New Sources for Socio-Cultural History: Artistocracy’s Inventories of Assets from Romanian Principalities in 18th and 19th Centuries
Project financed by Executive Unit for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding
project code: PN-II-RU-PD-2012-3-0386, contract nr. 71 / 30.04.2013

The concrete objectives of the project

The subject we propose is important because it aims to create essential instruments of work for less explored fields of the Romanian historiography. The concrete objectives of the project are: identification, processing and publishing of unprecedented and complete documents, which are relevant for socio-cultural history; the carrying out of an analytic study concerning the documentary importance of the inventories of assets, with a special reference to daily life history – the study will also get a double comparative dimension, on one hand, we are going to evaluate the stage of research at national level compared with the international situation and, on the other hand, we are going to analyse the inventories of goods compared with other similar sources (private administrative documents: income and expenses registers, dowry certificate, wills etc.) –; through the publishing of a first volume of documents there will be initiated a collection of documents having the role of an instrument of work for the scientific world but also for university teaching process; the creation of a website where the results of the research project will be published. The results of the research will be verified and disseminated in work sequences by presenting them at some national and international conferences. There will be also organized a thematic workshop dedicated to specific sources of social and cultural history, in general, and to daily life history, in particular, researches dedicated to social and cultural history (with special emphasis on inventories of assets).

The elements of originality and innovation

The project responds to a high lack in Romanian historiography concerning identification, publishing and an efficient and systematic exploitation of some special and unpublished historical sources, the inventories of assets (probate inventories), with a high documentary potential. The project leader pointed out short time ago the importance of these sources in a journal which is significant in the field, “Revista de Istorie Socială” [Social History Journal], but the documentary sample used was reduced. The achieved results require carrying on the research at a deeper level using a large number of analyzed sources and updated national and international bibliography. Creating a first volume from a future collection of sources dedicated to social and cultural history we make available to the researchers a new and very needful instrument of work. A such volume will contain, for the first time, thematically divided, a lot of social elite’ inventories of assets from 18th and 19th centuries, whose access and using in original is difficult and discouraging because it requires additional professional abilities and important financial and time resources.

Another element of originality consists in analyzing and pointing out the documentary potential of inventories of assets for research and educational environment. The specific of the documents and informational potential of them allow us a more detailed and impartial research of some aspects of social history, cultural history and daily life history which are ignored or insufficiently known in the Romanian historiography. The project leader checked the potential of these sources in the context of his Ph. D. thesis but also in some recent studies, where he approached pioneering or less exploited themes in Romanian historiography concerning especially aspects of sociability and entertainment (parlour games, balls, music, dances, and promenade). Unlike previous scientific achievements based on sources more general and more partial, the inventories of assets help us to retrace in details the material patrimony of an aristocratic or bourgeois family. They allow the retracing of various aspects concerning: the composition of fortunes, the domestic environment, the structure of boyars’ households, the interiors of boyars’ houses, the daily social practices, the preoccupations and the dwellers’ hobbies, the festivities and religious celebrations, the family relations, the genealogical connection etc. As other scholars pointed out, the inventories of assets “allow us to peek into the most intimate corners of a househould” (Establet, 1992; Pardhailé-Galabrun, 1988).

The amount and richness of these sources obviously required computerizing the data and publishing the documents, as has been done elsewhere some decades ago (Establet, 1992; Pardhailé-Galabrun, 1988). The processing of documents and introducing them in scientific environment, in Latin alphabet and in electronic format, associated with an archaism glossary, name and subject index and an introductive study will optimize at maximum informational potential of sources, will facilitate the documents utilization and will significantly increase the number of people interested in using these sources.