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An historical geography of Europe1500-1840


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Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York

www.cambridge.orgInformation on this title: www.cambridge.org/9780521105811© Cambridge University Press 1979

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exceptionand to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,no reproduction of any part may take place without the writtenpermission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 1979Reprinted 1988This digitally printed version 2009

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Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication data

Pounds, Norman John Greville.An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840.

Includes bibliographical references and index.1. Europe - Historical geography. I. Title.D21.5.P634 940.2 79-11528

ISBN 978-0-521-22379-9 hardbackISBN 978-0-521-10581-1 paperback

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L/s/ of maps and diagramsList of abbreviations


Europe in the early sixteenth century

The population of Europe from the sixteenth to theearly nineteenth centuries

The pattern of cities

Agriculture from the sixteenth to the nineteenthcenturies

Manufacturing and mining

The pattern of trade

Europe on the eve of the Industrial Revolution














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Maps and diagrams

Page8 1.1 Distribution of forest in the Paris region in the sixteenth century (after

Michel Deveze, La vie de la foret frangaise au XVHe siecle, 2 vols., Paris, 1961)9 1.2 Distribution of forest in the Paris region in the eighteenth century (after

R. J. Julien, Carte de France, Paris, 1758)12 1.3 Europe: political map, about 153021 1.4 Population density in western Europe at the end of the Middle Ages25 1.5 Population density in Venezia, mid-sixteenth century (after D. Beltrami, in

Civ. Venez., 1 (1954), 15)30 1.6 The chief cities of Europe in the first half of the sixteenth century31 1.7 The towns of Switzerland (after H. Ammann, Historischer Atlas der Schweiz,

Aarau, 1951)39 1.8 Transhumance and drove routes in Europe in the sixteenth century (based

on Elli Muller, in Pet. Mitt., 84 (1938), and H. Wiese and J. Bolts, Rinderhandelund Rinderhaltung im nordwesteuropdischen Kustengebiet vom 15. bis zum 19.Jahrhundert, Stuttgart, 1966)

50 1.9 Ironworking in the sixteenth century51 1.10 Non-ferrous metals in sixteenth-century Europe62 1.11 Grain-surplus and -deficit areas and the grain trade in the sixteenth century63 1.12 The grain supply of the city of Lyons (based on A. P. Usher, The History of

the Grain Trade in France 1400-1700, Cambridge, Mass., 1913)69 2.1 Grain prices and deaths at Dijon and Gien (after J. Meuvret, in Pop., 1

(1946), 643-50)70 2.2 Grain prices and deaths at Pontoise (after Jacques Dupaquier, in Ann.

Dem. Hist., 92 (1965), 141-56)70 2.3 Grain prices and mortality at Dijon and Gien (after J. Meuvret, in Pop., 1

(1946), 643-50)71 2.4 Fluctuations in the grain harvest, based on tithe payments to Saint-

Trophime, Aries (after J. Goy, in Stud. Stor., 9 (1968), 794-811)72 2.5 Wheat prices and date of the wine harvest (after E. Le Roy Ladurie, in Ann.

ESC, 15 (1960), 434-65)74 2.6 Plague deaths at Brussels, by month (based on J. Charlier, La peste a

Bruxelles de 1667 a 1669 etses consequences demographiques, Pro Civitate, 8,Brussels, 1969)

75 2.7 Diffusion of the plague in Germany during the Thirty Years' War (based onGunther Franz, Der Dreissigjahrige Krieg und das deutsche Volk, Stuttgart,1961)

77 2.8 Percentage loss of population in Germany during the Thirty Years' War(after Franz, Der Dreissigjahrige Krieg)

84 2.9 Household size in England, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries (afterPeter Laslett, in Household and Family in Past Time, ed. Laslett (Cambridge,1972), 125-58)


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vii Maps and diagrams

85 2.10 Structure of population in France in the eighteenth century85 2.11 Structure of population at Inieres (based on R. Noel, in Ann. Midi, 80

(1968), 139-56)87 2.12 The major movements of peoples in the seventeenth and eighteenth

centuries88 2.13 Population structure of Nancy, 1815 (after P. Clemendot, in Con. Hist.

Dim. Riv. Fr., 181-220)92 2.14 The population of France in 1700 (after J. Dupaquier, in Rev. Hist., 239

(1968), 43-79) and 1745 (after Francois de Dainville, in Pop., 7 (1952), 49-68)94 2.15 The population of France in about 180098 2.16 Decline in fertility rates in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries

(after Colin Clark, Population Growth and Land Use, London, 1967)107 2.17 Population density in Venezia, late eighteenth century (based on D.

Beltrami, in Civ. Venez., 1 (1954))108 2.18 Population distribution in Italy, c. 1550 and c. 1600 (based on statistics in

K. J. Beloch, Bevolkerungsgeschichte Italiens, 3 vols., Berlin, 1937-61)109 2.19 The population of Verona (after P. Donazzolo and M. Saibante, in Metron,

6, 2-3 (1926), 56-180)110 2.20 Population distribution in Italy, 1720 and 1790 (based on Beloch,

Bevolkerungsgeschichte Italiens)112 2.21 Distribution of population in Spain and Portugal, c. 1800 (based on

Jos6-Gentil da Silva, in Studi Fanfani, II, 491-510, and Richard Herr, TheEighteenth Century Revolution in Spain, Princeton, N.J., 1958)

121 3.1 The growth of the city of Madrid122 3.2 Rome after the planned rebuilding of the sixteenth century127 3.3 The ports of Portugal and south-western Spain143 3.4 Markets and fairs in the giniraliti of Paris (after Mimoires des intendants

sur I'itat des giniralitis, I, Mimoire de la giniraliti de Paris, ed. A. M. deBoislisle, Paris, 1881)

144 3.5 Cities and towns in France, early eighteenth century (based on Saugrain,Nouveau dinombrement du royaume de France, Paris, 1720)

146 3.6 Cities and towns in Italy in the sixteenth century (based on data in Beloch,Bevolkerungsgeschichte Italiens)

153 3.7 Food supply of Paris, late seventeenth century (based on Vauban,'Description geographique de l'election de Vezelay/ in Mimoires desintendants, I, 738-49, and other reports of the intendants)

172 4.1 Cereal crop associations in Europe, seventeenth and eighteenth centuries181 4.2 Yield-ratios (after B. H. Slicher van Bath, in A.A.G. Bij., no. 10 (1963))187 4.3 Viticulture and the wine trade195 4.4 Land reclamation in the Netherlands (after Atlas van Nederland, The

Hague, 1963)196 4.5 Progress of land reclamation in the Netherlands (after Paul Wagret,

Polderlands, London, 1968)198 4.6 Coastal reclamation in Europe (after Wagret, Polderlands)199 4.7 Cereal pollen in the peat of Rote Moor in West Germany (after F. Overbeck

and I. Griez, in Flora: Allgemeine Botanische Zeitung, 141 (1954), 51-99)201 4.8 Changes in land use in Asperes and Sardan (based on Suzanne Savey, in

Ann. Midi, 81 (1969), 41-54)231 5.1 Clothworking in France in the early eighteenth century233 5.2 The domestic cloth industry of Reims (after Georges Clause, in Rev. Hist.

Mod. Com., 17 (1970))

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viii Maps and diagrams

235 5.3 The European linen industry in the eighteenth century248 5.4 The European iron industry in the later eighteenth century250 5.5 Ironworking in the Siegerland and neighbouring areas about 1800 (based on

F. A. A. Eversmann, Die Eisen und Stahl Erzeugung auf Wasserwerkenzwischen Lahn und Lippe, Dortmund, 1804, and A. M. Heron de Villefosse, Dela richesse minerale, Paris, 1819)

257 5.6 Ironworking in the Harz mountains (after Hermann Wedding, in Zt. HarzGesch., 14 (1881), 1-32)

258 5.7 The Clausthal-Zellerfeld mining region in the high Harz (after Heron deVillefosse, De la richesse minirale)

260 5.8 Ironworking in Upper Silesia in the late eighteenth century (after HistoriaPolski, II, pt 4, Mapy, Warsaw, 1960)

261 5.9 Ironworking in the Kielce-Holy Cross mountains region of central Poland inthe early nineteenth century (after Historia Polski, II, pt 4, Mapy)

279 6.1 The trade of the Baltic about 1800 (based mainly on J. Jepson Oddy,European Commerce, London, 1805)

295 6.2 European canals and navigable rivers, early nineteenth century300 6.3 Canals and navigable rivers in eastern Europe310 7.1 Distribution of population in Europe, about 1840312 7.2 Distribution of population in France, 1841317 7.3 Percentage population growth in Europe during the first half of the

nineteenth century318 7.4 The larger cities of Europe, about 1840320 7.5 Cities and towns of France in the mid-nineteenth century327 7.6 The cultivation of grain crops in France in the early nineteenth century, by

departements (based on tables in le comte de Chaptal, De Vindustrie frangaise,Paris, 1819)

329 7.7 Cereal cultivation in Prussia (based on tables in H. W. Graf Finck vonFinckenstein, Die Entwicklung der Landwirtschaft in Preussen und Deutschland,1800-1930, Wiirzburg, 1960)

335 7.8 Coal production and the coal trade in the 1840s336 7.9 The coalfield of Belgium and northern France (after Marcel Gillet, Les

charbonnages du nord de la France, Paris, 1973, and Les houilleres europtennes(atlas), Paris, 1931)

337 7.10 The Ruhr coalfield in the mid-nineteenth century338 7.11 The Silesian coalfield in the mid-nineteenth century339 7.12 The iron and steel industry of France in the mid-nineteenth century (based

on La sidirurgie frangaise (Le Comite" des Forges), Paris, 1914)341 7.13 The iron and steel industry of Germany in the mid-nineteenth century

(based on Bg. Hut. Zt., 1 (1842))344 7.14 European textile industries in the mid-nineteenth century356 7.15 Railway development in Europe before the mid-nineteenth century

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A.A.A.G. Annals of the Association of American Geographers(Washington, D.C.)

A.A.G. Bij. Afdeling Agrarische Geschiedenis Bijdragen (Wageningen)Acad. Besanc. Academie des Sciences, Belles-Lettres et Arts de Besancon

(Besancon)Acad. Roy. Arch. Academie Roy ale Archeologique de Beige (Brussels)

BeigeActa Bor. Acta Borussica (Berlin)Acta Hist. Neer. Acta Historiae Neerlandica (The Hague)Acta Pol. Hist. Acta Poloniae Historica (Warsaw)Actes Coll. Int. Actes de la Colloque Internationale de Demographie

Dim. Hist. Historique, Liege, 1965, Liege, n.d.Agr. Hist. Agricultural History (Berkeley, Calif.)Am. Hist. Assn American Historical Association, Annual Report

Ann. Rept (Washington, D.C.)Am. Hist. Rev. American Historical Review (Lancaster, Pa.)Ann. Bourg. Annales de Bourgogne (Dijon)Ann. Bret. Annales de Bretagne (Rennes)Ann. Dim. Hist. Annales de Dimographie Historique (Paris)Ann. ESC Annales: Economies-Sociites-Civilisations (Paris)Ann. Fac. Nice Annales de la Faculte des Lettres et Sciences Humaines de

l'Universite de Nice (Nice)Ann. Geog. Annales de Geographie (Paris)Ann. Hist. Ec. Annales d'Histoire Economique et Sociale (Paris)

Soc.Ann. Hist. Riv. Fr. Annales Historiques de la Revolution Frangaise (Paris)Ann. Hist. Soc. Annales d'Histoire Sociale (Paris)A. Litt. Nantes Annales Litteraires de l'Universite de Nantes (Paris)Ann. Midi Annales du Midi (Toulouse)Ann. Mines Annales des Mines (Paris)Ann. Norm. Annales de Normandie (Rouen)Ann. Siles. Annales Silesiae (Wroclaw)Ann. Soc. Arch. Annales de la Sociiti d'Archiologie de Bruxelles (Brussels)

Brux.Antem. Antemurale (Rome)Arch. Frank. Archiv fur Frankfurts Geschichte und Kunst

Gesch. Kunst (Frankfurt-on-Main)Bait. Scand. Baltic and Scandinavian Countries (Torun)Basl. Zt. Busier Zeitschrift (Basel)Beitr. Ost. Eis. Beitrage zur Geschichte des Osterreichischen Eisenwesens



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Beitr. Wtgesch.Num.

Bg. Hut. Zt.Bibl Arch. Hist.

lust. Fr. Arch.Bibl. Ec. Fr. Ath.

RomeBibl. Ec. Htes Et.Bibl. Fac. Liege

Bibl. Soc. Hist.Dr. Flam.

Boh.Bull. Comm. Hist.

Ec. Soc. Rev. Fr.Bull. Comm. Roy.

Hist.Bull. Inst. Arch.

LiegeBull. Inst. Hist.

Beige RomeBull. Phil. Hist.

Bull. Soc. Ant. Pic.Bull. Soc. Beige

Geog.Bull. Soc. Sci.

Dauph.Bull. Stat.Cah. Ann.Cah. Ann. Norm.Cah. Brux.Cah. Hist.Cah. Hist. Mond.Camb. Ec. Hist.

Casa Veldz.Ciba Rev.Civ. Venez.Coll. Ec. Ref. Soc.

Comm. Hist. Ec.Soc. Rev. Fr.

Comm. Roy. Hist.Con. Hist. Dim.

Riv. Fr.

Deutsch. Akad.Wiss.


Beitr age zur Wirtschaftsgeschichte N umbergs (Nuremberg)

Berg- und Huttenmannische Zeitung (Freiberg, Saxony)Bibliotheque Archeologique et Historique de llnstitutFrangais d'Archeologie d'Istanbul (Paris)Bibliotheque de VEcole-Francaise d'Athenes et de Rome(Paris)Bibliotheque de PEcole des Hautes Etudes (Paris)Bibliotheque de la Faculte de Philosophic et Lettres del'Universite de Liege (Paris)Bibliotheque de la Societe de l'Histoire du Droit des PaysFlamands, Picards et Wallons (Lille)Bohemia: Jahrbuch des Collegium Carolinum (Munich)

Bulletin de la Comm. Hist. Ec. Soc. Re"v. Fr. (Paris)

Bulletin de la Commission Royale d'Histoire (Brussels)

Bulletin de I'lnstitut Archeologique de Liege (Liege)

Bulletin de I'lnstitut Historique Beige de Rome (Brussels)

Bulletin Philologique et Historique de la Comite desTravaux Historiques et Scientifiques (Paris)Bulletin de la Societe des Antiquaires de Picardie (Amiens)Bulletin de la Societe Beige de Geographie (Brussels)

Bulletin de la Soci6te Scientifique de Dauphine (Grenoble)

Bulletin Statistique (Brussels)Cahiers des Annales (Toulouse)Cahiers des Annales Normandes (Caen)Cahiers Bruxellois (Brussels)Cahiers d'Histoire (Grenoble)Cahiers d'Histoire Mondiale (Paris)Cambridge Economic History of Europe, vols. I- ,Cambridge, 1941-Casa de Veldzquez (Madrid)Ciba Review (Basel)Civilta Veneziana (Venice)Collection des Economistes et des Reformateurs Sociauxde la France (Paris)Commission d'Histoire Economique et Sociale de laRevolution Franchise (Paris)Commission Royale d'Histoire (Brussels)Contributions d VHistoire Dimographique de la RevolutionFrangaise, Comm. Hist. Ec. Soc. R£v. Fr., Mem. et Doc, 18(1965)Deutsche Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin,Schriften des Instituts fur Geschichte, 1st ser.: Allgemeineund deutsche Geschichte (Berlin)XVUe Siecle (Paris)

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XI Abbreviations

Ec. Hist. Rev.Eng. Hist. Rev.E.P.H.E.Et. Hist. (B)Expl. Entr. Hist.

Forsch. D.Landesk.

Forsch. Soz. Wtg.

Hans. Gbl.Hist.Hist. (P)Hist. Quant. Ec.

Fr.Hist. Stud.Hommage

LabrousseHtes Et. Mid.

Mod.Int. Conf. Ec. Hist.Inst. Nat. Et. DemJb. Gesch. Mitt.

Ostd.Jb. Ges. Loth.


Jb. Nat. Stat.

Jb. Schw. Gesch.Jb. Ver. Meek.

Gesch.Jn. Ec. Hist.Jn. Ec. Soc. Hist.

OrientJn. Eur. Ec. Hist.Jn. MinesJn. Pol. Ec.Jn. Roy. Stat. Soc.Kw. Hist. Kult.

Mat.hoc. Pop. Stud.Med. Hum.Milanges F.


Mim. Acad. Roy.Sci.

Moy. AgeNass. Ann.New Camb. Mod.


Economic History Review (London)English Historical Review (London)Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes (Paris)Etudes Historiques (Budapest)Explorations in Entrepreneurial History (Cambridge,Mass.)Forschungen zur Deutschen Landeskunde (Stuttgart)

Forschungen zur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte(Stuttgart)Hansische Geschichtsblatter (Liibeck)History (London)Historia (Prague)Histoire Quantitative de VEconomie Francaise (Paris)

Historische Studien (Berlin)Conjoncture iconomique: structures sociales — hommage aErnest Labrousse, Paris, 1974Hautes Etudes Midiivales et Modernes (Geneva)

International Conference of Economic HistoryInstitut National des Etudes Demographiques (Paris)Jahrbuch fur die Geschichte Mittel- und Ostdeutschlands(Tubingen)Jahrbuch der Gesellschaft fur Lothringische Geschichte undAltertumskunde (Nancy)Jahrbucher fur Nationalokonomie und Statistik (Jena;Stuttgart)Jahrbucher fur Schweizerische Geschichte (Zurich)Jahrbucher des Vereins fur Mechlenburgische Geschichte

Journal of Economic History (New York)Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient(Leiden)Journal of European Economic History (Rome)Journal des Mines (Paris)Journal of Political Economy (Chicago)Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (London)Kwartalnik Historii Kultury Materialny (Warsaw)

Local Population Studies (Nottingham)Medievalia et Humanistica (Boulder, Colo.)Histoire iconomique du monde miditerranien, 1450—1650:melanges en Vhonneur de Fernand Braudel, 2 vols.,Toulouse, 1973Mimoires de VAcadimie Royale de Science (Paris)

Le Moyen Age (Paris)Nassauische Annalen (Wiesbaden)New Cambridge Modern History, 12 vols. and vol. XIV(atlas), Cambridge, 1957-70

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XII Abbreviations

Nouv. Et. Hist.P& PParis-HePet. Mitt.Pop.Pop. Stud.Proc. Roy. Soc.

Med.Pub. Fac. Lett.


Pub. Fac.Strasbourg

Pub. Univ. DijonQuell. Forsch.

Aggesch.Rec. Trav. Hist.

Phil.Rev. Beige Phil.

Hist.Rev. Gtog. Alp.Rev. Hist.Rev. Hist. Ec. Soc.Rev. Hist. Mod.

Cont.Rev. Hist. Sid.Rev. NordRhein. Vbl.

Rocz. Dz. Spoi.Gosp.

Sc. Ec. Hist. Rev.Schm. Jb.

Schr. Rhein.-Westf.Wtgesch.

Schw. Zt. Gesch.Soc. Hist. Suisse

Rom.Stud. Dz. G6r.

Hutn.Stud. Gen.Stud. Hist. (B)Studi FanfaniStud. Stor.Taschb. Aargau

T. Ec. S.G.


Nouvelles Etudes Historiques (Budapest)Past and Present (London)Paris et Vile de France (Paris)Petermanns Mitteilungen (Jena)Population (Paris)Population Studies (London)Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine (London)

Publications de la Faculte des Lettres et SciencesHumaines de l'Universite de Clermont-Ferrand (Paris)

Publications de la Faculte des Lettres de l'Universite deStrasbourg (Paris)Publications de l'Universite de Dijon-(Paris)

Quellen und Forschungen zur Agrargeschichte (Stuttgart)

Recueil de Travaux dJHistoire et de Philologie (Louvain)

Revue Beige de Philologie et d'Histoire (Brussels)

Revue de Giographie Alpine (Grenoble)Revue Historique (Paris)Revue d'Histoire Economique et Sociale (Paris)Revue d'Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine (Paris)

Revue d'Histoire de Sidtrurgie (Nancy)Revue du Nord (Paris)Rheinische Vierteljahrsbldtter (Bonn)Roczniki Dziejdw Spolecznych i Gospodarczych Poznan)

Scandinavian Economic History Review (Stockholm)Schmollers Jahrbuch fur Gesetzgebung, Verwaltung undVolkswirtschaft im Deutschen Reich (Munich)Schriften zur Rheinish-Westfalischen Wirtschaftsgeschichte(Cologne)Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur Geschichte (Zurich)Soci6te d'Histoire de la Suisse Romande (Lausanne)

Studia z Dziejdw Gdrnictwa i Hutnictwa (Wroclaw)

Studium GeneraleStudia Historica (Budapest)Studi in onore di Amintore Fanfani, 6 vols., Milan, 1962Studi Storici (Rome)Taschenbuch der Historischen Gesellschaft des KantonsAargau (Aarau)Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie(Rotterdam)Tijdschrift van het Koninklijk NederlandschAardrijkskundig Genootschap (Amsterdam)

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X l l l Abbreviations

Tr. Am. Phil. Soc. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society(Philadelphia)

Veroff. Planck Veroffentlichungen des Max-Planck-1nstituts furGeschichte (Gottingen)

V.S.W.G. Vierteljahrschrift fur Sozial- und Wirtschaftsgeschichte(Leipzig)

Westf Geog. Stud. Westjalische Geographische Studien (Miinster)Zt. Aggesch. Zeitschrift fur Agrargeschichte und Agrarsoziologie

(Frankfurt-on-Main)Zt. Berg. Hut. Sal. Zeitschrift fur Berg-, Hutten- und Salinenwesen im

Preussischen Staat (Berlin)Zt. Ges. Staatsw. Zeitschrift fur die Gesamte Staatswissenschaft (Tubingen)Zt. Harz Gesch. Zeitschrift des Harz-Vereins fur Geschichte und

Altertumskunde (Wernigerode)

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In 1973 the first volume of An Historical Geography of Europe waspublished. It presented a survey of the geography of the continent at fivewidely separated periods of time, from the fifth century B.C. to thefourteenth century A.D. It stressed what has come to be called the'horizontal' approach, and gave little space to the evolutionary pro-cesses which occurred between the periods chosen. Such a method isopen to criticism. The choice of the periods for intensive study is notautomatic, and several periods of great interest and historical sig-nificance received no consideration. The choice must be arbitrary,unless regularly recurring periods are chosen - every five hundred years,for example. Such a method would have been very difficult to use,because some periods, the fifth and sixth centuries A.D., for example,would be quite impossible to document on the scale contemplated.

The author tried to use what might be called 'peak' periods inEuropean history, the culminations of long historical processes. At onetime he considered using those examined by the art critic Clive Bell inhis study of Civilisation. The fifth century B.C. was an inevitable choice;perhaps also the Carolingian period in the late eighth and early ninthcenturies, but the age of the Flavian emperors hardly marks the climaxof the Roman empire. Most would regard the thirteenth rather than thefourteenth century as the culmination of medieval civilisation, and theperiod around 1100 was chosen because a survey seemed to be neededbetween the ninth century and the fourteenth.

This volume departs from the format of its predecessor. In the firstplace it covers a span of only three hundred years rather than theeighteen hundred of the earlier volume. Documentation is incompar-ably more abundant than for the period before 1500 and spatialdistributions can be studied with greater precision and in greater detail.Post-Napoleonic Europe differed greatly from Reformation Europe,but change from the one to the other was very far from revolutionary. Itwas therefore difficult to adopt a 'horizontal' approach in this volume.Periods do not distinguish themselves with sufficient clarity, and,indeed, it is difficult to discover significant change during the period incertain areas and in some fields of human activity, such as agriculture


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xvi Preface

and urban development. The method adopted has therefore been topresent a 'horizontal' picture both for the years about 1530, when thebook begins, and for the 1840s, when the impact of the IndustrialRevolution was beginning to be felt in much of continental Europe. Forthe centuries between these terminal dates change and development inthe spatial pattern has been traced topic by topic, chapter by chapter,thus combining the 'vertical' with the 'horizontal' methods. This tech-nique was first used successfully by Professor J. O. M. Broek in his studyof the Santa Clara Valley of California, and was followed by ProfessorH. C. Darby in A New Historical Geography of England.

The chief problem in studying a region as large and as complex asEurope has proved to be one of organisation. A topical treatment in the'vertical' chapters seemed to be the most practicable and convenient.Information has therefore been organised under the heads of popula-tion, urban development, agriculture, manufacturing and trade andtransport. A chapter has not been given to the history of the physicalenvironment, as could well have been the case. Instead, in the interestsof keeping the length of the book within reasonable bounds, this topichas by and large been incorporated into the chapter on agriculture.

The five chapters which emerge must look remarkably like economichistory. Indeed, the author claims to write as an historian who has alsostudied and worked in the field of geography. The spatial distribution ofeconomic activity in the past is itself an important fact in historicalexplanation. In example after example its distribution is found to be theconsequence of the physical opportunities offered by the environment,or at least of man's perception of them. The writer's primary purposehas been to introduce into history the spatial dimension which has all toooften been lacking from historical writing. In both this volume and itspredecessor he has emphasised the distribution of population andeconomic activity and their relationship to the physical environment,rather than technology and economic organisation, though the latter arein fact inseparable from the former.

As in the previous volume, both Russia and the British Isles havebeen omitted, except for incidental references where relevant. Con-straints of space would have prevented their adequate treatment, and, inany case, both have been very fully treated in other books.

Department of History, N. J. G. PoundsIndiana University,Bloomington, Indiana.

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1Europe in the early sixteenthcentury

The face of Europe in the early years of the sixteenth century was still inmost respects medieval. The horizon of the human mind had expanded;a new world had been brought into existence beyond the Atlantic;authority had been questioned as never before; the printing-press wasdisseminating knowledge more widely, but the material things of lifehad changed little since the fourteenth century. The population was stillrural and agricultural to the extent of at least 80 per cent, and almostevery village settlement existing at this date had been known twocenturies earlier. Nor had there been any significant change in thepattern of cities and towns. A few had declined in importance; othershad grown in size, but the great majority were still as they had been inthe fourteenth century, small and cut off from their fields by defensivewalls, but nonetheless closely bound up with the life of the countryside.

Despite the genius of Leonardo da Vinci and the speculations ofCopernicus, this was not an age of invention. Ships were increasing insize, and navigational aids were more widely used, but none of theseinvolved any new discovery. Mechanical devices in use at this time hadbeen known for centuries. No advances were made in the use of powerbeyond the further development and diffusion of the windmill. No newcrops were to be introduced until late in the century, and, though thepractice of fallowing had been abandoned in a few small areas, as, forexample, in the Low Countries, the three-course system of agricultureprevailed almost everywhere, except where a two-field system was stillin use. There may have been some small increase in agriculturalproductivity, but the practice of agriculture remained basicallymedieval. Perhaps the invention and spread of the blast-furnace in theclosing decades of the fifteenth and early years of the sixteenth centuryconstituted the most important technical advance of the age.

If there had been little change during the previous century in thestructures of the rural and urban scene - field systems, crop-rotations,settlements - their organisation had undergone profound alteration.Demesne farming in western Europe had long been declining inimportance. Land was being leased increasingly to prosperous peasants,while their lords lived more and more on rents in cash and in kind. In

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eastern Europe, on the other hand, the reverse was happening, asmarket conditions made demesne farming and the sale of grain increas-ingly profitable. Here the status of the peasant was being depressed asthe lords laid acre to acre and exacted increasingly heavy labour dues ontheir estates.

The sixteenth century was nevertheless an age of lavish and ostenta-tious expenditure on the construction of palaces and chateaux and onextravagant ceremonies. These, however, were for the few; the mass ofthe people lived in poverty as abject as that of the thirteenth orfourteenth century. Indeed, their plight might even have been worse, fortheir labours had now to support a vaster superstructure. Governmentwas more wasteful, armies were larger1 and warfare more costly, and itwas the peasant who bore most of their cost. The sixteenth century wasmarked by violent movements of social protest, prompted by religiousabuses, by excessive taxation and tithe and by low living standards andthe prospect of imminent starvation.2 Most savage of all these risingswas the German Peasants' War (1524-5). Their objectives, expressed inthe Memmingen Articles, included the prevention of arbitrary taxationand tithing and the exaction of excessive labour dues. They demandedthe right to take wood, fish and game, but, above all, they complained ofHhe labour services which are daily increased and daily grow'.3

The scale of economic activity was increasing. Larger ships were beingbuilt; mining enterprises were more ambitious and were organised on acapitalist basis. The volume of trade was increasing, as most of Europewas very slowly drawn into a single economic system, in which estatefarming in Poland was adjusted to the demand for bread crops inwestern cities, and bullion, imported through Spanish ports, was used bymerchants on Europe's steppe frontier. The economic crises of thefifteenth century had been spasmodic and local, influencing one branchof production and one region and not another. The price rise of thesixteenth century, on the other hand, was general. It spread from westand south across the continent; no part was spared. To this extent aneconomic unity had been achieved within the limits of traditionalEurope.

There was change also in the pattern of trade. The great discoveriesbrought Atlantic ports and sea routes to the fore. The internal routes ofEurope, however, were very far from being neglected; indeed, thevolume of goods transported over them increased, but with changingemphasis on commodities and places of trade. Lyons became the leadingcommercial centre in the west. Italian manufacturing and commercialcentres had lost some of their earlier importance, and the Flanders citiespaled before Antwerp, as Antwerp was to do within the century with therise of Amsterdam. New commodity fairs sprang up, like the wool fair of

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3 Europe in the early sixteenth century

Medina del Campo, in Old Castile. New ports like Livorno (Leghorn)and Le Havre responded to new commercial needs. Some amongst theolder ports decayed, while others - Riga, Danzig, Saint-Malo, Lisbonand Cadiz - reached a new peak of prosperity. In eastern Europe newtowns sprang up, and a few grew rich on the profits of trade in grain,metals and forest products. Even today, some retain the faded evidenceof their Renaissance splendour.

The physical scene

Superficially regarded, the Europe of the early sixteenth centurydiffered little from that of the nineteenth or twentieth. There was thesame pattern of mountains, hills and plains as we see now. The samerivers flowed seawards, subject to the same rhythm of flood and lowwater. A closer inspection, however, reveals thousands of ways in whichRenaissance Europe differed from that of today. Valleys were wetterand rivers flooded more readily. The water table generally stood higherin the rocks, and some areas which are today under the plough werethen undrained fenland. The forest cover was more extensive, and itsfauna more varied, and in certain minor respects man's experience evenof the weather was different.

The physical regions of Europe

Over most of Scandinavia there stretched a worn-down plateau, madeup of old, hard rocks, metamorphosed by geological processes andintruded by metalliferous veins. Its higher surfaces had been scrapedbare of soil by the movement of ice during the Ice Age, and over thelower ground the detritus carried from the uplands formed an unevencover of clay, sand and gravel. Quite apart from the harshness of itsclimate, this was an uninviting land with a thin, poor and unrewardingsoil.

The second region was the great plain which extended from thePyrenees northwards and eastwards until it merged into the vastness ofRussia. It was built of younger and softer rocks than the highlands ofScandinavia. East of the river Rhine this plain was partially covered withclay and sand transported by the ice and deposited when it had reachedits maximum extent. Around the outer margin of the area of glaciationoutblowing winds had distributed a fine, dust-like deposit, known asloess or limon. In some areas this was only a thin veneer, since removedby erosion or incorporated into the soil by ploughing. In others itaccumulated to a depth of several metres. Its importance lay in the easewith which it could be cleared and cultivated and in the abundant cropswhich it yielded. The great European plain was in consequence a region

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of greatly varying fertility, ranging from the fertile limon of the Beauce,the 'granary of Paris', to the sterile heaths of Brandenburg whichFrederick the Great attempted with so little success to tame andcultivate.

To the south of the plain lay a belt of hills, from Spain to Poland andthe Balkan peninsula. It consisted of a number of separate plateaux ormassifs, cut off from one another by wide valleys and extensions of thenorthern plain. This region was built of hard rocks, older than thosewhich composed the plain, younger than Scandinavia. Like the latterthey had been intruded locally by mineral-bearing lodes. These hillsrarely rise to more than 500 to 1000 metres. Their climate is a degree ortwo cooler than in the nearby lowlands; the rainfall is many millimetresgreater, and snow commonly lies for much of the winter. This region wasnever covered by the Quaternary ice-sheets, but its soil, leached bypercolating water, is nonetheless poor and infertile.

These massifs are part Of the basem*nt or foundation on which Europeis built. They were thrust up like islands through the younger rocks ofthe plain, or were caught up in the earth-movements which folded theAlpine system. Much of this region has always been forested, and itspopulation relatively sparse. Agricultural land was largely under grass,and such crop-farming as was carried on emphasised the hardy cerealslike oats and rye, and fodder crops.

The Alpine system makes up the last of the major landform regions ofEurope. It extends from the extremity of the Spanish peninsula to theBlack Sea coast and the southern headlands of Greece, from which it iscontinued through the Greek islands to Asia Minor and beyond. Abranch from the French Alps runs the length of Italy as the Apennines,and is continued in Sicily and in the Atlas mountains of North Africa.Crossing points were relatively few, especially in the Pyrenees and theAlps of France, Switzerland and Austria, and the Alpine system hasalways provided the most significant barrier in Europe to transport andcommunication.

The Alpine system brings together a great range of physical condi-tions, not only of terrain but also of climate and soil. The sequence ofthe seasons is even more significant here than elsewhere, because someparts of the region - the grassy slopes of the higher mountains, forexample - can be used economically for only part of the year. Thepractice of transhumance (the seasonal movement of part of a com-munity together with its animals between two or even three differingenvironments in order to make use of marginal resources) is met withthroughout the region. A consequence of the marginal character ofmuch of the Alpine region has been the predominance of pastoralism.Crop-farming was restricted to the valleys and lower slopes, where alone

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5 Europe in the early sixteenth century

the growing season is long enough. Even so, crops were in most parts ofthe region restricted to quick-growing and hardy cereals and foddercrops.

The Alpine system has always been characterised by the relativeisolation and independence of its constituent parts. The valleys, cut offby mountains and often approached only by a difficult mountain road,had always supported a self-sufficing and inbred community. Life washard in this environment; 'plein de difficultes', as Montaigne wrote, 'lesmeurs des hommes estranges, chemins inaccessibles, logis sauvages, l'airinsupportable'.4 Famine crises were intensified by the isolation. Therewere, however, exceptions. Traffic was funnelled through a few passesand along a small number of routes where, as Bishop Burnet pointed outin the seventeenth century, 'the inhabitants seem to live at their ease',though they did so only at the expense of the travelling public.5

The last of the distinctive regions of Europe is the smallest, thecoastlands of the Mediterranean Sea. The European shore of the inlandsea is bordered by the mountains of the Alpine system, but sedimenta-tion by the Alpine rivers has created a succession of alluvial lowlandsand coastal plains. These occur from southern Spain to the Aegean.They range from a few square kilometres to lowlands as extensive as theplain of Lombardy or of Andalusia, and in quality from coarse sand andgravel to the richest alluvium. They supported the classical civilisationsof the Mediterranean and have continued, despite problems of watermanagement, to feed an appreciable part of the population of theregion.

The Alpine system forms a climatic divide. The contrast between thecloudy skies to the north and the brilliance of the Mediterranean hasbecome a commonplace of travel literature from the Renaissancetravellers to Goethe, who described with wonder the transformation incrops and climate as he progressed from the Tyrol down the Adigevalley to Verona.6 'North of the Alps', wrote D. H. Lawrence, 'theeverlasting winter is interrupted by summers that struggle and soonyield; south of the Alps, the everlasting summer is interrupted byspasmodic and spiteful winters that never get a real hold . . . North ofthe Alps, you may have a pure winter's day in June. South of the Alps,you may have a midsummer day in December or January or evenFebruary.'7 Climates north of the Alps have mild or warm summers,cool or cold winters, and rainfall at all seasons of the year. There arenonetheless important variations between west and east as well asbetween south and north. In western Europe, where the oceanicinfluence is most strongly felt, mild winters are associated with coolsummers and rainfall comes most heavily in the winter months. As oneprogresses eastwards winters become cooler and summers warmer,

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while a maximum rainfall in summer gradually replaces that of winter.There is no arbitrary division between the 'continental' climate ofcentral and eastern Europe and the 'maritime1 climate of western. Theone merges into the other, with occasional periods of continentalseverity in the oceanic west and, on the other hand, the penetration ofmaritime conditions into eastern Europe. Rainfall, in addition tomoving from a winter to a summer maximum, becomes smaller inamount towards the east, though the volume of precipitation also varieswith altitude.

These physical conditions are of profound human importance. Theyinfluence every facet of life from styles of clothing and of architecture tothe practice of agriculture. In the wetter lands of the west and the coolerlands of the mountains and of the north the climate favours grass andfodder crops rather than cereals. The latter become relatively moreimportant away from the western margins of the continent, thougheverywhere the quality of the soil is no less important a determinantthan the characteristics of the climate.

Northern Europe, comprising broadly Scandinavia and the Balticregion, has a climate of cool summers and cold winters which becomeprogressively more extreme as one moves northwards and eastwards.Over a large part of the region, summers are too cool and too short forcultivated crops. The agricultural frontier extends across Norway,Sweden and Finland and into Russia. It is a zone within which theprobability of crop failure increases. The farmer advances into it, drivenby population pressure or tempted by a succession of good harvestyears, but always he is repelled by the ultimate failure of his crops.

Climate is merely a statement of probabilities. The weather which isexperienced from day to day and influences the growth of the crops andthe success of the harvest often departs widely from the pattern bfclimate. In the sixteenth century such departures were probably nogreater than in other ages, but man was ill equipped to face them. Thelater Middle Ages appear to have been characterised by increasedstorminess. Sailings between Scandinavia and Iceland diminished innumber, and after about 1410 the route to Greenland was abandonedand its small colony perished in the worsening climate.8 There werestorm-surges at many points on the European coast, and large areaswere inundated. It is difficult to write in general terms of the climaticfluctuations of the early sixteenth century. Northern Europe becamecolder, and the pack-ice spread more widely and lasted longer in theyear. Within Europe there was a sequence of severe winters. 'Therewere years of distress in all northern countries; farms or farmland had tobe abandoned to the ice in Iceland, Norway and the Alps. Growing ofcereals completely ended in Iceland.'9 The twenties and thirties of the

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7 Europe in the early sixteenth century

sixteenth century, however, were marked by a temporary improvement.The vast body of climatic evidence assembled by Weikinn10 shows thatthese were, in general, years of mild but very wet winters, with severefloods on all the rivers from France to Poland. The winter of 1513-14was an exception; it was very cold and led to great suffering and misery.The journal of a Paris burgess described an acute frost in the closingweeks of 1522, so severe, indeed, that newly sown grain was killed and*il convient de nouveau ressemer les dictz bledz'.11 Problems duringthese years, however, lay rather in the flooded fields, bridges sweptaway, roads made impassable and houses in Paris collapsing as theirfoundations were sapped by the rising waters of the Seine.12

During the middle years of the sixteenth century winters becamemore severe, frost more frequent and snow more abundant. Contem-poraries more often recorded hard frosts and frozen rivers than disas-trous floods, and many climatic historians have since taken these years tomark the beginning of what they term the 'little Ice Age'. In Provencewine yields were reduced by the cooler and more cloudy summers.13 Innorthern Europe cultivation contracted on the hillsides, and the tree-line sank lower in the mountains. The glaciers of the Alps crept fartherdown their valleys; the snow cover on the passes became deeper andtravel more difficult and hazardous. Vineyards and olive groves werekilled by the frost, and ports on the shores of the Baltic were closed byice for a longer period in winter. Everywhere the intensity of insolationwas lowered by perhaps several per cent.14

The slight change in climate was reflected in the rivers. The snow meltwas less vigorous in summer, and the Rhine - and doubtless otherrivers - carried less water so that some of their channels in the LowCountries became too shallow for navigation. This in turn facilitated thedrainage and reclamation projects undertaken at this time.15 Riverssilted more readily. The Zwin, the river of Bruges, ceased to benavigable above Sluys for sea-going ships. The coastline advanced alongthe Scheldt estuary, and near the mouths of other rivers in westernEurope natural silting went hand in hand with endyking and reclama-tion.


The area under forest was beginning to contract and was indeed tocontinue to do so until the present century. In the sixteenth centurymost of Europe's forests, except in Scandinavia, were of broad-leavedtrees. Beech and oak were most widespread, but alder, willow and ashwere common on damp and low-lying ground. Conifers, now sowidespread in all parts of Europe, were found in few places outsideScandinavia and the Baltic region. Even the Black Forest was clothed

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Fig. 1.1 Distribution of forest in the Paris region in the sixteenthcentury

with deciduous woodland, and over the German and Polish plainsbroad-leaved trees predominated. In Germany conifers were abundantonly in Pomerania and Prussia, but east of the Baltic and over much ofScandinavia they predominated and from their vast resources were tosupply the navies of western Europe with masts and spars.16

Everything points to a change in the character of Europe's forests,beginning in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Conifers were spread-ing at the expense of deciduous trees. They had been introduced into thehilly areas of central Germany by 1500, and were established on theplain of the Rhine, where the lower water table dried out the sandy soilsand made them less suitable for broad-leaved trees.

The earlier Middle Ages had seen severe inroads into the forests ofEurope. They recovered somewhat in the fourteenth and fifteenthcenturies; demand for timber was reduced and depopulation in thecourse of war allowed the woods to recover. In France, it was said, theforests came back with the English. In the sixteenth and followingcenturies there were renewed attacks on the woodlands, until, overmuch of Europe, the timber shortage reached crisis proportions in theeighteenth. The reasons did not lie altogether in the growth of popula-tion and the expansion of the area under cultivation. Technologicaldevelopments made increasing demands on the supply of wood. Domes-tic building, much of it in wood, became more elaborate, and wherebrick and tile were used, these had to be baked in wood-fired kilns.Ships were increasing in size, and Venice, having exhausted the sources

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Europe in the early sixteenth century

Fig. 1.2 Distribution of forest in the Paris region in the eighteenthcentury

of ships' timber which formerly grew along the Adriatic coast, wasobliged to turn to the Alpine foothills in search of suitable trees.17 Atthe same time the demand for timber for industrial purposes hadincreased sharply. Wood fuel had long been used to evaporate brine atthe salt-springs and to refine iron on the hearth. To these were addedthe manufacture of glass, the burning of bricks and the production ofwood-ash for soap-making. But the most extravagant consumer of woodwas the iron industry. The newly introduced blast-furnace used immensequantities of charcoal (see p. 51), and the subsequent refining yetmore.

In central and eastern Europe there was, however, no scarcity.Forests were more extensive and local demands on them were smaller.Mager has estimated that in Prussia at least 40 per cent of the land wasstill under forest as late as the eighteenth century.18 Nonetheless, thedestructive exploitation of the eastern forests had already begun, andthose close to navigable waterways were being cleared to provide timberand potash for western Europe. From the fourteenth century there hadbeen a growing shortage of good-quality timber for shipbuilding, and inthe sixteenth, the merchants of Danzig, Elbl§g and other ports werepressing their search for merchantable timber deep into Lithuania.19

Everywhere the extent of the Baltic forests was contracting, not so muchbefore the peasant's plough as from the insatiable demand for timber fornaval and industrial use.

The forests of Mediterranean Europe had never been as extensive as

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those north of the Alps, and their destruction had begun in classicaltimes, if not earlier. Except in the mountains, they provided little goodtimber, and for this the naval powers of the Mediterranean competedfiercely. By the sixteenth century only a few areas of high forestremained along the European shores of the Mediterranean, amongstthem Albania and parts of the Dalmatian coast and, on the oppositeshore of the Adriatic Sea, Monte Gargano and Calabria. By the sixteenthcentury even these were becoming depleted, and with the disappearanceof the southern forests went the decline of Mediterranean fleets. In thisrespect the Turks had an advantage denied to their rivals, the oakforests of the Pontic region of Asia Minor. The Venetians and Spaniardswere obliged to turn to northern Europe for their naval supplies, andeven for fully built ships.20

Timber was as necessary as food to a pre-industrial society. It wasneeded a chaufer et a bastir. Much food was inedible until it had beencooked and in winter some form of domestic heating was necessary evento preserve life. Vauban's elaborate calculations showed that 700arpents of woodland (about 425 hectares), allowing twenty years'growth - which was probably the minimum necessary - could be madeto yield annually 350 cordes of gros bois, 49,000 bundles of firewoodand 12,250 fa*ggots.21 This, he estimated, would have supplied about110 households with wood for heating, cooking and constructionalneeds, especially if it could have been supplemented with the trimmingsfrom hedges, fruit trees and vines.

If Vauban was correct - and he was in general a careful witness - thewood supply of most communities in western Europe fell desperatelyshort of what was deemed necessary for domestic use. It was very scarcein Mediterranean Europe, and adequate only in central and eastern. Atthe fairs of Medina del Campo, it was said, food cost less than the fuelneeded to cook it, and the Swiss traveller Felix Platter said of Montpel-lier that it was fortunate that winter was short, since the fuel supplywould not last longer.22 The forests also supplied pannage for pigs whichover the northern half of Europe supplied much of the peasants' smallintake of meat.

The area under forest was growing smaller in most parts of Franceand had almost disappeared from much of the Low Countries. Extensivewoodlands were preserved by the king and nobility for hunting, butpeasant clearings were nonetheless authorised, and large areas weresometimes conceded to charcoal burners and iron-masters. The vastforests of the Saulx-Tavanes in Burgundy were thus leased for fuel.23

Elsewhere the competition between the iron-master and the peasant fortimber led to violence as early as the sixteenth century24 as well as to agradual destruction of this essential resource.25 Deveze's generalised

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11 Europe in the early sixteenth century

map of the forested areas of northern France in the early sixteenthcentury26 can be compared with that prepared by the Cassinis (figs. 1.1and 1.2). While no precision can be claimed for the former, thecontraction is nonetheless apparent. Deveze claims that in the thirty-onedepartments for which data are available, 16.3 per cent of the land wasforested about 1550. By the twentieth century this had fallen to about 9per cent.27 The scarcity of timber, apparent in the sixteenth century,gradually became more acute. Attempts to conserve the woodlandswere ineffective. Too many individuals and institutions had prescriptiverights in them, and the destructive exploitation by charcoal burners,glass-makers and others seemed impossible to prevent or even restrain.The long-distance transport of timber was practicable only by water, andthe larger cities were supplied by plottage. Paris, for example, drew fromBurgundy and the Morvan, and timber from the Black Forest wasfloated down the Rhine. In such agricultural regions as Beauce, Picardy,Flanders and Brabant the situation had become desperate by theeighteenth century, and one wonders how the rural population survivedsuch cold winters as that of 1709-10.

Nationalism and the political map

The impact of central government on human activities had been slightduring the Middle Ages, and even in modern times there were areas ofpolitical obligation which in 1789 were not sure whether they belongedto France or Germany and suggested that they might have beenindependent of both.28 Such uncertainty was more common in thesixteenth century, but already that sense of belonging to a larger group,which we call nationalism, was beginning to pervade the more articulateclasses of Europe. A feudal organisation of society was giving place to amore modern concept, that of the state, enclosed by precise boundariesand endowed with rights over all who lived within them. This twofoldprocess, the creation of the state and the diffusion of a sense of unitywithin it, was only in its infancy in the early sixteenth century. The statewas still not fully aware of its territorial limits and resources, and manyof its subjects continued to think more in terms of feudal obligations andlocal loyalties than of national aspirations, as, indeed, some continued todo into the nineteenth century.

In 1546 Charles V was passing along the eastern or imperial bank ofthe Meuse in what is today Lorraine, when he noticed the newlyfounded French town of Villefranche on the opposite bank. He com-plained that it had been built on imperial territory, but, in the words ofthe chronicle, 'the records of the district, covering two centuries, werebrought and examined, and it was shown that the inhabitants of the new

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Fig. 1.3 Europe: political map, about 1530

town were subjects of the French king'.29 The question asked by theemperor of the citizens was the medieval one: Whose are you? To whomdo you owe loyalty and allegiance? even though in this instance themutual boundary of France and the empire had long been establishedalong the river, where it was to remain until the eighteenth century.

Boundaries gained precision in a piecemeal fashion, usually when alawsuit required definition in a particular area. Such a case was that ofClaude de la Vallee, prevot of Clermont-en-Argonne, who had beenfined for some misdemeanour while in office by the courts of the Dukeof Lorraine. He escaped to France where he claimed that only the courtsof the King of France had jurisdiction over Clermont.30 On this occasionthe French kings did not press their claims, and it was left for Richelieuto annex the Clermontois to France. The solution in such cases wasusually to adopt a conspicuous physical feature, most often a river, asthe line of the boundary.

In the Low Countries the conversion of barriers between personalobligations into boundaries between political units presented evengreater difficulties. It gave rise to territorial enclaves and exclaves and tocountless places in which sovereignty was actually divided. The Tour-naisis, for example, was made up of about eighty named settlements;

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13 Europe in the early sixteenth century

over a half of them were politically divided between Tournai andneighbouring states.31

These incidents occurred along boundaries that had become relativelywell established. In some parts of western and more widely in easternEurope boundaries were still ill-defined zones - frontiers in the strictsense. The limits of Bohemia and Poland, of some German states andSwiss cantons, ran through forest and waste in which men from bothsides cut timber, grazed their animals and pursued quarrels which nocourts existed to resolve. The Swiss boundary in the Jura and thedivision of grazing rights were not effectively settled until the nineteenthcentury.32 The task of 'clearing up all this feudal debris'33 was to last, atleast in central Europe, into the twentieth century.

Despite the many instances of vagueness and uncertainty, sixteenth-century rulers could be expected to have a very considerable knowledgeof the lands which they ruled. They were helped by the newly inventedprinting-press, which disseminated the facts of history and geography.Maps began to be printed with some pretension to accuracy in thelocation of towns and villages, rivers and hills. Above all, more peoplewere travelling, not only along the familiar routes of trade and pilgrim-age, but also to areas which had no commercial or spiritual attraction.There was an intense desire to know what the inhabited world was like.A. L. Rowse has written of the 'Elizabethan discovery of England', andcommended the achievement of John Leland who, well before themiddle of the century, 'was totally inflamed with a love to seethoroughly all those parts of [this] opulent and ample realm'. Topo-graphical writings became increasingly common in many parts of Europe,presenting their peculiar blend of popular history, geography and folklore.

This genre had developed in the fifteenth century. In 1457 AeneasSylvius (Pope Pius II) wrote his descriptive letter on Germany,34 and atabout the same time Gilles le Bouvier produced his Livre de ladescription des pays, a simple narrative account of regions, rivers andresources.35 Le debat des herauts was written soon after 1460; in it twoprotagonists extolled the wealth and resources of their respectivecountries.36 The Heralds' Debate is a dry academic exercise, but atabout the same time a Ballade contre les Anglais*1 had appeared. Thelatter was profoundly different; it belonged 'to another world of thought. . . it has in it the venom of a life-and-death struggle between twopeoples'. The English are seen 'not only [as] enemies; they areforeigners, men of another "sort" \3 8 The sixteenth-century topo-graphical writings were born of a marriage of such deeply felt emotionswith a detailed knowledge of the land and its history. Such a product wasLeland's Itinerary, as were also, despite their wide differences in styleand character, the Swiss history of Johann Stumpf, the Germania of

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Jakob Wimpfeling, the Bischreibung etlicher Gelegenheit TeutschenLands of Sebastian Brant, the Cosmographia of Sebastian Miinster, andthe Polish history of Jan Dlugosz.

In 1492 Conrad Celtis, in a public oration at the University ofIngolstadt, called upon his audience to 'consider it . . . the height ofshame to know nothing about the topography, the climate, the rivers,the mountains, the antiquities and the peoples of our region and ourown country'.39 Most of the topographical writers echoed this senti-ment, though their emphasis varied. The Germans tended to emphasisethe German-language area. Johann Stumpf sought to define the limits ofGermany 'by examining customs, character and language';40 to UlrichMutius, Germany was the area 'in which the German language or any ofits dialects was spoken',41 while Johann Rauw towards the end of thecentury sought to define the boundaries of German speech. From thisemphasis on the language-area there grew a sense of a Germaniairredenta: 'our famous harbour [Danzig]', wrote Celtis, 'is held by thePole, and the gateway to our ocean [the Sound] by the Dane'.42 To theeast, he added, lived communities 'separated from the body of ourGermany . . . [such as] the Transylvanian Saxons who also use our racialculture and speak our native language'. Wimfeling sought to embraceAlsace within Germany, despite its location to the west of the Rhine, byappealing to place-names and the language used in monuments andinscriptions.43 In these writings there is a curious anticipation of theideas of J. G. Herder, if not also of some Germans in the presentcentury.

In these writings we find the German humanists striving for adefinition of Germany with which they could become emotionallyinvolved. They had tried the classical model of Tacitus' Germania and ithad failed; they had looked to the German empire, and found it toodiffused and abstract. So they settled for the German folk-area. Indeedthey had no alternative, however disastrous for the future of Europetheir choice may have been.

Italy, like Germany, had a common language, but was dividedbetween many states. Northern peoples, both French and German, hadat intervals broken across the Alpine barrier to devastate the plains ofItaly. At least as early as the time of Petrarch some Italians hadconceived of Italy as a land distinct from all others and in fact cut offfrom them by the barrier of the Alps. It was with considerablesatisfaction that they echoed Cicero's words to the effect that God haderected the Alps as a protection for their country. Indeed, they hadconstantly before them the classical model of a united Italy.

Machiavelli exhorted his fellow countrymen to deliver Italy 'from theBarbarians',44 but, like his contemporaries, nonetheless approved the

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15 Europe in the early sixteenth century

fragmentation of the country into city-republics. They found no incon-sistency between their intense loyalty to their own state and hostility toothers on the one hand, and their belief in the unity of Italy. FrancescoGuicciardini could write a Florentine history filled with local pride andfierce condemnation of other city-republics and also a history of Italy, inwhich he lamented the inability of Italians to combine against a commonenemy. 'I want to see three things before 1 die', he wrote; 'a wellordered republic in our city, Italy liberated from all the barbarians, theworld delivered from the tyranny . . . of priests.'45

French nationalism was at this time less vociferous, perhaps because ithad less to protest against than German and Italian. It had beentempered in the wars with England, and France had achieved a degreeof political unity which Germany and Italy were not to attain until thenineteenth century. There was a concept of community within France,even though its boundaries might long continue to be debated. Frenchtopographical writings plead less and describe more fully. They are filledwith praise of la douce France, the fertility of its soil and the abundanceof its vegetable and mineral production. 'This best garden of the world,our fertile France', wrote Shakespeare, showing how he had succumbedto French writings about their own country.

French nationalism in the early sixteenth century, like both Germanand Italian, was firmly based upon language. In Germany it waslu*ther's Mittelhochdeutsch\ in Italy, the Tuscan dialect. In France, noless, there were local dialects and even, in peripheral regions, distinctlanguages. France differed, however, in having a central governmentable to impose one particular dialect, make it the official language andencourage its use in a national literature. By the Ordinance of Villers-Cotterets (1539) Francis I initiated certain judicial reforms and at thesame time required that official acts be recorded and published in thelangue d'oi'l, the dialect of northern France and the Paris basin. At thesame time a conscious attempt was made to use this chosen language asa medium for a literary development. Claude de Seyssel urged hiscontemporaries to use French rather than the classical languages in theirwritings, and thus initiated a literary trend which complemented thepolitical movement towards unity.

The Spanish peninsula had never, not even during the period ofRoman domination, formed a political, certainly not a cultural, unit. Itsinternal divisions were intensified during the Middle Ages. WhileCatalans to the east and Portuguese to the west were pursuing theircommercial and maritime schemes, the Castilians - by far the mostnumerous of the peoples of the peninsula - were locked in a deadlystruggle with the Moors. To the barrier of language was added adifference in outlook between the medieval, crusading Castilian and the

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16 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

more forward-looking, commercial and industrialised peoples of thewest, the north and the east of the peninsula. Under Charles V Spainbecame the focus of a world empire, a role for which Castile was wellcast, but not one calculated to unify the peninsula. Spain was perhapsthe only European state in which local feeling was intensified during thesixteenth century, so that national unity seemed farther away at its endthan when the century began.

One may question how deeply this sense of nationhood was experi-enced by the majority of the people in the nation-states of Europe. Formost their mental horizon was a narrow one, and their longest journeyno greater than that to the nearest market town. The inhabitants of thenext valley or of an adjoining town were different, untrustworthy, evenhostile. Such primitive, almost tribal, emotions were gradually subli-mated, but there was no sudden change from local to national feeling.This transition was made first by the literate classes, the officials,scholars and merchants, who were the public for whom the topo-graphers wrote, but even they cherished their ancient and local laws andcustoms. Any attempt to abridge them might lead to protest and evenrebellion. Philip II's crime in the Low Countries was not his support ofthe Counter-Reformation, but his violation of the rights and privilegesof the individual provinces. Europe was still a mosaic of communities,cut off one from the other by barriers of prejudice and custom, uponwhich governments were trying to impose administrative unity.

A common language was probably the most powerful force in creatinga nation, but only a degree less important was the existence of acommon foe or the experience of a deep emotional crisis. The Frenchhad endured such an experience in the Hundred Years' War; the Czechsin the Hussite wars; the Dutch in the war against Spain. Such an ordealbrought home to each of these people the truth that the differenceswithin each of them were slight compared with the barriers betweenthemselves and other nations. The struggle against the outsider was anemotional experience in which most of the people participated, andoften enough their achievements were exaggerated to heroic propor-tions after the event. It became the role of the topographical writers toelaborate this body of heroic legend, and nowhere was this done moreskilfully than in Switzerland, so that it is difficult today to distinguishbetween fact and fiction in the history of the Swiss revolt. Amongst theDutch the experience of revolt was no less profound and far-reaching. Inthe early sixteenth century the Low Countries were made up of small,separate and quarrelsome states. Yet, in Renier's words, 'the Dutchnation was born, coherent, and distinct from other national units. It wasborn because, during the second half of the sixteenth century, a statecame into existence, within whose territory men lived and strove

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17 Europe in the early sixteenth century

together, and shared experiences so crowded and so intense that theyfound themselves overnight where it had taken the people of othernational states centuries to arrive.'46

The dominant powers in Europe were France and Spain. Both werepopulous and powerful, able to maintain large armies and to carry ontheir mutual conflicts from one end of Europe to the other. Aroundthese two were grouped most other political divisions of Europe. Italyand Germany, despite the wealth and culture of the one and the size andresources of the other, were only pawns in the struggle of France andSpain, of Valois and Habsburg.

Italy was divided at this time into more than a dozen principalities.Their number had diminished as Milan, Venice and Florence, tomention only three, extended their territory by conquest and theabsorption of smaller city-republics. Their mutual quarrels, endemicsince the earlier Middle Ages, exposed Italy to invasion, and from theFrench incursion of 1494 to that of the imperialists in 1526 the wholecountry was repeatedly fought over and ravaged, and in 1527 the city ofRome was sacked as never before.

Germany in the narrow sense was, for the greater part, embracedwithin the German empire, which gave it the illusion of unity and acertain aura within the European states system. In reality, however, itpresented a picture of even greater disunity than Italy. Territorial statesand imperial cities, each of them independent and sovereign in all butname, reached a total of some three hundred. A few, like Bavaria,Brandenburg and Electoral Saxony, were extensive and powerfulenough to demand a price for their friendship. Most were too small toplay any independent role, and some cities could survive only byforming urban leagues. An attempt to introduce some order andstability into this changing scene by organising the states into a numberof Kreise had failed, and now, in the third decade of the century, a newfactor of discord was introduced, the Protestant Reformation. Its effectwas to polarise the German states, to increase the authority of theprinces within their territories, and, in the following century, to precipi-tate the most damaging war so far even in Germany's long history ofconflict.

The western border of Germany was in theory clear and unambigu-ous, running from the Scheldt to the Meuse and from the Meuse to theSaone and Rhone. In practice it was blurred in many areas by conflictingfeudal loyalties and obscured by the creation of the Burgundian state.By a combination of marriage, inheritance and conquest, the Burgun-dian dukes, scions of the French Valois, had in the fourteenth andfifteenth centuries got possession of the French Duchy of Burgundy, ofthe Free County of the same name, which lay within the theoretical

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18 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

boundary of the empire, and of the greater part of the Low Countries.This ill-assorted bundle of territories was held by a variety of legal titles.All retained their 'customs', and the dukes had little success in creatingpolitical unity within them or establishing a centralised administration.Marriage, which had done much to bring these territories together, tookthem, after the death of the last duke in 1477, to the emperorMaximilian and joined them with the Habsburg lands in southernGermany and Austria. Philip of Habsburg in the next generationmarried Johanna, heiress of Castile and Aragon as well as of the Spanishempire in the New World. Their son, the emperor Charles V, was rulerof all the lands which had thus been brought together. To these headded Bohemia and those parts of Hungary which escaped the Turkishconquest when their last king, Lewis, perished as he fled from thebattlefield of Mohacs (1526).

The emperor thus came to rule almost a quarter of the land area ofEurope, if we exclude Russia, Scandinavia and the British Isles, withperhaps a similar proportion of its population. To this he added theeconomic power which he derived from the Spanish empire. Super-ficially regarded, the power of the Habsburgs was overwhelming. Theycould control at some point most of the routes from the Mediterraneanto northern Europe, and they were in a position to dominate most of thesea routes which followed Europe's coastline. They controlled much ofEurope's metal production, as well as the sources of most of the goldand silver which passed into circulation. Never, it might have seemed,had so many of the determinants of power been united in the hands of asingle ruler since the end of the Roman empire.

Yet the power of the Habsburgs fell short of what one might haveexpected. Their lands were scattered; movement between them was farfrom easy, and much depended on the willingness of the Swiss to opentheir passes to the movement of imperial troops and the freedom ofSpanish ships to sail up the English Channel to the Low Countries.Other problems also faced the Habsburgs: social unrest in Spain,particularism in the Low Countries and hostility to Habsburg rule in theCzech and Hungarian lands. Above all, the empire over which CharlesV ruled was split by the religious upheaval of the Reformation. CharlesV devoted his energies to preserving the spiritual unity of his inheri-tance. He failed, but long before the settlement of Augsburg (1555) itwas apparent that north Germany had espoused the Protestant causeand that much of the south had remained loyal to the emperor andfaithful to the church. The religious wars were interrupted during thelatter half of the sixteenth century, but revived with greater fury in theseventeenth. Warfare then ceased to be an instrument of religiouspolicy. It became more controlled and humane, until the new religion

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19 Europe in the early sixteenth century

of nationalism restored to it something of its old ruthlessness andsavagery.47 The religious wars saw the eclipse of the power of theGerman emperors and the reduction of their authority in central Europeto the ancestral Habsburg lands.

The Habsburg empire was threatened no less from without. Thebattle of Mohacs (1526) marked the end of the Hungarian kingdom,which had long served as a buffer protecting Austria and the empirefrom the Ottoman Turks. In 1529 the Turks for the first time attackedVienna. They were repulsed, but for a century and a half Europe'seastern frontier lay only a few miles down the Danube from the city, andthe energies of the Austrian Habsburgs were largely consumed inprotecting Europe's eastern flank.

Along the steppe road which leads from southern Poland towards theBlack Sea and in the Mediterranean basin Europe was also threatenedby the forces of Islam. Rhodes fell to the Turks in 1522 and the Greekislands not long after. The Moslems were a constant threat to Europe'sseaborne commerce, and not until they were defeated at Lepanto(1571) by a combined Spanish and Venetian fleet was the dangerreduced. At the same time the corsairs of the Barbary coast carried on aless organised but more persistent campaign against Europe's ships andcoastline.

Spain became the focus of Habsburg power, especially after theabdication of Charles V (1556) when the Austrian lands passed to hisyounger brother, Ferdinand. It provided a more secure base thaneither Austria or the Low Countries. Through the port of Seville waschannelled the bullion of the New World, without which the emperorcould not have retained the loyalty of his armies. The Spanish empire inthe New World was, nevertheless, a constant drain on Spanish man-power and resources. No less than 200,000 migrated from Spain,most of them from Castile, and this was unquestionably a factor inthe economic decline of Spain.48 In the long run it is doubtful whetherthe benefits which Spain derived from her empire outweighed theobligations it imposed.

Scandinavia had, since the Viking age, played only a passive role inthe history of Europe. It was, with the exception of Denmark, a sparselypopulated frontier region, whose leading products - fish, timber andiron - were largely handled by German merchants. The kingdom ofDenmark, most developed of the Scandinavian states, embraced southernSweden and profited from the tolls levied on the traffic which passedthrough the Sound. Norway, chiefly important for its fisheries, had beenlinked with the Danish crown since 1397, but Sweden had been restlessunder Danish rule, and in 1523 a movement with overtones of Swedishnationalism placed Gustavus Vasa on the throne and initiated a period

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20 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

of expansion.The eastern tier of states, from the Baltic to the Adriatic, underwent

profound changes as the Middle Ages ended. Their traditional role hadbeen in some sense to provide a frontier, or buffer, between Europe andthe east. By the mid-fifteenth century the Turks had conquered theBalkan peninsula south of the Danube and, in the early sixteenth,followed this with the occupation of Hungary and the RomanianProvinces. The mountainous province of Transylvania remained underthe rule of its native princes, though nominally a vassal state of theTurks. The Polish and Czech states had been built around tribal nuclei,but in the fourteenth century their traditional dynasties, the Piasts andPfemyslids respectively, had come to an end. The Polish throne hadbeen inherited by the Lithuanian Jagiettos, whose combined state, thelargest by far in Europe, reached from the Baltic Sea to the Russiansteppe. The extinction of the native Czech dynasty, however, led to asuccession of foreign and predominantly German rulers, whose pres-ence served chiefly to fan the flames of Czech nationalism. In 1526,following the death of Lewis who had united the thrones of Hungaryand Bohemia, Ferdinand of Habsburg, brother of Charles V, waselected King of Bohemia, thus commencing that association of Bohemiawith Austria which lasted until 1918.

The events of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries drew the countriesof eastern Europe into ever closer relationship with those of central andwestern. Not only were the art styles of the Italian Renaissance diffusedas far as Poland and Slovakia; the Reformation itself, both Lutheranand Calvinist, was widely accepted in Hungary, Transylvania andPoland. Commercial links between central and eastern Europe werestrengthened, and before the end of the century the western states ofEurope were to rely heavily on the eastern for the supply of corn andtimber, as well as flax and hemp, resin and animal products.


In the early decades of the sixteenth century the population of most ofEurope was again expanding after its contraction during the closingcenturies of the Middle Ages. The evidence is fragmentary, but all of itpoints in the same direction. Some time in the fifteenth century thenumber of births in the aggregate began to exceed that of deaths. Thereasons are obscure. Perhaps epidemic diseases were less virulent;perhaps the availability of agricultural land led to a lower average age atmarriage.

Russell has estimated that the population of continental Europe,excluding Russia, amounted to about 42 million at the beginning of the

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21 Europe in the early sixteenth century



Fig. 1.4 Population density in western Europe at the end of the MiddleAges

sixteenth century.49 He may be right, but the evidence on which hebases his judgement is scanty and far from unambiguous. It consistsessentially of tax records, and, since taxes were as a general rule leviedon the heads of families, what we have is usually the number of 'hearths'or households. A prolonged and inconclusive controversy has centredon the size of the multiplier to be used for converting hearths toaggregate population. There was, in fact, no 'normal' size for thehousehold. A further difficulty lies in the fact that the hearth tended tobecome a notional unit of taxation, and the number of hearths at which acommunity was assessed ceased gradually to bear any close relationshipto that of real households.

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22 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

Urban population is in general better documented than rural, thoughit did not make up more than a fifth of the total. Not only did theauthorities keep records of the numbers of householders for purposes oftaxation, but many of them also counted people, or 'mouths', in order toensure an adequate food supply. This was especially the case in Italy,which became, in terms of its demographic history, the best-documentedcountry in Europe.50

During the fifteenth century the Dukes of Burgundy instituted aseries of hearth-counts within their domains in the Low Countries andBurgundy, a practice which was also adopted by some of their neigh-bours. They suggest that the population began to rise during the secondhalf of the fifteenth century and by the 1540s had reached a density of40-50 to the square kilometre in Brabant51 and Hainault.52 There was abelt of relatively dense population - over 40 to the square kilometre -extending across the Low Countries from the neighbourhood of Calaisto that of Liege. To north and south densities diminished sharply in thesandy heathlands of the Campine and the forests of the Ardennes.

The population of the northern Low Countries was very unevenlydistributed. The province of Holland, with perhaps 275,000 inhabitants,was the most densely inhabited with almost 50 to the square kilometre.This high density was supported in part by the fisheries. The predomi-nantly agricultural provinces were much less densely settled. Frieslandprobably had little more than 30 to the square kilometre, and the sandyregions of Veluwe and Overijssel much less than 20.53

Evidence for France at this date is scanty, but nevertheless points to arelatively sparse population which had not yet recovered from thedepredations of the Hundred Years' War and of the epidemics of thefourteenth century. The latter were especially severe in southernFrance, and hearth-lists for ducal Burgundy reveal a countryside whichhad been devastated and almost depopulated. The densities whichexisted before the great catastrophes of the fourteenth century wereprobably not regained until late in the sixteenth and in some areasprobably not before the eighteenth. Over most of France, the density ofpopulation did not rise above 30 to the square kilometre, and the fewlarge towns lay like oases amid a thinly peopled, indeed in places almostdeserted, countryside.

The demographic history of central Europe is no better documented,and estimates of the population of Germany in the early sixteenthcentury range from seven million to almost twice this total.54 Amongstthe few areas which have been intensively studied is the Miinsterland.Here Ditt found that densities were less than 15 over much of the area,and that population was more dense only along the Rhine.55 Populationwas even sparser in Mecklenburg, where it fell to less than 5 in parts of

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23 Europe in the early sixteenth century

this forested region.56 Another region which has been intensivelyinvestigated is Saxony. Blaschke found an average density of about 32,which is low in view of its mining activity and its rich loess soils.57

Germany is likely in the early sixteenth century to have had a popula-tion of some 12 million.58

The population of Poland may have been somewhat denser than thatof northern Germany because the late medieval decline was felt lessseverely, if indeed it was experienced at all. There is a broad measure ofa*greement amongst Polish scholars that the population, within contem-porary boundaries, was of the order of three million in the mid-sixteenthcentury, an average of about 20 to the square kilometre.59 The densitydeclined towards the east and was unquestionably very much lower inthe forested kingdom of Lithuania.

