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One seemingly certain characteristic of the social structure of Europe between the sixteenth and late eighteenth centuries was the persistence in power, wealth, and eminence of limited numbers of individuals or families. These made up the aristocracies, the nobilities of feudal origin, the ennobled officeholders of the new monarchies, and the patrician oligarchs of the towns. Political structures provided these families with privileged status and favored their preservation of wealth and influence, while a relatively slow rhythm of economic change and growth in general population tended to secure them against displacement by newcomers. In Italy, distant from the new centers of Atlantic trade, where tensions between absolutism and traditional liberties were fought out mainly within the ruling groups themselves, this stratification of society seemed almost a “new feudalism” in the seventeenth century as the powerful families of the petty courts consolidated their power.
Nous présentons dans cet article une analyse des investissements commerciaux de l'aristocratie florentine au XVIIIe siècle. Cette analyse est extraite d'une étude économique et sociale du patriciat de Florence. Contrairement aux aristocraties européennes qui passent généralement pour ne pas avoir été très engagées dans le commerce, l'aristocratie florentine a maintenu durant le principat des Médicis, et jusqu'au XVIIIe siècle, ses antiques intérêts commerciaux. Ceux-ci déclinèrent rapidement lorsque prit fin le règne des Médicis.