How did propertied families in late medieval and early modern Florence maintain their power and affluence while equally important clans elsewhere were fatally undermined by the growth of commerce and personal freedom, and the consequences of the Plague? Drawing on a vast array of archival research—from letters and memoirs to fiscal declarations to records of the Dowry Fund, Anthony Molho suggests that the answer is found in the twin institutions of arranged marriage and the dowry.
Molho focuses on the relations between Florentine families of this period and demonstrates that the links among families—created by arranged marriages within a narrow and well-defined social class, a system of dowries that was a combination of speculation and manipulation, and an entrenched memory of these processes—account for the resilience of this ruling class. The individuals or single families whose records Molho has scrutinized, as well as his analysis of several thousand marriages over nearly a century and a half, illuminate a culture that consistently and relentlessly subordinated individual goals and preferences to larger and deeper concerns. The book combines the application of quantitative methods and close reading of contemporary texts in order to gain new insights into the history of Florence in the late Middle Ages.
This book has everything—a major subject, a considerable thesis on a bed of important themes, close reasoning, originality, and exhaustive research. It is one of the most important monographs ever written on the history of Florence.
Molho’s scholarship is superb and his historical mind is formidably displayed on every page. The research behind this book reaches back almost two decades and involves the labor of a number of scholars. Their labors are handsomely rewarded in this volume.
Professor Molho’s book represents the most accomplished effort to date to reconstruct the matrimonial and social strategies of the ruling class of fifteenth-century Florence. Not only does he illuminate the demographic influences and administrative mechanisms, but he gives us a splendid analysis of the complex relations between financial investment, social advancement, and political calculation.
- 472 pages
- 6-3/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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