Moving from the ideas expressed by influential scholars on the alleged features of rural service in Italy, this article illustrates both the spread and characteristics of Italian rural service, which largely contradict those ideas. While the percentage of servants among the rural population was different according to place and time, in several cases it was as high as in many Central and Northern European areas. In several Italian areas where rural servants were numerous, joint families were common: a result that questions the link between life-cycle service and neo-locality. Additionally, even though in those very areas age at marriage was often rather high, almost no link has been discovered in large part of Italy (except for Sardinia and some parts of the former Austrian Tirol, now under Italian rule) between the presence of life-cycle servants and late marriage. Though a better test is needed, the most common Italian pattern seems to imply that children started to work as rural servants very young and stopped before they were 20 years old, thus normally long before marrying. The main purpose of leaving home to work as servant seemed to be relieving the strain on their family’s budgets, rather than accumulating resources for marrying. The theoretical implications of these findings are assessed in the article.

Rural Life-Cycle Service: Established Interpretations and New (Surprising) Data - The Italian Case in Comparative Perspective (Sixteenth to Twentieth centuries),

Raffaella Sarti
2017-01-01

Abstract

Moving from the ideas expressed by influential scholars on the alleged features of rural service in Italy, this article illustrates both the spread and characteristics of Italian rural service, which largely contradict those ideas. While the percentage of servants among the rural population was different according to place and time, in several cases it was as high as in many Central and Northern European areas. In several Italian areas where rural servants were numerous, joint families were common: a result that questions the link between life-cycle service and neo-locality. Additionally, even though in those very areas age at marriage was often rather high, almost no link has been discovered in large part of Italy (except for Sardinia and some parts of the former Austrian Tirol, now under Italian rule) between the presence of life-cycle servants and late marriage. Though a better test is needed, the most common Italian pattern seems to imply that children started to work as rural servants very young and stopped before they were 20 years old, thus normally long before marrying. The main purpose of leaving home to work as servant seemed to be relieving the strain on their family’s budgets, rather than accumulating resources for marrying. The theoretical implications of these findings are assessed in the article.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11576/2655548
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