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Family was a central feature of social life in Italian cities. In the Renaissance, jurists, humanists, and moralists began to theorize on the relations between people and property that formed the 'substance' of the family and what held it together over the years. Family property was a bundle of shared rights. This was most evident when brothers shared a household and enterprise, but it also faced overlapping claims from children and wives which the paterfamilias had to recognize. Thomas Kuehn explores patrimony in legal thought, and how property was inherited, managed and shared in Renaissance Italy. Managing a patrimony was not a simple task. This led to a complex and active conceptualization of shared rights, and a conscious application of devices in the law that could override liabilities and preserve the group, or carve out distinct shares for each member. This wide-ranging volume charts the ever-present conflicts that arose and were a constant feature of family life.
This book studies family life and gender broadly within Italy, not just one region or city, from the fourteenth through the seventeenth centuries. Paternal control of the household was paramount in Italian life at this time, with control of property and even marital choices and career paths laid out for children and carried out from beyond the grave by means of written testaments. However, the reality was always more complex than a simple reading of local laws and legal doctrines would seem to permit, especially when there were no sons to step forward as heirs. Family disputes provided an opening for legal ambiguities to redirect property and endow women with property and means of control. This book uses the decisions of lawyers and judges to examine family dynamics through the lens of law and legal disputes.