Project 1: Descripton

The project starts from the fact that the bulk of wealth in early modern European societies was transferred and acquired via marriage and inheritance. Rights of inheritance and claims to inheritance were closely linked to kinship. This, consequently, gave rise to a central axis of competition. The options to act and the way in which these options were exercised in practice depended on the models of marital property and inheritance that were in force. The fundamental thesis of the project picks up on this fact to surmise that wealth functioned as a significant medium via which kinship spaces were defined and constituted. In the thematic context at issue here, kinship spaces can be defined as social spaces that are constructed via communication and interaction, via processes of negotiation, via memory,and via competition and conflicts. Just how this construction and structuring of kinship spaces took place is the core issue to be investigated. In order to gain a solid impression, it is necessary to analyze wealth transfers and wealth arrangements with regard to their social, economic, generational, and gender-specific implications. In this context, wealth encompasses not only real estate and money, but also rights and claims derived therefrom as well as objects that were possible stores of value, of symbolic significance, or of utility in everyday life.

The project inserts itself into several fields of research that are currently widely debated: historical kinship research, gender-historical research on marital property and inheritance practice, into material cultural research, consumption studies and social differences, the heuristic potential of which can be considered quite high. An initial innovative aspect of the planned project is the targeted and systematic interweaving of these fields.

The ideal laboratory in which to pursue this project’s goals is the region of southern Tirol including today’s Trentino for several reasons: it is an area where “Romanic” and “Germanic” legal cultures met and overlapped, and which stands out for its exceptionally high volume and density of source material on civil-law matters (notarial registers, court books). Written law dates back to the 16th century and had also precedents reaching back to the 13th century. The relevant documents will be chosen according to defined criteria and analyzed with quantitative and qualitative methods.