This chapter aims to evaluate the nature of ‘sumptuary laws’ up to 1500 and thereby associate them to the circumstances, the framework of ideas, and the habit of mind that gave rise to them. It mentions some of the previous analyses conducted with the sumptuary laws. It examines all known sumptuary laws in Italy enacted over a three-century period over forty towns across the peninsula. It argues that the failure of the laws was not usually caused by the lack of desire to implement them, but to a combination of other factors such as the inappropriateness of legislation as a tool with which to control luxury consumption and the aggravation of the legislative problem by a lack of desire of an outright condemnation of luxury consumption. It clarifies that it was the context of use, by whom and for what purpose, that determined the approval or censure of luxury.
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