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This is the most in-depth analysis of inequality and social polarization ever attempted for a preindustrial society. Using data from the archives of the Venetian Terraferma, and compared with information available for elsewhere in Europe, Guido Alfani and Matteo Di Tullio demonstrate that the rise of the fiscal-military state served to increase economic inequality in the early modern period. Preindustrial fiscal systems tended to be regressive in nature, and increased post-tax inequality compared to pre-tax - in contrast to what we would assume is the case in contemporary societies. This led to greater and greater disparities in wealth, which were made worse still as taxes were collected almost entirely to fund war and defence rather than social welfare. Though focused on Old Regime Europe, Alfani and Di Tullio's findings speak to contemporary debates about the roots of inequality and social stratification.
This is the first systematic study of famine in all parts of Europe from the Middle Ages until the present. In case studies ranging from Scandinavia and Italy to Ireland and Russia, leading scholars compare the characteristics, consequences and causes of famine. The famines they describe differ greatly in size, duration and context; in many cases the damage wrought by poor harvests was confounded by war. The roles of human action, malfunctioning markets and poor relief are a recurring theme. The chapters also take full account of demographic, institutional, economic, social and cultural aspects, providing a wealth of new information which is organized and analyzed within a comparative framework. Famine in European History represents a significant new contribution to demographic history, and will be of interest to all those who want to discover more about famines - truly horrific events which, for centuries, have been a recurring curse for the Europeans.