The Alpine region, from France to Austria, was sparsely peopled.There was little cropland and agriculture was greatly restricted by therigours of the mountain climate. Baratier has shown how abruptlydensities fell off as one passed from the hills of Provence into theAlpes-Maritimes.60 Large villages were to be found along many alpinevalleys, especially those which opened southwards to the Italian plain,but within the mountains population had declined sharply. Its closelyknit communities had suffered disastrously from epidemic disease, andvacant lands in the nearby plains were a constant invitation to themountain peoples to migrate from this region of hardship. Indeed, therewere communities which were no larger at the end of the eighteenthcentury than they had been at the beginning of the sixteenth.61

Birth-rates were generally high in the mountains, but were compensatedby a vigorous out-migration.

Fifteenth-century tax records for the cantons of Zurich62 and Basel63

and an episcopal visitation of the diocese of Lausanne,64 which wereused in compiling fig. 1.4, all suggest a sparsely settled countryside, evenin the central plain of Switzerland, dotted with small and mainlyagricultural towns. Densities rose to 30 and more near towns like Zurichand Geneva, but sank to less than 10 in the Jura and the Alps.65 TheDanube valley and Austria were even more sparsely settled thanSwitzerland, and large areas were visited only in summer by transhum-ant flocks and herds.

The mountains of Bohemia and the Carpathians of Slovakia andRomania supported a small but fertile population and fed a stream ofmigrants to the plains.66 Little is known precisely of the density ofpopulation in these regions.67 Hungary was probably populous beforethe Turkish invasions, which reduced the plains almost to a desert.68

There is no acceptable evidence for the population of the Balkans at thistime. A late-medieval source has been taken to suggest a total of

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700,000 for Transylvania69 - about seven to the square kilometre - anda hearth-count made under Sultan Suleiman I in the European pro-vinces of the Ottoman empire suggests a total of 5,700,000.70 But noone familiar with south-eastern Europe could ever place any reliance onsuch a total, which would in any case have excluded Albania, Croatiaand perhaps also Montenegro. The overall density of population mayhave been as low as ten, though a much denser population would havebeen met with in such areas as the Skopje, Bitola and Sofia basins andnear Edirne, Sarajevo and Beograd.

With Mediterranean Europe we enter a realm at once more populousand better documented. Italy not only had a large and literate middleclass to which the size of the population was of interest, but alsoexperienced difficulty in its urban food supply and thus felt a need tohave a record of numbers. These urban records were studied by Belochat the beginning of this century,71 and Cipolla has observed72 that morerecent research has left his figures 'substantially unaltered'. Densityvaried greatly, but in no major province, except Sardinia, did it onaverage fall below 30. Most populous were the highly urbanised regionsof Tuscany, Umbria, the Ligurian coast and the Lombardy plain.Piedmont was less populous and less urbanised than the territories ofMilan and Venice,73 and was one of the least densely populated of theItalian states. Northern Italy suffered severely in the course of the warsof the early sixteenth century, and an English ambassador reported that'we found neither men nor women working in the fields nor any livingsoul except three poor women working in one place who were gleaningthe few grapes that remained'.74 Nevertheless, the fiscal documents forthe district of Monza, lying to the north-east of Milan, for the year 1541suggest an average density of about 32 to the square kilometre.75 Theabundant archives of the city of Venice contain a survey of population in1548.76 Most of the territory lay within the fertile plain of the Po, andwas intensively cultivated to satisfy the needs of the city. Densities wereamongst the highest in Europe, rising to more than 50 in the territoriesof Verona and Vicenza, to over 60 in the Padovana and 80 in the deltaregion (fig. 1.5). A decade later Carlo Borromeo, Bishop of Bergamo,conducted a visitation of his diocese which extended from the plainnorth of Milan into the Alps and spanned an area of some 2500 squarekilometres.77 If allowance is made for those villages for which no dataare given, the rural population must have been about 111,500 'souls'.To this must be added that of the twelve urban parishes of Bergamo,which had, according to Beloch, a population of about 19,500.78 Thediocese thus contained some 130,000, a density of 52.

The Spanish peninsula is much less adequately documented than theItalian, though reliable aggregate totals can be established. The popula-

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25 Europe in the early sixteenth century

Over 10081 - 1006 1 -41-6021-40Up to 20No data

Fig. 1.5 Population density in Venezia, mid-sixteenth century

tion of Spain has been put at about 7.4 million in 1541 and that ofPortugal at 1,124,000 in 1527.79 It was increasing rapidly in both, butoverall densities remained low in comparison with those of Italy. Thehighest average densities were in Castile, but these disguised thecontrast between the densely peopled Basque province and Old Castileand the thinly settled regions of Estremadura and La Mancha. Therewas a vigorous migration from north to south, due in part to the fact thatAndalusia was the gateway to the New World. Seville itself had aboom-town atmosphere,80 and became in Cervantes' words 'the asylumof the poor and the refuge of the outcasts' of northern Spain.81

Table 1.1 Approximate population ofEurope, c. 1530

FranceLow CountriesGermany (incl. Austria)Swiss ConfederationPolandCzech landsHungaryBalkan peninsulaSpain and PortugalItalyScandinaviaTotal






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Catalonia had been during the later Middle Ages the most populousand developed region of Spain, but in the sixteenth century its economywas irreparably damaged by the commercial revolution, and its leadingcity and port, Barcelona, increased only slowly.82 Lisbon, by contrast,profited from the change to become one of the largest cities of thepeninsula.

The urban pattern

The previous discussion has by and large ignored the important distinc-tion between urban and rural population. In general, the denselypeopled regions of Europe, such as northern Italy and the LowCountries, were relatively highly urbanised, and in thinly peopled areastowns were few and widely separated. Urbanisation, however, is dif-ficult to measure because the majority of Europe's towns were in termsof function no more than large villages. By the early sixteenth centuryan urban map had been established which was to remain virtuallyunchanged until the nineteenth century. There had, in fact, been littlechange since the mid-fourteenth. Only in eastern Europe had the waveof new towns continued through the fifteenth century. Elsewhere, with adeclining population and economic recession, a few small towns evendisappeared, or, like Therouanne, were razed in war and never rebuilt.

It was always difficult to define a town. Legally it was a communityseparate and distinct from those of the surrounding countryside. It wasendowed with limited though variable rights of self-government, and itsinhabitants were exempt from the arbitrary impositions of a lord, free tomove, to acquire property and to engage in whatever economic activitiesthey chose. This, however, did not prevent most small towns from beingpredominantly agricultural, distinguishable only with difficulty fromlarge villages. Indeed, many an unincorporated village in Flanders wasfar less agricultural and more industrial than half the formal towns ofEurope.83 The range of activities carried on by townspeople increasedwith the size of the town, but the functions of small towns - and mostwere small - were highly restricted.

Lenzburg, in the Swiss canton of Aargau, was such a small town.84 Itembraced a walled area of only 2.4 hectares. Its population neverexceeded 500. They owned the surrounding fields, in which most wereemployed. The few crafts were of a kind usually met with in villages.Lenzburg had a weekly market, which served mainly for the exchange oflocal products and had little contact with more distant centres. Therewere thousands of towns in the Rhineland and in central and easternEurope like Lenzburg. In England they would in all probability havereverted to the status of villages, like the decayed boroughs in Devon

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27 Europe in the early sixteenth century

and Cornwall. In continental Europe they were saved from this fate bytheir defences. Every incorporated town had walls and gates to empha-sise its separateness from the villages. Without fortifications it was not atown, and its population not readily distinguishable from those wholived in the surrounding countryside and worked in the fields.85

Little attempt had been made during the Middle Ages to portraytowns pictorially. They had sometimes formed part of the background ofItalian paintings, but were usually highly stylised. By the early sixteenthcentury it had become common to draw and engrave a faithful represen-tation of a particular town. Diirer's Nuremberg, Leonardo da Vinci'sImola, Bufalini's Rome, Truschet and Hoyau's Paris, and some of theillustrations in Schedel's Liber chronicarum and Sebastian Miinster'sCosmographia have pretensions to accuracy in their portrayal of boththe plans and buildings of towns.

The earliest urban pictures were simple horizontal views, whichpresented the town's walls and skyline. These were followed by obliquerepresentations, which showed both the plan of the streets and theelevation of at least the more important buildings. These engravingsfound a market amongst urban patricians and also, in this age of sieges,with the artillery-masters.86 The genre culminated in the Civitates orbisterrarum of Braun and Hogenberg but was continued during thefollowing century in the yet more ambitious series of engravings ofMatthaus Merian and his sons.

These engravings invariably represented a town as walled withfortified gates and numerous towers. Within lay closely spaced housesdominated by the spires of churches and by other public buildings.Streets were narrow, except the principal axes of the town, which wereusually wide enough for the erection of wooden stalls. In most there wasa central open space which served as market-place. It was commonlyoverlooked by the church of the principal or oldest urban parish, andsometimes also by a gild - or market - house in which the urbanpatricians conducted private as well as municipal business. Within thewalls, especially of the larger towns, were extensive areas which had notbeen built up. When the defences were rebuilt or extended in thethirteenth or fourteenth century, the city fathers sometimes built toogenerously, anticipating an urban expansion which never took place.Braun and Hogenberg show wide areas of orchards and crops within theoutermost line of walls of numerous cities, including Basel, Brussels,Cologne, Milan and Zurich. The idea that such areas were deliberatelycontrived in order to provide the city with a food supply in time of siegedoes not bear serious consideration. Urban sieges - not infrequent inthe wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries - were always tooshort for such autarkic production to have been an object of policy.

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28 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

On the other hand, all towns controlled an area extending for alimited distance beyond their walls. This was the Bannmeile, withinwhich the town exercised jurisdiction. In most instances it extended onlyfor a mile or two. Nuremberg was exceptional in having a Bannmeile of65 square kilometres.87 Within this area, and even beyond it, citizenshad from the earliest stages of urban growth owned land and producedcrops. During the later Middle Ages an increasing number of them hadinvested in rural land on a scale which had dangerously reduced theiroperating capital. Citizens, especially in the smaller towns, cultivatedthe surrounding fields themselves or with the help of hired labour. Moredistant possessions were often farmed at a rack-rent or - a growingpractice - were leased en metayage. Suburban lands were often culti-vated intensively; some were planted with vines - a consequence ofrelatively high land values close to the city.

There must have been some five to six thousand cities and towns inEurope in the sixteenth century, ranging from the few giant cities ofover 100,000 inhabitants to several thousand small places like Lenz-burg, each with less than a thousand. They were spread thickly in theLow Countries, the Rhineland, central Germany and northern Italy, butthere were few in Europe's frontier regions to the north and east. Thispattern of cities and towns exercised one of the best minds of the age,Giovanni Botero. In a very perceptive work88 he defined the causes 'ofthe greatness of a city' as 'the commodity of the site and the fruitfulnessof the country'. He realised that the pattern of towns, and their densityor frequency, was dependent on the richness of the soil and the wealthof the countryside which supported them. But large cities, he knew,required a more substantial basis than a prosperous agriculture; 'formany provinces there are, and they very rich, that have never a good cityin them, as, for example Piedmont . . . and there is not a countrythroughout all Italy that hath more plenty of corn, cattle, wine, and ofexcellent fruits of all sorts'. Nor was Paris, the largest city in westernEurope, 'situated in the most fertile part of France'.

Botero had thus established his model: urbanism was a function of thefertility of the land and of its capacity to support people, and he waslooking for an explanation of those cities and regions which did not fithis scheme. He looked beyond the market needs of the surroundingcountryside. Large cities might serve regional or even continental needs.'It will also greatly help to draw people to our city if she have some goodstore of vendible merchandise . . . [such as] tapestry in Arras, rash[satins] in Florence, velvets in Genoa, cloth of gold and silver in Milan,and scarlet in Venice' (see p. 241). Convenience of trade was seen as afactor in the growth of cities; a 'store of navigable rivers . . . [and] goodhavens of the sea' might give rise to commercial towns, but Botero was

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29 Europe in the early sixteenth century

quick to note that a good harbour alone did not make a centre of trade.'What port is more safe or more spacious than the channel of Cattaro'(Gulf of Kotor, on the Dalmatian coast), he wrote. 'And yet is there notany memorable city in that place.' Botero was no determinist, andemphasised repeatedly that man's use of his environment was con-ditioned by his perception of what it had to offer him. The sites ofreligious cults, he noted, sometimes grew to great size, and Rome - acity of some 55,00089 - was indebted 'to the blood of the martyrs, to therelics of the saints, to the holy consecrated places, and to the supremeauthority in beneficial and spiritual causes'. Universities also contri-buted to the size of cities; 'the commodity of learned schools is of nosmall moment to draw people'. In Paris, faculty and students of theSorbonne made up a total of at least two or three thousand. At Louvain,a student body of over 1300 made up about 12 per cent of thepopulation of the city,90 and to the total of students and masters must beadded the perhaps large body of people for whom, directly or indirectly,they provided employment. Above all, large cities owed their size totheir selection as seats of 'supreme authority and power', for govern-ment 'draweth dependency with it, and dependency concourse andconcourse greatness'. Botero was right; the 'primate' cities in Europewere the political capitals, though he went a little farther than theevidence warranted when he claimed that the size of the capital wasdirectly related to the extent of the country which it administered.

Fig. 1.6 shows the distribution of the larger cities of Europe in the firsthalf of the sixteenth century. Evidence for the size of towns is scanty,and in many instances consists of nothing better than a subjectivejudgement based on the area within the walls or the number of houses ina sixteenth-century plan. Even where hearth-lists or head-counts exist itis not always certain to what they relate. Did they include the populationof suburbs without the walls or even the inhabitants of the BannmeilelThe map was conceived as representing large and medium-sized townsabout 1530. The data used were derived from sources ranging from thelate fifteenth to the late sixteenth century. In some instances it waspracticable to interpolate a likely total. One was nevertheless left withsuch insoluble problems as the size of Rome after its sack by the soldiersof Charles V or of the Budapest cluster of settlements after their captureby the Turks.

It proved impossible on a continental map to represent towns of lessthan about 5000 inhabitants, partly because of their great number,partly because of the problem of distinguishing between them and largevillages from which they scarcely differed in function. The frequency ofsmall towns varied greatly. It was greatest in Germany and least inFrance and Spain. Walker has estimated that in Wurttemberg there was

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30 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

Fig. 1.6 The chief cities of Europe in the first half of the sixteenthcentury

on average one town for approximately every 55 square kilometres, andthat in Prussia and Hanover, amongst the least urbanised of Germanprovinces, there was a town for every 200 square kilometres.91 'Astroller through Wiirttemberg', he wrote, 'could expect to strike arecognizable and incorporated town every seven kilometres.' In Alsacethere were thirty-five towns, all of them very small except Strasbourg,Colmar and Selestat - on average one for every 75 square kilometres.92

Fig. 1.7 shows the distribution of all towns in one restricted area:Switzerland. An urban hierarchy is apparent with large and medium-sized cities rearing their walls and steeples above a multitude of smalland humble towns and bourgades.

The distribution of towns, irrespective of their size, was very irregular.It depended in part on terrain and soil, as Botero had noted, and townswere especially numerous along the loess belt which extends (see above,p. 3) from the Low Countries to Silesia, and correspondingly few inthe Alpine region and in areas of infertile sands and gravel. Franceparadoxically had fewer towns for its area than Italy or Germany. Thereason probably lay in the fact that the primary urban network derived

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31 Europe in the early sixteenth century

• Towns

• Small

of over





100 km

Schaffha^.Basel , ^ C

olothurn » ^ ' J.

; r n L u c e r n e ^ .

. Ax

aser \^. ^^/\p t nee

vZurich • "• • V

Fig. 1.7 The towns of Switzerland

from the c/v/tas-capitals of the Roman empire. Most of the latterbecame the seats of bishops and thus pre-empted as it were the urbanfunctions of their dioceses. Outside the boundaries of the Romanempire there were no towns in the early Middle Ages, and the politicalfragmentation later led to a spate of competitive town-building. Theimmense number of towns which emerged in central Europe was offsetby their small average size. The few which in the early sixteenth centuryexceeded 5000 population could not in the aggregate have containedmore than 400,000, or 5 per cent of the population.93 Agriculture was ofincreasing relative importance with the diminishing size of towns andthe German Zwergstadt of 500 to 1000 inhabitants was functionallylittle different from a village.

The degree of urbanisation can be measured for only restricted areas.In Brabant in 1526, about 35 per cent of the population lived in towns,and in Hainault about 29. It has been claimed that in 1514 some 46 percent of the inhabitants of the county of Holland were urban, though thisis likely to have included a large fishing and maritime sector. About halfthe population of the city-state of Geneva lived in its central place, andabout a quarter of the canton of Zurich were in its chief town. Bergamocontained about 18 per cent of the population of its diocese, and overthe whole north Italian plain some 20 per cent of the population lived incities of over 10,000.

Agriculture and rural conditions

Over Europe as a whole the urban sector of the population, the

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32 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

craftsmen, traders, rentiers and churchmen who made up some 15 percent of the total, were supported by the remaining 80 to 90 per cent wholived and worked on the land. From every rural community in everycorner of Europe there flowed a small stream of farm produce towardsthe towns - grain, live cattle, butter and cheese, wool, skins and hides. Itcame from two sources. The larger part represented the payments madeby the peasants to their masters: rents, taille, champart and tithe. Thesepassed into the hands of the seigneurs, both lay and ecclesiastical, andwas in part consumed by themselves, in part sold into the market todefray the costs of their elaborate entertainment and extravagantbuilding programmes. In most of Europe almost nothing came back tothe land to be used in capital improvements. Only in the Low Countries,where there was a rich and politically powerful middle class, was anysignificant investment made in land reclamation and development.

Much the smaller part of the farm produce entering the marketrepresented the disposable surplus of the peasants themselves. Themoney received for it was used to purchase salt, clothing, seed, tools andwhatever else the otherwise autarkic rural community could not supplyfrom its own resources. A model devised by Wilhelm Abel,94 admittedlyfor the eighteenth century, represents about 40 per cent of the grossoutput of the peasant farm as disposed of in services, taxes and otherseigneurial obligations, and 20 per cent as sold off the land, leavingabout a third as the net income of the farm family. The exactions of theseigneur were heavy everywhere,95 and fully explain why agriculturewas unprogressive, with no surplus for investment in agriculturalimprovements. The social literature of the time is filled with protestagainst the exactions of the lords which reduced the peasantry tomisery.96 The Memmingen Articles of the revolting German peasants of1524 shows that the gravity of their lords' exactions was uppermost intheir minds. In parts of central and eastern Europe, where peasantobligations had been relatively light, they were being increased as thelords, in that movement which is sometimes known as the 'secondserfdom', increased their control over the peasants and their land.

An unprogressive agriculture was practised in most of Europe, littlechanged from that which had inadequately fed the overgreat populationof the fourteenth century. Everywhere, except in the mountainousareas, cropland was largely under cereals, and bread grains provided thestaple diet of all except the rich. Wheat was the bread crop parexcellence, but only a minority of the population even tasted bread madefrom it. It was the most important crop on the 'strong heartie and fatSoyle' of the Paris basin and northern France.97 It was grown on thebetter soils of the Limagne and the Rhineland,98 on the loess of centralEurope, and in parts of Poland, from which it was exported to the west.

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33 Europe in the early sixteenth century

But the only areas where wheat was widely cultivated were in southernEurope: Provence, Languedoc, the Spanish Meseta and Italy. In theLow Countries and parts of Germany and Switzerland a form of wheatknown as spelt or dinkel was grown. It had the advantage of millingeasily but did not crop as heavily as the standard variety." Nevertheless,it entirely displaced wheat in parts of the Low Countries.100

While wheat was everywhere the preferred bread grain, rye suppliedthe basic food of the majority. Contemporary writers made much of thefact that rye would grow well on light, sandy and infertile soils. It couldresist the hazards of the weather and, if it did not yield more heavily, itwas at least more reliable than wheat. Sometimes, especially in north-western Europe, a mixture of wheat and rye, known as meteil, or maslin,was grown, probably as a kind of insurance. Rye was the most widelycultivated cereal in much of western Europe and throughout central andeastern. In Poland the typical estate in the sixteenth century producedfour times as much rye as wheat.101

Both wheat and rye were autumn-sown. They grew through thewinter and spring, and were harvested in July or early August. Theywere less hardy than the strains which are cultivated today, and theyoung plants were sometimes destroyed in winter by excessive rain orsevere frost. On such occasions the land had to be ploughed afresh andsown with a spring crop (see p. 175). The cropping system which haddeveloped in much of Europe during the Middle Ages called for thealternation of autumn- and spring-sown grains with fallow. Wheat or ryewas thus followed by oats or barley. The two groups of cereals were thusin joint production, with the autumn-sown grains cropping as a generalrule rather more heavily than the spring-sown. The volume of produc-tion of these cereals on a Polish estate described by Wychanski102 as:



174 hi44 hi




Oats 204 hiBarley 43 hi



The spring-sown grains were not held in high regard. The MaisonRustique regarded oats as 'un vice et chose inutile', but admitted thatthey were valuable as a fodder, and, cooked as a gruel or porridge,served as human food. Barley, like oats, lacks gluten, and cannot make alight bread, as wheat and rye are able to do. It was used for malting; itwas fed to animals, and, cooked in a kind of soup, entered into thehuman diet.

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34 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

Oats are particularly tolerant of poor soil and harsh climate, thuscompensating for the disadvantages of their low yield and weak strawwhich could not be used for thatching. Rye and oats formed the typicalcrop association over much of Europe, but at greater altitudes andhigher latitudes oats alone were grown. Oats were the principal - eventhe only - cereal crop in the Alpine regions and in such areas as theAuvergne and Eifel.

In northern Europe wheat disappeared from the farm system. Thecultivation of rye extended into Denmark and southern Sweden, whileoats constituted the only cereal crop in most of Norway, Sweden andFinland.103 This was reflected in the diet. Bread was virtually unknownin these areas. Instead, flat oaten cakes and a gruel made from oats,together with milk products, made up the greater part of the humanfood supply. Fortunately, those areas where oats were the principalcereal crop were usually able to produce a compensatory supply ofprotein in the form of butter and cheese.

Although cereals provided the basic human food supply, they wereunreliable crops and their yields were low. They were the pillars of anagricultural system which was to prove tragically durable. They were,however, supplemented by 'garden' crops, without which it would havebeen difficult to sustain life. Almost every rural household had itsgarden, in which were grown beans and peas, source of much of thepeasants' intake of protein, as well as green vegetables, roots and herbs,not to mention industrial crops such as flax, hemp and dyestuffs.Around the houses of the rich were large gardens which contributed animportant part of the food supply. All treatises on agronomy which werewritten for a well-to-do clientele contained long chapters on themanagement of gardens. Their soil, Olivier de Serres explained, shouldbe well dressed, but in return produced every year without any need forfallowing. The garden was a private preserve. It was, as a general rule,neither tithed nor subjected to the Feldzwang of the village community.New crops could be tried out in the garden - not that the peasant wasmuch given to experiment and innovation. It is probable that the potatowas first grown in the garden, as also were maize, sunflower, tobaccoand many vegetables and roots, such as chicory and mangold. Only afterthe success of such crops had been demonstrated beyond cavil in theprivate garden were they allowed to share in the communally controlledfields. Few records were ever kept of garden crops, so that this highlyimportant branch of agriculture forms one of the darkest corners in thehistory of early agriculture.

A three-field system prevailed over much of Europe, except theMediterranean region. The use of a fallow year was a concession to thefact that manure was available only in very small quantities, and was in

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35 Europe in the early sixteenth century

shortest supply in those areas - the 'champagne' regions of north-western Europe - where it was needed most. A disadvantage of thesystem was that it produced the less desirable spring-sown grains inquantities which were approximately equal to the bread grains. Forthis reason a two-field system was retained (or reverted to) in themiddle Rhineland, where cities created a large demand for the wintercereals.104 The aggregate amount of grain produced was smaller, but itconsisted wholly of bread crops. In eastern Europe, especially in Poland,a two-field system was also practised in some areas, but here the reasonis more likely to have been the abundance of land which made a moreintensive use unnecessary. In areas of Mediterranean climate, includingthe Dalmatian coast,105 autumn-sown grains alternated with fallow,since here there was little possibility, except in the mountains, thatspring-sown grains would grow and mature during the hot, dry summer.

While the two- and three-field systems prevailed over much ofEurope, they were by no means the only systems in use, and were, infact, in slow retreat before a variety of cropping methods which made amore intensive use of the soil. A powerful factor was the growth ofpopulation, especially of urban population, and the increasing demandswhich it made upon the food supply. Long before the end of the MiddleAges, the practice of fallowing had been abandoned, temporarily atleast, in parts of the Low Countries, and peas and beans were beinggrown as field crops in its place. By 1500, turnips, green vegetables andfodder crops, the so-called artificial grasses, were beginning to be usedin rotation with cereals. At the same time, a convertible husbandry, inwhich a period of cultivation alternated with long leys of severalyears,106 began to be practised. In the Low Countries this moreintensive cultivation was made possible by the gradual relaxation ofmedieval tenurial restrictions, and made necessary by the growingpopulation. A system of ley-farming was also carried on in hilly areas,where the high rainfall, and consequent poverty of the soil, madecontinuous cultivation impracticable.

The sixteenth century was a period of rising grain prices, and effortswere made both to increase the area under cultivation and to improvethe yield. Manure was more widely and more carefully used, but theextension of cereal farming was unfortunately incompatible with a moregenerous supply of farmyard manure. The Maison Rustique - alwaysrather exacting in its requirements - claimed that for a good crop on'raw, rough and tough [that is, acidic] Soyle you must labour [plough] itmost exquisitely, harrow it and manure it very oft with great store ofdung'. Such quantities of manure were not available, and crops on suchsoils were generally poor. Olivier de Serres recommended the use ofpigeon and poultry manure, as well as of marl and lime. Beans and

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36 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

lupins, he found, would enrich the soil. The productivity of sixteenth-century agriculture was, however, always restricted by the small animalpopulation and hence the feeble supply of manure.

The writings of the sixteenth-century agronomists showed a keenappreciation of the differing qualities of soils and of the uses to whichthey could be profitably put. Olivier de Serres, for example, prefaced hisbook with a discussion of the soil. Its quality, he wrote, depended on thebalance between the elements of clay and sand within it. The best soil,according to the Maison Rustique, 'is that which is blacke, crumblingand easily turned over . . . [and] falleth into small pieces in oneshand'.107 The presence of ruined farm buildings indicating a settlementlong since abandoned was a favourable sign, for the soils, 'cuits et recuitsa la longue, avec le meslinge des sables et chaux des batimens desmolis,par feu ou vieillesse, se sont rendus plus friables, et en suite aisez acultiver'.10**

The texture of the soil seems to have been the only criterion of itsquality. The use of lime and manure and the ploughing in of nitrogenousplants were considered beneficial because they helped to produce acrumbly texture. Deep ploughing of 'strong' or heavy soil wasrecommended, because it improved the drainage, and the frequent useof harrows, and especially of a roller fitted with spikes, was encouragedbecause it broke up the lumps and produced a fine tilth. Limited thoughtheir knowledge of soil was, sixteenth-century writers were neverthelessthinking in terms of adjusting crops and cropping systems to fit thequalities of soil that were available.

Agricultural tools and equipment had changed little in western andsouthern Europe for several centuries. The plough, the basic tool of thefarmer, was in general a heavy instrument - built of massive beams,usually of oak, carefully jointed together. It was commonly supportedon wheels in the front, and was equipped with an iron coulter and aploughshare which was at least tipped with iron. There were many localvariations in the design of the plough. It had to be lighter in design inareas - those, for example, of scattered settlement - where a large teamwas not available. The light classical plough, aratrum or araire, hadsurvived in southern Europe and, in one form or another, in theBalkans.109 In east-central Europe, however, the use of the heavywheeled plough was spreading.110 It may have been diffused by theGerman immigrants and settlers, but its adoption was certainly encour-aged by the growing demand in western Europe for Polish grain.

In other respects there were small improvements in farm equipment.The scythe began to replace the sickle. It allowed the harvester to cutclose to the ground, to make the most of the hay harvest, and, when hewished, to obtain a long wheat straw for thatching. The harrows shown

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37 Europe in the early sixteenth century

in sixteenth-century paintings and drawings were massive woodenframes fitted with large iron spikes. One cannot be sure how widely suchimproved tools were used. The bourgeois who invested in a rural estatemay have used them - hence the frequency with which they appeared inthe pictorial art of the Low Countries - but it is unlikely that the peasanthad the opportunity to use such sophisticated tools before thenineteenth-century.111 In eastern Europe also, where labour was abun-dant and the seigneur's control over it increasing, there was littleinducement to improve its efficiency by equipping it with better tools.

Yet capital was invested in land reclamation reflecting the growingpopulation and the rising price of grain. In the Low Countries andelsewhere in north-western Europe marshland was reclaimed. Spectacu-lar though some of these undertakings were for their age, they addedlittle to the area of agricultural land. Elsewhere cropland was extendedmarginally in most communities. In many parts of France land wascleared to make way for peasant farms in much the same way that it hadbeen in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.112 In some areas vineyardsof questionable value gave place to cropland, and in the south thegarrigue was cleared to make way for the vine.

Despite the rising population and a strong market demand for breadgrains, little was done to improve either yields per hectare or yield-ratios. Indeed, it is likely that on average they declined somewhat asmarginal land was brought under cultivation.113 Yield-ratios varied notonly with the weather but also from one cereal crop to another and fromone region to another. But even on the good soils of northern Francethey exceeded 8:1 only on rare occasions,114 and on soils of mediumquality the return was at best fivefold. In Provence wheat generally gaveless than a fourfold return,115 and the return was often less thanthreefold on the poor, sandy soils of Berry116 or the stiff glacial clays ofDombes.117 A similar range in yield-ratios was to be found in centraland eastern Europe. In Poland yields were occasionally as high assixfold on the best soils, but were more often fourfold or less, with atendency to decline during succeeding centuries.118

The basic reason for both low yields and yield-ratios was the lack ofmanure. Even the best soils cropped poorly because they were givenover almost exclusively to arable husbandry, and few animals were keptbeyond those necessary for draught purposes. The soil, furthermore,was poorly ploughed, and weeds were not destroyed. The number ofthose who followed the advice of the agronomists and ploughed bothfrequently and deep must have been very small, and Goubert found thatin parts of northern France four-fifths of the peasants, in fact, had noplough.119 Seed was poorly selected, despite the oft-repeated advice tokeep the best for sowing, and there must have been many occasions

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38 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

when peasants had their store of seed corn looted or stolen, and wereobliged to buy and sow whatever was available in the market.

In mountainous and hilly areas the balance between arable andpastoral agriculture was better. Much of the land, especially the higherplateau surfaces, could only be used for grazing. Flocks and herds werebrought up from the valleys for the summer months, but spent thewinter stabled on the lower ground, where their manure was availablefor the fields. This helps to explain why yield-ratios in these infertileregions were often but little less than on the plains of Picardy andArtois.120

In the Alps, as also in the Pyrenees and the higher mountains ofeastern Europe, the balance was tipped even more strongly towardspastoralism. The Urbdre of Austrian monasteries121 show how, in thelater Middle Ages, peasant tribute in grain was gradually replaced bypayment in cheeses. The same was happening in Switzerland, where thevictory 'du betail sur le ble'122 was assured by 1500. Burgesses from thecities began to buy up alpine pastures just as elsewhere they acquiredsuburban vineyards and market-gardens. Urban population provided alarge market for the dairy produce and live cattle of the mountains, andnot even the high price of grain seems to have brought about a revival ofcorn-growing in the mountain valleys.

Not only was Europe dotted with islands of pastoralism which brokethe vast sea of grain; it was also surrounded by a Weidezone, in whichanimal-rearing was the primary, if not the only, objective of agricul-ture.123 Scandinavia, the plains of eastern Europe beyond the belt ofcommercial corn-growing, the grasslands of Hungary, Moldavia andWallachia, and the steppe of central Spain all supported vast numbers ofanimals. In Scandinavia the emphasis was on dairy cattle. Writers, fromthe author of the Heimskringla to Malthus, have described how thecattle passed the short summer on the saetars, returning to the valleys inautumn. Only as many cattle could be kept as there was fodder tosupport during the winter. The human diet was made up mainly of oatencake and gruel, butter and cheese, and there was an export of dairyproduce to the towns. Denmark, more accessible to the markets ofwestern and central Europe, exported live cattle by way of the cattlefairs of Schleswig124 to the pastures of north-western Germany, wherethey were fattened for the market. The movement occurred principallyin early spring and in the autumn, in herds of up to 1000 head. Duringthe sixteenth century this cattle trade was increasing with the growth inpopulation and the improvement in living standards of the moreprosperous sections of the community.

The movement of cattle from Europe's eastern frontier was on aneven larger scale. The cattle were bred on the grasslands which,

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39 Europe in the early sixteenth century

Fig. 1.8 Transhumance and drove routes in Europe in the sixteenthcentury

interrupted by mountains and forest, stretched from the Ukraine to theplain of Hungary. They were driven in vast herds across Poland to themarkets of Poznari, Frankfurt-on-Oder and, above all, the small town ofButtstadt, near Weimar. At Buttstadt, it was said, as many as 16,000 or20,000 animals changed hands in a single day during the fairs. A moresoutherly stream came from Moldavia, Wallachia and Hungary towardsVienna and the cities of southern Germany.125

Quite distinct from these mass migrations of animals to the markets ofwestern and central Europe were the seasonal movements betweenplateau and valley, mountain and plain. These sometimes extended overgreat distances, as between northern and southern Spain or from theCarpathian mountains to the Black Sea coastlands. Their purpose was togain a profit from marginal lands capable of economic use for only a partof the year, such as mountain pastures buried under snow in winter andlowlands burned dry by the summer heat. Reference has already beenmade to such transhumant movements in Scandinavia, but they belongpre-eminently to the Mediterranean region.126 Two types of transhu-mance have been distinguished, both of which were practised in thesixteenth century. In normal transhumance the inhabitants of a valley or

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40 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

lowland settlement sent part of their number, together with most oftheir animals, to the hills or mountains in early summer. The uplandgrazing was thus used while the lowlands were left free for making hayor growing fodder for winter. This was the practice in the mountains ofthe Alpine system. In much of southern Europe the animals wereobliged by the summer drought to vacate their winter pastures in thelowlands until after the first rains of the following autumn. Alternativelya community might have its permanent home in the mountains and sendits shepherds with flocks down to the lowlands in winter - inversetranshumance, as it is called. The two forms could exist side by side, andwhich prevailed was a matter of historical accident. Inverse transhu-mance was met with more frequently in the Balkans, a consequenceperhaps of war and invasion against which a mountain village had agreater protection than one in the plains. In any event, it was charac-teristic of transhumance that only part of the community took part in theseasonal movement. Nomadism, by contrast, implied a movement of thewhole community, and, though common in North Africa and the MiddleEast, probably did not occur in Europe at this date.

Fig. 1.8, based on Elli Miiller's study,127 shows the principal transhu-mance routes in Europe. Winter grazing, in Aquitaine and the Ebrovalley, bordered the Pyrenees. There was a large-scale movement ofsheep and goats - almost 66,000 animals passed through Castellane, inthe Alpes-Maritimes, in six weeks in 1516128 - between the plains ofProvence and the French Alps. There were similar movements in Italybetween the Maremma, the Campagna and the Tavoliere of Apulia onthe one hand and the Abruzzi mountains on the other.129 In the Balkansthe mountaineers descended to the Sava and Danube valleys and to thecoastal plains of Albania, Greece and Macedonia with their flocks.

The transhumant movements of flocks and herds were highly organ-ised. Pastures, either upland or lowland, were rented; the migrationpaths were kept open and were reserved for the transhumant animals atcertain times of the year, and there were toll-stations at which paymentwas made for their rights of passage. Nowhere, however, was theseasonal migration of stock more highly organised than in Spain. Afterthe reconquista much of the grassland of Castile became a vast sheeprun, within which the flocks migrated along their canadas betweenwinter grazing in the south and their summer homes on the plateaux ofOld Castile. The sheep were shorn in the course of their springmigration, and the wool sold at the fairs, especially that of Medina delCampo, which had grown up along their route. Estimates of the numberof animals which took part in these migrations varied, but throughoutthe first half of the sixteenth century it ranged from 2 to 3.5 million.130

During the Middle Ages local specialisation in agricultural production

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41 Europe in the early sixteenth century

had, with the exception of that in wine, been of only minor importance.By the sixteenth century this was no longer so. A growing appreciationof the qualities of the soil and the constraints of climate, coupled withimprovements in the methods and organisation of transport, had led tothe development of monocultures, dependent on sale and export. Therye production of eastern Europe, butter and cheese in the Alps,livestock on Europe's northern and eastern frontiers, and increasinglyintensive wine production in certain favoured areas, all illustrate howthe farmer, even the peasant farmer, was generating a marketablesurplus of increasing size. It is impossible to measure this change withany precision. Of course, there remained many areas which wererelatively self-sufficient, but elsewhere, notably in the Low Countriesand northern France, the Lombardy plain and Tuscany - areas wherethe urban population was increasing most rapidly - there was a growingreliance on distant sources for some essential commodities: 'in thewestern parts of the Low Countries the farmers began to grow all sortsof commercial crops . . . instead of corn . . . Only a regular supply ofcorn made it possible for the farmers thus to specialise in the cultivationof commercial crops or on cattle breeding.'131 In the Netherlands in thenarrower sense, the reclaimed polders tended to be used mainly fordairy farming; the heathlands of the east for beef cattle, and thecroplands near the cities for vegetables and industrial crops, while thebasic bread crops were imported on an increasing scale from Germanyand the east.132

Foremost amongst the specialised crops was wine. It had formerlybeen produced very widely, even in areas as unsuited climatically as theEnglish Midlands, Flanders and Brandenburg. It was the growing easewith which a better wine could be imported from southern France or theMediterranean, rather than any change in climate, which led to theabandonment of the more northerly vineyards. By the sixteenth centuryvery little wine was being produced along the Seine valley below Paris.Viticulture had disappeared from the Low Countries,133 and the morenortherly vineyards had ceased production along the Rhine, but incentral Europe, less accessible to imports from France, the vine was stillgrown in Saxony, Mecklenburg, Pomerania and Prussia.134 It was,nevertheless, in retreat, as the economics of growing grain for exportand of importing wine gradually asserted themselves. By contrast, inareas favoured by both climate and transport, the vine 'swept aside allother kinds of vegetation and forms of cultivation'.135 Thus in one areaof Europe after another, the law of comparative advantage was inexor-ably forcing the restriction or abandonment of some subsistence crops,and, in their place, the cultivation of others for export. The largestcommercial wine production was in south-western France, the valleys of

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42 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

the Rhone and Rhine, and on certain coasts and islands of theMediterranean. The last was becoming, with the conquests of the Turks,an uncertain source of supply, and malmsey wine - the rich Greek wineshipped from Monemvasia - disappeared from the tables of the rich. Itwas many decades before southern Spain and Portugal filled its placewith their heavy and fortified vintages.

The trend towards commercial production and trade in farm productswas restricted by two factors. Foremost was the increase in ruralpopulation, which began again to press against resources as it had donein the thirteenth century. The effect of the fragmentation of farmholdings was to emphasise yet again the self-sufficient character ofpeasant agriculture. At the same time, tenurial conditions all too oftenchecked experiment and the conversion of land to those crops whichunder the prevailing economic conditions seemed the most profitable. Itwas no accident that innovation in farming was most noteworthyamongst the bourgeois landowners of north-western Europe.

The bipartite manor, with its demesne cultivated by the labour of itsdependent villeins, was over most of Europe a thing of the past. In mostcases, labour dues had been commuted for a rent in money or in kind,and the demesne was broken up and leased in small tenancies. At thesame time, the status, if not always the personal fortunes, of the peasanthad tended to rise. For this the scarcity of labour in the years followingthe Black Death was in part responsible. Price movements in thefifteenth century also tended to help the peasant. On the other hand, acentury of almost incessant warfare, with its attendant loss of life anddestruction of crops, farmstock, tools and homes, dealt a severe blow tothe well-being of the peasantry. Under such conditions the type oftenure known as metayage spread widely in the fifteenth and sixteenthcenturies.136 The lord provided the land and a minimum of stock, seedand equipment, and took a fraction - sometimes as much as two-thirds - of the crop. Tenures of this kind became the most widespread inFrance and Italy. Elsewhere farm-holdings were leased, commonly for aterm of a few years, at a fixed annual rent, coupled in many instanceswith certain servile obligations.

The lords suffered no less than the peasantry in the disturbedconditions of the later Middle Ages.137 Their participation both inwarfare and in the expensive forms of entertainment which character-ised the later phases of feudalism, cost them heavily, so that many wereobliged to alienate at least part of their lands. Some were bought byaspiring members of the peasant class, who thus came to form a class ofrich peasants, or yeomen. Others were purchased by the rising urbanmiddle class, which thus entered the ranks of the rural landowners andhoped thereby to achieve the status of landed gentry. Conditions of land

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43 Europe in the early sixteenth century

tenure were changing rapidly in the early sixteenth century, but,whoever held legal title to the land, the continent was, at least from theDuero to the Oder, one of peasant farms. In general, they were smalland with the growth in population they were becoming smaller. Eachwas made up of a large number of scattered parcels, a result in part ofdivision between heirs. A community in Poitou in the sixteenth centurypossessed eighty separate tenures, divided into no less than 1298 parcelsof land:*38

Under 3 hectares3-5 hectares5-1010-1515-2020-2525-30Over 30Total



At Sardon (Gard) in 1590 more than half of the total of fifty-fourpeasant holdings were of less than one hectare, and only eight had morethan five.139

It is probable that holdings were on average larger in northern Franceand in central Europe. Nevertheless, even in eastern Germany, tradi-tionally regarded as the home of the great estate, less than a fifth of theland was held in units of over 100 hectares,140 and in Mecklenburgalmost a half were of under 20 hectares. Even the estates, or Ritterguter,to which these holdings belonged, were very much smaller than hascommonly been supposed, and the great majority were of less than 250hectares.

In eastern Germany and Poland the trend in the development oflandholding was opposite to that in the rest of Europe. There had, in thelater Middle Ages, been a movement towards greater freedom for thepeasant. This was then checked and ultimately reversed. The Elbebecame 'the boundary between freedom and serfdom'141 as estates,cultivated directly by their lords with servile labour, were created in theeast. By the end of the fifteenth century 'most of the peasantry were wellon their way to becoming serfs', and 'by the end of the sixteenth centurythe process of enserfment was just about completed'.142 This movementis generally attributed to the growing demand for bread grains in thewest European markets, a demand which the new estates of the eastwere well suited to satisfy. It must, however, be noted that themovement to create or extend estates and to depress the status of thepeasantry was also felt in areas, such as Bohemia and Hungary, which

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44 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

were not important sources of grain for the west, and that it could nothave taken place if the central government had not been heavilydependent on the political support of the nobles. The conversion ofGrundwirtschaft into Gutswirtschaft, of lordship over land into directexploitation of the land, was pursued in most of eastern Europethroughout the century. Peasants were dispossessed and villages des-troyed to make way for vast demesne farms. In Poland the peasantswere often relocated in long 'street' villages in order to leave the fieldsunencumbered, and were also called on to perform excessive corvees. InHungary, a system of hereditary serfdom was imposed in 1514, after thepeasant revolt led by Dozsa.143 In 1557, King Zygmunt August ofPoland, under pressure from his own nobility, instituted wide-ranging'reforms', whose purpose was to reorganise the system of landholdingand to increase agricultural production.144 At the same time, thepeasants' labour dues, or corvee, were regularised and made moreoppressive, and peasant land, whenever the opportunity arose, wasabsorbed into the demesne.

In Italy the break-up of the demesne proceeded on lines similar tothose in France, only at a faster pace. In Tuscany, the mezzadri were'poverty-stricken and in debt . . . [they] were more and more becomingmembers of the proletariat and assumed the character of underpaidworkers . . . almost entirely without capital'.145 The average size of thepeasant holding was becoming smaller.146 In the village of Montaldeo,in Piedmont, for example, the size-structure of peasant holdings in 1548was as shown in table 1.2.147

Table 1.2

Under 0.5 hectares0.5-11-33-55-1010-20Over 20



Percentage of area



In those areas of the Balkan peninsula which were effectivelyoccupied by the Ottoman Turks a species of feudalism was introduced.Much of the land was divided into small fiefs or timars which wereallocated each to a Turkish official or spahi. The latter had no more thana life interest in the timars and were called upon for military service inproportion to their holding. The peasants, who had continued to

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45 Europe in the early sixteenth century

cultivate the soil since the pre-Turkish period, had security of tenure.They could pass on their holdings to their children, and their obligationsin the form of rent and corvee were not excessive.148 Their status, was,however, to change radically as gradually timars became hereditary;their obligations became more onerous and their status was depressed tothat of serfs.


The pattern of human settlement had not changed greatly since the earlyfourteenth century. Some small settlements had disappeared during theperiod of declining population in the late fourteenth and fifteenthcenturies, never to reappear. No new settlements were established,except in areas such as the Balkans which had been devastated by war.Although the geographical pattern of settlements changed little, theyunderwent profound change in detail. The houses and farm buildings ofwhich they were made were built of wood and clay. They decayed andwere vulnerable to fire. There was a continual process of renovation andrebuilding, and the actual site of cottage or farm was likely to changewith each rebuilding. In some parts of Europe, notably the estatevillages of eastern Europe, it became the policy of the lord to reduce theformless jumble of houses to some more regular pattern. In this wayoriginated many of the interminable street villages of Poland.

It is difficult to determine the actual size of villages at this time. Evenin northern France and the southern Low Countries, for which hearth-lists survive, it is not always possible to say whether all the householdsallocated to a named place were in one nucleated settlement orscattered over the area of a parish. Only by projecting back fromeighteenth-century cadastral maps and using whatever archaeologicaldata there may be, can the pattern of human settlement be established.Such evidence, however, suggests that the morphology of settlementshad not greatly changed between the later Middle Ages and the earlynineteenth century. Nucleated villages with their surrounding openfields predominated in the rich agricultural belt of northern France, thesouthern Low Countries and parts of Germany and elsewhere wherephysical conditions encouraged the traditional three-course system ofcultivation. In areas of poorer soil hamlets and isolated farmsteads weremore common. In the east European areas of late medieval settlementthe 'forest' and 'street' villages prevailed, with the farmsteads aligned oneach side of a single road.

Each of these very broad types of human settlement can be furthersubdivided. Many village forms can be understood in terms of the socialand economic needs of the community. Others have no such rationale.A fuller discussion of types of rural settlement is given in the first

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46 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

volume of An Historical Geography of Europe and for reasons of spaceis not repeated here.149

Manufacturing and mining

The Renaissance was not characterised by any significant developmentsin manufacturing technology, except in the fields of mining and metal-lurgy. Change occurred rather in the structure and organisation ofindustry. The towns had never possessed a monopoly of manufacturing,and throughout the Middle Ages a residual industry had survived inrural areas, concentrating on the lowest qualities of production. In thelater Middle Ages urban crafts began to decline in importance, andthose of the countryside to increase. The reasons are not far to seek: therigid organisation of the urban gilds and their inelasticity in the face ofchanging demand, the unruliness of the urban craftsman, and therelative cheapness of unorganised rural labour. But the condition which,more than any other, made possible this revival of rural industry was theemergence of a class of merchant capitalists. They provided the capitalwhich the peasant-craftsman lacked. They supplied him with rawmaterials and marketed his products, whether these were textiles orlight metal goods.

Textile industries

The textile industry was without question the most widespread branchof manufacture, and the one employing the greatest number of workers.It made use of wool, flax and hemp, cotton and silk. Cloth for local usewas produced within the self-sufficing local community, and was also thelargest single category of goods entering into long-distance trade. Apartfrom foodstuffs, it was the only commodity in mass demand, the onlyone which in due course could provide the basis for an industrialrevolution.

Woollen cloth in all probability clothed more people than all otherfabrics together, though in some areas linen ran a close second. Therewas no part of Europe where sheep were not raised, and from certainareas - England, Spain and southern Italy amongst them - wool of highquality was exported to regions of more concentrated cloth production.Foremost amongst the latter were, apart from England whose cloth wasentering continental Europe in increasing quantity, the southern LowCountries, northern France and the north Italian plain. The reputationof the Low Countries had, until the fourteenth century, been basedupon the manufacture and export of a heavy, well-fulled cloth, wovenfrom the best English wool. It was the elite fabric of the Middle Ages,but production declined during the fourteenth century and almost

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47 Europe in the early sixteenth century

disappeared in the fifteenth. The reasons were complex: the decline inthe supply of English wool; changes in fashion and in the channels oftrade; civil disturbance in the cloth-making cities of Flanders andBrabant; and the unwillingness of the master craftsmen to modify theirmethods or their type of product in the face of changing demand.

By the early sixteenth century, the broadcloth industry was almostextinct in the villes drapantes of Bruges and Ghent, Ypres and Courtrai,but it had left a formidable legacy of clothworking in the Low Countries.The decline of the urban industry was paralleled by the rise of the ruralcraft. A coarser and thinner cloth was produced in the villages; it wasless expertly woven and was only lightly fulled. It was cheap butserviceable, and far better suited to mass demand than the heavybroadcloth which could command only a luxury market. The weaving ofthe 'new draperies' took place mainly in the villages of Flanders andnorthern France. The region was, in Coornaert's words, 'sature dedraperie'. The chief centre of the new industry was Hondschoote. It hadbeen a village, unincorporated and without gilds, and even in the earlysixteenth century when it had grown to be a place of 15,000 people, itremained straggling and unwalled. Other rural places were following theexample of Hondschoote: Bergues-Saint-Winnoc, Armentieres,Neuve-Eglise. In these overgrown villages an industrial proletariat wasemerging, dependent on those who supplied them with thread, whofinished and marketed their cloth, and even owned the looms they used.

Cloth-making had spread from its focus in Flanders eastwards intoBrabant and southwards into Artois and Picardy. The towns had hereadapted themselves more successfully to the new trends, largely becausetheir fortunes had not previously been bound up so closely with a singletype of cloth. But here too the cities - Arras, Cambrai, Amiens,Abbeville, Beauvais - were each as much the commercial foci of smallmanufacturing regions as industrial centres in their own right.

The only other part of continental Europe which could rival thesouthern Low Countries and northern France was northern Italy andTuscany. The local wool was not of high quality, and for the better kindsof cloth Italy had been dependent upon an unreliable supply ofimported wool. The Italian craftsmen remained more flexible than thoseof the Low Countries, and were not above using flax and cotton in theirfabrics (see p. 240). They also remained more narrowly urban, and onlythe spinning branch was at all widely diffused through the countryside.Most of the cities of northern and central Italy had large but relativelyunspecialised cloth industries, and exported their products to much ofthe Mediterranean region. The huge cloth production of the LowCountries and northern Italy tends to obscure the fact that in every townthere were weavers engaged in making an indifferent local wool into a

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48 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

mediocre cloth to satisfy an undiscriminating local demand.In parts of northern Europe flax was scarcely less important than

wool. It differed from the latter, however, in being grown very largely bythe peasants who prepared and wove it. It was a simpler material to use,and did not require to be finished, beyond bleaching, with which thepeasant was commonly prepared to dispense. Flax was climaticallysuited to northern Europe, and linen was an important rural product in abroad belt extending from Brittany to Poland. In a few places, northernFrance, Switzerland and Flanders amongst them, the flax was carefullyprepared and woven, and good-quality linen produced, but in generalthe fabric was coarse and its use largely restricted to the peasantry. Thequality can, however, be greatly improved by using woollen or cottonthread along with the linen, the latter serving as the warp and theadmixture as the weft. The result was a light fabric, softer than purelinen and more durable than poor quality woollens or cottons. Suchmixed fabrics were produced under the name of fustian and barchent inSwabia and northern Switzerland and in the later Middle Ages and earlysixteenth century they commanded a wide market in the Mediterraneanworld.

Other fabrics were of only minor importance. Cotton was grown on avery small scale in Sicily and was also imported from the Levant andNorth Africa. It was woven, generally with the admixture of flax orwool, in the cities of northern Italy and, to a smaller extent, of southernGermany. Silk was of greater importance, though the volume (5fproduction was probably less than that of cotton fabrics. Its manufacturehad been introduced into southern Italy from the Byzantine empire, andhad spread northwards through the peninsula during the later MiddleAges. Silks in part displaced broadcloth as a luxury fabric. Theirmanufacture was stimulated by kings and aristocracy, and remainedessentially an urban occupation. By the early sixteenth century it was ofslight importance in southern Italy, but its more northerly centres ofproduction, Lucca, Genoa and Venice, retained their importance, andthe craft of silk-weaving had spread to other towns in northern Italy.Indeed, its great mobility was its characteristic feature. Louis XI, in1466, encouraged Italian silk-weavers to settle in Lyons, where theyfounded the industry which still survives. Weavers from Lyons took theindustry to Tours, Blois, Montpellier, Paris, but always with thepatronage and encouragement of king or nobility.

The leather industries

The leather industry in some ways resembled the manufacture of cloth.Both provided essential articles of clothing; both used materials mostly

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49 Europe in the early sixteenth century

of animal origin to produce commodities of widely differing quality andusefulness, and both were carried on in almost every community inEurope. The leather industries consisted essentially of treating skin orhides in such a way that they would not putrefy or decay. This was arelatively simple process, accomplished most often by the use of tanninderived from the bark and galls of oak trees. The stench of the tanyardpervaded the village community in many parts of Europe, as coarseleather was made from the hides of local oxen. The tanning industry wasin most places restricted by the slender supply of hides. Only wherecattle were very numerous, as, for example, near the Alps and at thepoints where the vast herds from the eastern and northern frontiersreached the European heartland, could the leather industry be of morethan local importance. In many of the larger cities, however, theimmense consumption of meat resulted in a large supply of hides andthus in a large tanning industry. Efforts were made to exclude thetanyards from the perimeter of the city, but their heavy demand forwater usually took them to the river-bank, where they polluted the city'swater supply as surely as they did the atmosphere. Softer and moredelicate forms of leather were prepared by scraping and thinning skinsand hides in the course of tanning. Sometimes leather was brightlycoloured by introducing dyestuffs into the tanning process. This was theart of the cordwainer. It was as a general rule an urban craft, serving theneeds of the wealthier classes which alone could afford such luxuries.

The consumer good industries, which today account for a high propor-tion of all manufacturing activities, were relatively unimportant in thesixteenth century. Few such goods were in demand, and most weremade within household or community. Soap was known but used onlyby a very small minority. It was made from tallow and lye derived fromwood-ash. The most important sources of soap were the north Italiancities, notably Venice and Genoa. Potting was carried on where asuitable clay was available, but the product was in most instances only acoarse earthenware. The poor most often used wooden vessels andplatters, and the well-to-do ate off pewter. Glass-making was moredeveloped. Glass was used increasingly in windows and for decorativevessels. The Italians, particularly the Venetians, had already establisheda high reputation for their wares, and the craft was in the sixteenthcentury spreading in France and Germany (see p. 244). By the end ofthe Middle Ages paper was widely used as an alternative to parchment.Most was made from rags and cloth waste. The chief centres ofproduction were the north Italian cities, but the craft was spreading toFrance and the Rhineland. Printing was established mainly in the largercommercial cities of Italy and western Europe.

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50 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

o Blast-furnace

Smelting or

refining hearth

Fig. 1.9 Ironworking in the sixteenth century

Metal industries

These formed a group second in importance only to clothworking. Ironwas used in small amounts almost everywhere, for nails, plough-coulters, weapons and tools, armour, chains and, more recently, ord-nance. In addition widespread use was made of the non-ferrous metals,copper, lead, tin and, though indirectly, zinc. Pewter, an alloy of leadand tin, was used for plates and drinking vessels, and latten, a copperalloy, for bowls. But metals were expensive and their use was sparing.Wills sometimes bequeathed small quantities of 'old iron', which weregiven what might seem to have been exaggerated values in inventoriesof personal property.

Iron was the least valuable of the metals. Its ores were amongst thecommonest minerals in the earth's crust, and could be obtained from

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51 Europe in the early sixteenth century

A Silver

• Lead-Zinc

• Copper

T Tin

Fig. 1.10 Non-ferrous metals in sixteenth-century Europe

shallow pits in many areas without the use of costly equipment or theemployment of skilled miners. It mattered little that most were inferiorboth in quality and metal content. Nevertheless, they could be made, inthe hands of skilful ironworkers, to yield a serviceable metal. On theother hand, some ores acquired a high reputation and yielded an ironwhich was in demand throughout Europe. rl >ose of northern Spain andthe Italian Alps, of Dauphine and Franche-Comte, Lorraine and Liege,the Rhineland and central Sweden were well known, and gave rise toimportant smelting and refining industries.150 But to these must beadded the countless centres of less importance, which were to be foundfrom southern Spain to Poland (fig. 1.9).

The iron industry also called for an inordinate amount of fuel whichincreased greatly wherever the blast-furnace replaced the so-called

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52 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

'direct' process. In consequence iron-smelting and -refining were of thegreatest importance where large reserves of ore were found close toextensive forests. Scarcity of fuel was a limiting factor in the Italianindustry, and the great advantage of the Rhineland and central Swedenwas their almost inexhaustible supplies of timber for charcoal. Iron-working also required power to work the bellows which provided theblast. Though a small stream would do, problems arose in dry weather,when its flow diminished. Water power was also used to powertrip-hammers which beat refined iron into bars and sheets and drewmalleable iron into wire.151

These marketable forms of iron were the raw material of specialisedand highly skilled craftsmen. 'One smith', wrote Biringuccio, 'is masteronly of massive iron things, such as anchors, anvils, well chains, or guns;another of ploughshares, spades, axes, hoes, and other similar tools forworking the earth and for reaping the harvests. Others are masters ofmore genteel irons such as knives, daggers, swords, and other arms forwounding with the point and edge. Others again make scythes and saws,others gauges, chisels, hatchets, drills, and similar things, including locksand keys. Still others make crossbows and muskets, and others makearmour for protecting and arming the various parts of the human body. . . there are as many kinds of special masters as there are things thatare made or can be made of iron.'152

Two other forms of iron deserve mention. The newly inventedblast-furnace (see p. 251) yielded an iron which would flow and assumethe shape of a mould. This cast-iron was hard but brittle. It was uselessfor making tools, weapons and armour, but men had learned to castguns and slabs with it. The second was steel. By contrast, this was toughas well as hard, ideally suited for tools and weaponry. It was usually theproduct of elaborate processes, some of whose stages belonged rather tomagic than to science. Most, however, involved some form of case-hardening, by which the soft or bar-iron of commerce was transformedinto steel by the absorption of carbon.

If smelting and refining were rural occupations, the fabrication ofironware was more often urban. Few towns were without a gild ofsmiths, and in some they were divided into gilds of armourers, cutlersand other specialised branches. The locus of the industry was deter-mined in large measure by the nature of the product and the volume andweight of raw materials used. Some were consumer-oriented. Thelocksmith, cutler and armourer were to be met with in towns and sometowns acquired a high reputation for the quality of their wares. Thenorth Italian cities of Bergamo, Brescia and Milan, close to theiron-smelting region of the Alps, were renowned for the quality of theirarmour and plate steel. Liege and Cologne, both near areas producing

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53 Europe in the early sixteenth century

soft or bar-iron, made light iron goods.There is no means of knowing how large was the European iron

industry in the early sixteenth century. While the number of craftsmenwho worked in iron in the towns can sometimes be estimated from gildrecords, the number of those who worked in the countryside is quiteunknown, and many were undoubtedly employed only seasonally. Foronly a few areas can one estimate reliably the number of furnaces andhearths, but by extrapolating from these examples Sprandel has esti-mated the total European production of iron of all varieties at about40,000 tonnes a year early in the sixteenth century.153


The sixteenth century differed from those which had preceded it in thepattern of trade more than in any other respect. Late-medieval trade,apart from that between village and market, had been predominantlyone between the Mediterranean and north-western Europe. TheMediterranean Sea was in the broadest sense the focus of Europeantrade. Commodities from the Middle East and southern Asia - raw andfabricated cotton, silks and dyestuffs; wine, alum and spices - wereconveyed from the Middle Eastern ports to those of the north-westernMediterranean and from here were distributed to western and centralEurope. These were requited by the export of woollens, fustians andlinen, armour and weapons, pewter and other metals. All parts ofEurope contributed to the flow of goods towards Africa and the MiddleEast.

This system lasted well into the sixteenth century, but two yearsbefore that century began, Vasco da Gama and his fleet of Portugueseships had reached the Indian port of Calicut. He returned with a cargoof spices which would otherwise have found their way to Europe by wayof Alexandria and Venice. For a time the volume of pepper reachingEuropean markets by the traditional routes declined, but within a fewyears had recovered. The Portuguese did not reduce the Levantinespice trade to permanent insignificance';154 and in the mid-century onlyabout 6 per cent of the spices handled in the Antwerp market had beenbrought to Europe by the Portuguese.155 The threat of oceanic trade tothe commerce of the Mediterranean may have been no more than acloud on the distant horizon, but there were many Italian merchantswho viewed it with as much alarm as they did the conquests by theOttoman Turks.

In the early sixteenth century the latter constituted the more immedi-ate threat. The Turks had conquered much of the Balkan peninsula andwere spreading through the Greek islands. They ended the alum export

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54 An historical geography of Europe 1500-1840

of Phocaea and that of wine from Greece and Crete. The butt ofmalmsey wine in which the Duke of Clarence was drowned may wellhave been one of the last to be shipped from the Peloponnesian port ofMonemvasia. It was not oriental spices which were disappearing fromthe Mediterranean markets but a host of less esoteric and more bulkygoods which had sustained the greater part of Mediterranean com-merce.

Just as there was no sudden extinction of Mediterranean shipping anddecline of Mediterranean ports so there was no eruption of oceaniccommerce. There had been an Atlantic trade since prehistoric times. Inthe later Middle Ages, apart from the infrequent and irregular sailing ofItalian and Majorcan galleys to England and the Low Countries, therewas an intensive movement of small craft along the Atlantic shores ofEurope. The Italians, 'especially the Genoese, were . . . numerous andinfluential both in Seville and Lisbon',156 and, before they reachedIndia, the Portuguese had established sugar-growing and viticulture inthe Azores, Madeira and the Canaries. Long before 1500 Bretons,Normans and Flemings were loading sugar in the Atlantic islands andselling it in Antwerp.157 Trade with Iceland, Ireland and Norway wasactive, and a round ship had been developed suited to these stormynorthern seas, which the long Mediterranean craft navigated with suchdifficulty.

It is impossible to exaggerate the volume of trade carried on in littleships from countless ports along the Atlantic coasts of Europe. Most hada capacity of from ten to thirty tonneaux, no more than about 45 cubicmetres, but what they lacked in size they made up by their numbers. Inthe mid-sixteenth century there were up to two thousand arrivals andclearances by such vessels at Nantes, in addition to the large Flemish'hulks' of over 200 tonneaux which occasionally made their appear-ance.158 La Rochelle carried on a similar trade in which the Breton, 'letransporteur universel',159 played a leading role. They shipped the saltand wine of western France to the Channel ports and the LowCountries, returning with metal goods and salt fish. They picked upBasque iron and Spanish wool, coarse linen and canvas from Brittanyand cloth from south-western England, and on occasion they made thelonger voyage to the Atlantic islands for sugar or Madeira wine. In thisway the seamen of Atlantic Europe were preparing for their future inthe American and colonial trades.

A similarly intense local coasting traffic was to be found along bothshores of the English Channel, with frequent commercial intercoursebetween them, and up the rivers of the Netherlands and in the dozens ofsmall ports which encircled the Zuider Zee.160 Those of the northernNetherlands were part of the trading system of northern Europe, and

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55 Europe in the early sixteenth century

their merchants helped to relay westwards the products of the Baltic.The small ports both in Mediterranean and in Atlantic Europe formedgroups each of which was tributary to a large port, which supplied it withexotic and luxury goods and received from it grain and whatever itscatchment area produced. The Adriatic was thus tributary to Venice;the Ligurian and Provencal coasts to Genoa; north-western France toRouen, and the southern North Sea to Antwerp.

The Baltic also formed such a trading sphere in which dozens of smallports were subordinated to Liibeck or Danzig. Superficially it resembledthe Mediterranean. But in the latter Europe traded with the developedarea of the Middle East, in some respects more developed than itself,while the Baltic trade was essentially an exchange of goods between adeveloped western Europe and an underdeveloped or pioneer fringe tothe north and east. This was reflected in both the character and theorganisation of Baltic trade. The Baltic region supplied primary materi-als: timber and wood-ash, furs and skins, grain and salt fish. Its imports,apart from the salt which it could not produce, were made up of wineand the products of west European industry.

Baltic trade had formerly been largely in the hands of the merchantsof the Baltic ports, which, under the informal leadership of Liibeck,formed the loose association known as the Hanseatic League. Both thepolitical and the economic importance of the Hanse had been declining;outsiders, notably the Dutch, were intruding into their commercialspace, and they were in the early sixteenth century increasingly at themercy of the territorial states which encircled their sea.161 At the sametime the volume and importance of Baltic trade with western Europewere increasing. Demand for Baltic timber, especially for shipbuilding,was growing and, if furs had been in some measure replaced by silks as amark of wealth and status, the demand for wood-ash (for glass and soapmanufacture) and corn was tending to grow. At the same time theterritorial lords of the lands around the eastern Baltic were findingprofit in this trade. They were in the early sixteenth century beginning toorganise their estates to produce larger export surpluses. Since rivertransport from their estates to the Baltic coast was of vital importance,those ports which lay close to the great Baltic rivers, the Oder, Vistula,Niemen and Dvina, had an advantage. The small and less-well-sitedports were declining in importance, and ceased to send representativesto the periodical Hansetdge, while Stettin, Danzig, Elbl§g, Konigsbergand Riga gradually increased in importance at their expense.

There is little evidence for the actual volume of merchandise leavingand entering the Baltic during the early sixteenth century. Grain,predominantly rye, appears to have been the most bulky and the mostvaluable export commodity.162 It came mainly from the south Baltic

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ports, especially Danzig. Timber must have been a close second in thetotal Baltic trade, and by far the most important export of the east Balticports, Konigsberg and Riga.163 Flax and hemp were, however, increas-ingly important amongst the exports of Lithuania and White Russia. Tothese commodities, which made up the bulk of the export trade of theBaltic, must be added Swedish copper and iron; copper from the Fuggermines of Slovakia which was shipped down the Vistula to Danzig,164 andsalt fish from the fairs at Skane in southern Sweden. It is evident that thedecline of the Hanse as a political and economic force was not reflectedin any falling-off in Baltic trade. The latter was, in fact, tending to grow,as timber for the navies, flax for the linen industries and grain for theswelling population in western Europe inflated demand.

It is a commonplace of pre-industrial economic history that watertransport was preferred for the movement of all except the lightest andmost valuable goods. It was cheaper and, despite the dangers ofshipwreck and piracy, was often safer than overland transport. That iswhy the coasts of Europe, from the Baltic to the Adriatic, were alivewith small craft, which sailed up tidal rivers far beyond the reach of crafttoday and were pulled up on a beach for unloading and loading, just asthey had been in the Mediterranean since Homeric times. Inlandtransport made use of rivers which would now be judged unnavig-able.165 Rivers too shallow and swift for upstream travel could nonethe-less be used to float timber downstream. Logs were even made up intorafts which could carry other commodities. Rivers could only transportgoods between places which lay along their courses. There was talk ofimproving rivers, but no one seriously contemplated changing theircourse or of supplementing them with canals except on a small and localscale. Opportunities for inland navigation were thus limited, and, exceptin a few instances, the volume of traffic carried was small. There areinstances of the development of 'feeder' roads to carry merchandise tothe river-banks,166 and in Poland an elaborate transhipment pointemerged on the Vistula, where the great road from the steppe reached itnear Kazimierz Dolny. But river transport was slow. Though sails andoars were used, boats had for much of the time to be pulled by men oranimals, and this in turn necessitated the maintenance of a towpath.Even on the Rhine, the inadequacies of the Leinpfad along the river'supper course were a major factor in the small use that was made of it.Boats were commonly ill made and far from watertight. Many a cargomust have been lost in this way, and the salt taken up the Loire wasalways diminished by solution in the river water.

Any well-used river was certain to become encumbered with toll-stations which each charged what the traffic would bear and provided noform of service in return. The Rhine was at this time the most notorious

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example, with, at most, over thirty toll-stations.167 But navigation of theSeine system essential for the supply of Paris was equally impeded.There were no less than eighteen toll-stations in 100 kilometres of riverbelow Paris.168 Some obstacles were even more burdensome than tolls.A few towns, notably the larger Rhineland cities, exercised a Stapel-recht, by which they were able to pre-empt any goods which passedalong their sections of the river. A few were even able to insist on anUmschlagsrechty by which all goods had to be transferred from one boatto another at the city before continuing their journey. Frankfurt-on-Oder prohibited boats from sailing past the town, and thus severelyrestricted shipping on the river and the trade of the port of Stettin.169

The superiority of rivers to roads was indeed restricted to a few riversand a narrow range of commodities. Travellers, as Boyer has shown,manifested 'a decided preference . . . for land routes'.170 One trusted tothe river, wrote Bautier and Mollat, only goods that were 'too bulky tobe carried overland'.171 Thus in the sixteenth century maritime and rivertraffic had detracted very little from the volume of trade that went byroad. To this generalisation there were, however, exceptions. Great usewas made of water transport in the Low Countries, and here navigationbegan to be improved by the construction of sluices as early as thetwelfth century. At first they were simple stanch- or flash-locks, throughwhich a boat was carried by a sudden rush of water. In the later MiddleAges these began to be replaced by chamber-locks with a gate aboveand below. Such devices were of great importance in the sixteenthcentury, and many inland cities, such as Lille, would communicate withthe maritime ports only by their use.172 By the sixteenth century a fewartificially created waterways were in use in the Low Countries andnorthern Italy, where Leonardo da Vinci devised the mitre-gate toreplace the awkward portcullis type of lock-gate.173

Europe was criss-crossed by a complex network of routes. These wererarely defined clearly, except where they crossed bridges or mountains,and they often diverged into competing tracks, between which thetraveller chose according to the weather or the season.174 Most routeshad been established during the Middle Ages; very few outside Italyderived from the road system left by the Romans.175 None wereproperly built or adequately maintained, and the quality of the surfaceusually varied with the character of the rock that was being traversed.Roads that had been traced over clay rock or alluvium might beimpassable for much of the winter, and travellers sometimes took a hillyroute rather than one through gentler terrain because its surface wasdrier. In the sixteenth century an increasing interest was being taken initineraries because more people were travelling. In 1553 CharlesEstienne published his guide to the routes of France, which served as a

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model for later road-books.176 A few years later the first road-mapappeared.177 Countless travellers recorded both the routes they tookand their impressions of the quality of both road and overnightaccommodation. It was possible to travel by a fairly direct routebetween all towns of large and medium size. Rauers has constructed aroad-map for central Europe on the basis of early itineraries.178 The netof roads, clearly recognisable as such, was dense in the Rhineland andwestern Germany, though much thinner to the east. The road patternwas in process of continual change. The building of a new bridge or thecollapse of an old one could make a important difference to the flow oftraffic. The rise of new commercial centres: Medina del Campo orSeville, Antwerp or Amsterdam was necessarily accompanied by thedevelopment of new routes.

