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The Lion's Share
Inequality and the Rise of the Fiscal State in Preindustrial Europe


Part of Cambridge Studies in Economic History - Second Series

  • Date Published: June 2019
  • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108476218

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About the Authors
  • This is the most in-depth analysis of inequality and social polarization ever attempted for a preindustrial society. Using data from the archives of the Venetian Terraferma, and compared with information available for elsewhere in Europe, Guido Alfani and Matteo Di Tullio demonstrate that the rise of the fiscal-military state served to increase economic inequality in the early modern period. Preindustrial fiscal systems tended to be regressive in nature, and increased post-tax inequality compared to pre-tax - in contrast to what we would assume is the case in contemporary societies. This led to greater and greater disparities in wealth, which were made worse still as taxes were collected almost entirely to fund war and defence rather than social welfare. Though focused on Old Regime Europe, Alfani and Di Tullio's findings speak to contemporary debates about the roots of inequality and social stratification.

    • Proposes a new theory about the main reasons behind inequality growth in the early modern period
    • This book is the first systematic analysis of the prevalence of rich and poor in preindustrial societies
    • Offers a model study of inequality in a preindustrial society that could be replicated for other European areas
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Guido Alfani and Matteo Di Tullio take two giant strides forward in the early history of inequality. First they expand our view of Europe's wealth inequalities over several centuries and across regions. Then they show how the state itself may have been a significant source of the rise in inequality, with its growing fiscal pressure on the poor.' Peter H. Lindert, co-author of Unequal Gains: American Growth and Inequality since 1700

    'This is a monumental, first-ever study of income and wealth inequality, and impact of taxation and public expenditures in the Republic of Venice. Alfani and Di Tullio apply to the archival sources of Venice all the modern tools of inequality analysis. But the study does not aim only to shed light on the past, it uses the story of Venice to engage in a lively conversation with the present.' Branko Milanovic, author of Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization

    'Economic inequality has a long history, which this book excavates in light of fresh data. It paints a grim picture of the lasting effects of regressive fiscal policies and opens up new research agendas. One of the most substantial contributions to the recent economic history of pre-industrial Europe.' Francesca Trivellato, author of The Familiarity of Strangers: The Sephardic Diaspora, Livorno, and Cross-Cultural Trade in the Early Modern Period

    'Based on extensive quantitative and qualitative research from archival documents, this book presents new data and new conclusions on an important and timely topic - the steady growth of inequality in societies across early modern Europe from the Black Death to the end of the eighteenth century.' Samuel Cohn, Jr, author of Epidemics: Hate and Compassion from the Plague of Athens to AIDS

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2019
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108476218
    • length: 244 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 158 x 18 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • contains: 33 b/w illus. 1 map 21 tables
    • availability: Temporarily unavailable - available from TBC
  • Table of Contents

    List of figures
    List of tables
    1. The Venetian fiscal system: centre and periphery
    2. The rich and the poor
    3. Economic inequality in the long run
    4. Taxation, redistribution and inequality
    Appendix: building regional distributions of wealth for the Republic of Venice and for Veneto
    Archival sources
    Printed sources

  • Authors

    Guido Alfani, Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, Milan
    Guido Alfani is Professor of Economic History at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi, Milan. His recent works include Calamities and the Economy in Renaissance Italy: The Grand Tour of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse (2013) and, with Cormac Ó Gráda, Famine in European History (Cambridge, 2017).

    Matteo Di Tullio, Università degli Studi di Pavia, Italy
    Matteo Di Tullio is a research fellow in early modern history at Università degli Studi di Pavia, Italy and a member of the Dondena Centre at Università Commerciale Luigi Bocconi. He is the author of The Wealth of Communities: War, Resources and Cooperation in Renaissance Lombardy (2014).

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