1Historical data on widowhood and remarriage in Italy are fragmentary, and historical demographers have tended to focus on mortality and fertility rather than marriage. Yet widowhood and remarriage are key components of demographic dynamics that are influenced by the social structures and the respective positions of men and women in society. In Sardinia, the frequency of remarriage can be partly explained by women’s place in the island’s social and economic life. Starting out from this observation, Stanislao Mazzoni, Marco Breschi, Massimo Esposito and Lucia Pozzi analyse the Sardinian marriage model, and the dynamics of widow and widower remarriage in particular. Through detailed analysis of the parish and civil registers of the town of Alghero, the authors reconstitute marriage trends in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first quarter of the twentieth century, at a time when registration of marriages was disrupted by the battle between Church and state. Using a micro-individual, longitudinal approach, the authors reveal the main characteristics of remarriage on the island.
2The island of Sardinia represents an especially interesting site for the study of marriage behaviour because women played a particularly important role in Sardinian society in comparison to other Italian regions. From medieval times, women typically took an active role in family decisions, including the management of economic resources, and they also managed relationships between the family and society. Women were the reference point for the entire family, and because of their important and acknowledged role, they were often included in the inheritance system (Da Re, 1990; Murru Corriga, 1990; Oppo, 1990, 1993).
3The island society was characterized by a different marriage regime to that found in most parts of Italy. As early as the High Middle Ages, marriage on the island was celebrated with the community property regime (Di Tucci, 1928). Marriage was defined as Sardinian (a sa sardisca), which means the Sardinian way, as opposed to Pisan marriage (a sa pisanisca), the typical way of the Tuscan area and the rest of Italy. The couple’s shared assets were made up not only of the material things they had each brought to the marriage, the so-called fundamentales but also by everything that the couple managed to accumulate after marriage, which was called comporus.
4Both types of assets were usually considered as the property of the couple and were divided equally between the children (including the females) and the widowed spouse at the time of succession (Miscali, 2008). After Italian unification, and with the introduction of the Civil Code (1865), there were no great changes to the Sardinian general picture nor to matrimonial customs. The majority of Sardinian spouses respected a secular tradition and they followed the formula:
“The couple declare that they want to take advantage of what is written in Chapter III, Title VIII, Book III of the current Civil Code and they together stipulate that from the day of their marriage there will be between them a true communion and society in equal parts of all acquisitions and savings which upon the end of the marriage will be recognized as having taken place either separately or jointly.”
6Given the peculiarities and differences that distinguish Sardinia from the rest of the country, this region represents an interesting setting for the study of nuptial dynamics, and in particular of remarriage, in historical context. The latter is an almost entirely unexplored phenomenon on the island, as well as in the whole of southern Italy.
7This analysis focuses on the community of Alghero, a town on the north-western coast of Sardinia, from the years following national unification until the first decades of the twentieth century. We adopt a longitudinal approach based on a complex individual dataset resulting from the integration of civil and religious sources. Our principal aim is to identify the socio-demographic characteristics of widows and widowers and to observe closely which individual and contextual characteristics led them to rebuild their families after losing their first spouse.
8In the first section of this article we briefly discuss the principal findings of the literature on remarriage in Italy and describe some of the specificities of the Sardinian marriage model in the past. The second section presents the community of Alghero and the sources used in this study. In the final section, the results of some statistical modelling are discussed.
I – Remarriage in Italy
9Before the modern decline in mortality, marriages were often interrupted by the early death of a spouse, so marriage of widows and widowers was quite common. In Italy, as in the rest of Europe, a quarter to one-fifth of all marriages in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries involved at least a widow or a widower (Dupâquier et al., 1981), and one-third in the years following an epidemic (Livi-Bacci, 1978).
10The phenomenon of remarriage affected not only the existence of the surviving spouse and children (Willführ and Gagnon, 2011), but also had different effects on the socio-demographic life of the entire community. First of all, properties, whether large or small, had to be divided between those entitled to them, and the solutions adopted depended on whether the widow or the widower decided to remarry.
11As well as recreating a family, the new marriage forged new relationships with the new spouse’s family. If the wife was still young, new children would be born who, more often than not, had to cohabit with the children from the previous marriage, thus creating a new and complex hierarchy within the family. While the first marriage was an important landmark in the life of the individual and the family, remarriage was a much more complex event, as far as the protagonists and their economic interests were concerned. Indeed, these second marriages were often publicly condemned, and disapproval was expressed in the form of a noisy “charivari” to mark the community’s displeasure (Corsini, 1980).
12Despite its frequency and its importance, remarriage has attracted less interest among historical demographers than other topics. Most often, this phenomenon is seen as a kind of “anomaly” within the reconstruction of nuptial dynamics and family formation. For this reason, most studies focus on first marriage. Second marriages are considered a missing variable in Hajnal’s framework (1953), and little has been done to incorporate remarriage into a comparative and wider conceptual framework of family formation (Saito, 2005; Kurosu, 2007).
13This analytical lacuna is made worse in Italy by the difficulty in obtaining adequate information for the whole country, and by the territorial divisions that existed prior to unification (1861). For these reasons, studies based on aggregated and serial data over several centuries are rare and discontinuous (Livi-Bacci, 1981; Bellettini, 1981; Corsini, 1981; Breschi, 1990). Investigations based on individual data are even rarer (Corsini, 1980, 1981). Recently, three nominative studies (Breschi et al., 2007; Breschi, Fornasin et al., 2009; Manfredini and Breschi, 2006) were added to the pioneering work carried out by Kertzer and colleagues. The latter investigated the community of Casalecchio, in the Emilia region, during the middle period of the Italian demographic transition  (Kertzer and Hogan, 1989; Kertzer and Karweit, 1995).