Bridges, ferries, even toll-stations served as fixed points throughwhich the routes had to pass; so also did inns and hospices. The travellerlooked for shelter and security at night, and this he could not usuallyfind on the open road. Nowhere did accommodation serve to fix theroute more strongly than in mountains. There was, for example, aninfinity of routes across the Alps, but only a small number were used.Some, like the Brenner, were relatively low and easy, but the others,like the difficult Great St Bernard, had hospices which gave the travellershelter as well as protection during the most arduous part of his journey.The most-used passes were, in fact, the Mont Genis, on the route fromLyons to northern Italy; the Great St Bernard, the St Gotthard,Reschen-Scheideck and Brenner.179 There was no close season for theAlpine roads as there was at sea. 'The fittest times to passe the Alpes',wrote Fynes Moryson, 'are the winter moneths, when no snow is newlyfallen, and the old snow is hard congealed, or else the moneths of June,July and August, when the snow neere the high wayes is altogethermelted.'18°

Unless heavy rains had made the roads difficult the traveller couldoften cover 50 or even 70 kilometres a day, but this was arduous and hesometimes interrupted his journey, if it was a long one, for a day or two.Charles de Bernenicourt, for example, left Bethune in Flanders on 20September 1532 and reached Naples on 22 November. He had spentforty-four days on the road, travelling by way of Lyons, the Mont CenisPass, Bologna, Florence and Rome.181 His average day's journey wasabout 35 kilometres. Important news could be carried as much as 100kilometres in a day.182 Merchandise, however, travelled very muchmore slowly than the ordinary traveller. By the sixteenth century afour-wheeled waggon, illustrated in many contemporary manuscripts,was in widespread use, but pack-animals - chiefly mules - were impor-tant in the Alpine region and southern Europe,183 and human porterage

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59 Europe in the early sixteenth century

was used especially by the chapmen who travelled from village to villagewith their wares.

Amongst the more important commodities were spices. They camefrom south-eastern Asia either by the overland or the oceanic route torespectively Venice or Lisbon. Venetian spices were distributed mainlyby the Alpine routes to central and western Europe, and only occasion-ally by galley to western ports. The Portuguese spices were distributedby sea, most going to Antwerp for redistribution in northern Europe.184

Throughout the first half of the sixteenth century the Lyons fairshandled spices brought across the Alps from Italy or up the Rhonevalley from Marseilles; in either case, it was overland spices.185 Thevolume of spices in European trade was small. The twice-yearlyPortuguese fleets brought some 40-45,000 quintals a year to Ant-werp - about 4500 tonnes, though units of measurement are uncer-tain.186 A similar, though more variable, amount passed through theMiddle East and Europe's Mediterranean ports. Pepper made up, as ageneral rule, some 90 per cent of the cargoes, with ginger, cloves andcinnamon accounting for most of the remainder.

Textiles composed the largest category of goods in European trade,but they defy evaluation. The market was dominated by light fabrics.Foremost amongst them were the 'new draperies' of the Low Countriesand northern France and the mixed fabrics of southern Germany andnorth Italy.187

The loosely woven and lightly fulled cloth of Hondschoote, Lille andof other centres in north-western Europe found a market in much ofFrance and Spain, and were sold in the Rhineland and Germany. Herethey met the competition of mixed fabrics, woven from a combination ofwool, flax and cotton (see p. 237). Swabia and the Lake Constanceregion were a major source of these cloths, whose export was largelyhandled by the company of merchants trading from the small town ofRavensburg.188 Cloth, chiefly fustian, barchent and linen, was distri-buted over much of west Germany, but the largest market lay in theMediterranean basin, and the biggest traffic was across the passes of theEngadine to northern Italy and the ports of Venice and the Liguriancoast. Raw cotton for the barchent manufacture moved in the oppositedirection. But the Ravensburg merchants were no specialists. They dealtin leather and skins; dyestuffs, alum and all materials of the cloth-maker's art, as well as in metals and spices. They had in 1507 switchedtheir purchases of pepper from Venice to Antwerp, a significant straw inthe wind of European commerce.

Most of Europe's demand for cloth was satisfied by local weavers, butmany areas, in addition to those mentioned, produced an exportablesurplus. In general it was light fabrics of medium quality, and much of it

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was linen. Many towns of northern France sold 'new draperies', andtoiles of linen or hemp were made in much of north-western France forsale in central and eastern Europe.189 In the early sixteenth century thelargest market for light and cheap cloth was in the colonial trade ofSpain and Portugal,190 already demonstrating its importance for themanufacturing industries of Europe.

Countless other consumer goods entered into the trading pattern ofEurope in the early sixteenth century: leather and skins, dyestuffs andalum, pewter, brass and other metal goods, but in most instances oneknows too little about the provenance and the volume of the goodstraded to be able to present a picture of their role in European trade.Three groups of commodities provide, however, an exception: themetals, salt and grain. The grain trade is well documented because it wasa matter of life or death to so many communities, and trade in mineralsis relatively easy to study because its distribution was narrowly circum-scribed and was subject to a degree of governmental or monopolisticcontrol.

Iron was exported mainly from northern Spain, the Italian Alps andthe metal-bearing regions of the Ardennes, Eifel and Siegerland (fig.1.9). The non-ferrous metals were more narrowly localised than iron,and their movement easier to trace. Copper, in demand for both bronzeand brass and for use as coinage, was produced mainly in Slovakia andat Mansfeld in the Harz. From these sources it was distributed to Italyand north-western Europe (fig. 1.10). Lead and calamine (metallic zincwas not known) were distributed from the Ardennes-Eifel, the Harzand the Ore mountains of Bohemia. Closely associated with lead wassilver, much of which was circulated in the form of coinage. The mintingof silver 'dollars' at Jachymov (Joachimsthdler) was begun in 1519.191

Most of the tin in the European market, used for both bronze- andpewter-making, came from south-western England,192 but in the earlysixteenth century it was also mined in the Bohemian Ore mountains.193

Salt, like food and clothing, was needed everywhere. It was obtainedfrom a few inland salt-springs, particularly those of the Jura, Lorraine,Liineburg and Salzburg, and from coastal saltpans. The latter were themore important and were to be found chiefly along flat coasts where thesummer sun was hot enough to evaporate sea water. This, in effect,restricted them to coastal regions lying south of the Loire. A few were,however to be found on the Breton and Normandy coasts.194 From thesaltpans of the Biscay coast there was an export of salt not only up theLoire but also by coastwise shipping to the British Isles, northern Franceand the Low Countries.195 From here some of it made its way in Dutchor Hanseatic ships to the Baltic, where it met the competition ofLiineburg salt and ultimately that of the Polish salt-mines of Wieliczka

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61 Europe in the early sixteenth century

and Bochnia.196 Competition was intense between rival salt-springs, andalso between them and the salt brought inland from the coast. Transportcosts were the chief factor, but governments sometimes intervened toassist or restrict the movement of salt.197

Most of the trade of early-sixteenth-century Europe was conductedon a local scale. It consisted of the supply of bread grains, live animalsand other products of agriculture to the towns, and was carried onmainly through the mechanism of the local market. Quantities weresmall, and the peasant and even his lord often made the market journeyto sell only a bushel or two of corn or a few chickens. Under suchconditions there was a strong tendency for iocal market areas' toemerge, that is, 'districts having a strong tendency towards a differentialprice level'.198 Such areas must have been nearly self-sufficing, and theflow of commodities between one such area and another was too smallto smooth out the price differentials between them.

There was, nevertheless, a long-distance movement of foodstuffs; thelarger cities could not otherwise have been supplied. The larger the city,the greater was the tendency for the production of perishable food-stuffs - vegetables especially - to predominate in its immediate vicinity,thus forcing the city merchants to draw their grain supply from evergreater distances. The maintenance of a supply of bread grains was anessential function of city government. In many cities, notably those ofnorthern Italy, a department of the urban administration - the casa d'abondanza - was charged with purchasing and maintaining a store ofgrain in the city for use in emergency. In France, grain jobbers orblatiers bought in one market and sold in another according to theirknowledge of prices. Since prices were higher in the larger towns than inthe small-town markets, there was a movement of corn to the former.All large towns had their areas of regular supply, together with a verymuch broader but less definite area which was drawn upon in time ofcrisis (fig. 1.12). On such occasions, however, one city could secure itsgrain supply only by cutting into the normal supply area of another.

The increase in population during the sixteenth century, in particularthe growth of the larger towns, placed a burden on traditional modes offood supply. The availability of more distant sources of bread grains wasa condition of their continued expansion. Corn was a bulky commodityto transport, especially by land. As Braudel has shown,199 a journey ofonly 200 kilometres could very nearly double its price. Corn wastherefore almost invariably carried by water, except for the short marketjourney. Inland centres of population were dependent on river boats.Small craft brought the grain from Artois down the Scheldt, Lys andother Flemish rivers to the towns of Douai, Bruges, Ghent, Ypres, andthroughout the century there was a running feud between upstream and

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Fig. 1.11 Grain-surplus and -deficit areas and the grain trade in thesixteenth century

downstream towns for control of the grain boats.200 The northernNetherlands was supplied from the lower Rhineland, with some grainbrought by coastal shipping from Picardy.201 Paris and Rouen were bothsupplied mainly from within the basin of the river Seine. Each had 'afairly well defined sphere of influence',202 with Rouen dominating thelower Seine. Geneva, which was growing in size and importance,experienced greater difficulty in ensuring its grain supply. Its immediateregion provided little, and it relied on grain from Vaud, transported byboat down the lake. This had to be supplemented by supplies broughtoverland from as far away as Aargau and Thurgau.203 In the earlysixteenth century the plains of eastern Germany and Poland were still ofonly minor importance in the grain trade, but small amounts wereshipped down the Vistula, Bug and San from Ruthenia and Volhynia toDanzig.204 Estates which produced the grain for export were in mostinstances distant from a navigable river, and trade was possible onlybecause the cost of overland transport to the shipping point was borneby the unpaid labour of the peasantry (see p. 43).205

The countries of northern and western Europe were still on balanceself-sufficing in their supply of bread grains except in time of crisis; onlythe Low Countries were normally dependent on imports.206 Not so the

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Regular supply /I

Occasional supply

Fig. 1.12 The grain supply of the city of Lyons

Mediterranean countries, where concentrations of population had longoutgrown the local food supply. Tuscany could grow less than half itsrequirements. Venice and Genoa were major importers. At Veniceimports continued to grow throughout the first half of the century, andby 1550 had risen to about 170,000 quintals annually.207 Even the PapalStates, one of the less-urbanised parts of Italy, required a regularimport. Indeed, one of the factors in the persistent warfare between thecity-republics of Italy was the urge to command the grain supply ofneighbouring territories. The Mediterranean basin, on the other hand,had been blessed since classical times with a number of grain-surplusareas. Foremost amongst them were southern Italy - especiallyApulia - and Sicily. These continued to form the granary of Italy, andwere supplemented by the plain of Albania.208 Other deficit areas werePortugal and the region of Constantinople. The former drew fromSpain, in which serious shortages had not yet become apparent, andfrom North Africa. Constantinople continued to be supplied from theAegean and Black Sea coasts.209 Egypt and the Levant contributed at

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first to the grain supply of Italy, until the increasing demands ofConstantinople and the exigences of war brought this trade to a close.

The only other foodstuff to enter into long-distance trade was wine.The areas of production were more circ*mscribed than those of thebread grains, and the resulting movement more concentrated. On theother hand, the quality of wines differed greatly from one region toanother, so that some producing areas were also importers. The popes atAvignon, for example, had shown a preference for the wine of Saint-Pourgain, produced far away in the northern Auvergne, and transportedwith great difficulty by road and river to Provence.210 In the sixteenthcentury, as during the later Middle Ages, the chief exporters of winewere Gascony, Burgundy and the Rhineland. The movement was almostexclusively northwards. Gascon wine travelled by sea to Great Britainand the Low Countries, from which some was distributed, again by sea,to north German and Baltic ports.211 Burgundian wines had necessarilyto travel overland for at least part of their journey to the market. Largequantities were transported northwards until they reached the navigabletributaries of the Seine, by which they were carried to Paris andNormandy.212 Some even continued its journey up the Oise to theCompiegne wine fairs, and thence overland to the southern LowCountries. The quantities of wine consumed in the cities were immense;at Antwerp in the 1540s about twenty litres on average were drunk byeach inhabitant in a year. Almost half of this was French wine; the rest,Rhenish. 213 Rhineland wines, from Alsace to the outskirts of Cologne,were carried down the Rhine to the Low Countries, from which some, incompetition with French wines, made their way to Great Britain and theBaltic.

Economic growth

The following chapters will examine the development of population, ofthe urban pattern, of agriculture and manufacturing and trade betweenthe early sixteenth century and the beginning of the Industrial Revolu-tion in continental Europe. Progress was uneven and significanteconomic growth occurred only in western Europe before the middleyears of the nineteenth century. There was growth wherever andwhenever the gross national product increased more sharply than thepopulation. Such increase was due to innovation - in agriculture, inmanufacturing or in transport and the transactions which constituted thelinkages between these activities.

No people has a monopoly on innovation. The inventions whichprepared the way for the Industrial Revolution were in the mainpioneered in Great Britain, and in continental Europe were first

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65 Europe in the early sixteenth century

adopted in Belgium and France. They could have been made almostanywhere in Europe. That they were not must be attributed in the mainto social and economic conditions. Innovation is made - or at leastaccepted - only if the inventor has freedom to use and profit from hisinvention. For this reason the abolition of restrictive gilds and patents ofmonopoly, such as occurred in the more advanced countries, was aprecondition of their success. Similarly, innovation in agriculture wasconditional on ownership or at least control over the land, so that theinnovator could be sure of reaping the benefits of his innovation.Communal rights over land, short-term tenancies and share-croppingleases were all inimical to agricultural progress.

These conditions of economic progress taken together amount to anassurance in law and custom of property rights in land and in ideas andinnovations. This, as North has argued,214 is a precondition of economicprogress, but one which was achieved only in very restricted areas ofEurope, notably Great Britain and the Low Countries. It was conspicu-ously absent from Spain and Portugal, from Italy and from eastern andsouth-eastern Europe, and was not strongly felt in France and centralEurope.

A second factor in economic progress during these centuries was theincreasing scale of economic activity and its growing concentration at afew centres. This was the case, not only with manufacturing, but alsowith commercial and financial activities. The prosperity of the LowCountries owed much to the predominance of Antwerp and later ofAmsterdam in these latter fields. The continued growth of a few largecities and the relative if not absolute decline of the many small is afurther illustration of this trend. Not only were the economies of scaleachieved, but the speed and efficiency of all forms of business andcommercial transactions were achieved. At the same time managerialskills were developed. The entrepreneur had improved access to themarket and greater knowledge of market conditions. At the same timecommercial institutions evolved to concentrate capital at points where itcould be used.

But such progress was very far from general. It, like innovation inagriculture and manufacturing, was dependent on a system of law andcustom which encouraged and rewarded the entrepreneur, in this casethe financier and business manager. Progress had been made in Italy inthe later Middle Ages, but the advantages enjoyed by the Italian citieswere lost in the sixteenth century as the focus of commercial activityshifted from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Spain and Portugal werewell placed geographically to benefit from this development, but in thelong run failed to do so. They never evolved the legal-social conditionswhich would encourage and reward the entrepreneur and the innovator.

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These were really achieved only in Great Britain and the Low Coun-tries, especially the Netherlands. Some progress was made in thisdirection in France and in some of the German states, notably Branden-burg-Prussia, but here it sprang more from governmental policy thanfrom a favourable social attitude to manufacturing and commerce. Inmuch of Europe there was no progress before the second half of theeighteenth century. Indeed, in the Balkan peninsula and much ofeastern Europe there was retrogression, as invasion, war and the revivalof neo-feudalism destroyed what little scope there had been for theentrepreneur and the innovator. These regional variations in opportun-ity and achievement will be examined in the next six chapters.

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2The population of Europe from thesixteenth to the early nineteenthcenturies

Population was growing rapidly throughout most of the sixteenthcentury. This expansion had begun in most areas before the end of theprevious century and in some was continued into the seventeenth. Thenthe rate of growth slackened and late in the century it appears to haveceased. The total may even have declined locally, so that the nadir ofEuropean population in modern times was reached in the early 1700s.Then slowly it began to expand. The rate of growth accelerated in thesecond half of the eighteenth century and continued through thenineteenth. Such in broad outline was the course of population changein modern Europe. Not every part of the continent conformed with thismodel. There were some where the seventeenth-century decline wasscarcely experienced and others where it had begun well before 1600.The eighteenth-century recovery began earlier in England than incontinental Europe, and earlier in western than in eastern. Neverthe-less, there is sufficient unanimity to suggest that there were commonfeatures to the demographic history of all parts of Europe.

For most of these centuries the population of Europe displayedcharacteristics similar to those of the Middle Ages. Both birth-rates anddeath-rates were high, and the expectation of life short. Population wasalways pressing against available resources, and any reduction in theaccustomed supply of food, even on a small and local scale, was likely tobe followed by hardship, even by famine. Disease was endemic, eruptingperiodically to epidemic proportions, and causing heavy mortality in apopulation already weakened by malnutrition. It was for good reasonthat the Tudor litany of the English church prayed: 'From plague,pestilence and famine / Good Lord deliver us.' These were ever presentin the sixteenth century, as they had been throughout the Middle Ages.

In the late eighteenth century, when population was again beginningto increase, Thomas Malthus demonstrated how a population, obeyingits natural instinct to grow, was always pushing against a resource basewhich could be expanded only a great deal more slowly. 'It may besafely asserted', he wrote, 'that population when unchecked, increasesin a geometrical progression of such a nature as to double itself everytwenty-five years . . . The yearly increment of food would . . . have a

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constant tendency to diminish, and the amount of the increase of eachsuccessive ten years would probably be less than that of the preceding.'From this constraint man succeeded in freeing himself - if only tem-porarily - during the age of Malthus himself.

Birth-rates and mortality rates were influenced by food supply, by thespread of epidemic diseases, by the incidence of war and by socialattitudes to marriage and the family. It is to the interplay of these factorsthat one must look for an understanding of the changes in the size,distribution and structure of the population of Europe during moderntimes.

Population and food supply

Every four or five years there was a harvest failure. In Langland's wordsin the Vision of Piers the Ploughman:

ere five years be fulfilled such famine shall ariseThrough floods and through foul weather fruits shall fail.

Conditions had not greatly changed by the sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies, though crop failures were somewhat less frequent thanLangland had suggested. The greater part of the population lived soclose to the margin of subsistence that any harvest which fell signifi-cantly below the average bore with it the threat of famine. Most of thefamine crises during the pre-industrial period were due to the weather.It is unlikely that any season of bad weather spanned the wholecontinent. Severe conditions in the west or north might be compensatedfor by favourable conditions for agriculture in the east or south.Conditions which might in a particular area be detrimental to thedominant crop could in fact be favourable to others. It was the poorlydeveloped means of transport and lack of flexibility in the croppingsystems which made famine so much more disastrous than it mightotherwise have been.

Harvest failure could usually be anticipated weeks or even monthsahead, leading dealers to buy up supplies of grain and others to hoard.Under normal conditions the price of bread crops tended to rise inspring and early summer, as the stocks on hand began to diminish. Theexpectation of scarcity led to a much sharper rise than usual, removingthe bread grains from the reach of the mass of the population. The poorwere driven to mix their scanty supply with inferior and decayed grain,and ergotism, caused by eating diseased rye, was not uncommon.1 Theyhad resort to other plants, including chestnuts - a regular item of food incentral France - and the bark of trees, which the human stomach wasunable to digest. Undernourishment and malnourishment left the massof the population vulnerable to every disease, hastened the spread of

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\ A J"! V \Grain prices

Deaths at Dijon


i >\\ A

Deaths at Gien




Fig. 2.1 Grain prices and deaths at Dijon and Gien

epidemics and often made common pulmonary complaints fatal.Even in years of abundant harvests excessive reliance on farinaceous

foods brought its problems. The diet was deficient in anti-scorbuticelements; the lack during winter of vitamin A, derived mainly fromgreen vegetables and dairy produce, exposed people more readily toinfection, and at all times there was a shortage of protein. In almostevery case of which we have record, high grain prices were accompaniedor closely followed by high mortality. Meuvret has commented thatevery sharp rise in grain prices brought with it 'a brutal increase inmortality and a fall no less brutal in the number of conceptions'.2 InBrittany, wrote Goubert, 'three out of four mortality crises occurredimmediately after sharp rises in [grain] prices': in 1773, 1782 and 1786.Only that of 1779 was due to an epidemic unrelated to a price rise.3

Meuvret collated mortality at Dijon and at Gien (dep. Loiret) withthe nearest available grain prices, those for Rozoy-en-Brie (fig. 2.1).Despite the fact that these places are from 120 to 200 kilometres apart,the correlation between the two sets of statistics was high, and thedisastrous crop years of 1693-4 and 1709-10 - probably the worst thatmodern Europe has known - were marked by excessively high mor-talities. Similarly high correlations between grain prices and mortalityhave been demonstrated for the crises of 1811-124 in France and for1816-17 in much of Europe.5

The correspondence of the intendants,6 that mine of information onlocal conditions in France in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth

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Grain prices

Deaths 30


-10 ^

1685-6 1690-1 1695-6

Fig. 2.2 Grain prices and deaths at Pontoise





Fig. 2.3 Grain prices and mortality. The dotted lines show deaths as apercentage of conceptions for (A) Dijon and (B) Gien. The heavy line(C) shows wheat prices as a percentage of those of the previous fiveyears

centuries, supplies colourful detail on the severity of these crises desubsistance. The intendant of Limoges declared that 70,000 people werereduced to begging their bread even before March, and had since livedon rotted chestnuts; even these would soon be exhausted. FromHainault to Bordeaux and from Normandy to Dauphine there werereports of the complete failure of crops, and along the Loire valley thehay harvest was destroyed by floods. Coastal regions were able toimport grain and even Scotland and Ireland were called upon to relievethe scarcity in Gascony, but the inland provinces would have found it

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1680 ^ 1700 n 1720 T 1740 ^ T7&0

Fig. 2.4 Fluctuations in the grain harvest, based on tithe payments toSaint-Trophime, Aries

impossible to transport grain even if the intendants had been able tosecure any. In Champagne the peasants ate bran and roots and thewell-to-do were reduced to a diet of buckwheat. Everywhere there wasappalling mortality, and the intendant of Montauban declared that inthe parishes of his province from a half to two-thirds had succumbed.

The crise de subsistance of 1693-4 was due primarily to an excessivelywet winter, spring and summer. There is no significant evidence ofsevere cold. The next crisis, however, arose from le grand hiver of1708-9, probably the hardest winter of modern times. Autumn-sowncrops were in many areas frozen in the soil and killed. There was adesperate and generally unsuccessful attempt to plough and sow theground with spring corn, but this sent up the price of barley and oats andput them beyond the reach of the peasants. Land was abandoned forlack of seed, and by the summer of 1709 there was acute starvation in allparts of France until the better harvest of 1710 restored the country'sfood supply.

The year 1740 was also one of severe weather, high grain prices andacute mortality, especially in north-western Europe. The winter of1739-40 had been long and hard, and spring delayed. A 'glacial' coldpersisted throughout Europe. Harvests were late and yields low. Mer-chants hoarded grain and forced prices so high that the poor could notafford to buy. The government of the Austrian Low Countries inter-vened to secure a more equitable distribution of foodstuffs, andundoubtedly prevented mortality from becoming more severe. Thenumber of marriages was greatly reduced and the level of conceptionswas low during the crisis period. 'It is quite certain', wrote Gisele VanHoutte, 'that there exists a correlation between want of bread andirregularities in population growth.'7

After the middle years of the eighteenth century conditions began tochange. There continued to be food crises, especially in France in1758-9, 1767-8, 1788-9, 1811-12 and 1816-17. But none appear tohave been of the magnitude of those of the previous century. Fluctua-tions in the price of grain were much reduced - probably by government

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1625 1650 1675 1700 1725 1750 1775

Fig. 2.5 Wheat prices (B) in livres per setier, and date of the wineharvest (A) in days after 1 September. A late wine harvest denotes acool, cloudy and generally wet summer, and commonly coincides witha poor grain harvest and high prices

action - and there is no reason to suppose that mortality was greatlyinfluenced by them.

It would be extravagant to attribute the stagnation in populationgrowth, which occurred in the seventeenth century, only to theserecurring crises de subsistance. There were also medical and socialfactors, but the fluctuations in the level of food supply were of greatimportance. There was a connection between undernourishment on theone hand and the spread of epidemic disease on the other, but this isdifficult to demonstrate. Nor is it possible to trace in detail the volumeof food production during these centuries, for the price series reflectonly the scarcity-value of corn in the urban markets, not the amount thatwas available in the countryside.

There appear to have been few food crises during the sixteenthcentury, when population in general was increasing steadily, but thismay in part be due to the fact that sources are fewer and less detailed.The frequency of famine crises diminished in the second half of theeighteenth century. At the same time population increase becamemeasurable in many parts of Europe, and one is tempted to relate thesetwo phenomena. The minor crises of the later eighteenth century gainedmuch publicity and led to well-documented food riots.8 The badharvests which preceded the French Revolution were politically signifi-cant in part because such disasters had ceased to be expected.

Crises of disease

It is impossible to dissociate the population increase of the latereighteenth century from the fact that food supply was probably more

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abundant and certainly more regular. But the fall in the mortality rate,which was the principal factor in the expansion of population, was alsodue in part to the fact that certain epidemic diseases were less virulent.Starvation and even malnutrition exposed people to disease andincreased the probability that they would succumb to such ever-presentcomplaints as influenza and bronchitis. It may also have made themmore vulnerable to epidemic diseases, such as smallpox, typhus andplague. But it was not primarily for this reason that epidemics spread.

During the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries the most severeepidemic disease was the plague, but during the later seventeenth itsoutbreaks became less serious, and the last of significance occurred inProvence in 1720. Outbreaks had been locally severe, but none werewidespread, and extensive areas had no recorded outbreak. The hall-marks of the plague differed from those of most other diseases.Mortality usually increased sharply during the heat of summer andcommonly remained high into September. It then declined during theautumn months, but the disease sometimes lingered through the winterand erupted again, though less virulently, during the following summer.The evidence for the severity of a plague outbreak lies mainly in burialrecords, but it is always difficult to distinguish between deaths due to theplague and those which arose from fevers and other diseases of thewarmer months. It does appear, however, that the young were moresusceptible than other age-groups.

The Great Plague of London of 1665 was the last major Britishoutbreak. Infection was carried to the Low Countries, leading to a seriesof outbreaks in Flanders.9 Mortality, however, does not appear to havebeen particularly severe, but it then spread to Brussels where it was agreat deal more virulent.10 Fig. 2.6 demonstrates the seasonal pattern ofplague deaths. During this period the recorded deaths reached over4000, almost 10 per cent of the total population. More significant fromthe demographic point of view was the fact that some 35 per cent of thedead were children, and that this must have been reflected in adiminished birth-rate some twenty years later. This, however, was notthe end of the plague in the Low Countries. There were renewedepidemics in 1667-8 and in 1693-5. The latter coincided with a periodof bad harvests, but one cannot say to what extent malnutritioncontributed to the spread of the plague; it is unlikely that they werewholly independent of one another.

In the city of Amiens there were outbreaks in 1582-4; in 1596-8, atime when many parts of western Europe suffered severely; in 1619 and1627; and there were recurrent outbreaks between 1631 and 1638, andagain at the same time as the Brussels epidemic of 1668-9.n InBurgundy the plague broke out sporadically from 1628 to 1631, but a

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J F M A M J J1668

0 N ' D ' J 'F M1669

A ' M ' J ' J "A N D

Fig. 2.6 Plague deaths at Brussels, by month

severe epidemic of 1636 was the last in this region.12

In Germany the plague was widespread during the first half of theseventeenth century, in part at least because it was disseminated byarmies during the Thirty Years' War.13 In Catalonia it was severe in1589-92, 1629-31, 1650-4 and, as in many other parts of Europe, in1683-95.14 The city of Valladolid, together with much of Old Castile,experienced an outbreak in 1599 and again in 1647-53 and 1677-85.15

Italy was ravaged by plague in the late sixteenth and early seventeenthcenturies and the northern cities were decimated.

In the later years of the seventeenth century the plague disappearedfrom western Europe. The outbreak in Marseilles of 1720 appears tohave been due to an infected ship from the Levant, and it did not spreadbeyond Provence.16 There were sporadic outbreaks in Poland in1708-10, and heavy mortality in Danzig as well as in several otherBaltic ports. There were minor occurrences in Germany, Bohemia andAustria during the following years, but thereafter the record is silent.The plague had disappeared from Europe.

Smallpox became important only in the seventeenth century, when itgave rise to localised epidemics. The medical diary kept by a Plymouthdoctor, John Huxham, from 1728 to 1752, clearly associated theheaviest mortality during this period with epidemic smallpox.17 Inocula-tion against smallpox had long been known, and was described in 1718in one of the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.18 It does not

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Fig. 2.7 Diffusion of the plague in Germany during the Thirty Years'War

appear to have been particularly effective, and near the end of thecentury began to be replaced by the newly discovered method ofvaccination.19 It was not, however, until the nineteenth century that anysignificant reduction was made in mortality from smallpox.

Syphilis, which had come to the fore in the early sixteenth century,had ceased to be epidemic by the seventeenth. Leprosy was dying out atthis time, and Louis XIV closed the leper houses of France in 1662.20

Diphtheria was not important outside southern Europe before theeighteenth century, but malaria, influenza and measles - particularlysevere amongst children - were common, and occasionally reachedepidemic proportions. Contemporaries described and named a numberof forms of fever, not all of which can be related with certainty tomodern febrile diseases. It is clear, however, that 'putrid' and 'nervous'fevers - to be identified with respectively typhus and typhoid - as wellas 'scarlatina' or scarlet fever were all dangerous and of considerableimportance to demographic history. The greatest importance probablyattached to typhus. It was transmitted by body lice, and spread mostrapidly 'when cold produces the uncleanliness and overcrowding that

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favour the activity and dissemination'21 of the parasite. It was alsoknown as 'camp', 'military' and 'gaol' fever, from the frequency withwhich it broke out in crowded communities. For the same reason it wasalso called hospital fever. Typhus, it is claimed,22 was invariablyassociated with famine, probably on account of the unhygienic condi-tions that were likely to prevail. At first it attacked all classes, but as theeighteenth century wore on, it became more and more a feature of thepoorest classes, living in the most crowded conditions. It is possible,though of this there is no statistical evidence, that the demographicimportance of typhus was exceeded only by that of plague and smallpox.

Typhoid, dysentery and cholera, all of them likely to be spread bypoor sanitation and a contaminated water supply, were widespread.Cholera originated in Asia, and was brought, like plague before it, inships from the Middle East and Orient. It appeared in port cities in theeighteenth century, but as a major epidemic did not reach Europe untilthe nineteenth.

There can be little question that the plague, even though its outbreakswere relatively localised, served as a severe brake on population growth,especially as it appears to have been experienced most severely amongstthe young. On the other hand, any severe mortality was likely to befollowed, with the redistribution of wealth which it brought about, byearly marriages and a higher birth-rate. To this extent a severe mortalitywas to some extent self-correcting. Smallpox, typhus and the feversnever assumed the 'killer' role in the eighteenth century that had beenplayed by the plague in the sixteenth century, and this change in thecharacter of the dominant diseases must have contributed in somedegree to the 'vital revolution'.

War and mortality

The third check on population growth was war. From its very naturewarfare was destructive of life, not only of the soldiery who participateddirectly, but also of the civil population caught up in the movement ofarmies. At the beginning of the modern period armies were poorlyorganised, inadequately controlled and highly destructive. They livedoff the land, and the passage of an army led at least to food shortage andmalnutrition. The movement of large bodies of soldiers also spreadepidemic diseases, and refugees all too often infected those who gavethem shelter. Geneva in 1686 suffered a high mortality from diseasesbrought to the city by the Huguenot refugees from France. Nor werethose who went down to the sea in ships immune. Crews, confined in asmall space for long periods of time, were particularly susceptible todiseases like typhus and cholera, which they communicated to those

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Over 504 1 - 5 02 1 - 3 03 1 - 4 011-20Up to 10

Fig. 2.8 Percentage loss of population in Germany during the ThirtyYears' War

ashore at ports where they called.Warfare was highly destructive in the sixteenth and at least the first

half of the seventeenth centuries when religion imported an addeddegree of savagery. The Thirty Years' War (1618-48) caused appallinglosses in central Europe. Franz has estimated23 that in extensive areasmore than half the land was wasted, and that mortality was more than40 per cent over at least a quarter of Germany (fig. 2.8). Grimmels-hausen24 and Callot, in their different ways, depicted the horrors ofthis, the most destructive of European wars before the twentiethcentury. The wasting of the Rhenish Palatinate by the French armyunder Turenne (1674) has been described as 'the most thoroughapplication within the limits of the historical consciousness of westernEurope of what we now call a "scorched-earth" policy'.25 The devasta-tion of Burgundy in 1636 was only a degree less severe.

In the later seventeenth century and during the eighteenth warfarelost its religious component. Armies became better organised and

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provisioned and warfare itself 'in some ways more humane'.26 Soldiersmay have dealt less harshly with the countryside through which theypassed, but they nevertheless continued to help themselves to whateversupplies they needed. Warfare still led to scarcity, famine and death,though the scale was less extreme than during the Thirty Years' War.Warfare must have restricted population growth, even though, asColeman has emphasised,27 its role has often been exaggerated. Itsdemographic influence, however, was probably a great deal less signifi-cant than that of either epidemic disease or famine crises, though itundoubtedly contributed to the severity of both.

Social conditions and population growth

The structure of society and of the family exerted an influence onpopulation trends no less marked than the crises which have beendiscussed. Most people married and had families, and the number ofcelibates was not great. Moheau estimated in the mid-eighteenthcentury that in France ecclesiastics made up only about 1 per cent of thepopulation.28 This may have been on the low side, but their number wascertainly small, and that of lay celebates not a great deal larger. It can beassumed that at least 90 per cent of the adult population was married.The size of the family, or at least the number of births, was dependentvery largely on the length of the period during which the parents livedtogether. Since the fertile period of women ends in their early forties,and fertility diminishes sharply towards the end of this period, muchdepends on the age at marriage. Any factor which favours earlymarriages is likely to contribute to a higher birth-rate, and postpone-ment of marriage, which could readily happen in time of war orepidemic or following a poor harvest, would have had a negative effecton the birth-rate and thus on the size of the next generation.

It is possible to derive the average age at marriage and the size of thefamily within any community from parish registers, but these are farfrom numerous for the earlier part of the modern period. Those whichhave been analysed are mainly from France and the southern LowCountries. They suggest that age at marriage was relatively high duringthe seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, but tended to becomelower towards the end of the eighteenth. At Carentan, in Normandy,fifty-seven out of seventy-five women were aged 25 or more atmarriage, and only three were below 20.29 At nearby Port-en-Bessin theage at marriage was most often 26 or 27 for women, and 62 per centwere over 25.30 In the city of Amiens the bourgeoisie married at asignificantly greater age than the plebeian classes. Amongst the lattermen tended to marry at about 26 in 1674-8 and at 27 half a centurylater, while for women the average age was only a little younger, from

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24 to 25 years.31 The average age at marriage for those moderately welloff was for men generally from 28 to 30, and for women from 25 to 27.This contrasted with the general tendency for the wealthier classes tomarry at a younger age, as Henry has demonstrated for Geneva.32

The period between successive births within a particular familyranged in general from two to three years, but tended to shorten in theeighteenth century. At Duravel, in Quercy, for example, the averageintergenesic period was 32 months in the period 1693-1720, but only 23months in 1770-1800.33 At Saint-Malo the average lapse of timebetween successive births was one of the shortest found hitherto -21Amonths in the later seventeenth century and 22.4 in the early eight-eenth.34 With marriage generally at an age of not less than 25, thefertile period for women could not have lasted much more than fifteenyears. This would suggest that the size of the completed family could notgreatly exceed six children. The influence of age at marriage on thenumber of births is well shown in the justly famous study of thepopulation of Crulai (table 2.1).35 If it can be assumed that average ageat marriage for women fell by two years or more in the course of theeighteenth century - and for some communities there is good evidencethat it did-one might expect the number of births to have beenincreased by one. Similarly, a reduction of the intergenesic period bysome four months could have had a similar result.

Table 2.1 Size of family according to age at marriage

Number of children0


10 and over





's age at25-9



marriage30 and over




This discussion presumes the absence of any prudential check on thesize of the family, other than the postponement of marriage. It is evidentfrom the study of registers that in some communities greater restraintwas practised than Malthus had believed possible, and it is probable thata rudimentary birth-control was widely used in the eighteenth andpossibly also the seventeenth centuries.

'Marriage . . . was contingent', wrote Ohlin,36 'upon access to alivelihood: in rural society it was postponed until a homestead wasavailable as married couples were expected to live hors de pot et feu and

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not with their parents; in the cities the ban on marriage duringapprenticeship ensured similar prudence.' Age at marriage was thusheavily dependent on the economic situation; employment opportunityled to earlier marriages. A severe mortality might liberate peasantholdings for the young to inherit; the spread of domestic craftspermitted the peasant family to supplement an income from a small-holding and thus encouraged early marriages. In Brittany, in West-phalia, Bohemia and Silesia, the adoption of the domestic manufactureof canvas and coarse linen in the seventeenth century was followed by aperiod of earlier marriages and greater fertility. A system of partibleinheritance also encouraged early marriage, especially if the peasant wasable to pursue a domestic craft.

A combination of late marriages and long intergenesic periods led to asmaller family size than is sometimes supposed to have been the case.Very large families have been well publicised, but were in fact rare, andcompleted families of not over five or six were the norm. Indeed,Moheau claimed that only one family in 27,000 had more than twelvechildren.37

The birth-rate, despite the rarity of really large families, was highthroughout this period. In general, it amounted to 35 to 40 per thousandin rural areas, though it was appreciably lower in towns.38 Deprezobtained crude birth-rates of 38 to 43 per thousand in Flanders at thebeginning of the eighteenth century.39 These tended to fall during thecentury and were from 33 to 37 in 1792. In some areas a very muchlower birth-rate has been postulated, less than 25 per thousand, forexample, in a community in Quercy in 1780-1800.40 One suspects,however, in cases such as this that still-births and children who died intheir earliest months of life were not recorded. On the other hand, it issuggested that as this was a region of small, fragmented peasant holdingswhere the pressure of population was felt acutely, there was in somedegree a voluntary restriction of births. In this particular community thenumber of baptisms per thousand of population declined steadily formuch of the eighteenth century (table 2.2). In any case, it does appearthat the birth-rate, at least in France, was tending to fall in the lateeighteenth century. One must assume that the lower age at marriage wasin some degree offset by the voluntary restriction of conceptions.

Birth-rates even as low as those recorded for Quercy would undercurrent conditions have sufficed to maintain a steadily rising population.That it did not do so during much of the period under discussion was dueto the very high level of mortality. The overall death-rate was between30 and 40 per thousand, but this hides the fact that it was in fact subjectto extreme fluctuations. Mortality crises gave rise at intervals to verygreatly inflated totals. Children always formed a high proportion of

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Table 2.2 Baptismal rateper thousand at Duravel,Quercy



Source: Denise Leymond,'La communaute deDuravel au XVIIle siecle',Ann. Midi, 79 (1967),363-85.

burials, in general 40 per cent and more during crises. Even so, it isquestionable whether children who died before baptism were regularlyrecorded. It was this high mortality amongst children and adolescentswhich brought the net reproduction rate close to unity, and preventedany great increase in total population.

There appears to have been a decline in child mortality during thecentury, but the evidence is scanty. Leymond has compared the rates forthe Beauvaisis in the period 1656-1735 with this for Duravel (Quercy)in 1770-80, and demonstrated a very considerable improvement by thelater eighteenth century (table 2.3). On the other hand, age-specificdeath-rates derived from the unusually good registers of Auriol, nearMarseilles, show very little change between 1676 and the FrenchRevolution.41

Table 2.3 Percentage of children surviving to the ages indicated

Age at death

Up to 1 year1 to 45 to 9

10 to 15Surviving first yearReaching 21





Duravel (Quercy)1770-80



Source: see table 2.2.

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Nevertheless it becomes increasingly apparent that in France gener-ally mortality fell more rapidly than the birth-rate, especially after about1750.42 The last really severe famine crisis was in 1740; the lastoutbreak of plague, in 1720. It is true that other epidemic diseases mayhave become more virulent, but the chief causes of crises de mortalitehad disappeared from the scene. It seems probable, furthermore, thatthe younger age-group benefited more than the old, and that a largerpercentage of those born grew up to become parents in their turn. 43 'Itseems', wrote Louis Henry, 'that the first drop in mortality was due tothe absence of those major catastrophes which, until the beginning, oreven the middle, of the eighteenth century, destroyed in a few years, ifnot months, the surplus [of population] accumulated during a fewdecades free from such calamities.'44 It is the simple fact that, despite adiminished birth-rate, more children were surviving into adulthood inthe later eighteenth century than ever before that goes farthest toexplain the increase in population which occurred in those years (tables2.4 and 2.5).

Table 2.4 Infant mortality in the seventeenth andeighteenth centuries

1676-1700 1771-90




Source: P. Goubert, Beauvais et le Beauvaisis de 1600 a1730 (Paris, 1960), 61.

Table 2.5 Infant mortality in the Auvergne

1740-60 1770-90

Parish A 31.8 per 1000 29.3 per 1000Parish B 25.0 24.7ParichC 23.7 21.9Parish D 28.0 25.0

Source: A. Poitrineau, La vie rural en Basse-Auvergneau XVIII* siecle (1726-1789), Pub. Fac. Lett.Clermont-Ferrand, 2nd ser., 23 (1965), 61.

The household and family

For the period before regular censuses began to be taken, estimates of

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total population must be based in large measure on the number ofhearths or households. The hearth had been used since the later MiddleAges as a unit of taxation, and most eighteenth-century estimates ofFrench population were based on households rather than on theabsolute number of persons. The use of hearth-lists raises two problems.In the first place, the hearth tended to become for purposes of taxationmerely a unit of assessment, and increasing prosperity might lead onlyto an arbitrary increase in the number of hearths assessed. Secondly,even if the number of hearths was recorded with reasonable accuracy,this took no account of the very great variations through both space andtime in the size of the hearth. It differed between town and country;between different rural areas, and between the seventeenth andeighteenth centuries. The houses of Paris in 1770 had, according toMoheau,45 almost 25 inhabitants; those of Lyons only a little less; but inRouen, only 6. In Provence the average urban 'houseful' was almost 6,while 4i was reckoned a high estimate for rural areas. Even within thelatter there were great variations. Tomas found46 that in the Forez thehousehold commonly consisted of 4 or 5 persons in the Loire valley,while in the surrounding mountains it often rose to 10. Urban house-holds were commonly larger than rural, but Helin found the reverse tobe the case in the province of Liege at the end of the eighteenthcentury.47 On the other hand one finds in some rural areas evidence fora large, patriarchal family consisting of more than two generations,together with collateral members of the family. The extended family waslikely to occur in any part of peasant Europe, and was not entirelyunknown in the city. It was relatively common in mountainous areas,notably the Auvergne, and received its fullest development in thezadruga of the Balkans, where, as Mosely has shown,48 it was admirablyadapted to pioneering in this insecure and thinly peopled region.Berkner has demonstrated from a small area in Austria how theextended family alternated with the nuclear family of parents andchildren, according to whether grandparents and other elderly relativeshad to be supported.49

The size of the household was clearly subject to very great variationsin most parts of Europe, and probably tended to become larger withincreasing size of the population after about 1750. The graph (fig. 2.9)was based on a very large sample of English households, but it isunlikely that it is wholly inapplicable to much of western Europe.Laslett found 4.75 a convenient multiplier in his study of a large sampleof English households, and if one has to choose for continental Europe,it must be between 4.5 and 5.0, remembering that this can be gravelydistorted in large cities and in areas where the extended family wasfrequently to be found.

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Full sample



3.5 4 4.5 5 5.5 6Average size of household

6.5 7

Fig. 2.9 Household size in England, seventeenth and eighteenthcenturies

Population structure and migration

It was, by and large, a young population. Expectation of life at birth wasprobably no more than about 30 years and in many areas little morethan 25. Mortality among the young, especially those in the first two orthree years of life, was particularly heavy. In addition to epidemicdiseases which afflicted all age-groups, they were especially vulnerableto measles, which occasionally assumed epidemic proportions, and,during hot summers, to a fatal form of diarrhoea. Parish registers for theseventeenth and eighteenth centuries demonstrate the high mortalityamongst children and minors, who in some areas and for prolongedperiods may make up almost half the total of those buried. Those wholived through the teens had a moderately good chance of reaching oldage. Evidence for age at death of a narrow and admittedly atypicalgroup of adults - members of a religious order in Liege - shows a gradualincrease in longevity.50 But this was a sheltered and, in all probability, abetter-nourished group than the majority, which probably on averagereached ages considerably less ripe (table 2.6).

Age structure throughout this pre-industrial period resembled that ofsome underdeveloped countries today. Whenever the data allow apopulation pyramid to be constructed it is found to be concave, with avery broad base (figs. 2.10 and 2.11). The population pyramids for smallcommunities commonly show the distortions from migration, mortalitycrises and war. Fig. 2.11 shows the age and sex structure of a parish nearRodez in 1690.51 Almost a third of the population was aged less than 10

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100 80 60 40 20 0 20 40 60 80 100

Fig. 2.10 Structure of population in France in the eighteenth century(ten-year age-groups)


l i i

20 10 0 10 20

Fig. 2.11 Structure of population at Inieres (five-year age-groups)

years, and there was a marked overplus of females aged from 15 to 29,due, it is claimed, to the fact that many of the young males had gone toseek employment in nearby towns.

Not all this out-migration was permanent. In many areas the povertyof the peasantry forced them to seek work away from home whenevertheir own lands did not call for their labours. They moved into theforests in winter to cut timber and make charcoal. The peasants ofBurgundy shared in the grain harvest in northern France beforereturning for their own grape harvest. The Central Massif, like manysuch areas of poor soil and harsh climate, provided a ready source oflabour for surrounding lands. The intendant of Limoges reported in1695 that 'almost all who are able to work leave their homes in March

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Table 2.6 Average age at death ofmembers of religious institutions inLiege

Period Average age at death



Source: J. Ruwet, 'Les inegalites devant lamort: les Pays-Bas et la principaute deLiege du XVIe au XVlIe siecle', Actes CollInt. Dem. Hist., 441-55.

and go to work in Spain and in every province of this kingdom',52

leaving their wives to look after their own harvests before their return inthe following November. The Limousin was a source of itinerantmasons, of whom some 6000 worked out of this area in 1695. By 1768,their number was put at 15,000. The intendant of Dauphine noted that'all the inhabitants of the mountains leave every winter in search of alivelihood in regions less harsh'.53 A traveller in the Tarentaise (Savoy)early in the seventeenth century 'found not a single man in the villagesof the Haute-Tarentaise, which had been emptied by the winteremigration'.54 In the high Auvergne, poverty was such that 'the subsis-tence of half the population was dependent on the seasonal migration ofthe other half.55

The annual exodus from the French Alps and Central Massif wasparalleled by that from the mountains of Switzerland and Austria.Thomas Platter, who died in 1582, wrote that the men departed beforewinter, leaving the women at home to spin.56 To many it was for aseason's work in the cities; for some, a lifetime in the service of theFrench king or of the pope, for the migrants came chiefly from theCatholic cantons. The plain of Lombardy and the Italian peninsula as farsouth as Naples used labour from the Alps in a variety of crafts, of whichmasonry was perhaps the most important. A report of 1647 describedthe mountaineers from the Lake Maggiore region as 'passing most oftheir time far from their hearths in distant lands', and in 1656 a third ofthe men of Val Travaglia were absent, one of them observing that 'weonly spend the winters beside our hearths, and the rest of the year wewander through the world, practising our craft of masons'.57

These quotations raise an important question; what was the general

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Fig. 2.12 The major movements of peoples in the seventeenth andeighteenth centuries

season of migration? From the Central Massif it appears to have been asummer movement; in Dauphine, the peasants were away from home inwinter; in the Italian Alps, in summer. These movements bore no clearrelationship to the labour needs of the mountain economy, where thewomen continued to manage the farms during the absence of the men.58

The latter left home at whatever time of the year there was a demand fortheir labour, for the mountains were, in Braudel's words, a 'fabriqued'hommes au service d'autrui'.

If differential birth-rates between one area and another gave rise tomovements of migration, this was conspicuously the case between thecountryside and the town. One finds in city after city that in theaggregate the number of deaths greatly exceeded that of births. InOrleans, for example, 4240 deaths were recorded in the first third of the

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1000 1000

Fig. 2.13 Population structure of Nancy, 1815 (five-year age-groups)

eighteenth century as against only 1870 births, and in the middle third,3563 deaths and 1566 births.59 It is doubtful whether any of the largerEuropean cities could have maintained themselves - certainly theycould not have grown - without a continual influx of people from thecountryside. This is reflected in the structure of urban populations. Thelower age-groups were small in the cities as they were large in thecountryside. There was also in all probability an overplus of youngunmarried males, thus complementing the deficiency in this group inmany rural areas. Fig. 2.13 illustrates the age structure of the populationof Nancy in 1815.60 it is, o f course, distorted by a long period ofwarfare, the deficit of males above the age of 20 being accounted for inpart by casualties. The feature which distinguishes this graph from figs.2.10 and 2.11, however, is the small size of the youngest age-groups.Other evidence suggests that age at marriage was higher in towns than inrural areas, not only because of the institution of apprenticeship, but

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also because immigrant countryfolk had to establish themselves in workbefore setting up a home. It appears also that the number of celi-bates - many of them household servants - remained relatively high.The result was a low birth-rate, with a net reproductive rate of less thanunity.

It is not easy to determine the place of origin of these immigrants tothe city. During the Middle Ages, the adoption of toponymic surnamesprovided a rough guide to the source of a sample of the urbanpopulation. By the sixteenth century inheritable surnames were alreadywell established, and it was not until the French Revolution that anyattempt was made to record the place of birth of the urban population.Paris increased greatly in size after the outbreak of the Revolution, andfortunately the sources of this influx is roughly known. Out of 4031listed inhabitants of the Popincourt quarter, only 1190 had been born inParis; 2736 had migrated from the provinces.61 Most came fromnorthern and north-eastern France, but every part of the country wasrepresented in the population of the city in 1793. The migrants weremostly young, between 15 and 30; many of them succeeded in gainingemployment only as servants - a quarter of the adult males were'domestiques', and few of these were ever able to marry.62

Refugee movements

In contrast both with the regular movements of seasonal workers andtranshumant shepherds and with the considered migrations from thecountryside to the towns was the flight of refugees from war andpersecution. There were countless movements of people of this kind,many of them involving only small communities. The largest withoutquestion was the forced migration of the Moriscoes from Spain in1609-10. Lapeyre has estimated that their numbers amounted almost to300,000, of whom nearly a half lived in the province of Valencia.63 Mostmigrated directly to North Africa, but some from Aragon and Castilemade their way into southern France and thence by way of theProvencal ports to Tunis. Next in number were the Huguenots who leftFrance after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Only a smallfraction - perhaps not much over 10 per cent-of the Protestantpopulation actually migrated. Scoville has put their number at about200,000, spread over a period of several years.64 The largest group wentto the United Netherlands, in which the dominant religion, like theirown, was Calvinist. Smaller groups went to Brandenburg and theProtestant states of the north. Another such migration was the iongmarch' of the Serbs from Ra§ka to Hungary in 1690 in the face of theTurkish attack. They probably numbered no more than 30,000, but theterritory which they abandoned was then partially occupied by Alba-

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nians, and has since been in dispute between Albania and Yugoslavia. Itis less easy to give a total for those who fled from the southern LowCountries to the United Provinces during the Dutch wars of the latersixteenth century, though they must have numbered tens of thousands.

These movements were large and sudden enough to have hadimportant economic consequences, but more important in the long runwere the slow, sustained movements of migration, migrations de glisse-ment. The migrant was impelled, not by war or persecution, but by theattraction of a better land beyond the horizon. Modern history does notprovide examples from within Europe on the scale of the eastwardmovement of the German peoples during the Middle Ages, but on asmaller and more local scale instances are numerous and, takentogether, of great importance. Amongst these drifts of population wasthat of the Swiss into Germany after the Thirty Years' War65 and intoeastern France later in the same century; of Savoyards into the Rhonevalley, of the French into Catalonia in the sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies, of Castilians into Andalusia, and the numerous migrations ofeastern Europe. The Swedes settled the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea,and their descendants today still inhabit the coastal regions of Finland.There was a movement of Poles from the Vistula basin into Lithuaniaand the Ukraine, to settle and develop the vast estates which the Polisharistocracy had carved for themselves from the ruins of the Tatarempire.

In the plains of Hungary the defeat and withdrawal of the Turks hadleft an empty land in the early eighteenth century, 'for the most partdesert and uncultivated', wrote Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. Into itthere migrated, with the active encouragement of its Austrian rulers,settlers from lands to the west. Communities of Czechs, Slovaks,Germans, Croats and Serbs were established especially in the south-eastern sector of the plain, the Banat, where wartime destruction hadbeen most severe. There they formed a mosaic of ethnic communities,many of which have survived into the twentieth century.66

The Balkan peninsula had always been characterised by the intensemobility of its peoples. In addition to long-distance transhumancepractised in much of the region, there was also a continuous shifting ofsettlements, so that the migration of Serbs from the Kosovo area, notedabove, was not altogether unusual. These movements, largely from theDinaric mountains into the gentler region of hills and forests borderingthe Sava and Danube, have been preserved in the folk-memory of thesouthern Slavs, so that Cviji5 was enabled to map them.67 In theseventeenth and eighteenth centuries the Sumadija and northern Bosniabecame a pioneer fringe, in which the Serb and Croat peasants clearedthe forest and created new agricultural land, as German settlers had

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done during the Middle Ages.To these movements within Europe and the Mediterranean must be

added the migration from Europe to the European empires beyond theseas. Some 200,000 must have left Spain for the New World in thecourse of the sixteenth century. Portuguese migration may have beeneven larger, amounting according to Magalhaes-Godinho68 to 600,000by the mid-seventeenth century. Over 50,000 Frenchmen, mainly fromNormandy and Brittany, went to Canada. Add to this the Britishmigration to North America and, at a later date, to South Africa andAustralasia; the Dutch who settled in North America, South Africa andIndonesia; the Swedes, Germans and Italians - and one has a totalmigration from Europe of at least a million long before the greatmigratory movements of the nineteenth century began.69

Migrants who took part in such glissem*nts had usually some idea ofthe conditions which awaited them. Friends had been there before, andmost could usually settle amongst people of the same stock with whomthey had a common language. Furthermore it was rarely the poor anddistressed who took part in such movements; they lacked the means tomake the journey and to establish themselves in their new homes, unlessthey were assisted in the operation, as were the German peasantsplanted in the Banat of Hungary. It was rather people of some substancewho, as a general rule, could perceive the opportunities which laybeyond the horizon and marshal the resources to achieve them.

The growth of the population

Any discussion of the history of European population must draw heavilyon the example of France, for it is only in France that the evidence is atonce abundant and readily available. Indeed the French were pioneersin the eighteenth century in creating the science of demography andmore recently in analysing the structure of the population.


The population of France, within its present limits, may have risen to 14million before the Black Death. It unquestionably fell catastrophicallyin the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the result of war and ofrepeated outbreaks of plague. There is no evidence for the extent of thiscontraction, though the cerche de feux of Burgundy, compiled in 1431,represents a countryside which had been almost depopulated.70 Frenchscholars have made great use of parish registers in tracing the history ofthe population. In 1539 Francis I by the Edict of Villers-Cotteretsrequired the parish clergy to keep such records. (Thomas Cromwell hadissued a similar directive in England in the previous year.) Although it

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Fig. 2.14 The population of France (inhabitants per km2) in 1700 and1745

was imperfectly obeyed, enough evidence survives to show that popula-tion was increasing through the sixteenth century.71 The religious warslater in the century do not appear to have stemmed the growth, whichwas checked only by the famine crises of the 1590s.72 Growth was,however, resumed after 1600 and continued until the thirties or fortiesof the seventeenth century. The sources do not allow one to estimate thetotal population of France with any pretension to accuracy, thoughMandrou suggested that France had a population of about 14 million in1600.73 If this was the case the losses of the later Middle Ages had beenmade good, perhaps by 1560 in some areas.

The reign of Louis XIV was marked by renewed recession. Parishregisters indicate a declining birth-rate, and from Amiens comes evi-dence of a higher age at marriage.74 A series of mortality crises struckFrance, and for long periods and over large areas deaths exceededbirths.75 Over the period as a whole, wrote Goubert, 'the rate ofreplacement of the generations oscillated around unity'.76 The Frenchbegan to concern themselves with the size of their population, and evenbefore the famine of 1692-3 rudimentary censuses were carried out insome areas. In 1686 Vauban published anonymously a short memoir onhow a census should be conducted. The distress of 1693 gave a newurgency to the problem.77 An attempt made at that time to enumeratethe population has left few records, but four years later the intendantswere called upon to supply data on towns, villages and hamlets and thenumber of persons in each. The report for the generality of Paris waspublished in 188178 and was seen as the first of a series to be made

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public. Few others, unfortunately, are available.79 The manuscriptreports of the intendants were however the basis of the Etat de Francewhich the comte de Boulainvilliers published in London in 1728.80 Themost competent of the regional surveys of this period was written not byan intendant but by Vauban himself, his 'Description geographique del'election de Vezelay'.81 Early in the eighteenth century the governmentagain contemplated a census. At this time, however, Saugrain producedthe first edition of his Denombrement du royaume de France, followed in1720 by a second, revised and more complete, edition.82 In it he* listedthe number of households in almost every town and commune ofFrance. His sources were the intendants' reports, supplemented by tax.records and perhaps some data from the recent abortive census. Thisvast body of statistical material, despite its lacunae, its use of hearthsand the uncertainty regarding Saugrain's manipulation of the intendants'data, nevertheless allows one to estimate with only a small margin oferror the population of France and its distribution at the end of the reignof Louis XIV. All the evidence points to a total of about 19,000,000.83

Apart from the Paris region, the densest population was to be found innorthern France, from Normandy to the Low Countries, and in Bur-gundy. The most sparsely inhabited areas were Alsace and Franche-Comte, which had suffered harshly during the wars of the seventeenthcentury; Berry; the Auvergne; and the mountainous regions of the Alpsand Pyrenees.

Demographic studies made much progress during the eighteenthcentury, without, however, inducing the government to hold a generalcensus.84 Instead the intendants were again called upon to supplyfigures, which they did with varying degrees of care and skill. The totalobtained by Controleur-General Orry in 1745 was too low - only a littleover 17 million.85 A comparison of Orry's figures with those compiled atthe beginning of the century was probably the source of the widely heldopinion that the population of France was actually declining. Mirabeauin 1754 wrote with some alarm of the fall in the population. Thispessimistic view was however refuted by the abbe Expilly, who includedshort demographic studies in his Dictionnaire geographique, and latersummarised his totals in a Memoire au roi.86 His work was ambitious inconcept, but carelessly executed, and some of his figures were copiedinaccurately from Saugrain. He did, however, use parish registers toobtain baptismal and burial series and from these computed populationtotals. His estimate of about 24,125,000 in 1778 is acceptable.87

While Expilly was publishing his elaborate Dictionary, Messance (apseudonym; the author's real name is unknown) published a statisticalstudy of the generalites of Auvergne, Lyons and Rouen in which he usedbaptismal and burial records from a sample group of parishes to

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Fig. 2.15 The population of France in about 1800

estimate the total population. This method was, however, used moreskilfully by Moheau, the pen-name of Montyon, who in 1778 publisheda study of the population of the whole of France.88 He first attempted todevise a multiplier which would enable him to convert the number ofhouseholds into a population total, but found their variation in size to betoo great and too irregular for this method to yield more than a veryapproximate total. He then used baptismal, marriage and burial rates,obtaining ratios from sample parishes and applying his findings to thewhole country. Lastly, though with scant success, he tried to evaluatepopulation on the basis of food and salt consumption. Moheau's severallines of enquiry suggested to him that the total population of France wasbetween 23.5 and 24 million. Necker in 1784 estimated it to be about24,802,000,89 and at the outbreak of the Revolution it fell little short of27 million. A number of attempts were made during the Revolutionaryand Napoleonic period to estimate the population of France. None was

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based on any kind of census, and the results are not wholly reliable. In1801 the total population was put at 27,350,000. The first formalcensus, held in 1831, revealed a population of 32,569,223.90

The latter half of the seventeenth century was a period of stationaryand locally of declining population; the later eighteenth was character-ised by steady increase. When did the change occur from the one phaseto the other? The period before 1740 was marked by a series of crises.The years from 1690 to 1715 were 'one of the worst [periods] known tothe French; continual warfare, conscription of men, seizure of horses,taxation, famine and epidemics combined their efforts'91 to reduce thepopulation. A few good years followed. Births began to exceed deathsand, despite local reverses, including the last mauvaise annee, that of1740-1, the population began imperceptibly to increase.

The middle years of the century were climatically more favourableand grain prices were generally low. The total number of births was,however, restricted by the fact that the parents of these years belongedto the generation which had been decimated by the crises of the firstpart of the century. It was probably not until after 1750 that the upwardtrend became pronounced. Births became more numerous as the largergeneration born between 1720 and 1740 reached child-bearing age. Thegood years in the mid-eighteenth century were followed in the 1770sand 1780s by another spell of lean years which culminated in the badharvest of 1788. The resulting hardships must again have cut back onthe number of births and increased the level of child mortality.

There had always been regional variations in fertility and in the rateof population growth, accompanied by migration from areas of highfertility to those of low. Such regional variations became more pro-nounced during the eighteenth century. Fertility was high in Brittanyand in such mountainous regions as Dauphine92 and Forez,93 and wascompensated for in part by a steady out-migration. The rate of growthremained lowest in the cereal-growing plains of the Paris basin andPicardy. Here a quasi-monoculture combined with a traditional mode ofland tenure to produce mortality crises of more than usual severity.94

Gradually during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries thepresent population map began to take shape, with its high densities inthe peripheral areas, especially the north of France, and relatively lowdensities over much of the interior.

A paradoxical feature of the distribution of population in France wasthe contrast between the region oibocage and the reputedly more fertilechampagne. Densities were greater 'on the cold, impermeable soils ofthe Breton massif than on the limestone soils which bordered the Parisbasin: denser on the "black" lands where buckwheat and rye prevailed,than on the "white" lands with their abundant crops of cereals'.95 The

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reasons are not hard to find. Settlements in the bocage were small, evenisolated, protected by the badness of their roads from intrusion. Landwas not scarce even though its quality was poor, and holdings couldgrow by subdivision and enclosure from the waste. In many such areas,furthermore, domestic crafts, especially the manufacture of textiles,provided yet another support for a growing population. By contrast, thenucleated village of the plains of the Paris basin felt the full rigour ofevery crisis. It was dependent to an excessive degree on cereal crops,and only the introduction of new crops and farming methods (see pp.172-84) saved these regions from an even greater relative decline.

The Low Countries

During the later Middle Ages the southern Low Countries were one ofthe most densely peopled areas of Europe, while the northern - approx-imately the Netherlands of today - remained a thinly populated andrelatively undeveloped region. These roles were to be reversed in thecourse of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The barrier betweenthe two was a belt of damp, alluvial valleys and dry, sandy heathland,which had proved resistant to medieval peasant settlement. To thesouth, population declined during the later Middle Ages,96 increased inthe early sixteenth century, and again declined in the seventeenth. Thesixteenth-century revival was chiefly in the clothing centres of westFlanders (see p. 227) and in the city of Antwerp which had inherited theroles of the Flemish ports and increased its population more thantenfold in the course of the century. In 1576 it was sacked by Spanishsoldiers, and its population fell abruptly.97 Six years later Hondschooteand its neighbouring villages in west Flanders were ravaged. Theprovincial council of Namur reported that 'the open country remainedempty and uncultivated, without people or inhabitants . . . on account ofthe excursions, extortions and pillaging perpetrated daily by the garri-sons [Spanish] at Namur, Gembloux [and other fortresses] so that noone dared to live in the open country'.98

Towards the end of the century the fighting ebbed away to the north.Antwerp was recovered by the Spanish forces in 1585, its commercedestroyed and its population reduced by a half. The southern LowCountries revived, but their recovery was short-lived. The numbers ofbaptisms recorded in the registers began to decline, and the regionshared in the general depression of the seventeenth century. In theparish of Theux near Liege the numbers of births, after fluctuatingduring the early decades of the century, reached their peak in the 1640s,and then fell steadily until the end of the century. It was not until about1760 that an increase again became apparent.99 A group of villages nearBrussels showed a similar trend, with population at its lowest in the

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1680s.100 Brabant, which had a population of more than 450,000 at thebeginning of the sixteenth century, recorded no more than 373,000 in1700.101 In a group of parishes to the west of Brussels, a region whichsuffered greatly during the wars, the population had fallen catastrophi-cally even before 1600:102

1557 4104 households1600 23801698 43011766 5721

The population of the chdtellenie of Ypres showed a similar trend,103

and the study of parish registers from other parts of the Spanish LowCountries provides confirmatory evidence.104

The Low Countries suffered like France from famine crises andepidemics. In Brussels alone more than 4000 deaths were ascribed tothe plague of 1668-9,10* and the years 1693-4, 1709-10 and 1740-1were marked by crop failures, starvation and heavy mortality.106 TheArdennes region provided a partial exception to the prevailing pictureof stagnating or declining population. The hills of Liege, Namur andLuxembourg, with their cloth manufacture and iron-smelting andrefining industries, were in a position to profit from the wars whichravaged the rest of the Low Countries. They provided, furthermore, arefuge for those who fled from campaigns fought in the plains.107

The population of the southern Low Countries is estimated byMols108 to have been about 1,750,000 when the War of the SpanishSuccession ended (1713) and the region passed from Spanish toAustrian rule. There followed a period of steady growth. A total,including the bishopric of Liege, of about 2,800,000 was reached beforethe French Revolution. Growth continued during the period of theRevolutionary and Napoleonic wars and, yet more sharply, during theperiod of industrial expansion which followed. It had reached 4 millionby the time of the Belgian revolt from the United Netherlands, and4,337,196 by 1846.109

Demographic history in the northern Low Countries differs sharplyfrom that of southern, and, indeed, exhibits features which conflict withthat of much of the rest of Europe. The rapid growth of the sixteenthcentury was continued through much of the seventeenth, and did notshow signs of declining until the eighteenth. Growth was most vigorousin the western Netherlands, the provinces of Zeeland, Holland andFriesland. In Holland alone the population is estimated to haveincreased from about 275,000 in 1514 to 672,000 a century later,110

leading to a rapid urban growth and spilling over into commercialventures overseas. 'The Dutch Commonwealth', wrote Sir William

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•y j ta ly

1780 1800 1820 1840 1860 1880 1900 1920

Fig. 2.16 Decline in fertility rates in the late eighteenth and nineteenthcenturies

Temple in 1673, 'was born out of the sea . . . And after the Union, agreater confluence of People falling down into the United Provincesthan could manage their Stock, or find employment at Land, Greatmultitudes turn'd their endeavours to the Sea.'111 Rural populationgrew by about 110 per cent, but urban almost trebled within this period.By 1622, the population was 54 per cent urban, and Holland was thefirst major European province to become predominantly urban. Am-sterdam itself grew from about 30,000 to 200,000 within a century.112

The rate of population growth was smaller in other provinces. InFriesland it grew from 72-80,000 in the early sixteenth century to morethan 129,000 in 1714.113 Away from the stimulus of maritime trade,however, the population grew very much less rapidly. In the eastern andsouthern Netherlands, where much of the soil was poor and unreward-ing, growth was slow. That of Overijssel grew from about 52,000 at theend of the fifteenth century only to some 70,000 by 1675, and theVeluwe, also a region of sandy heathland, increased only from 36,000 to40,700 in a similar period.114

The rate of population growth declined everywhere in the Nether-lands during the last quarter of the seventeenth century, with the decayof Dutch commercial activity which had supported it. This decline wasmost marked in the western Netherlands, where almost every town withthe exception of Amsterdam was smaller in the eighteenth century thanit had been in the seventeenth. The province of Holland, focus of Dutchcommercial activity, declined by 11 per cent between the late seven-teenth century and the mid-eighteenth, and then its population

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remained virtually static until the end of the century. Eastern andsouthern Netherlands, which did not experience the sharp increase ofthe sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, also escaped the decline of theearly eighteenth. The demand for foodstuffs in the urbanised westernNetherlands led to an increase in agricultural production on the poorsoils of the east and south. The mainstay of continued populationgrowth in such areas as Twente and Veluwe was, however, the domesticcloth industry, supplemented by the paper industry. By the second halfof the eighteenth century the rate of population growth began to slackenhere too. The market for the homespun textiles weakened in the face offoreign competition and there was acute distress with, it is said, half ofthe population or more impoverished. Renewed economic growth in theearly nineteenth century, coupled with the rising price of foodstuffs andthe introduction of new crops (see p. 210), gradually overcame thegrievous overpopulation of these regions, and prepared the way forfurther expansion.

