In pre-industrial Europe, many thousands of ‘middle-class’ individuals retired by purchasing a corrody: a contract allowing them life-long food and lodging, usually by spending their remaining years in a hospital. Given that people usually struggle to prepare for the later stages of life, this article asks whether corrodies were priced in line with the market. We study institutions that specialized in commercial retirement in two distinct areas: the Dutch Republic, where middle-class living standards were high in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries; and Bavaria, where purchasing power was lower. In the Bavarian city of Regensburg, the local hospital sold subsidized corrodies, probably to accommodate social middling groups with limited scope for saving but with a strong desire to continue to set themselves apart during old age from groups with a lower social status. In Leiden, in the Dutch Republic, it was more expensive to maintain that distinction because even lower social groups had the opportunity to save. As a result, here corrody prices were higher and more in line with the market price.
- Ekonomisk historia