14Macro-analysis has shown and highlighted the role played by mortality in the nuptial pattern of widows and widowers. With the decline of mortality, remarriage decreased rapidly: in the first decade after national unification, 15.2% of grooms were widowers and 8.4% of brides were widows; in the 1901-10 period these proportions fell to 9.4% and 5.2%, respectively, and to slightly over 5% and 2% in the second half of the century (Livi-Bacci, 1981).
15Within these medium- and long-term trends observed throughout Europe, strong regional differences can be found. Remarriage was more widespread in the southern regions and in the islands before the decline of mortality, with some local exceptions. Moreover, in this vast area of the country, marriages between a widow and a widower were relatively frequent, accounting for almost 5% of all weddings, versus less than 2% in northern and central Italy.
16The regional differences in the nuptial dynamics of widows and widowers may be partly explained, but perhaps only to a limited extent, by purely demographic factors: age at first marriage of never-married spouses; age differences between the spouses; variations in mortality, and the like. According to Livi Bacci, in the light of his empirical macro level analysis concerning the second part of the nineteenth century:
“It is tempting to correlate the very low proportions of women who remarry in some regions of central Italy (Umbria, Marche) with the more structured family system typical of the sharecropping system of agriculture. The extended family provided the help necessary to the widow, thus lessening the need for a second marriage”.
18The few micro-level investigations have served to demonstrate the existence of common features shared with other European communities while confirming Livi Bacci’s original hypothesis on the lower propensity to remarry in central Italy. 
19Some of the most important points about remarriage in Italy, even before the definitive decline of mortality, were established empirically, especially those concerning the demographic characteristics of widows and widowers. These results can be summarized as follows: widowers were more likely to remarry than widows, usually shortly after their wife’s death and to a younger and never-married woman; widows over 40 years of age seldom remarried, especially if they had children; the younger the widowed person, whether male or female, the more likely they were to find a new spouse (Blom, 1991; Matthijs, 2003).
20In Italy, remarriage was more common for men than for women, resulting in a strong gender asymmetry. According to Corsini (1981), in Tuscany remarriage was defined as “a male affair”. The reason for this asymmetry is mostly explained by economic factors linked to the central and dominant role of the husband, and by differences in rights of access to property and of inheritance within the family. 
21Throughout most of the country, women were considered only marginally or were completely excluded from the social life. Widows did not receive the goods accumulated during their married life, and if they decided to remarry they lost her rights over the house and over their dependent children (Pincherli, 1901).
22The influence of economic and legal variables has been recently highlighted in a comparative investigation of some northern and central Italian communities. For example, in an Alpine community called Treppo Carnico, which was a part of the Austrian empire before Italian unification, better and more egalitarian socioeconomic conditions, together with the greater legal protection for widows under Austrian law, may have limited remarriage (Breschi et al., 2009).
23In line with the interpretative hypothesis put forward by Livi Bacci (1981), Tittarelli (1991), Kertzer and Karweit (1995), in sharecropping areas, widowed people living with children in large and multiple households may have been under less pressure to find a new partner than widow(er)s living in different household contexts. Large and complex households could indeed provide mutual help and support to their members in case of necessity, thereby lessening the need for remarriage.  However, this was only true for blood relatives. Women living in their parents-in-law’s house (given the predominance of patrilocal living arrangements after marriage) were in a subordinate position within the husband’s family group, and their position could weaken further after his death. Parents-in-law and/or siblings-in-law may have discouraged the widow from remarrying, since they would have been obliged to return her dowry. The role of the widow within the sharecropping family was more complex and nuanced (Breschi, Fornasin et al., 2009).
24No comprehensive demographic studies on remarriage exist for Sardinia, although some local investigations (Murru Corriga, 1990, 1993) underline the specificity of the Sardinian marriage model. Also Viazzo (2003), as we shall see in the next section, has described the peculiarity of the Mediterranean marriage model that characterized the island, and the role of the family in marital choices and strategies.
25In addition, from a purely descriptive point of view, the relatively high proportion of widow marriages in Sardinia is quite noticeable and, in particular, the widow-widower combination, which was also more common in the south of the country.
II – The town of Alghero
26Alghero is a large coastal town in north-western Sardinia (Figure 1). Before national unification, it constituted, with the regions of Piedmont and Liguria, the Kingdom of Sardinia. According to the first Italian Census (1861), Alghero, with its 8,891 inhabitants, was the island’s fourth municipality. Besides the urban centre, the municipal territory includes a large flat area, which was largely uninhabited and marshy until the 1920-1930s. This area, called Nurra, placed the town of Alghero in a certain geographical isolation that was compounded by geographical distance and poor communications. In addition, Alghero was surrounded by walls that isolated it completely, at least until 1886, when demolition began. On the eastern side, the walls encircled the town, while the western side was protected by both the walls and the sea. The closest urban centres were Sassari, the provincial capital about 35 km away, and Villanova Monteleone on the adjacent hills some 25 km distant. There were several small villages nearby, but the resident population rarely exceeded more than a few hundred individuals, as in the cases of Olmedo and Putifigari.
Geographical location of Alghero
Geographical location of Alghero
27Being located along the coast, the town was home to numerous fishermen, sailors and coral fishers as well as artisans and traders. These two socio-occupational groups were well balanced and represented some 45% of the labour force, but most of the working population was formed by farmers and shepherds, giving Alghero an agro-pastoral connotation that was somewhat unusual for a town near the sea. The town also included a small (2%) but influential group of aristocrats and notables.
