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Michael Pammer: »Death and the Transfer of Wealth. Bequest Patterns and Cultural Change in the Eighteenth Century«, Journal of Social History 33/4 (Summer 2000), 913–934.

Abstract: The paper examines bequest patterns in eighteenth-century central Europe. Based upon a sample of 2800 Austrian wills, it investigates the factors determining bequests given to various groups of recipients, such as family members, relatives, friends, and servants, as well as to charity. The results suggest that the family environment of the testators, their professions, the circumstances under which the wills were made, and independent long-term changes in mentality worked in specific ways for the different groups of recipients. Apart from these effects, bequest behavior shows two general characteristics: when choosing an heir, testators usually select either their spouse or their children, but not both at the same time; and testators giving legacies to recipients outside their family usually choose relatives, friends, servants, and charitable institutions in equal measure. Charitable legacies decline in both frequency and value during the eighteenth century. It has been suggested that this was due to a transformation in family customs such that families would increasingly and voluntarily shoulder duties that had been determined by will in earlier times. This hypothesis is not supported by the data used in this analysis.