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 scientific importance of the subject

In Humanities, social and cultural history represent two research areas of high interest, very actual and dynamic, interdisciplinary, with inexhaustible themes and very prolific in results. The fact is illustrated by the apparition of some relevant institutions and renowned journals but also a various speciality bibliography The progress recorded in the last decades pointed out new challenges for social history which tends to become a socio-cultural history, as it results from older and newer debates on this theme – see: Burke (2004), Hunt (1989), Joice (2004, 2010), Roche (1979), Poirrier (2004) and others. This renewal can’t be realized without the diversification and enrichment of documentary resources.

The necessity of the renewal of the documentary base has become obvious in Europe many decades ago. For instance, the French historian Daniel Roche (1979) pleaded for a socio-cultural history based partially on new methods and sources for research. Besides other archive sources (fiscal documents, marriage certificates, wills etc.) he also mentioned inventories of assets (inventories of goods or probate inventories). These documents offer many details about the compo¬sition of wealth according to the social status. The recorded goods and properties offer information not only about material culture of a family, a social group or a social class but also about lifestyle, the social mechanisms of distinction, and the social and cultural practices of these social categories.

The limits of the current approaches and the state of the art in the field

Compared with the Western historiography, the post-war Romanian historiography was dominated by Marxism, which created delays and important desincronisation at thematic, theoretic and methodological level but also at the level of instruments of work and documentation base. Despite of a large quantity of archive documents, considerably more consistent than those from previous periods, Romanian modern history, in general, and social history, in special, has very few published documents. Therefore, even if we are in a period of an informational boom, the historian doesn’t have modern, systematic, available and easy to use resources of documentation.

The Romanian social history points out the lack of some systematic and coherent documents collection for social history. Old documents collection – such as: “Uricariul” (1859), “Hurmuzachi” (1876), Iorga (1901), Urechia (1906), Ghibănescu (1906–1926, 1906–1933) – are mixed and they contain very few inventories of assets, less important, partial or summarized. Other similar documents have been reported, summarized or used as part of some family documents collection or genealogical monographies concerning aristocratic families from the 18th and 19th centuries, for examples: Iorga (1902), Mano (1907), Ungureanu (1936), Rosetti (1938), Fotino (1939). Even if most of these collections have a large number of documents concerning material patrimony (acts of sale and purchase properties, lawsuits concerning properties delimi¬tations, wills, dowry acts), they very seldomly and partially contain inventories of assets especially for the 18thand 19thcenturies.

In the communist period the researches about aristocracy and bourgeoisies have been discouraged by the political regime and the scholars’ interest for searching and using private administrative documents was much reduced.

After 1989, the interest for publishing and spreading of inventories of assets but also for other sources increased. Individual initiatives could be found in some new thematic reviews such as “Revista de Istorie Socială” [Social History Journal] from Iaşi. In 13 volumes which have appeared up to the present, some of these types of documents were published: Ungureanu (1996), Pungă (1996, 1997). An encouraging aspect in the field of historical sources publishing is the initiation of some new volumes and documents collections: Caproşu (2010), Ciubotariu (2008), Sturdza (2004, 2011). Even these collections do not include inventories of assets, most of them are important not only for social history but also for political, economical, historical, genealogy etc. As we can see in the selective bibliography, even if there is an obvious interest for publishing different types of documents concerning material and cultural patrimony of Romanian aristocracy, the inventories of assets are missing from this bibliography or they could be found in an insignifi¬cant proportion compared with the great informational potential they have. Even if many documents of this type are lost, in the public archives there are hundreds of inventories of assets, incomes and outlay registers and wills with inventories annexed. Most of them are unknown and unpublished and, for this reason, their exceptionally value is ignored by most of the researchers.

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 aristocracy’ inventories of assets from 18th and 19thcenturies, 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 areas. 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 potential impact of the project in the broader scientific field

Many fields and new directions of history research from Romania face in general with the lack or insufficiency of specific instruments for research. In this respect, the published documents collections represent a serious shortage. In this discouraging background, the initiation of a collection of sources dedicated to social and cultural history is not only a necessity but a factor for stimulating and concentrating the scholars’ preoccupation for this type of sources. Inventories of assets are sources of exceptional information, various and impartial, proper not only for research of daily life history, but also for social and cultural aspects from different historical periods. As it is observed on international level, these sources will allow deeper searches in social, cultural and mainly daily life history which will overrun for sure the level of present results centred on excessive, redundant, and mostly narrative exploitation of autobiographical literature. More than that, the inventories of assets can offer additional information for a thorough study of specific aspects for family history, elites history, economical history, educational history, genealogy, art history, architecture history. Therefore, by publishing these sources could be efficiently used in a pluridisciplinary manner by the researcher from other areas of History, in particular, and of Humanities, in general.