28The socioeconomic pattern that emerges from the male occupations noted in civil marriage records reflects the broader regional economic structure, with the addition of specifically maritime activities due to Alghero’s coastal location (about 15%-20% of male spouses). At the time of Italian unification, the Sardinian economy was based on agriculture, sheep farming and mining. Farming was not intensive and was traditionally limited to olives, vines, fruits, cereals and legumes. The cultivation and production techniques were extremely rudimentary, giving rise to poor yields and unprofitable produce. Land use was organized under a long-standing semi-feudal land tenure system that was still prevalent in the last decades of the nineteenth century. Farmers were especially hard up and were often obliged to supplement their modest earnings with additional activities such as sheep farming or craft occupations (Coda, 1977). According to various lists of the indigent families kept in the historical archive of the local town hall, about 35-40% of the families in Alghero were classified as poor.
29More than three-quarters of Alghero’s population were almost completely illiterate, as was the case everywhere in Sardinia. The town’s sanitation was inadequate, as attested by various national surveys as well as a large variety of documents (petitions, requests and protestations) kept in the local historical archive of the municipality and the sewer system was very poor. The population was dense, particularly in the dirty harbour side alleys, where water was insufficient and of poor quality. The town’s sanitation problems were partially solved at the end of the nineteenth century and improved further in the first decades of the twentieth century.
A singular demographic model
30Although Sardinia lies at the heart of the Mediterranean, it is paradoxically the least “Mediterranean” of the Italian regions (Viazzo, 2003). Its system of family formation and reproductive behaviour does not fit any of the theories propounded in the literature (Wall et al., 1983). The Mediterranean model par excellence – a joint patrilocal household with early female age at marriage and high fertility – is far distant from the model that prevailed in Sardinia (Rettaroli, 1992; Cocchi et al., 1996). Sardinia was the last Italian region to enter the process of fertility transition (Santini, 2008), but even in the pre-transitional period it constituted an anomaly in the Italian demographic context. Both overall and marital fertility were notably low in this region compared to other continental Italian communities in the mid-nineteenth century. Sardinia was largely characterized by late and non-universal marriage, associated with low levels of infant mortality (Breschi, Manfredini et al., 2009). In the decades following Italian unification, age difference at first marriage between men and women was very wide in Alghero: men married for first time at age 27 versus age 22 for women. From the census of 1921 we can calculate the celibacy level, which was low for men (6%) and higher for women (8%). New couples almost always chose a neolocal residence: complex families accounted for fewer than 14% of the surveyed families in 1921.  Another important feature of the town’s marriage pattern was its modest exogamy rate: only 8% of marriages involved one or two spouses who were not locally resident,  which is quite surprising for a fishing port with a long-standing tradition of trade with mainland Italy and France.
III – Civil and religious information sources
31The demographic information in this study is based on civil records of births, deaths and marriages which were introduced on the island in 1866, under the law of the newly unified Kingdom of Italy. Our analysis covers the years 1866-1925. 
32All the nominal data reported in the civil records were digitized; we then carried out the standard cross-check procedures in order to reconstruct individual biographies and family histories. We controlled for consistency between the information reported in the civil records and data included in other sources, such as military enrolment records, some limited and partial records from the Population Register and the original family data sheets of the 1921 Alghero census. Lastly, we combined the demographic information obtained from the civil registers with the data contained in the parish registers of baptisms, burials and marriages. 
33The cross-check between the two types of sources was necessary to mitigate the consequences of a troublesome and prolonged state-church battle concerning the celebration of marriage. On 1 January 1866, the first National Civil Code of the Italian Kingdom came into force and established the exclusive legal authority of the State for the registration of vital statistics. Religious marriages were no longer recognized by the state.
34This legal reform profoundly disrupted the secular customs and traditions attached to marriage, depriving the Church of its primary and unique role over family formation and subsequent family life. It reacted by declaring null and void any civil marriage and by strongly inviting parishioners to place religious marriage before civil marriage (Rocchi, 1893). This warning by the Church obviously had strong impact on a Catholic population with a tradition of religious marriage and obedience to Catholic doctrine. The new organization of marriage was rejected by many people in the most Catholic areas of Italy, and 10% fewer civil marriages were registered than religious ones in the years following the introduction of the law (Bodio, 1880; Somogy, 1965). Only at the end of the nineteenth century, and only in some regions of Italy, did the disparity between state and church registrations gradually narrow. However, exclusively religious marriages were still being celebrated in 1929 when they were officially recognized by the fascist government.
35Before 1929, couples who married only in church had less civil rights. More specifically, the state did not recognize the spouse and the children as legitimate heirs and the latter were recorded in the civil registers as illegitimate, a practice which biases the official statistics on illegitimacy (Benini, 1911; De Vergottini, 1965). The proportion of illegitimate births rose from about 4% in 1862-1864 to 6.2% in the three-year period after the law came into force, and exceeded 7.5% in the mid-1880s.
36The conflict between state and Church had an especially disruptive effect on the series of birth records in Alghero (Breschi, Manfredini et al., 2009). The proportion of illegitimate births increased remarkably after 1866, reaching an average of 15% for a period of almost 30 years,  an exceptionally high proportion, especially if compared with the values recorded before the law on civil marriages came into force (2-3%). The effects on the recording of marriages are also quite clear (Figure 2).
