Academic journal article Population

Widowhood and Remarriage in Sardinia, Alghero, 1866-1925

Academic journal article Population

Widowhood and Remarriage in Sardinia, Alghero, 1866-1925

Article excerpt

The island of Sardinia represents an especially interesting site for the study of marriage behaviour because women played a particularly important role in Sardinian society in comparison to other Italian regions. From medieval times, women typically took an active role in family decisions, including the management of economic resources, and they also managed relationships between the family and society. Women were the reference point for the entire family, and because of their important and acknowledged role, they were often included in the inheritance system (Da Re, 1990; Murru Corriga, 1990; Oppo, 1990, 1993).

The island society was characterized by a different marriage regime to that found in most parts of Italy. As early as the High Middle Ages, marriage on the island was celebrated with the community property regime (Di Tucci, 1928). Marriage was defined as Sardinian (a sa sardisca), which means the Sardinian way, as opposed to Pisan marriage (a sa pisanisca), the typical way of the Tuscan area and the rest of Italy. The couple's shared assets were made up not only of the material things they had each brought to the marriage, the so-called fundamentales but also by everything that the couple managed to accumulate after marriage, which was called comporus.

Both types of assets were usually considered as the property of the couple and were divided equally between the children (including the females) and the widowed spouse at the time of succession (Miscali, 2008). After Italian unification, and with the introduction of the Civil Code (1865), there were no great changes to the Sardinian general picture nor to matrimonial customs. The majority of Sardinian spouses respected a secular tradition and they followed the formula:

"The couple declare that they want to take advantage of what is written in Chapter III, Title VIII, Book III of the current Civil Code and they together stipulate that from the day of their marriage there will be between them a true communion and society in equal parts of all acquisitions and savings which upon the end of the marriage will be recognized as having taken place either separately or jointly." (Tognotti, 1989, p. 163).

Given the peculiarities and differences that distinguish Sardinia from the rest of the country, this region represents an interesting setting for the study of nuptial dynamics, and in particular of remarriage, in historical context. The latter is an almost entirely unexplored phenomenon on the island, as well as in the whole of southern Italy.

This analysis focuses on the community of Alghero, a town on the northwestern coast of Sardinia, from the years following national unification until the first decades of the twentieth century. We adopt a longitudinal approach based on a complex individual dataset resulting from the integration of civil and religious sources. Our principal aim is to identify the socio-demographic characteristics of widows and widowers and to observe closely which individual and contextual characteristics led them to rebuild their families after losing their first spouse.

In the first section of this article we briefly discuss the principal findings of the literature on remarriage in Italy and describe some of the specificities of the Sardinian marriage model in the past. The second section presents the community of Alghero and the sources used in this study. In the final section, the results of some statistical modelling are discussed.

I. Remarriage in Italy

Before the modern decline in mortality, marriages were often interrupted by the early death of a spouse, so marriage of widows and widowers was quite common. In Italy, as in the rest of Europe, a quarter to one-fifth of all marriages in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries involved at least a widow or a widower (Dupâquier et al., 1981), and one-third in the years following an epidemic (Livi-Bacci, 1978).

The phenomenon of remarriage affected not only the existence of the surviving spouse and children (Willführ and Gagnon, 2011), but also had different effects on the socio-demographic life of the entire community. …

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