The Geography of Debt Recovery: Medieval Household Inventories

Work with Prof. Dan Smail (Department of History) in analyzing records from the late Middle Ages. There are two related projects the Research Assistant would work on.1) Records of debt recovery from the late medieval city of Lucca, in Northwest Tuscany, offer exceptional details about the economy and society of a later medieval city. For this project, we have transcribed around 3,000 acts of debt recovery over a period of about a decade (1333-1342). These records contain the names of the creditors, debtors, their place of residence, the size of the debt (often), the types of goods taken. In 2013-14, the goal will be to transfer these data into a database and undertake an analysis. Some data clean-up will be necessary. The major research goal will be to plot the areas of the region (ca 600 km2) according to their major agricultural products, analyze annual cycles of debt recovery, and undertake similar analyses. A second objective will be to determine the range of values of goods and foodstuffs. The overall goal is to understand the nature and volume of credit and to test the hypothesis that the chronic bullion shortages of the later middle ages caused material objects of known values to circulate in the economy as money substitutes. The research will result in a research article.

2) Household inventories from the later Middle Ages provide extraordinarily rich details about the material horizons of individuals on the eve of the global economic order. The goal for this project will be to convert one hundred digitized inventories from a later medieval city into a database format and to encode the text.

RA Responsibilities:

  • Assist in data clean-up and database conversion
  • Use historical GIS methods to generate maps
  • Prepare and generate plots and tables
  • Develop a computer-assisted parsing program


  • Knowledge of computer programming is essential.
  • Anticipated hours per week: 3-4
  • Knowledge of Latin is a plus.