Number of religious and civil marriages, Alghero 1860-1885
Number of religious and civil marriages, Alghero 1860-1885
37The civil and parish marriage registers tell converging but not identical stories. Looking at the year-by-year dynamics of marriages between 1860 and 1885, we can appreciate, as elsewhere in Italy (Benini, 1911), the increase in the number of weddings in 1865. Many couples brought forward their marriage year to 1865 to avoid the consequences of the new law announced in advance.
38In the subsequent years, there were always fewer civil marriages than religious ones (with the sole exception of 1882) even though the former also included marriages involving inhabitants of Alghero that were celebrated elsewhere. The comparison between the two series offers a simplified picture of a complex phenomenon. In any specific year, the group of marriages is a set of unions formed by couples married both in church and in the town hall, by couples who have decided to marry “only” in church or “only” in the town hall , and by couples married in the preceding years who later decide to regularize their situation.
39Without going into the details of the meticulous task of comparing civil and religious sources,  the consequences of the battle between state and Church in terms of marriage records have been largely identified. The long and painstaking reconstruction of the correct marriage sequences, including the possibility of a second marriage, required the cross-checking of more than 9,000 marriage records covering 60 years (1866-1925). More than a half of these marriage records (55%) were included in civil registers which mostly refer to individuals residing in Alghero and married there, but also to a lesser extent to individuals married elsewhere. The remaining 45% of these records refer to religious marriages celebrated by couples who married in Alghero.
40This reconstruction enabled us to identify and subdivide the married couples by date of first marriage and by type of marriage, but also to ascertain the correct time sequence.
41In our subsequent analyses we considered the first date encountered for each couple as their date of marriage, whether registered by the municipality and the Church, or by just one or other.
IV – Remarriage in Alghero
42In this section, we first give a general description of second marriages celebrated in Alghero between 1866 and 1885 following a classical approach, namely by analysing type of marriage and marital status of the future spouses. As we shall see in the next section, the analysis of remarriage in Alghero involves a cohort approach applied to the couples married between 1866 and 1885, whose continuing presence in the municipality of Alghero has been ascertained until 1925.  It is only through a longitudinal approach that we can follow couples over the long term and check whether the death of a spouse is followed by remarriage of the survivor.
43In the two decades following the introduction of civil marriage (1866), 1,524 marriages were registered in Alghero. More specifically, 1,157 took place both in church and in the town hall, with a short lapse of time between them, while 239 were recorded only in the parish registers and 128 only in the civil registers (Table 1).
44The frequency of marriages with widows and widowers differs depending on the type of celebration. For men and women alike, around 30% of church weddings were remarriages, although the proportion is much lower for other types of marriage, notably those celebrated both in church and at the town hall, of which 13.7% are marriages of widowers and 8.6% marriages of widows (Table 1). It is possible that widow(er)s preferred to remarry in church only so as to avoid an overly “official” marriage celebration. They also avoided the duties and responsibilities imposed by the new Italian kingdom with respect to the children of the first and second marriage and the complex questions of inheritance. But the spouses’ advanced age may also have influenced this decision. Unlike the younger generations of brides and grooms marrying for the first time, widows and widowers were more inclined to choose a religious wedding by tradition.
Numbers of marriages and proportions of widow(er)s by type of celebration. Alghero 1866-1885
Numbers of marriages and proportions of widow(er)s by type of celebration. Alghero 1866-1885
45The results observed in Alghero after integrating the civil and religious sources seem to confirm the limits of official statistical documentation produced by the new Kingdom of Italy (Livi-Bacci, 1977). Based solely on information contained in the civil marriage registers, it tends to underestimate the share of second marriages and, more importantly, it omits a significant number of events. 
46In the light of our reconstruction, it can be stated that nearly 79% of marriages involved people who were marrying for the first time, while the remaining 21% saw the participation of at least one widow(er). In 9% of cases, widowers married with never-married women, in 5% of cases widows married never-married men, and in the remaining 7% of cases both spouses were widowed (Table 2).
Marriages by spouses’ previous marital status, Alghero, 1866-1885
Marriages by spouses’ previous marital status, Alghero, 1866-1885
47In comparison with other Italian areas (Corsini, 1980; Breschi, Fornasin et al., 2009), the difference between the proportions of marriages of widows and those of widowers in Alghero is smaller than elsewhere, to the extent that in some periods, the percentage of marriages with a widow almost equalled that of marriages with a widower, as was the case, for example, in the years 1871-1876 (Figure 3). 
Remarriages of widows and widowers as a proportion of total marriages, Alghero, 1866-1885, (3-year moving averages)
Remarriages of widows and widowers as a proportion of total marriages, Alghero, 1866-1885, (3-year moving averages)
48Remarriage is usually investigated by analysing the distribution of marriage by the spouses’ marital status, and this relatively simple exercise can be performed even for the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries if well-kept civil and parish registers are available.  The proportion of second marriages among total marriages is not, however, an accurate measurement of the intensity of the phenomenon. The proportion of second marriages is a function of the intensity of first marriages and of the level of mortality. The use of simple indicators is usually justified by the difficulty in measuring accurately the population at risk, i.e. the set of widows and widowers (Matthijs, 2003). With the reconstruction of life histories it is possible to produce more precise estimates of the intensity and timing of second marriages and, as is the case for Alghero, the availability of individual data enables us to appreciate the factors leading a widow(er) to establish a new family.