Dutch scholars, equipped with population series for sample areasfrom both the 'maritime' Netherlands and the heathland regions, haveprojected backwards the curve of population growth for the wholecountry. It is assumed that the Netherlands, within its present territoriallimits, had a population of 0.9 to 1.0 million at the beginning of thesixteenth century. This rose almost to 2 million before the end of theseventeenth. Thereafter it stagnated, decline in 'maritime' Netherlandsbeing partially compensated for by continued increase in the east andsouth. The total barely exceeded 2 million by 1795. Thereafter with thesolution of certain of its economic problems the earlier growth wasresumed, and a total of 3 million was reached by 1850.115


The Germans have sadly neglected their own demographic history.Their sources are, however, scanty, and they lack the parish registerswhich throw so much light on development in western Europe. Thepopulation of Germany increased during the sixteenth century and thefirst decades of the seventeenth. Land which had passed out ofcultivation in the later Middle Ages was again brought under theplough. Contemporaries were unanimous that, in the words of SebastianFranck, Germany was 'teeming with children', that the land wascrowded and food scarce. Population may have doubled or even tripledin Westphalia.116 In Saxony the pre-Black Death population had beengreatly exceeded by 1550,117 and the population of Germany as a wholemay have risen from about 12 million in 1500 to 15 million a century

The rate of growth began to slacken late in the sixteenth century, and

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ceased during the Thirty Years' War. Franz has estimated119 that whenthe war ended in 1648 Germany had lost 40 per cent of its ruralpopulation and a third of the urban. Comparatively few of the lossesresulted directly from the fighting; most were due to famine and diseaseinduced by the war. The scale of destruction varied from one part ofGermany to another. It was greatest in the south-west, which hadsuffered acutely in the peasant risings of the previous century, and alsoin Franconia, Thuringia and north-eastern Germany. Here the destruc-tion was catastrophic. In 1637 General von Werth described theRhineland as 'a country where many thousands of men have died ofhunger and not a living soul can be seen for many miles along theway'.120 There was great mobility after the war, as peasants moved intoand recolonised the wasted lands. The birth-rate was high, as wascommonly the case when land was abundant and the peasant couldreceive a tenement for the asking. In some areas the population loss wasmade good in a generation or two. Elsewhere the process took longer.Large areas of Prussia were still depopulated in 1718,121 and parts ofMecklenburg remained deserted even longer. Population growthnevertheless continued through the eighteenth century. That of Bran-denburg-Prussia more than doubled between 1740 and 1805 andincrease in the lower Rhineland was probably even more rapid. By 1800the population of Germany, excluding Switzerland and the Habsburglands, was close to 20 million.

Growth was most rapid in those areas where manufacturing wasdeveloping, as in Brandenburg and the Prussian Rhineland provinces.The county of Mark, the small and hilly territory which contained muchof the Westphalian iron-working industry (see p. 256) grew by a third ina period of seventy years. The wholly agricultural state of Cleve, lyingalong the lower Rhine, grew by only 10 per cent in the same period(table 2.7). Prussia was the fastest-growing German state. Its populationwas about 4 million in the mid-eighteenth century. Mirabeau recorded atotal of almost 5.5 million, and by 1800 this had risen to 9,300,000.More than 10 million were recorded in 1816; and in 1843,15,471,765.122

Table 2.7 Population ofMark and Cleve123

17221740-2c. 1770c. 17801792-3







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This growth was assisted by a substantial immigration; large numbersof Swiss moved to Germany; the Low Countries, notably the bishopricof Liege, supplied settlers to the devasted areas of Hesse and Thuringia,and many Huguenots settled in Brandenburg. Germans themselves,however, moved into the wasted north-east of their own country, wherethey were joined by immigrants from Scandinavia, Poland and theHabsburg lands. This movement of peoples - possibly larger in theaggregate than the eastward movement of the Germans during theMiddle Ages, brought about a significant shift in the French-Germanlanguage boundary in the west124 and lasting changes in the ethniccomposition of the German people.

Demography attracted little attention in Germany before thenineteenth century. Busching was assiduous in collecting and publishingtotals for towns and provinces, but was quite uncritical in his acceptanceof them. The only writer who can stand comparison with the Frenchdemographic writers of the eighteenth century was Johann PeterSiissmilch, whose treatise anticipated in some respects the studies ofMessance and Moheau.125 He collected statistics of births, marriagesand deaths in both urban and rural environments, and attempted toderive total populations from them. He was the first German scholar togive serious attention to such matters as the sex ratio, age structure andexpectation of life of the population as a whole.

Only the Prussian government attempted before the RevolutionaryWars to hold any kind of census. After 1815, however, the situation, fromthe demographic point of view, was greatly eased. The number of politicalunits was reduced and in many of them attempts were made to count thepopulation. The population of Germany within the boundaries establishedat Vienna was of the order of 23.4 million in 1815. By the mid-century thishad increased to 33.5 million, a growth of 45 per cent. Rates of growthvaried greatly. It continued to be most rapid in Prussia - a growth of 65 percent, followed by Hesse-Cassel and Saxony. It was fastest in areas wheremanufacturing industry was expanding; slowest in such predominantlyagricultural states at Wurttemberg and Bavaria.

Switzerland and Austria

The Alpine region provided a partial exception to the generalisedpicture which has been built up of population growth, stagnation ordecline, and renewed growth. It differed from areas already discussed inbeing protected in some measure both from war and epidemic disease.On the other hand, most people lived close to the margin of subsistenceand had little opportunity to import food in time of emergency. Thetowns of the Swiss plateau were ravaged by epidemics in the seven-teenth century, and in 1610-11 Basel lost more than a quarter of its

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population,126 but Switzerland was spared the horrors of the ThirtyYears' War. Grimmelshausen in the mid-seventeenth century noted,with apparent surprise, that in Switzerland people 'went about theirbusiness in peace; the stables were filled with livestock . . . Nobodystood in fear of the foe, nobody dreaded pillage, nobody was afraid oflosing his property, his limbs or his life.' Armies sometimes crossed theAlps, using the more accessible passes; Lower Austria and the easternAlps were exposed to raids by the Turks until late in the seventeenthcentury, but after the end of the religious wars in 1531 there was littlefighting in Switzerland.

Scarcity of food was thus the most effective check on the growth ofpopulation in much of the Alpine region. In the sixteenth and above allthe seventeenth centuries population was continuously pressing againstthe limited food resources. Wheat almost ceased to be eaten in Geneva,and was replaced by rye, spelt and mixed grains. Famine crises werecommon, and remote valleys must have been particularly vulnerable.

There was necessarily a large-scale migration from the Alpine region,but one of the most important outlets for surplus population was in theservice of other countries. The Swiss cantons had adopted a system ofcompulsory service, which made them a formidable military force, buttheir defeat at Marignano (1515) led them to withdraw from activeparticipation in international affairs and their redoubtable fighting forcebecame available for recruitment by the French and Italians.127 Bickelhas estimated that 900,000 to 1,000,000 Swiss were killed in otherpeoples' wars between the fifteenth and the eighteenth centuries, andthat at any one time 50,000 to 60,000 were serving in foreign armies.Migration and foreign military service drained away fully half thenatural increase in the population of Switzerland during a period ofthree centuries.128

The population of Switzerland at the beginning of the sixteenthcentury was probably of the order of 800,000.129 It had risen to1,000,000 by 1600 and to 1,200,000 by 1700. Of this total some150-180,000 lived within the mountains, a total which remained verystable until the nineteenth century. The increase in population tookplace on the Swiss plateau, and above all in the towns, where thedevelopment of the Swiss textile industries provided supplementaryemployment. By 1800, the population of Switzerland, within its presentboundaries, was about 1,680,000; by 1820 it had risen to 1,956,000,and at the mid-century, to 2,393,000.13°


As the Great Northern War was ending in 1660 the Danish governmentlevied a poll-tax. It showed that the Danish population had been

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reduced by war and disease from about 600,000 to no more than480,000. The following century was, however, one of steady growth,and a partial census of 1769 suggests a total of about 810,000. By 1801this had risen to 926,000, and by the mid-nineteenth century to1,414,600.131

Norway, Sweden and Finland had always been very much more-sparsely populated than Denmark. Much of their territory lay too farnorth for agriculture and Scandinavia suffered more than the rest ofEurope from the severe winters in the seventeenth and eighteenthcenturies.132 Crop failures were followed by heavy mortality, especiallyin 1696-8, 1708-10, 1738-42 and 1772-3. Even the birth-rate has beensaid to vary 'in accordance with the harvest results'.133 The years1696-8 were amongst the most severe known in northern Europe, andin Finland, it is said, 28 per cent of the population died of famine.134

In none of these countries is there evidence for the size of thepopulation before the mid-seventeenth century. A poll-tax of the timeof Gustavus Adolphus suggests a population of about 900,000 inSweden. By 1720 this had increased to 1,440,000, and by 1815, to2,452,000.135 The impetus for this growth was, according to Utterstrom,a period of low mortality, especially infant mortality, during the first halfof the eighteenth century, and this he attributed to 'a period ofunusually mild, and probably dry, winters'.136 Growth continuedthrough the nineteenth century, and by 1850 the population hadreached 3,483,000.

Growth was somewhat slower in Norway, where the hazards ofclimate were even greater. From about 444,000 in 1665, the populationrose to 616,000 in 1735, to 748,000 in 1769 and to 883,000 in 1801.Thereafter growth was more rapid. Drake has suggested that in theseyears the adoption of vaccination and the spread of an additional sourceof food, the potato, drastically reduced the death-rate.137 By 1845 thepopulation had reached 1,328,000.

Eastern Europe

The growth of population in eastern Europe was assisted by the highratio of land to people and perhaps also by the relative weakness ofepidemics, itself a consequence of its sparsity in much of the area. InPoland there was little to interrupt its growth from the early MiddleAges to the mid-seventeenth century. The population of the historicprovinces - Mazowsze and Great and Little Poland - cannot have beenmuch more than 2,500,000 in 1500. By 1650 it had increased to3,830,000.138 That of the lands of the Jagiellonian crown, whichincluded Lithuania and much of the Ukraine, is a great deal less certain.These eastern lands were very sparsely inhabited, so that the population

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of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the largest territorial state inEurope, was no more than 7,500,000 in 1500 and 11,000,000 by1650.139

In 1655 there began that series of invasions and wars which Polishhistorians call the 'Deluge'. The whole country was fought over bySwedes, Brandenburgers and Tartars. The war lasted only five years,but it was as if the destruction of the Thirty Years' War had beenconcentrated into this short period. When it was over, Poland had lost athird of its population140 and the country had not recovered from theselosses when the wars of Charles XII of Sweden made further inroadsearly in the next century. The period which followed was one of relativepeace and prosperity. The level of population of 1650 was probablyregained a century later. According to Korzon's estimates Poland (withLithuania) had a population of 11,420,000 on the eve of the FirstPartition (1772).141 The latter deprived Poland of 35 per cent of herpopulation and 29 per cent of her territory. The twenty years before theSecond Partition were marked by a high birth-rate. A census was held in1790 but omitted the clergy and the numerous gentry class. Correctedfor this, the population must have been about 8,800,000.142 In 1796 thePolish state was extinguished. It was revived in 1807 as the GrandDuchy of Warsaw, and this, with extensive boundary changes, becamein 1815 the 'Congress' Kingdom of Poland. A Napoleonic censusshowed a population of 4,335,000 in the Grand Duchy, but thefirst - and only - census ever taken in Tsarist Russia was not held until1897. It recorded a population of 9,400,000 in 'Congress' Poland.143

The study of population in the Habsburg lands is complicated byinternal migration and shifting boundaries. Even the nuclear Austrianlands were interpenetrated by the episcopal lands of Salzburg, Brixenand Freising. Growth was slow in most of Austria before the nineteenthcentury. In 1754 the population was about 2,750,000, a third of itconcentrated in the present province of Lower Austria. By 1816Austria, which now embraced the church lands, had a population ofabout 3,350,000. Thereafter growth was more rapid, and the totalreached 4,560,000 by 1850.144

Outside the ducal lands of Austria the Habsburgs held three extensiveblocks of territory: the Czech and Polish lands, Hungary, and theDalmatian and Balkan lands. The first consisted of Bohemia, Moraviaand, until its conquest by Frederick the Great in 1741, Silesia, togetherwith Galicia, acquired in the Partitions of Poland, and Bukovina, gainedin 1775. The second was made up of the historic kingdom of Hungary,including Slovakia and Transylvania, and the last of Krain, Croatia, theDalmatian coast, the Military Frontier district, and Austrian possessionsin northern Italy.

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The Czech lands, with Silesia, were the most densely peopled, andduring the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries their population grewmost rapidly, much of it finding employment in the textile and metal-lurgical industries.145 The birth-rate was high in the mountainous fringeof Bohemia where domestic crafts, especially weaving, were impor-tant,146 There is, nevertheless, no satisfactory measure of populationbefore the mid-eighteenth century. In 1754 the population of Bohemiawas about 1,972,000, and that of Moravia and Czech Silesia 1,048,000,densities respectively of 38 and 39 to the square kilometre. The secondhalf of the eighteenth century was a period of growth. By 1785 thepopulation of the Czech lands had risen to about 4,250,000, and by1815 to more than 4,800,000. The nineteenth century was a period ofuninterrupted growth, and by 1850 the population had risen to almost 7million.147

Galicia was Austria's share in the Partitions of Poland. It wasrelatively thinly peopled when Austria received it, but under Habsburgrule the population increased rapidly. The average density is supposedto have reached 40 to the square kilometre by 1800, and 60 by themid-century. This was a very high density for a population almostexclusively rural and practising a primitive form of agriculture. Galiciabecame in the nineteenth century one of the most overpopulated anddepressed rural areas in Europe.

The population of Hungary, including Slovakia and Transylvania,may have reached from 3.5 to 4 million before the Turkish invasion ofthe sixteenth century.148 It then fell sharply, and in the early eighteenthcentury the plains were 'desert and uncultivated, laid waste by the longwar between the Turk and the emperor'.149 They were resettled in thecourse of the eighteenth century (see p. 90) and the populationrecovered. Joseph IPs census of 1787 showed about 7,117,000, withsome 1,400,000 in Transylvania.150 Population continued to increaseduring the Napoleonic period, reaching 10 million for Hungary andTransylvania in 1800 and 13.3 by 1850.

The southern provinces of the Habsburg empire present a moreconfusing picture, and Istria and the Dalmatian lands did not pass intoAustrian possession until 1815. The population of Krain, Istria andDalamatia was then about 500,000. By 1850 it had increased to800,000. The Habsburg empire as a whole had a population of about23.3 million at the beginning of the nineteenth century. By 1850 andwith the inclusion of the Dalmatian and north Italian territories, this hadrisen to 35,768,000.

Balkan peninsula

Romania and the Balkans are demographically the least known of the

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major divisions of Europe. The sparse population had been furtherreduced by the Turkish invasions. It is known to have increased rapidlyduring the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and densities increasedfrom an average of about 3 to the square kilometre in 1718 to 10 by1800 and 18 by 1834.151 In the middle years of the nineteenth century,the population of the Romanian provinces had reached about 4.2million, and that of the Balkan peninsula south of the Danube probablynot more than 6 million.152


A highly urbanised society is likely to be a well-documented one, andItaly is no exception. The Italian city-republics taxed and also fed theircitizens, and for both purposes frequent head-counts were necessary.Venice established a precedent with its census, now lost, of 1338. TheFlorentine catasto of 1427 derived from the Venetian example. Latercensuses of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries contain a vast store ofinformation on population and social structure which is now beinganalysed.153 No other cities conducted surveys on quite so elaborate ascale, but there are few which have not preserved some record of theirpopulation in early modern times. On the basis of such data Belochestimated that at the beginning of the sixteenth century the populationof Italy was about 10 million and that it increased to about 11 million by1559. Growth was restricted by both warfare and epidemic disease.There were numerous outbreaks of the plague, and in 1630-1 Italy wasstruck by its worst outbreak in modern times. Milan is said to have lost86,000 people; Venice, 60,000, and Mantua, 50,000. The death-toll inonly nineteen cities in northern Italy was put at 393,000.154 Italy'spopulation was reduced to its lowest level since the later Middle Ages.But after 1657 the plague left Italy, and the population began slowly torecover. By 1700 it had reached about 13.5 million, and fifty years later15.5. Growth was more rapid in the later eighteenth century, and atotal, excluding Corsica which was annexed to France in 1770, of 17.8million was reached in 1800, and of 22.6 million in 1845.

Throughout this period of over three centuries the rate of growth washigher in peninsular than in northern Italy, and highest in Sicily.155 Ageat marriage was low and birth-rates high. The land, some of it passingout of cultivation because of soil erosion in the mountains and lack ofdrainage in the plains, could not support the growing rural population,and there was a flight of young people from the countryside to thetowns. The city of Naples doubled in size within the century, withoutever developing the basic activities to support so large (426,600 in1796) a concentration of people. Catania increased almost threefold,and Palermo by almost 40 per cent (see p. 145). It is a curious fact that

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107 The population of Europe

Fig. 2.17 Population density in Venezia (inhabitants per km2), lateeighteenth century. Compare with fig. 1.5

urban growth during the eighteenth century was almost restricted tosouthern Italy, where the economy was least able to support it. Mostnorthern cities grew little if at all. Verona, for example, reached apopulation of over 56,000 in 1593. It had already declined somewhatbefore it was struck by the plague epidemic of 1630-1 which killed 60

Table 2.8 The population of Italy {in thousands)
















a Estimated; Corsica was then part of France.b Excludes Corsica, which was then part of France. Totals include Nice, butexclude South Tyrol, Gorizia (Gorz) and Savoy.Sources: J. Beloch, Bevolkerungsgeschichte ltaliens (3 vols., Berlin, 1937-61);Raum und Bevolkerung in der Weltgeschichte, ed. E. Kirstein, E. W. Buchholzand W. Kollmann, II (Wiirzburg, 1956); C. Cipolla, in Population in History, ed.D. V. Glass and D. E. C. Eversley (London, 1965), 570-87.

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Per sq kmOver 8071-8061-7051-6046-5041-4531-40Under 30

Fig. 2.18 Population distribution in Italy, c. 1550 and c. 1600

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109 The population of Europe






1500 1550 1600 1650 1700 1750 1800 1850

Fig. 2.19 The population of Verona. Note the very slow recovery fromthe plague outbreak of 1632

per cent of its population. It never quite regained its earlier populationbefore the mid-nineteenth century (fig. 2.19). Growth in the north couldbe largely absorbed by the countryside. Rural population doubled insome areas. Figs. 1.5 and 2.17 show the distribution of population inVenice's terra firma in 1548 and 1790. The increase during theintervening years was particularly great in the fertile lands along theAdige, Brenta and Po.156 Such rural densities could not be supported onthe thin mountainous soils of the south, where poverty intensified as thepopulation grew.

Table 2.9 Percentage growth in the population


PeninsularItaly Sicily

1550 \to1750 '1750 \to1845 '







Iberian peninsula

Population was increasing steadily through much of the sixteenthcentury. Areas newly conquered from the Moors were thinly peopled,and there was a drift of people southwards from Old Castile. Thepopulation of Spain in 1541 was about 7,414,000; half a century later ithad risen to 8,485,000 despite the migration to the New World.157

Growth was most rapid in Castile. Madrid grew to be a large city, andthere was a steady expansion in Valladolid, Toledo and other towns.

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Per SQ km

Over 80

71-8061-7051-6041 - 50"31-40Under 30

Fig. 2.20 Population distribution in Italy, 1720 and 1790

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I l l The population of Europe

Then, late in the sixteenth century, this period of growth ended. Townsin Old Castile began to decline. The birth-rate dropped, and the drift ofpeople towards the coast ceased to be compensated for by a highbirth-rate in the interior provinces.158 The decline of the population incoastal regions, particularly the kingdom of Aragon, which includedCatalonia, was postponed for a decade or two, 159 but eventually thewhole peninsula, including Portugal, experienced the recession. Con-temporaries recognised the seriousness of the decline. This generalevil', the Council of Castile called it, and de Moncada wrote that 'it isnotorious that Spain has too few inhabitants'. The immediate cause isclear. Registers show a decline in the number of baptisms beginning inrural parishes in the 1570s and spreading to the towns before the end ofthe century. The marriage rate also fell, and it is likely that average ageat marriage increased.160

This sudden change is not easy to explain. Migration, especially ofyounger men, to the New World was a factor; so also was the celibacy ofthe excessive number of clergy and other religious. Social and tenurialconditions on the land, including the grazing rights of the Mesta (see p.40) sometimes made it difficult for a peasant to acquire a holding.There was furthermore a growing unwillingness, especially on the partof the Castilian, to undertake the rigours of agricultural work. Spainbecame 'a nation . . . dependent on foreigners not only for its manufac-tures but also for its food supply, while its own population goes idle, or isabsorbed into economically unproductive occupations . . . one became astudent or a monk, a beggar or a bureaucrat. There was nothing else tobe.'161

Social attitudes and institutions provide, however, only part of theanswer. The Iberian peninsula was afflicted no less than the rest ofEurope by the scourges of famine and epidemic disease. Indeed, there isreason to believe that the plague occurred more frequently and withgreater virulence here than elsewhere. There were numerous outbreaksduring the sixteenth century, but none was as devastating as that whichbegan to spread in 1589 and in the course of the next decade coveredmuch of Spain. It began in the ports of the north coast, where Santanderis said to have lost 70 per cent of its population. It spread southwardsthrough Castile and, as Bennassar has shown,162 only the utmostvigilance by the city authorities in maintaining a quarantine preventedmortality from being a great deal more severe. In Valladolid andSegovia 18 per cent of the population is said to have died of the plagueat this time. Catalonia suffered no less than Castile. A sequence ofplague epidemics - in 1589-92, 1629-31, 1647-52, 1683-95 -repeatedly cut back on the population of the towns, and that of 1647-52moved along the whole Mediterranean coast and entered Castile by way

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Per km2

Over 504 1 - 5 03 1 - 4 02 1 - 3 01 1 - 2 0Up to 101


Fig. 2.21 Distribution of population in Spain and Portugal, c. 1800

of Cadiz and Seville. The Barcelona 'bills of mortality' show severelosses throughout the century. In 1558 the number rose to 4088, and in1589-90 to 11,792, about 30 per cent of the population of the city.163 Itis hard, wrote Elliott, to avoid the conclusion 'that the plague of1599-1600 marks the turning-point in the demographic history ofCastile'.164 Subsequent outbreaks prevented recovery and helped toturn the Meseta into an empty steppe in which the migrant sheep foundfew to dispute their passage.

There is little evidence for the size of the population of Castilebetween the sixteenth century and the eighteenth. It probably stood atabout 6 million in 1594; by 1650 it had fallen to at most 4,500,000, buthad recovered perhaps to 5 million by the end of the century.165 By thisdate la mortalidad catastrdfica had come to an end, and the populationof Spain as a whole began to grow: 7,500,000 in 1717 and 9,308,000 ahalf century later. By this time the present population pattern had beenachieved, with a relatively dense settlement near the coast and a vastempty interior, of which George Borrow and Richard Ford have leftunforgettable descriptions (fig. 2.21).

Growth continued during the nineteenth century in both Spain andPortugal despite the Carlist wars in Spain and the Peninsular War inboth.

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Table 2.10






Per km2






Per km2



The model of population growth, decline and renewed growth,described at the beginning of this chapter, is, as has been seen,applicable to all parts of Europe. Only its timing and the intensity of itsfluctuations varied. The sixteenth-century period of growth began earlyin Spain and in much of eastern Europe but was delayed in Italy and theNetherlands. In the Iberian peninsula this period of growth endedperhaps as early as the 1580s, but continued into the seventeenthcentury in France and Italy and until late in the century in theNetherlands. The population decline of the late seventeenth and earlyeighteenth centuries was relatively slight in France and Switzerland, butextreme in Germany and Poland. Renewed growth in the eighteenthcentury, called by Helleiner the 'vital revolution', began slowly, almostimperceptibly, everywhere. It was well under way in many areas - espe-cially Germany and eastern Europe-by the 1730s, but in the LowCountries was delayed until late in the century. All Europe sawcontinued growth from the mid-eighteenth century into and through thenineteenth. It was slowed by warfare, but never interrupted.

Each country, each region of Europe provided a variation on thistheme of growth, decline and renewed growth. The factors whichshaped both theme and variations were of two kinds. First there werethose which lay beyond the ability of man to control: the weather andharvests and the spread of epidemic disease, and, secondly those whichderived from political action, from social customs and institutions andfrom human innovation and discovery. To some extent the latter factorswere dependent on the former; age at marriage for example, wasinfluenced by grain prices, and thus by the weather.

The first group of factors is the easier to evaluate. The influence ofharvest failure on crises de mortalite is too obvious to require comment;so also are the consequences of epidemic disease, even though itsnature, apart from plague and smallpox, is not always easy to diagnose.The plague itself ceased gradually to be significant in the later years ofthe seventeenth century, and effectively disappeared from Europe afterthe Provencal outbreak of 1720. Vives is emphatic that repeated

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outbreaks of plague were a major factor in the decline of population inthe Iberian peninsula. It must be remembered, however, that typhus,sometimes mistaken for plague, did not disappear in the eighteenthcentury, and that smallpox became more virulent. It was not until theearly nineteenth century that vaccination against smallpox made muchprogress. Nor has it been demonstrated conclusively that improvementsin sanitation, quarantine and medical and hospital care had any greateffect in reducing mortality until well into the nineteenth century.

One is obliged to conclude that the most important single factor in thegrowth of population in the eighteenth century, and perhaps also in thesixteenth, was the more abundant supply of foodstuffs, made possible bya sequence of good harvest years. There were, however, developmentsin agricultural technology; new crops were introduced, and some-maize and the potato, for example - had an important influence on thefood-producing capacity of the land. The last widespread subsistencecrisis was in 1740. Thereafter, there were, of course, many poorharvests, and consequent distress, but none which led to widespreadfamine. Furthermore, developments in transport and in the organisationof trade were making it easier for one region to supply the deficienciesof another.

The socio-economic factors in demographic history included warfarewith its attendant destruction of crops and farm equipment, and also thenumber of celebates, the age at marriage and the size of the completedfamily. Marriage presupposed the means to support a wife and family,and could be and often was postponed when food was scarce and grainprices high. On the other hand, the practice of partible inheritance,which had the effect of increasing the number of farm-holdings - albeitat the expense of making them smaller - might result in earlier mar-riages. A domestic craft, coupled perhaps with a smallholding, couldprovide a livelihood and contribute to early marriage. On the otherhand, the large, nucleated village and open-field system, with a rigoroussocial and seigneurial control, exercised through the manorial court,were usually incompatible with a divided inheritance. Here the peasanthad commonly to await his father's death or retirement before enteringinto his inheritance and marrying. For this reason the fertile limon soilsof the Paris basin and northern France were relatively sparsely settled,and their population showed little tendency to increase. By contrast,early marriage was more likely in areas, such as Brittany, the Geest ofthe Netherlands and north-western Germany, and the mountains ofBohemia, where settlement was more scattered and constraints on landclearance and the division of holdings less rigorous. In such areas thefluidity of social and economic relationships made it practicable, andeven desirable, to supplement the farm income by developing domestic

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crafts. These in turn further encouraged early marriage and largefamilies by providing a means of subsistence. This appears to be thereason for that inversion of the traditional relationship of dense ruralpopulation to good soil, which in the eighteenth century produced agreater density of population in the Sudeten mountains and the hills ofNormandy than in the plains of Beauce.

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3The pattern of cities

There have been three periods in the history of Europe when thefoundation and building of cities was a major preoccupation of westernman. The first was in the classical period, when the Greeks and Romansdeveloped their poleis and civitas capitals. The second occurred duringthe Middle Ages, roughly from the eleventh to the fourteenth centuries,and the third was associated with the industrial and commercialdevelopments of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Eachbuilt on the settlement pattern which had preceded it. Medievalurbanism derived in part from classical. Most ancient cities in westernand southern Europe survived the Dark Ages, and were supplementedby the new towns of the Middle Ages. Only in central and easternEurope was there no tradition of classical urbanism on which to build.The urban development associated with the Industrial Revolution wassimilarly established on a foundation of medieval urbanism. It assumedtwo directions, first a selective growth amongst the older towns, some ofwhich found themselves well placed for a new role in industry. Manysmall and obscure medieval towns, such as Essen and Dortmund;Berlin, Chemnitz and Plzen, came into prominence during the period ofindustrial growth and grew in the nineteenth century to be giantsamongst the cities of Europe. Other cities grew during this period fromvillage origins; such were the coal-mining towns of northern France andcentral Belgium; ironworking centres such as Oberhausen, Charleroiand Zabrze, and mill-towns like Elbeuf and Verviers.

Urban development in the sixteenth century

The pattern of towns in Renaissance Europe was essentially that of thelater Middle Ages. No new towns were founded in the sixteenth century,except fortresses, a few of which developed some urban functions. Manytowns were extended and in part rebuilt, but in ground plan and stylemost remained medieval. More than three-quarters of the population ofEurope lived in rural areas, yet it was the towns which representedEurope's cultural and artistic traditions. They were the repositories ofmuch of the accumulated wealth of the continent. They were the seats ofbishops and the centres of learning and public administration. They

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117 The pattern of cities

were poles of attraction for every traveller who could expect to findthere both accommodation and sights to entertain him. It was in thetowns that country people sold their agricultural surplus and boughtgoods which they could not produce in their villages. Rural settlementswere linked by paths and trackways with their urban 'central place'.Roads, familiar from itineraries and road-books, joined towns with oneanother, linking them into a system within which there was a continualcirculation of people, goods and ideas.

Though the overall urban pattern underwent no significant change,the size of some cities and towns altered greatly during the century. Thegreat majority were no larger in the sixteenth than they had been in thefourteenth, and their functions had undergone no significant change.Amongst the larger cities, however, there was a selective growth.Whereas in the fourteenth century there had been very few of 50,000and probably no more than four with a population of 100,000, there wasby 1600 a very significant growth in both the size and the number ofgiant cities.

Capital cities. Growth occurred mainly in two types of city: the politicalcapitals and the ports. Giovanni Botero, writing late in the sixteenthcentury, expressed succinctly the chief reason for their expansion: 'thegreatest means to make a city populous and great is to have supremeauthority and power; for that draweth dependency with it, and depen-dency concourse, and concourse greatness'.1 The peripatetic courts ofmedieval kings had become gradually less mobile. In the course of theirmigrations they had tended to delimit a focal or nuclear area within theirstates, where their landed possessions were most extensive and foodproduction most abundant. There, at last, they anchored themselves,and began to pass an increasing portion of their time in their capitalcities. This fixing of the seat of government was in part necessitated bythe growing business of government itself. The transition from themedieval to the modern period was characterised by the assumption bygovernment of a greater range of functions. A rudimentary civil serviceevolved under the control of the chancery; more elaborate records werekept, preserved and consulted. These developments brought an influx tothe capital of royal servants, petty officials and hangers-on of govern-ment. At the same time the royal court attracted those seeking profit oremployment or merely wishing to bask in the light of royal pleasure.These in turn gave employment to robe-makers and perruquiers;goldsmiths and jewellers; swordsmiths and armourers, and architectsand builders of all kinds, all of whom attracted swarms of humblerservants. As if by a kind of multiplier effect, the addition of a seigneurialhousehold brought more business to the markets and to those who

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unloaded wine and fuel from river barges and performed other menialtasks.

The landed aristocracy played an important but variable role in thedevelopment of cities. Fra Salimbene once commented that when LouisIX visited Sens the women who welcomed him seemed like hand-maidens, whereas in Pisa or Bologna the noblest ladies would have beenpresent. Then he recollected that in France, unlike Italy, 'it is theburgesses only who dwell in cities'.2 In like vein, Botero commentedthat 'it is not of small importance . . . that the gentlemen in Italy dodwell in cities, and in France in their castles. . . For the Italian dividethhis expense and endeavours part in the city, part in the country, but thegreater part he bestows in the city. But the Frenchman employs all thathe may wholly in the country, regarding the city little or nothing at all.'3

The 'noble' families had lived in Italian cities from early times, buildingcastle-like palaces, and carrying on feuds between their tall turri andthrough the streets of the town. They brought income to the city andstimulated employment, but the reverse of the coin shows brawling andcivil disorders such as Shakespeare represented in the streets of Verona.Outside Italy, only the capitals, the seats of royal power, attracted thenobles of the land, and there they built palaces rather than castles and,as a general rule (the Fronde constitutes a conspicuous exception)conducted themselves with more decorum than the Montagues and theCapulets.

Paris became the archetype of the capital city. It had been a royalresidence since the beginning of the Capetian dynasty, for the Capetshad first been Counts of Paris. A royal residence at the north-westernend of the He de la Cite was replaced by the Louvre on the right bank ofthe river. The building occupied much of the sixteenth century and wascontinued through the seventeenth. Later in the sixteenth century theTuileries gardens were laid out; the Pont-Neuf was built linking the Hede la Cite with both banks of the river; the Place des Vosges (PlaceRoyale) and Place Dauphine were constructed, and early in theseventeenth century the Luxembourg palace was built near the edge ofthe city on the south bank. The facades of new buildings were ordered tobe of stone with which the city was well supplied. Paris began to take onthe aspect of a city of art and culture. It was, however, still containedwithin the walls built by Charles V in 1370. These embraced about 450hectares on both banks of the river, and within this area lived some200,000 people,4 the largest urban agglomeration in Europe with thepossible exception of Constantinople. Except where the French kingshad cleared land for their own building projects, there was extremecongestion.5 Houses were of up to six storeys, some of them occupied byas many as half a dozen families; all except the newer buildings were of

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wood and plaster.6 Streets were narrow and dirty, though some werepaved with stone slabs during the eighteenth century.7 A fifteenth-century tax assessment shows the distribution of wealth within the city.8

The richest quarters were on the right bank, in a broad belt reachingfrom the Louvre towards Saint-Denis. The left bank, including theSorbonne and the Latin Quarter, appears to have been one of thepoorest and most congested, even though sufficient open spaceremained for the building of the Luxembourg palace early in theseventeenth century and the laying out of its gardens.

Enclosing the right bank was an old meander of the Seine, a tract ofdamp land which, fertilised by the sweepings of countless stables,provided fresh vegetables for the city and obstructed its growth in thisdirection. The local region, however, was very far from satisfying thecity's needs. Food and fuel, the most significant of its imports, werebrought from as far away as Picardy, the Central Massif and Brittany.Meat travelled on the hoof from Normandy, some of it pausing to fattenin the meadows and grazing lands along the lower Seine.9 Most othercommodities came by river boat. Paris would have been inconceivablewithout the Seine and its system of tributaries and canals. Fuel andtimber for construction was rafted down the river, some of it coming byway of the Canal de Briare from the Forez and the upper valley of theLoire. Wine came mainly from Burgundy by the Seine and Yonne, butsome was brought upstream from Rouen; grain came from Picardy, bythe Oise, from Brie and Champagne by the Marne, or from Beauce andthe Vexin. Fish - most of it salted - came up the Seine, together withsalt from the Bay of Bourgneuf. All were unloaded at quays which linedthe Seine, and were carried by an army of porters to the city markets.10

These to the number of almost thirty, in addition to the great market ofLes Halles, were to an eighteenth-century observer a scene of utmostconfusion, and it was recommended that the visitor keep away fromthem.11 The only fair of significance was that of Saint-Germain, heldlate in the winter, near the abbey church, in a 'Barn of Frame or Wood,tiled over; consisting of many long Allies, crossing one another, theFloor of the Allies unpaved, and of Earth'.12

Paris received vast quantities of foodstuffs, fuel and raw materials forits crafts, but little ever left the city. It was a consumer rather than aproducer. Its income derived from the tax revenue of the kings and therents paid to the nobles who gathered to his court. Paris, like classicalRome, had little basic industry before the nineteenth century, and formuch of its livelihood it was parasitical on the French nation. Nonethe-less it continued to grow. There is little precise evidence for its sizebefore the early eighteenth century when Saugrain reported a total of166,665 hearths. There was a continual inflow of people from rural

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France.13 Paris, in Mercier's words, was 'un gouffre ou se fond Pespecehumaine', and Messance estimated, doubtless with some exaggeration,that on an average every household contained more than twenty-fourpersons.14

The characteristics of Paris - a vast, underemployed population,without basic industries to employ and support it - belonged in somedegree to most capital cities. The capital of Habsburg Spain was, until1561, Valladolid. It lay in the midst of the plains of Old Castile. It was aroute centre for the region, though its small river, the Pisuerga, was notnavigable. The surrounding plains were noted for their grain produc-tion, but the city itself had little commercial importance; Medina deCampo, forty kilometres to the south, was far more important forfinance and trade. Nor was it important for its manufactures; a farsmaller proportion of its population was engaged in crafts than in anyother city of Old Castile. Nevertheless, its population grew to 6750vecinos, or households, in 1530 - a population of perhaps 35,000. It wasa large, crowded and dirty city15 when, in 1559, the court of Philip II leftit. The population fell at once, but revived again late in the centurybefore its long decline throughout the seventeenth century.

In 1561 Madrid was chosen as the chief residence of the king and thecapital of Spain. It was at the time a very small town, of Moorish origin,lying close to the southern flanks of the Sierra de Guadarrama, therange which separates New Castile from Old. The site had little torecommend it. It was central to the peninsula and reputedly healthy. Ithad at the time no developed road system, and its local river, far frombeing navigable, could not even yield an adequate water supply. Thesurrounding land, much of it scrub-covered steppe, was far indeed fromthe Tierra del Pan, the 'land of bread', which surrounded Valladolid.

The old town was razed, and a new city laid out. For a time it wasdoubted whether the site was suited to be the capital of Spain, and PhilipII in fact spent much of his time at the palace-monastery El Escorial,which he built 40 kilometres to the north-west, at the foot of the Sierra.But by the early seventeenth century, the decision had become irrevoc-able, and Madrid enjoyed a period of rapid growth, when it became thecultural as well as the political centre of Spain. The central square, thePlaza Mayor, was built to the east of the palace, in 1619, and in 1625Philip IV ordered walls to be built to enclose the new city. It coveredabout 75 square kilometres, within which the original medieval townremains distinguishable by its less-regular street pattern.16 There is noway to trace the growth of population in detail, but by the second half ofthe eighteenth century this had reached 150,000, and the built-up areahad spread well beyond the wall of Philip IV. A new line of walls wasbegun in 1782, but its purpose, like that of the Farmers-General Wall

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Late-18th-century wall

•. Built-up area— .'•late 18th century

A l c a z a r -t";^-: ::\ :••'::''•]•)•

Puerta deToledo

Fig. 3.1 The growth of the city of Madrid

around Paris, was rather to delimit the city's jurisdiction and to checksmuggling than to provide an effective military defence.

In Italy and Germany political fragmentation prevented theemergence of large capital cities. In northern Italy, the clearest exampleof growth was Turin, which became the capital of the Counts of Savoyand Piedmont. In the mid-sixteenth century it was still a town of lessthan 15,000, but the territory subject to the house of Savoy increased inextent and the city of Turin grew with it. Growth was maintainedthrough the seventeenth century, despite the ravages of the plague of1630-1. The population reached about 24,500 in 1600, 42,500 by 1700,and 56,750 by the mid-eighteenth century.17 By contrast, Milan, ascapital of the Visconti and later Sforza Dukes of Milan, had reached thepeak of its pre-industrial development before 1500. The wealth of theMilanais could not support further growth. There was little furtherbuilding, and the population was probably smaller in 1600 than it hadbeen by 1500.18 A similar cessation of growth characterised Venice,Florence and Naples from the later sixteenth at least until the earlyeighteenth century.

The only exception in Italy to this generalisation was Rome. Theclassical city whose walls, built under the emperor Aurelian, hadenclosed an urban area of 1372 hectares was partially abandoned during

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Fig. 3.2 Rome after the planned rebuilding of the sixteenth century

the centuries which followed. The medieval city occupied only thenorth-western sector of the ancient city, the area of flat land, liable toflooding by the Tiber, which extended northwards from the Capitolinehill, together with the suburb of Trastevere. There were few settlementson the hills of the eastern half of the city, and only religious foundationshad intruded amongst the ruins of the Palatine and the Forum.19 The lifeof the city had been disrupted by the feuds of the patrician families andits economy ruined by the flight of the papacy to Avignon. In 1417 thepopes returned its ancient dignity. St Peter's was begun in 1506 and theVatican palace enlarged. Palaces were built for the leading families whoattended the 'court' of the pope. This restoration and extension of theancient city was interrupted by its sack by the soldiers of the emperor in1527.20 Its population, at this time about 55,000, was reduced by some20 per cent, but quickly grew again and reached 100,000 by 1600.Somewhat slower growth continued through the seventeenth and eight-eenth centuries. It was a cosmopolitan population, as much as a quarterof it having come from outside Italy. One of the largest Jewish ghettoesin Europe was to be found near Sant'Angelo, under close papalsupervision. Rome was more visited than any other city, and theguidebooks and itineraries for travellers of this period are too numerous

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to count. The census of 1526-7 listed no less than 236 'inns, hosteleriesand taverns'.21

A building programme, largely inspired by the popes themselves,continued through the sixteenth century. Sixtus V (1585-90) continuedthe work of Julius II in replanning the city, cutting broad, straight streetsthrough the maze of classical and medieval buildings and alleys, to linkthe key points of the city. The building of churches and palacescontinued throughout these centuries, and Rome became, not thelargest, but incomparably the best-built and most beautiful city ofEurope. This building programme was made possible because the popesruled the richest and most extensive empire Europe had known. Itmattered little that it had been diminished by the Reformation; the NewWorld had, in Acton's words, been called into being to redress thebalance of the Old.

The provisioning of Rome presented in all probability a greaterproblem than that of Paris, because the surrounding region, theCampagna, was depopulated and largely abandoned by agriculture. Theattempts of the popes to stimulate farming had little success, and thecity's grain supply came largely by sea from Romagna and Ancona, fromSicily, Spain, Provence and even, after 1591, from the Baltic.22 Animalswere driven in from the Apennines, and wine and fish were brought bysea to Civita Vecchia and carried overland. Some foodstuffs, but aboveall timber, were brought down the Tiber from Umbria.

The Low Countries had no central administration, but the Burgun-dian dukes in the fifteenth century and the Habsburgs after them madeBrussels the chief centre of their authority. The peak of its prosperitywas reached by 1500. In 1526 it had 22,036 households, representing apopulation of at least 90,000. After the mid-sixteenth century theHabsburg rulers deserted Brussels; the Low Countries became abattleground, and the city's brief age of splendour was over. By 1709, itspopulation had fallen to about 50,000, and not until the end of thecentury did it regain its earlier size.23

In none of the petty German capitals was there any significant growthin the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Prague, the capital of theBohemian state, ceased to be a royal residence with the death of KingLewis at Mohacs, and Vienna, seat of the Austrian Habsburgs,remained a small frontier town, girt by its walls and ever watchfulagainst the Turks, throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.Nowhere in central Europe had centralised political authoritydeveloped a capital city comparable with those of France, Spain and theCatholic Church, before the end of the seventeenth century.

To this, however, Poland offered a partial exception. Authority hadbeen exercised in turn from Gniezno, Poznan and Krakow. The state

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had, however, been expanding towards the east, and the union withLithuania (1569) created a politically united territory which reachedfrom the Baltic almost to the Black Sea. Krakow was too eccentric toserve as an administrative centre for the combined Polish-LithuanianCommonwealth. It was decided that the joint diet, or sejm, should meetalternatively at Piotrkow and the small Vistula town of Warsaw whichhad been the capital of the duchy of Mazowsze. The diet which chose asuccessor to the last of the Jagiellonian kings (1573) met here, andduring the last years of the sixteenth century its political importancebegan to increase. Lastly, in 1596, King Zygmunt III moved hisresidence from the Wawel in Krakow to the castle in Warsaw.24

This transference of the seat of authority, similar in some ways to thatof the Spanish court from Valladolid to Madrid, was followed by therapid growth of Warsaw. From about 10,000 its population grew to20,000 by the mid-seventeenth century. The old city was largely rebuilt.The castle, lying on its southern edge, was reconstructed in baroquestyle, and numerous churches and the palaces of the Polish magnateswere built especially to the west and south. Building continued throughthe seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, interrupted only by theSwedish war of 1655-60. When Bernardo 'Canaletto' Belotto came toWarsaw in 1767 and was given the task of recording the sights of thecity, his paintings portrayed what was probably the most courtly andbeautiful city in Europe.

At the same time the two Scandinavian cities, Copenhagen andStockholm, began to grow in size and to take on the air of capitals. Bothhad been built largely of wood, the houses of Stockholm having beenprefabricated in Finland, it was said, and shipped to the city andassembled there.25 Fires were unusually frequent and destructive, butafter each a little more of the city was rebuilt in masonry. Copenhagenowed its first significant rebuilding, and also many of the architecturalmonuments which survive today, to Christian IV (1588-1648). BothStockholm and Copenhagen grew during the sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies with the increasing power, prestige and commerce of theirrespective countries. The growth of Stockholm received the deliberateencouragement of the Swedish government, and, in addition to its roleas capital of a Baltic empire, it served as the chief port of Sweden. Itspopulation is said to have grown to at least 42-43,000 by 1676.

Only one other capital city underwent any significant transformationduring these years: Constantinople. During much of the Middle Ages ithad been by far the largest city in Europe. It was reduced to apopulation of perhaps 80,000 at the time of the Ottoman conquest(1453),26 but it quickly grew, however, as the capital of the Ottomanempire, and may have reached 500,000 in the mid-sixteenth century and

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600-750,000 towards the end of the seventeenth.27 By this time the cityhad filled out most of the space enclosed by the Theodosian walls andhad spilled over to the Galata and Pera suburbs beyond the GoldenHorn. The former imperial palace at the eastern extremity of thetriangular peninsula of Constantinople became the Topkapi, the resi-dence of the sultans. The Church of Hagia Sophia was converted to amosque, and other mosques - some of them, like the mosque ofSulaiman, of great size - were built in immense numbers, and, in fact,represented most of the investment in public buildings under the Turks.

Travellers were unanimous that Constantinople was a crowded, dirtyand ill-planned city. Buildings were mainly of wood, and fires werefrequent. There was only one practicable road, that running from theTopkapi to the principal city gate on the west. All others were narrow,darkened by the jutting upper storeys, and almost impassable.28 It wasalso a cosmopolitan city. Turks made up little more than half thepopulation. The rest were mainly Greeks, Armenians and Jews, the lastmainly Sephardic from Spain. The non-Turkish inhabitants lived mostlyin closed communities, or ghettoes, chiefly along the shores of theGolden Horn. The city carried on an important trade, but it wasprimarily 'an administrative and military city'.29 Its crafts catered onlyfor the needs of the urban population.

The food supply of so large a city presented serious problems whichthe Turks seem never to have solved satisfactorily. Constantinople did,however, have one particular advantage. It lay on the coast, equallyaccessible from Black Sea and Aegean ports. Most of the food came inby ship; only animals appear to have been driven across the steppewhich lay to the west. Grain supply, as in the Italian city-republics, wasentrusted to an official, but was, in the opinion of Baron de Tott, sobadly administered that food riots, famine and epidemics were theinevitable consequences.30

Port cities. After capital cities, ports were the chief growth points in thesixteenth and seventeenth centuries. During the later Middle Ages theleading centres of maritime trade had been the Mediterranean ports,especially the Italian. Venice and Genoa were intermediaries in atrading network which reached from the Middle East to the Baltic.Goods, imported from North Africa and the eastern Mediterranean,were redistributed either overland by way of the Alpine passes, or bysea to the ports of western Mediterranean and Atlantic Europe. Thenorthern ports, especially those of the Baltic, exported only a narrowrange of commodities (see pp. 277-82), while the Atlantic portsgenerated relatively little trade, except in wine and salt. One of theobstacles to a more vigorous development of trade between the

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Mediterranean and western Europe during the later Middle Ages was itsunbalanced nature; there was little for Italian ships to bring back to theMediterranean.

The great discoveries and the commercial revolution which followedchanged this, and revolutionised the pattern of seaborne trade. Thetrade between Europe and the lands newly opened up in Asia and theNew World dwarfed all that had passed through Venice and Genoa.'Compared with all other traffic flows of the period', wrote Chaunu, 'theSpanish-American trade was enormous',31 and only the Portuguesetrade by way of the Cape of Good Hope could compare with it. And thistrade passed through only two groups of European ports, those whichlay respectively at the mouths of the Guadalquivir and the Tagus. It isnot surprising that their growth was rapid during the century of Spanishpredominance.

Seville was the chief port of southern Spain. It had long carried on afairly small traffic with the Italian ports, and a colony of Genoesemerchants was settled here.32 It lay 84 kilometres from the sea, on theGuadalquivir, which was navigable by all except the largest ships. At themouth of the river was San Lucar de Barramedo, a small and unsatisfac-tory port, and 30 kilometres to the south, the excellent natural harbourof Cadiz. North-west of the Guadalquivir mouth stretched the straight,sandy coast of Las Marismas, the marshy lower valley of the river.Beyond was the mouth of the small Tinto river, and on it the port ofPalos, from which Columbus set sail in 1492.

Seville was already a city of at least 25,000. It quickly became theSpanish focus of the growing traffic with the New World, and the Casade Contratacion, or government department charged with administeringthis trade as a state monopoly, was established here in 1503; and after ashort period when the government tried to extend the New World tradeto other ports, Seville acquired a commercial monopoly. It was throughSeville that most of the bullion from the Spanish empire enteredEurope. As time passed, however, fewer of the galleons made thedifficult voyage up the river, and instead docked at Cadiz which in timetook over the role of principal port of the Indies.

This, however, did nothing to hinder the growth of Seville. Itspopulation in 1530 was about 45,000 - the largest city of Spain - andreached 90,000 by 1594.33 It was, like any rapidly growing port city,crowded and cosmopolitan. It attracted the best and the worst elementsin contemporary Spain, many of whom crowded on to the ships for theNew World, and few of whom returned. Seville had, in consequence, ahighly unbalanced sex-ratio, with an excessive number of widows. Onlya steady migration from the rest of Castile could have allowed it to grow.The population probably reached its peak in the 1580s. In 1599-1601,

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}':-/L Sanlucarde Barameda

Cadiz"?100 km

Fig. 3.3 The ports of Portugal and south-western Spain

the city was hit severely by the plague. Immigrants were no longercoming down from the Meseta in as great a number, and much of theport business of Seville was passing to Cadiz.34 The seventeenth centurywas a period of slow decline. In the eighteenth century, the populationstood at about 80,000, and was exceeded by that of Cadiz.35 Not untilwell into the nineteenth century did Seville regain the size it had knownduring its age of greatness.36 The food supply of Seville had always been aproblem. Wine and olive oil were produced locally, grains were suppliedmainly from the plain of Andalusia, now being restored to cultivationafter the wars with the Moors.

The mouth of the Tagus lay 330 kilometres to the north-west of thatof the Guadalquivir. It was the finest natural harbour on the coast of theIberian peninsula, and had replaced Oporto as the chief port of Portugalduring the Middle Ages. In the fifteenth century the seaborne trade ofPortugal began to increase, as Portuguese navigators opened up thewest coast of Africa and advanced into the Indian Ocean. It wascanalised through the port of Lisbon, which became the emporium forthe New World of Asia as Seville was for America. That the populationof Lisbon grew is self-evident, but there is little statistical measure of itsgrowth. It was larger than Seville in the fifteenth century; Boxer

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suggests some 40,000.37 It may have risen to 80,000 in the sixteenth andto 100,000 in the seventeenth,38 and when Lisbon was struck by theearthquake of 1755 it may have had a quarter of a million inhabitants.

The Atlantic ports of France, from Bordeaux to Saint-Malo, Le Havreand Rouen, all experienced growth during the sixteenth century. In partthis was a reflection of the development of transatlantic and colonialtrade; in part, also, of the growth of internal trade in France itself.France was late in developing a colonial trade, and when she did so, inthe later seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a great deal of it passedthrough Bordeaux. La Rochelle and Nantes were more important forthe local trade in wine, salt and the coarse fabrics made in the cottagesof the interior, and Saint-Malo added to these the pursuit of theNewfoundland fisheries. Rouen had long been the port for the Parisbasin. In 1516 Francis I founded Le Havre de Grace to replace the portof Harfleur which had silted and become difficult to use. It grew veryslowly before the late eighteenth century, and was more important forthe Grand Banks fisheries than for France's external trade.39 Rouenremained the chief port for Paris. But the Seine was a difficult river tonavigate, and the construction of docks at Le Havre towards the end ofthe ancien regime tipped the balance in favour of Le Havre, whichslowly replaced Rouen in seaborne trade.

Only in the Low Countries was the growth of port cities more rapid thanin south-western Spain, and only Antwerp and Amsterdam could rivalthe more southerly cities of Seville and Lisbon. During the later MiddleAges the chief emporium for trade with the Mediterranean had beenBruges and its outports along the river Zwin. Merchandise, in the wordsof the Libel of English Policie, was

into Flanders shipped full craftily,Unto Bruges as to her staple fay re:The Haven of Scluse hir Haven for her repay re.Which is cleped Swyn tho shippes giding:Where many vessels and fayre are abiding.

In the fourteenth century the trade of Bruges began to decline. Thereason most often given is the supposed silting of the port. Thewaterways which led up to the city had always been shallow and difficultto navigate, and most ships had unloaded at Sluys or Damme, and theircargoes had been brought upriver by lighters. These physical conditionsdid not change materially during the later Middle Ages. It was thevolume of traffic which contracted. By the fifteenth century Flanders nolonger supplied the greater part of the cloth export. It came increasinglyfrom Brabant and the region to the east of Flanders. The ports of theZwin were less well suited than those of the Scheldt for this developing

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trade. The Scheldt, furthermore, was more easily navigated, andallowed the largest ships from the Mediterranean or the Baltic to tie upat the quays in Antwerp. Antwerp also had links both by road and riverwith the Rhineland, and cloth from Brabant was sold in Cologne andthroughout Germany. It was, in short, better placed to profit from theexpanding market in central Europe than the older commercial centresof Flanders.4*)

Flanders sought to extinguish the competition of its upstart rival onthe Scheldt by annexing it (1356), but, restored to Brabant in 1406,Antwerp enjoyed almost a century of unhindered growth. Its fairs,together with those Bergen op Zoom, to the north, were amongstthe most important in north-western Europe, and the city increasedsteadily in population through the fifteenth century. By 1500 it con-tained almost 7000 hearths, and by 1526 this had increased almost to9000, suggesting a total population of 40-50,000.41 In 1543, the thirdand last line of walls was built to include the growing population. A newbourse was erected in 1531; new, wide streets were planned, and privatehouses were rebuilt with stone in an attempt to reduce the danger offire. Ludovico Guicciardini, writing in the mid-century, described thewide, straight streets and the handsome buildings as well as the immenserange and variety of the goods which were unloaded or loaded at itsquays along the Scheldt.42

Growth continued until the outbreak of war in the Low Countries(1568). The population of the city may by this date have reached90-100,000.43 It had become the largest city in north-western Europe,Paris excepted. The war, however, shattered its prospects, and thepopulation and trade of the city both declined in the following years.The catastrophic decline of Antwerp was, however, precipitated by theevents of 1576, when the Spanish soldiers of Don John of Austriamutinied, plundered and burned the city, and murdered thousands of itsinhabitants. Already, however, the revolting Dutch had seized Flushingand interrupted its shipping, and after the early 1580s the convoys fromSpain ceased to come to the Scheldt. The population of Antwerp fell toless than half its total before the war began, and, though it recoveredsomewhat in the seventeenth century, it did not regain its earlierprosperity until after its conquest by the French at the end of theeighteenth.

The commercial mantle of Antwerp fell upon Amsterdam which hadgrown up as one of many small fishing and trading towns around theZuider Zee. It lay on the small river Amstel, where it discharges into theIJ, itself a branch of the Zuider Zee. The site, built mainly of alluvialclay and peat, was ringed by polders and unreclaimed meers, of whichone of the largest, the Haarlemmer Meer, to the south-west of the city,

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remained undrained until the mid-nineteenth century.Amsterdam grew more slowly than Antwerp. In the mid-sixteenth

century, when it was described by Guicciardini,44 it had a population ofless than 30,000, and its trade was little more than a coastwise trafficcarried on mainly in hulks, belonging to its own citizens. The veryfactors which brought about the collapse of Antwerp contributed to itsrise: the wars, the flight of merchants - many of them Jewish - from thesouthern Netherlands, and the closure of the Scheldt, the true benefi-ciary of which was not the Zeeland towns which had brought it about,but Amsterdam. At the time of the truce of 1609 the population ofAmsterdam was still no more than 50,000 but already the first ships ofthe Netherlands East Indies Company had sailed to Asia and back, andtheir cargoes, made up mainly of pepper and spices,45 were beingmarketed in the city. In 1609 the Bourse, or exchange bank, wasopened, and Amsterdam began to take over the financial as well as thecommercial functions of Antwerp.

Growth was extremely rapid during most of the seventeenth century.The population had reached 100,000 by about 1620, and 200,000 by1645. The city itself was largely rebuilt during these years. Brickreplaced wood, and the tall houses with ornamented gables began to risein concentric rows above the canals. The city developed no importantmanufacturing industries, and its prosperity was built primarily on itstrade. Yet its harbour, along the river IJ, was one of the leastsatisfactory. To reach it ships had to sail around the peninsula of northHolland and, as they approached the harbour, to negotiate a shallowwhich no amount of dredging seemed able to clear. The draught of shipswas restricted, and it proved necessary in the end to give them a greaterbuoyancy by attaching to them air-filled drums.46

The food supply of Amsterdam was easier to manage than that ofother cities of comparable size. Holland itself was a considerableproducer of animals and animal products; the fishing industry waspursued from every port around the Zuider Zee, and any localdeficiency in cereals was readily made good by imports, since Amster-dam was the western emporium of the Baltic grain trade. Furthermore,there was a heavy investment by the city's merchants in land reclama-tion.47 Many of the polders to the north-west of Amsterdam werereclaimed early in the seventeenth century, including the BeemsterPolder, which in the opinion of Sir William Temple, provided 'therichest Soil of the Province'.48

In the nineteenth century the foremost rival of Amsterdam wasRotterdam, situated on a branch of the Rhine, about 35 kilometresfrom the sea. During the period of Dutch ascendancy, however, itremained relatively small, in part because the lower Rhine had not been

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straightened and its navigation improved. By 1600 it still had apopulation of less than 15,000. It grew through the seventeenth centurybut by 1690 had barely exceeded 50,000,49 and even this level was notmaintained during the eighteenth century.

Another legatee of the decline of Antwerp was Hamburg. In the laterMiddle Ages it had been a relatively unimportant Hanseatic town,over-shadowed by Lubeck and Stettin, whose access to the centralEuropean hinterland was superior. During the sixteenth and seven-teenth centuries, however, Hamburg enjoyed a comparative immunityfrom the religious wars which decimated the population and destroyedthe trade of her rivals. Some of the refugees from the southernNetherlands settled in Hamburg, bringing with them more advancedbusiness methods than those known to the rather backward Hansards.Jews from the Iberian peninsula came here, and the Merchant Adven-turers of London transferred their staple for English cloth fromAntwerp to Hamburg.50

The city lay on the north-eastern shore of the Elbe, 125 kilometresfrom the sea. The navigation of the estuary was not easy, and the largervessels could reach its quays only on the tide. Access to the city wasimproved only by dredging during the nineteenth century. On the otherhand, Hamburg's hinterland was broadened by the construction ofcanals, beginning in the sixteenth century, across Brandenburg from theElbe to the Oder (see p. 298).51 With the support of the commercialnations of north-western Europe, the merchants of Hamburg set aboutcontrolling the maritime trade of central Europe. In the eighteenthcentury Justus Moser described the activities of 'the grasping, mono-polising merchants of Hamburg and Bremen', and looked back nostalgi-cally to the time when all Hanseatic towns had equal opportunities.52

Hamburg was thus the only north German port, indeed the onlyGerman city, to grow continuously through the pre-industrial period. Itspopulation early in the sixteenth century was some 16,000. This grew toover 22,000 by 1600; to about 45,000 at the outbreak of the ThirtyYears' War, and to 60,000 at its conclusion. By the mid-eighteenthcentury the population of Hamburg had reached 80,000, and had turned100,000 at the end of the century.53

By contrast, other port cities of north Germany experienced a shortperiod of growth in the sixteenth century, followed by a long period ofdecline which lasted through the seventeenth and, in some instances, theeighteenth century as well. Danzig, replacing Lubeck, became theforemost Baltic port in the sixteenth century (see p. 55).54 Its populationgrew from some 30,000 to about 65,000; immense profits were made byits merchants in the main from the grain trade, and much of the city wasrebuilt. It became the finest Renaissance and baroque city in northern

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Europe. Quays were developed along the Motlawa, a branch of theVistula, and opposite the city was built a range of granaries andwarehouses, made necessary by the interruption of navigation duringthe winter half year. This period of prosperity lasted into the second halfof the seventeenth century, when warfare destroyed the trade on whichits prosperity had been founded. It never regained what it lost duringthese years. By 1750, its population had fallen to 46,000 and by the endof the century the city was smaller than it had been in 1500.55

Early modern urbanism

The European town was, at least until the eighteenth century, stillmedieval in appearance, in plan and even in function. It continued to bewalled, even though its walls served no other function than to separate itfrom the countryside and to emphasise its differing status. Not a singletown portrayed by the cartographers and engravers of the sixteenth andseventeenth centuries was without its defences, though many a smallGerman town, illustrated by the Merians, was protected by nothingmore than a ditch, a bank and a wooden palisade, with a small,stone-built gateway. Those cities which had grown most rapidly duringthe later Middle Ages extended their walls to enclose an even largerarea. Antwerp was one of the last to do so; its final enceinte was built in1543. Many had built too generously, and their walls continued until theeighteenth century to enclose large open spaces and gardens. Cologne,for example, had almost as much open space within its walls in 1815 as ithad about 1600.

Medieval urban defences, consisting of curtain walls, set with towersand gates, had been built by the citizens themselves, and their cost hadoften stretched the municipal finances to their limit and even run thecity deep into debt. They continued into the seventeenth century to havetheir uses. They could not stand up to a siege train, but still protectedthe citizens from marauding bands such as disturbed much of Germanyduring the Thirty Years' War. The newer defences were lower but verymuch thicker, fitted with gun platforms and embrasures designed toprovide cross-fire along the walls. The construction called for skilledmilitary engineers, and their cost was beyond the reach of most towns.They could in effect only be built by governments. Amongst the earliestexamples of the new style of urban defences were those built to protectthe Trastevere, or right-bank suburb of Rome, from attack from thenorth. The latest walls of Milan were designed to support guns and resistartillery, and the defences of some other towns were in some measureadapted to the new military technology, with bastions at particularlyexposed points; but most towns felt no need to turn themselves intofortresses, and the new mode of defence became significant only in

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those of strategic importance.Within the circuit of its walls, the street plan of the sixteenth-century

city differed little from that of two centuries earlier. Most streets werenarrow; few were paved, and all became the repositories of domesticwaste which was at infrequent intervals collected by the employees ofthe town. The urban plan had, in most instances, developed graduallywithout any guiding ideas to determine the location of streets and openspaces. But urban law in Europe, unlike that in Moslem lands, protectedstreets from encroachment by the houses along each side of it, and,though generally very narrow, they never ceased to be passable, even bywheeled vehicles.

Two groups of towns provided exceptions to this generalisation: thosewhich derived their lay-out directly from the planned construction of theRomans, and those - most of them very small - which were similarlylaid out during the Middle Ages. Most of the former were in Italy.Turin - or at least the oldest parts of the city - preserved its classicalground plan to perfection, and the early modern development of the citymerely extended its pattern of straight streets and square city blocks. Inmost other cities, the regular plan had been somewhat distorted duringthe early medieval period when urban life was at its lowest ebb, thoughit remains recognisable even today. Medieval planned towns werenumerous in most parts of Europe. In some instances they consisted of aplanned suburb grafted on to an older, unplanned nucleus, as at Poznari,Breslau, Krakow, Plzen and Prague. Much social and legal history isimplicit in the contrasting ways in which the streets of a town developed.But the medieval planners were never rigid in the interpretation of theirideas. They were prepared to distort their town blocks and to bend theirstreets, though they seem never to have resolved the problems of fittinga gridiron pattern of streets within the curving line of a town wall northat of locating churches, public buildings and open spaces in relation toa regular system of streets. This was left to the more sophisticated anderudite planners of the Renaissance.

Urban building was more often of wood and clay than of stone andbrick. Wood was, except in southern Europe, more readily available tourban builders than stone. Few large cities - Paris and Rome weresignificant exceptions - had abundant sources of good building stonewithin easy reach, and in most the use of masonry was reserved forchurches, public buildings and sometimes the basem*nts or groundfloors of houses, as well, of course, as for town walls. Brick constructionhad been much used by Romans, but during the earlier Middle Ages theonly bricks and tiles used were those retrieved from Roman sites. Theuse of bricks was revived in northern Europe during the later MiddleAges. The reason lay in the absence of building stone in the glaciated

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north German plain and southern Scandinavia and in the compensatingabundance of clay suitable for brick-making. Throughout the laterMiddle Ages brick was used from the Low Countries to Poland for thebuilding of churches and town halls, and during the Renaissance beganto appear in the houses of prosperous burgesses from Amsterdam toDanzig.

Most urban houses did not rise more than two or three storeys. Onlywhere pressure on space was severe, as in the congested city of Genoa,did they rise to five, six or even seven.56 Houses were larger, taller, morepretentious around and close to the town square, for it was here that thelocal partricians chose to live, and there they built tall facades withstepped and decorated gables, which still form a notable feature of manynorth European towns from Brussels to Warsaw.

The spread of masonry construction offered many advantages. It wasless likely to harbour rats than houses built of wooden framing infilledwith wattle and plaster, and, in consequence, its inhabitants were lessvulnerable to disease. It was warmer in winter and cooler in summer,and above all, it burned less readily. Fire was a perennial threat to thepre-industrial city. Fireplaces, hearths and ovens were made of stone,brick or clay, even in houses which were otherwise of wood, but theamount of masonry was often far too small; the mortar was readilyburned out, and joists were even notched into chimney stacks in such away that they could be ignited. Fires could thus spread with the greatestease, and could quickly engulf much of a town. The journal of a Monsburgess recorded a fire at Armentieres in 1518 which destroyed 1300houses, leaving only 3 standing.57 Four years later 1200 houses wereburned in Valenciennes, and in the following year the greater part of thesmall town of Reulx was destroyed. Almost every city and town inEurope had its catalogue of fires; Constantinople recorded no less thantwenty-two major fires between 1633 and 1701.58

Water supply and the disposal of sewage and waste were always majorproblems. In no instance did the aqueducts of the Romans continue inuse. Their giant arches and tunnels were conspicuous features of thelandscape, but they failed to inspire Renaissance man to comparablebuilding activity. Towns relied on springs rising either within their wallsor only a short distance from them. Pipes, usually of lead, carried thewater to public fountains. These became during the Renaissance more andmore colourful and decorative, often belying the quality of the waterwhich they dispensed. Most large towns drew water from their rivers,with little reference to its quality. At most they held it in cisterns toallow sediment to settle and occasionally they restricted the dischargeof waste into the stream.59 This remained substantially the situationuntil the development of the science of hydraulic engineering in the

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eighteenth century. Cities, especially large cities, were always chroni-cally short of water, a fact which helps to explain the frequency ofserious fires.

There were no sewers in medieval and Renaissance towns. Inmonasteries toilets were often built over a stream; in castles, theyprojected from the walls and discharged into the moat or ditch below.This convenient if insanitary way of disposing of excreta was rarelypossible in towns - though the town ditch was not infrequently used inthis way. The sweepings of stables were usually carted to the surround-ing fields, but domestic waste was more often thrown into the streets,from which cleaners removed it at intervals to the river. The earliestsewers were in fact small rivers, such as the Fleet in London, which hadbeen walled in and covered over. Rivers were so polluted by human aswell as industrial waste, such as the drainings from tanyards, that theycould not provide a safe drinking water. Yet there were few which werenot used as a source of supply. Disease spread in such conditions, andthe increasing incidence of fevers in the late eighteenth and earlynineteenth centuries is to be related directly to the growth of largerurban centres without sufficient care to prevent the contamination ofthe water supply.

Most towns could not have maintained themselves without a steadyinflux of peasants from the countryside. Except in the small Agrarstddte,the death-rate in towns seems always to have been higher than in ruralareas, and the birth-rate lower.60 Many - perhaps most - of the immi-grants were those who stood no chance of inheriting land in their nativevillages. In the towns they became craftsmen, or servants, or joined themass of unskilled and destitute who were recorded in the tax-booksquite simply as pauvres or non taillables. Many did not marry becausethey never possessed the means to set up house. At Lyons, in 1529-31,over 60 per cent of the adults for whom there is evidence of place ofbirth had been born outside the city.61 Immigration was heavilymale - another reason for celibacy. The immigrants were drawn from avery wide area, almost a quarter of them from other towns. The cityattracted people, but often could not hold them. If they failed to obtainemployment in one, they moved on to another. Only about a twentiethof the immigrants to Lyons came from beyond the French-speakingarea;62 language was evidently a factor in determining the direction ofmigration. Large towns attracted immigrants from a very much widerarea than small. Strasbourg drew settlers from much of western Europe,though a majority came from Germany. Paris in the eighteenth centurywas found to have citizens from all parts of northern France, as well asmany from southern.

Small towns, however, continued throughout the pre-industrial period

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to be fed with immigrants from their surrounding countryside.Haguenau in northern Alsace derived all of its citizenry from distancesof less than 30 kilometres, and similar instances of predominantlyshort-distance migration could be found in many parts of westernEurope.63 The direction of migration was determined in part byreligious conviction. A Catholic would have been unlikely to settle inStrasbourg, and a Protestant would not have been well received inHaguenau. In part, also, the decision to migrate must have beeninfluenced by news of economic opportunity. Areas of expandingindustrial activity in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, suchas northern France and the lower Seine valley, received a stream of ruralimmigrants. It seems that in many instances migration was in the firstinstance to nearby small towns, and only then, after the migrant's breakwith his home village was complete, did he move on to a more distantand larger town.