As for as it concerns the carrying out of the volume of documents, the investigation methods and instruments are classical, specific for the process of publishing historical sources. These will be made up of identification, selection and photocopying activities, transliteration in Latin alphabet and translation (if it’s necessary), collating and archeographic description of documents, elaborating summaries, lexicographic analysis and explanation of rare terms, making up indexation, editorial preparation and publishing (printed and electronic). The volume will be completed with introduction, summary, the list of documents, introductive study, archaic terms glossary, names and terms index, facsimile pages and bibliography. Transcription and publishing standards of documents written in Cyrillic alphabet will be similar with those used in the case of the most well-known Romanian and Slavonic documents collection published in Romania such as: Documenta Romaniae Historica, The Bible from 1688 – of collection Monumenta linguae Docoromanorum–, Documents concerning the history of Iaşi town, vol I-X, I. Caproşu, ed., Iaşi: 1999–2007.

Resources and budget

The institution which hosts the project and offers access to basic infrastructure and to its own information resources is the Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities from Sibiu. The project is planned for 24 months having a budget of 295048 lei (68615 euro) for salaries (for the director of the project and mentor), overhead, mobility and logistic outlays.


International Bibliography – general papers:

Burke (2004). Peter Burke, What is Cultural History?, Cambridge, 2007.

Joyce (2010). Patrick Joyce, „What is the Social in Social History?”, Past and Present206, nr. 1 (2010): 213-248.

Joyce (2004). Patrick Joyce, L’Histoire culturelle, Paris, 2004.

Lüdtke (1995). Alf Lüdtke, The history of everyday life: reconstructing historical experiences and ways of life , Princeton, 1995.

Poirrier (2004). Philippe Poirrier, Les enjeux de l’histoire culturelle, Paris, 2004.

Roche (1979). Daniel Roche, „De l' histoire sociale a l'histoire socio-culturelle”, Mélanges de l'École Française de Rome. «Moyen Age-Temps Modernes» 91, nr. 1 (1979): 7-19.

Roche (2000). Daniel Roche, A history of everyday things: the birth of consumption in France, 1600–1800, Cambridge, 2000.

Rosselin (2005). Céline Rosselin şi Marie-Pierre Julien, La culture matérielle(Paris, 2005).

Styles (2006). John Styles and Amanda Vickery, Gender, taste, and material culture in Britain and North America, 1700–1830 (London, 2006).

International Bibliography – special papers:

Ashmore (1958). O. Ashmore, „Inventories as a Source of Local History”, Amateur Historians4 (1958–1960): 157-161.

Cornette (1989). Joël Cornette, “La révolution des objets. Le Paris des inventaires après décès (XVIIe–XVIIIe siècles)”, Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 36, No. 3 (1989): 476-486.

Fleming (2000). Michael Fleming, “Some Points Arising from a Survey of Wills and Inventories”, The Galpin Society Journal 53 (2000): 301-311.

Kenney (1990). Alison Kenney, „Sources for the History of Housing in English Provincial Towns in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries”, Construction History 6 (1990): 63-74.

Lindemann (2001). Mary Lindemann, „The Sources of Social History”, in: Encyclopedia of European Social History, Peter N. Stearns, ed., vol. 1 (New York: Scribner's, 2001): 31-39.

Mannheims (1984). Hildegard Mannheims, Klaus Roth, Nachlassverzeichnisse: internationale Bibliographie. Probate inventories: international bibliography, F. Coppenrath, Münster, 1984.

Pardailhé-Galabrun (1988). Annik Pardailhé-Galabrun, La naissance de l'intime : 3000 foyers parisiens XVIIe-XVIIIe siècles, Presses universitaires de France, Paris, 1988.

Schuurman (1980). Anton J. Schuurman and Adrianus Maria van der Woude, Probate inventories : a new source for the historical study of wealth, material culture and agricultural development, Wageningen, Utrecht, 1980.

