Thursday 13 April 2023
16.30 - 18.30
Guardians of Children, Custodians of Wealth, Opponents of Widowed Parents (16th to 18th Century)
Matthias Donabaum :
Guardianship between State Administration and Familial Interests. Lower Austria c. 1700-1790
Family and Demography
Due to high adult mortality, losing at least one parent during childhood was common in Early Modern societies. Since minors were generally not granted full legal capacity, the appointment of a guardian was necessary in such cases. While guardianship was traditionally a right of kin in many societies, most places ... (Show more)
Due to high adult mortality, losing at least one parent during childhood was common in Early Modern societies. Since minors were generally not granted full legal capacity, the appointment of a guardian was necessary in such cases. While guardianship was traditionally a right of kin in many societies, most places in Europe saw a degree of uncoupling of guardianship from the kinship group. First, feudal lords assumed rights of guardianship of their vassal’s children and later the emerging state bureaucratized the administration of orphan’s guardianship. In Early Modern Lower Austria, the superior oversight of guardianship lay with the authorities, be they manorial lords in the countryside or the civic administration of towns and cities. Day-to-day management of orphans’ wealth, however, was conducted by subsidiary guardians who were often recruited from children’s kin or from local dignitaries. They were answerable to the authorities which produced a great number of documents, down to individual receipts of money for food and clothing, that provide invaluable sources for the administration of orphans’ wealth, their role in local credit markets, and their consumption. It has been emphasised that the administration of orphan’s funds could play a central role as a local source of credit in the absence of developed financial institutions.
However, not only being fully orphaned (which was comparatively rare) warranted the appointment of a guardian, but also the death of a single parent. Claims from inheritance shares had to be secured against the interests of the surviving part and a possible stepparent, as remarriage was common in Lower Austria. Such constellations had potentially very different implications than being fully orphaned and could lead to conflicts of interest that had to be managed.
This warrants the question of guardian’s agency, balancing the interests of their wards, the government and themselves. How did they manage the children’s funds? Did they manage to maintain the value of the estate until their coming of age, as they were required to do, and what happened if they did not? How did they invest the funds and what can we say about the credit networks they constituted? How were the interests of children and their widowed parents managed? The paper aims to address these questions by drawing on a wealth of surviving archival sources documenting the management of orphan’s wealth by the municipal administration of Eggenburg and their appointed guardians. (Show less)
Margareth Lanzinger, Janine Maegraith :
Contexts of Guardianship, Mothers’ Wealth and Gender-specific Lines of Conflict
In research on guardians of minor children, the focus has so far been primarily on the administration and preservation of paternal property for the benefit of the heirs, and on the widow left behind: on her capacity to administer the estate of her late husband if there were minor children, ... (Show more)
In research on guardians of minor children, the focus has so far been primarily on the administration and preservation of paternal property for the benefit of the heirs, and on the widow left behind: on her capacity to administer the estate of her late husband if there were minor children, her claims, and her provisions. Usually, the analyses refer to the governing legal contexts and to the practice of inheritance as well as to dowry regimes, more rarely to the practice of marital property law. However, the separation of marital property that prevailed in early modern Tyrol represents a promising context with regard to specific forms of guardianship. Separation of marital property was an instrument to protect the property interests of the lineages - the family of origin and the descendants or own relatives. Hence, it was not only required by law that guardians were appointed after the death of fathers as well as after the death of mothers – but the practice also had its social logic. Although in practice women in this region had less easily access to real estate property compared to men, wives’ wealth was legally well protected: from the husband’s creditors, in the case of childlessness for the benefit of their own family of origin, in the case of widowhood, but also in relation to their children as heirs when mothers died. Guardians of children who lost their mother ensured that their entitlement to their mother’s property was guaranteed and put into writing, whether this consisted of financial assets or, less often, land. Of particular gender-specific interest are cases in which the deceased wives were main heiresses and the men had married into their property. As widowers with minor children, they could then – like widows in this situation – continue to manage the wives’ property on the basis of a usufruct contract which granted them rights of use. On the other hand, the separation of marital property and the idea that wealth was linked to kinship lines resulted in certain lines of conflict: above all between widows and guardians as well as between stepfathers and guardians. In this paper, the practice of guardians in these different configurations will be reconstructed and analysed on the basis of documents from rural and urban court districts in southern Tyrol from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century. (Show less)
Riccardo Rossi :
Guardians in Transition? Guardianships between Geographical Distance and Social Propinquity in the Italian-speaking Three Leagues, 1639-1798
Since his mother had died, Bortolo Scartazzini's situation had worsened dramatically. Already by the 1790s, his parents had established a confectionary in the French city of Rochefort, south of La Rochelle at the Atlantic coast. But having lost both his parents, young Bortolo was in need of a new guardian ... (Show more)
Since his mother had died, Bortolo Scartazzini's situation had worsened dramatically. Already by the 1790s, his parents had established a confectionary in the French city of Rochefort, south of La Rochelle at the Atlantic coast. But having lost both his parents, young Bortolo was in need of a new guardian which was why he turned to someone close. In Bortolo's case, however, family proximity was opposed to geographical propinquity: he asked his uncle Tomaso Scartazzini in the Alpine village of Promontogno to become his guardian. In his letter he made clear that his second choice was his uncle on the mother's side, yet also living in the Italian-speaking Alps. Tomaso accepted but Bortolo's favourite candidate soon turned out to be an unwise choice. Together with another relative, Agostino, Tomaso used his mandate to pressure Bortolo into transferring parts of the legacy to him.
With work migration, itinerary forms of labour, and haulage as integral parts of the local economy, guardianships represented a crucial institution for wardens and guardians alike in the Three Leagues. Looking at a sample of guardianships drawn between 1668 and 1785, the ratio between men and women was about half-half for wardens as well as guardians. In the very same period, the mountain valleys saw major economic shifts: landed property became increasingly accumulated in the hands of just a few families; local merchants gradually reduced their activities, while forwarding agents began operating more frequently on behalf of trading companies from outside the Three Leagues; and at the beginning of the eighteenth century, high ranking mercenaries started to invest in entrepreneurial endeavours.
This paper explores how these transformations affected guardianships in different parts of the Three Leagues that strongly varied in their economic activities. How were the assets managed, by whom and what role played status, gender, wealth and geographical as well as social distances in this? By exploring these questions the paper aims to, both, provide insights on the economic life of an Alpine society as well as to elaborate on how regimes of guardianships dealt with absence, the need for convertible assets, and mobility. (Show less)