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Overcoming uncertainty: Moscow merchants’ wealth and inheritance in the second half of the nineteenth century

Dates:
  • Fri 29 May 2020 15.30 - 17.30
  Add to Calendar 2020-05-29 15:30 2020-05-29 17:30 Europe/Paris Overcoming uncertainty: Moscow merchants’ wealth and inheritance in the second half of the nineteenth century

My dissertation investigates the role of social stratification and private property rights in the accumulation and redistribution of personal wealth among the Russian urban population. I particularly focus on guild merchants during the second half of the nineteenth century

In investigating the membership books of Moscow guild merchants, last wills, inheritance valuations, wardships, and other sources, I show that guild merchants successfully managed low social and economic appreciation of mercantile agency imposed by the authorities and were able to accumulate wealth. The moderate, yet stable, number of guild merchants was the result of a fledgling internal market rather than ineffective business practices. My calculations show that the proportion of transmitted inheritances to the Gross National Product was low (4 percent), which suggests that inheritances benefitted the lives of urban Muscovites, but only moderately. The social inequality of wealth distribution appeared to be high (150 times between honorary citizens and artisans in Moscow in 1892), though between 1888 and 1908 the number of testators in the Russian Empire increased two times and value of transmitted inheritances increased by 12 percent. Excluding guild merchants, the rest of the urban population preferred single universal inheritance transmission. Guild merchants, however, chose more egalitarian, gender-neutral bequeathing patterns which lowered successor’s future income uncertainty.

The variations and shifts in bequeathing patterns suggest that the less egalitarian inheritance strategies (embraced by the majority of the urban population) were balanced by higher value inheritances among guild merchants which applied more egalitarian inheritance strategies. As a result, the level of material inequality was likely moderate in comparison to other countries, and the urban population was less destitute than previously described in other studies. Thus, my research contributes to the existing literature by providing empirical evidence and accurate estimations of the levels of personal wealth along social and geographic lines in late Imperial Russia.

Registration is required: This thesis defence will be held online via Zoom. Should you wish to attend, please contact [email protected]

- Via Zoom - DD/MM/YYYY
   - Via Zoom -

My dissertation investigates the role of social stratification and private property rights in the accumulation and redistribution of personal wealth among the Russian urban population. I particularly focus on guild merchants during the second half of the nineteenth century

In investigating the membership books of Moscow guild merchants, last wills, inheritance valuations, wardships, and other sources, I show that guild merchants successfully managed low social and economic appreciation of mercantile agency imposed by the authorities and were able to accumulate wealth. The moderate, yet stable, number of guild merchants was the result of a fledgling internal market rather than ineffective business practices. My calculations show that the proportion of transmitted inheritances to the Gross National Product was low (4 percent), which suggests that inheritances benefitted the lives of urban Muscovites, but only moderately. The social inequality of wealth distribution appeared to be high (150 times between honorary citizens and artisans in Moscow in 1892), though between 1888 and 1908 the number of testators in the Russian Empire increased two times and value of transmitted inheritances increased by 12 percent. Excluding guild merchants, the rest of the urban population preferred single universal inheritance transmission. Guild merchants, however, chose more egalitarian, gender-neutral bequeathing patterns which lowered successor’s future income uncertainty.

The variations and shifts in bequeathing patterns suggest that the less egalitarian inheritance strategies (embraced by the majority of the urban population) were balanced by higher value inheritances among guild merchants which applied more egalitarian inheritance strategies. As a result, the level of material inequality was likely moderate in comparison to other countries, and the urban population was less destitute than previously described in other studies. Thus, my research contributes to the existing literature by providing empirical evidence and accurate estimations of the levels of personal wealth along social and geographic lines in late Imperial Russia.

Registration is required: This thesis defence will be held online via Zoom. Should you wish to attend, please contact [email protected]


Location:
- Via Zoom -

Affiliation:
Department of History and Civilization

Type:
Thesis defence

Contact:
Miriam Felicia Curci - Send a mail

Defendant:
Olga Pavlenko (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)

Examiner:
Alexander Etkind (EUI - Department of History and Civilization)
Tracy Dennison (Caltech)
Andrei Markevich (NES, Moscow)

Supervisor:
Prof. Youssef Cassis (EUI)

Attachment:
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