V – A micro-analytical approach for the analysis of remarriage
49The decision or opportunity to remarry is a consequence of many interacting demographic factors of previous marriage and fertility history, and socioeconomic status. Furthermore, given the complexity of the factors influencing the choice of a spouse, agregate statistics are less effective in illuminating the multidisciplinary nature of the phenomenon. For all these reasons, we used individual-level data for our analysis of remarriage.
1 – Study population selection criteria
50In consideration of the characteristics of our database, we employed a micro-analytical technique to study remarriage, applying a cohort approach. We selected the individuals who married for the first time between 1866 and 1885, particularly those who remained in the municipality of Alghero until 1925, the latest year for which we can follow the life events of these couples. 
51For all these individuals, we know their characteristics at the time of marriage (age, place of birth, place of residence, occupation, etc.) independently of the type of celebration, their reproductive history and the date of widow(er)-hood and whether the latter was followed by a second marriage. We consider only widows and widowers who lost their spouse before the age of 60 and remarried within ten years. These two selection criteria were partly suggested by the structure of our dataset and reflect some essential features of the phenomenon of remarriage: most remarriages took place before age 60 and rapidly after the previous spouse’s death,  with a decline in the frequency of remarriage as the widow(er)’s age and the time since widow(er)hood increased. In particular, most new marriages took place rapidly for the widower (over 50% of marriages were celebrated within the first year of becoming widowed), and after a longer period for widows (50% of marriages were celebrated in the first two years of widowhood),  since widows were prohibited from remarrying within 10 months so as to avoid doubts about the paternity of children born shortly after the husband’s death.
52The effects of the different selection criteria on the marriages that took place in the 1866-1885 period are summarized in Table 3. Out of the 1,524 marriages identified over this period, we excluded those celebrated in other municipalities, even if reported in Alghero’s marriage records. This first criterion reduces the number of marriages to 1,479.
Selection criteria for analysis of remarriage, marriages registered at Alghero between 1866 and 1885
Selection criteria for analysis of remarriage, marriages registered at Alghero between 1866 and 1885
53Due to the high degree of endogamy, 1,441 of the 1,524 marriages (approximately 95%) occurred between people from Alghero and of these, 1,138 were first marriages for both bride and groom. Some of these couples left Alghero, sometimes for just a few years, so we were unable to reconstruct their life history with certainty. In 895 of the 1,138 first marriages (79%), we know the couple’s life history at least until the union was ended by the death of one or other spouse. A large proportion of these marriages (60%) were interrupted by the husband’s death, an expected result considering that the groom was on average 5-6 years older than his bride. Ultimately, as the result of differential mortality selection, we end up with 540 widows and 355 widowers, some of whom were aged over 60 at the time of widow(er)hood, the age limit for remarriage used in this study. Finally, our analysis focuses on 711 widow(er)s under the age of 60, more specifically on 254 widowers and 457 widows.
54The outcomes of all these widows and widowers is not always known, however. In all probability, some of them left Alghero after the death of their spouse so we cannot know whether they remarried. Ultimately, we are acquainted with the subsequent history of only 532 individuals (318 widows and 214 widowers).
55A certain difference is evident between widowers and widows, with the proportion of unknown outcomes being twice as high among widows as among widowers. This difference, as mentioned, is mainly due to the higher male mortality and the differences in the age at marriage, although mobility play also in the case of widows (Derosas and Oris, 2002). This last aspect is particularly relevant in the community of Alghero due to the nuclear structure of the majority of households. It was very difficult for a lone widow to find the support and assistance necessary for her and her children’s maintenance, so migration could become a necessity for the entire surviving family group.
56As last step of our selection procedure, we eliminated 9 subjects (7 women and 2 men) who died within 365 days of the death of their spouse and who therefore did not have the time to remarry.
57In conclusion, our study focuses on 315 widows and 208 widowers, representing a stable group of 523 individuals living on the territory of Alghero until the end of the observation period, i.e. the year 1925. This selection procedure limits our study of second marriages to the more stable population.
58The socioeconomic composition of our selection turns out to be quite similar to that found in all the couples married in Alghero, as the migrants, or those who still elude our control, are not significantly different from our population at risk of remarriage, for widowers at least. In the case of widows, however, those of higher social status were more likely to remain resident in the territory of Alghero after widowhood than those living in rural areas or by the sea.
2 – The microdata analysis models
59A discrete-time logistic regression was used and two separate models for 208 widowers and 315 widows were estimated because of the marked differentiation by gender. More specifically, the risk of entering a second union was estimated within a maximum period of ten years from widow(er)hood. In both the models employed, we took into consideration the age at widow(er)hood and the length of widow(er)hood, since the chances of remarriage are, as observed in many contexts, strongly influenced by these two variables. The relatively extensive literature on the subject of remarriage agrees that age plays a decisive role, in particular for widows, but also the presence of children.
60Children from previous marriage(s) are liable to influence the likelihood of remarriage.  Children have often been regarded as an obstacle to remarriage, especially in the case of widows. Given children’s limited contribution to agricultural labour, marrying a widow with children may in fact be economically disadvantageous to peasant families. Conversely, widowers co-residing with children could be stimulated in the search for a new bride by the need to provide them with a new mother (Bideau and Perrenoud, 1981). In two out of three Italian communities examined by Breschi, it was observed that this factor was relevant only in the case of dependent children (below 12 years), while the presence of older children (aged 12 and above) reduced the chances of widower remarriage. Breschi, Fornasin et al., (2009) mention that in the municipalities of Madregolo and Casaguildi (Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany) a child was an obstacle to remarriage for both widows and widowers, but for widows only in Treppo Carnico (Friuli), as in Alghero.