Romanian Bibliography – general papers and collections of documents:

Boga (1928). L.T. Boga, Documente basarabene, 3 vols. [I. Foi de zestre (1734–1844), II. Scrisori şi răvaşe (1660–1860), III. Testamente şi danii (1672–1858)], Chişinău, 1928-1929.

Caproşu (2010). Ioan Caproşu, Sămile Vistieriei Ţării Moldovei, 2 vol., 2010.

Ciubotaru (2008). M. Ciubotaru, S. Văcaru, Catagrafiile Vistieriei Moldovei, 5 vol., 2008-2011.

Fotino (1939). G. Fotino, Din vremea renaşterii naţionale a Ţării Româneşti. Boierii Goleşti, Bucureşti, 1939.

Ghibănescu (1906–1926). Gh. Ghibănescu, Ispisoace şi zapise, 6 vol., 1906–1926.

Ghibănescu (1906–1933). Gh. Ghibănescu, Surete şi izvoade, 25 vol., 1906–1933.

Ghibănescu (1929). Gh. Ghibănescu, Başoteştii şi Pomârla. Studiu istoric şi genealogic, Iaşi, 1929.

„Hurmuzaki” (1876). Documente privitoare la istoria românilor, 45 vol., 1876–1942.

Iorga (1901). N. Iorga, Studii şi documente cu privire la istoria românilor, 25 vol. Bucureşti, (1901–1913).

Iorga (1902). N. Iorga, Documente privitoare la familia Callimachi, 2 vol. Bucureşti, 1902–1903.

Mano (1907). C.G. Mano, Documente din secolele al XVI–XIX-lea, privitoare la familia Mano, Bucureşti, 1907.

Rosetti (1938). Radu Rosetti, Familia Rosetti. I. Coborâtorii moldoveni ai lui Lascaris Rousaitos, Bucureşti, 1938.

Sturdza (2004, 2011). Mihai Dim. Sturdza (2004, 2010), Familiile boiereşti din Moldova şi Ţara Românească. Enciclopedie istorică, genealogică şi biografică, 2 vol., Bucureşti, 2004, 2011.

Ungureanu (1936). Gh. Ungureanu, Familia Sion. Studiu şi documente, Iaşi, 1936.

Urechia (1891–1902). V.A. Urechia, Istoria Românilor Istoria românilor; 14 volume, 1891–1902.

„Uricariul” (1859–1895). Theodor Codrescu (ed.), Uricariul sau Colecţiune de diferite acte care pot servi la istoria Românilor, 26 vol., 1859–1895.

Romanian Bibliography – special papers:

Iacob (2009). Dan Dumitru Iacob, „Noi surse pentru istoria socială: catagrafiile de avere”, Revista de Istorie Socială10-12 (2009): 192-200.

Platon (2003). Alexandru-Florin Platon, Cristiana Oghină-Pavie, Jaques-Guy Petit, ed., Noi perspective asupra istoriei sociale în România şi Franţa. Nouvelles perspectives de l’historiesociale en France et en Roumanie, Iaşi, Editura Universităţii „Al. I. Cuza”, 2003.

Pungă (1996). Zamfira Pungă (1996), „Cinci condici de cheltuieli ale familiei domnitorului Mihail Sturdza”, Revista de Istorie Socială 1 (1996): 437-478.

Pungă (1997). Zamfira Pungă, Gh. Pungă (1997–1998), „O condică de venituri şi cheltuieli a familiei domnitorului Mihail Sturdza”, Revista de Istorie Socială2-3 (1997–1998): 391-418.

Ungureanu (1956). Gh. Ungureanu (1956), „Veniturile şi cheltuielile unei mari case boiereşti din Iaşi, în anul 1816. Casa Roset Roznovanu (Iaşi)”, Studii şi articole de istorie 1 (1956): 125-135.

Ungureanu (1957). Gh. Ungureanu (1957), „Însemnări pe marginea unui manuscris cuprinzând cheltuielile unei case boiereşti din Iaşi în anii 1818–1819”, Studii şi articole de istorie 2 (1957): 369-378.

Ungureanu (1996). Mihai Răzvan Ungureanu (1996), „Averile familiei Gane (prima jumătate a secolului al XIX lea)”, Revista de Istorie Socială 1 (1996): 395-436.