This overwhelming dependence on immigration explains, of course,the fluctuations, often extreme, in the size of towns. The supply ofimmigrants might be interrupted, or a significant part of the footlooseand perhaps unwelcome population of one town might move on toothers where, it was hoped, its presence might be more highly rewarded.The high urban death-rate was due in part to the fact that manyimmigrants were already in middle life; in part to the fact that theincidence of disease was greater than in rural areas. The disastrousoutbreaks of plague during early modern times were mostly urban; soalso were the worst outbreaks of typhus, also a disease carried by humanparasites. Cholera, increasingly important in the eighteenth and earlynineteenth centuries, derived from the infected water supply of cities,and all communicable diseases were transmitted more readily incrowded urban conditions than in rural.

Urban planning

Few new towns were founded in the sixteenth and seventeenth cen-turies, and the urban net bequeathed by the Middle Ages was adequatefor most modern needs. Yet there was an immense interest in urbanplanning, stemming in large part from the rediscovery of the classicalwriters on the subject. Opportunities to employ this new-found know-ledge were, perhaps unfortunately, few.

The works of Vitruvius, rediscovered in the fifteenth century, werethe most important formative influence on the town-planners of theRenaissance. He had advocated a planned lay-out for a town, preferablycircular, with radiating streets, and open spaces judiciously sited for thehealth and amenity of the citizens. His ideas were adopted in somewhattheoretical fashion by Alberti and Leonardo da Vinci, whose notebooks

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contain many suggestions for the improvement of towns. Leonardoconceived a plan to sweep away the city of Milan, at the time in allprobability the largest in southern Europe, and to replace it with ten'new towns'. In this way he hoped to break up 'the great congregation ofpeople who herd together like goats one on top of another, filling everyplace with foul odour and sowing seeds of pestilence and death',64 butsuch a project was far beyond the political and economic realities of hisage.

Italian architects and planners went on to produce a series of modelsfor the ideal city, each of them a variation on the theme of Vitruvius, butin practice all that they were called upon to do was to modify existingcities and to replan odd corners of them. The most significant of suchopportunities was in Rome. When, in 1417, the popes returned to thecity they found it half in ruins. The work of rebuilding began at once.Churches were restored, and on the right bank of the Tiber PopeNicholas V (1447-55) began work on a new papal palace, the Vatican,and sketched the general plan of St Peter's and its approaches. Early inthe next century Julius II, the most ambitious and visionary of thebuilder-popes, planned to cut broad thoroughfares through the maze ofstreets and alleys which had spread over the Campus Martius andcomposed the medieval city. On the northern edge of the city he createdthe large square known today as the Piazza del Popolo, from which, heplanned, broad avenues should radiate across the Campus. One ofthese, the Via del Corso, constitutes the central axis of modern Rome.To the east of the medieval city lay the region of the 'hills' abandonedsince the later years of the empire, though enclosed within the Aurelianwall. In the fifteenth century, settlement began again to spread into thisarea, and in the later sixteenth century a building-plan was imposed onit.65 Sixtus V (1585-90) encouraged his architect, Fontana, to plan aseries of avenues to converge on the church of Santa Maria Maggiore.At the same time Fontana constructed a water-supply system for thearea and designed impressive buildings to accord with his plan. This wasurban planning on a more ambitious scale than had been knownhitherto, and, since Rome was the most-visited city in Europe, its famespread, and it became an inspiration to town-planners throughout thecontinent.

In no other Italian, or even European, city were there changes asdrastic as those imposed on Rome. No other institution had wealthcomparable with that of the papacy. Nevertheless the central piazza ofVenice was replanned and rebuilt to produce a central area 'unequalledamong the great cities of the world'.66 The centre of Vicenza waspartially rebuilt by Palladio, and there was also extensive new building,according to the principles of Vitruvius, in Milan and Bologna. Parts of

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other Italian cities, including Genoa, Naples and Palermo, were rebuilt,and in some of them new boulevards were cut through the maze ofmedieval streets. In Turin the classical ground plan was extendedwithout modification along the lines prescribed by the Roman planners.

The opportunities to plan a city ab initio, on a virgin site, and to applymore fully the principles of Vitruvius, were few indeed. Most of the newtowns of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries owed their origin tomilitary necessity. They were fortresses, and the lay-out of streets andsquares had to be subordinated to the overriding requirements ofdefence. The most familiar and best presented of such towns is PalmaNova, built close to the eastern frontier of the Venetian republic in 1593by the architect Scamozzi. It was nine-sided, with a radial pattern ofstreets emanating from a central piazza. Around it was cast a star-shaped pattern of walls, moats, hornworks and bastions which occupiedaltogether a far greater space than the town itself. A not-dissimilar planwas adopted at Livorno (Leghorn), which had been developed as a portearly in the sixteenth century to replace Pisa and Porto Pisano.67 Itconsisted of rectangular blocks contained within a polygonal perimeterand centring in an arcaded piazza. The plan, however, was abandonedbefore it had been completed.

The ideas of Vitruvius spread to France, and the first opportunity toapply them arose in 1545 when the king ordered a new town - Vitry leFrancois - to be built to replace Vitry-en-Perthois, recently destroyedby the army of Charles V. It was planned by an Italian engineer as aseries of rectangular blocks of unequal size, enclosing a central square.Around the whole was built a line of defences, also roughly square inplan. Later in the century similar fortress towns were founded atHesdin, in Artois; at Marienbourg and Philippeville in the Ardennes; atRocroi and Villefranche in the Meuse valley, and at Brouage on theAtlantic coast of France. In the following century the 'upper town' ofLongwy in Lorraine, Neuf Brisach in Alsace, and Montlouis in theeastern Pyrenees were built. All were variations on the Vitruvian themeof a small town, square or polygonal in plan, with a radial or rectangularstreet plan. All were conceived as fortresses and were located close tothe boundary between France and the Habsburg empire. They servedno important economic purpose and are today little larger than whenthey were founded. To this short list of fortress towns might be addedHenrichement, in the province of Berry, which was founded by the Duede Sully in 1608 as a refuge for the Protestants of the region.

Commercial development called for the creation of a number of portsduring the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Le Havre (see p. 128)was planned as a small square town, made up of sub-rectangular blocks.Francis I was dissatisfied with it, and in 1541 commissioned an Italian

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architect to lay out another town nearby, which proved to be littledifferent. Brest was founded by Richelieu on a site which had long beenoccupied by a small town, and was built on as regular a gridiron patternas the hilly terrain permitted. Naval and commercial requirements calledfor another Atlantic port, and in 1665 Colbert established the plannedtown of Rochefort on the Charente. At about the same time a small portwas developed on the Breton coast by merchants trading with the east,and soon acquired the name of Lorient. Its early development washaphazard, but in the eighteenth century a planned town was grafted onto the earlier settlement.

In contrast with the fortress towns, which had little prospect of growthonce their military functions had been fulfilled, the Atlantic ports werefounded to meet the needs of an expanding trade. When Saugraincompiled his Dictionnaire geographique, Le Havre had a population ofabout 8000, but by 1801 had reached 16,000. Brest had reached 14,000by the end of the seventeenth century, and 27,000 in 1801.

To this period of planned urban development also belongs thecategory of Residenzstddte. They were built to provide a semi-urbansetting for princely palaces and the homes of the wealthier members ofthe landed aristocracy. The earliest was Charleville, established in 1608on the river Meuse. Its founder, Charles of Gonzaga, Duke of Neversand Rethel, laid out the town as a series of rectangular blocks enclosinga large and impressive central square, with an arcaded and coveredsidewalk - rather Italianate in style.

A few years later Richelieu built a chateau at Richelieu, in Touraine,and planned the town of the same name. The latter was sited at adiscreet distance from the chateau, and departed from the establishedplan for new towns in being aligned along a single axial street. It clearlyhad no military pretensions, and owed little to Vitruvius. The mostgrandiose attempt made in France to organise town, palace and parkinto a whole was, however, Louis XIV's creation of Versailles. Thedesign was traced in 1661-5. The three elements were disposedsymmetrically on each side of a central axis. The town was made up ofregular blocks through which cut three wide, tree-lined boulevards, toconverge at the principal entrance to the palace. For this the model wasclearly Julius IPs plan for Rome, with its avenues diverging from thePiazza del Popolo. The immense palace was spread symmetrically acrossthe axis, with its principal facade facing into the garden and park, whosemain lines were also made to converge on it.

The Vitruvian inspiration had run its course at Versailles. The scale ofthe palace dwarfed all other attempts to weld the elements of aResidenzstadt into a coherent whole. But it was backward-looking,providing only for courtly elegance, and consuming, it is said, 60 per

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cent of the tax income of France during its period of construction.Lauguier, within a century of its construction, condemned 'the hollow-ness and artificiality of Versailles, which had sacrificed content to form'.Versailles was, in his opinion, 'the most overestimated work of art thathas ever been created'.68

The only other attempt at large-scale planning in pre-RevolutionaryFrance was at Nancy. The duchy of Lorraine, of which Nancy had longbeen the capital, was granted in 1738 to Stanislas Leszczinski, who for ashort time had been King of Poland and had been given Lorraine asconsolation for his loss of Warsaw. The city consisted of a smallmedieval nucleus, to which had been added in the later Middle Ages asuburb made up of rectangular blocks. Between the two there remainedin the seventeenth century an extensive open space, and it was here thatStanislas laid out the square which bears his name, with, to the north ofit, the Place de la Carriere, one of the most elegant examples ofeighteenth-century civic planning.

At Nancy the planned development of the eighteenth century wasmade possible in part by the demolition of the medieval walls of the city.In Paris, also, the destruction of the wall of Charles V allowed theextension of the Louvre towards the north-west and the creation of theTuileries gardens. In city after city, urban architects found scope fortheir activities in developing wide boulevards where previously therehad been only wall and ditch and the open space which, for reasons ofsecurity, had been left on each side of them.

In France the piecemeal rebuilding of older cities continued throughthe eighteenth century. Property was cleared; townhouses were built formembers of the aristocracy; squares and piazzas were laid out, and widestreets driven through the built-up areas, leaving untouched on eachside the narrow streets, squalid alleys and ill-built and insanitary housingwhich made up the greater part of every European town in this age. Thehigh cost and sometimes even the sheer impossibility of acquiringproperty rights over enough urban land made extensive rebuildingimpossible.

The Low Countries, in which occurred the most vigorous urbangrowth in the early modern period, presented unique opportunities forurban planning, though little use was ever made of them. Antwerp, thefastest-growing European city in the first half of the sixteenth century,developed without plan, and the area within the newly rebuilt fortifica-tions was at the mercy of private speculators. Brussels provides anotherexample of lost opportunities. In 1695 much of it was destroyed by theFrench army of Villeroi, and a disastrous fire in 1731 completed thedestruction. But in the course of rebuilding the only planning occurredaround the royal palace, on the eastern edge of the city.

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The Netherlands present a rather different picture. Amsterdam grewas rapidly in the seventeenth century as Antwerp had done a centuryearlier, but here urban growth was closely supervised and controlled.The late-medieval city had consisted of some half a dozen rows ofhouses lying parallel to the river Amstel (see p. 285). A further series ofparallel streets was added in the seventeenth century, separated bycanals, so that the city came to be made up of alternating streets, rows ofhouses and waterways. Although the houses were built by the burgesses,their design was controlled by the urban authorities, which also dug andmaintained the canals. The Hague, seat first of the Counts of Hollandand then of princes of the Netherlands, was in effect a Residenzstadt,though the urban development of the seventeenth century around theBinnenhof was elegant, if somewhat uncontrolled.

Italian concepts of urban planning did not reach Germany in anysignificant fashion until after the Thirty Years' War, and did not reallyinfluence urban development until the eighteenth century. Germanybecame after the Reformation a refuge for Protestant refugees fromFrance and Austria, and at least three small towns were founded inorder to provide them with homes: Freudenstadt, in Wurttemberg(1599), Lixheim, in the Rhenish Palatinate (1608), and Erlangen, nearNuremberg, established in 1686 to house French Huguenots. All weresmall rectangular towns, laid out in a gridiron pattern. A few Germantowns, notably Hamburg and Emden, added suburbs during this period,but there were few other instances of planned urban growth other thanthe creation of Residenzstddte by the German princes.

The most ambitious Residenzstddte were Mannheim and Karlsruhe,founded respectively by the Elector Palatine and the Margrave ofBaden. Both were established on or close to the Rhine, a fact which wasto stand them in good stead during the nineteenth century. Mannheimwas twice destroyed in war during the seventeenth century. In the earlyeighteenth century the site was cleared and a new city built, and in 1720the Elector Palatine moved his capital there from Heidelberg. The cityconsisted of a rectangular pattern of 136 blocks, with the electoralpalace bordering the Rhine to the west, the whole enclosed within acomplex system of fortifications. There was nothing original in the planof Mannheim, but Karlsruhe, founded a few years later and 60kilometres to the south, broke new ground. It attempted, like Versailles,to weld together the three elements palace, park and town. The plan wasa variant of Vitruvius' radial concept; the Residenz lay at the centre of acircle, with the town occupying one sector of the enclosing circle, andthe park the remainder.

Ludwigsburg, near Stuttgart (1709), Neustrelitz (1726) and Ludwigs-lust (1765), the last two in Mecklenburg, are examples of small

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Residenzstddte dependent on the palaces of German princes. In severalinstances, however, the palace with its ornamental gardens was added toan older city, often replacing part of its defensive walls, sometimesoccupying the site of housing destroyed to make way for it, frequentlyincorporating into its design a new and elegant suburb laid out on ageometrical plan. Wiirzburg, Munich, Dresden, Potsdam, Rastatt,Darmstadt, Kassel, Stuttgart, Weimar and Berlin all exemplify in theirdifferent ways the imposition of a Residenzstadt on a medieval nucleus.

Scandinavia had, by and large, escaped the wave of urbanisationwhich had spread across most of Europe during the Middle Ages, and itwas not until the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries that the need wasfelt for urban centres. The seventeenth was the century of Scandinavia,when economic growth combined with determined leadership to allowDenmark and Sweden to play a significant role in the politics of Europe.

Christian IV (1588-1648) of Denmark was the foremost founder ofcities of his age. He more than doubled the urban area of Copenhagen,building a planned suburb to the north of the old town. He also founded,within the space of some thirty years, at least half a dozen towns,comparable, as Lavedan has pointed out,69 to many of the medievalbastides of southern France, though his architects and planners seemmostly to have been Dutch. Norway belonged at this time to the Danishcrown, and here too Christian IV established towns. The ancientsettlement of Oslo had been destroyed by fire in 1624; it was refoundedon a nearby site and continued to bear its founder's name, Christiania,until 1925, when its original name was revived. It was rather unimagina-tively planned as a series of rectangular blocks, but royal ordinancescontrolled closely the character of the building and required - a veryunusual step for Norway - that all should be in masonry.

Sweden was not behind Denmark in the foundation of towns.Gustavus Adolphus is himself credited with establishing sixteen. Theseinclude the port of Goteborg (1620) and the inland town of Jonkoping(1627), as well as many small towns as far north as Lulea. The economicjustification for their foundation was, in many instances, a great deal lesspowerful than the king had supposed. He had difficulty in peoplingthem, and Umea, also in northern Sweden, was occupied only by ahandful of peasants who were located there against their wills. Most ofthese new towns grew very slowly, and remained into the nineteenthcentury merely 'rural settlements equipped with town charters'.70

Stockholm, however, was different. Its medieval nucleus was twosmall islands situated where the narrow Lake Malaren began to opentowards the Baltic Sea. In the seventeenth century the city began tospread to the mainland both to north and south as a series of parallelstreets intersecting at right angles.

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Fig. 3.4 Markets and fairs in the generalite of Paris

The function and size of towns

The pre-industrial town was essentially a place of exchange, where thepeasant and the grain-jobber could dispose of their rural surplus; wherethe craftsmen, whether rural or urban, could sell their products, andwhere goods of distant origin could reach the rural consumer. Of course,towns performed other functions; they were centres of manufacture andof administration; they provided homes for a rentier class; they con-tained a community of lawyers, churchmen and other professionalpeople, but underlying all these was their role as market-places.

It is for this reason that the number of small towns exceeded by so

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Fig. 3.5 Cities and towns in France, early eighteenth century

wide a margin the total of all others. There had to be a network ofmarket centres if local communities were to rise above the level ofsubsistence. There was no town that was not also a place of exchange.Most had weekly or twice-weekly markets, and it was generally assumedthat a peasant would be able to get to market, do his business and returnhome within a day. This ideal was not always realised. There were manyareas of scanty population, where market towns were few and a marketjourney a rare event. Vauban compiled a list of markets and fairs withinthe generality of Paris (fig. 3.4). In this moderately populous region fewplaces lay more than 12 kilometres from a market. There were evenareas where markets were so closely spaced that a peasant might be ableto choose between several. Such was the case in parts of the Rhinelandand western Germany; only in Bavaria and eastern Germany did theirspacing exceed the normal day's journey of a peasant and his cart.71

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145 The pattern of cities

The services of a town to its surrounding area were not limited tobuying and selling on market day. A tanner in the Alsatian town ofWissembourg had customers in twenty-five villages within a radius of 15kilometres, and a map showing the distribution of debtors to a wealthycitizen of the town was broadly similar.72 Within this area, also,members of the local bourgeoisie were investing their savings in land, sothat the peasants themselves did not control more than 50 per cent of it.

The largest towns, no less than the smallest, had market functions, butin the former they were overlaid and obscured by others: governmentand administration, manufacturing, retailing. In small towns the marketswere conspicuous because they were the dominant function. Theclassification of towns into large, medium-sized and small is difficultbecause the data are both incomplete and unreliable. Saugrain in 1720produced a revised hearth-list, though his estimates, especially for thelarger towns, must be treated only as rough estimates. Using the sizeclassification suggested by Mols,73 we have in France about 1720:

Very large towns (over 40,000 population) 5Large towns (20-40,000) 11Medium-sized towns (5-20,000) 100Small towns (2-5000) 385

Evidence is less complete and less reliable for Germany and centralEurope. On the evidence of Biisching74 there were only 6 very large and20 large towns amid a vast number - up to 3000 - of small and verysmall towns. More reliable data from Prussia in the early nineteenthcentury also shows how few were the large towns or even towns ofmedium size:75

Size of townOver 10,0003500-10,0002000-35001000-2000Less than 1000



Total population836,079765,936508,933597,947186,937

In Italy data are available only for the larger cities. The number of verylarge towns remained considerable. In 1600 at least 11 exceeded40,000, and Naples had more than 250,000; a further 20 could beregarded as large. Altogether 10 per cent of the population of Italy livedin its 30 largest cities. Most declined in size during the seventeenthcentury, but by the middle years of the eighteenth were again increasing.By 1800 no less than 35 belonged to the categories of 'large' and 'verylarge'.

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Over 50,000 «




Fig. 3.6 Cities and towns in Italy in the sixteenth century

In Poland, by contrast, only a handful of towns could even bedescribed as 'medium-sized', and four-fifths of the legal towns could noteven qualify as 'small':76

Medium-sized towns (over 10,000)Small towns (2-10,000)Very small towns (1-2000)Dwarf towns (under 1000)


over 400about 100

The numerical preponderance of the small town throughout thepre-industrial period is apparent, and even in terms of aggregatepopulation they probably exceeded the collective size of the large. Thesmall town was relatively uncomplicated in its function and social

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147 The pattern of cities

structure. It was a community of up to about 5000 inhabitants in whichevery face was familiar, and everyone's business a matter of commonknowledge. It was, as a general rule, dominated by a few settled andestablished families, which ran the small businesses and owned much ofthe urban property. The small town would have consisted of one, or atmost of two or three parishes, and its ecclesiastical population wouldhave amounted to no more than a handful of priests or ministers. Therewould have been a few rentiers, living on income from rural property,but the noblesse, even the petite noblesse, were of little importance in thesmall town.

All small towns contained craftsmen, though in most they were toofew to support any kind of gild organisation. At Weissenburg, inBavaria, twenty-two separate crafts were practised,77 but the eliteamongst them were the butchers, bakers and tanners, showing both thecloseness of their ties with the surrounding countryside and also theiroverwhelming dependence on local consumption. Most small-towncraftsmen were organised into gilds, but these were necessarily few innumber, each corresponding with a group of related trades. They wereconservative and exclusive, more intent on preserving status than onsupervising workmanship. Mack Walker has commented upon their'social prudery and political stubbornness'.78 They were immune toinnovation in technology and business organisation. Immigrants weregenerally unwelcome and were made to feel unwanted. Only as servantshad they much chance of employment, and their numbers help toexplain the abundance of the domestic staff in many citizens' house-holds. The small town was clearly not in the forefront of economicprogress. The majority were poor, even depressed. They had failed tomaintain their growth of the sixteenth century, and in the seventeenthsuffered from both warfare and the general recession. During theeighteenth century it was, as a general rule, the larger towns which grew,attracting the manpower and the business which had hitherto sustainedthe smaller. The letters of the intendants present a picture of utterdepression:79 Montreuil, filled only with 'petit peuple', and carrying onno trade; Montdidier, 'extremely poor'; Montargis, in the generality ofOrleans, 'drowned in its debts', and Gien, ruined by the departure of theriligionnaires (Huguenots); Beaugency, by the collapse of its bridge andthe vileness of its wine, and Vendome and Chateaudun, by the decline oftheir trade. Dourdan was 'la plus gueuse ville de la generalite', and onlyfor Clamecy had the intendant a good word.

Such towns drifted into the nineteenth century, their quaintnessunimpaired because there was no rebuilding, no economic growth.Guerande, in Brittany, was one of them. It lay, in the words of Balzac,'entirely outside the social stream which gave character to the

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nineteenth century. It had no regular and active links with Paris, andwas barely joined by a bad road with the sous-prefecture and regionalcapital. . . this and others like it watched the progress of civilisation as ifit were a spectacle . . . The aspect of the feudal age could be recapturedhere. One could not walk without sensing at each step the ways andcustoms of the past, every stone spoke of it; the attitudes of the middleages survived there as superstition.'80 There were thousands ofGuerandes in eighteenth-century Europe, though few found a pen aseloquent as that of Balzac to describe them.

Urban decay was not restricted to western and central Europe. Ineastern also the local and the distant markets of the small andmedium-sized towns were declining. At least from the sixteenth centurythe peasantry was increasingly subject to the 'new feudalism' (seep. 43), and the product of their labour was Sold more and more by theirlords direct to merchants, without passing through the local market. Atthe same time their own spending power was reduced. In Poland and theCzech lands81 the business of the small towns decayed, though thelarge - notably Breslau, Toruri, Warsaw, Krakow and Prague - main-tained their commercial ascendancy, because they were the businesscentres for the magnates and the merchants, as the small town hadformerly been for the peasant.

Medium-sized and large towns had a more complex social structureand fulfilled more varied functions than the small. Such urban growth asthere was before the industrial age was almost wholly in the largertowns. They concentrated more and more the wealth and the talents ofthe population; they were the seats of governmental authority and thecentres of education and culture. Every town of medium or large sizeserved the immediate needs of its local region; it was its market centre,but to this it added other functions. Its crafts extended far beyond theneeds of the local peasantry. It contained jewellers, goldsmiths andsilversmiths. There were tailors and wig-makers and others who satisfiedfashionable needs rarely met within the small towns.

To some extent these necessities arose from the presence in the largertowns of classes of people who were not to be found elsewhere:members of the nobility and of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, togetherwith a large body of lawyers and officials, known collectively in Franceas the noblesse de robe. The town of Vannes, in Brittany, with apopulation of about 14,000 in 1700, had 486 members of the clergy andof the religious orders.82 Dijon, a town of much greater size - about25,000-had perhaps as many as 1500, inclusive of the inmates ofreligious foundations.83 In Bayeux, a smaller town than Vannes, theclerical population amounted to 5-600, about 6 per cent of the total.84

At Louvain, the religious together with the members of the university

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149 The pattern of cities

made up almost 17 per cent of the population at the end of the sixteenthcentury.85 In all Roman Catholic countries the episcopal cities tended tohave a large clerical population. In Germany, where many of the largercities had become Protestant, it was very much smaller, and was least inthe Netherlands and Scandinavia.

In most of the larger towns a group of the landed nobility preferredlife in the city to virtual isolation on their estates. Not all were rich, andmany had incomes smaller than those of the wealthier merchants. AtBayeux most 'lived simply in a house of moderate size, simply furnished,with two or three servants'.86 The situation must have been broadlysimilar in other towns. At Vannes the noblesse and their retinuesamounted almost to 500, but there was a tendency for the landed wealthof the nobility to pass gradually into the hands of the merchant classwhich alone seemed able to increase its possessions.87 The noblessestood apart from other classes within the city. Their younger sons mayhave entered the higher levels of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, but theydisdained commerce and the crafts and lived as a general rule on theincome from their often poorly administered estates. Yet their daugh-ters were sought by - and often given in marriage to - the wealthierburgesses and members of the noblesse de robe. It was to these latterthat they turned when in financial difficulties, which was not infre-quently, and to them they pledged, and sometimes lost, their lands.

In most medium-sized and all the larger towns there was a large bodyof professional people: doctors, lawyers, officials of the courts of lawand of the government's local administration. In France they outnum-bered the churchmen and the nobility together. There was a compli-cated hierarchy of officials, serving overlapping administrations; 'unluxe parasite d'inutiles functionnaires', Roupnel called it.88 In Dijonthere were more than 1200 such officials, ranging from the judges of theparlement to the junior servants of the courts. With their families anddependants, some 6-8000 persons lived from public office in a citywhose total population could not have much exceeded 25,000. In short,less than half the adult male population of Dijon at the end of theseventeenth century can be considered productive.

This may have been an extreme case, but in every seat of a generalityor of an election there were courts, lawyers and officials, collectors of thetaille and administrators of the gabelle. The peasant and craftsman hadan immense body of officialdom, ecclesiastical as well as lay, to supportby their labours, larger indeed than that borne on the shoulders of themedieval peasant.

All cities and towns had a wide range of crafts, but very few had anydominant specialisation or any product which they exported for sale indistant markets. In Dijon, from 1600 to 1800 'masters' were grouped

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into no less than 130 different crafts or occupations, of which only thetanners, vinaigriers and jewellers seem to have been particularly numer-ous or important. There was none', wrote Roupnel, 'that was notstrictly proportionate in size to local needs . . . none that would be ofinterest to a more general and more distant market.'89 Dijon was,according to the categories adopted above, a large town, yet itsindustrial structure was little different from that of the smallest; itsmarket was essentially local. Bayeux, a town which in the latereighteenth century bordered on the large, 'was composed of shopkeep-ers and petty tradesmen and those involved in the administration of thetown and surrounding area'.90

The German town of Fulda, comparable in size with Bordeaux, had inthe late eighteenth century some 270 gild members. Of these thebutchers, bakers and shoemakers, whose clientele can only have beenlocal, made up 120. In the largest German towns the food industries andthe crafts which served local needs were always amongst the mostnumerous. The only craft whose products could have been distributedwidely was the weaving of linen, fustian and woollens, and even thesewere probably sold mostly to a local public.

Most of the larger towns of the pre-industrial period thus appear tohave owed their size more to the services which they performed than tothe number of their artisans, the range of their industrial production, orthe volume of trade which they carried on. Many of the citizens lived onthe rent from rural property, on the taxes and tithes on rural production,or by exploiting one another. The town was in fact parasitic on thecountryside.'

Examples have been drawn mainly from France, but the situationdiffered only in degree in the towns of the southern Low Countries, ofGermany, Spain and Italy. At Valladolid, even after the Spanish courthad abandoned the city for Madrid, primary and secondary activitiessupported only 19 per cent of the vecinos, or households.91

A consequence of the distorted occupational structure of the towns,especially of the larger, was the immense number of poor and destitute.They were attracted to the city, but few occupations were open to thembeyond those of servant and retainer. A thousand of the population ofVannes was classed as mendiants and indigents.92 According to Hufton,over half of those rated in the tax lists of Bayeux 'hovered dangerouslyon the fringe of destitution'.93 This situation was common to much ofEurope throughout the pre-industrial period. Rome was filled withbeggars, and Montaigne declared that scarcely anyone lived by the workof his hands.94 English travellers on the Grand Tour were continuouslystruck by the poverty of continental peoples and by the fact that so manywere reduced to beggary. Joseph Addison found the population of the

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151 The pattern of cities

Papal States 'wretchedly poor and idle'.95 Bishop Burnet, in travellingfrom Paris to Lyons, discovered 'all the marks of an extreme Poverty . . .in the buildings, the Cloaths, and almost in the Looks of the Inhabi-tants'.96 Such observations were made by every traveller who troubled torecord his impressions. Somewhat more objectively, tax records showhow large was the proportion of the population which a grasping citygovernment was obliged to treat as exempt from taxation. The problembasically was the continued migration to the towns of a surpluspopulation from rural areas, without any commensurate development ofunskilled and semi-skilled employment. The situation was exacerbatedby war and harvest failure, which drove even greater numbers to thesupposed security of the towns, and was not moderated until thedevelopment of factory industry in the late eighteenth and nineteenthcenturies.

Urban food supply

Only the smallest towns could hope, within the limitations imposed byweather and harvest, to have an assured food supply from their localregion. All others had to draw upon the resources of a very much largerarea, and were thus always at the mercy, not only of the elements, butalso of the manipulations of corn-dealers, of warfare and of thedifficulties of transport. Access to a source of food was a precondition ofthe growth of a large city. Seville derived much of its supply from theplain of Andalusia; Valladolid and other cities of Old Castile lay in thegrain-growing plains of the northern Meseta. Coastal cities of southernEurope derived their bread grains, generally by sea, from areas whichtraditionally had a surplus: southern Italy, Sicily and North Africa.97

Urban food supply was dependent in part on the degree of controlwhich the city could exercise over the surrounding countryside. Thismight amount to an absolute control, such as was exercised by theItalian city-republics over their contadi and by the Swiss urban cantonsand the free imperial cities of Germany over their surrounding ter-ritories. In such instances the food supply was in large measure assured.There were, however, exceptions. Geneva was one of the worst placed,lying as it did within a kilometre or two of both the French and Savoyardboundaries, across which it was difficult or impossible to move foodsupplies. Its lack of hinterland, in the opinion of Bergier, 'posed themost severe problem in the economic history of the city',98 Augsburg,free imperial city though it was, also had almost no territory of its own.99

On the other hand, the lack of political control over the surroundingterritory mattered little in a centralised state such as France, thougheven here the competition between neighbouring cities could occasion-ally become fierce and bitter. Those Flanders towns which never made

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good their claims to control the surrounding rural areas engaged in acut-throat competition for the limited supply of grain, resorting at timesto a species of piracy as they strove to get possession of bargeloads ofgrain making their way along the waterways of the Low Countries.100

Another highly urbanised area was Venezia. Venice was itself one of thelargest cities in southern Europe, and its immediate hinterland includedPadua, Verona, Vicenza and other large cities. The local region, fertilethough it was, was quite inadequate to supply the urban demand. Therewas in the sixteenth century a heavy investment in land reclamation, butall the larger cities, especially Venice itself, were heavily dependent onimports.101

The continued growth of large cities in north-western Europe duringthe sixteenth century necessitated an ever broadening search for aregular source of food.102 The cities of the Low Countries as well as portcities, such as Hamburg and Liibeck, became overwhelmingly depen-dent on grain imports from the Baltic, and before the end of the centurythe largest cities in the western Mediterranean, notably Venice, werebuying rye from Danzig. Paris, as the largest city in western Europe,presented the acutest problem and its foocj supply had been a majorpreoccupation of French kings. The problem grew in magnitude with itsexpansion. Writers continually stress the immense food consumption ofthe city.103 The memoir on the generalite of Paris, prepared in the 1690sby the intendant, gives particular attention to the ability of the region tosupply food and of the rivers to transport it,104 and a separate report onthe Paris markets listed both the quantities of goods handled and thesources from which they principally came.105 The grain supply becamecritical in the seventeenth century, with the continued growth of the city.Merchants buying for Paris dominated the small town markets of theParis basin, where their activities forced up prices for the local peo-ple.10*

In many cities a local official was charged with responsibility formaintaining the supply of essential foodstuffs. He usually bought upgrain when it was cheap after the harvest and released it during the yearto local retailers. Nevertheless, crises were not infrequent in the largertowns in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At Lyons, forexample, 40,000 people were reported by the intendant to have died ofstarvation during the crisis of 1693-4. This was unquestionably anexaggeration, but at Beauvais the population whose wealth was assessedfell from 3019 in 1691 to 2252 five years later.107 Even Danzig, theforemost grain-exporting port of the age, suffered from local scarcity,largely because merchants engaged in the export trade had engrossedmost of the corn, and a department of the city government (Urz§dZapasow) was constituted in the sixteenth century to handle the city's

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S e i f ( D Bakers supplying Paris

Cattle J Lar*e D

markets \ Small D

CattleDroving \ Calves

[ PigsTimber, by river —

Fig. 3.7 Food supply of Paris, late seventeenth century

food supply.108

Urban food supply was greatly influenced by tenurial conditions inthe surrounding countryside. In France especially the local patriciansand nobless de robe were busy buying up parcels of rural land. If theymanaged these lands themselves or leased them en metayage, they couldcontribute very materially to the urban food supply (see p. 61). If theyleased them to 'farmers' or - an increasing practice in the eighteenthcentury - grassed them down and reared animals, they not only contri-buted to the numbers of the unemployed but also reduced the urbanfood supply. In the later eighteenth century there were bread riots inmany French cities, notably the industrial centres along the lower Seinevalley. In central and eastern Europe the problem was less because thetowns were themselves smaller, but here the urban supply of breadgrains was frequently at the mercy of the landed aristocracy whichcontrolled the marketable grain surplus109 (see p. 44).

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The industrial city

During the later Middle Ages the centres of industrial productiontended to shift from the town to the countryside. The reasons werecomplex and varied, and amongst them were the rigidity of urban gildsystems, the relative cheapness of rural labour, and the emergence of aclass of entrepreneurs able to organise and market the products ofdomestic craftsmen. Manufacturing remained a predominantly ruralpursuit until the factory system returned it to the town during thenineteenth century. This does not mean that the pre-industrial town wasdevoid of craftsmen; only that, with significant exceptions, their num-bers were few and their clientele entirely within the local urban area.One is continually being surprised at the small number of weavers, dyersand fullers, of tanners and metalworkers in most cities and towns. Theywere regularly fewer in number than the butchers and bakers.

Urban crafts

There were, however, important exceptions to this generalisation. AtLyons, for example, the silk industry was dominant in the sixteenth andseventeenth centuries, and continued to prosper during a period ofacute depression. About 1690 the intendant reported that some 8000craftsmen were employed within the city, most of them working in theirown homes in front of the broad 'weavers' windows', many of whichsurvive in the Croix-Rousse area of the city. But demand was highlyelastic, and the number of craftsmen is said to have fallen within adecade to 2500.no There is no doubt, however, that Lyons was one ofthe few cities in the pre-industrial age that had a basic industry whichsupported directly a large part - perhaps a third - of the total popula-tion.

Liege was also primarily an industrial city. Its basic industry wasmetalworking with glass and textiles of lesser importance.111 This wasdue in part to the fact that gild organisation within the city was weak andits jurisdiction ineffective. Licences to work within the city could beeasily obtained by non-gild-members, and gild regulations were habitu-ally ignored.112

Ley den, particularly after its siege by the Spanish forces in 1573, grewto be 'the foremost textile centre in Europe'.113 About 1660 its 35,000inhabitants were overwhelmingly dependent on the manufacture ofwoollen textiles. Several of the older textile centres of Flanders tried torevive their fortunes by introducing the manufacture of the 'newdraperies'. In general, however, the traditions of the older industries,strongly supported by the gilds, were too strong, and in very few did thenewer branches of weaving establish themselves.114 The clothing

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industry of the southern Low Countries spread into northern France asan urban craft, particularly where the local gilds were weak and theurban authorities lax in their supervision. The manufacture of says wasthus established in Amiens late in the fifteenth century by a group ofrefugees from the north. In the sixteenth, two-thirds of the population issaid to have lived from the cloth industry.115 The industry grew inimportance; 'no town in France', it was said, 'had gathered within itswalls as many weavers'.116 Beauvais and Reims were second only toAmiens as weaving towns.117

In Spain craft industries, never of great consequence, tended nonethe-less to be concentrated in the towns. Almost three-quarters of thepopulation of Segovia was supported by manufactures in the latesixteenth century,118 and the town of Medina del Campo was alsoprimarily a craft town, when it was not preoccupied with its woolfairs.119 In Italy, also, craft industries tended to be concentrated in thetowns, because the latter exercised a firm control over their contadi andcould, whenever they wished, check any rural development whichconflicted with their interests. At Venice there was a short period ofquite intensive industrial activity in the later sixteenth and seventeenthcenturies, based on the production of woollen cloth.120 Genoa pursued anumber of export industries, prominent amongst them the weaving oftextiles. The Genoese silk industry remained pre-eminent until theseventeenth century, when it was overtaken by that of Lyons.121 AtFlorence also there was a large urban cloth industry, and it is claimedthat some 20,000 out of a total population of 70,000 were in one way oranother supported by it.122

In western and north-western Europe towns could exercise noeffective control more than a mile or two beyond their walls, and thushad no direct means of restraining rural industries. The urban textileindustries of the towns of the Low Countries suffered severely fromrural competition, and in some instances were virtually extinguished.The result, however, was eventually to create a new kind of industrialtown. Weaving and cloth-finishing tended to become full-time occupa-tions, rather than adjuncts to agriculture, and the villages in which theywere carried on grew into small, sprawling settlements, without theconstraints imposed by urban government or city walls.

The earliest of these industrial villages emerged in west Flanders.Hondschoote, Bergues-Saint-Winnoc, Armentieres, Tourcoing,Neuve-Eglise, Bailleul became during the later Middle Ages andsixteenth century centres for the manufacture of the 'new draperies'.123

Some suffered in the wars of the sixteenth century; others from changesin taste and popular demand, but the industry and the towns in which itwas carried on survived the crises and expanded again in the later

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seventeenth and in the eighteenth centuries. Such an industry was'domestic' and scattered. It was controlled from a centrally placed townfrom which merchant capitalists supplied and controlled the domesticworkers of the surrounding small towns and villages. Such a town wasLille, which had grown rapidly in the sixteenth century and in 1698 hada population of some 55,000.124 The oldest amongst its 6000 houseswere of wood and plaster, but the newer buildings, reflecting thegrowing wealth of its 4000 merchant capitalists, were in 'white stone andbrick, whose red colouring, mingled with the white of masonry, pro-duced a pleasing sight'.125

Another region in which villages had grown into industrial towns wasthe northern fringe of that belt of hills and plateaux which extends fromthe Ardennes in northern France to the Harz mountains in Germany.Dinant, once famous for its copper- and brassworking - 'dinanderie' itwas called - declined in importance after it had been ravaged by thearmies of Charles of Burgundy. By the early seventeenth century itsmetal industry had been reduced to a single bell foundry. Verviers, inthe parallel valley of the Vesdre, was only a village with fulling millsalong its river at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Weavers thenmoved into the valley, some of them refugees from the destroyedweaving centres of west Flanders.126 Verviers grew rapidly. No attemptwas ever made to organise a system of gilds, and labour remainedmobile and relatively cheap. Instead, the town was controlled by anoligarchy of rich merchant capitalists, who would certainly have donenothing to encourage any organisation of craftsmen. In 1674 the townwas enclosed by a defensive wall on the orders of the Bishop of Liege,but already its built-up area extended for several kilometres along theVesdre. By the end of the eighteenth century its population had reached10,000.127 Beyond the hills which enclosed Verviers other weavingtowns grew up in the neighbouring valleys: Eupen, Monschau,Burtscheid, Vaals. To the east of the Rhine, similar small industrialtowns were growing in the valleys of the Sauerland. Prominent amongstthem were Elberfeld and Barmen, stretched out along the valley of theWupper, a tributary of the Rhine, and, like Verviers, without gilds orother institutions to restrict the exploitation of weavers by the merchantcapitalists.

Many of the small industrial towns of the Eifel and Sauerland werebased on the metal industries. The smelting of iron and refining ofbar-iron were of necessity rural occupations, but the small towns, suchas Altena, Iserlohn and Siegen, carried on certain fabricating industries,such as making screws and wire goods, and served, above all, asmarketing centres for the products of rural craftsmen.

Rural crafts were giving rise to urban industry also along the lower

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Seine valley. Rouen had been during the later Middle Ages the chiefindustrial centre of Normandy, but in the course of the sixteenth andseventeenth centuries a narrow gild structure had prevented its adapta-tion to changing market demands. Protestant craftsmen established themanufacture of Holland-style woollens at Elbeuf, 25 kilometresupstream from Rouen. The textile industry of Rouen declined as that ofElbeuf, Darnetal, Louviers and neighbouring villages grew. By the timeof the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), which led to themigration of many of them, there were 3000 textile workers in Elbeuf.A century later this had increased to 5000, with twice as many moreliving in the rural areas and supplying the weavers with thread.128 Thetextile industry was distributed through the small towns of 'Upper'Normandy: Bolbec, Montivilliers, Lillebonne, Yvetot - the lastdescribed as nothing more than 'a main street, a half a league in length,with low, wood-built and slated houses'.129

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Agriculture from the sixteenth to thenineteenth centuries

The sixteenth century was a period of expansion in agriculture, whenfresh land was brought under the plough to support a growing popula-tion. The following century was marked by stagnation and evencontraction, while the eighteenth witnessed renewed growth whichcontinued into the nineteenth. This periodisation is far from precise; it isa rough framework within which to fit the fluctuations in population andin agriculture and production. The growth, contraction and renewedgrowth in agriculture was in part a response to changes in population,but it can be argued no less that fluctuations in agricultural productionwere an important factor in demographic change.

The nineteenth-century view that the cause of the trade cycle lay inthe weather and cyclical changes in crop yields has long since beendiscarded as too simplistic. It is, however, less easy to dismiss theweather as a significant factor during the pre-industrial period. Peoplethen lived close to the margin of subsistence, and as late as 1820 WilliamJacob could write of Westphalia that 'the surplus of the production ofthe soil in the best years so little exceeds the consumption, that there isno store on hand to meet such years of scarcity as will sometimesoccur'.1 In earlier centuries it could have been said that the yield in thebest years barely sufficed for current needs. Famine crises at irregularbut not infrequent intervals cut back on the population, and it is notdifficult to relate the demographic history of these centuries to thesequence of bad harvests which occurred at intervals during theseventeenth and in the early years of the eighteenth century (seepp. 6-7).

There was little or no measurable change in climate during the threecenturies covered in this book. But climate is only an expression of theprobability that a certain type of weather will occur, and fluctuations inweather were sometimes extreme. The later Middle Ages appear tohave been characterised by increased storminess, the later sixteenthcentury by more severe winters. It is difficult to discern a pattern in theclimatic fluctuations of the sixteenth and succeeding centuries, andimpossible to generalise. Severe winter cold or summer drought in onearea might be accompanied by very different conditions at no great

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distance. Crop failures never occurred over the whole continent at thesame time, though before the railway age there were rarely adequatetransport facilities to bring relief to areas affected. Nevertheless, certainyears stand out as particularly disastrous over large areas of westernEurope, leading to a rise in grain prices and widespread starvation. Suchwere the periods 1587-98, 1649-53, 1662-3, 1693-4, 1709-13,1724-5, 1769-70, 1789-90 and 1816. It would appear that crises wereless severe, less widespread and less prolonged after le grand hiver of1708-9. Nevertheless, even minor fluctuations could affect adverselythe simple style of husbandry practised in pre-industrial Europe.2

This is demonstrated by a weather diary, kept on an estate nearPithiviers, in the Gatinais of Poitou, for the years 1755 and 1756.3 Itcontains a month-by-month description of the weather and of itsinfluence on crops. These years do not appear to have departed muchfrom the average and the vintage was only a day or two late in 1755 anda little early in 1756 - evidence that the summer weather was in no wayunusual. The winter of 1754-5 was cold and rather wet, which hinderedspring ploughing. A very warm April was followed by a sharp frost inearly May, which severely damaged the grape vines on the lowerground. The summer was too dry, though the drought was interruptedby heavy storms. A wet period in August ruined much of the wheatcrop, but spared the oats which were harvested later because sowing hadbeen delayed by the late winter. A cool, dry autumn favoured plough-ing, and winter corn was sown by 10 October. The hay harvest was poor;vegetables and roots did well, but a 'prodigious quantity' of all sorts ofinsects 'did immense damage to most fruits'.

The following winter was mild and very rainy. The earth was so wet,that no ground could be tilled, nor could any carriage go to the fields'.The wheat 'came up very thin', and the spring grains were sown late.Spring and summer were cooler than usual and very wet, and 'weeds . . .got the better of the wheat', though insect pests had been killed off bythe cold weather. The oats harvest was good, but so many weeds wereharvested with the wheat that, since they were not given time to dry out,'corn piled up in the barns heated to that degree that part of the grainwas injured' and provided a poor seed for the next year. The roads wereso wet that summer that wood could not be carried from the forest andthis essential task had to be postponed until late in the autumn. Grassgrew well, but the weather was too wet for haymaking. Autumn wascool and dry, thus helping the ploughing. The winter grains were sown ingood time and the lord of Denainvilliers must have asked himself whatcombination of ills would disturb his routine and threaten his harvestduring the coming year. Unfortunately the diary breaks off and we donot know.

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The Denainvilliers diary and other comparable records suggest thatthe farmer suffered more from excessive rain than from drought orsevere winter cold. Rain hindered haymaking and harvest, but, aboveall, it kept the husbandman off the land and made it impossible for himto plough and sow. One of his most serious difficulties on all except thelightest soils was drainage, but it was not until well into the nineteenthcentury that adequate means of soil drainage began to be introducedinto continental Europe.

There were evidently severe losses even in relatively good years like1755 and 1756. Bad crops were disastrous. The summer of 1788 wasone of unparalleled drought. Harvests failed in much of north-westernEurope, and in Spain there was a famine crisis.4 The following winterwas extremely cold, 'the coldest of the century', according to an Englishobserver. The harvest of 1789 was again a poor one, and grain pricesrose. There were food riots in parts of France, thus helping to create theatmosphere of revolt which precipitated the Revolution. During thenext twenty years summers tended to be wet, and there were a numberof severe winters, notably those of 1794-5 and 1813-14. Harvests werepoor in France in 1802 and 1803; in 1811 they were ruined in manyareas by severe summer storms.5 The end of the Napoleonic Wars wasfollowed in 1816 and 1817 by wet summers and poor harvests.6

Thereafter severely abnormal weather became less frequent. Poorharvests alternated with good, but there were no further crises desubsistance, except in 1846-7, when widespread crop failure in westernEurope followed a severe winter.7 Departures from the average mayhave been smaller during the middle years of the century, but the chiefreasons for the general absence of famine crises were improved meansof transport, the ever widening market for corn, and governments'willingness and ability to bring relief.

Weather, however, was not the only factor influencing the quality andamount of agricultural production. The husbandman was restricted bythe conditions of his tenure, by the custom of his village community, bythe scarcity of land available to him, and, above all, by lack of capital.The institutional framework within which he worked was of humanorigin, and could be modified by human action. But interlocking vestedinterests made such change difficult to achieve, and even the politicaland social revolution of the end of the eighteenth century, though itbrought about a fundamental change in the ownership of land in France,made little difference anywhere to the practice of agriculture.

Nevertheless agricultural production did increase between the six-teenth and the nineteenth century, but this was achieved without anyprofound changes in the practice of farming. Such as occurred weresmall-scale and local before the nineteenth century: marginal improve-

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ments in the tools and equipment of farming; the diffusion of bettertypes of plough; an increased attention to manure and a wider use oflime; the introduction of a few new crops and, here and there, amodification of the pattern of crop-rotation and the elimination offallow. Many areas of Europe were quite unaffected by such changes,and the practice of agriculture in 1800 was not recognisably differentfrom that of three centuries earlier. The overall growth, however, wassufficient to support a population which had more than doubled and anindustrial population which had greatly increased in the period.

Land tenure

At the beginning of the sixteenth century most of the land belongedeither to the lay aristocracy or to the church. In some areas, notablyScandinavia, there were extensive royal estates, but these derived inpart from the confiscation of monastic land, and around the larger citiesthe bourgeois class had acquired extensive possessions. Comparativelylittle land was cultivated directly by those who owned it, except ineastern Europe, and most was leased in small peasant tenancies or was'farmed' in larger units by the more prosperous peasants.8 In Scan-dinavia and the Protestant states of Germany and cantons of Switzer-land, the lands of the church largely passed into lay hands in the courseof the Reformation. Elsewhere they generally remained in ecclesiasticalhands. In France church lands are said to have made up 10 per cent ofthe whole and were locally far more extensive. In the Beauvaisis theymade up more than 18 per cent,9 and over a quarter in Picardy and theLaonnais.10 Around Toulouse, on the other hand, they amounted onlyto 6.5 per cent.11 In the principality of Liege, ruled by its prince-bishop,the lands of the church made up about 17 per cent.12 In some of theCatholic states of Germany a very large proportion of the land was heldby the church. Ecclesiastical land made up 56 per cent of the area ofBavaria, noted for the number and the rich endowments of its monas-teries. In Italy, the monasteries had lost much of their landed wealthduring the Middle Ages, but here no less than 15 per cent of the countrycontinued to be ruled (as distinct from owned) by the papacy, whoseactual possessions were relatively small. In Spain vast areas, especiallyin the southern Meseta, had passed into the possession of the religiousorders in the course of the Reconquista.13

It is important to know how much land was held by the church,because ecclesiastical landlords were in general amongst the leastprogressive. Much of the remainder of the land was held by lay lords. Ithad formerly been organised in manors, but by the sixteenth century thesystem had broken down over much of Europe, and the labourobligations of the peasants had, as a general rule, been largely com-

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muted, and the demesne itself leased or farmed. Much of the land thusreleased from direct manorial control passed into the hands of thepeasants in some form of perpetual tenancy. They owed cens orconventionary rent, and usually other relics of their former feudaldependence, but as a general rule inflation had reduced the burdensomenature of their obligations, and the peasant in much of western andcentral Europe had relative security of tenure at a fairly small price,even if his tenement was on average uneconomically small.14

Estates varied greatly in size. The poorest members of the nobilityheld little more than a good-sized peasant holding with a mere handfulof dependants. At the opposite extreme was the small number of reallylarge estates. That of the Saulx-Tavanes in Burgundy consisted in theeighteenth century of some 3280 hectares - 2225 of it in woodland - allunder the direct control of the lord, together with a further 8100hectares over which the Saulx-Tavanes exercised seigneurial rights,receiving quitrents and mill, oven and other dues. The lands weremainly in three groups, spread over twenty parishes, but were withinthese areas highly fragmented, consisting in some places of small parcelsinterspersed with those of the peasants.

Most estates were, however, very much smaller than that of Saulx-Tavanes. The average size of a 'grande domaine' near Montpellier wasonly 66 hectares in 1547, and 84 in 1677.15 Here too their number andsize were tending to increase, and this could only have been at theexpense of peasant holdings. It does not follow that the latter had beensuppressed; it is possible that the decline in population had left some ofthem unoccupied. Everywhere the size of estates ranged downwardsuntil they were indistinguishable from the farms of the well-to-dopeasants, and their owners, like the 'barefoot szlachta' in Poland,distinguishable only by their status from the peasantry whom theydespised.

The situation was, however, changing during the three centuriescovered by this book. There was always a market for land. Members ofthe aristocracy on occasion borrowed heavily on the security of theirestates, or sold parcels of land to meet current obligations. Nowhere didthis happen on a larger scale than in France, where the attractions andextravagances of the royal court were a constant drain on landedrevenue. Whole estates were thus dissipated, but always a new aristoc-racy was being fed into the system from below. Urban merchants andmanufacturers, lawyers and other functionaries bought rural land orforeclosed on the mortgages they had given. By the seventeenthcentury, land in the close proximity of Dijon had, with the exception ofthat which continued to belong to the church, been snapped up byprosperous members of the bourgeoisie.16 It was the wisest form of

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investment, and it yielded a further dividend to the class-consciouscitizen; it brought him closer to the noble status to which he aspired.The land which he acquired came from the communal possessions of thevillage, from impoverished nobles, and from a peasantry ruined bywarfare. It was held by a variety of titles, ranging from allodial tenure toperpetual tenancy, by payment of a cens and the discharge of otherobligations to a lord. It commonly consisted of small, fragmentedparcels, many of which were in turn leased to the local peasantry.

The area held by the bourgeoisie tended to increase until theRevolution of 1789, and in the later eighteenth century may haveamounted to 30 per cent of the land of France.17 The greater prosperityof the burgesses of the Netherlands allowed them, especially during thefirst half of the seventeenth century, to buy up much of the real estatearound their cities and to drain and reclaim part of it. In Italy the contadiof the cities had largely passed into the possession of the urbanpatricians, and there were few merchant families which did not end asmembers of the landed aristocracy. Indeed, the urge to invest in landintensified in the sixteenth and later centuries as a hedge against theweakening position of Italian trade.18 Only in Spain was there littleattempt by the urban patricians to move into the ranks of the landedclasses.

In western, central and southern Europe, with the exception of Spain,the tendency was for estates to be broken up into tenancies and forlabour services to be commuted for a money payment. In east-centraland eastern Europe an opposite trend manifested itself. Peasants whohad owed only minor services found their obligations increased; inde-pendent tenancies were absorbed into estates and cultivated as part ofthe demesne, and a more or less free peasantry was reduced to serfdomand used to cultivate the enlarged demesnes of their lords. Thisdevelopment, known as the 'second serfdom' (zweiter Leibeigenschaft)has in recent years received a great deal of publicity from scholars in theeast European countries, because - so it would appear - it provided aclassic example of the application of marxist theory. One of the earliestsignificant publications on this subject, that of Jerome Blum,19 placedthe beginnings of this depression of a free peasantry in the early MiddleAges. It was interrupted by the immigration of free Germanic settlers,but revived again in the later Middle Ages. Blum related thesedevelopments primarily to political and social conditions, in particularto the weakness of the central governments which permitted the noblesto concentrate greater power in their own hands. Since the publicationof Blum's article, a spate of studies from the Communist countries - inparticular, those of Marian Matowist - have linked the development ofthe second serfdom with the demands of the west European markets for

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bread grains. Various refinements on this view have been elaborated:the low yield-ratios in eastern Europe and the need to cultivate largeareas in order to secure an exportable surplus; the movement of pricesagainst the corn-grower, which necessitated the export of larger quan-tities to cover the import of the same volume of western luxury goods;the demand for corn to feed the armies fighting the Turks. What allthese explanations have in common is their insistence on the profitmotive for the creation and assertion of seigneurial rights over thepeasantry.

It is nonetheless clear that the landed aristocracy could never havehad their way if there had been a strong central government, such asexisted in some western countries. By the end of the fifteenth century, ineach of the east European countries, wrote Blum, 'the noble hadbecome the government so far as the peasants who lived on his manorwere concerned'. It remained to give legislative expression to the claimsnewly advanced by the nobles. In Poland, Bohemia and Hungary, thelabour dues owed by the peasants were increased in the course of thesixteenth century and restrictions were placed on the movement of thelatter.20 Every pretext was used for appropriating peasant land andadding it to the demesne, and the suppression of independent holdings(Bauer nlegung) has since been seen as the characteristic sin of thelandowners. In the absence of adequate statistics there has probablybeen a tendency to exaggerate the severity and extent of the secondserfdom. In Poland it was clearly related to the market. It was of minorimportance in the mountainous regions of southern Poland and in areasof White Russia remote from the rivers which flowed to the Baltic. Itwas pursued most vigorously in the hinterlands of the Baltic ports. It wasof much smaller importance in Bohemia and in Hungary, which lacked ameans of water transport to western markets.

Even in areas which had the advantages of cheap and easy movementto European markets, great estates never covered all the land, and somefree and independent peasants were able to survive until the emancipa-tion movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth century. Zytkowiczhas studied the villages belonging to the Polish crown in the Krakowprincipality, and has calculated the percentage of free and independentpeasants (table 4.1).21 It is noteworthy that the proportion of freepeasants was always greater in the hilly and mountainous region to thesouth of Krakow, but that even along the fertile Vistula valley, theycontinued to make up at least a third of the peasantry. They formed aneven larger proportion on the lands of the Bishop and cathedral chapterof Chetm, lying on the rich grain land of Ruthenia, between Lublin andL'vov.

The demesne farm (folwark) was not usually of great size; on average

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Table 4.1 Percentage of free peasants

1564 Early 17th 1660century

North Krakow 68.6 55.8 40.9Central Krakow 67.5 50.3 33.0South Krakow 74.7 65.9 56.6

Table 4.2 Percentage of land held by peasants


Lands of the Bishopof Chefm


Lands of the chapterof Chelm


it did not exceed some six wtoki or a hundred hectares,22 and many werea great deal smaller. The great landowners, of course, held many suchfolwarkiy but the majority of the szlachta cannot have held more thanone or two. The average folwark would have produced from 4.0 to 10.5tonnes of grain, about half of which would have been spring grains forwhich there was no export market.23 The marketable surplus from anysingle folwark must thus have been quite small, and it is doubtfulwhether, without some contribution from the free peasantry, the sales ofthe estates could have made up the quantities passing through the Balticports, small as these in fact were.

The revival of demesne farming, with labour supplied by unfree serfs,was most marked in the lands of the Polish crown; less so in Bohemiaand Hungary. It was also apparent in Germany to the east of the Elbe,but attempts thus to reverse the course of history were rare and ingeneral unsuccessful in western Europe. Abel has measured the creationof estates in the Mittelmark of Brandenburg.25 At the end of the MiddleAges 1265 Hufen (about 8000 ha) were in estates. By the end of theeighteenth century this had increased to 4820. More than a quarter ofthe latter derived from lands that had been abandoned (Wustungen)during the later Middle Ages, and almost a fifth came from land laidwaste during the Thirty Years' War. Less than a quarter came from thesuppression of peasant tenancies (Bauernlegung), and only about 2 percent from the reclamation of waste land. In Mecklenburg there was also

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a steady decline in the number of peasant holdings (Bauernwirtschaften)as land was absorbed into estates and the peasants themselves reducedto servile status:26



The estates of eastern Germany varied greatly in size, and, as ageneral rule, embraced large areas of forest and of other land of littleagricultural value. As a general rule they each contained over 100hectares of cropland, and some had 400 or more.27 The latter wasworked by the part-time labour of dependent peasants. Bread grainsformed the predominant crop, but the Gutsbetrieb, unlike the Polishfolwark, also produced flax, hops, vegetables and fodder crops, some ofwhich were sold for export. Occasionally a Gutsbetrieb was broken upinto small units which were leased to 'farmers', and the Gutsherrschafttended to merge into a Grundherrschaft, or lordship over territory, thatconfusing association of rights, some of them of little pecuniary value.

Estates (Gutsbetriebe) covered a relatively large proportion of theagricultural land to the east of the Elbe: over 50 per cent in Mecklen-burg and parts of East Prussia, and over a third in most of easternGermany. In western Germany, on the other hand, it is doubtfulwhether such estates embraced more than 5 per cent of the agriculturalland.

The peasantry

No less than 75 to 80 per cent of the population of Europe belonged tothe peasant class. This was not, however, a hom*ogeneous group, and itdisplayed a distinct social stratification. The gulf between the richpeasant and the poor was almost as great as that which separated thepeasantry itself from the gentry. Serfdom had largely disappeared fromwestern Europe by the sixteenth century. Peasants were free to leavetheir holdings, but as long as they held them they were bound by certaincontractual obligations to their lords. Some were onerous: the corvee,the duty to use the lord's mill and baking oven, and to pay heriot andmerchet; but the peasant was not, except in a few backward areas,bound to the soil and the property of his lord.

East of the Rhine, burdensome medieval restrictions lasted longer,and serfdom (Leibeigenschaft) survived into the nineteenth century (seep. 324). But protest against it had come at an early date. TheMemmingen Articles, drawn up by the revolting German peasants in

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1525, declared that 'it has been the custom to hold us for bondmen . . .we assert that we are free and will be free'. Serfdom was abolished inSwitzerland by the Protestant reformer Ulrich Zwingli, in 1525. Else-where it was eroded slowly, but had largely disappeared from westernGermany by the time of the Napoleonic Wars.28 Within the Habsburglands the peasant was freed of most of his servile obligations by thereforms carried out by Joseph II in the 1780s, though vestigial traces ofhis servile status survived until 1848. In Prussia serfdom disappearedwith the reforms of Stein and Hardenburg. Serfdom, which had comelate to eastern Europe (see p. 324), was not finally ended in Hungary,Galicia and Bohemia until 1848. It lasted in Romania until 1864, and inRussian-held Poland until 1863-4, though its more restrictive aspectshad disappeared well before these dates.

Elsewhere the status of the peasant depended mainly upon the extentof the land which he held. This might range from a substantial,well-stocked and well-equipped farm of, perhaps, 50 hectares down to asmall parcel of less than a hectare in extent. Below the smallest tenantfarmer was the mass of landless rural labourers. This spectrum can bedivided into at least four distinct classes. At their head was the smallgroup of well-to-do farmers, able to lease extensive holdings and toundertake to farm the local tithes or the manorial rights of their lords.They were close to the lower fringe of the gentry, a barrier which manyof them were able to overstep. They formed everywhere a very smallminority, and were rare outside northern France and the Paris basin. Itwas the absence of this imaginative tenant class which in part explainsthe stagnation of agriculture in much of continental Europe.29

Next came the laboureur class, which, by a combination of allodialholdings and leaseholds, had put together an adequate farm, and withtheir families could live on it comfortably if not well.30 In parts ofnorthern Germany the laboureurs reared large herds of cattle, whichthey drove to the markets of the Low Countries. They employeddomestic and field labour, and their homes were well furnished by thestandards of the age. Their holdings, called metairies in France, hadfrom 10 to 30 hectares. In the community of Duravel in Quercy thelaboureurs made up from a quarter to a third of the whole community,and over France as a whole they may have amounted to 20 per cent ofthe rural population. They were not rich and independent enough tobecome enterprising and progressive farmers, but they were the back-bone of the western European farming community.

Below them were the brassiers or manouvriers. They possessed atmost 3 or 4 hectares and many had little more than a garden, and wereobliged to sell the labour of their arms - hence their name - to better-off members of the community. Such employment was usually only

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seasonal, and they always lived close to starvation. Many migrated forpart of the year in search of work, providing temporary labour for thegrain or wine harvest, in the forest or at construction sites.31 It wasprobably the brassiers whom La Bruyere had in mind when he wrote hisfamous caractere of the peasant, comparing him to

certain wild animals . . . dark, livid and quite tanned by the sun. . . chained, as it were, to the land, always digging and turningup and down with an unwearied stubbornness . . . At night theyretire to their burrows, where they live on black bread, waterand roots; they spare other men the trouble of sowing, tillingthe ground, and reaping for their sustenance, and, therefore,deserve not to be in want of that bread they sow themselves.32

The peasant, wrote Darlington, 'fareth very hardly and feedeth mostupon bread and fruit'.33

The brassier merged into the landless labourer class, whose lot waseven more unenviable. These two classes formed together the ruralproletariat. They were most numerous in north-western Europe, wherethere was least scope for the creation and extension of farm holdings;least so in eastern Europe, where land was relatively abundant. Theirnumber was almost certainly much greater in the eighteenth than it hadbeen in the seventeenth century. During the latter, many would havedied in the course of the crises de subsistance; in the following centurysuch crises were less severe, and, as Hufton has pointed out, a higherproportion of the indigent were able to survive.

All the evidence points to the small average size of the peasants'arable holding in western, central and southern Europe. The brassiersgreatly outnumbered the laboureurs. The Poitevin abbey of Sainte-Croix, for example, had eighty tenures made up predominantly of smallholdings (table 4.3).34 In a valley in Savoy holdings were even smaller(table 4.4).35 Subdivision could scarcely go farther. The alternative was,

Table 4.3


Under 55-1010-1515-2020-525-3030-5Over 35


31123 j1 0 \

64 '

! )


Brassiers (67.5%)

Laboureurs (25%)

Fermiers (7.5%)

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Table 4.4


Under 11-55-1010-25Over 25







of course, migration, and Savoy became an area which in the eighteenthand nineteenth centuries lost population on a greater scale than almostany other region of western Europe. Another region in which the vastmajority of tenancies were far too small to support a peasant family wasthe Central Massif of France. Here, at Duravel,36 three-quarters were ofless than 5 hectares (table 4.5).

Table 4.5


Under 55-1010-1515-2020-3030-40Over 40













In the principality of Liege three-quarters of the holdings were said inthe eighteenth century to have been of less than 3 hectares,37 and in thehilly region of Herve, to the south-east, the great majority contained lessthan 2 bonniers (about 1.75 hectares).38 Even in Saxony, wherepopulation densities were in general much lower than in westernEurope, holdings were still uneconomically small (table 4.6).39

Table 4.6

Hectares Percentage

Under 55-2020-100Over 100


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Table 4.7


Under 0.50.5-11-33-55-1010-2020-30Over 30







Percentageof area





This minute division of farm-holdings was not restricted to westernand central Europe. At Montaldeo, in the northern Apennines nearAlessandria, 84 per cent of their total number were of less than 5hectares (table 4.7).40 Two centuries later 93.5 per cent of the peasantholdings were of less than 5 hectares. Not surprisingly, Doria wrote ofthe 'meseria cronica e fame' of the village community.

Holdings of less than about 5 hectares - the critical size would varywith soil and terrain - clearly could neither support nor employ apeasant family, the members of which must have turned elsewhere for asupplementary income. This would have consisted chiefly of employ-ment on peasant holdings of larger than family size, that is of more than15 or 20 hectares. The latter were comparatively few, and could havegiven employment to only a minority of the brassiers, who would in anycase have been in competition with the landless labourers. It seemscertain that in most communities throughout the greater part of Europethe amount of peasant labour available was greater than that required tocultivate the land. The alternatives were migration, seasonal or perma-nent, and complete destitution. The seasonal migrant hoped to return tohis village with a small sum of money or a store of food. If he did not, hehad at least been able to manger hors de la region and at no cost to hisfamily. The towns provided shelter for large numbers of migrants fromthe countryside, but, until the industrial age, could employ most only asservants.

The average peasant was both over-taxed and underemployed. Evenwhen no corvee was exacted - and this was the case in much of westernEurope -cens, tithe, champart and the commuted value of otherobligations were a very heavy, though uneven, burden on the peasantry.In two communities in the Brunswick region of Lower Saxony, dues andtaxes amounted respectively to about 35 and over 50 per cent of the

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gross yield of cereals, or 20 and 32 per cent of the gross agriculturalproduction.41 Such obligations left little even for the better endowedamongst the peasants to live on.

Peasant holdings were not only small but also much fragmented. Thiswas due in part to the distribution of the tenement through the fields ofthe community, but also to the tendency to divide each parcel betweenheirs in those regions where inheritance was customarily partible. It wasnot uncommon for a holding of only 10 hectares to be divided into fortyor even fifty separate and widely scattered pieces of land.42 Someattempt was made in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries toconsolidate scattered lands as small parcels came into the market orwere mortgaged and seized for non-payment of debts. Urban investorsin particular thus put together sizeable blocks of land. This process ofremembrement continued in western Europe into the seventeenthcentury, bringing about, in some areas, a complete change in the aspectof the countryside. Then, with the renewed growth of population, thetrend was reversed, and over much of central and western Europeholdings began again to be divided as population pressed more stronglyagainst resources.

Most peasant land was held by payment of a conventionary rent orquitrent (cens), but in many areas, notably Italy and southern France,metayage or share-cropping was the most widespread condition oftenure. Rents had always been paid at least partly in kind, and it was nota big step to relate the payment to the size of the crop. The chief reasonfor the development of mitayage, however, was that demesne and otherlands were leased to penniless peasants, unable to raise the capitalnecessary to stock and equip their holdings. This was provided by thelord, commonly for a term of years, and the tenant undertook to payhim a fraction, usually a half, of the yield of nature. Commonly the landsacquired by the bourgeoisie were leased en metayage, and the demifruits(half the crop) which they yielded went to supply the urban markets.Ninety per cent of the landlords of the Toulouse region are said to haveleased their lands 'on shares'.43 In Burgundy much of the land was heldin this way.44 The system was general in Italy, where urban capitalistshad gained possession of much of the land (see p. 42), but was muchless common in northern France and the Low Countries and rare incentral and northern Europe.

Metayage has been condemned as a wasteful and inequitable mode ofland tenure. The landlord rarely, if ever, took any interest in themanagement of his lands, and the tenant paid so large a share of his cropin rent that he had little inducement, even if he had the knowledge andcapital, to make improvements. Tenancies held en mitayage wereinvariably small and inadequately equipped. The share-cropper was

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Fig. 4.1 Cereal crop associations in Europe, seventeenth andeighteenth centuries

only 'a semiliterate dirt farmer whose half-produce was a euphemism forbare subsistence'.45

The crops

No fundamental change occurred either in the crops grown or in thecropping systems used between the Middle Ages and the late eighteenthcentury. Indeed, it was not until the nineteenth century that a medievalsystem of agriculture gave place generally to one which can be calledmodern. Throughout these centuries agriculture was characterised by itsself-sufficiency and lack of specialisation, by its low yields and inadequateprovision of capital. It was called upon everywhere to supply first theneeds of its local region. Only a very small proportion of the totalproduction passed into the market; even the cornlands of the Vistulabasin could not have exported more than 2 or 3 per cent of their grossoutput. Conversely, local scarcity could not easily be relieved fromdistant sources. Transport and marketing institutions had not beendeveloped to make this possible except on a very small scale, a fact

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which is made abundantly clear by the correspondence of the Frenchintendants during the crisis of 1693-4.

Almost every part of Europe produced cereals, however unsuited thesoil might have been for bread grains. This contributed to the lowyield-ratios, which, over most of Europe, were only marginally better onthe eve of the Industrial Revolution than they had been during theMiddle Ages. Low yields meant that vast areas had to be sown withgrain crops, and this in turn reduced the area available for livestockfarming and kept the supply of manure small. It was a vicious circle outof which it needed both capital and initiative to break. The landlords, ingeneral, lacked the latter, and the peasants, both. The economicexclusiveness of the local community greatly increased its vulnerabilityto bad weather and harvest failure, which were not infrequent from thelate sixteenth century to the early eighteenth.