The role of socioeconomic status
61While the roles of three individual demographic variables (sex, age, length of widow(er)hood) and of variables relating to the presence of children are, with a few exceptions, clearly identified in the literature (Blom, 1991; Matthijs, 2003), the relevance of the widow(er)’s socioeconomic status in the decision to remarry remains controversial. Some authors have found a higher probability of remarriage in the poorer strata of society (Sogner and Dupâquier, 1981), while an opposite pattern is detected, though with different nuances, in various rural communities of pre-industrial Europe, where remarriage was more common among landowners than among the landless (Moring, 2002; Brown, 2002; Fauve-Chamoux, 2002). Similar results were found for eighteenth-century Massachusetts (Keyssar, 1974). Conversely, other studies do not find any striking socio-occupational differentials in the chances of remarriage (Knodel and Lynch, 1985; Knodel, 1988; Van Poppel, 1995; McQuillan, 2003).
62The absence of occupational differentials in the frequency of remarriage does not, however, imply that the process of remarriage proceeded similarly in different social groups. The influence of economic factors on remarriage is difficult to determine, for women in particular (Elman and London, 2002). Indeed, the availability of economic resources may act as either a deterrent or an incentive. It could make it easier to attract a new partner or, conversely, it could make remarriage less necessary, as wealthy widowed persons were able to hire paid help in the home and on the farm.
63In light of the few available investigations, there appears to have been an inverse relationship between wealth and propensity to remarriage in Italy (Breschi et al., 2007). More specifically, the hypothesis has been advanced that widespread land ownership, coupled with better economic conditions and legal protection for widows, could act as a restricting remarriage. Within sharecropper populations, on the other hand, widows living in nuclear families were in a weaker position and economic necessity became their strongest incentive to remarry (Breschi, Fornasin et al., 2009).
64To determine the influence of socioeconomic status, we introduced a socio-occupational status covariate into the model. We consider only widowers’ occupations because women’s recorded occupational categories were too indefinite and in most cases the wording “housewife” was used. In the case of widows, therefore, we refer to the deceased husband’s occupation.
65The Alghero population was segmented into three socioeconomic groups:
- Farmers: the largest (and reference) group, representing more than half of the total study population, and including all occupations related to land cultivation (we have no information on land ownership and stability of the tenancy contract) as well as cattle-breeding and sheep farming;
- Sailors and fishermen: this category (about 15%) includes all maritime activities, fishing, coral fishing and also sailors and crew members;
- Artisans and traders: this category (about 30%) includes the people occupied in various craft activities, along with shopkeepers and traders on the local and regional markets. It also includes the small number of aristocrats and notables.
3 – Determinants of widow and widower remarriage
Simple regression model
66Table 4 shows the model of remarriage risk by widows’ and widowers’ socio-demographic and socio-occupational characteristics, and the presence of surviving children. Despite its relative simplicity, this approach allows us to highlight important differences by gender.
Determinants of widow and widower remarriage in Alghero, 1866-1925. Discrete time logistic regression model (odds ratios) and descriptive statistics (mean and percentage distribution)
Determinants of widow and widower remarriage in Alghero, 1866-1925. Discrete time logistic regression model (odds ratios) and descriptive statistics (mean and percentage distribution)Significance levels: *** p 0.001; ** p 0.01; * p 0.05; ns: non-significant.
67The most striking result is the clear distinction between men and women in the factors that promote or, conversely, obstruct a second marriage. As foreseen, in the case of widows remarriage is particularly sensitive to age: the relative risk decreases as the latter increases by about 7% with each additional year. The effect of age for widows is strong enough to dwarf the effect of length of widowhood, while in the case of men the length of time since the wife’s death is a predominant influence: each passing year decreases the relative risk of remarriage by about 10%.
68Children also seem to affect female chances of remarriage much more negatively than men. The presence of only one surviving child under the age of 12 lowers the relative risk of remarriage by more than 60% and this relative risk decreases further when all the children are over 12 years of age.
69Last, socio-occupational position does not seem to have any differential effect for widowers. Ultimately, the decisive element for the Alghero widower is the time elapsed since his wife’s death. Those who remarried did so soon after the death of their spouse (on average after 3.3 years). Family reconstruction was an impelling need, independently of age, the presence of children or socioeconomic position, partly due to the predominance of nuclear families in Sardinia (three-quarters of all families). In most cases, widowers could not count on another woman in the household and were rapidly obliged to find a new wife, and a mother for the children of their previous marriage. 
70Among women, on the other hand, being the widow of a fisherman-sailor reduces the relative risk of remarriage by 70% with respect to the widow of a farmer. This may be because the community of fishermen-sailors represented a quite distinct group in the Alghero population. It developed and grew throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth century, with the gradual establishment of seasonal fisherman from the Campania and Liguria regions (Mondardini and Morelli, 1988). Widows in the various sub-groups of the artisans, traders and upper-class category remarried less frequently than the others.
71Ultimately, it is the widows from a rural environment who were most likely to remarry. Their marriage market was certainly wider than that of other widows, particularly those from the community of fishermen. Moreover, as stated in the introduction, Sardinian women not only represented an important figure and reference point for the family but they were also fully engaged with the family estate. In all likelihood such situations were more frequent in the context of the rural world and of sheep farming, where the married couple worked small plots of land and owned small properties along with everything that they accumulated through the marriage, the so-called comporus. For this reason, a widow in the world of agriculture and sheep farming was more likely to remarry precisely because of the goods accumulated through her married life, which could not easily be managed by a woman on her own.
