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This study, based on Florentine repudiations of inheritance, reveals that inheritance was not simply an automatic process where the recipients were passive, if grateful. In influential European societies of the past, it was in fact a process that continued long after the deceased's death. Heirs also had options: at the least, to reject a burdensome patrimony, but also to manoeuvre property to others and to avoid (at times deceptively, if not fraudulently) the claims of others to portions of the estate. Repudiation was a vestige of Roman law that once again became a viable legal institution with the revival of Roman law in the Middle Ages. Florentines incorporated repudiation into their strategies of adjustment after death, showing that they were not merely passive recipients of what came their way. Further, these strategies fostered family goals, including continuity across the generations.
Thomas Kuehn is a graduate of Carleton College (B.A. 1972) and the University of Chicago (M.A. 1973, Ph.D. 1977). Professor Kuehn taught at Reed College for four years before going to Clemson University, where he has served as the History department chair since 2001. Among his many published works, Kuehn has written Emancipation in Late Medieval Florence (1982); Law, Family, and Women: Toward a Legal Anthropology of Renaissance Italy (1991); and Illegitimacy in Renaissance Florence (2002). His scholarship has been published in journals as diverse as Renaissance Quarterly, American Journal of Legal History, Continuity and Change, and the Journal of Women's History.