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Artisan Consumption and Economic Behaviour in Early Modern Italy

Stefania Montemezzo

ASV, Giudici di Petizion, Inventari di eredità, tutele, curatele, oppure richiesti in causa, 355/12. (Inventory of Foresto Foresti, pistor, 1637).

The existence of different cultural and behavioral models has been closely linked to the stratification of society, particularly in the pre-industrial era. This stratification had a strong influence on habits of consumption, and meant that the middle classes developed their own consumer patterns, instead of imitating the upper classes. This evolution, therefore, can be seen as an integration between different models of consumption. This project studies artisan consumption from the economic point of view by using inventories, household and workshop accounts, and auction records.

The first part of my project is devoted to archival research. Documents gathered in the archives of Venice, Florence and Siena will be used to establish the patterns and ambitions of consumption of the Italian artisanal classes. I will transcribe these documents and use them to build a database, which will be used by our entire team to analyse the diffusion of trends and fashion among the Italian artisanal class.

In the second part of my project I will focus on the economic and social factors that influenced patterns of consumption and fashion in the chosen cities. To start I will concentrate my attention on what was on the market, while trying to answer a series of questions: Where could different items be found? What was the mechanism of offer and acquisition of the fashion items? Was demand driving offer? I will tackle these issues with the help of our database, the accounting books gathered in the Italian archives, and the existing historiography. Moreover, by focusing on inventories, I will use a social network analysis approach in order to understand if social intermediators that enhanced the diffusion of trends and fashion were present in the middle class.

Cesare Vecellio, Degli Habiti Antichi et Moderni di Diverse Parti del Mondo, Venice, 1590 (Padovana antica, 213 a).

Georg Braun, Frans Hogenberg,  Civitates orbis terrarum, 2, Köln, 1572–1617.


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