72The covariate referring to place of birth also appears to be a crucial factor affecting the chances of contracting a second marriage in Alghero: for both widowers and widows born outside the town, the relative risk was almost double that recorded for individuals born in Alghero. This result is in line with that already observed: individuals born outside who could not rely on a family network, in case of widowhood, had little choice but to form a second marriage and a new family in order to acquire the necessary resources and family support.
The competing risks model
73The case of Alghero shows, once again, the complexity of the phenomenon of remarriage and, as observed in other Italian contexts, the influence of different social conditions on widows’ and widowers’ chances of remarrying. For a better understanding of the socio-demographic factors affecting remarriage, it is useful to observe the results of a competing risks model  (Table 5) to evaluate the probability of remarrying with either a single person or a widow(er).
Influence of various factors on the probability of remarriage, Alghero 1925. Competing risks model
Influence of various factors on the probability of remarriage, Alghero 1925. Competing risks modelSignificance levels: * p 0.05; ns: non-significant.
74For the first two covariates, there are few differences with respect to the previous model. Age turns out to be important for a widower marrying a never-married woman and, conversely, the length of widow(er)hood matters for marriage with a widow.
75The empirical results concerning children from the previous marriage are very interesting. As in the previous model, widowers were not influenced by the presence of living children from the first marriage. By contrast, while the presence of children held back the marriage of widows in the simple model, in the competing risks model, the effect differs by marital status of the new spouse. The presence of children has no impact on the probability of remarriage with a single man, but holds back marriage with a widower practically to the same extent as in the first model. For widows, marriage with a widower was problematic, notably when she had children from a previous marriage, and whatever their age. If the future husband also had children from his first marriage, the premises were created for disputes in the family hierarchy both immediately and in the future, above all at the time of the death of one of the two new spouses. Furthermore, marriage with a widower could give rise to tensions with the deceased husband’s family. The widow had no interest in stoking such tensions or in becoming involved in disputes over property from the first spouse’s estate, possibly fuelled, with the support of relatives, by the children themselves.
76In Sardinia, at least within the more traditional agricultural and pastoral world, the situation was further complicated by the recognition of the woman’s active role and of her parental line. Within each nuclear family, it was customary for a wife and her children to retain a marked preference towards the maternal kin, and solidarities were built along the maternal line and through relationships among women (Orrù, 1980; Oppo, 1990; Solinas, 1990). It was not simply by chance that a widow with very young children was welcomed back into her mother’s house (Murru-Corriga, 1993). When marrying a widower with children, the widow was also called upon to deal with any conflicts with the relatives of her new husband’s first wife. Finally, it must not be forgotten that marriage between widows and widowers, while not actually condemned, was judged severely by the community itself, particularly when there were children from the first marriage.
77Another interesting aspect to emerge from the competing risks model concerns the widower’s occupation. While in the first analysis it did not appear to be relevant, it now turns out to be a discriminating factor in relation to the new bride’s marital status. More specifically, if the widower belonged to the composite class of “artisans, traders and upper class” his relative risk of remarrying was almost double that of the reference category represented by farmers when his attentions were directed towards an unmarried woman. Conversely, if the subject of his attentions was a widow, his chances of remarrying were over 60% lower than those of a farmer widower. In other words, the choice of a new marriage with a never-married woman appears to have been a prerogative, by deliberate choice or by virtue of personal means, of widowers belonging to the highest social categories.
78Amongst women, probabilities of remarriage vary considerably depending on the new spouse’s marital status. Age is the sole determining factor in the case of a new marriage with an unmarried man; no effect is produced by the presence or absence of children or by the woman’s socioeconomic status. For a new marriage with a widower, age is still a factor, but the presence of children becomes decisive, as does her social condition. More specifically, widows belonging to the more urban world of maritime workers (living in the towns oldest districts) and of artisans, traders and notables, showed a lower propensity (by at least 70%) to marry a widower than widows from the rural world. Marriage between widows and widowers, from a woman’s prospective, therefore seems to have been more widespread within the rural world. Rebuilding one’s family, and (above all) exploiting any internal opportunities within the family network, was therefore a crucial objective in the rural world and in many cases such an objective was reached through the union of a widow and a widower – and thereby of their respective families.
79Again, the place of birth is of fundamental importance, but only in the case of widowers who married a single woman. In this case, once again, the relative risk of a second marriage is much higher, confirming the stronger necessity of a second marriage for the widowers born outside Alghero and probably without a kin network within the local community.
80The study of second marriages in Alghero has allowed us, for the first time, to analyse closely the family recomposition dynamics in a Mediterranean community. Some of the factors that were already known through studies in other Italian areas are confirmed: the importance of purely demographic variables such as the surviving spouse’s age and the length of widow(er)hood, as well as large gender disparities in the chances of remarrying.
81The process of family reconstruction involved the widows and widowers of Alghero in very different modalities and time scales. Dissimilarities between widows and widowers stem mainly from the presence of children from the first marriage, and from socioeconomic conditions, particularly amongst widows. While the woman’s role in Sardinia sets the region apart from the rest of Italy, this trait seems to be even stronger and clearer in the world of agriculture and sheep farming. It was in this traditional stratum of the society of Alghero that Sardinian women, even after being widowed, asserted their importance and showed their characteristic traits: 10% of widows remarried in order to administer and develop what they had put aside in their previous marriage; they managed, planned and rebuilt their family.
