Beyond Life Cycle and Inheritance Strategies: The Rise of a Middling Social Group in an Ancien Régime Society (Catalonia, Eighteenth Century)

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In this article we propose to study social change that took place in the eighteenth century, a period of demographic growth in which increasing difficulties of access to land could have led to greater downward mobility and proletarization. However, our hypothesis is that this was also a period of middle class emergence in some rural regions. In the studied case (the Girona region in north-eastern Catalonia), after significant growth of the number of treballadors (literally rural labourers), supposedly the humblest and poorest group, dowries and probate inventories indicate that some of them could have improved their positions significantly. This idea clashes with the traditional view of social historians for two reasons. Firstly, because it is often assumed that Ancien Régime societies experienced few important structural changes and, even less so, the emergence of middle groups from the working class. Secondly, because even though it is accepted that a general improvement in living standards could have occurred in some areas of Europe, the historiography tends to exclude regions of southern Europe from this process ​
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