About the Online Catasto

This is a World Wide Web searchable version of tax assessment data for the city of Florence in 1427-29 based on David Herlihy and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Principal Investigators, Census and Property Survey of Florentine Dominions in the Province of Tuscany, 1427-1480. The present version is based on parts of a copy of the Catasto data file for the city of Florence in 1427-29 that David Herlihy had on his home computer at the time of his death in 1991. It was produced under the direction of R. Burr Litchfield and Anthony Molho, Department of History, Brown University, Providence, R.I., with the assistance of Geoffrey Bilder of the Brown Scholarly Technology Group, and in consultation with Maurice and Patricia Herlihy, the University of Wisconsin Data and Program Library Service, and the Archivio di Stato, Florence, Italy. We hope that some other computerized data files for Florence will soon become available. The Online Catasto provides the same information for the city of Florence that is contained in the print-out volumes currently in the Inventories Room of the Archivio di Stato in Florence, but adds some variables for each family that are not present in those volumes, and it presents the information in a more broadly-available and flexibly-searchable format. Researchers seeking a version of the Catasto for other parts of Tuscany than the city of Florence should contact the Data and Program Library Service, Social Science Building, University of Wisconsin, Madison, Wisconsin (53706) and request a copy of the version of the Catasto data file for Florentine Domains in Tuscany distributed by them.

On 24 May 1427, in the midst of the fiscal crisis provoked by Florence’s protracted wars with Milan, the Priors of the Republic decreed an entirely new tax survey that applied to citizens of Florence and to inhabitants of the Florentine Contado and Distretto.  [The Online Catasto provides only the assessments for citizens of Florence.]  This Catasto was welcomed as a much more rigorous, but more equitable, assessment of business investment, holdings in the public debt, and real property than had ever been applied in the earlier Estimi.  The assessments were entrusted to a commission of ten Ufficiali, and their staff, and were largely complete within a few months, although revisions continued during 1428 and 1429.  Through this measure Florence gained a tax system well advanced over most other states in this period, and indeed, due to tax evasion, changing criteria, and the difficulty of assessing mobile property, the thoroughness and rigor of the Catasto of 1427 were not fully realized in its subsequent versions (the Catasti of 1431 and 1433, the Decine of 1442 and 1447, the Valsente of 1451, the Catasti of 1458 and 1469, and the Decime of 1480, 1495 and 1534).  Ultimately, with the later Decime, only real property was assessed.  Thus the Catasto of 1427 has always been thought of as the ‘great’ Catasto; in the words of an earlier scholar, Elio Conti, “a source of extraordinary richness and modernity.”  And the documentation from this first Catasto—deliberations, and the many volumes of  “portate” (the original declarations) and “campioni” (the summaries)—has survived virtually in tact in the Florentine Archivio di Stato.

The tax survey on which the Catasto data are based, and the documentary sources for the Catasto, are fully described in David Herlihy and Christiane Klapisch-Zuber, Les Toscans et leurs familles: Un étude du catasto Florentin de 1427. (Paris, Presses de la Fondation Nationale des Sciences Politiques, 1978 [English abr. edition: Tuscans and their Families: A Study of the Florentine Catasto of 1427. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985; Italian abr. edition: Toscani e le loro famiglie: Uno studio sul catasto fiorentino del 1427. Bologna: Il Mulino, 1988].  These editions contain full bibliographies.).  Further information about the Catasto data file is provided in A note on David Herlihy's computer files.

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