Lack of capital, lastly, was a condition of life in pre-industrial Europe.The peasant lived too close to the margin of subsistence to be able toinvest in his land. Many of the aristocracy had the means to do so, butlacked the will. On the Tavanes estates in Burgundy in the 1780s, 4.3per cent of gross revenues is said to have been reinvested, but, 'ifrepairing stone walls and roofs of farm buildings are excluded, the ratefalls to zero'. In other words, there was no net investment in agriculture,and the land was milked by the nobility 'in order to live noblement onthe banks of the Seine'.46

The bread crops. The bread grains provided the basic food supply. Onlywheat and rye could be used in making true bread. Barley, oats,buckwheat and maize, which were widely grown in pre-industrialEurope, lacked gluten and could not be made to rise when baked. Theyyielded at best a rather solid and indigestible oaten or barley cake, butwere more often cooked and eaten as a porridge or soup. The peasantdiet, wrote Vauban with the election of Vezelay in mind,47 was mainlyoats and barley, with a few wild fruits and garden vegetables. Only thebest off amongst them could eat bread made from rye with perhaps alittle wheat and barley added.

Wheaten bread was eaten by the burgesses of the towns, but the highprice of wheat - commonly 40 per cent above that of rye and doublethat of oats - removed it from the peasants' table except in areas, suchas Picardy and Artois, particularly well suited to wheat-growing. Ryewas eaten far more often than wheat, even in countries such as Franceand England, which prided themselves on their fine white bread.48 JohnLocke found that in Aquitaine the ordinary food of the poor was 'riebread & water. Flesh is a thing [which] seldome seasons their pots', and,he added somewhat gratuitously, 'they make noe distinction between

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flesh & fasting days'.49 In areas where the autumn-sown grains did notyield well, or had been killed by the severity of winter, the coarser,spring-sown grains - oats and barley - had to suffice, and frequently thecoarse grains were mixed with rye in bread-making. Thomas Malthuscompared the diet of black rye bread which he encountered amongst thepeasants of Denmark with 'the flad brod made of oatmeal' which wasgeneral in the mountains of Norway.50 And if the coarse grains shouldfail, as they sometimes did, the peasant was reduced to chestnuts, wherethey were available, and then to grass, hay and the bark of trees. In theyears 1628-30, which were marked by disastrous crop failures, thepeasants near Geneva were reduced to a diet of 'bran, cabbage andacorns'.51 During the crises of the 1690s and 1709-10 peasants wereforced to eat grass, roots of wild plants, bran and even partially rottedchestnuts.

Under normal conditions towns fared better than the countryside,because they usually had the wealth to purchase the more desirablebread grains and, in many cases, to hold a store of them for times ofcrisis. Hemardinquer has compared the consumption of the differentbread grains in town and country.52 In Venice, in 1764, the bread was84.5 per cent wheat and the rest maize. In other Italian cities, theaverage was only two-thirds wheat, and in rural areas one-third, the restbeing made of rye and maize. Evidence from the Netherlands is notdissimilar. In the cities of Amsterdam and Rotterdam bread was to theextent of 70 to 75 per cent of wheat, with the rest made of rye andbuckwheat. In the provincial towns the proportion of wheat was verymuch lower, especially in the less wealthy region of the northernNetherlands (table 4.8).

Table 4.8 Percentage of grains in bread

Wheat Rye Buckwheat



Netherlands: TownsCountryside

Netherlands: TownsCountryside




The predominantly starch diet of both the urban and the ruralpopulation was supplemented with milk, most often taken sour, andwith vegetables. Meat was mostly eaten by townspeople. Peas and beansas well as green vegetables and roots were grown in the garden plots.There were few cottages without a small garden, where, cut off fromneighbours and exempt from the Feldzwang of communal cultivation,

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the peasant could grow whatever he wished. Without the produce of hisgarden the peasant's diet would have been totally inadequate. Meat wasrarely eaten by the richer peasants, and not at all by the rest. There isgood reason to suppose that the peasant's diet was better in central andeastern Europe than in western, because the pressure of population wassubstantially less. In Poland in the sixteenth century it consisted of ryebread and barley and millet gruel, supplemented by eggs, cheese,legumes and a small amount of meat.53 The diet of the French peasant inthe eighteenth would have been considerably less varied and nourishing.

Throughout Europe, except in the hills and mountains and on thenorthern frontier of cultivation, the bread grains were linked, togetherwith fallow, in a cropping system. In most of southern Europe, as well asin parts of central and eastern, a two-field system prevailed, with anautumn-sown grain - either wheat, spelt or winter barley - alternatingwith fallow. Elsewhere, a three-field system was used in which autumn-and spring-sown grain and fallow succeeded one another. In Mediter-ranean Europe a spring-sown corn was in general precluded by the factthat its growing period would be too short before the beginning of thehot, dry summer. A two-field system survived in parts of eastern Europewhere there was little pressure on the land, and also in parts of theurbanised Rhineland, where there was a heavy demand in the urbanmarkets for wheat, and little for the coarse grains.54

In the areas of three-field cultivation the two sets of grains - panifi-able and coarse -were in joint production. If wheat and rye were theprimary object of the cultivator, oats were a by-product and their pricecorrespondingly low. If, however, the winter grain should fail - a notimprobable contingency - the fields might be resown with barley or oatsin the spring, and the coarse grains would for the coming year assumethe role of the principal bread grain and command a correspondinglyinflated price. In any case, barley and oats tended more and more toform the bread grain of the poorer peasantry, who used their wheat andrye to sell or to discharge their obligations to their lord.

In marginal regions, however, they had little choice; wheat was notgrown and rye was scarce. In mountainous areas and in hilly areas with apoor, acid soil, oats alone were grown. Malthus found only oaten cakesalong his route from Oslo to Trondheim, and oats were important insuch areas as the Ardennes-Eifel plateau and the valleys of the Alps,where a winter-sown crop was precluded by the severity of the frost. It isdifficult to speak of a field system in such conditions. Corn was, as ageneral rule, grown in closes, and the peasant determined his owncropping system. Sometimes he alternated between crop and fallow; atothers, two or more years under corn were followed by a period undergrass.

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Buckwheat, another crop of marginal soils, could not be grown wherethere was great risk of late spring frosts. Its cultivation spread throughmuch of northern and north-western Europe in the fifteenth andsixteenth centuries,55 but it became a really important article of dietonly in Brittany56 and on the light and sandy soils of the Netherlands,north Germany and Poland. Its seed was bitter to the taste and of lowfood value, but was used as an alternative to the coarse grains.

Other grains of local importance were spelt and dinkel. Both werevariants of wheat. Spelt had been of great local importance in thesouthern Low Countries since the early Middle Ages.57 It cropped welland yielded a good bread wheat, but the glumes which clung to the grainmade it difficult to mill. This was probably the chief factor in preventingits spread. Dinkel was a poorer and more primitive grain. Its habitat wasvery largely the province of Wurttemberg, where it was grown to theexclusion of the standard wheats.58

One might expect, in a three-field system, that the volume of winterand of spring corn would approximately balance. After allowing fordifferences in yield-ratios this is indeed what one finds in a great manyinstances. An example of a very close balance between the areas underwinter and spring grain is quoted by Berthold for Altenburg inThuringia (table 4.9).59 The value of cereal production within the




4.9 Areas under grain (in hectares)


corn 17.80


Spring corn







Prussian state about 1800 amounted, according to Krug, to the totalsshown in table 4.10.60 If allowance is made for the greater unit value of

Table 4.10 Value of cerealproduction (in million Tdler)

Winter corn:

Spring corn:





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the winter grains, there was probably little difference in volume betweenautumn- and spring-sown corn.

Sometimes considerable discrepancies arise between the two sets offigures which can be accounted for only by departures from the rigidthree-course system. In the Low Countries, for example, it becameincreasingly the practice to replace fallow with a crop, if only fodder orartificial grasses. Indeed, the beginning of this process is seen in theexample already cited from Altenburg. It was but a short step fromvarying the sequence of grain crops to taking two similar crops insuccessive years and to adopting a sequence of crops spread over morethan three years. It was not altogether conservatism or ignorance whichdeterred the peasant from taking such steps, but the constraints imposedby communal organisation, conditions embodied in leases, and lack ofcapital. Such changes interfered with communal ploughing and harvest-ing, and, above all, with the traditional rights to vaine pdture, theprivilege of turning stock out to graze the cornfields after harvest. Atypical French lease required that the land be ploughed and sown 'selonla coustume du pays scavoyr un tiers en bons bleds, un tiers en grosbleds, un tiers en gueret'.61 A more intensive cultivation, furthermore,would have necessitated a larger supply of manure than the communitycould supply and an expenditure on seed which it could not afford.

Changes in the traditional routine of cropping were therefore mademost readily in areas where these constraints were least in evidence,such as the Low Countries, and other areas where enclosed fields held inundivided ownership prevailed. Progress was least evident in the large,open-field communities of northern France and on the autocraticallyruled estates of the east. In time the cropping systems would become soindividual and varied that it would be difficult to produce a generalisedmap of them. This had not yet happened in the eighteenth century, andfor the period up to the Revolutionary Wars one can map their regionalvariations.

The southern region of Mediterranean climate was characterised bythe cultivation of wheat and barley. These were autumn-sown, and werereaped usually in early summer. Rye was almost unknown, and oatscultivated mainly in the mountains. The rotation used was, as a generalrule, a simple alternation of crop and fallow, such as had been practisedsince classical times. The general lack of summer rain made it difficult togrow grass and fodder crops; hence there was a shortage of animals,other than sheep and goats, which could use the abundant rough, coarsegrazing. In particular draught animals were few, and, partly for thisreason, a light plough was used which only stirred the surface of theground.

France was traditionally a wheat-growing country, yet it was rye

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which fed the majority of the people. Wheat was dominant only in theextreme south and in parts of the Paris basin and northern France.62

Rye prevailed elsewhere with oats in hilly areas.63 In Brittany rye andbuckwheat provided the basic diet; in the Central Massif, rye and oats,64

and in Gevaudan of south-eastern France, rye and barley.65 The heavyclays of the Pays de Dombes, in the Saone valley, yielded five times asmuch rye as wheat, and on the dry Causses to the south-west, it wasagain rye and barley which prevailed.66 On the borders of the Mediter-ranean, where the long hot summer began to preclude spring-sowngrain, strange compromises between the northern and the southernsystems were to be found. At Lourmarin, to the north of Aix-en-Provence, a lease prescribed a system consisting of 'one-third in wheat,one-third in rye and . . . one-third fallow1.67 The Beauce, to the west ofParis, was wheat-growing country, as it has remained,68 but to the north,over much of lower Normandy, rye was the prevailing bread crop. Theboundary was in the main a matter of soil. The fertile plain of Alengonwas a region of white, wheaten bread, set amid the rye-growing bocageof western Normandy.69 The spring-sown crops were oats and barley,with a tendency for the former to be more important in the north and onacid soils, and the latter in the south and on more fertile ground. Onsandy soils, especially in the Sologne and in Brittany, buckwheat tendedto be the spring crop.70

The Rhineland and Germany were in the eighteenth century, as theyhad been during the earlier Middle Ages, rye and oats country. Wheat,however, acquired some importance on the better soils and near thetowns, and barley in dry areas, such as the plain of Alsace.71 In Holstein

Table 4.11 Areas cropped (in hectares)

Grain cropsWheatRyeBarleyOatsSpeltBuckwheat

Other cropsLegumesIndustrial cropsRoots (incl. potatoes)

Fallow and long ley







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and Denmark, according to Malthus, bread was made entirely of rye.72

All the evidence of cropping suggests the predominance of rye amongstthe autumn-sown grains and of oats, with barley a close second amongstthose sown in spring.73 Berthold has estimated on the basis of a very farfrom random group of holdings the areas cropped in Germany at theend of the eighteenth century (table 4.11).74 Wheat was of far greaterimportance in some areas than his figures suggest. The lands of theabbey of Berge, near Magdeburg, lying, it should be noted, in the fertileBorde of Saxony, produced almost as much wheat as rye.75 In Wiirttem-berg, dinkel was grown as a winter crop on about 40 per cent of thecropland, and spelt was cultivated in north-western Germany.

In Poland and Lithuania the cropping pattern was broadly similar tothat in Germany, with a marked predominance of rye and oats.Wyczanski has estimated the production of the grain crops in the fourhistoric provinces of Poland in 1560-70 (table 4.12).76 On the lands of

Table 4.12 Production of grain crops (intonnes)


1,373,450 100.0



the Archbishop of Gniezno, the area under rye was tending to increaserelative to that under other crops;77 presumably the rotation wasmodified to yield more of the exportable grain. Grain productionreached its peak in the last decades of the sixteenth century, and haddeclined somewhat when the disastrous series of wars began in 1654.Thereafter production collapsed to only about a third of its previouslevel and export ceased for a time. Even at the end of the eighteenthcentury production is estimated to have remained at only two-thirds ofits level about 1600. Closely similar crop associations were to be metwithin East Prussia, where the percentage break-down of cereal crops atthe end of the eighteenth century was:78

In Bohemia wheat predominated on the good soils. In about 1600 the

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area under cereals is thought to have been divided:79

, i r , / Wheat 32%Winter ( n o~I Rye 23

S™ f S r 38The tendency was, however, for rye to gain at the expense of wheatuntil, in the early nineteenth century, it covered three times the area ofthe latter.

Little is known of the cropping patterns in the Hungarian plain andthe Balkans. The former attempted to profit from the market in westernEurope, but lacked the means to transport bulk cargoes to the west.There was, however, a demand for bread grains in the mining areas andto supply the Habsburg armies facing the Turks. Rye was the chiefcereal, with barley, oats and spelt as spring-sown crops.80 In themountains of Upper Hungary (Slovakia), the crop association wasbroadly similar; on the Sintava estates the total production of the breadgrains in 1761 was that shown in table 4.13.81 In the Balkan peninsulaan association of winter and spring crops - in general rye and oats -passed southwards into a cropping system better adjusted to theMediterranean climatic regime.

Table 4.13 Production of breadgrains (in local units)

Wheat 2,693 9.1%Rye 14,967 50.8Barley 4,287 14.6Oats 7,522 25.5

29,469 100.0

Crop yields and yield-ratios. Agriculture throughout the centuriescovered by these chapters used much land for only a small return. Eventhe population pressure in the later sixteenth century and again at theend of the eighteenth made little difference to the intensity with whichthe land was cropped because the controlling factor was the poverty ofthe soil and the scarcity of manure. The productivity of the land ismeasured by the yield of crops from each acre or hectare and by theyield-ratio, or relationship of the crop harvested to the amount of seedused. Contemporary farm accounts commonly record the volume of

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1400 1500 1600 1700 1800

Fig. 4.2 Yield-ratios. A = Great Britain and the Low Countries;B = France, Spain and Italy; C = central Europe and Scandinavia;D = eastern Europe

seed and the amount of harvest so that the yield-ratio is, as a generalrule, determinable. They rarely record the area used, so that the yieldper unit area is much more difficult to discover. Even the calculation ofthe yield-ratio has its pitfalls. It is not always clear whether tithe hadbeen subtracted before the harvest was measured; it was, it must beremembered, the usual practice for the local priest - or in Great Britainthe lay impropriator - to go about amongst the shocks and pick outevery tenth or eleventh sheaf, taking good care that it did not fall belowthe average size. Nor is it always clear whether the harvest can beregarded as net or gross; whether seed for the next year's crop had orhad not been subtracted. Lastly, harvesting was a wasteful process, andenough grain was left in the field for gleaners and for animals exercisingthe right of vaine pdture.

Table 4.14, compiled from a series of hind's accounts of the middleyears of the eighteenth century for a barton in Cornwall,82 illustrates theorder of magnitude of both yields and yield-ratios. In this instance theaccounts are so detailed that the qualifications mentioned above do notapply. It is unlikely that the amount of seed used to the hectare varied

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Table 4.










Yield per



acre (bushels)






greatly from year to year, provided that the store of seed had not beenconsumed or destroyed - a far from unlikely occurrence. Yields per acrethus varied with yield-ratios. They both fluctuated greatly from year toyear, and the best yields, even in a span of years which departed littlefrom the normal, could be almost three times those in the poorest years.Fluctuations, furthermore, were not consistent between the major graincrops. The worst performance for oats might coincide with a good yearfor wheat, and the best barley yields were in a year marked by a veryindifferent oats harvest.

A series has been compiled for the lands of the abbey of Fontmorigny,in Berry.83 The fluctuations in the amounts harvested were so great thatthe house made it a practice never to sell grain off its estates unless ithad a store of at least 2000 bushels in its barns. Despite the extremefluctuations in yields and yield-ratios from year to year, certain general-isations can be made. The first is the obvious conclusion that cerealscropped more heavily on good soil than on poor, but the differential wasa great deal less than might have been supposed. Seed was commonlysown more thinly on poor soil, so that the comparison of yields perhectare can be quite misleading. A lower ratio of seed to land may infact have increased the yield-ratios. In the Auvergne the yield-ratios ofwheat and rye were on average about four to one, whereas they wererarely more than five or six to one on the best limon soils in the north ofFrance.

Yield-ratios, secondly, improved somewhat towards the end of theMiddle Ages, a fact which is probably to be related to the contraction inthe area of arable and the abandonment of marginal land. They appearto have maintained this upward trend during the sixteenth century,84

probably as a result of marginal improvements in the use of manure, inselecting seed, and in the techniques of husbandry. There may havebeen an effort to adapt the crop to the soil, though there can have beenno conscious movement towards regional specialisation. Yield-ratios

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183 Agriculture

either ceased to increase or actually fell during the seventeenth century,before increasing again in the eighteenth.

Thirdly, there was a marked contrast in the trends in yield-ratiosbetween the major provinces of Europe. The upward trend was verystrongly marked in Great Britain and the Low Countries. There was aslight upward trend in western and southern Europe, but central andeastern experienced a long period of declining yield-ratios, which, in thecase of the latter, lasted until late in the eighteenth century. In Poland,which is well documented in this respect, there was a progressive declinein yield-ratios from the highest levels, which were achieved in thesixteenth century.85 This was probably due to the rapid expansion ofcultivation to meet a growing market demand and to the consequentcultivation of inferior soil. It is certain that the sharp contraction in thecultivated area during and after the wars of the 1650s was followed byan increase in yield-ratios.86

Slicher van Bath regarded a yield-ratio of 10 for bread grains as thehighest that could be achieved in pre-industrial Europe. Such a ratio wasindeed a rare phenomenon, and it implied not only a good soil but also agenerous use of manure. An estate in the Po valley, near Rovigo, whichrepresented the investment of a Venetian merchant family, is said tohave yielded from elevenfold to thirteenfold, but the land in thisinstance was a rich alluvium and it supported also a large number ofanimals.87 Slicher van Bath has quoted even higher ratios from theNetherlands, but these seem to have been achieved under quiteexceptional conditions. As a general rule, yields were very rarely morethan sixfold in continental Europe, though somewhat higher in Eng-land. This must have had considerable significance in the differentialeconomic growth of the two regions. As a general rule, wheat and barleycropped more heavily than rye, and oats commonly produced the lowestratios. Since oats were often grown on the poorest soils, this is notremarkable.

Low yield-ratios were due in part to poorly selected seed and in someinstances to poor soil, but primarily to lack of manure.88 The irony ofthe situation was that regions where the largest proportions of the landwere cropped were those where animals were fewest and the supply ofmanure least adequate. In Picardy there was on average a good deal lessthan one cow to each peasant household. An eighteenth-century sourcereported that in Beauce the peasant did not even have the space to keepa cow, and that he lived 'miserablement au milieu d'un pays fertile'.89 InFlanders, where large numbers of cattle were stall-fed and their manurewas readily available, as much as 150 loads might be spread in thecourse of a year on a farm of 22 hectares.90 Barnaby Googe, whosetreatise on agriculture of 1577 was heavily dependent on farming

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practice in the Low Countries, stressed the importance of manure for agood cereal crop.91

Marl was used in those parts of Europe where it could be found, andnear the coast, especially in Normandy and Brittany, it was the practiceto spread sea-sand, which contained a proportion of lime in the form offinely divided shells.92 In parts of northern France, burned lime wasused in the eighteenth century, but its high cost and the difficulties intransporting it in effect restricted its use to limestone regions which hadlittle need of it. These additives, however, were not manure. Their onlyfunctions were to correct the acidity of the soil and to lighten its texture.Seaweed, which was added to the soil in coastal regions of Brittany, did,however, contribute certain nutrients to the soil.

Other food crops

The bread grains were supplemented by legumes, roots and greenvegetables, grown as a general rule in the small garden plots by whichalmost every cottage was surrounded. Occasionally peas and beans weregrown in a corner of a fallow field.93 The use of turnips was spreading,but the only new food crops of revolutionary importance were maizeand the potato. Both were brought to Europe from the New Worldduring the sixteenth century and were first introduced into Spain, towhich neither was particularly suited. Their spread was slowed both bytheir climatic requirements and by the resistance of the peasantry tocrops so radically different from those to which they had becomeaccustomed.

The earliest varieties of maize were introduced from the West Indies,and required a hot and humid climate. They were followed by thosefrom Mexico and Peru, more suitable for the climates of Europe.94

Maize was being grown in Castile in 1530, and at Tarragona in 1573 aprovincial church council decided that maize should be tithed. By 1554it had spread to northern Italy, where it was of some importance in thediet of Venetians during the famine of 1590-1.95 By the end of thesixteenth century maize had been established on peasant holdings innorthern Portugal and north-western Spain.96 From here the cropspread to southern France. It was cultivated in the Lauragais at thebeginning of the seventeenth century.97 Duhamel de Monceau foundmaize to be widely cultivated in Guyenne, but clearly did not altogetherapprove of it. Bread made from it, he wrote, was 'heavy and hard to bedigested', and the crop was, furthermore, 'a great impoverisher ofland'.98 It was recorded in the Saone valley in 1630-40, where it wasknown as 'ble de Turquie', suggesting that it had come by way ofsouth-eastern Europe or the Mediterranean.99 Nevertheless, maize wasslow in penetrating the Balkan peninsula. It does not appear to have

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been widely grown in Greece before the middle years of the eighteenthcentury, and the earliest known mention of it in Bulgaria - as 'tiirck-isches Korn' - was not until 1786.10° The name by which maize is mostoften known in eastern Europe -kukurydza (Polish), kukufice (Czech),kukuruz (Serbo-Croat), kukoticza (Hungarian) - is in fact Turkish. Thespread of maize in the Balkans, together with the terminology used forit, is consistent with its introduction through the Dalmatian ports by theVenetians, who may have obtained it from Spain.

Maize had the great advantage of a very high yield-ratio. At a timewhen the bread grains were yielding little more than five to one, maizecould offer from twenty to thirty. There was resistance to its use ashuman food, perhaps because satisfactory means of cooking it had notbeen devised. It did not fit readily into the rotations in general use, and,when first adopted, was commonly sown on a small part of the fallow. Itwas used as a fodder, and was consumed by human beings only in timeof direst need. In 1675-9 John Locke observed, near Saintes, in westernFrance, 'plots of Maiz in several parts, which the country people callbled d'Espagne, &, as they told me, serves poore people for bred. Thatwhich makes them sow it, is not only the great increase, but theconvenience also which the blade & green about the stalke yeilds them,it being good nourishment for their cattle.'101 It was in Italy, the Balkansand the Hungarian plain102 that maize cultivation became most wide-spread, and here in the nineteenth century the crop became the 'breadof the poor'.

The history of the potato has been called the 'success story' of modernagriculture, but it was a success long delayed. The root had reachedSpain from the New World by 1570, and was used as human food atSeville in 1573. It was treated as a luxury in France in 1616, and wasgrown in Italy at about the same time and in Germany shortlyafterwards.103 By 1712, it was known in Bohemia. Yet it was a rare cropbefore the second half of the eighteenth century. Like maize, it couldnot easily be fitted into any cropping system in current use, and thepeasant developed a prejudice against it as food. Not until the prices ofbread grains rose sharply in the mid-eighteenth century did the peasantbegin to accept the potato as a regular part of his diet.104 It wasintroduced to Ireland about 1750, and quickly spread, with conse-quences which are now familiar. Frederick the Great ordered it to begrown in Brandenburg-Prussia. The famine of 1771-2 led to a healthyrespect for the heavy-cropping potato, and the amount grown rosesharply. In the Kurmark the potato crop increased:105

1765 5,200 tonnes1773 19,000 tonnes1801 103,000 tonnes

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At the same time the cultivation of potatoes made progress in northernFrance, despite the resistance of the peasantry. It was, however, theFrench Revolution which did most to encourage its cultivation.106 Bydisturbing tenurial systems and cropping routines, it provided theopportunity for a change. The acreage under potatoes began to increasesharply, and the potato became in parts of northern France andGermany, as it had already done in Ireland, i e pain des pauvres',107

cultivated as much by the peasant in his garden as by his lord on thedemesne farm. In 1819 the Comte de Chaptal could report that thepotato had at last come to be accepted as a valuable food crop.108 It hadbeen known in Sweden from the mid-seventeenth century, but was notwidely cultivated until late in the eighteenth, and then, so it wouldappear, largely because it could be used for the distillation of liquor. Itwas not generally adopted for human food before the nineteenth.109

The third new crop to gain importance during these centuries was thesugar-beet. Unlike maize and the potato, it was native to Europe, but itsvirtues were long neglected, and might have remained so but for theNapoleonic Wars and the cessation of sugar imports from the WestIndies. The presence of sugar in a number of temperate plants wasrecognised before 1750, but it was not until 1786 that Franz CarlAchard began the systematic examination of the beetroot grown on hisestate at Caulsdorf in Brandenburg.110 In 1799 he secured a patent fromthe Prussian government for the manufacture of sugar and was urged topress ahead with his research. He built a beet-sugar factory at Cunern,in Silesia, and at about the same time Count Vrbna put up another atHorowitz in Bohemia. In 1804 a factory was built in Russia, and by1812 there are said to have been a dozen in central and easternGermany. The first was not built in France until 1811 but before thewars ended a large number of small sugar-making establishments wereoperating.

This rapid spread of sugar-beet cultivation and the proliferation offactories was due solely to the almost complete cessation of the importof cane-sugar. The defeat of Napoleon and the termination of thecontinental blockade at once altered the picture. Imports of cane-sugarwere resumed and s&gar-beet growing was almost completely aban-doned. A few factories remained active near Arras, however, and withina year or two the cultivation of sugar-beet again began to spread.111 In1819 the Comte de Chaptal reported that it was becoming customary innorthern France to take a crop of beet between the ploughing up ofartificial grasses and the sowing of the first wheat crop. The beetprepared the ground for cereals and its waste provided fodder. Furth-ermore, work on the beet took place mainly in winter, when farm labourwas underemployed.112

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Fig. 4.3 Viticulture and the wine trade. The maximum extent ofvine-growing was probably reached in the thirteenth and fourteenthcenturies

In Germany the practice of growing and processing the beet did notrevive until 1827, after which it expanded rapidly. In the Netherlands,the industry, established by the French, was abandoned in 1815 and notrevived until 1860. The Belgian industry had its origins in 1833, and theItalian in 1840. The industry, however, remained small until late in thenineteenth century. In 1839, less than 5 per cent of the sugar consumedderived from beet.


The cultivation of the vine was in retreat across Europe from Normandyto Poland.113 One by one, vineyards were abandoned along the lowerSeine, in northern France and in Flanders. Guicciardini found extensivevineyards around the towns of the southern Low Countries, and notedthat they cropped 'reasonably', adding, however, that the grapes weresmall.114 The vine disappeared from the environs of Cologne, and by thelate eighteenth century there were few vineyards left in the northEuropean plain. The vine disappeared also from the interior of the

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Balkan peninsula, but around the margins of the Ottoman empire itscultivation became well established. In the regions of Hungary andCroatia under Austrian rule one peasant household in three is said tohave had a small vineyard in the sixteenth century. Wine was sold in thelocal markets of the plain, but there was little export except toAustria.115 Count Bethlem described in his autobiography of the laterseventeenth century how he supplemented the vintage of his own estatesin Transylvania by purchases from the local peasantry.116

Within the broad belt of general viticulture, which extended fromsouthern France to Transylvania, were areas of specialised production,where wine was produced for export. Such areas required not only thephysical conditions necessary for a good grape harvest, but also meansof transport to the centres of consumption. Water transport was thecheapest and most convenient, since good wine did not take kindly torough roads and unsprung waggons. Amongst the regions of specialisedviticulture in the sixteenth century was the region of Old Castile lyingbetween Valladolid and Salamanca. At its centre lay Medina delCampo, at whose fairs much of the wine was sold.117 The presence of theroyal court at Valladolid until 1561 created a market and encouragedthe production of a good-quality wine. Production declined later in theseventeenth century. Vineyards were consolidated in order to give themsome protection in the prolonged struggle against shepherds andmigrant flocks, and the quality of wine inevitably suffered.118

The Bordeaux region had formerly been the most important source ofcommercial wine in western Europe. Its vineyards had, however,suffered severely during the Hundred Years' War,119 and did not regaintheir earlier pre-eminence for several centuries. In the sixteenth centurythe export of wine from the ports of the Gironde began to revive. At thesame time the northern consumer, especially the Dutch, developed ataste for distilled liquor, especially that of the Charente valley (Cognac)and of southern Gascony (Armagnac). Brandy was a desirable productin areas which lacked cheap means of transport, since its greater valueallowed it to support higher freight charges to the coast. It was exportedfrom southern France in the sixteenth century, but its production andexport did not become really important until the late seventeenth andeighteenth, when the art of distilling wine was perfected.

Paris was probably the largest market for wine in the whole ofEurope. Ordinary wine for the city's use had come mainly from thenearby valleys of the lower Seine and of its tributaries. Summers inNormandy were, however, too cool for effective viticulture, and vine-yards were gradually abandoned in the course of the seventeenthcentury. Those which lay close to towns were replaced by gardens. Theycontinued to be cultivated close to Paris up to the Revolution, and those

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of Argenteuil, 15 kilometres to the north-west, were especially impor-tant.120 The chief source of quality wine for the Paris market and indeedfor the whole of northern France was Burgundy, that vast area whichextended from the headwaters of the Seine to the Jura and theLyonnais. Its incomparable advantage was its possession of a network ofrivers which provided an effective system of transport both to Paris andalso the lower Rhone valley. It was, indeed, the ease of transport whichhad, since classical times, contributed most to the creation of the greatvineyards which survive today in the region of Chablis and along thesunny limestone slopes of the Cote d'Or and the Maconnais. RogerDion has argued121 that the great export vineyards developed close tothe climatic limit of effective viticulture, whence the wine could beshipped to markets in north-western and northern Europe. Burgundy,like the middle Rhineland, had these advantages to perfection.

An exception to the generalisation that viticulture was in retreat alongits northern margin from the sixteenth to the eighteenth century is therise of the vineyards of Champagne. The vine had grown here since theearly Middle Ages, and even in the ninth century the Reims area wassupplying monasteries in the Low Countries. In the later Middle Agesand sixteenth century the wines of Beaune, in Burgundy, were ingreatest demand in the towns of Flanders and Brabant, whither theywere transported by way of the towns of Champagne. Inevitably,attempts were made to improve the wines of the latter region and toprofit from this lucrative trade. By the late seventeenth century thewines produced around the city of Reims were beginning to acquireboth the qualities and the reputation which they have since retained,and during the following century they quite displaced Beaune in publicesteem in north-western Europe. It is noteworthy that the use of glassbottles, sealed with corks, for wine was introduced in the late seven-teenth century. Without this innovation the development of Champagnewines would have taken a very different course.122

Despite the retreat of wine-growing in the vicinity of Cologne andBonn, the middle Rhineland and Moselle valley remained an importantregion of specialised viticulture. Its most important centres lay in thevicinity of Mainz, whence the wine was shipped by river boat to theports of the Low Countries for export. In the eighteenth century thisbecame one of the major sources of supply to the English market, wherehock, from Hochheim on the Main, provided a generic name forRhenish wine. Elsewhere in Germany, vine-growing received a setbackduring the Thirty Years' War from which it never fully recovered. Itdisappeared in the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuriesfrom most of north Germany, as well as from much of central andsouthern. It survived and regained its former importance in Hesse and

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Wiirttemberg, and also in Bohemia and northern Silesia, where thevineyards at Zielona Gora are today the most northerly example ofcommercial viticulture in Europe.

The olive

Bread, wine and olive oil formed traditionally the basic human diet inthe Mediterranean region. Bread and wine remained important intomodern times, but the olive gradually became less significant. It has amore restricted habitat than almost every other commercial plantregularly grown in Europe and is highly sensitive to frost. The youngtree may take as many as twenty years to come to fruition and thusrepresented a capital investment beyond the reach of most peasants. If itwas destroyed in the course of war it might not be replaced, and if killedby frost its owner might consider olive-growing too hazardous to bepursued. Olive groves were most extensive in the south of Spain, and inAndalusia they covered a vast area and provided an important export.In the south of France, another important source of olive oil, coldwinters did great damage to the groves. Fifteen 'disastrous winters' havebeen listed between 1570 and 1789,123 each of which did irreparabledamage. A report on agriculture in the community of Vinsobres(Drome) in 1789 recorded that the olive trees were in poor conditionand likely to die. At two communities in Gard the area under olivessteadily declined from the sixteenth until the end of the eighteenthcentury.124 That no greater effort was made to preserve the groves wasprobably due to the increasing availability of animal fats, coupledperhaps with the fact that, with an increasing population, it wasnecessary to use the land for field crops.

Industrial crops

The number and importance of crops which were grown for otherpurposes than direct consumption by man or beast was increasing. Theoldest, and still the most important, were flax and hemp.125 Flax wasgrown throughout northern Europe from Brittany to the Baltic. Theretting and scutching, spinning and weaving of flax were peasantoccupations throughout northern Europe (see p. 237). Hemp, usuallygrown as a garden crop, was also woven into coarse fabrics and twistedinto ropes. The mulberry tree was grown to satisfy the voraciousappetite of the silkworm. Sericulture had spread from Italy to France inthe later Middle Ages, and in the sixteenth century the mulberry waswidely grown in Provence and the Rhone valley, as well as in Italy.126

Olivier de Serres devoted a section of his treatise to the cultivation ofmulberries and the rearing of silkworms,127 but then he came from the

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Vivarais, near Lyons, important for the domestic production and reelingof silk, and would naturally have been familiar with the processes. AtSardan (dep. Gard) the area under mulberry trees grew from none inthe seventeenth century to more than 20 per cent in 1791.128

The cultivation of oil-seeds of various kinds spread through westernEurope, especially rape- and cole-seed, oil-bearing varieties of Brassica.They were particularly important in northern France and the LowCountries, and Young commented on the number of windmills to befound around Lille for crushing the seed and extracting the oil.129 Thelatter was used in part for cooking and currying of leather; in part inlamps which were the only alternative to candles before the nineteenthcentury.

Vegetable dyes were the only source of colouring matter, except for afew simple chemicals used in pigments, before the nineteenth century.Although imported indigo was increasingly used for blues, woad,madder and other traditional vegetable dyes continued to be grown.

Beer was brewed in most areas where wine was not made, and was thechief drink throughout northern Europe from Brittany to Poland. Itcompeted, though without great success, with wine in the Paris market,but had greater success in such regions as Champagne and Lorraine,where local wines were poor and good wine expensive.130 Brewing wasmore important in the Low Countries and Germany than in France, anda few centres, amongst them Hamburg, Brunswick, Einbeck and Leipzig,gained a reputation for the quality of their brew, which was widelyexported. Most beer was, however, a weak home-brew, 'a harmless andhealthy drink in an age when water was commonly impure'.131

It was brewed from any grain, though oats were the commonest andmalted barley the preferred cereal. Wheat was too expensive to be usedin this way. Brewing was clearly related to the adequacy of the localgrain supply. It was curtailed during the recurring crises and occasion-ally it was enacted that only the inferior grains might be used for thispurpose. The use of hops for flavouring became common in thesixteenth century. They were widely grown in Germany, the LowCountries and northern France.132

In Normandy the decline of viticulture left the field clear for theplanting of apple trees and the making of cider.133 Cider began to bewidely consumed in the mid-sixteenth century, but was regardedgenerally as a plebeian drink, inferior to both beer and wine. Neverthe-less, the Maison Rustique described the process of cider-making,134 andin the course of the seventeenth century cider became more sociallyacceptable, an indication, Braudel has suggested, of the depression ofthe times.135 It never made much headway in Paris and never achievedany importance in central Europe. Cider and the distilled liquor,

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calvados, made from it, remained a near-monopoly of north-westernFrance.

Tools and equipment

At the beginning of the nineteenth century the tools of the Europeanpeasant remained essentially those of the later Middle Ages. All wereclumsy, heavy and made almost exclusively of wood.136 They brokereadily and were quickly worn out, and their manufacture and repaircalled for a heavy investment of time in every rural community. Theplough, the basic tool of agriculture, had not changed significantly indesign since the early Middle Ages or even in some areas late classicaltimes. Throughout most of western and central Europe the type ofplough in general use was the heavy, four-square instrument, com-monly, though not always, mounted on wheels to insure that it cut to aneven depth, and fitted with coulter and mouldboard, which respectivelycut and overturned the turf, thus burying the weeds. Not until late in theeighteenth century did a lighter and more efficient instrument, madelargely of iron or steel, begin to replace the medieval plough in the west,and its use did not spread widely until the nineteenth. In Hungary eastof the Danube, not even a metal coulter and metal-tipped ploughsharehad appeared by the early nineteenth century. In Poland, on the estatesof the Archbishop of Gniezno,137 a heavy wooden plough was in generaluse on the demesne, but a lighter, Mediterranean-type plough, withoutmouldboard and drawn by a horse, was also employed, probably by thepeasants who lacked the animal-power to draw a heavy plough.138

In southern Europe the light plough was used everywhere. It merelystirred the soil without turning it over, but it had the merit of needingonly a single draught animal and of being light and portable, animportant consideration in this hilly region of small fields. Scarcity offodder would have precluded the use of a heavy plough, with its largeteam, in most of the Mediterranean region, and the general absence ofclay soils would have made it less desirable. The northern ploughappeared in Languedoc and perhaps also in northern Italy, but it gainedno real importance, and the classical plough continued to scratch thestony soils.139

Seed was sown broadcast and covered at once by a harrow whichfollowed the sower. A seed drill was invented in Italy, but did not gainacceptance, perhaps because there was no need to economise in labour.The harrow consisted of a simple wooden frame with crossbars, fromwhich spikes of iron or wood projected downwards into the soil,breaking up the clods by their passage and burying the seed. Olivier deSerres recommended the use of a roller fitted with spikes to compact theearth around the seed.140 He also urged that seed grain should be

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carefully selected, a practice which, if it had been widely adopted - asit certainly was not - would have led to the emergence of better strains.He also recommended to his readers that they always sow seed grownon another site: 'prendre du bled de vostre voisin pour semer'141 - atime-honoured practice but one without any scientific basis. It isdoubtful whether any such advice ever reached the peasant and unlikelythat he would have heeded it had it done so.

Harvesting was traditionally by means of the sickle, which left muchof the stalk to be ploughed back into the ground. Occasionally thescythe, the usual instrument of haymaking, was used if a long straw wasneeded for thatching.

Corn as a general rule was not threshed until it was needed formilling, or until the dark days of autumn and winter when there was lessto be done in the fields. The grain was separated from the husks,sometimes by treading it with the bare feet,142 more often with a jointedflail. Threshing was one of the most arduous tasks in the peasant's year,but was not mechanised until well into the nineteenth century. It is notsurprising that the peasant did not favour species, such as spelt, in whichthe grain did not separate easily. Finally, the grain was winnowed, a taskwhich was performed out of doors on a dry day with a light breeze toblow away the chaff. In most communities a small area was reserved as athreshing floor. Cereals intended for breadmaking were usually milledonly a short time before use, owing to the difficulty in keeping flour ingood condition. The hand quern continued to be used, especially inhomesteads remote from a mill, but the watermill and, less frequently,the windmill were of growing importance. Such mills represented a largecapital investment, and were usually built by the lord of the manor, whothen compelled dependent members of the community to use them,paying in return for the service a fraction of the corn brought to bemilled. Insistence on 'suit of mill' lasted until the end of the eighteenthcentury in many parts of Europe, and into the nineteenth century insome.

Transport on the farm and within the village was by four-wheeledwaggon or two-wheeled cart, which scarcely changed in their basicdesign throughout the period under discussion. They were heavy andclumsy vehicles, commonly drawn by the same beasts that pulled theplough. Those seen on the roads and at the markets of Poland today areclearly mirrored in the drawings of 'Canaletto' Belotto, Callot, Bruegheland others.143

The efficiency of labour was greatly reduced by the poor quality oftools and equipment. A ploughman could cultivate only from 0.3 to 0.4hectares a day, and less if the soil was heavy or his team small. He couldsow rather more, but harvesting was an even slower process than

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ploughing. Only about 0.2 hectares of corn could be cut in a day with asickle.144 On the assumption that a rye crop called for two ploughings,the labour required for 1000 kilograms of rye - enough to support fourpeople for a year - in ploughing, sowing, harrowing and reaping musthave demanded at least a hundred man-days in western and centralEurope, in addition to the time required for threshing, winnowing andmilling. The time requirements would have been greatest in easternEurope, where tools and equipment were even less adequate. Add tothis the labour - much of it female - required for putting the corn intoshocks, for transporting it, for feeding and maintaining draught animals,and in performing such necessary tasks as cutting ditches and maintain-ing hedges, and it is clear why the food production of any agriculturalcommunity was very little more than that necessary for its own support.The margin for distribution to the nobility, church and bourgeoisie wassmall, and must on many occasions have been achieved by depressingyet lower the living standards of the peasantry.


The sixteenth century and the early years of the seventeenth were aperiod of rising grain prices, and this was reflected in all parts of Europein an increase in the area of cultivated land. Everywhere one findsevidence of the ploughing-up of the waste, of the reoccupation of theWustungen of the previous century, of the replacement of meadow andvineyard by cropland,145 and the reclamation of marsh and fen. Thisactivity, which bears some resemblance to the land clearance andsettlement of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, came to an end duringthe middle decades of the seventeenth. Grain prices fell; some croplandpassed out of cultivation, and the area under grass and rough grazingincreased. In the Herve (Belgium), arable fell from two-thirds of thetotal area to less than a fifth, and over much of western Europe, 'thetransition from arable farming to animal husbandry reached a peak inthe seventeenth and first half of the eighteenth century, above allbetween 1719 and 1725, a time of especially low cereal prices'.146

In the Netherlands the reclamation of coastal marshes and inlandmeers provided something of a barometer of land values and economicconditions. It assumed two forms. Along the coast and the estuaries ofthe large rivers it consisted in enclosing a tract of alluvium with a wall toprotect it from the sea and in slowly drying it out and ridding its soil ofsalt. The coast of Zeeland, Holland and Friesland slowly advanced atthe expense of the sea, and the waterways of the combined delta of theRhine and Maas were narrowed and in some instances completelyclosed. Coastal reclamation must be distinguished from the contempor-ary drainage of the lakes and meers, especially of Holland.147 The

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Later Middle Ages

Sixteenth Century

Seventeenth Century

Eighteenth Century

Nineteenth Century

After 1900

Fig. 4.4 Land reclamation in the Netherlands

former called for no mechanical aids; the latter required pumps, andcould be carried on effectively only after the introduction of windmilldrainage in the later Middle Ages.148 Coastal land was being reclaimed

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Coastal reclamationDrainage by pumping

1200 1400 1600 1800

Fig. 4.5 Progress of land reclamation in the Netherlands

from at least the twelfth century by the simple process of endyking. Thistype of reclamation has continued until the present, but from thesixteenth century the drainage of the meers became increasingly impor-tant (figs. 4.4 and 4.5).

The meers of Holland had been formed in most instances bypeat-digging, mainly during the later Middle Ages. They were shallowand were underlain by alluvial clays. Most were surrounded by land and,if drained, would thus be protected from d\\ except the most violentmarine floods. On the other hand they required cominuous pumping tokeep them clear of water. During the fifteenth century some of thesmaller meers were drained, and early in the seventeenth work wasbegun on the larger Beemster Polder. The very active drainage andland-reclamation programme of the seventeenth century was facilitatedby the growing volume of investment capital in the hands of the Dutchmerchants, and necessitated by the rising population and increasingdemand for foodstuffs. There was much less activity during the later

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seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when population had ceased togrow; the demand for new land was less pressing and the easier projectshad all been accomplished. In the first half of the nineteenth century thepressure of population was again increasing (see p. 99); and at thesame time the remaining meers were found to pose a serious risk offlooding to neighbouring settlements. Furthermore, the steam-enginewas now available to pump water from the meers into canals which led itdirectly to the sea. In 1840 work was begun on the Haarlem Polder, thelargest of the meers, and was completed in 1852. Other meers weredrained at the same time, the deepest of them - i.e. those requiring themost powerful pumps - being left until last. In all, some 6000 squarekilometres of land were added to the area of the Netherlands betweenthe early sixteenth and the mid-nineteenth century. Until about 1715,coastal reclamation accounted for about 80 per cent of this increase.Thereafter the drainage of meers became increasingly important, andduring the nineteenth century was the source of most of the new land.

The Dutch acquired the reputation of being the most expert inEurope at draining and reclaiming land, and their services were indemand from the Baltic to Italy. This does not mean that the projectswould not have been undertaken without them, only that they mighthave been executed more slowly and certainly less expertly. Abel hasclaimed that altogether about 40,000 hectares were reclaimed on theGerman North Sea coast.149 Dutch settlers were established along thelower marshy valley of the Vistula; they helped in the reclamation of thecoastal marshes of Schleswig, where their work was in part undone bythe storm surge of 1634. On the coast of Flanders, the damage wroughtby the great flood of 1404 was largely repaired by the late sixteenthcentury. But the dykes were poorly maintained by the Spanishauthorities, and were neglected during the war with the Dutch. Therewere repeated incursions of the sea, and the land was less extensivetowards the end of the seventeenth century than it had been early in thesixteenth.150 The coast of west Flanders was bordered by sand dunes,upon which Dunkirk and Gravelines had been built. Behind weremarshes and tidal flats. These were partially drained in 1617-24, butagain inundated in the mid-century, when the sluices at Dunkirk wereopened to give protection to the town. The resulting marshes were notfinally drained until the early nineteenth century.151

Alluvium brought down by the rivers of northern France and redistri-buted by the waves had built up a narrow coastal plain between thechalk hills of Artois and Pjcardy and the coast. Here, as in the LowCountries, the sand-flats, exposed at low tide, were partially protectedfrom the sea by sandy and usually dune-crowned spits and bars. Theywere little by little enclosed and reclaimed from the sixteenth century to

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Fig. 4.6 Coastal reclamation in Europe

the eighteenth. Other coastal areas which were reclaimed at this timewere the marshes along the Seine estuary and the Gulf of Saint-Malo.But the most ambitious of French projects was the drainage of themarshes of Bas Poitou, between Niort and the sea.152

Inland marshes were drained and brought under cultivation incountless areas of Europe. Most lay in the broad marshy valleys whichhad formerly carried away the meltwater from the continental ice-sheet.Drainage was undertaken especially in the valleys of the Elbe and itstributaries, and of the Oder, Warthe and Vistula.

Reclamation of the Padovan marshes, to the west of Venice, was, likethat of the Holland meers, prompted both by the food needs of the cityand by the need to regulate the floods on the Adige which had becomemore serious with the deforestation of the Alps.153 In all, it is claimed,100,000 hectares were drained in Venezia and brought under cultiva-

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Cereal Pollen as a % of Total0% 5% 10%

18th C. expansion

17th C. Wustungen

16th C. expansion





1415th C.Wustungen

9-1 l th C. periodof clearing

Fig. 4.7 Cereal pollen in the peat of Rote Moor in West Germany

tion in the sixteenth century. Small areas of the Tuscan Maremma, thePontine Marshes and Campania were also drained in the early seven-teenth.

An independent line of enquiry, the measurement of cereal pollen inpeat bogs in Germany, confirms the evidence for the expansion ofarable farming from its low level in the later fifteenth century to a peakabout 1640 (fig. 4.7). This was followed by a sharp decline to the lowestlevel, about 1730, that had been experienced since the mid-fifteenthcentury.154 Thereafter the percentage of pollen from cereals continuedto increase until the end of the century, after which the precise dating ofthe evidence becomes unreliable.

The area under cultivation began to increase again during the middleyears of the eighteenth century. Population grew and grain prices rose.In France land-clearance was stimulated by the promise of reducedtaxation. Locally, as in Brittany155 and Burgundy,156 there was aconsiderable increase in the area of arable, but over France as a wholethe expansion was of the order of only 2.5 per cent.157 The greaterlandowners were apathetic and the peasants powerless to extend thearea of cultivated land. The result was increasing pressure on agricul-tural resources and growing poverty and destitution. In Germany the

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agricultural recession was more severe, and cropland was abandonedmore widely than in western Europe. The price of rye began to fall inthe 1640s as the Thirty Years' War drew to a close, and, despitefluctuations, did not begin to rise significantly for a century. In themid-eighteenth century these trends were reversed. Grain pricesincreased and fresh land was brought under the plough. In Poland alsothe cultivated area began to contract in the mid-seventeenth century,and increased again in the eighteenth.158 The same course of develop-ment was seen in Spain, where fields began to be abandoned in Castileby 1600, and in Italy where some rural areas were almost depopulated.The pattern of land-use thus underwent continual change, but it isimpossible to present this picture of expansion, contraction and renewedexpansion in quantitative terms.

About 1700 Vauban estimated the average land-use in a squareleague of land which he thought typical of France (table 4.15).159 He

Table 4.15

CroplandVineyardGardenMeadowWoodlandWaste, roads, built-up








may have based his calculations on the election of Vezelay, which heknew so well. He would have found, had he pressed his enquiriesfarther, that the proportion of the land under field crops would havebeen very much greater in northern France, and lower in southern; that10 per cent was well above the average for meadow, and that in manyparts of France a great deal more than a fifth of the land was waste. Insome parts of the south vineyards may have covered as much as 20 percent of the land. In northern France as much as four-fifths might havebeen under cereals or fallow, while in Normandy and the north-west thepractice was spreading of ploughing up grassland and cultivating it for ayear or two before allowing it to revert to grass. Meadow and woodlandwere essential to the rural community. Without the former there couldbe no hay, and without hay the ploughing oxen could not be fed throughthe winter. But meadow was almost everywhere the scarcest form ofland, and the shortage of fodder, at least before the adoption of artificialgrasses, was one of the severest constraints on agriculture.

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CN « -CO ^




Fig. 4.8 Changes in land use in Asperes (X) and Sardan (Y). A =mulberries; B = meadow; C = olives; D = vines; E = field crops

Evidence from two communities in Languedoc (fig. 4.8) illustratesnot only the contraction of agriculture in the seventeenth century and itsexpansion in the eighteenth, but also the changing relationship betweencrops.160 The graphs show, apart from the predictable changes in thearea under cereals, the increase in viticulture and the expansion ofmulberry cultivation at one of them.

The area of woodland, rough grazing and meadow was greater inGermany than in France. The proportion of the land under field cropsdiminished from west to east and also from the south towards the Balticcoast, but was always higher on loess soil than elsewhere. About 57 percent of Thuringia is said to have been under cultivation late in theeighteenth century.161 In Congress Poland cropland formed an evensmaller proportion of the whole than in much of Germany (see table4.16).16*

Table 4.16


Thousand hectares








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The area under crops was small within the Alpine region, and wastending to diminish as pastoral activities increased. The harsher climateof the late sixteenth and of the seventeenth centuries may have led to areduction in the area under coarse grains. Certainly the Alps becameincreasingly a specialised producer of dairy foodstuffs, and Switzerlandin particular began to acquire its reputation for cheese which wasexported to Italy and south Germany.

Cropland in Scandinavia occupied only a very small proportion of theland. The Danish islands were well cultivated, as was Skane and theplains of central Sweden, but forest prevailed in the hills, though 'thebottoms consisted chiefly of rich grass fields, & only here & there a spotof corn'.163


The disappearance of the forests from western and southern Europecreated a problem of growing magnitude, and even in Sweden, wherethe softwood forests were almost limitless, there was concern over theinroads made by the charcoal-burner. In 1721 Reaumur expressed thegeneral concern. Everywhere, he wrote, the woodland was less exten-sive than it had been fifty years earlier;164 the iron-masters continued tomake inroads on the surviving forests, and population - and in conse-quence demand - was increasing. A few years later Buffon was evenmore forthright; there was scarcely enough timber to satisfy basic needs,and it was essential to replant trees after they had been cut. Oak was themost desirable species, but conifers would do well on light and sandysoil. No land, he conjectured, however poor, could fail to yield someprofit if it were afforested.165

Nothing came of these proposals, and in 1796 the official Journal desMines presented an even more gloomy picture.166 Forges had beenforced to close in the Pyrenees, and the furnace at Allevard (dep.Haute-Savoie) could get fuel for only five months of the year. Theforests were being destroyed indiscriminately, and in southernFrance - and doubtless in Italy and the Balkans as well - the efforts ofman were ably seconded by those of the goat. In many areas, thewoodlands had disappeared, and the rural population was dependent onthe bois de hales and bois de fosses, the trimmings of the hedges andditches.167 In Germany the forests were generally thought to be bettermanaged, but this was only because they were more extensive and theirdestructive exploitation less apparent. Only in eastern Europe and theBaltic region were forest resources truly abundant. Prussia was said tohave been one-quarter forested in 1830, and the deforestation wasrestricted to the vicinity of the rivers which transported the timber to thecoast. In Sweden and Finland forests covered an even larger proportion

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of the land. They were largely of softwood, which commanded a lowerprice than the hardwoods of the German forests. The threat to themcame chiefly from the peasant. From the sixteenth century settlementwas penetrating the northern forests, which were cleared by felling andburning the trees. After a few years' cultivation the land was allowed torevert to forest before again being cleared for the plough.168 Thispractice of burn-beating was very destructive of forest resources inFinland. In Sweden the government was more protective, and limitedthe output of the iron industry, which was the chief consumer of timber.

The clearing of the forests led in some areas where the soil was toopoor for regular cultivation to the formation of heathland. TheLiineburg Heath and the heaths of the Low Countries developed in thisway.169 Attempts were made during periods of rising population toreclaim heathland, but with very little success. The acid soils severelyrestricted the range of crops that could be grown, and without a heavyuse of manure gave only a very poor return on seed.


There was no part of Europe where farm animals were not reared, andin some pastoralism was carried on to the total exclusion of arablefarming. In most parts of the continent, however, their numbers werefew and their quality poor. There were two reasons for this. In the firstplace, stock had not been bred for either milk or meat production, andthe yield of these was low. The only animals which were subject beforethe eighteenth century to any careful process of selection were sheep,and this was for the purpose of obtaining a good-quality wool. Animal-rearing, secondly, was an inefficient way of using the land. When it was aquestion of obtaining a maximum supply of food, as it was in thethirteenth century, the sixteenth and again in the later eighteenth, theland would be sown with bread grains rather than used to rear fatstockand dairy animals. Only when the pressure of population was relaxed, asit was in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and again in theseventeenth and early eighteenth, was land available on a significantscale for rearing stock, and it was during these periods that theconsumption of meat and other animal products increased most signifi-cantly.

During the earlier part of the period arable and animal husbandrywere seen as alternative ways of using the land. If the land wascultivated under a three-course system, it could not at the same time begrazed, and if market conditions led to an expansion of cereal-growingthere was likely to be a corresponding decline in the number of animalskept, with the exception, of course, of ploughing oxen. This simplepicture began, however, to be blurred by the introduction in the fallow

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year of crops which could not in any way serve directly as human food.Arable and pastoral husbandry gradually became complementaryinstead of mutually exclusive. The reasons for the change were twofold.In the first place farm animals provided the manure whose absence hadbeen a major cause of low yields. In the second, fodder crops, inparticular the so-called artificial grasses - lucerne, vetch, sainfoin,alfalfa - began to be grown on part, then on most, of the fallow. This isthe chief reason why the renewed population growth in the eighteenthcentury, with its increased demand for bread grains, was not accom-panied by a renewed cycle of contracting production of meat and dairygoods. At the same time the break-down in primitive self-sufficiency,which had once characterised most rural communities, contributed tothe meat supply. In the Pays de Bray, in Upper Normandy, a reporternoted in 1727 that 'dans une ferme ou il se recolte six acres de mauvaisbled, il s'i fauche douze acres de bon foin'.170

The selective breeding of farm animals achieved few significantsuccesses before the nineteenth century. In some areas, Spain andEngland for example, sheep were well bred, but at the end of theeighteenth century cattle developed little meat and their milk yield waslow. There were, furthermore, very heavy losses through epidemic cattlediseases which at intervals in the eighteenth century spread throughmuch of Europe.171 Pigs remained the chief source of meat only becausethey made no demands on cropland, and could be left to fend forthemselves in the woods, where they bred indiscriminately. Horses, ofcourse, contributed nothing to the food supply, as in much of Europethere was a deeply rooted antipathy to eating horsemeat or using mare'smilk. Care was, however, taken in breeding horses. The noble, whoshowed no interest whatever in the quality of his cattle, was nonethelesskeenly interested in the finer points of his horses.

Draught animals were required everywhere - to convey farm produceto the market, to carry crops from the fields and, above all, for drawingthe plough. The light, southern plough needed one or at most two oxen.The heavy northern plough required a team. The ox was the traditionaldraft animal in most parts of Europe, though there was no uniformity inthe size of the ox-team, which depended on the type of plough, thequality of the soil and, above all, the resources of the community. Insome areas the horse was preferred, as in Picardy and the northernBeauvaisis and in much of Poland. The horse was faster, but theploughman often preferred the steadier movement of the ox. It is likelythat the horse was used mainly on light or limon soil, such as coveredmuch of northern France. Occasionally a horse was used to lead a teamof slower oxen, as if inspiring them to more vigorous movement.

In much of northern France, the animal equipment of farms and rural

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communities amounted to little more than that necessary to maintainthe plough-teams, and it was often difficult to feed even this. Meadow,suitable for the production of hay, was naturally scarce, and there wasan inadequate supply of winter feed. A reason for the use of horses wasthat they could be fed on oats which were, in a sense, a by-product of thecropping system. But even within the grain-growing, open-field regionsof northern France there were areas where animal-rearing had, at leastsince the later Middle Ages, been of some importance. In the northernBeauvaisis meadowland was of slight extent - Goubert cites a series ofplans showing that it amounted to less than 1 per cent of the area - andanimals were few.172 In the southern Beauvaisis, by contrast, bothmeadow and woodland were more extensive, together making up about30 per cent of the area, and in the Pays de Bray in 1727 more thantwo-thirds of its area was said to have been under grass.173 A survey ofland-use in the generalite of Paris, made on the eve of the Revolution,shows how variable was the extent of meadowland, ranging from under4 to over 20 per cent of the agricultural land.174 Its extent was a veryrough measure of the importance of cattle.

In the lower Seine valley and western Normandy pastoralism formedan important and in some areas the dominant agricultural activity. Thelarge open fields of eastern Normandy gave place in western to smallerenclosed fields, and cropland to meadow and pasture. In the peninsulaof Cotentin and the coastal region of Auge cattle-rearing was the chieffarming activity. Butter and cheese were produced for the Paris market,and cattle, fattened on the grazing of the coastal 'marais' of Auge,passed through the markets of Sceaux and Porissy to Paris at the rate of2600 to 2800 a week in the later eighteenth century.175 A memoir of theintendant of 1698176 commented on the expanding area of grazing,adding that cattle, bred in Poitou or Brittany, were brought here to befattened before being sent on to Paris.

Brittany was even more suited than Cotentin or Auge for cattle-rearing and dairying, but here grain crops were dominant. It lay too farfrom the only significant market, Paris, for specialised animal-rearing tohave been practicable, and Brittany continued, in its obstinate self-sufficiency, to concentrate on the cereal crops which it grew so badly.177

The peasant commonly kept a cow, which even shared the cottage withhim, but this was subsistance, not commercial, pastoralism, intended tosupplement the inadequate diet of oats and ble noir (buckwheat).178

The developing cattle industry of Bray, western Normandy, Anjouand Maine was as much a response to the urban markets of Rouen andParis as it was a concession to the heavy soil and damp climate. It wasmade possible only by an import of bread grains.179 In the CentralMassif a development similar to that of Normandy was taking place.

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A rather primitive grain-growing economy with subsidiary animal-farming was giving place to a greater concentration on the cattle anddairy industry. It lacked the stimulus of a large urban market, such asParis provided for Normandy, but found a substantial outlet for itscheese and fatstock in Rouergue, Quercy and Toulouse, where forclimatic reasons cattle-rearing was of slight importance.180

In the Low Countries a high level of urban demand sustained animportant cattle-raising industry. Guicciardini found that in the pro-vince of Holland the basis of agriculture was grazing and fatteningcattle.181 One village near Haarlem, so he claimed, had 2000 head. Theland reclamation of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, whichyielded much damp land,182 had the effect of increasing the relativeimportance of cattle-rearing. Cattle were driven into Flanders fromLorraine and Franche-Comte for fattening;183 most peasants were ableto maintain a cow, and the relative abundance of butter and cheeseadded immeasurably to the quality of the diet. Only in areas with a lightdry soil, such as Overijssel and the plateaux of Brabant and Hainaultwas grain cultivation much practised.

In the hilly country which borders this belt of open country, crop-farming was in rapid retreat before the advance of pastoral farming.This movement was particularly rapid in the seventeenth century. Therewas a market in the more urbanised regions of the Low Countries forcattle; the soil in the hills was poor and unrewarding, and - a factor ofconsiderable importance with the peasantry - grain paid tithe, whereasanimal products, as a general rule, did not. By the beginning of theeighteenth century, almost 80 per cent of the agricultural land wasgrazing, and cropland had been reduced to about a fifth in the district ofHerve, to the south-east of Liege. There was during this period 'uneharmonisation incontestable entre l'utilisation du sol et ses qualitesnaturelles'.184

In the Ardennes, Jura, Alps and all such areas of poor and acid soiland cool, moist climate, crop-farming was in retreat, most rapidly inareas where animal products could find a market and the bread grainsbe imported; least so where the poverty of communications and lack ofmarket imposed a higher degree of local self-sufficiency. In Switzerlandthe movement from self-sufficiency to specialisation and trade wasaccomplished during the years of peace which followed the settlement ofthe religious question in 1532. The mountain cantons gradually aban-doned crop-farming except on a very small scale in some of thebetter-favoured valleys, and those cantons which lay wholly within theSwiss plateau, such as Aargau and Solothurn, gave themselves to grainproduction. By the sixteenth century in the central Alps, 'la victoire dubetail sur le ble' was complete.185 Switzerland found a market for its

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butter, cheese and livestock in the towns of the Rhineland and ofnorthern Italy. There were cattle markets along the foothills of the Alps,notably at Aosta, and these in turn fed the demand of cities such asMilan. In the eighteenth century cattle-rearing and dairy-farming evenspread from the mountains where hitherto it had been chiefly practised,towards the lowlands.

The Austrian Alps showed a similar development. The amount paidas seigneurial dues in the form of cheese increased steadily, and fromStyria there was an export of cattle to the town markets of both Bavariaand Venezia. At the same time the expansion of mining within the Alps,especially in Tyrol, created an internal demand for most varieties offoodstuffs, and helped to maintain crop husbandry in this unpropitiousenvironment.186 In other regions of the eastern Alps, distance frommarkets and the difficulties of transport postponed the contraction ofarable and its replacement by grazing. In the Pitztal cropland reached itsgreatest extent about 1775, and it was not until the nineteenth centurythat it yielded place to pastoral farming.187

Sheep and pigs were less closely related to the cropping system thancattle. Apart from being pastured on the stubble after harvest, sheepwere in the main grazed over the unimproved grassland which coveredthe hills. The downs of Artois and the Central Massif, and above all thedry scrub of southern Europe all suited sheep-rearing, and the flocksoften formed the only means of using such marginal land. But landwhich is marginal at one season of the year may be incapable of anyeconomic use at another. Only by the practice of transhumance couldsuch lands be used (see p. 40). In the Balkan peninsula there were vastareas of such land, within which enormous flocks of sheep and goatsmigrated between plateau and plain, and produced the skins whichwere amongst the more important of the exports of this region.

In central Europe the pressure of population was very much less acutethan in western, and the compulsion - so strong in northern France - touse for bread grains every hectare that could be made to bear a crop wasless keenly felt. There was everywhere a better balance betweenpastoral and arable farming. The monastery of Berge, lying close toMagdeburg in the fertile Borde region, had in the sixteenth century twodemesne farms with the livestock shown in table 4.17.188 A valua-tion of 1696 of an east German estate - Wustrau in Branden-burg - showed a not dissimilar proportion: 60 hectares of cropland,with 30 head of cattle and 300 sheep, as well as a small vineyard andfishing and hunting rights.189

The situation was broadly similar in Poland and Bohemia. The estateswere well stocked, and the gentry increasingly active in the cattle trade.On the lands of the Archbishop of Gniezno, the size of flocks and herds

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Table 4.17

Berge Presten


24 Hufen (=c. 170 ha.)101 head214 head

19 head94 head

16 Hufen (=13 ha.)82 head

842 head29 head64 head

increased during the sixteenth century, declined in the seventeenthunder the impact both of prolonged and destructive wars and of adecline in western markets, but rose again in the eighteenth.190 Thepeasantry, however, found its status depressed and almost certainlydisposed of fewer animals towards the end of this period than at itsbeginning.

Western and central Europe were enclosed on east and north by apastoral zone which embraced much of Scandinavia and the northerncoastlands of Germany, eastern Poland, Hungary, Wallachia and Mol-davia. From many parts of this Weidezone cattle were driven to marketcentres in central Europe. This traffic developed strongly in thesixteenth century and probably reached its greatest intensity towards1600. It then fell off, was interrupted by wars and did not again reviveuntil late in the eighteenth century (fig. 1.8). It was a long journey fromthe grazing lands on Europe's eastern frontier to the markets in centralEurope, and many animals were driven as store cattle to be fattened offin the meadows of the North Sea marshes and the river valleys ofnorth-west Germany and the Low Countries.191 The herds, numberingas a general rule from 250 to 400, were driven to markets on the fringesof central Europe. Those from Denmark were commonly sold at cattlemarkets held in western Schleswig, but the greatest numbers weredriven from Europe's steppe frontier.192 They came from as far away asMoldavia and the Ukraine. Those which kept to the north of theCarpathian mountains made for markets at Poznan, Frankfurt-on-Oderand, above all, Buttstadt in Thuringia. Here in the sixteenth century wasthe largest cattle market in Europe where as many as 1600 to 2000 headof cattle changed hands in a day. The movement out of Wallachia andthe Hungarian plain impinged on Budapest and Vienna, but was greatlyimpeded by the Turkish wars in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.After the expulsion of the Turks early in the eighteenth the GreatAlfold became one vast cattle range within which grazing was the onlyprofitable form of land-use and live cattle the only practicable export.Only very slowly and as population increased did an inefficient arable

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farming begin to displace the herds from the more fertile areas of theplain.193

Animals were driven to the towns of western Germany, the Rhine-land and the Low Countries. Here the meat consumption was immense.Early in the eighteenth century, Hamburg is estimated to have receivedsome 4 million kilogrammes of meat, including pork and mutton, a year,and this, in a city of 70-75,000, represented some 50 kilogrammes ofmeat per head.194 Consumption was no less heavy in Cologne, Liibeckand Amsterdam, and in Frankfurt-on-Main the demand was satisfied bycattle driven from as far away as Scandinavia and Transylvania.

The new agriculture

There was little evidence in continental Europe, at least before theNapoleonic Wars, of that revolution which was transforming agricul-tural production in England. For this there were a number of reasons, ofwhich absenteeism, inefficient farm management and lack of capitalinvestment in the land were foremost. Then the tyranny of villagecustom, which had been breached in England, made change, such as thecultivation of the fallow or the more careful breeding of stock, difficult,if not impossible. Warfare and banditry, from which every part ofEurope suffered at some time, resulted in the destruction of stock,buildings, seed and the tools of farming so that no capital accumulationwas possible. Lastly, the prolonged depression which marked the secondof the three centuries covered by this chapter and which extended intothe third, with its tendency for agricultural prices to remain stable oreven to fall, did nothing to encourage experiment or innovation.

The agricultural revolution in continental Europe during these cen-turies consisted essentially in (1) the very gradual abandonment offallow and adoption of new and more varied systems of crop-rotation,(2) the introduction of new field crops, made possible by the cultivationof the fallow, (3) a small increase in many areas in the number of farmanimals and some improvement in their quality, leading to an increase inthe supply of manure, and, lastly, (4) a tendency towards local special-isation in agricultural products and a resulting increase in the volume oftrade. None of these developments involved a technological revolution,such as had been achieved by the diffusion of the heavy plough duringthe early Middle Ages. Indeed, the only truly novel feature was theappearance of a number of new crops, several of them leguminous,whose beneficial effects on the soil encouraged their use on fallow. Forthe rest, the improvement was strictly one in management, in the betterorganisation of the land and the more successful marketing of its surplusproducts.

It is not surprising, therefore, that progress was most marked in areas,

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such as Flanders and northern Italy, where a more modern attitude tocommerce and investment was present. Indeed, it might be said thatfarming was marginally more efficient in those areas where urbanpatricians had invested in land. Government, outside England, playedno significant role in the improvement of agriculture. Indeed, as ageneral rule it did the reverse, because, obsessed with the need forcheap bread, it did its best to maintain an agricultural system which hadbeen developed around the grain crops. In very few states - notableamongst them the Prussia of Frederick the Great - did publicauthorities encourage the introduction of new crops and rotations.195

A breach with traditional methods of farming was made first inFlanders and the southern Low Countries. From early in the MiddleAges, the growth of towns and commerce had created a market for farmproduce, and provided both the incentive and the capital for a moreintensive cultivation. Thierry d'Hiregon's lands in thirteenth-centuryArtois achieved yield-ratios which would have been high even byearly-nineteenth-century standards. This was done by means of a heavyuse of manure, which itself necessitated a larger number of animals thanwas usually to be found. In Flanders itself large areas were more suitedto rearing cattle and sheep than to crops. Animals were often stall-fed,and a large supply of manure became available for use in the fields. ThusFlanders and neighbouring areas moved at an early date towards a moreintensive use of the land. The diversification of agriculture was followedby the introduction of industrial, fodder and root crops and thecomplete elimination of fallow. The result was a large increase in thetotal production of foodstuffs at the expense of some reduction in that ofbread grains. The Low Countries were, however, well placed to importcorn, and did not lack the means to pay for it.