82This article describes the newer and more original aspects of this research. The competing risks models highlights the importance of the marital status of the future spouse, for both widows and widowers alike. This variable determines differences not observed until now or, perhaps we should say, not previously quantified. Once more, it is the woman, the widow in this case, who is the one to behave differently. Although there are differences regarding the widowers – i.e. a greater propensity towards marriage with never-married women for those belonging to the more affluent socioeconomic classes – the real differences are to be seen on the female side. A widow who remarried had to submit to numerous ties and limitations, especially if the marriage took place with a widower. However, such barriers were less daunting when the second marriage took place with a never-married man, the only significant factor observed in this matrimonial combination being the woman’s age. Of all the four combinations analysed in the competing risks model, the decrease in likelihood of entering a second marriage – about 10% per year – turns out to be the highest in this case.
83It is precisely this last aspect, i.e. the predominant relevance of age for those widows who married a never-married man, which suggests that factors that are hard to quantify inevitably escape our study, such as personal charm, attraction between the future spouses and the whole set of feelings that can bind a man and a woman together. These aspects can perhaps be read in the nuances of our models, but they indubitably played, together with other predominant factors, a far from marginal role in the dynamics of second marriages in Alghero. Unlike the other regions of Italy, widowers and widows had many opportunities to remarry on the local marriage market. Despite a more diverse socio-demographic context than elsewhere on the island, Alghero reflects the specific characteristics of Sardinia, regarding both the importance of remarriage and the involvement of individuals in these nuptial dynamics. Remarriage in Sardinia, in the most rural areas especially, played a major role in marriage dynamics and in local economic life.
Department of Economics and Business, University of Sassari, Italy.
Correspondence: Stanislao Mazzzoni, Dipartimento di Scienze economiche e aziendali, Via Muroni 25, 07100 Sassari, e-mail: email@example.com.
In Italy, the demographic transition occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
There are now a number of individual-level studies on remarriage between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. For a synthesis and discussion of this literature see Dribe et al., 2008; Kurosu, 2007; Van Poppel, 1995, 1998.
Given the high mortality in pre-industrial agricultural communities, remarriage was often sought, since marriage and thereby access to a household meant economic and social security. Manifold approaches have been employed to further explain the large variation in gender and age from the perspective of property ownership, inheritance, female independence, and family system (see the literature review in Oris and Ochiai, 2005).
Matthijs (2003) proposed a theoretical framework similar to Livi Bacci’s (1981) interpretation of the lower propensity to remarriage of rural populations compared with urban ones. In the nineteenth-century Flemish countryside, households were larger and more complex than those in the cities, and this reduced the pressure to remarry.
The proportion of extended families was 12.3%, that of multiple ones a little over 1%.
A percentage calculated from all marriages over the 1866-1925 period.
The civil records kept in the local historical archive of Alghero cover the same years.
The parish of Alghero overlaps almost perfectly with the municipal territory.
At the regional level, the proportion of illegitimate births was only slightly lower, at 10% in the period 1871-90.
However, “only” is a time-dependent attribute, based on the selected time scale (here a calendar year). To reconstruct the correct sequence of events we are obliged to search the nominative records in both the series over many years, in our case 20 years.
For a more complete description of checks and investigations done for this study, see Breschi et al., 2009.
We controlled the presence of each individual in the Alghero municipal territory using several sources: civil records, some fragments of population registers, and also the 1921 census enumeration which took place almost at the end of our study period. In this way we were able to obtain a sub-set of widow(er)s who were certainly present on the territory of Alghero until 1925 and whose main demographic events could be followed in detail.
The conflict between the Church and the State was resolved in 1929, with consequences that rule out any direct approach to the study of nuptiality and marital fertility based on official statistics (Livi-Bacci, 1977). The proportion of exclusively religious marriages was significant everywhere in the island and was probably higher in the regions previously subject to the Papacy (Marche, Umbria, Lazio, and part of Emilia, and the provinces of Romagna). For example, in the small municipality of Sonnino (Lazio), 401 religious marriages were performed during the decade 1871-1880 and only 134 civil marriages.
The number of marriages involving widows and/or widowers (widows especially), is much higher than reported in official statistics for the entire island. This discrepancy can be explained, at least in part, by the accurate identification of the state of widow(er)hood in our research, but may also be linked to a series of socio-demographic factors at play in the community.
This possibility depends on the quality of records. In Italy, the civil status of the spouses is often recorded even in the oldest parish registers, although in an indirect way (name and last name of the previous spouse). However, such information must be used with great care as it was available more often for women than for men.
We are currently gathering the necessary demographic data to extend our time period to at least 1940.
Becoming a widower at a relatively advanced age was, in view of the high mortality levels, quite common and very different from the case of remaining a widower before age 50, when the children had not yet reached adulthood. Remarriage beyond age 65 was exceptional, especially for widows. Last, observing a remarriage requires an analysis of a widow(er)’s life story over a long period. By adopting an interval of ten years, we are able to follow the behaviour of individuals who were widowed between their 60th and 70th birthdays.
Very similar proportions were observed in several Italian areas (Corsini, 1980; Breschi, 2007).
By “children” we mean children still living at the time observation.
In the nineteenth century, in Alghero and in Sardinia generally, household structure was simpler than in other regions. As mentioned in Section I and by Livi-Bacci (1981), the low proportion of remarriages in sharecropping areas of Emilia, Umbria and the Marches is linked to the very low propensity to remarry of widowers living in complex sharecropper families who could count upon another woman in the household (Breschi, Fornasin et al., 2009).
See Courgeau and Lelièvre (1994).