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Abstract

The peasants and rural societies in general are not among the preferred research topics of historians currently working on Early Modern Italy. This has not always been the case, as after World War II, important research traditions developed, involving many prominent Italian social and economic historians, some of them influenced by Marxism or by the ‘democratic’ conviction that peasants had to be studied extensively simply because the vast majority of the population of Early Modern Italy was rural. This article provides a brief overview of the studies produced in the second half of the 20th century on the northern Italian peasantry and of the reasons why the interest for Early Modern rural communities progressively waned. It then focuses on works published in the 21st millennium, outlining the different paths of enquiry followed by historians currently interested in the social, economic, demographic, and cultural characteristics of the peasantry. The article suggests that there is space for formulating a new ‘democratic’ argument in favor of research on the rural dwellers, as the imbalance between their importance in Early Modern Italian societies, and how small a proportion of the overall historical research is dedicated to them, has again become very pronounced.