Credit Networks in Renaissance Florence: revisiting the Catasto of 1427
Abstract: In pre-industrial Europe, interpersonal networks were at the centre of social and economic life. The allocation and deployment of financial funds before banking took place mostly via intrapersonal exchanges. This article examines early financial networks in Renaissance Florence thanks to the Catasto of 1427, one of the world’s first exhaustive tax records. We focus on about 450 tax declarations of households in one of the city’s neighbourhoods, the gonfalone of Nicchio. Thanks to social network analysis, we are not only able to visualize complex credit relations, but also to run statistical measures to study relational characteristics. The use of different measures of centrality at the node level constitutes a critical toolkit to understand the role that key actors played in the network. The network recreated and analysed here – about
9,600 householders and 12,000 exchanges – was relatively cohesive and resilient at the neighbourhood level. The most important and influential positions in the network were not occupied only by the members of the wealthiest and most renowned Florentine families, but also by other unsuspected actors. This confirms the relevance of inner circles for credit transactions and highlights the importance of the neighbourhood dimension in fostering economic and social relations.