Angiolina Arru

Generous death. Reciprocity, money, and family ties in 19th-century Rome

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Family relationships entail forms of credit that escape the traditional categories that scholars have used to analyze the circulation of money. While respecting the basic rule of credit - the obligation to repay with interest - the relationship between the lender and the borrower can nonetheless assume more complicated forms and present different solutions to situations of conflict. By looking at new sources or asking different questions of notarial records - in this case wills - one finds that loans or credit within the family could consist not only of the transfer of money but also of other kinds of binding loans between parties, albeit loans easily quantified in money and in forms and repayment periods no less coercive and subject to external sanction. The study of credit in these cases helps us better understand the relationship between generations and the ties, not only moral, between young and old. Asking for or lending money among relatives could introduce behaviors otherwise difficult or impossible to find in the common practices of credit. Their «proximity» in fact could allow a credit relationship to transform into another type of tie. Furthermore, the statutory norms of the old order in Rome, such as those incorporated into the Civil Code of 1865 - which regulated the hierarchy of the family - permitted opportunities that were not usual in a relationship between non-relatives or even among acquaintances.

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