The spread of Flemish methods of farming was very slow,196 by andlarge because the peasant dared not depart from his traditional corn-based agriculture. Nevertheless the practice of cultivating the fallowwith roots or leguminous crops was diffused from Flanders into otherparts of the Low Countries and into northern France.197 Elsewherechange came through the initiative of a landowner who had read Olivierde Serres - whose following appears to have been very small - orDuhamel de Monceau. Arthur Young could find very few estates orfarms deserving his praise, and by the time of the French Revolution itwas still only a minute minority of landowners who had progressedbeyond traditional methods. Yield-ratios were increased in some areas,such as Artois, during the eighteenth century; the cultivation of artificialgrasses was widely adopted in the stock-rearing areas of Normandy, butthere was no agricultural revolution anywhere in continental Europebefore the nineteenth century.198

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One of the obstacles to improved husbandry was the extremefragmentation of holdings. The consolidation of these strips and frag-ments of land had been encouraged by legislation in England, and, inthe eighteenth century, the open-field village was in rapid retreat. Incontinental Europe strips were sometimes consolidated by purchase orinheritance, but, except in Sweden, there was no coherent policy ofbringing order out of the confusion to which the structure of agriculturehad been reduced. In 1749 Swedish legislation provided the mechanismfor the voluntary consolidation of the scattered parcels of farm-holdings.It had little success, and was followed eight years later by another actwhich permitted any peasant to demand that his land be reduced to asingle compact tenement.199 There was nevertheless strong resistencefrom the peasantry, and the movement had probably made littleprogress by the end of the century.

The enclosure movement in Sweden may have derived from theEnglish example, but in France and Germany only a minority oflandowners were aware of contemporary developments on the otherside of the Channel. Jethro Tull's Horse-Hoeing Husbandry (1731) wastranslated into French and, misguided though it was in certain respects,provided the basis of Duhamel de Monceau's treatise on agriculture of1753-61.200 This latter work, abbreviated and edited, was translatedback into English and published in London in 1759.201 Despite hiswrong-headed ideas on the nature and value of manure, which hederived from Tull, Duhamel de Monceau was a true pioneer in Frenchagriculture, and his writings 'ushered in the movement of agriculturalimprovements that was to take place in the nineteenth century'.202 Heemphasised the value of careful ploughing and clean tillage, thecultivation of artificial grasses and other fodder crops on the fallow, theselection of good seed, the construction of sound farm buildings and theuse of the best tools available. On the vital issue of the greater provisionand better use of manure, Duhamel de Monceau was silent, as was Tullbefore him.

The intensive methods used by the Dutch spread eastwards intoOstfriesland and Schleswig, and were supplemented and reinforced bythose introduced through Hanover, which remained until 1837 part ofthe British crown. George III interested himself in farming in hisGerman principality, and even founded at Celle a society to encourageimprovements. Frederick the Great sent young farmers to England tostudy farming methods that might be used with profit on the sandywastes of his own country, and a number of other German rulers tried tointroduce English techniques.203 Many books were published todescribe and illustrate them, but it is doubtful whether these were read bythe practising farmer. Clover was widely adopted as a fallow crop; the

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cultivation of roots, especially the turnip, spread on light soils, and thenumber and quality of the animals must have improved in consequence;potatoes were very widely cultivated by the end of the eighteenthcentury, and were tending in some areas to rival the bread grains as thebasic human food because of their heavy yield. But there was no greatimprovement in yield-ratios; no enclosure of the commons, and but littleattempt to improve the quality of farm-stock by selective breeding.Progress, even in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, was still farfrom uniform, and depended primarily on the vision and energy of thelocal aristocracy. Jacob in the Munsterland saw 'numerous marks ofrecent improvement', but a short distance away near Minden he foundonly 'poverty and negligence', the consequence of the feudal tenuresunder which the land was held. Almost all farm equipment wasprimitive and inefficient: harrows with tines of wood and ploughs'stirring but scarcely turning the soil'.204 The agricultural revolution inmost of western and central Europe had to await the mid-nineteenthcentury. If the influence of the agronomes had been slight in France andGermany, it was negligible in Spain and Italy and non-existent else-where.

Agricultural regions

It is difficult, in a Europe in which local communities were basicallyself-sufficing and agricultural specialisations few, to delineate farmingregions such as those which can be defined today. One can neverthelessgroup the agricultural practices of the eighteenth century into a smallnumber of broad types, and, within limits, map the distribution of each.Readily distinguishable are the following five types of farming.

(1) Extensive crop-farming, in which a small part of the land - lessthan, let us say, a fifth - was cultivated, commonly on a shifting basisand almost always in a climatically marginal area.205 Animals wereusually kept, some of them transhumant, but were generally subordinateto crop-farming. Such was the farming practice in much of Scandinavia.Here soils were poor, and animals ranged too widely for their manure tobe collected and used, except perhaps in winter. It was usual to clear apatch of land by burning the trees and other growth, to plough or dig inthe ashes, and to take as many crops as possible before abandoning theland and making another clearing.206 Variations in this pattern ofalternate husbandry were to be met with in some of the hilly areas ofcentral Europe, in the Alps, the forested Baltic region, Brittany and theCentral Massif.

(2) Animal-rearing, with subordinate arable farming. This includednot only the transhumant sheep-rearing of southern France and theSpanish and Italian peninsulas, but also the cattle-rearing of parts of the

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Hungarian plain and of eastern Poland. It included those Alpine andPyrenean areas where transhumant pastoralism was the chief occupa-tion, and fodder to tide the animals over winter almost the only crop.The fattening of store cattle in the marshy lowlands of Friesland,north-western Germany and Holstein, as well as in parts of Normandyand the Central Massif, are other examples of dominantly pastoralfarming.

Such animal-rearing was extensive; the density of stock was very low,and it was, as a general rule, a way of using land that would have beenregarded as submarginal to the peasant farmer. In most instances it wasin some degree transhumant, insofar as the animals were obliged toalternate with the seasons between different grazing grounds. In thecase of cattle-rearing on the grasslands of eastern Europe it wasnecessary to drive the animals to richer pastures in central Europe forfattening. Extensive animal-rearing was based upon a long-distancetrade to a far greater extent than extensive crop-farming, which was byand large self-sufficing. It could be practised only where there wereconvenient outlets for the products. The wool from the flocks of theSpanish peninsula moved to the ports of northern Spain; the butter andcheese of the Alps, to the plains of northern Italy and the Danubevalley, while the cattle from the frontier regions of the east were drivento the pastures and markets of central Europe. There was, of necessity,some movement of bread grains into these pastoral regions, but mostwere so interrupted and broken up by areas of arable husbandry thatthis raised no serious difficulty.

(3) Mixed farming, in which arable husbandry and animal-rearingwere combined and mutually dependent. Such farming could assumemany shapes. In France and parts of Germany it took the form to anincreasing degree in the eighteenth century of growing fodder crops onland which would previously have been fallow and of increasing thenumber of cattle and using their manure on the arable. It would haveincluded the extension and improvement of meadow and the introduc-tion of artificial grasses in order to provide a larger supply of winterfeed.

(4) Arable-farming, which concentrated on the production of breadgrains. This is sometimes regarded as the typical agriculture of pre-industrial Europe. It was, however, normal only on a belt of light, fertilesoil which extended from the Beauce, to the west of Paris, north-eastwards across France, the southern Low Countries and northernGermany to Poland. An analogous agriculture was practised in parts ofthe Spanish Meseta and of the Lombardy plain. A three-course rotation,with fallow, was most often used, with a two-course system of alternat-ing cropland and fallow in southern Europe and in some parts of central

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and eastern. Only the best soils could have supported continuous cerealcultivation, interrupted only by fallow, without a generous supply ofmanure.

Such an agriculture tended to support nucleated villages, unenclosedfields, the practice of vaine pdture and an unchanging routine amongstthe peasant farmers. Arthur Young found the Beauce, a classic exampleof this type of farming, to be 'one universal flat, uninclosed, uninterest-ing and even tedious'. He described the soil as excellent, but condemnedits management. In Picardy, he found 'no scattered farm-houses . . . allbeing collected in villages which is as unfortunate for the beauty of acountry, as it is inconvenient to its cultivation'.207 Travellers andcommentators on the agricultural scene without exception noted thepoverty and misery of the population in such areas. Basically this wasdue to the contemporary obsession with grain production and to thereluctance to make any change in farming routine which might bethought to lower the output of bread crops, even if aggregate productionwould thereby have been increased. This resulted, as has been alreadyemphasised, in a very small supply of manure and hence in feebleyield-ratios. In this lies the explanation of the paradoxical situation thatthe greatest poverty and the least productive agriculture were often tobe found in areas of the highest natural fertility.

(5) Intensive agriculture, in which the maximum use was made of theland under given technological conditions. Fallow was not used; as muchmanure was applied as possible, and labour was used intensively. Thiscategory of agriculture included the cultivation of the gardens whichsurrounded most cottages; the areas of commercial vegetable produc-tion found near most towns; vineyards and olive groves, and the highlyintensive corn-, fodder- and vegetable-farming met with in parts ofFlanders, Holland and the Lombardy plain. In such areas the peasantwas usually free to experiment with new crops and new methods.Potatoes, maize and oleaginous crops were largely grown under suchconditions. Cattle were sometimes stall-fed, and their droppings used onthe land. Sometimes the urban sewage was carried to the surroundingfields, as is done in China today. The yield-ratios of the cereals were inconsequence high, and the level of welfare of the cultivators in generalconsiderably above that of the rural classes.

It is not easy to map these major types of farming. The evidenceconsists of a large number of studies of the economy of local areas,supplemented by the subjective judgements of travellers and adminis-trators. There are few acceptable statistical series which can be used forthe period before the nineteenth century, and the number of observerswith the acumen of Vauban or Arthur Young was small. The problemlies in the richness and variety of Europe, in the frequent changes in

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terrain, soil and economy, in the influence of social institutions andorganisations, which make generalisation difficult even for small areas.The five categories of farming enumerated above are arbitrarily definedsegments of a spectrum, which ranges from the primitive slash-and-burnat one extreme to garden cultivation at the other. There are noboundaries, no thresholds within this gradation, and the placement ofeach category on the map must to a high degree be one of personaljudgement, inadequately buttressed by the sources.

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5Manufacturing and mining

The system of manufacturing which the sixteenth century had inheritedfrom the Middle Ages remained almost unchanged in technology, andbut little modified in structure and organisation until the latter half ofthe eighteenth century. From the middle years of the latter, however,there was an accelerating development in both, as markets broadened,technological innovations were adopted, and new forms of organisationwere devised to cope with new conditions. In the early nineteenthcentury the rate of change was intensified as Europe was engulfed inthat wave of innovation known as the Industrial Revolution. The threecenturies or more spanned by this book can be divided into periods, or,since they were not strictly contemporary in all parts of the continent,stages of development.

The first stage, a continuation with modifications of the industrialstructure and pattern of the Middle Ages, was characterised by tradi-tional technology and organisation. Units of production were small and,except in mining and some branches of metallurgy, consisted of nothingmore than a workshop giving employment to a handful of operatives.Indeed, it is even possible that, as an increasing proportion of industrialproduction came to be carried on in rural cottages rather than in urbanworkshops, the average size of the manufacturing unit actually declined.The ratio of capital to labour remained very small, except in mining andsome branches of metalworking. Many textile workers did not even ownthe tools and working capital which they used; these were supplied bymerchant capitalists. In some branches of production, notably the urbantextile industries, there were instances of workshops with a dozen ortwenty operatives. Nevertheless, attempts to create even larger units ofproduction - factories, in fact, if only they had used mechanicalpower - achieved no lasting success. Manufacturing remained small-scale and predominantly domestic almost everywhere at least into theeighteenth century, and in many areas even longer. The failure todevelop a system of large-scale or factory production was due, in largemeasure, to the lack of mass demand for most manufactured goods, tothe shortage of investment capital, and to an imperfect concept ofmanagement which could derive no significant economies from produc-

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tion on a larger scale.The second stage in the development of European manufacturing

industries began when these shortcomings and inadequacies began to beovercome. In the most advanced areas this was in the first half of theeighteenth century, but it was a very gradual process. It was marked bythe appearance of specialised producers of goods which had been inwide demand: bar-iron and coarse, durable fabrics whether of thetraditional wool or linen or of cotton. The scale of production began toincrease locally and in certain branches of manufacture, and attemptswere made to adopt some form of mechanical power. But growth wasrestricted both by prevailing attitudes to the use of labour-saving devicesand by restrictions imposed by the gilds on the size of units ofproduction. Only when the innovator could be assured of a just rewardfor his effort and risk-taking could any significant progress be made inboth industrial technology and marketing practice.

The third stage began after the conclusion of the Revolutionary andNapoleonic Wars. These had demonstrated the economic backwardnessof continental Europe when compared with Great Britain, and at thesame time had removed many of the institutionalised obstacles togrowth. Sustained growth in the economies of European countriesbegan in the 1830s and 1840s.1 At this time the first railways were built,thus providing a stimulus both through the investment demands whichthey made and also the opportunities which they provided for thespeedy transport of bulky goods and raw materials.

The events of the first third of the nineteenth century initiated aperiod of continuous growth which lasted through the rest of the centuryand into the twentieth. It was characterised by the completion of thepresent railway net; the emergence of a factory system with a narrowspecialisation of labour, and the creation of a mass demand, both withinEurope and beyond, for the products of manufacturing.

The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries

The immediate effect of population growth was an increase in thedemand for basic commodities, but at the same time the increasedavailability of labour depressed the labour market. Wages failed to keeppace with rising prices in much of Europe, and the real income of theartisan classes was lowered more than at any time since the thirteenthcentury. An abundant, and therefore cheap, supply of labour had theeffect of discouraging innovation and the introduction of labour-savingdevices.

Except for a few goods of high price, in demand only amongst a verylimited segment of society, there was no European market. The price ofpepper, or of copper, might not vary except within narrow limits

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between Spain and Poland, Italy and England. But for most othercommodities there was a series of local markets, and 'such pricevariation as existed within the area was of less importance than thatbetween areas'.2 For most producers of manufactured goods the onlymarket which mattered was the local market. Purchasing power waslow; 'the poor of the eighteenth century entered the market as little aspossible',3 and there was in consequence no scope for the emergence ofmass demand or for the development of large-scale production. Localproduction was to meet local demand, and for most varieties of goodsthere was no other kind of market. 'Thus', wrote Landes,4 'provincialpatterns of dress lingered much longer on the Continent than in Britainand longest in those semi-isolated rural areas where status and homewere most firmly fixed.'

One must not, however, underrate the scale and importance of thoseindustries which had developed to supply distant markets. They wereconcerned with the preparation and fabrication of metals and mineralswhich from their nature were highly localised. They embraced theproduction of quality cloth, bar-iron, printed books and works of art.But none of the products of highly localised origin, with the exception ofsalt, entered into the budget of the mass of the people. Arthur Young,commenting on the ill-clad and under-equipped peasantry of France,remarked that 'the wealth of a nation lies in its circulation andconsumption; and the case of poor people abstaining from the use ofmanufacturers of leather and wool ought to be considered as an evil ofthe first magnitude . . . a large consumption among the poor being ofmore consequence than among the rich'.5 Mass demand in the sixteenthcentury was probably even less developed than in the eighteenth.

Nevertheless, industrial production was expanding during the six-teenth century. Nef had referred to an 'industrial revolution' duringthese years. A revolution implies a fundamental change in the organisa-tion and processes by which manufacturing is carried on. There wasgrowth - for a period in the mid-sixteenth a vigorous growth - in theproduction of metals and minerals. Iron production was greatlyexpanded by the introduction of the blast-furnace, the only significanttechnological innovation of the Renaissance. Industries based on miner-als and metals - the manufacture of weapons, of brass and copper ware,and of glass - grew. The production of cloth almost certainly increased,and with it that of alum and dyestuffs. Nef wrote of a 'remarkableindustrial development at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of thesixteenth century . . . most striking in Italy, in South and East Germanyand the adjacent countries to south and east, in the Rhineland,Lorraine, Franche-Comte', as well as the Low Countries.6 But there wasno 'revolution'.

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In most of these areas growth began to flatten out in the late sixteenthcentury and ended during the first half of the seventeenth. The upwardsurge in population came to an end, and governments began to adoptincreasingly restrictive and mercantilist policies. In France edicts of1581 and 1597 laid down the rules for a uniform organisation andconduct of craft gilds. Merchants were forbidden to accumulate largerstores of raw materials than they needed, and patents of monopoly weregranted for the manufacture of various goods of a broadly luxury nature.The state intervened repeatedly in the conduct of business, and 'littleroom was left in French industry for private initiative, except within theframework of the royal enactments and under the supervision of theroyal officials'.7 Government regulation interfered most with thoseindustries which produced on the largest scale. It inhibited growth, andhad the effect of perpetuating the late-medieval system of small units ofproduction.

In the Low Countries, economic growth in the early sixteenth centurywas followed by decline, intensified in the south by war, the closure ofthe Scheldt (pp. 128-30) and the decline of Antwerp. Only in the north,the United Provinces, was growth continued until late in the seven-teenth century, a remarkable instance of economic movement againstthe prevailing trend, explicable in terms of a legal and institutionalsystem which encouraged the entrepreneur. In Spain, with whichPortugal was linked from 1580 to 1640, economic recession set inearlier and more abruptly. Here, by contrast with the Netherlands, thedownturn can be related to the government's failure to encourageprivate enterprise and to the priority which it gave to short-termmeasures to raise money over long-term plans to create opportunity. InItaly a relatively high level of prosperity was maintained until late in thesixteenth century. Then, in the course of the seventeenth, Italy declinedfrom 'one of the most advanced of the industrial areas of westernEurope [to] an economically backward and depressed area'.8 The clothindustries of Milan and Venice; the silk manufacture of Como andGenoa, the building industry throughout Italy all declined catastrophi-cally.

In Germany the economic decline of the seventeenth century was lessmarked because the previous advance had been less rapid. It probablyantedated the Thirty Years' War, but was felt unevenly.9 There was anexpanding market for cloth in eastern Europe, but evidence suggeststhat the overall production pf consumer goods had failed to keep pacewith increasing population long before 1618, and that real incomes werefalling.10 In Poland urban life was in decay, as the gentry turnedincreasingly for their purchases to the merchants who exported theirgrain. On the other hand, there was a movement of craftsmen out of

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Germany during the Thirty Years' War into the relative peace ofPoland, and Polish manufacturing, especially of cloth, benefited accord-ingly.11

Scandinavia was Europe's pioneer fringe during the sixteenth andseventeenth centuries, an area in which local communities were verynearly self-sufficing and exports were restricted to primary products likemetals and forest products. Sweden, the most developed of the Scan-dinavian countries, apart from Denmark, did not experience a recessionas did central and western Europe;12 self-sufficiency can be a protectionagainst the cycle of boom and depression, and the only significantexports, iron and copper, continued to be in demand in the west, whichwas torn by recurring wars.

The prelude to industrialisation

Europe began to recover from the depression of the seventeenthcentury at some time during the early eighteenth. It is difficult to assigna date even for a single country because the long-term trends areobscured by short-term fluctuations in the economy due to militarycampaigns, the weather and crop failure. Provence, it has been claimed,never experienced the depression of the seventeenth century.13 TheNetherlands did not experience the recession until after about 1660, andnever fully recovered from it before the nineteenth century. In Poland,the recession turned to a depression during the period of invasion andwar known as the 'Deluge' (Potop), and the country, economicallyweakened and politically divided, succumbed to its neighbours duringthe following century.

In France 'a wave of prosperity' followed a succession of bad harvestsand epidemic diseases about 1740, and from this date the evidencesuggests an almost continuous increase in production.14 In Germany thelatter half of the seventeenth century was marked by a slow recoveryfrom the devastation of the Thirty Years' War, leading about 1700 to aperiod of industrial growth, which intensified after the mid-eighteenthcentury. Mandrou has emphasised that, as a result of forty years of goodharvests, the peasant's purchasing power was greatly increased, to thebenefit, in particular, of the textile and small hardware industries.15

The pre-industrial stage was thus characterised by the very slowemergence of a mass demand for simple consumer goods. It saw also theevolution of the institutional framework necessary if rapid industrialgrowth was ever to be achieved: banks to mobilise short-term capital,commercial houses, and the infrastructure for the bulk transport ofcommodities. Governments, especially in France, Prussia and the Habs-burg empire, encouraged the foundation of new industries, and in someinstances provided capital for them. Larger numbers of workers were

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gathered under one roof, not to benefit from the provision of mechani-cal power, but rather to secure closer supervision of work and a betterintegration of processes. Some of the earliest factories were attached togaols and poorhouses in order to give profitable and disciplinedemployment to their inmates. Colbert established such a factory atSedan to manufacture cloth (see p. 232), and a generation later factoriescapable of employing hundreds were built in England. In Bohemia andMoravia and to a lesser extent in Poland, the landed aristocracythemselves established factories to employ the half-free labour whichthey controlled and to use the raw materials generated on their ownestates. Workshops were appended to the big house in much the sameway as stables.

It has often been assumed that the use of mechanical power,generated by either water or steam, was an essential feature of thefactory. Max Weber, however, defined in the factory as 'a capitalisticallyorganised production process employing specialised and co-ordinatedworking methods within a workshop and utilising invested capital'.16

The factory was thus seen as a function of management, not oftechnology. In this sense these large productive institutions of thepre-industrial era were unquestionably factories.

These developments anticipated the Industrial Revolution. Theymade it relatively easy to introduce mechanical power because they hadsucceeded in organising labour. But in the type of manufacture whichthey pursued they looked back to an earlier age. Most were concernedwith producing either the munitions of war or consumer goods for therich. They were established to make 'fine' cloth or glass ornaments. Atleast a dozen factories were founded in the eighteenth century toproduce Chinese-style porcelain. Nowhere does one find, in the pre-Revolutionary era, any encouragement for the mass production ofcoarse, cheap wares suited to the needs and the pockets of the majorityof the population.

The Industrial Revolution

The opening phase of the Industrial Revolution forms the last stage inthe history of manufacturing to be discussed in this book. The revolutionitself consisted essentially in the application of power - specificallysteam power - to manufacturing processes. It was made necessary, likeall technical innovations, by scarcities existing in certain sectors ofproduction: in cotton thread, in fuel for smelting, in coal. An innova-tion, such as machine-spinning, co*ke smelting or pumping and windingmachinery for deep mines, increased production in one branch andthereby created scarcities in other and complementary branches. Theresult inevitably was to create larger units of production. The factory

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system spread very rapidly between the end of the Napoleonic Wars andthe year of revolutions, 1848, and became the dominant mode ofindustrial production. It represented a large capital investment - farlarger than had previously been customary except in mining undertak-ings - and this in turn brought institutions into play whose purpose itwas to mobilise investment capital: banks, partnerships, joint-stockcompanies. The owners of industry tended to become faceless men, farremoved from the actual operations which earned them their incomes.There were exceptions; Krupp of Essen and De Wendel of Hayangewere family undertakings, but most of the mushrooming factories ofnorthern France, Belgium and western Germany were capitalised byshare-capital and bank loans.

The factory, secondly, imposed a discipline on the worker. Thehand-loom weaver under the domestic system had no life of leisure, buthe could, and commonly did, interrupt his work to help for example withthe local harvest. The factory system permitted no such liberties. It wascontinuous, unremitting work from the time when the worker wassummoned by the factory bell until, twelve or even fourteen hours later,the bell was again struck to signify the end of the working day.

The factory system, lastly, was ill-suited to produce quality goods.What it produced was uniform in texture and generally coarse in quality.It held no appeal to sophisticated taste, and its sales were dependent onan ever broadening market. There was little expansion, and more oftencontraction, in the output of quality goods from the older centres ofproduction. Sir John Clapham, commenting on the decay of the woollenindustry of East Anglia and the rise of the West Riding cloth industry,noted that it was 'the ordinary case of a pushing, hardworking localitywith certain slight advantages, attacking the lower grades of an expand-ing industry'.17 This is what the Industrial Revolution was about, for thesame could have been said of the weavers at Roubaix and Tourcoing,Rouen and Elberfeld, Chemnitz and Lodz.

It would be a mistake to assume that the mass market for certainmanufactured goods, notably textiles, which developed in the lattereighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was entirely a domestic orlocal one; that those who wove the cloth provided the market for it. Tosome extent, of course, they did, but no entrepreneur ever set up acotton mill merely to clothe his operatives and their rural contem-poraries. He sought to satisfy an existing market, not a hypothetical one,and the market which he envisaged was that provided by the hundredsof millions of consumers in the underdeveloped world. Behind theIndustrial Revolution, wrote Hobsbawm, 'lies this concentration on thecolonial and "underdeveloped" markets overseas'.18 He was writing ofthe British Industrial Revolution; 'our industrial economy grew out of

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our commerce, and especially our commerce with the underdevelopedworld'. But what he wrote was applicable, though to a lesser degree, tothe Industrial Revolution in continental Europe. The cheap Frenchtextiles from Languedoc (see p. 233), the Spanish cottons fromCatalonia and the cloth of northern France were in part destined for anoverseas - much of it Middle Eastern - market. The German textiles ofthe Wupper valley and of Chemnitz found a market in eastern Europe,and the Lodz industry was established by entrepreneurs from Saxony inorder to satisfy the Russian demand.

Mechanical power and the factory system lie at the heart of theIndustrial Revolution, but the realisation of their full potential wasdependent on improvements in transport. In continental Europe theimprovement of river navigation and the creation of a network of canalshad begun long before the revolution in industrial techniques, andplayed a vital role in transporting coal and marketing the products ofindustry. It was the railway, however, which was the essential precondi-tion of the full development of the factory system and the effective useof steam power. The first railway in continental Europe was built in1835, ten years after the first public railway in England, but thesubsequent growth of a European system was rapid, and by themid-century the main'outlines of the rail network had been completed.

The factory, the railway, the Industrial Revolution itself are incon-ceivable without the steam-engine. Its development in the eighteenthcentury was in response to the needs of mining. Larger units of powerthan could be provided by the water-wheel were needed to keep themines dry and to haul coal and ore to the surface. In the pre-industrialage the steam-engine was used almost wholly for raising water. Verticalmotion was then converted to rotary motion, and from this it was but ashort step to harnessing the power of steam to the mechanism of thetextile or rolling mill, and from this to mounting the engine on wheelsand allowing it to run on a track. Yet it took considerably more than acentury for Newcomen's atmospheric engine to develop into Locomo-tion I. This development was pioneered in England, and it was fromEnglish workshops that continental Europe derived both its firststeam-engines and the men who drove them. Newcomen engines wereerected in the mines of Belgium and Upper Hungary in the 1720s. Onewas even installed in Paris to raise the water of the Seine to supply thecity. They were in use in Spain, Germany and even Russia before theatmospheric principle was superseded late in the century by that ofWatt's expansion engine. The adoption of the latter on the continentwas hindered by the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, but whenthey were over Europe was ripe for the rapid diffusion of mechanicalpower in factory and mine.19

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Rural and urban industry

During the later Middle Ages there had been a shift of emphasis fromurban manufacturing to rural. The latter had, of course, always existed.Mining and smelting of metalliferous ores were necessarily carried on inthe countryside. The rural community had never ceased to producemuch of its rough cloth and leather goods, its tools and equipment ofwood and iron; and the peasant was also in some measure bothcarpenter and mason. Fluctuations in the agricultural calendar, withperiods when the farm-worker was underemployed, offered scope fordomestic crafts, practised in the living-room of the cottage.

The expansion of rural crafts beyond the needs of the villagecommunity occurred as soon as control of manufacturing passed fromthe hands of urban 'masters' and craft gilds into those of merchantcapitalists. The stultifying effects of gild regulations on the one hand andthe underemployment of rural labour on the other provided theopportunity for the 'putting out' of work on a commission basis to ruralworkers. This change was most important in the textile industries, inpart because these together formed the largest sector of medieval andearly-modern industry; in part because they were not particularlycapital-intensive and the textile processes were broadly familiar to allcountryfolk. Spinning, in particular, had never ceased to be a predomin-antly rural occupation, even when most of the weaving was concentratedin the towns.

By the sixteenth century a significant fraction of total manufacturinghad deserted the towns for the rural areas. All branches of the textileindustry, except dyeing and the finishing of the better-quality fabrics, aswell as the leather, glass, paper, woodworking and metal-goods indus-tries, decayed in many of their urban centres and expanded in ruralareas. Rural crafts grew in importance everywhere, but most rapidly, asKellenbenz has demonstrated, in areas least favourable to agriculture,where a subsidiary occupation, either part-time or seasonal, was madenecessary by the rising population.20 Domestic crafts flourished in areasof poor soil, like the Geest of the Low Countries and north Germany,and in mountainous regions where there was a close season on outdoorwork.

The use of water power was undoubtedly a factor in tipping thebalance against urban crafts. Fulling mills had been worked by waterfrom the thirteenth century, though as a force attracting industry fromthe town to the countryside their significance has perhaps been exagger-ated. More important, because the industry would have been inconceiv-able without it, was the use of streams to power hammer, rolling andslitting mills, used in the production of wire, nails and other forms of

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iron ware, as well as to produce the blast in furnaces.A more sophisticated style of craftsmanship had in the meanwhile

evolved in the towns, catering for the more extravagant demands of theland-owning nobility and of the rising bourgeoisie. It was dominated andcontrolled by gilds or corporations of masters, whose rules insured themaintenance of small-scale units of production, conservative in boththeir techniques and the style and quality of their products. A few townswere able to break with the traditions of the gilds and to make a cheaperand coarser product - amongst them Lille, Amiens and Beauvais. AtBeauvais the traditional cloth industry recoiled before the manufactureof coarse serges,21 much of it carried on in large workshops which inscale approximated factories. At Amiens, also, there was a largemanufacture of coarse cloth, which employed over half the activepopulation.22 But the urban industry was under constant pressure fromthe countryside. The city craftsmen continuously complained of thepoor quality of rural fabrics, an excuse for refusing to allow them to befinished by urban fullers and dyers. .

In most small towns in France and throughout central Europe thegilds retained control of urban manufacturing, maintained some sort ofstandards and kept the scale of production small. Indeed, the trendduring the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was towards strengthen-ing 'corporations', and not until the eighteenth was any significantbreach made in their privileges. In 1731 an Imperial Letter Patentattempted to give the public authorities in German towns some degreeof control over local gilds.23 In particular, gilds lost their power torestrict the mobility of labour and to exclude certain categories,illegitimates for example, from profitable employment. In France,where towns were less able than in Germany to control economicactivity in their surrounding regions, the powers of the gilds began to beeroded even earlier. Louis XVI's minister Turgot then addressed amemorandum to his master in which he declared that he regarded 'thedestruction of the guilds and complete abolition of the hindrancesimposed by these establishments upon industry and the poor buthard-working class . . . as one of the most beneficial deeds Your Majestycould perform for his people'.24 In 1791 craft gilds were finallyabolished in France, and they disappeared in the course of theRevolutionary and Napoleonic Wars from the rest of Europe.

Gilds were in general highly restrictive, but one must beware ofgeneralising. There were towns in which the gilds were weak andineffective, and industry was able to develop on a quasi-factory basis.Among these were Lille and Sedan and such settlements as Hond-schoote, Armentieres and Verviers, which remained unincorporatedduring their period of industrial growth.

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The destruction of the privileged position of gilds at the end of theeighteenth century was part of the general process of industrialisation,along with the introduction of the factory system and the adoption ofsteam power. The change, however, did not in general bring industryback to the towns which it had deserted three or more centuries earlier.The new magnet was the coalfields, and from the latter years of theeighteenth century the larger coalfields began to attract a miscellaneousrange of manufacturing industries. First to feel the pull of the coalfieldswas the iron industry, followed by the smelting of non-ferrous metals. InGreat Britain the movement of industry to the coalfields had beenpioneered by the textile industries because these were among the first toadopt the steam-engine as a motive force. In continental Europe, themechanisation of the spinning and more especially the weaving sectorscame relatively late, and in most industrial centres was in fact precededby the creation of at least a rudimentary railway net. This allowed fuel tobe brought to existing centres of manufacture, and removed thenecessity for the textile industry to shift to the coalfield. By the time thatmills in Chemnitz, Elberfeld or Verviers were ready to adopt steampower, the railway was there to bring them the fuel they needed.Nevertheless, all the larger and some of the smaller coalfields attractedmanufacturing industries, became populous and urbanised, anddeveloped in the course of the nineteenth century into scarred andsmoke-blackened industrial areas.

Three major regions were emerging during the early decades of thenineteenth century. The largest and most complex spanned northernFrance and the southern Low Countries and reached into north-westernGermany. The second centred in the Ruhr coalfield, but included alsothe textile industries of Krefeld, Monchen-Gladbach and the Wuppervalley, as well as the light metal industries which were carried on aroundIserlohn, Altena and Remscheid, in the hills to the south. The lastindustrial region to emerge in these years was that which spread over thecoalfield of Upper Silesia and northern Moravia. Industrial centres - asdistinct from regions - grew up on the smaller coalfields of western andcentral Europe: Ales, Saint-Etienne and Le Creusot, the Saar valley,Saxony and the Plzefl-Kladno area of Bohemia. In all these regions andcentres small towns mushroomed into large industrial cities and villagesquickly took on the size and function, if not always the status, of towns.

Textile industries

Throughout this period the textile industries employed more people andproduced goods of greater total value than any other sector of industrywith the exception only of agriculture. Clothing was a universal need.

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The potential market was immense, and it might be expected thatmechanisation would be applied first to this branch of manufacture.Throughout this period the industry had a two-fold organisation. It wasin part an urban craft, carried on by artisans in their own homes orworkshops, subject to the obsolete regulations of their gilds. It was alsoa part-time rural occupation, which supplemented work on the land andprovided a small income for an economically depressed peasantry. TheComte de Mirabeau remarked - and there have been many who haveechoed his words - that the more crowded the population and the moresterile the soil, the more readily did the peasant take to domesticcrafts.25 It is probable that the greater part of the textile productioncame from the cottages of the rural areas. Spinning was almost wholly arural occupation, even for the supply of urban weavers. There wereperiods of the year, harvest-time for example, when the supply of yarnwas gravely reduced by the calls of agricultural work, and it was theshortage of thread which provided the inducement in England toexperiment with spinning machines.

In the following pages the textile industries of continental Europe willbe discussed in all their variety: woollens, linen, cotton, mixed materialsand luxury fabrics. This discussion will for convenience be organised infour separate regions: the Low Countries, France, central Europe andsouthern Europe, each of which has certain distinctive characteristics. Ageneral picture will then be presented of the European industry on theeve of the French Revolution, to be followed by a discussion of the slowencroachment of the factory and the machine on the traditional handindustry of the continent.

The Low Countries

The traditional broadcloth industry of Flanders continued to declinethrough the sixteenth century. This was at first compensated for by therise of the 'new draperies' (p. 47), but their prosperity was short-lived. Bergues-Saint-Winnoc began to decline as a weaving centre earlyin the century, and Armentieres ceased to grow about 1540. Only atHondschoote did the cloth industry continue to prosper. From about11,000 pieces of cloth in 1495 its production rose to 40,000 pieces by1531, and to 82,000 by 1561. A level of about 90,000 pieces a year wasthen maintained until the industry was ruined by warfare in the LowCountries, and the town of Hondschoote was itself destroyed in 1582.26

Both the town and its dominant industry revived in the seventeenthcentury, but suffered again in the course of the wars of that century, andwas finally abandoned in the eighteenth.

The 'new draperies' had been based upon imported Spanish andEnglish wool, and were dependent on a system of marketing carried on

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through the larger cities and ports of Flanders. A contracting marketand the disturbed political situation in the later sixteenth centurybrought about the collapse of the industry. It never disappearedcompletely from the villages of Flanders, but over most of the formercloth-making region of the southern Low Countries its place was takenby the production of linen, which called for a smaller capital investmentand made no demands on imported raw materials.27

The decline of the Flemish cloth industry, both that of the traditionalfabrics and of the 'new draperies', was accompanied by an expansion ofclothworking both in Brabant to the east and in Holland to the north. Toa limited extent there was actually a migration of weavers from the oldercentres of production to the newer. The outbreak of the war againstSpain (1568) and the subsequent division of the Low Countries into theindependent United Provinces in the north and the Spanish LowCountries in the south not only reduced the market for the products ofFlanders but greatly encouraged production in the northern provinces.28

The heirs of the clothing industries of the southern Low Countrieswere the provinces of Holland and North Brabant, the heathlands of theeastern Netherlands and the Pays de Liege. Of these the province ofHolland, and in particular the city of Leyden, was the first to develop asignificant cloth industry. Holland's cloth industry during the MiddleAges had been small and had done little more than satisfy local demand.Its period of prosperity dated from the Dutch revolt and from themigration to the town of Leyden of clothworkers from the south, someof them in fact from the Hondschoote region. The population of Leydengrew from about 12,000 in 1581 to over 44,500 in 1644 and to 70,000by 1670. For much of the seventeenth century Leyden was one of theforemost centres of cloth production in Europe - if not the largest. By1660 no less than 40 - 45,000 persons in and around the town lived bythe industry, and total production during the first half of the century,according to Posthumus, may have been 130-200,000 pieces of cloth ayear.29 The wool - most of it imported from Spain - was spun mainly inthe villages, while weaving was carried on in the town, mainly byfull-time craftsmen, in workshops of up to twenty craftsmen. Thecloth was mostly light serges or says, not unlike that of Hondschoote.The Leyden industry was dependent on an export market, and the shipswhich brought its wool from Bilbao to Amsterdam carried back Leydenlaken to southern Europe. It always suffered, however, from a shortageof wool. The English prohibition of wool export robbed it of thelong-combing wool which it had used in its serges and worsteds, andforced it to concentrate on woollens, which had a less ready market insouthern Europe.30 Late in the seventeenth century the Leyden industrybegan to decline in the face of English competition and by the end of the

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eighteenth it was of negligible importance. The cloth industry ofHolland, however, was not restricted to Leyden. It was also carried on inAmsterdam, Delft, Gouda, Haarlem and Utrecht where the scale wassmaller, but a superior-quality cloth was made to meet the needs of theburgesses of these cities.

The heathlands of the southern and eastern United Provinces - veryroughly the provinces of North Brabant, Overijssel and Gelder-land - proved very receptive to the textile industries because there waslittle scope for the expansion of agriculture on their sterile soils. Therehad long been a small, domestic linen industry. The woollen industrywas established near Tilburg in North Brabant before the end of thesixteenth century, and in the Twente district (prov. Overijssel) in thecourse of the seventeenth.31 In the eighteenth century weavers wereamongst the most numerous craftsmen in the Veluwe, but there wasalready a tendency for the industry to concentrate in the few towns ofthese regions: Tilburg, Eindhoven, Enschede, Almelo, where it stillremains.32

Another beneficiary of the destruction of the clothing industry ofHondschoote and Armentieres was the Vesdre valley, in the Ardennesto the south of Liege. Immigrants from Flanders settled in the Pays deLiege in the latter years of the sixteenth century. The region had certainadvantages for the textile industry: cheap labour, abundant water powerand a freedom from restrictive corporations.33 The woollen industrywhich grew up in and near Verviers was based, like much of the LowCountries industry, on imported Spanish wool and produced mainlylight fabrics such as serges and worsteds. Its development was rapid. Itimported wool by way of the Dutch ports and sold its cloth by way of theRhineland fairs to central and eastern Europe. Its market, it was said,extended from the Rhine to the Volga.34 By the eighteenth century itwas dominated by a narrow group of merchant clothiers. Spinning wascarried on in the cottages of the Ardennes countryside, but weavingbecame to an increacing degree an urban pursuit, and Verviers itself, nomore than a village in the sixteenth century, grew, as Hondschoote andArmentieres had done, to be a specialised, industrial town. In 1674 theBishop of Liege, within whose principality it lay, had it enclosed by wallsand attempted - unsuccessfully - to impose a gild structure on it.

In thp second half of the eighteenth century the Vesdre valley becameone of the foremost centres of the woollen textile industry in Europe,and manufacturing spread across the hills to Eupen, Burtscheid, Mons-chau and Malmedy in Germany.35 A major factor in its industrialgrowth, apart from the expansion of demand, was the cheapness andabundance of labour in an area of very restricted agricultural potential.The conversion of much of the Herve region, lying to the east of Liege,

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from crop-farming to pastoral agriculture in the eighteenth centuryfreed labour for the textile industry. The French conquest of the regionand its absorption into France in 1794 further broadened its market.The labour supply was less than adequate for the increased demand forcloth, and in 1799 the co*ckerills introduced machine spinning to thearea (p. 345). Indeed, the Verviers district was the first in thewhole region of the Low Countries and lower Rhineland to adopt boththe factory system and the mechanisation of the spinning processes. In1815 the boundaries in western Europe were again redrawn andVerviers found itself outside the customs barrier of France. It lost thelarge market which it had enjoyed for twenty years, but the creation ofthe United Netherlands opened up another, at least until 1831, andencouraged the further mechanisation of the Verviers woollen industry.

The growth of the woollen industry in the Low Countries had beenpreceded by that of linen and hempen cloth. The peasantry had neverceased to grow flax and hemp, to scutch and prepare it, and to weavelinen for their own use. In the sixteenth century a demand began toemerge in the New World for linen, and large quantities were shipped toSpain for export to America. In traditional centres of the woollenindustry, such as Ghent and Courtrai, merchants were handling farlarger quantities of linen than of woollens in the seventeenth century.36

The linen industry continued to prosper through the eighteenth centuryin both the Netherlands and Flanders, and the bleaching of the clothproduced by the peasants became an important specialised occupationin some towns, including Turnhout, Termonde and Dordrecht. It was,however, beyond the southern boundary of the Low Countries, in westFlanders and Artois, that the linen industry was developed on thelargest scale.

The cotton industry came late to the Low Countries, and it was notuntil the closing years of the eighteenth century that cotton began todisplace linen in the cloth industry of Ghent and the Flanders towns.37 Itremained small until after the Napoleonic Wars, when it began to growin response to the demands of the colonial market.


The manufacture of textiles weas practised everywhere in late-medievalFrance. The cloth of Reims, Provins and Troyes was sold over much ofwestern Europe, and poorer cloth, woven in rural areas like Perigord,commanded a local market.38 When the industry began to recover fromthe depredations of the Hundred Years' War it tended to follow theexample of the Low Countries and to concentrate on light fabrics. Lillewas authorised by the emperor to weave says, and its rural chdtelleniewas restricted to the spinning of thread for the urban weavers.39 In the

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Employment, in thousands

/ c T w • Over 2000

.(Employment) B 1000.2000

itOCktngS # over 1,000,000(pa i rs ) #100.000-1,000.00

• Under 100.000

? HatS A Over 50.000

Under 50.000Valuecloth production per

Fig. 5.1 Clothworking in France in the early eighteenth century

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early sixteenth century the craft of sayeterie was introduced at Amiens,40

and spread to Beauvais, Reims and other cities of northern France. Theclothing industry expanded during the sixteenth century, but productionbegan to stagnate almost everywhere before its end. It was depressedthroughout the seventeenth century. Sully, Richelieu and above allColbert attempted to stimulate production, but their efforts were largelyrestricted to the luxury branches. The Gobelins tapestry works werefounded near Paris and the weaving of fine cloth established at Sedan,Troyes and Rouen but the efforts of the government were frustrated bythe lack of a mass demand and the smallness of the luxury market.Colbert himself favoured small production units closely supervised by acorps of inspectors and dependent on a domestic market.41 This basiswas inadequate unless supplemented by an export trade, which did notbecome significant until the eighteenth century. The efforts of theFrench government in the end achieved little. They were concentratedon a narrow range of luxury goods and were subjected to an excessivedegree of control by a paternalistic government. A side-effect of thisclose supervision, however, was that manufacturing became very muchbetter documented. Reports and letters of the intendants, returns of theinspectors and surveys by the Controlleur-General yield a wealth ofinformation, some of which is used in fig. 5.1.42

In about 1700 more than 80 per cent of the French cloth industry wasconcentrated within three regions:43 northern France, Champagne andLanguedoc. The first was the most important and, even without Lille,for which no figures have survived, produced almost a third of the clothmade in France. Amiens, which concentrated on light and rather coarsefabrics, was the largest manufacturing centre,44 and was followed byBeauvais and Rouen.45 The wool came mostly from Picardy, and wasspun in the villages. Much of the weaving, however, was carried on inthe towns. Over half the population of Amiens was said to have beensupported by the cloth industry, but there were many villages which alsodepended on weaving.46 Another important centre of the cloth industryof northern France lay along the lower valley of the Seine. Theover-regulated industry of Rouen had declined, but weaving had greatlyexpanded in the small towns of the Seine valley, the Pays de Caux andthe generalites of Caen and Alengon.47 This industry, the intendantclaimed,48 was one of the largest in the country. Rouen, Darnetal,Elbeuf and Louviers, he wrote, produced kdraps tres fins', but outlyingtowns like Bolbec, Lisieux, Caen, Falaise, only 'draps communs etserges'. Another official claimed that in 1709 40,000 were employed inthe cloth industry in the Rouen generalite, and that Elbeuf alone hadover 8000 craftsmen.49

The Champagne region resembled that of northern France. Its chief

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• Rich clothworker

A Medium clothworker

• Poor weaver

@ Artisans' quarters

Fig. 5.2 The domestic cloth industry of Reims

centres were Reims, Provins, Meaux, Sens, Joigny, but cloth-makingwas carried on in almost every small town.50 At Sedan was Colbert's'factory' for fine cloth. Local wool was used for ordinary cloth butimported Spanish wool for that of Sedan, though this seems sometimesto have been adulterated with the inferior local product.

The third cloth-making region of France was Languedoc, consisting ofthe generalites of Montpellier, Toulouse and Montauban. The intendantof Montpellier reported that most of the cloth made within his provincewas woven by peasants in the villages, hamlets and scattered farmsteadsof the Cevennes, 'quan il ne sont pas occupe au travailles de la terre'.51

He added that the cloth was sold to merchants of Nimes, Montpellierand Saint-Hippolite, who finished and marketed it. Thesepeasant-craftsmen were illiterate, he wrote, and kept no records, and hedistrusted the information which they provided. The actual productionmay have been considerably above the level indicated by the reports of

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the inspectors. The south-western margin of the Central Massif had alsoan important cloth industry, with its focus in Toulouse. The Languedoccloth region used imported Spanish wool for the better-quality cloth,and wool from the local sheep and from North Africa for the coarsertypes.52 The industry could command a market over much of southernFrance but was primarily dependent on export to North Africa and theLevant, a trade which was increasing in the late seventeenth and muchof the eighteenth centuries.

In the rest of France poor-quality cloth was woven to help satisfy localneeds.53 The intendants repeatedly complained of its shortcomings: 'ofpoor quality, badly woven and inadequately fulled';54 'fit only for localconsumption'.55 It was almost without exception woven in the home,and mostly in the countryside. It clothed the mass of the population andsome was even exported to the French settlers in Canada.56

In about 1700 the French cloth industry was very depressed, but itrevived in the course of the following century, especially where it couldserve an export market.57 It expanded in Alsace, where Mulhousebecame the focus of 40,000 people who 's'occupent dans leurs vallons etdomiciles de la filature et lissage dans les saisons ou l'agriculturecesse'.58 Everywhere, however, rural industry was the child of poverty.The most significant growth during this period was along the Seinevalley from Louviers down to Rouen, where hundreds of metiers wovecloth from imported Spanish wool. 'Nowhere else was there such aconcentration of quality woollens production.'59 This industry wasbetter equipped and more heavily capitalised than elsewhere, and it washere that the most successful attempt before the Revolution was madeto introduce English mechanical techniques.

Although woollens were by far the most important textiles in France,flax and hemp were nonetheless widely used. Flax was much grown innorthern France, and when the manufacture of 'new draperies' col-lapsed in Flanders and Hainault its place was largely taken by that oflinen toiles. The manufacture was encouraged by Colbert, and in the lateseventeenth century 100,000 pieces a year were being produced in theregion of Cambrai, Valenciennes, Saint-Quentin and Peronne. In Val-enciennes alone there were in 1670 700 masters and 2000 artisans.During the eighteenth century the industry became increasinglyrural - 'la seule occupation des families pauvres'.60 The industry wasconcentrated in the low-lying region of the Scarpe and Lys valleys whichproduced the best flax. Here the women spun the flax and the men woveit during the winter months when the land ceased to call them.61 Thelinen industry was, however, spread through the whole of northernFrance, but was in most areas only a poor cousin of the woollen. It waseverywhere closely bound up with agriculture.62 Linen-weaving was a

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Commercial centres• • for the linen


Fig. 5.3 The European linen industry in the eighteenth century

mark of rural poverty, and the deeper the poverty the greater was thereliance on domestic weaving. West of the Seine toiles increased inimportance at the expense of woollens,63 which they largely displaced inwestern Normandy and Brittany.64 Linen was not only the chief clothingmaterial; it was used as sail-cloth, and was exported in quantity to Spainand southern Europe. The industry grew steadily in the seventeenthcentury and production at Leon, a major centre in northern Brittany,rose from 20,000 pieces to more than 80,000.65

The chief threat to the linen industry came from cotton. The latterwas of only slight importance at the beginning of the eighteenth century,but in 1740 an attempt was made to establish cotton-weaving atRouen.66 It was however, unsuccessful until John Holker, an Englishemigre, familiar with the textile processes developed in Lancashire,introduced English equipment. The manufacture secured royal patron-

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age and was at once successful. It was from the start a factory industry,producing first cotton velvets - a luxury fabric, it should be noted - butthen cheaper cotton prints. Holker was later appointed Inspector-General of Manufactories, and devoted himself to updating and re-equipping the textile industry throughout France.67 The cotton industrygrew rapidly in the Seine valley, and cotton-spinning replaced woollenin the cottages.68 It was adopted in Languedoc and Alsace; a cotton millwas established at Toulouse in 1791,69 and in town after town thedestruction of restrictive corporations allowed cotton-weaving toreplace woollen. In the Lille area cottons began to displace bothwoollens and linen, and quickly became the dominant branch ofindustry in the developing towns of Tourcoing and Roubaix.

Lace-making {passem*nterie) and stocking-knitting (bonneterie) alsosupplemented the income from agriculture and were in fact even morewidely distributed than linen-weaving. They used only small quantitiesof thread and their product was relatively valuable in proportion to itsbulk and weight. For this reason they were important in such areas asBrittany and the Central Massif. They only provided work for women,and fitted best into the economy where the men were otherwise fullyemployed or absent from home as migrant workers. Hosiery manufac-ture was heavily concentrated in Champagne,70 where almost half theFrench production is reported to have come from the districts of Reimsand Soissons, closely followed by Chalons and Orleans.

Central Europe

Woollens had predominated in the textile industries of France and theLow Countries since the Middle Ages. In central Europe, by contrast,linen provided much of the clothing of the masses. The small woollenindustry was largely urban.71 Its chief centre was Aachen and the nearbytowns of Duren, Burtscheid, Eupen and Montschau.72 It was givenimpetus in the sixteenth century by immigrant weavers from the LowCountries, who also carried their craft as far as Saxony and Pomerania.Frederick the Great tried to foster the cloth industry in Prussia, but latein the century Mirabeau could find only a handful of weavers in mosttowns.73 The market for all except the coarsest cloth was dominated bythe products of Leyden, Verviers and Aachen.

The woollen industry developed more vigorously in lands to the eastof Germany. Employment more than doubled in Bohemia between1766 and 1797,74 and in Moravia growth was even faster.75 The reasonlay in the huge market for coarse cloth offered by the Habsburg empire.Production was stimulated by the immigration of weavers from westernEurope.76 At the same time members of the landed aristocracy investedin manufacturing, and some, notably the Lichtenstein, Kiiisky, Harrach,

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Chamare and Salm families, built factories in which weaving was carriedon under supervision by their servile dependants,77 while Fachleutetoured rural areas, instructing the peasantry in better methods ofspinning.

The woollen industry was widely developed in the towns of northernBohemia, especially Litomefice, Liberec and Hradec Kralove, wheremuch of it was concentrated in small, factory-like buildings.78 Its growthin the later eighteenth century was, however, most rapid in Moravia.Craftsmen from the Low Countries established themselves in Jihlava(Iglau) and in 1763 built the first factory in Brno. Jihlava was a small,gild-ridden town in the uplands of western Moravia, and was quicklyoutpaced by Brno which had no such restrictions and established itselfas the chief woollen centre in central Europe.79

The linen industry was more important than the woollen almosteverywhere in central Europe. Its chief centres were Swabia, where ithad been a manufacture of major importance during the Middle Ages,Westphalia and Bohemia.80 In the sixteenth century south Germanlinen and fustian were sent to Italy, but the decline of the Mediterraneanmarket allowed north-western Germany to come to the fore.81 TheMiinsterland became the leading linen-producer, with Minden,Bielefeld and Ravensburg the chief centres of 'cette immense manufac-ture', as Mirabeau called it,82 but it was, he added, only 'une ressourcecontre la misere'. Jacob early in the nineteenth century noted that in thisregion flax was grown 'in small patches on each farm' and that thespinning-wheel was active in every cottage.83 Linen, unlike woollens,did not require to be finished, but it had to be bleached if it was to bemarketed. This was usually done by specialised urban craftsmen. Linenfrom Westphalia was commonly sent to bleacheries in the Netherlands.The urban engravings of towns, made by the Merians in the seventeenthcentury, often showed the pieces of linen laid out to whiten in the openspaces beyond their walls. In the eighteenth century the Wupper valley,in the hills of Berg, developed as a leading bleaching centre, and its chieftowns, Elberfeld and Barmen, handled immense quantities of flax andlinen for the Westphalian industry.84

Northern Switzerland formed part of the south German linen-working region, and, like the latter, developed on the export ofgood-quality linen cloth to Italy. The industry fell off during the ThirtyYears' War, but later revived and prospered until, in the later eight-eenth century, cottons cut into its market.85 At St Gallen an attemptwas even made to produce linen 'prints' - unsuccessful as it proved - tomeet the competition of cottons.

Linen manufacture was also a traditional craft in Bohemia and Silesia.In the sixteenth century it was exported to Mediterranean markets.

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Production was expanded after the Thirty Years' War largely in ruralareas by part-time craftsmen.86 It was organised by merchant-capital-ists, many of them German, who in effect competed with the magnatesfor the labour of the latter's serfs.87 Eventually the aristocracy enteredthe linen industry as they had done the woollen by erecting smallfactories on their estates.

By the end of the eighteenth century the central European linenindustry was being threatened by the manufacture of cottons. Cottonhad been much used in south Germany during the later Middle Ages,and it was cotton-weavers from Augsburg who carried the craft toChemnitz in Saxony in the sixteenth century; from there it spread toPlauen, the small weaving centres of the Ore mountains and thence toBohemia and Silesia.88 A cotton factory was established at Schwechat inLower Austria, and Mirabeau found cotton-weavers in Pomerania andEast Prussia. The most vigorous expansion of the cotton industry tookplace, however, in the Rhineland, where it cut into the hithertopredominant role of linen.89 There was a gradual shift from linen tocottons, made all the easier by the general similarity in the techniquesemployed. The rising demand was principally for 'prints', and in all thecotton-weaving centres a calico-printing factory was as necessary asbleaching works had been to the linen industry. Augsburg became animportant centre for calico-printing, and from here the craft spread toSaxony, Bohemia and other centres of cotton-weaving, and even toHamburg through which some of the cottons were exported to overseasmarkets.

The central European textile industry had developed during theeighteenth century within boundaries which were relatively stable. Butduring the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars these were changedradically, and the boundary of France was advanced to the Rhine whilepuppet states were established beyond it. The textile industries of the leftbank of the Rhine, including those of Aachen and Verviers, found thewhole French market opened to them.90 They were quick to takeadvantage of the change and enjoyed a short-lived period of unparal-leled prosperity. Even the Napoleonic Confederation of the Rhine,which lay to the east of the river, found the new boundary far fromimpenetrable, and the textiles of Berg were able to enter the Frenchmarket. The co*ckerills, who had established themselves as makers oftextile machinery in Verviers, found no lack of customers. English-stylespinning-machines and looms were introduced into the Aachen regionsoon after 1800, and by 1812 the first power loom was at work. One ofthe more conspicuous results of the boundary change was the rapidgrowth of the towns of Monchen-Gladbach and Rheydt. These hadpreviously been linen-weaving centres of minor importance. Late in the

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eighteenth century cotton-spinning and -weaving were introduced bycraftsmen from Berg. After 1794, when they found themselves withinthe French customs area, there was a rapid expansion of the cottonindustry, restricted only by the continental blockade and the difficulty ofimporting raw cotton.

After 1814 this changed. The boundary of France was restoredapproximately to the line of 1789. The Verviers region was includedwith the United Netherlands, but Berg, Aachen and the whole left bank,with the exception of Alsace, were reabsorbed into a German Confed-eration, less complex than it had been previously, but nonetheless stillmade up of over thirty territorial units, each with its own tariff systemand commercial regulations. The inevitable loss of markets was accom-panied by renewed competition from an English textile industry whichwas larger and more efficient than before the Revolutionary Wars. Thetextile industries which had developed over the previous twenty years inwestern Germany required for their prosperity an all-German market,and, until this was established with the creation of the Zollverein, theyexperienced a prolonged depression.

Southern Europe

The chief centres of the medieval cloth industry in southern Europewere Catalonia, Tuscany and northern Italy. All declined in the fifteenthcentury, recovered in the sixteenth, but declined again almost toextinction in the seventeenth and eighteenth. Spain, with an abundantsupply of the best wool, had a unique advantage from which it failed toprofit. The gild-ridden industry of the Meseta towns disappeared, andsurvived in the towns of Catalonia only on a reduced scale.91 In theeighteenth century an attempt was made to revive the woollen clothindustry by establishing a number of 'royal' textile factories - woollensat Guadalajara and Segovia; tapestries at Madrid; silks at Talavera.Foreign craftsmen were brought in, and the factories were technicallysuccessful, but were burdened, like all state-run enterprises, by anovergreat and inefficient bureaucracy. They were located in the emptyheart of Spain rather than near the coast, and were financially a failure.In the end all were closed or were sold to private individuals.92

Far greater success attended the eighteenth-century attempts tointroduce a cotton textile industry. It owed its origin to the initiative ofthe merchant class of Barcelona and the patronage of Charles III. Therehad previously been a small cotton industry in Barcelona, as there was inmany Mediterranean towns. In the 1760s it grew rapidly. In 1760, it issaid, there were 353 looms in Barcelona. By 1784 this had risen to2102, together with 948 tables for making cotton prints.93 The cottonindustry replaced the woollen and spread to other towns of the region,

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notably Manresa and Malaro. The industry scarcely spread beyond theCatalan littoral, but here for a few years it was a major export industry.It was carried on in factories or mills - there were 60 in 1784. This madeit particularly vulnerable, and most of the cotton mills, as well as thesurviving woollen mills, were destroyed by the French. Recovery after1815 was slow until the 1830s, when mechanised spinning and weavingwere introduced, and the industry grew rapidly in Barcelona and itssatellite towns.94

The Italian cloth industry had formerly been second only to that ofthe Low Countries. It was carried on mainly in the towns of northernItaly, and Italian cloth formed a return cargo for the ships which broughtspices, silks and wines from the Levant.95 The industry stagnated in thelater Middle Ages; it recovered in the sixteenth century - Mantuareached the peak of its production in 155896-but then entered on itslong decline from which it was not rescued until the nineteenth century.The wars, coupled with the shift in the focus of trade from theMediterranean to the Atlantic, were fatal to the cloth industry, but onecity was in some measure protected from these influences. Venice hadonly a negligible cloth industry until about 1510. This then began togrow rapidly, profiting from the destruction of rival crafts in its Italianhinterland and from its freedom to import wool and to control whatremained of Mediterranean trade.97 By 1600 the Venetian cloth indus-try was twice the size of that of Milan or Florence. Thereafter it toodeclined, as its products were driven from the Mediterranean by thecompetition of the Dutch and British and later the French. In 1700 Italy'had sunk to the undistinguished position of a basically agrarian countrycut off from the mainstream of economic life'.98 The Italian clothindustry was restricted to the production of coarse, cheap fabrics for apredominantly peasant society.

The Balkan peninsula, today a not unimportant source of textiles, hadonly a primitive domestic craft industry before the mid-nineteenthcentury. The spinning-wheel was only beginning in the late eighteenthcentury to displace the distaff and spindle, and weaving was practised onthe simplest of looms.99 There were no full-time professional weavers;clothworking was an occupation of everyone, and nearly every househad its loom.

Luxury fabrics

By the end of the Middle Ages silk had become the elite fabric in mostof Europe. It clothed the cardinals at Rome and courtiers throughoutwestern Europe, and to the bourgeoisie a piece of silk was a treasuredpossession. In the later Middle Ages silk-weaving had becomeestablished in many parts of Italy, and Italian craftsmen took their skills

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to Lyons, Tours and Amboise, to Zurich and Cologne. Yet silk-weavingwas the most difficult branch of the textile industry to establish. Silk wasvery expensive; its market was narrow and demand highly elastic andsubject to changes in fashion and purchasing power.100 The silkworm,secondly, was a delicate creature, and rearing it an arduous and highlyseasonal occupation. It was dependent furthermore on the cultivation ofthe mulberry, climatically a rather demanding tree. It could be grownanywhere in Italy and southern France, but Buffon failed to establish iton his estate in Burgundy, and Frederick the Great's mulberry groves inBrandenburg almost succumbed to the hard frosts of 1785-7.101 Suchextravagances did not survive the Napoleonic Wars, and the silkindustry in northern Europe was thereafter restricted to places whichcould import raw silk from southern Europe. Reeling and throwing silkwere aided from the sixteenth century by the use of water power, and inItaly tended to concentrate along the streams which flowed from theAlps to the plain of Lombardy. Weaving remained the prerogative ofhighly specialised and full-time craftsmen. They usually worked in thetowns, often in small factories or workshops.

Venice was noted in the sixteenth century for the extreme elaborationof its products. The industry declined generally in the late sixteenth andseventeenth centuries, but some branches of production, Genoesedamask and the best-quality Venetian, maintained their commercialposition.102 The first important silk industry to be established outsideItaly was that of Lyons, followed in the later sixteenth century by theZurich manufacture, established 'after the Italian manner'. The Swissindustry was further reinforced by the arrival of French Huguenots andlater by refugees from the Revolution. Italians established silk-weavingin Geneva and Basel, which became notable for its production ofribbons.103 From Lyons the industry was carried to Tours, Amboise andParis, and late in the sixteenth century it reached northern France.Demand continued to increase, and in the eighteenth century silk-weaving was established in Saint-Etienne, the lower Rhineland, Saxony,Brandenburg, Bohemia and London. In these latitudes there was no realpossibility of rearing silkworms, and the industry had to be based onimported silk. Few of these undertakings survived long, but that ofKrefeld was an exception. It was created by the von der Leyen familywhich in 1721 established a small factory to make ribbon and velvet.They were helped by the absence of a gild organisation and by the Kingof Prussia, who granted extensive privileges to Krefeld, includingexemption from military conscription for its workmen. The industrygrew rapidly during the eighteenth century, and by 1786 the von derLey ens are said to have employed 3400 weavers and to have owned 815looms. The majority probably worked in mills, but there was some

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domestic employment in the surrounding countryside. 'An impression isgained', wrote C. F. Meyer, an official of the Prussian government, 'ofvisiting one of the most flourishing industrial towns of England.'104

The French conquest brought an end to the special privileges of thevon der Leyen firm; competition from Lyons and other French pro-ducers was intensified, and the supply of raw materials from southernEurope became difficult. The von der Leyens succumbed, but otherfirms were established. The market revived after 1815 as demandbroadened for silk. By 1835 there were 28 silk mills in Krefeld, and by1848 this had increased to 98.

Towards the end of the Middle Ages it became customary to hide therough surfaces of walls with woven fabrics. Both damask - most often atthis date a mixed fabric of silk and linen - and tapestry were used. Silkdamasks became a product of the French and Italian silk-weavers.105

Tapestry-weaving was more closely associated with the southern LowCountries, where Arras, Brussels, Tournai and Bruges had acquired ahigh reputation for their work by 1500. Flemish craftsmen later in thecentury carried the art of tapestry-weaving to many parts of Europe, butnowhere were their efforts crowned with greater success than in Paris.There, in 1601, Flemish tapestry-weavers were established in an olddyeworks, which had belonged to the Gobelins, in the FaubourgSaint-Marcel.106 In 1664 the works became a royal factory, producingfor the use of the king and of those whom he wished to favour. Thisfamous mill continued in operation, with only a slight interruption, untilthe Revolution, and was reopened in the nineteenth century. TheGobelins provided a model for other tapestry-weavers, and some of itscraftsmen were enticed to St Petersburg, Brussels and elsewhere, untilfashions changed and other methods of covering the walls of cham-bers - notably the use of wallpaper - were devised.

Consumer good industries

Between 1761 and 1774 Duhamel de Monceau published under the titleDescriptions des arts et metiers a series of monographs or studies bydifferent writers of the crafts which were considered the most importantat this time.107 Over a hundred were gathered into twenty-sevenvolumes. Some are brief and uninformative; others detailed, evenprolix, and illustrated by engravings of tools, machines and processes.Between them they surveyed the current state of industrial technology;they examined the state of mining, quarrying and metalworking; offishing, the carbonising of wood and the forging of anchors; of theburning of lime and the baking of bricks. But in reading thesemonographs one feels that this is a very skewed list. The manufacture of

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surgical and astronomical instruments or the craft of cabinet-making orof inlay work rate more space than weaving, and the simple carpenter isignored. A keynote is struck by the Comte de Milly; the useful arts, hewrote, have always been the foundation of national prosperity, and hisdesire to further the latter leads him to contribute an essay on themanufacture of Chinese porcelain.

Duhamel de Monceau viewed the crafts through the eyes of theFrench aristocracy, and gave the greatest space to those which contri-buted to their comfort and pleasure. He tells us not a word on how aplough was made, or on how the coarse woollen and linen fabrics whichclothed the masses were woven and finished. Yet, as his contemporaryArthur Young was quick to note, the future of French industry restedwith the mass demand of the latter (p. 218), rather than with theesoteric crafts which delighted the rich.

It was a narrow range of industries which supplied the daily wants ofmost people. Apart from agriculture and the textile industries, the mostimportant was probably tanning and leather-working. These werealmost as universal as weaving, and scarcely less necessary. Theyprovided footwear - which was not regularly worn by the peasan-try - saddlery harness and upholstery. The transport industry wasdependent on leather. The tanyard was a feature of every village, andthe larger towns, where animals were slaughtered in greater numbers,had a regular tanning industry. Tanning was most strongly developed inareas where animal husbandry was relatively important. In Brittany theintendant declared it to be second only to textiles,108 and the industrywas concentrated in southern Poland, where the drove routes enteredcentral Europe from the steppe. Tanning was an antisocial industry,creating an offensive smell and polluting the streams. Perhaps for thisreason it was unimportant at Paris; instead 'the butchers sell their skinsand hides at Rouen, where these industries are on a large scale'.109 Suchconcentrations were not unusual. Nantes, Poitiers, Dunkirk and Lillewere regional centres of the tanning industry. Much of the leather wasshaved to make it thin and pliable, treated with chemicals and dyestuffs,and used for making light shoes and purses, book-bindings and uphols-tery.110

There were few food industries more sophisticated than those of thebaker, butcher and brewer. Among them, however, was that of thesugar-refiner. Until early in the nineteenth century sugar was obtainedalmost exclusively from the cane. It was imported into Europe in theform of molasses, and was refined principally at the ports. In thesixteenth century Antwerp came to the fore, and was followed byCologne111 and port cities trading with the West Indies, such as Nantes,Hamburg and Bordeaux.

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Other industries which used raw materials of colonial origin also grewup in the port cities. They included the preparation of tobacco, theroasting of coffee and the making of soap and candles. The principalingredients of soap were vegetable oils and wood-ash. The import ofashes from the Baltic region contributed to the growth of the soapindustry in the northern ports, as the availability of olive oil did to thatin the southern. The intendant of Provence complained that oil was soscarce that the industry had to rely on imports from the Mediterraneanlittoral;112 ashes were also imported from the Levant.113 Marseilles wasprobably the foremost European soap-making centre; about 1760 therewere no less than '38 soap factories with 170 boilers and a thousandworkmen'.114 No other port could rival this concentration, but soap-boilers were nonetheless prominent at Nantes, Rouen, Amsterdam andHamburg.

The manufacture of paper increased steadily from the sixteenth to theeighteenth centuries in pace with the expansion of book-printing and thespread of literacy. Parchment gradually ceased to be used, except forlegal documents, and its place was taken by paper made, as a generalrule, from rags. At first, paper mills tended to cluster in the textile-producing areas. Ravensburg in Swabia had in the early sixteenthcentury fifty paper mills. They then developed in most large cities,where there was both a demand for paper and a supply of rags to serveas raw material. The expansion of paper-making is inseparable from thatof printing, for most of the paper made went through the press. As earlyas 1500, it is said, no less than 236 European towns had theirprinting-presses.115 By the eighteenth century there were presses inevery large and medium-sized town, and many, notably Paris, Lyons,Amsterdam, Cologne, Basel, Vienna, Venice, were outstanding centresfor the publication of books.

The ceramic and glass industries, like the textile and leather, satisfieda very wide range of demand. At one extreme were the glass of Veniceand the porcelain of Meissen; at the other the coarsest of earthenware.They were alike in requiring mineral raw materials and an abundance offuel. The principal determinants of the pottery industry were thepresence of beds of clay together with a nearby market. Wherever therewas clay there were potters, and little of what they made ever travelledmore than a few miles. There was no really elite pottery before theseventeenth century; the rich used metal plates and dishes - most ofthem of pewter - and the poor ate off wooden trenchers. The firstpottery to gain a reputation far beyond its place of manufacture wasItalian majolica, a coarse ware covered with enamel and decorated. Itwas made in many towns, but some of the finest came from Urbino,Faenza, Siena and other places in central and northern Italy. The

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manufacture prospered through the sixteenth century, and large quan-tities of majolica ware were exported. Late in the century Italiancraftsmen, traditionally from Faenza - hence faience - carried themanufacture to France. Potteries were established at Nevers, Rouen,Moustiers (Provence), Marseilles, Strasbourg, Niderviller (Lorraine).

