Roberto Bizzocchi

Rumor and scandal. A case study of the moral economy in Tuscany, 1769

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The analysis of a 1769 court case against a priest from the Tuscan community of Bientina, situated at what was then the border of an enormous swamp zone, provides important insights into more general themes. Behind the accusations of arrogant conduct and of illicit relations with a local girl that some rich inhabitants of Bientina hurled against a priest, one finds a battle against the collective administration of the essential resources of the swamps. The town's rich inhabitants were intent on privatizing that source of revenue within the framework of the reforms of Peter Leopold. Peasant gossip, particularly that of women, played an important role in this conflict: the change in its tenor, at first hostile and later favourable to the priest, reflects a cultural behaviour that resisted innovations in the name of the traditional values of the «moral economy» of the community.

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