Intergenerational mobility and occupational status in the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy

In recent years, scholars have increasingly focused on the study of economic inequality in preindustrial societies, aiming to elucidate the dynamics of social change within historical contexts. However, despite this burgeoning interest in inequality during preindustrial times, our understanding of intergenerational mobility, and, more broadly, social mobility within such settings, remains limited. Indeed, many questions remain unanswered.

Did the increase in economic inequalities characterizing the early modern period come with a rise in social rigidity?

Was Old Regime society truly as ossified as it has long been described?

This project aims to address this knowledge gap by focusing on the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy at the very beginning of the nineteenth century, using a novel dataset constructed from Napoleonic civil status records (Stato Civile Napoleonico). Napoleonic civil status records provides a rich and comprehensive source of information encompassing a wide array of cities, towns, and rural communities within the entirety of the Kingdom of Italy, which extended across much of northern Italy and included a portion of what is now Emilia-Romagna and Marche.

This allows us to gain a broad and diverse insight into the dynamics of social mobility in both urban and rural central-northern Italy between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a crucial period in European history as this is the time when the foundations for future economic take-off are either established or neglected.

This research will be conducted through an extensive examination of the records that collect marriage publication data (Atti di pubblicazione di matrimonio). In addition to providing fundamental demographic information (age, place of residence, any previous marriages), Napoleonic marriage publications offer extensive details regarding the occupational status of both spouses and their parents. This information will enable us to explore various aspects of social mobility and occupational structure in central-northern Italy. First, we will be able to reconstruct a detailed geography of the occupational classes of the marrying individuals across different regions, examining both continuities and discontinuities in their professional pursuits. Second, we can determine the professional intersections between spouses, shedding light on relationships and dynamics in their matrimonial strategies. Lastly, this approach will allow us to investigate intergenerational mobility, i.e., whether there were significant changes in occupation between the parents’ generation and that of their children, offering a more comprehensive picture of the social and professional dynamics of the era.

Coordinated by:

Mattia Viale