia centro-settentrionale. Rivista di Storia Economica 31(3):309–340Google Scholar
  16. Atkinson AB, Picketty T, Saez E (2011) Top incomes in the long run of history. J Econ Lit 49(1):3–71CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Berengo M (1970) A proposito di proprietà fondiaria. Rivista Storica Italiana 82:121–147Google Scholar
  18. Bose A, Chakravarty SR, D’Ambrosio C (2014) Richness orderings. J Econ Inequal 12(1):5–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Boudjaaba F (2010). La distribuzione delle fortune fondiarie in Francia alla fine dell’ ancien régime: un approccio dinamico a partire dal caso della Normandia. In: Alfani G, Barbot M (eds) Ricchezza, valore, proprietà in Età Preindustriale. 1400–1850. Marsilio, Venice, pp 371–390Google Scholar
  20. Canbakal J (2013) Wealth and inequality in Ottoman Bursa, 1500-1840. In: Paper given at the economic history society annual conference, York, 5–7 Sept 2013Google Scholar
  21. Fornasin A (2002) La proprietà della terra, i percettori dei prodotti e della rendita. In: Pinto G, Poni C, Tucci U (eds.) L’Italia agricola dalle origini ad oggi, vol II, Il Medioevo e l’età moderna. Polistampa, Firenze, pp. 357–380Google Scholar
  22. García‐Montero, H (2015) Long‐term trends in wealth inequality in catalonia, 1400–1800: initial results. Dondena working paper no. 79Google Scholar
  23. Hanus J (2013) Real inequality in the early modern Low Countries: the city of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, 1500–1660. Econ Hist Rev 66(3):733–756CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Herlihy D (1967) Medieval and Renaissance Pistoia. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  25. Herlihy D (1978) The distribution of wealth in a Renaissance Community: Florence 1427. In: Abrams P, Wrigley EA (eds) Towns in societies. Essays in economic history and historical sociology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 131–157Google Scholar
  26. Herlihy D, Klapisch-Zuber C (1985) Tuscans and their families. Yale University Press, New HavenGoogle Scholar
  27. Hoffman PT, Jacks D, Levin PA, Lindert PH (2002) Real inequality in Europe since 1500. J Econ Hist 62(2):322–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lindert PH (1991) Toward a comparative history of income and wealth inequality. In: Brenner YS, Kaelble H, Thomas M (eds) Income distribution in historical perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 212–231Google Scholar
  29. Lindert PH (2014) Making the most of Capital in the 21st century. NBER Working paper no. 20232Google Scholar
  30. Lindert PH and Williamson JG (2015) American colonial incomes, 1650–1774. Econ Hist Rev, online-first versionGoogle Scholar
  31. Medeiros M (2006) The rich and the poor: the construction of an affluence line from the poverty line. Soc Indic Res 78:1–18CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Medeiros M, Ferreira de Souza PHG (2014) The Rich, the affluent and the top incomes: a literature review. IRLE Working Paper No. 105-14Google Scholar
  33. Mocarelli L (2009) The attitude of Milanese society to work and commercial activities. The case of the porters and the case of the elites. In: Ehmer J, Lis C (eds) The idea of work in Europe from Antiquity to Modern Times. Ashgate, Farnham, pp 101–121Google Scholar
  34. Nicolini EA, Ramos Palencia (2015) Decomposing Income Inequality in a Backward Pre-Industrial Economy: Old Castile (Spain) in the Middle of the 18th Century. Econ History Rev (online-first version)Google Scholar
  35. Nicolini EA, Ramos Palencia F (2013) Comparing income and wealth inequality in pre-industrial economies. Lessons from Spain in the 18th century. In: Paper given at the 10th Swedish Economic History Meeting, Lund, 4–5 Oct 2013Google Scholar
  36. Pamuk S (2007) The Black Death and the origins of the ‘Great Divergence’ across Europe, 1300–1600. Eur Rev Econ Hist 11(3):289–317CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Peichl A, Schaefer T, Scheicher T (2010) Measuring richness and poverty: a micro data application to Europe and Germany. Rev Income Wealth 56(3):597–619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Piketty T (2014) Capital in the twenty-first century. Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Piketty T, Postel-Vinay G, Rosenthal J-L (2006) Wealth concentration in a developing economy: Paris and France, 1807–1994. Am Econ Rev 96(1):236–256CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Piketty T, Postel-Vinay G, Rosenthal J-L (2014) Inherited vs Self-Made Wealth: theory and Evidence from a Rentier Society (Paris 1872–1937). Explor Econ Hist 51:21–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Porisini G (1963) La proprietà terriera nel Comune di Ravenna dalla metà del secolo XVI ai giorni nostri. Giuffré, MilanoGoogle Scholar
  42. Prados De La Escosura L (2007) Inequality and poverty in Latin America: a long-run exploration. In: Hatton TJ, O’Rourke KH, Taylor AM (eds) The new comparative economic history. MIT Press, Cambridge MA, pp 291–315Google Scholar
  43. Prados De La Escosura L (2008) Inequality, poverty and the Kuznets curve in Spain, 1850–2000. Eur Rev Econ Hist 12:287–324CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pullan B (1978) Poveri, mendicanti e vagabondi. Storia d’Italia, Annali, vol 1. Einaudi, Turin, pp 981–1047Google Scholar
  45. Reis J, Martins A (2012) Inequality in Early Modern Europe: The “Strange” Case of Portugal, 1550–1770. In: Paper given at the conference Wellbeing and Inequality in the Long Run, Madrid, 1 June 2012Google Scholar
  46. Roine J, Waldenström D (2015) Long run trends in the distribution of income and wealth. In: Atkinson A, Bourguignon F (eds) Handbook of income distribution, vol 2A. North-Holland, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  47. Rossi N, Toniolo G, Vecchi G (2001) Is the kuznets curve still alive? evidence from italian household budgets, 1881–1961. Journal of Economic History 61(4):904–925CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rotelli C (1966) La distribuzione della proprietà terriera e delle colture a Imola nel XVII e XVIII secolo. Giuffré, MilanGoogle Scholar
  49. Ryckbosch W (2012). A consumer revolution under strain? Consumption, wealth and status in eighteenth-century Aalst. Unpublished PhD Dissertation, University of AntwerpGoogle Scholar
  50. Ryckbosch W (2015) Economic inequality and growth before the industrial revolution: the case of the Low Countries (fourteenth to nineteenth centuries). Eur Rev Econ Hist (online-first version)Google Scholar
  51. Santiago-Caballero C (2011) Income inequality in central Spain, 1690-1800. Explor Econ Hist 48(1):83–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Santiago-Caballero C, Fernández E (2013) Income inequality in Madrid, 1500–1850. In: Paper given at the economic history society annual conference, York, 5–7 Sept 2013Google Scholar
  53. Soltow L, Van Zanden JL (1998) Income and wealth inequality in the Netherlands, 16th-20th centuries. Het Spinhuis, AmsterdamGoogle Scholar
  54. Van Zanden JL (1995) Tracing the beginning of the Kuznets curve: Western Europe during the early modern period. Econ Hist Rev 48(4):643–664CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Williamson JG (1985) Did British capitalism breed inequality?. Allen & Unwin, BostonGoogle Scholar
  56. Williamson JG, Lindert PH (1980) American inequality: a macro economic history. Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  57. Woolf SJ (1988) Porca miseria. Poveri e assistenza nell’Età moderna, Laterza, BariGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bocconi University, Dondena Centre and IGIERMilanItaly

Personalised recommendations