A study of economic inequality in the light of fiscal sources: the case of Catalonia (14th-18th centuries)
Firenze University Press Book: Economic inequality in pre-industrial societies: causes and effect
Jordi Morelló Baget, CSIC-IMF, Institution Milá i Fontanals, Spain
Pere Orti Gost, University of Girona, Spain
Albert Reixach Sala, University of Girona, Spain
Pere Verdés Pijuan, CSIC-IMF, Institution Milá i Fontanals, Spain
The general objective of this paper is to present the initial results of a research
project that began just over a year ago and whose aim was to study the evolution of inequality in Catalonia during medieval and early modern times based on different types of documentary sources and economic parameters. The project continues a long tradition of studies on taxation and feudal income in this area of the Iberian Peninsula, many of which have had taxation on wealth as their central theme.
Indeed, thanks to research carried out over the past 30 years, the origin, functioning and evolution of this essentially municipal type of taxation has been reconstructed and the foundations laid for producing an exhaustive archive of documentation related to the collection of the aforementioned tax.
In order to be able to contribute to a better knowledge of the issue of inequality on the basis of abovementioned, we believe that we should begin with an analysis of the scope and limits of the extraordinary sources conserved in Catalonia between the 14th and 18th centuries. Specifically, we are interested in discussing three fundamental circumstances: first, the diverse origin and varied typology of sources available in the Catalan archives for the study of the subject; secondly, the magnitude of the preserved archives and the consequent possibility of producing a broad and coherent sample; and, thirdly, the precautions that must be taken whenstudying this documentation, given the complex evolution of different types of
taxes in various places around Catalonia.
Ultimately, we intend to draw attention to the problems that may arise from an uncritical or superficial use of fiscal sources, and the consequent need to study their nature and characteristics in depth over time. Only in this way can we rigorously calculate the different indices that reveal the historical evolution of inequality in pre-industrial times, as well as contrasting them with other parameters that, due to the richness of the Catalan archives, we can find in other documentary sources (notary or ecclesiastical, for example).
We believe both the critical analysis of fiscal sources and the use of complementary parameters are essential in order to formulate truly substantiated hypotheses, and they therefore constitute two of the three guiding principles of our project. The third deals with cooperative work with other research groups working on Catalonia and other territories comprising the former Crown of Aragon and the rest of the Iberian Peninsula. In this sense, we also participate in a research network dedicated to the study of this issue in Spain between the 13th and 18th centuries.