Abstract: Florentine Woolen Manufacture in the Sixteenth Century: Crisis and New Entrepreneurial Strategies
In this essay, I re-examine Florentine woolen textile manufacture with a focus on the types and quantities of cloth produced. Although classic historiography notes several fluctuations in the quantity and value of the sector's output during the sixteenth century, my approach to the archival sources shows a continuous decline. In a time of crisis, the Arte della Lana partnerships introduced new textiles between the end of the fifteenth and the sixteenth century. These were high-quality cloths, able to bear the rising costs of raw materials and skilled labor. The partnerships also intervened by reducing the costs of managing unskilled labor, using the services of fattori (labor masters) charged with supplying labor and remuneration for unskilled workers (ciompi) who performed the first phases of wool processing. These changes influenced the partnerships' bookkeeping methods; comparisons of account books from the fourteenth to the sixteenth centuries reveal downsizing of the accounting system.