SOCIAL LIFE AND FAMILY RELATIONS IN THE TESTAMENTS OF WALLACHIAN MERCHANTS (18th C. – EARLY 19th C.)
“Nicolae Iorga” Institute of History
(Romanian Academy, Bucharest) Romania
Abstract: The reconstruction of family relations and of their impact on the socioeconomic activities of Wallachian merchants in the 18th and early 19th centuries is a rewarding, yet difficult, task. The difficulty results from two main factors: one is that the majority of the available primary sources have an arid, patrimonial nature, and two, the type of documents that might offer more social detail, i.e. family correspondence and chronicles, diaries, etc., are not as numerous as the historian would wish. The author of the present study therefore decided to supplement this uneven documentary base with another type of material: the last wills and testaments of individuals from this socio-professional group. It is from the examination of a documentary corpus of around 100 such texts that the author has attempted to flesh out relations between spouses as well as those between parents and their descendants.
A secondary objective of this approach was to identify possible strategies used by merchants in the period under study to ensure continuity in their trade and the ‘security’ of family estates. Despite the nature of the documents, which did not have much scope for affective display, testaments often reveal feelings of love, respect, and loyalty – or a lack thereof – among family members. The fact that most testators usually named close kin (a spouse, surviving children, and siblings) as executors and main beneficiaries of their estates shows the crucial importance of family alliances, affective ties, and solidarities in the longer-term economic survival of family groups.
Keywords: Merchants, Family Relations, Testaments, Wallachia (Ţara Românească), Family Estates, Professional Continuity