In search of the ideal husband: Could inequality in the pre-industrial era be measured through dowries? North-eastern Catalonia, 1750-1825

Mas Ferrer, Josep
This paper explores the possibilities that dowries may offer to study inequality in the pre-industrial era. We argue that, mostly, in rural societies with impartible inheritance, families competed to join the heir of an estate that would allow them to maintain or even improve their socio-economic status by means of paying the best possible dowry. Hence, dowries may be an indicator of family wealth and, therefore, disparities in dowry amounts could be informing about economic inequality. Then, we show the results of a case study based on a rural region in north-eastern Catalonia from 1750 to 1825, which suggest that over the last decades of the 18th century and the first quarter of the 19th century, inequality increased significantly. As it was a period of belli-cosity and inflation, our results suggest that political instability tended to increase inequality in pre-industrial societies, as it has been previously stated by some authors ​
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