Visions of modernity rest in part on a distinction between inherited status (past) and achievement (present). Inheritance is taken as automatic, if not axiomatic; the recipients are passive, if grateful. This study, based on a singular source (Florentine repudiations of inheritance), reveals that inheritance was in fact a process, that heirs had options: at the least, to reject a burdensome patrimony, but also to maneuver property to others and to avoid (at times deceptively, if not fraudulently) the claims of others to portions of the estate. Repudiation was a vestige of Roman law that became once again a viable legal institution with the revival of Roman law in the Middle Ages. Florentines incorporated repudiation into their strategies of adjustment after death, showing that they were not merely passive recipients of what came their way. These strategies fostered family goals, including continuity across the generations.
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The process of inheritance was one of the most important moments in social life of the past, but also one of the most difficult to study. This book exploits a previously unexamined source of inheritance practices in Renaissance Florence, the serial registry of repudiations of inheritance, in order to understand social life and law of this historically important European society.About the Author:
Thomas Kuehn is a graduate of Carleton College (B.A. 1972) and the University of Chicago (M.A. 1973, Ph.D. 1977). Professor Kuehn taught at Reed College for four years before going to Clemson University, where he has served as the History department chair since 2001. Among his many published works, Kuehn has written Emancipation in Late Medieval Florence (1982); Law, Family, and Women: Toward a Legal Anthropology of Renaissance Italy (1991); and Illegitimacy in Renaissance Florence (2002). His scholarship has been published in journals as diverse as Renaissance Quarterly, American Journal of Legal History, Continuity and Change, and the Journal of Women's History.
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