What Is Wrong with the History of Wages: Or the Divide in Economic History—A Reappraisal Suggested by Eighteenth-Century Milan

  • Luca MocarelliEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Economic History book series (PEHS)


The chapter critically considers the recent debate on living standards and takes into account grain prices and wages in Milan in the eighteenth century. The choice is significant because comparative studies on living standards in Europe, which include Italy, have almost always been built with De Maddalena’s data on Milan. A first element that is highlighted is that a reconstruction of living standards built on wholesale prices of grains, as has usually been done up to now, is misleading since it leads to an overestimation of the decrease of purchasing power. A careful consideration of wages follows. It demonstrates that the uniformity of remuneration for builders in the eighteenth century shown by De Maddalena’s data is really an oversimplification and leads again to an overestimation of the decline in living standards. As a consequence it seems really problematic to build up a picture of living conditions in Italy based on data with such limitations.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics, Quantitative Methods and Business StrategyUniversity of Milano-BicoccaMilanItaly

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