Historical sources play a key role in the reconstruction of the Italian population’s living standards over time. Scholars need data that can objectively document the consumption behaviors and standard of living of the whole population, mostly consisting of ordinary men and women rather than of kings, poets, heroes, and navigators. This chapter describes the long and meticulous work of archival and bibliographical research focusing on retrieving household budgets—accounting statements recording a household’s incomes and expenditures. Almost 20,000 family accounts have been processed, covering the years from the foundation of the Kingdom of Italy (1861) up to the birth of modern sample surveys (1960s). The resulting Italian Household Budget Database represents an innovative tool as well as a starting point for broadening the scope of research. The analysis carried out for Italy can be replicated for other countries, probably for entire continents, and perhaps even on a global scale.
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