The industry also spread to the Low Countries, again borne by Italianemigrants, first to Antwerp, then to Haarlem and Rotterdam. In themid-seventeenth century the manufacture of majolica-type pottery wasbegun at Delft, where, with its distinctive design and colour, it becamethe dominant pottery in north-western Europe for over a century.Majolica potters also migrated to Spain, where they worked at Sevilleand Talavera; to Switzerland - Winterthur; to Germany - Frankfurt-on-Main, Hanau, Kreussen (Bavaria), Dresden, Potsdam and severalother towns; to Copenhagen in Denmark; to Sweden, Austria, Hungaryand England. During this period earthenware or stoneware continued tobe made in many parts of Europe, and in some, notably the Nether-lands, the lower Rhineland, Bavaria and Saxony, it began to take onsome of the mannerisms of Renaissance Italian pottery, and to usemineral dyes and lead or salt glaze.

Throughout these years the model to which potters aspired was theChinese porcelain, now being imported into Europe first by thePortuguese and later by the Dutch and English. They admired itssmoothness of texture, its translucent quality and its colour and decora-tion. Several attempts were made in France to imitate it, but none ofthem was successful until in the early eighteenth century the ingredientsof the Chinese product were made known in the west.116 These were notthe clays of the potter, but a granite-like substance known as petuntse orchina stone, and china clay, derived from the disintegrated felspar ofgranite. The restricted occurrence of these materials, together with thehigh cost of manufacture and the limited demand, greatly restricted themanufacture of true porcelain. Bottger early in the century discoveredchina stone and china clay in the Erzgebirge of Bohemia, and establisheda successful pottery at Meissen, in Saxony, which still operates today.The manufacture was established in Vienna, Bayreuth, Plaue (Branden-burg), Hochst (Franconia), Nymphenburg (Bavaria), Frankenthal andseveral other places, most of them fairly close to the Erzgebirge, whichsupplied much of the raw materials. Most of these porcelain worksacquired their skills from runaway craftsmen from the ducal works atMeissen.

The chief centre of porcelain manufacture in western Europe wasSevres, 10 kilometres to the south-west of Paris. After many years ofeffort the Sevres factory produced a true porcelain, but it was generallycontent to make 'soft-paste' porcelain, which did not call for scarce raw

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materials. Limoges, which had deposits of the latter nearby, alsoproduced true porcelain for a time, but most of the French porcelainfactories produced an imitation from crushed glass, clay and bone-ash.No less than about seventy works attempted with varying degrees ofsuccess to make porcelain in continental Europe in the course of theeighteenth century. Few achieved any lasting success, and those whichdid owed it to royal or princely patronage.117 All the larger porcelainfactories, such as Meissen - the premier works during most of theeighteenth century - Sevres, Nymphenburg, were either owned by orreceived considerable help from royal patrons. Very large sums wereinvested in the industry, and it seemed, long before the end of thecentury, that porcelain was overproduced. By the time of the Revolu-tion the small demand for luxury china was being overshadowed by agrowing demand for cheaper, mass-produced ware. It was the Stafford-shire Potteries which set the model in the nineteenth century, with theiruse of cheap materials, standardised designs, and printed and 'trans-ferred' patterns. The continental market was dominated by the productsof Staffordshire kilns, but some of the older centres of qualitywares - Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, Munich amongst them - adapted tothe new market, and produced competent china of standardised designs.

Glass-making was more restricted. It was dependent on quartz-sandand used large quantities of fuel in order to fuse its raw materials. Itcatered, furthermore, for a narrower market. The demand for windowglass grew during the sixteenth century, followed by that for domesticand ornamental glassware. Italian glass-makers, notably those of Ven-ice, set a standard to which the rest of Europe aspired; licences grantedto glass-workers in seventeenth-century Liege called for the productionof glasses 'a la venitienne'.118 Italian craftsmen were established nearParis in the sixteenth century to produce glass for the royal court.119

This particular enterprise failed, but others were abundantly success-ful - so much so that they placed a severe strain on the supply of fuel,despite the fact that most were located in forested regions of Normandy,the Orleanais, the Morvan and the Argonne. After its earlier period ofgrowth the industry stagnated during the reign of Louis XIV, butexpanded again in the eighteenth century when there were, it is said, noless than three hundred 'glass houses' in France.

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries Hesse and theThuringian Forest in central Germany developed an important glass-making industry, organised on a capitalist basis.120 It succumbed to theThirty Years' War and, though it was revived on a craft basis, rede-velopment was largely in Bohemia. There had been a glass industry hereduring the Middle Ages. This grew during the sixteenth century until itwas considered a threat to the timber resources. The solution was to

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move deeper into the forests which border Bohemia, and here theglass-workers played an important part in settling those empty regionswhich separated German from Czech. The magnates, on whose landsthe glass works were established, encouraged the industry, and theBohemian glass trade, centred mainly in the mountains of northernBohemia, grew through the eighteenth century, supplying quality glass-ware to much of Europe.121

Great progress was made during the eighteenth century both in themanufacture and decoration of glass. The demand for window glass,especially for sheets of increasing size and strength, led to the produc-tion first of crown- or bull's-eye-glass, and then of plate-glass. Theproduction of table-glass was a craft industry, calling for no largeinvestment. The manufacture of sheet-glass was a more complexprocess, requiring large furnaces for both melting the glass and anneal-ing it, and also mills to polish the sheets. It was a factory-rather than acraft-industry, and was carried on in few places before the nineteenthcentury. Amongst them, however, were Saint-Gobain in Picardy whichbecame the chief centre in France, and Charleroi, in the Austrian LowCountries, which became the largest source of window glass.

The manufacture of clocks and watches was, by and large, a develop-ment of the later seventeenth and the eighteenth centuries. It was in partan urban craft, carried on by skilled craftsmen who were often proud toengrave their names on the faces of the timepieces which they made.But it was also a rural craft, practised especially in areas where thelength and severity of winter precluded outdoor work. The Black Forestdeveloped clockmaking in the early eighteenth century.122 At the sametime watchmaking developed in Switzerland. It began in the Juramountains of Neuchatel in the late seventeenth century and spreadthrough this region and across the plateau to the Alps of Vaud. Thenumber of watchmakers is said123 to have increased more than seven-fold during the last half of the eighteenth century. The industry was atthis time exclusively a domestic craft. Demand, however, was restrictedto the wealthier classes, and small groups of clock- and watchmakersappeared in some of the larger cities. Augsburg and Nuremberg becamecentres of the craft in the sixteenth century, and Fynes Moryson, early inthe seventeenth century, wrote of the men of Nuremberg that they 'areesteemed the best workmen for clockes and some like thinges'.124 Paris,Lyons, Geneva and other cities developed the craft in the course of theseventeenth century, and in some the number of craftsmen was enoughto form an independent gild of clockmakers.125

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• i ' ; Iron works

Other iron-working areas

Fig. 5.4 The European iron industry in the later eighteenth century.For inset A, see fig. 5.5; for B, see fig. 5.8

The metal industries

The early sixteenth century was a period of rapid expansion in the metalindustries. The output of copper, silver, mercury and lead, as well as ofiron, increased rapidly.126 This was due in part to the greater volume ofcoinage in circulation; in part to the increased demand for tools and forweapons and ornamental and decorative metalwork. It was madepossible by improvements in mining technique - notably in the cuttingof adits for drainage - and by developments in smelting and refining.Indeed, the most significant technological innovations before the Indus-trial Revolution were in the field of metallurgy.


The smelting process had traditionally been carried out on a hearth witha charcoal fire and bellows powered by a water-wheel. The heat wassufficient to bring the metal to a soft, spongy mass, through which were

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distributed particles of slag and charcoal. The skill of the ironworker layin manipulating the ore, exposing it to an oxidising blast from thebellows, and alternately heating and hammering it until he had reducedit to a bloom of impure iron. This was, finally, passed between rolls bothto squeeze out the remaining slag and also to bring it to a manageableshape, the bar-iron of commerce.

There were few parts of Europe where it could not be made, but thequality of the iron depended in large measure on that of the ore. Oresvaried greatly in chemical composition, size of the reserves, and grade orratio of metal to ore. Above all, they differed in the presence or absenceof beneficial elements like manganese, or of deleterious, such as sulphurand phosphorus. Some, like the ores worked at Allevard in Savoy, atMiisen in the Siegerland, or in the Alps of Milan, yielded an iron of highquality for steel-making, largely because of their manganese content.Others produced a metal which defied the efforts of the iron-masters torefine it into a serviceable metal. Amongst these were the low-grade,phosphoric ores of Lorraine and Luxembourg, known contemptuouslyas minette, which, until the introduction of the basic process in 1879,were suited only for making iron castings. The limestone beds of easternFrance which contained the minette were overlain by a discontinuous,superficial deposit of clay, in which were found nodules and masses of abrown ore of superior quality. Reserves were very small and have longsince been worked out. But it was these ores, rather than the minette,which yielded the iron for which eastern France was noted in theseventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Most ore deposits were small and were quickly exhausted. Few couldsupport a smelting works for more than a decade or two, and theironworker was traditionally mobile as he exploited one ore-body afteranother. The history of iron production became one of gradual concen-tration on a few larger reserves. The presence or absence of traces ofphosphorus, sulphur or manganese could greatly influence the metal.The ironworker learned empirically which ores to use and which toavoid. The phosphoric ores of eastern France and Lower Saxony werelittle used before the mid-nineteenth century. The high-grade spathicores of the Siegerland, of Styria and of central Sweden were amongst themost favoured.

The quality of the ore was, however, not the only factor influencingthe location of iron works. No less important was the supply of fuel.Smelting and refining were inordinately extravagant of charcoal, and themore complex technically the industry became the greater was its needfor fuel. A single iron works was capable within a few years ofexhausting the timber supply for miles around, and this in turn imposeda degree of mobility on the industry.

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ron-ore mine o

Smelting works •

Refinery A

Metal-using works °

Coal mine 0

Ore body

Fig. 5.5 Ironworking in the Siegerland and neighbouring areas about1800

The earliest iron works had relied upon the wind to provide a draught.The hearth and above all the blast-furnace used bellows, commonlymounted in pairs and usually worked by a water-wheel. In any iron-producing region the availability of water power set a limit to theindustry no less certainly than did the supply of charcoal. In some suchregions-the Sauerland, lying to the south of the river Ruhr, forexample - almost every metre of fall in some of the streams was used.Attempts were made to obtain a blast by other means, notably by asuction device known as a trempe,127 which was used in the Alps ofDauphine, but there was no effective alternative until the steam-enginebegan to be used for this purpose in the nineteenth century.

Iron, lastly, was heavy and difficult to transport, and a navigablewaterway was a very important asset. The Siegerland and Sauerland hadthe Rhine; the manufacturing regions of northern Spain and centralSweden were close to the sea; the Urals industry used the network ofRussian rivers. Where there was no such convenience, the type ofironware produced had of necessity to be small goods, easily packaged

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and transported; in short, what has often been called 'Birminghamwares'.

Diffusion of technology

Between the fifteenth and the nineteenth century the technology ofironworking underwent more profound changes than that of any otherbranch of manufacturing. The blast-furnace increased the volume ofmetal available; puddling speeded up the parallel refining process; coaland co*ke were introduced as fuel in order to relieve the growingpressure on the forests, and the cementation and crucible processesaimed to satisfy the demand for steel, which was growing at the expenseof that for soft iron. In the course of the nineteenth century thediscovery of the open-hearth and then the Bessemer processes allowedthe volume of steel-making to keep in line with that of smelting.

The development of the blast-furnace during the fifteenth century wasfundamental to all later inventions. Where it was achieved, and bywhom, is unknown. It probably occurred in eastern France or theRhineland. In all probability the sides of the hearth were raised and astrong blast developed. Temperatures ran higher and, instead of a softbloom of iron, a pool of metal formed on the floor of the hearth. Thiswas, in effect, the Stuckofen, whose sides had to be broken down inorder to extract the 'pig' of iron which had formed. The next stage wassimple. Vents were constructed at the level of the floor of the hearth andwere alternately closed with fire-clay and opened to allow the hot metalto flow out into moulds. The essential features of the modern blast-furnace - with the exception only of the hot blast, which was notintroduced until 1828-were present before 1500.

The iron which flowed from the blast-furnace when its vents weretapped differed fundamentally from that which had been made on thehearth by the skill of the ironmaster. The latter was soft and malleable;the former hard and brittle, capable of being poured into a mould and offorming castings, but useless for welding or forging. It was high-carbonor cast-iron, and in itself it had no uses except to make castings.

Iron castings first appeared on a large scale during the sixteenthcentury. The fluid iron was run into moulds to give decorative firebacks;it was used to cast pots and other vessels of increasingly complex design,and, above all, it was used in cannon-founding. It is doubtful whetherthose who developed the blast-furnace regarded castings as theirprincipal end-product. What they wanted was more bar-iron whichcould be made into nails, tools and other forms of ironmongery. This,however, could only be achieved by a further process which reduced thelevel of carbon in the iron from perhaps 5 per cent to 0.5 per cent orless. Smelting had therefore to be followed by refining, a process in

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which the carbon was literally burned away on a hearth, under theoxidising stream of air from the bellows, until the desired level wasattained.

This was the indirect process. It yielded a bar-iron purer than thatobtained by the older direct process, but incomparably more costly interms of fuel consumption. The advantages offered by the indirectprocess in the production of bar-iron were only marginally greater thanthose of the traditional method, and the superiority of the blast-furnacereally lay in its ability to produce high-carbon iron and thus castings.The spread of the blast-furnace was slow. It reached south-easternEngland early in the sixteenth century, central Germany by the middleyears and the borders of Bohemia before its end. A blast-furnacerepresented a larger capital investment than any industrial equipmentknown hitherto, and with its adoption control of the industry passedfrom the craftsman to the merchant-capitalist. In central and easternEurope it was more often managed by the landed aristocracy, and in theUrals in the eighteenth century it was thoroughly feudalised, and labourwas provided by serfs.

There were three important constraints on the use of the blast-furnace: its inordinate consumption of fuel, the often poor quality of themetal it yielded and the inability of refineries to cope with the increasedflow of iron. The charcoal shortage became acute. In France there werewidespread complaints of the iron-masters who bought up the availabletimber.128 Even in Sweden there were fears - almost certainly exagger-ated - for the continued supply, and the output of iron was in factrestricted by the government. In 1709 Darby succeeded in smelting ironwith co*ke at his Shropshire furnace. Although he made no effort to hidethe secret of his success, over half a century was to pass before he foundimitators. co*ke smelting became general in Great Britain before theend of the century, but it was not until after the Napoleonic Wars that itmade much progress in continental Europe.

In the meantime a solution had been found to another aspect of theproblem, a more rapid and efficient means of refining pig-iron. In 1784Henry Cort took out a patent for a method of converting high-carboniron to soft or wrought iron, using coal fuel in a reverberatory furnace.This was the puddling process which, in association with a rolling mill,was quickly diffused across Europe. Its technology was easy to grasp; itfilled an obvious need, and, above all, it could use any form of solid fuel.

None of these developments had made it easier to produce steel, themost prized and the most expensive form of iron. Chemically itconsisted of iron with a small admixture of carbon; physically it had adistinct crystal structure imparted to it by tempering. The traditionalway of producing steel was by a kind of case-hardening, but the quality

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of the resulting metal varied because absorption of carbon was alwaysuneven. The problem was to produce steel of uniform quality in largeenough masses to make the moving parts of machines. The solution wasfound by a watchmaker, Benjamin Huntsman, looking for a metal fromwhich to make springs of even tension. It might have seemed obviousthat the answer was to melt down the steel and thus to achieve an evendistribution of carbon. In doing so, however, it seemed impossible not tochange the carbon content by oxidising and removing it. Huntsmanused crucibles made of a refractory clay, in which he placed bars ofcement-steel. He then fused lids on to the crucibles with molten glass, sothat nothing could enter or leave. The crucibles were heated until themetal inside them had melted. They were then broken open and thesteel poured into moulds. The process yielded only small pieces of steelat a time when there was a growing demand for large masses to beforged or worked into flywheels, cylinders and shafts. This necessitatedthe pouring simultaneously of the contents of a great many crucibles, atask of immense difficulty. It was the solution of this problem which,early in the nineteenth century, established the reputation and foundedthe fortunes of the German firm of Krupp, although Krupp's method ofmaking Gussstahl was subsequently superseded by the open-hearthand converter processes and, most recently, by the electric furnace(p. 342).

Ironworking was an industry strongly oriented towards the sources ofits fuel and energy. A tendency nevertheless developed for the threestages - smelting, refining and fabricating - to become spatially distinct.This was in part due to their dependence on water power which wasoften inadequate to support more than one branch of the industry at anyone place. It was also due to some extent to the fact that smelting wasorganised on a capitalist basis whereas refining and fabricating remainedin some degree in the hands of craftsmen. There was thus a movementof pig-iron from furnace to refinery, and of bar-iron from the latter tothe workshops of the nailers and other craftsmen. The fabricatingindustry in general remained rural because of its dependence on waterpower, but tended to be oriented to the market. This is well illustrated inthe map (fig. 5.5) of the distribution of ironworking in the Sauerlandand Siegerland.

Sixteenth to eighteenth centuries

By the sixteenth century a number of ironworking regions had emerged(see p. 50). Foremost amongst them were the Basque province Navarreand the western Pyrenees. The local ores were of a high quality and theircoastal location gave them a unique advantage. Spanish iron wasshipped to much of western Europe, but production began to decline in

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the seventeenth century, and by the eighteenth Spain had almost ceasedto be a major source of iron.

Spain's principal competitor in the European market was Sweden.The Swedish industry had developed in the latter Middle Ages, andingots, known as osmund iron, were exported by the ships of the Hanseto western Europe.129 In the sixteenth century the Swedish iron-masters, perhaps in consequence of their adoption of better, water-powered hammers, began to export bar-iron. In the second half of thesixteenth century this grew to be Sweden's most valuable export, and inthe seventeenth accounted for up to three-quarters of the total. Swedenhad the inestimable advantages of ores of high quality and almostunlimited forest resources. In the sixteenth century production wasconcentrated in the province of Uppland, where the ores of Dannemorawere amongst the best available. Mining and iron working later spreadwestwards into Vastmanland, Orebro and Varmland, and north-westwards into the mountains of Dalarna. The volume of iron producedis said to have increased fivefold between 1600 and 1750.13° This rapidexpansion owed much to the introduction of the masonry-built blast-furnace and the Walloon process of refining bar-iron.

Swedish authorities displayed an unusual poncern at a very early datefor conserving their resources. They attempted to spread the industryover as wide an area as possible by separating refining from the smeltingof the ore and pushing the former out into the forests of Varmland andDalarna. In the eighteenth century this anxiety extended also to orereserves. From 1720 a quota was allocated to each mill and in 1747excess capacity was ordered to be destroyed.131 The advantages ofcurtailing production were not restricted to the conservation ofresources. Swedish iron was in great demand, especially in England, andthe limitation of output had the effect of forcing up the price. The totaliron production has been put at 40,000 tonnes about 1600.132 In 1788 itwas still only about 68,000. Internal demand was small, for Swedennever developed iron-using industries before the later nineteenth cen-tury, and most of the output was exported. Exports, however, never rosemuch above 45,000 tonnes a year owing in large measure to restrictionson production. The only iron manufacture which figured significantlyamongst Sweden's exports was ships' anchors. The industry continued tobe dominated by peasant proprietors, who, Jars noted, were oftenthemselves the workers, and, though the manufacture of tinplate wasintroduced in the later eighteenth century, Swedish iron production wasremarkably unprogressive. Gabriel Jars claimed that even the cementa-tion process for steel-making was little used.133 The industry ceased toexpand after about 1770. This was due at first to the rapid growth of theRussian iron industry, which flooded western Europe with a cheaper

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iron than the Swedes could produce. Then technical advances in GreatBritain, Sweden's largest market, led to a drastic reduction in imports ofiron. It was not until the mid-nineteenth century that the Swedish ironindustry again began to grow.

In western and central Europe the cycle of growth in the sixteenthcentury, followed by decline and renewed growth in the eighteenth,brought about considerable changes in the location of the iron industry.During the eighteenth-century period of expansion those regions whichwere best endowed with resources and water power gradually assertedtheir superiority. Those whose only advantage was their isolation fromcompetition - Brittany and the north German plain - for example,continued to smelt and refine iron for local use, until improved transportin the nineteenth century deprived them of the protection which theirremoteness had conferred.

By the later eighteenth century most of the iron production - that ofSweden excepted - was from about a dozen regions, whose importance,both relative and absolute, had been increasing throughout the previoushundred years. These regions can be divided on the basis of terrain andtype of ore into three groups.

The first, and in terms of the volume of production the leastimportant, was made up of those iron works which were located withinthe Alpine system. They included the mines and iron works of theBasque region, the Pyrenees, Savoy and Dauphine. In each the outputwas small and technology in general old-fashioned, but the metalproduced was often of a high quality, and for this reason productioncontinued, often under difficult physical conditions.134 In northern Italythere was a small but important production in the Alps of Bergamo andBrescia135 and in the Ligurian Apennines near Genoa.136 Iron ores fromthe island of Elba were also smelted on the Tuscan mainland, where fuelresources were greater.

The iron ores of the Austrian Alps were abundant, easy to extract andof high quality, and were accompanied by abundant fuel resources. Thelocal market, however, was small, and transport difficult and costly. Theindustry of Styria, Carinthia and latterly of Krain, which lay beyond theKarawanken Alps to the south, remained small. It was largely controlledby merchants from the towns of Leoben, Steyr and St Veit, who sold themetal in Poland, Hungary and the Balkans.137 The industry expanded inthe eighteenth century, but was, like ironworking elsewhere within theAlpine region, slow to adopt western technological innovations andmethods of business organisation. Output in Styria was estimated at20,000 tonnes in 1777, and that of Carinthia at 4000. Production waseven smaller in Krain,138 but the trend was upwards in all provinces.There was also a very small output in Tyrol and Slovakia.

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A second group of iron works was based on the ores contained in theprimary massifs (see p. 4) of central Europe. Ore bodies were oftensmall and difficult to mine, but their quality was usually high and theyyielded an iron suitable for steel-making.139 Iron had long been workedin Brittany, Maine and Anjou and was used mainly for agriculturaltools. There, however, the growing fuel crisis of the eighteenth centurycompelled many forges to close, and yet others were destroyed duringthe Revolution. The Armorican industry was extinguished early in thenineteenth century.140

The iron industry which developed in the Ardennes and Eifel hadlarger reserves of ore at its disposal and more extensive forests, and itpossessed furthermore the immense advantage of proximity to themarkets of the Low Countries and the Rhineland. The early adoption ofthe blast-furnace led to the separation of the smelting and refiningprocesses. The former continued in the interior of the region, wherecharcoal was most abundant, while refining and with it the rolling ofsheets, the drawing of wire and the fabrication of ironwares wereattracted to the tributary valleys of the Meuse, Moselle and Rhinewhere both water power and water transport to the market wereavailable.141 The Meuse valley and the Pays de Liege became in theeighteenth century a highly important source of nails and of all irongoods made from drawn wire.

East of the Rhine resources for the iron industry were even greater.The ores of the Siegerland were 'probably the most valuable . . . inGermany',142 and those of the Lahn-Dill region, the Westerwald andthe Taunus were little inferior. The spread of the blast-furnace, with itsimmense appetite for fuel, had the effect of driving the refineries andfabricating works into areas where the competition for charcoal was lessintense.143 In fact, they concentrated during the eighteenth century inthe deep valleys which drain to the Ruhr, Rhine and Fulda, where therewas water power to turn their rolls and lift their heavy hammers. Herewire, sheet and strips were produced, to be dispatched by pack animalacross the hills of the Sauerland to the workshops around Altena,Iserlohn and Solingen.144 The flow of materials was approximately fromsouth-east to north-west, from the ore and charcoal of Siegen to thenailers' and cutlers' workshops of the Sauerland and the markets ofCologne, Diisseldorf and Aachen.

To the east of the Siegerland and deriving its skilled labour andentrepreneurs in part from it, lay the iron-producing districts of the Harz(fig. 5.6), Thuringian Forest and Upper Palatinate. The industry in theHarz mountains expanded greatly in the sixteenth century; its capacitywas doubled, and by 1600 several blast-furnapes were active. The regionsuffered disastrously from Tilly's army during the Thirty Years' War,

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Early 16th Century

Hearths (direct process)Ore deposits

o Refinery

• Blast-furnace

Fig. 5.6 Ironworking in the Harz mountains

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Active mine



Fig. 5.7 The Clausthal-Zellerfeld mining region in the high Harz. Note the overwhelmingdependence of mining and ore-dressing on water power

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but had more than recovered by 1700 and continued to increase itsproduction during the following century.145 The history of ironworkingin the Thuringian and Palatinate forests followed a broadly similarcourse. The former was noteworthy for its arms manufacture, especiallyaround Suhl. In all these areas the industry survived the NapoleonicWars, but slowly succumbed during the nineteenth century to industriesequipped with the new technology and located close to the coalfields.

Ironworking developed later in Bohemia and its surrounding moun-tains than in western Germany. The region, however, was rich in smallore deposits and its forests were extensive. Water-powered smeltinghearths were established in the later Middle Ages, and in the mid-sixteenth century the Stuckofen made its appearance, to be overtaken acentury later by the blast-furnace. During the eighteenth century thedirect process was largely abandoned, and by 1800 there were nearlyfifty active furnaces, producing over 10,000 tonnes of iron, more thantwo-thirds of them in the Plzefi basin and neighbouring Brdy Forest.146

Output declined during the Napoleonic Wars, but expanded rapidly,with the introduction of new technology, in the 1830s and 40s.

The iron industry of the Bohemian massif spread northwards intoSaxony and eastwards into Silesia and Poland, where ores may havebeen more restricted but the forests were unlimited. Technologicalinnovation was diffused eastwards. The blast-furnace did not begin toreplace the hearth until early in the eighteenth century, and not untillate in that century did it appear in Poland. Silesia, which passed underPrussian rule in 1741, became an oasis of advanced technology, thanksin large measure to the encouragement given by Frederick the Great. Itwas here in 1789 that iron was first smelted successfully with co*ke fuelin continental Europe.147

Ironworking had long been carried on in the Holy Cross mountains,near Kielce in central Poland, but methods continued to be simple andoutput small until the last decades of the eighteenth century. In the1780s a number of blast-furnaces were built, some of which, ruinous andovergrown, still remain. They were feudally owned, and were operatedby the unfree labour of the great estates.148 Development was inter-rupted by the last partitions of Poland and the Napoleonic Wars whichfollowed. After 1815, when the so-called Congress Kingdom of Polandbecame an autonomous territory within the Tsarist empire, thedevelopment of industry in this region was again pursued by StanislasStaszic, as director of industry and trade. The older iron works wererevived and new ones established in the forests of central Poland. Anelaborate use was made of water power, calling for sophisticatedhydraulic engineering. The Polish Rising of 1830 was followed by thesuppression of the Congress Kingdom and the abandonment of these

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Fig. 5.8 Ironworking in Upper Silesia in the late eighteenth century

plans. The development of the Congress Kingdom was a curiousby-product of industrial history, an attempt to create, using onlytraditional means, a western-style industrial complex (fig. 5.9).

The third group of iron works was dependent on ores of Secondarygeological age. These occurred in beds of varying thickness over broadareas of western and central Europe from Perigord to Poland. Thebeds were shallow and easily worked, but their metal content was low,and most contained a high level of the deleterious element phosphorus.In France these deposits made up over three-quarters of known orereserves, and over half of those in Germany. The bedded ores ofPerigord and Limousin began to be worked on an important scale in thesixteenth century.149 The blast-furnace was introduced about 1800 andthere were soon no less than twenty-eight works in the department of

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• Blast-furnace

o Refinery

o Rolling-mill

A Iron-fabrieating


15 30 km

Fig. 5.9 Ironworking in the Kielce-Holy Cross mountains region ofcentral Poland in the early nineteenth century

Dordogne alone.150 Most French iron works before the mid-nineteenthcentury lay in a half circle, enclosing the Paris basin on the west, southand east, and following the outcrop of the ore-bearing Jurassic beds.Works were clustered most thickly around Nevers, in Burgundy and inChampagne. Smaller numbers were to be found in Berry, Lorraine andNormandy. From the limestone plateaux of Burgundy, iron works werespread eastwards, across the Saone valley and through the Jura(Franche-Comte) as far as the Swiss border.151 At the heart of thisregion lay the region around Chaumont, the present departement ofHaute-Marne. Its industry had developed during the Middle Ages andsixteenth century, received a set-back in the seventeenth, but expandedagain in the eighteenth and reached the peak of its prosperity in 1830sand 40s.152 Its advantages were considerable. Superficial ores - the ferfort - were extensive and very easily worked. The fields, it was said,were 'cribles de petites excavations faites au hasard', and theNapoleonic Journal des Mines called for a more systematic exploitationof this valued resource.153 Forests were abundant, and not until thenineteenth century was there any real shortage of charcoal. The region

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to the south-east of Paris produced bar-iron, which was mostly marketedat Saint-Dizier on the Marne or Gray on the Saone. Eastern Champagneand northern Burgundy became the chief source of iron in France.154

The importance of this region grew during the Napoleonic Wars, andwas finally extinguished, very abruptly as it happened, by the competi-tion of the coal-based industry of Le Creusot, Lorraine and northernFrance (see p. 340).

Lorraine, which today is known to have the largest reserve of iron orein Europe and has, after the Ruhr, the most important smeltingindustry, does not figure conspicuously in the map of iron works in thelate eighteenth century. The reason lay, as a memoir of the Revolution-ary government pointed out,155 in the unsuitability of its minette whichyielded only a 'cold-short' iron - cassant a froid. Nevertheless theminette yielded an iron highly suited for castings, and was occasionallyblended with better ores. Some of the later centres of the Lorraine steelindustry - Hayange, Moyeuvre, Herserange, Villerupt - had already inthe eighteenth century developed a smelting and refining industry.Indeed, the de Wendel family was active at Hayange as early as 1704.But the industry grew less rapidly here than elsewhere in France, andeven declined during the Revolutionary period.

The bedded ores of Lorraine extend into Luxembourg and southernBelgium where, however, they were not worked on a significant scaleuntil the middle years of the nineteenth century.156 Comparable oresnear Salzgitter in Lower Saxony did not begin to be exploited until thelatter half of the century.

The new technology

By the end of the eighteenth century, ironworking was carried on by theindirect process almost everywhere. The demand for fuel, as has beennoted (p. 252) was greatly increased and there was an acute scarcity insome areas. At the same time demand for iron was increasing sharply.Inevitably increasing attention was given to the use of mineral fuel inironworking. There were serious objections to using coal in the furnace,since its sulphur imparted dangerous qualities to the smelted metal. Thesolution, adopted successfully by Abraham Darby in 1709, was to useco*ke. But this normally required a larger furnace, higher smeltingtemperatures and a stronger blast. Nor was any coal suited for makingfurnace co*ke, and only by trial and error was the proper combination offurnace and fuel discovered.

Nevertheless, the use of co*ke in the blast-furnace spread rapidly inGreat Britain after about 1750. By 1788, more than three-quarters ofthe pig-iron had been smelted with co*ke, and most of the remainingcharcoal furnaces disappeared a few years la t̂er. No such progress was

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seen in continental Europe. In the 1760s Gabriel Jars was sent by theFrench government to examine the progress made in co*ke smelting inGreat Britain. This report, published as Voyages metallurgiques, waswidely studied for the light it threw on the English process. Hisdescriptions of the processes which he witnessed were far from clear,owing in part to the lack of a scientific terminology, and his reports onthe iron made from co*ke-smelted pig were not encouraging.157 co*ke-smelted iron could not, he reported, be made to yield a serviceablebar-iron. Nevertheless, attempts were made to follow Jars's somewhatconfusing recipe. The first was probably at Sulzbach, on lands of theCount of Nassau-Saarbriicken, and was described by de Genssane. Anaccount of the experiment was published by Duhamel de Monceau, andGoethe roundly condemned it as trying to do too many things atonce.158

The failure of the Sulzbach experiments did not discourage others.Attempts were made to smelt with co*ke at Juslenville, near Liege; at deWendel's works at Hayange; at Dijon, using coal from Montcenis, nearLe Creusot, and in Languedoc with coal from Ales. All were uniformlyunsuccessful. Another visit was made to England, this time by laHouliere who returned to France accompanied by an experiencediron-master, William Wilkinson. This led to a large-scale smeltingoperation at Le Creusot. But the government's support was waveringand ineffectual; the works were closed and were ultimately converted toa factory for glass-crystal.159

Thus, almost a century after Darby's innovation, co*ke smelting hadstill not been adopted successfully in western Europe despite thepressing need for iron and the growing shortage of timber. The firsteffective use of co*ke took place, not in the west where there had been somany experiments, but in Upper Silesia where the Prussian governmentwas in need of iron for military purposes. The Prussian government,unlike the French, acted vigorously. The advice of William Wilkinsonwas sought, and it is commonly held that he visited Silesia. co*ke wasfirst used at Malapanew. It was a failure, but the furnace was rebuilt andits blast increased. The next experiment was successful, and this wasfollowed by the construction at Gliwice in 1794 of a furnace specificallydesigned for the use of co*ke fuel. So far the purpose was to produce ironfor castings, especially cannon. In 1802 a co*ke-fired works was estab-lished at Chorzow (Konigshiitte) for the purpose of making iron for therefinery. It also was successful, and additional furnaces were built threeyears later.

So matters rested until after the Napoleonic Wars, during whichGreat Britain made further advances, while continental Europe - Silesiaexcepted - stagnated technologically. A significant change did however

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take place in the field of communications. Eighteenth-century advanceshad, more often than not, been shrouded in secrecy or described interms which were very nearly incomprehensible. This gradually ended.A scientific vocabulary began to be used, and a periodical litera-ture - the French Journal des Mines was the first - began to disseminatetechnical information to all who would read it.

co*ke smelting was reintroduced to western Europe through Belgium.A furnace was built at Couvin, in Namur province in 1823, to smelt withco*ke and was operated successfully. Two years later John co*ckerill builthis furnace at Seraing, near Liege. In France the use of co*ke wasintroduced in Berry in the 1820s; at Saint-Etienne in 1822; atMaubeuge in 1830; at Denain, in the departement of Nord, in 1837, andin the Boulonnais in 1838-9. It was reintroduced at Le Creusot after theworks had been bought by Schneider Freres in 1836, and was first usedsuccessfully in the Saar at Dillingen in 1838. co*ke-smelting came last toGermany, the country which, as events were to show, had the largestreserves of co*king coal. Not until 1849 was iron first smelted with co*kein the Ruhr, but thereafter progress was very rapid.

In contrast with the slow diffusion of co*ke smelting was the rapidspread of Cort's puddling process (see p. 252). The latter, thoughextremely arduous, was technologically simple, and its adoption solvedtwo problems - the scarcity of charcoal fuel and slowness of thetraditional refining hearth. Lastly, pig-iron, which was already beingtransported considerable distances to the refineries, could as easily bemoved to the coalfields. Puddling was adopted in central Belgium in1820 and at Saint-Etienne and on the coalfield of northern France soonafterwards, and it spread from there to Aachen and the Rhinelandwhere coal could be obtained by water transport from the Ruhr. In the1830s it was adopted on the Saar and Ruhr coalfields. In 1835, with theadvent of railways in central Europe, the demand for puddled iron forrolling rails increased sharply. Puddling and rolling mills - the two werealways associated - sprang up on all the major coalfields. Many - those,for example, at Aachen and Diisseldorf - were geographically divorcedfrom the smelting process and were dependent on pig-iron from in someinstances distant sources. It was through the puddling process, with itsextravagant demand for coal, that the coalfields exercised their mag-netic attraction for heavy industry.


The growing significance of waterborne commerce gave great impor-tance to the ship- and boat-building industry. The number of sea-goingvessels must have increased at least twenty-five-fold between the

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sixteenth and the early nineteenth century. With the growth in numberswent some increase in size and considerable modification in design.Nonetheless the average size of ships about 1800 was little more than ahundred tons. Every effort was made to crowd on as much canvas aspossible, and by the late eighteenth century it seemed impossible to addto the sails of a fully rigged ship. Its size was limited by the extent of thesails which it could carry, so that there was little further increase in shipsize until the coming of steam.160

Until the 1840s sea-going ships were built exclusively of wood. Thelargest shipbuilding industries were to be found in the chief maritimecountries, particularly England and the Netherlands. In north-westernEurope, however, ships' timbers were a scarce commodity, and theyards around the Zuider Zee were heavily dependent upon imports.Though some oak was available in parts of north-western Europe for theprimary structure of a ship, deals for planking and spars for masts had tobe imported. These were supplied mainly by Scandinavia and theeastern Baltic until imports from North America began late in theeighteenth century.161

Though shipbuilding was concentrated in areas generally lacking insuitable timber, construction was also to be found on coasts where therewere forests. The Spanish and Portuguese fleet were largely built alongthe coast of Galicia and the Asturias, and the Baltic region was notunimportant, though its many small ports faced strong Dutch competi-tion in this respect. The little port of Elbl§g, situated on one of thebranches of the Vistula, retained for example a small shipbuildingindustry from the Middle Ages until the early nineteenth century.162 Itdeclined in importance with the ascendancy of Dutch shipbuilders, andconcentrated on small river and coastal craft, but demand continued forits relatively simple products as long as wooden sailing ships were usedcommercially. Elbl§g was but one of many similar Baltic ports whichprofited from the relative cheapness of materials to exploit the lowerfringe of this expanding market.

The introduction of steam power and the construction of iron shipsbrought about a fundamental change in the distribution of the shipbuild-ing industry. Iron plates were first used in river barges in the lateeighteenth century, but in sea-going ships not until the 1840s. The use ofsteam power to propel a ship crept in very slowly in the 1830s and 40s,and was used only as a supplement to sail. The relocation of theshipbuilding industry did not come until the latter part of the nine-teenth century.

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The mining industries

The expansion of metalworking was made possible only by the contem-poraneous developments in mining technology. Improvements in pump-ing were a precondition of deep mining. If most iron-mines before thenineteenth century were little more than shallow pits, coal-mines werebecoming deeper, and the increased coal production of the late eight-eenth and nineteenth centuries was made possible only by the introduc-tion of the steam-driven pump.

Coal-miningCoal had long been mined in small quantities, but medical opinion heldthat its use was unhealthy, and its combustion in stoves and furnacesunsuited to the purpose was unpleasant. On the other hand it was areadily accessible fuel in many parts of Europe. There were an immensenumber of coalfields, most of them very small in their total reserves andtoday no longer used. In most instances the coal seams came to thesurface and were easily recognised. In some cases these outcrops lay onthe flanks of hillsides, so that drifts could be driven into them withoutproblems of drainage. This happened along the Meuse valley upstreamfrom Liege, and in that of the Ruhr, and these two areas were the firstEuropean coalfields to achieve more than local importance.

Early coal-mining was carried on as small partnerships and sometimeseven as a part-time activity on small plots of land leased for the purpose.Unlike the metalliferous-miner, the coal-miner had no right to enterland and search for coal without the consent of the owner, and hismarket was restricted by the cost and difficulty of transport and theprevailing prejudice against it. It is impossible to know with any degreeof certainty how many of the coalfields were being exploited in thesixteenth century. There is evidence for mining in the Burgundian fieldsof Autun, Le Creusot and Champagnac by the middle of the century.163

That of Saint-Etienne in the Lyonnais was being worked and coal wasexported by river from the Liege and Ruhr fields.

The earliest uses of coal were for burning bricks and lime, but itssulphurous fumes detracted from its usefulness in preparing food andheating the home. The shortage and high price of wood were in itsfavour. 'Sea-coal' was used in London, but was strongly condemned bywriters such as John Evelyn, and in Paris its use was prohibited by thedoctors.164 Despite these fears coal became increasingly widely used. By1670 the Rive-de-Gier mines, near Saint-Etienne, were supplying some20,000 tonnes a year to the Lyons region. The Canal de Briare, openedin 1664 (see p. 300), linked the Loire system with the Seine and allowedcoal from Burgundy and the Bourbonnais to reach Paris, while Rouenhad since the sixteenth century imported English coal. Stoves and

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chimneys were adapted to the new fuel. Jars reported that in theSaint-Etienne region people used it for every domestic purpose withoutharm to themselves and with great benefit to the country. Morand wrotein the Description des arts that the high cost of wood was no longer ahardship, since a cheaper fuel was now available, adding that it wouldkeep the masses from idleness and allow the forests to regenerate.165

By the second half of the eighteenth century the prejudice against theuse of coal was being overcome; it remained only to make its usetechnically more efficient. By about 1750 the output of coal in Francehad climbed to about 450,000 tonnes a year, and was increasing sharplyin the Austrian Netherlands. The greatest potential appeared at thistime to lie in the coalfield which extended from near Valenciennes innorthern France across the southern Low Countries and into Germanyat Aachen. Erosion had removed the coal measures between Namur andHuy, and to the west of Mons the seams dipped from view beneath acover of Secondary and later deposits. This coalfield was the best knownin Europe. Buffon regarded the Liege region as 'perhaps in all Europethe area most richly endowed with coal',166 and both Morand and Jarsgave it pride of place amongst European coalfields. The reason was thatthe river Meuse had cut its valley lengthways across the coalfieldrevealing the seams along the valley sides for almost 30 kilometres andfacilitating both mining and transport. The exposed coalfield alsoextended westwards from Namur for about 80 kilometres, thoughbeyond Charleroi it was partially hidden. It had long been mined aroundMons and Saint-Ghislain, where the coal was considered to be of a veryhigh quality, and very small concessions, some of them relating to asingle seam, were granted by the landowners. But to the west, where itwas entirely covered by later deposits, attempts to trace its course hadbeen unsuccessful.167

In 1713 France relinquished her control of the Mons area and with itthe not inconsiderable coal production of this region. This led to asearch on the French side of the new boundary for the continuation ofthe Charleroi-Mons field. The alignment of the coalfield, however,changes direction, and exploratory pits were sunk too far to the south.The brothers Jacques and Pierre Desandrouin then secured a concessionto search to the north of Valenciennes. In 1720 they struck a poor seamnear Fresnes, but reached a workable coal at Anzin in 1734. Many pitswere sunk during the following years, and in 1757 the Anzin companywas formed, absorbing the smaller undertakings and exercising for atime a virtual monopoly of coal production in French Hainault. By thetime of the Revolution, the Anzin company was producing about 37,500tonnes a year, and a number of mines had already been opened on theAniche Concession to the west. But still the greater part of the coal

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basin of northern France remained undiscovered beneath the thickeningchalk of Artois (p. 335).168

Although coal production increased on the French sector of thenorthern basin, the Belgian fields of Liege and Mons (the Borinage)remained the most highly regarded and the most productive. They werein the view of a contemporary 'le plus vaste et le plus richement doue denotre continent'.169 Next in importance, but a very long way behind,came the Saint-Etienne coalfield. Most other coalfields in westernEurope were of little more than local importance. Statistics of produc-tion are, however, inadequate and unreliable, despite the efforts of theNapoleonic government to publish them in the Annales des Mines. Totalproduction west of the Rhine was probably of the order of 2.3 milliontonnes in 1814, of which more than three-quarters came from the coalbasin of Belgium and northern France.170 By 1825 this had increased to3.3 and by the late 1830s to 6 million. Thereafter growth was morerapid, as the western extension of the northern coal basin was exploredand brought into production, and French production drew level withBelgian.171

The largest reserves of coal in Europe lay, not, as had been supposed,in Belgium and northern France, but in the Ruhr basin and UpperSilesia, the one largely hidden by a thick cover of later rocks, the otheron the eastern frontier of pre-industrial Europe where demand wassmall. Coal had been extracted since the Middle Ages from shallow pitssunk into the exposed sector of the Ruhr field, and shipped down theriver Ruhr to the Rhine. The political fragmentation of the regionhindered exploitation. The Prussian government did much to stimulatemining in its sector of the coalfield in the County of Mark and toincrease its efficiency, and production was increased from about 61,000tonnes a year in the 1760s to about 189,000 in the 1790s and to 210,000at the beginning of the next century.172 In the following years coal-mining advanced northwards into the hidden field, and total outputincreased to about 1,666,000 tonnes in 1850, still less than half that ofthe Borinage. On the other hand, the minute fields in northernWestphalia, Hanover and Saxony, like the small French basins, retainedan importance out of all proportion to their resources.173

The Upper Silesian coalfield was in its extent and resources as large asthat of the Ruhr, and its seams furthermore were visible at the surfaceover an extensive area. Coal had been worked by the peasantry fromshallow pits long before the Prince of Pless in the eighteenth centurygranted the first concession. There was however little demand for coaland it would have been many years before a mining industry coulddevelop were it not for the nearby deposits of lead- and zinc-ores. Therewas no lack of demand for these metals, and in 1786 the Prussian

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government bought an English-made steam-engine to work the pumpsat the Tarnowskie Gory lead-mines. The first large demand for coal wasto satisfy the needs of this machine. Other steam-engines followed, andthese, together with the smelting furnaces for lead and zinc and thenewly built blast-furnaces (p. 259) constituted for many years the onlysignificant market for Upper Silesian coal. Coal production remainedsmall and did not exceed 100,000 tonnes a year by 1820. The coming ofthe railway in 1845 brought about a more rapid expansion of mining,and output reached a million tonnes by the mid-century.

The Upper Silesian coalfield extended into both Habsburg Moraviaand Russian-held Poland. Attempts were made at D§browa in the latterto open up mines in the 1840s but met with little success. A few smallmines were developed in the Austrian sector, but in neither wascoal-mining of importance before the late nineteenth century.

Nowhere else in Europe, except Bohemia, was coal-mining of anyimportance. There were several small basins within the Bohemianmassif, as well as extensive deposits of brown coal. The latter wereworked intermittently in the eighteenth century, but there was noserious exploitation of them until late in the nineteenth. Bituminous-coal production reached only about 15,000 tonnes by 1810, butincreased rapidly during the following years, reaching about 150,000tonnes in 1825 and 625,000 twenty years later.174

It is not easy to estimate the total European production of coal beforethe mid-nineteenth century.175 It is nevertheless very doubtful whethertotal output could have exceeded 1,000,000 tonnes in 1700 or1,500,000 in 1750. By the end of the century it must have been(excluding Great Britain) between 3.0 and 5.0 million, of which at leasta third came from the present territory of Belgium. By 1825 productionhad risen to at least 6 million tonnes and by 1850 to 24 million.

The non-ferrous metals

These played a relatively more important role in pre-industrial Europethan at any time since. Lead was used for cisterns, pipes and roofing;copper, pewter, brass and bronze, for making vessels and utensils of allkinds, and the precious metals for decoration, ornament and currency.Europe is noteworthy more for the variety of its metalliferous ores thanfor their abundance. With very few exceptions they are associated withthe Hercynian rocks, and were located in a very few mineralised areas.The most important were the highlands - the Eifel and Sauerland - oneither side of the Rhine, the Harz mountains and the mountains ofSaxony and Bohemia. Within the Alpine system, the southern Mesetaand the rocks of similar geological age found in the Balkan peninsulawere highly mineralised. The highly important lead-zinc deposits of

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Upper Silesia occurred as replacement deposits in limestone. Lastly, theScandinavian massif-older geologically than the Hercynian sys-tem - was also intruded by mineral-bearing lodes. Production wasmainly from a small number of mineralised regions. Most lay within thebelt of hills which extends from the Ardennes, through the Westernwald, Harz and Thuringian Forest to Bohemia and the mountains ofUpper Hungary and Transylvania. To the north lay the mineralisedregions of Sweden, Norway and the western fringe of the British Isles; tothe south, the extensive resources of the Spanish tableland, and of theAustrian and Dinaric mountains.

Emphasis was at first on silver. The Harz mines continued to produceuntil the Thirty Years' War, but were greatly exceeded in importance bythe newly opened mines of Saxony, Bohemia and Slovakia. Silverproduction reached its peak in the Ore mountains about 1530. Thefocus of mining activity then moved across the mountains into theBohemian basin, where the Fugger were active at Jachymov by 1529.176

Mining at Pfibram and Kutna Hora revived after the destruction of theHussite wars. The most vigorous developments, however, took place inthe Carpathian mountains, where the Fugger family of Augsburg, incollaboration with local entrepreneurs, the Thurzo family, introducedGerman capital and mining techniques. There was a short period ofintense activity based on the towns of Banska Bystrica, Kremnica andBanska Stiavnica. In 1541 the Fugger withdrew from their Slovakventures; the volume of ore production contracted, but mining con-tinued at a lower level into the eighteenth century.177

Silver-mining was associated with that of copper, and in several areasthe two were produced jointly. The chief sources of copper wereSweden, the Harz, Vosges178 and Slovakia. Sweden had been the majorsource in the later Middle Ages, but was in the course of the sixteenthcentury overtaken by Slovakia. Copper production rose sharply fromthe Fugger mines and continued at a high level long after they hadabandoned their enterprises in Slovakia.179 These were taken over byother mining capitalists like the Manlicks, Paumgartners and Welsers, andproduction continued though with interruptions through the seven-teenth and eighteenth centuries on a scale sufficient to warrant a visit byGabriel Jars to Banska Bystrica.180 Slovak copper was largely sold in themarkets of western and southern Europe. Smelted near the mines, it wassent across Poland to the Baltic ports, westwards to south Germany, orto Venice. The largest copper market was Antwerp - until the destruc-tion of the latter by the Spaniards in 1576. Thereafter Amsterdambecame the leading copper market.181

Production in Slovakia began to decline in the late sixteenth centurybecause the market was oversupplied, and when it revived after the

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Thirty Years' War, Europe was 'flooded with Swedish copper'.182 Thelarge Swedish copper deposit at Falun - Stora Kopparberg - wasopened up during the later Middle Ages, but production did not becomesignificant internationally until late in the sixteenth century.183 Miningwas carried on by a large number of small enterprises, but they wereconcentrated in the Falun district, and were rigidly controlled by theSwedish crown which took a royalty on copper produced. During theseventeenth century, copper, 'the noblest commodity which the Swedishcrown produces or can boast of, as Oxenstierna described it, was thechief export and the principal means of Swedish war finance. Productionwas encouraged by the government, and Swedish agents abroad manipu-lated the market in order to secure the highest price. Maximumproduction was achieved about 1650 when Sweden produced more thanhalf the copper entering into European trade. The mines were, however,nearing exhaustion, and copper production declined through the seven-teenth century and almost entirely ceased in the eighteenth.

Much of the copper was alloyed with tin or zinc to make bronze orbrass. There was thus a demand for these metals, as there was also forlead, the basis of pewter. Lead and zinc were commonly associated. Itwas an easy matter to smelt lead, but zinc was to pre-industrialtechnology one of the most intractable of metals. Its smelting tempera-ture is above its boiling point, so that it separated off as a vapour andthus was lost. Eventually a condenser, known as a muffle furnace, cameto be used to trap the zinc vapour, but this was not used until about1800. Metallic zinc was unknown until the later eighteenth century, andbrass was usually made by adding calamine, the commonest zinc-ore, tomolten copper.184 The mines of Vieille Montagne, in the Ardennes nearLiege, together with those of the Harz mountains were able to satisfymost of Europe's demand for zinc, but towards the end of the eighteenthcentury Upper Silesia became an important - ultimately the domin-ant - source of supply.

There is little evidence before the nineteenth century of the volume ofproduction of the non-ferrous metals. In general it was very small.Sweden's copper production at the peak of its prosperity was no morethan about 3000 tonnes.185 The Upper Silesian zinc output in 1809 wasonly about 100 tonnes a year.186

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6The pattern of trade

During the three centuries from the sixteenth to the early nineteenth theprevailing economic principles were those commonly known as mercan-tilism or cameralism. This body of doctrine took shape gradually, but itsend was abrupt as the ideas of free trade and international competitionspread to continental Europe from Great Britain. Two aspects ofmercantilist doctrine are particularly significant in the context of thischapter. The first was the view that the precious metals were theultimate repository of wealth. A country should aim to accumulatebullion; its export trade should exceed its imports in value, with theexcess paid for with precious metals. In Mun's words, written in theearly seventeenth century, 'wee must ever observe this rule: to sell moreto strangers yearly than we consume of theirs in value . . . because thatpart of our stock which is not returned to us in wares must necessarily bebrought home in treasure'.1

The second aspect of mercantilism derived from the first. One countryshould be dependent upon another only to the smallest degree possible;it should grow or manufacture as much as it could of what it needed. Todo otherwise would be to give hostages to its neighbours and rivals, andto risk an outflow of bullion. Mercantilist policies were applied withvarying degrees of completeness and understanding. In Great Britainand the Netherlands they were tempered by the high degree of freedomand initiative allowed to the individual merchant. In France and Prussiathe state assumed a vigorous and authoritarian role in dictatingeconomic policy. Everywhere, however, freedom of trade was restrictedin the supposed interests of well-being and security, of opulence andpower, as Mun expressed these objectives of mercantilist jpolicy. Every-thing was done to prevent the export of raw materials and the migrationof skilled craftsmen. The import of manufactured goods was discour-aged and domestic crafts and industries were promoted.

Despite these restrictive policies the amount of trade increasedthroughout the period. Its volume is difficult to measure, and for manybranches of trade there are no statistics. Series are lacking for allcontinental countries before the nineteenth century. A measure of thescale of the growth of trade is the increase in the imports of England and

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Wales by about 430 per cent between 1697 and 1791, and of exports(not counting re-exports) of 690 per cent.2 The commerce of France issaid to have grown by over 300 percent between 1716-20 and 1772-6.3

The expansion of Dutch trade in the previous century was probablyeven more rapid, though there are no adequate statistics to show it.4 Thegeneral course of European trade was marked by growth in thesixteenth century, recession in the middle and later years of theseventeenth, and renewed growth in the eighteenth. This became veryrapid in the nineteenth as factory industries developed and many of therestraints on trade were abandoned.

Much of Europe's external trade was with colonial dependencies. Notonly Spain and Portugal, but also Great Britain, France and theNetherlands acquired overseas possessions, whose purpose was in themain commercial. Colonial trade involved no concessions to rivals andenemies, and those colonies were most valued which contributed mostto the economic needs of the home country. But the growing volume ofimports of colonial origin - there was a more than threefold increase inthe value of Asiatic goods auctioned in Amsterdam between 1648 and17805 - had to be requited by exports, even if they had been obtained atconcessionary prices. The colonial trade thus encouraged export indus-tries, particularly the manufacture of light textiles and ironware, andprepared the way for the technological innovations of the later eight-eenth century.

Europe's internal trade was hindered throughout the period byembargoes, tariffs and tolls. All countries protected their own agricul-ture and crafts by prohibiting or restricting imports, and, furthermore,did their utmost to injure those of their neighbours by restricting theexport of raw materials and part-finished goods. Such restraints wereeven imposed on movements within a single country. France abandonedits internal tariffs only with the Revolution; and the reduction of suchobstacles to trade between the German states did not even begin until1819, and it was not until 1841 that most members of the GermanConfederation had been brought within a customs union.

To these obstacles to internal trade were added the physical difficul-ties which arose from the poor condition of the roads and navigablerivers. The letters of the French intendants are filled with complaints: inPoitou the roads were so bad that people could not get to the fairs andmarkets;6 in Alsace there was not a single paved road;7 in the Auvergneroads were unsuited to wheeled traffic.8 Such conditions tended to drivetraffic back to the rivers, but these - shallow, silted, encumbered withobstacles - were of little use. Throughout Europe, from Spain toPoland, attempts were made to improve them for navigation and toconstruct linking canals (see p. 298), but such projects met with

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only limited success. Technical difficulties were in many instances toogreat, and some areas which called loudly for improved means oftransport had no rivers to improve. The Limousin, for example,exported no wine because it had no navigation.9 Such conditionsoccurred widely. Some improvements were effected in the eighteenthcentury, especially in France. Internal navigation was made easier in theearly nineteenth, but there was no revolution in transport until thecoming of the railways. It is not surprising that the volume of Europe'sinternal trade grew a great deal more slowly than that of external trade,and that those industries were most favoured which had convenientlinks with the coast and ports.

This chapter will examine the changing pattern of Europe's trade overthe period of three centuries, first the external or seaborne trade of thecontinent; then its internal trade, carried on by road, river and canal.The former was made up not only of commerce with the Americas, theMiddle East and Asia, but it also embraced a very important coastwisetrade. The Baltic trade in iron and ships' timbers was intra-European,but it also formed part of Europe's maritime trade, scarcely distinguish-able from that with Canada or Africa. The maritime trade of Europe isconveniently divisible, according to the three spheres in which it wascarried on, into Mediterranean, oceanic $nd northern. These over-lapped and reacted on one another. Antwerp and Amsterdam were asmuch ports engaged in the northern trade as in the oceanic, and Sevillewas a meeting place of Mediterranean and Atlantic. Nevertheless, thefortunes of the three and the types of goods in which they dealt weresufficiently distinct to warrant separate treatment.

External trade

The Mediterranean

Mediterranean trade recovered from the impact of the Portuguesevoyages, but its renewed prosperity was short-lived. Genoa and Venicehad been the foremost amongst the many Mediterranean ports ofEurope. Genoa had never played an important role in the spice trade;her merchants had tended to use 'round' ships rather than galleys for thetransport of bulk cargoes: grain, cotton, alum, timber.10 This trade wasnot tied to particular ports, and the Genoese were able to cut their lossesin the eastern Mediterranean and concentrated on their trade with Spainand north-west Africa and on the processing of imported raw materials.Genoese trade declined, but Genoa as an economic force remainedpotent into the seventeenth century. Venice, on the other hand, stroveto make its traditional system work in changing circ*mstances. By the

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mid-sixteenth century Venetian ships were as numerous in Alexandriaand Tripoli as they had been a century earlier, and 'in the late sixteenthcentury the Mediterranean and oceanic routes competed on fairly eventerms'.11 But Venice was faced not only with the rivalry of thePortuguese, which had indeed lost its edge, but also with the competi-tion of other Mediterranean ports. Of these Livorno (Leghorn),founded early in the century by the Duke of Tuscany to replace thesilting port of Pisa, grew slowly at first, but late in the century broadenedits trade and became a major port for grain and mixed cargoes.12 In themid-sixteenth century the port of Ancona developed an importantMediterranean trade when Florentine merchants began to ship theircloth by this route.13 Dubrovnik (Ragusa) had long traded in theshadow and under the protection of Venice, but in the early sixteenthcentury expanded its activities and, with the help of a large fleet - some180 ships - and a more cordial relationship with the Turks, became amajor port in its own right. Other ports, amongst them Split (Spalato)and Senj (Segna) also came to the fore;14 'Italian [i.e. Venetian andGenoese] domination of the Balkan and eastern Mediterranean tradewas being undermined by the rise of local merchants and local ship-ping.'15 There were, however, other factors in the eclipse of the twogiants of Mediterranean commerce: the failure of Italy's export indus-tries; the renewed danger of piracy in the Mediterranean,16 and theincreasing importance of the land route across the Balkan peninsula,which favoured Dalmatian ports rather than Venice.

Venice, the symbol of Mediterranean trade, served primarily as thelink between central Europe and the commercial system of the inlandsea. In 1508 the Fondaco of the German merchants beside the GrandCanal, which had served their needs since the thirteenth century, wasrebuilt.17 The trade which flowed through the Fondaco fluctuated, butshowed no marked downward trend before the late sixteenth century.The cargoes which entered and cleared the port of Venice were,however, increasingly carried in other than Venetian ships.18 Venetianmerchants, discouraged by competition and the growing risks of naviga-tion, were, like successful merchants everywhere, putting their moneyinto farms on the terra firma. In 1602 the Venetian senate ruled thatgoods brought to the port should be carried either in Venetian ships orin vessels of their country of origin. This was aimed at the carrying tradeof ports like Split and Dubrovnik, but it led in fact to an abrupt declinein the trade of Venice itself, which became a port of local significance,serving the needs of its own inflated population and immediate hinter-land.

The final blow to the trade of the Italian cities came from themerchants of north-western and northern Europe. The English were the

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first in the field. Their cloth trade with the Mediterranean had formerlygone by way of the Antwerp emporium.19 The collapse of the latterencouraged them to deal directly with their customers in the easternMediterranean. In 1581 a company, the predecessor of the LevantCompany, was formed to trade with the Ottoman empire. Exports to theMediterranean were primarily of cloth, followed in importance bypewter and other metal goods. Return cargoes were made up of cotton,silks, dried fruits, wine and oil. The company continued to carry ontrade with the Levant until 1825.20 It was, however, faced with verystrong competition - from the Dutch, the Hansards and the French.21

The Dutch were the true heirs of the Portuguese, and it was in Dutchhands that the oceanic spice trade ultimately triumphed over the landtrade across the Middle East. They were, however, preceded by theFlemings, who for a short period before the eclipse of Antwerp didbusiness directly with Naples and Venice,22 though most of their Italiantrade went overland.23 About 1590 there was a sudden change in thecommercial situation. There had been imports of grain from AtlanticEurope to meet local shortages at intervals through the century. From1586 there was a series of bad harvests, and by 1590 there were famineconditions in many of the larger Italian cities. The Duke of Tuscany sentagents to Danzig to make purchases, and these were quickly followed byVenetian emissaries. Grain shipments from the Baltic began to arrive inthe winter of 1590-1 and increased in volume during the followingyears.24 The crisis did not last, though there continued to be a smallimport of Baltic grain into Italy. The northerners had forced themselvesinto Mediterranean trade and were not easily dispensed with. Some ofthe grain ships were Hanseatic, sailing direct from the Baltic;25 a fewwere Italian which had sailed north in search of grain, but an increasingproportion were Dutch, bringing grain transhipped in the ports of theNetherlands.26 The grain ships returned with cargoes of Mediterraneanproducts: wine and dried fruit, rice and cotton. The range of importsbrought into the Mediterranean by the Dutch increased as Amsterdambecame the focus of north-west European trade, and it was not manyyears before they were selling in Venice the spices which they hadthemselves brought from the East Indies by way of the Cape. Not onlywas Mediterranean trade depressed in the seventeenth and eighteenthcenturies, but only a diminishing proportion of it was left in the hands ofthe Italians themselves. Venice and Genoa, Marseilles and Barcelonawere henceforward concerned mainly with local trade, while the Dutch,English and French sold the products of western Europe in the marketsof the Levant.

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The Baltic

Trade between the Baltic region and north-western Europe grew signif-icantly during the sixteenth century, but it ceased to be dominated bythe merchants of the Hanse. There was little opportunity, in a Europedominated increasingly by powerful governments, for the autonomouscities which made up the League to carry on an independent policy.Attendance at the periodic Hansetage, its only central organ, declined;its sea was invaded increasingly by Dutch and British ships, and, if thefortunes of the Hansards revived later in the century, this was onlybecause the energies of the Dutch were absorbed in their struggleagainst Spain. Liibeck continued to be important for Sweden's trade,27

but for the rest the trade of the Hanse was virtually destroyed by theThirty Years' War and the Swedish invasion. The last meeting of theHansetag took place in 1669.

The heirs of the Hansards were the British and the Dutch. Englishships were in the Baltic in the mid-sixteenth century, importing clothand returning laden with corn and naval supplies.28 The EastlandCompany was formed in 1579, with its principal Baltic trading centre atElbl§g. The Muscovy Company had been formed a few years earlier totrade with Russia by way of Archangel, but soon diverted its activities tothe Baltic port of Narva, from which its members reached Novgorod andMoscow.29 During the later decades of the sixteenth century Englishmerchants did well in the Baltic. Their trade was predominantly in cloth,and towards the end of the century they were supplying some 90 percent of the Baltic import.30 After 1600, however, they began toencounter increasing difficulties. Dutch competition became more vig-orous and successful; the feud between the Eastland merchants and theMerchant Adventurers grew in intensity, the latter claiming a monopolyon the export of unfinished cloth to the Dutch, who finished and sold itto the Baltic. They complained of the high Sound dues levied by theDanes, of the hostility of the Danzigers and of the unreliability of theRussians.31 Their trade declined, and by the mid-seventeenth centurytwo-thirds of the cloth trade was in the hands of the Dutch. ThereafterBritish trade with the Baltic held steady through much of the eighteenthcentury, but this was only because its emphasis had changed. Graindisappeared from Britain's Baltic imports, and was replaced by Swedishiron, flax and hemp from Livonia, and Norwegian timber. British shipsnow sailed to Stockholm, Riga and Narva rather than to Danzig andElbl§g.32

Great Britain's need for iron and naval supplies from the morenortherly Baltic lands increased, and her continuing problem was to findsome means of paying for them in this predominantly bilateral trade.

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The Dutch could, at least in the earlier period, offer a far greater rangeof goods in return. In the course of the eighteenth century, however,bills of exchange began to be used, thus removing one importantconstraint on trade.

Throughout the seventeenth century the Dutch dominated the tradeof northern Europe. Here, as in the Mediterranean, they had beenpreceded by the Flemings. Antwerp had for a time been the terminus ofBaltic trade,33 but in the later years of the sixteenth century it wasgradually replaced by Amsterdam. Indeed, many of the Dutch mer-chants who engaged in the Baltic trade were themselves refugees fromAntwerp. Amsterdam's trade had begun to grow long before the warwith Spain came to a temporary halt in 1609. It was in fact the Baltictrade which provided the sinews of war. By 1600, wrote Christensen,'the Dutch were unquestionably the world's leading seafaring nation'.34

Dutch trade with the Baltic continued to increase, despite wide year-to-year fluctuations, until the 1620s. There was then a sharp drop,brought about by the Swedish invasion of north Germany. A new peakwas reached about 1650, after which the volume of trade stabilised at alower level. There was a further decline in Dutch Baltic trade in theeighteenth century.

In the eyes of contemporaries the explosion of Dutch trade innorthern Europe was little short of miraculous. 'By extraordinaryenterprise and efficiency, they had managed to capture something likethree-quarters of the traffic in Baltic grain, between naif and three-quarters of the traffic in timber, and between a third and a half of that inSwedish metals. Three-quarters of the salt from France and Portugalthat went to the Baltic was carried in Dutch bottoms. More than half thecloth imported to the Baltic area was made or finished in Holland.'35 By1650, as Wilson has shown, 'the Dutch economy had expanded to apoint where further growth was difficult and gains already made werebut precariously held'.

The Dutch were fortunate in having a wide range of goods with whichto pay for their imports. In terms of volume, and generally also in value,salt made up more than a half of the eastbound cargoes of the Dutch.This was followed by salted herring, which tended to increase in volumeas the Dutch developed their 'great fishery', the summer and autumnherring catch off the Scottish coast.36 Wines, spices and textiles were ofsmaller importance. Of these exports to the Baltic, only the herring anda fraction of the textiles were products of the Dutch themselves; the resthad been brought into the Netherlands in the course of Dutch Atlanticand oceanic trade.

The Baltic trade is the earliest for which comprehensive statistics areavailable. This is due entirely to the fact that most of the shipping

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Fig. 6.1 The trade of the Baltic about 1800

entering and leaving the Baltic Sea sailed through the Danish Sound, theOresund, and was there called upon to pay a toll to the Danishgovernment. A record of some kind of the passage of ships was keptfrom the late fifteenth century. By the middle years of the sixteenth thereporting became sufficiently detailed and careful to permit a picture tobe built up of both the cargoes carried and the origin and destination ofthe ships.37 The Sound Registers have, however, to be handled withcirc*mspection. They relate only to traffic through the Sound; they omitall shipping which passed through the Great Belt (the Little Belt seemsnot to have been used), which may have amounted to 15 per cent of thewhole, and also that - probably only a very small percentage - whichtook the overland route from Liibeck to Hamburg. It is evident from acomparison between the cargoes known to have left Baltic ports,especially Danzig, and those declared to the Danish authorities in theSound that there was under-reporting.38 There were furthermore omis-

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sions and errors in recording, and a frustrating tendency to lumptogether goods of very diverse character and origin. Light goods weresometimes smuggled; grain tended to be under-reported, and the onlycommodity to be fully recorded - because it could not easily be hid-den - was timber.

The grain trade was crucial to Baltic commerce in the sixteenth andseventeenth centuries. Its source was mainly the plains of Great Poland,Ruthenia and Livonia. The exportable surplus fluctuated greatly. Theannual average during the first half of the seventeenth century wasabout 68,500 lasts (about 175,000 tonnes). This fell to about 56,000lasts during the second half and to less than 32,000 between 1700 and1749. This decline in exports is not easy to explain. It does not appear tohave been due to any shortage at the producing end: this is implicit inthe price movements, and in western Europe population was beginningto increase at the time when exports declined most sharply. Exportswere largest during the period when famine crises were most frequent inwestern Europe, but it seems likely, as Faber has argued, that westernand southern Europe were in fact able to increase their per capita foodproduction (see pp. 209-10) and needed less from the Baltic in theeighteenth than in the seventeenth century.39

The record of the timber trade by contrast was one of continualgrowth. The Dutch at first dominated it, as they did that in grain. Thelogs were rafted down the Baltic rivers, some of them even supportingloads of corn, and were shipped from the same ports as the grain.40 Butthe timber trade began to contract during the seventeenth century in thesouthern Baltic, probably because of the exhaustion of forests close tothe navigable rivers, and merchants turned to the northern reaches ofthe Baltic Sea. Riga became the foremost timber port, and its hinterlandthe chief source of 'great masts' - those over 12 inches in diameter.41

The timber trade spread northwards from Riga to Parnu and Narva, andin the eighteenth century to the Gulf of Bothnia. Norway was a sourcefor smaller masts, and pitch and tar for caulking were obtained frommost parts of the coniferous forest belt. Little timber was shipped fromSweden owing to the competition of the iron industry and the conser-vationist policies of the Swedish government. Shipments from westernSweden and southern Norway had, however, the advantage of a shortervoyage to western Europe and of freedom from the obligation to passthrough the Sound.

The growing size both of navies and of individual ships, coupled withthe demand for construction timber and wainscoting, placed a greatpressure on the supply of Baltic timber. It became the practice forlandowners to concede cutting rights to individuals who employed locallabour to fell the trees and to drag them to the nearest navigable river.

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There they were floated to the sawmills on the coast, where the logswere cut up and prepared for shipment. Cutting and transport werelargely carried on in winter, when prolonged deep snow provided themost suitable conditions.42 In large areas of the Baltic hinterland forestoccupations provided a valuable, even an essential, supplement to theincome of the peasantry.

A third group of exports from the Baltic region was made up of flaxand hemp. These formed the chief cash crop of the east Baltic peasant.Flax, already retted and scutched, was brought down the Baltic rivers insmall boats, and, with hemp, dominated the export trade of some ports.Together they made up about 60 per cent by value of the exports ofRiga in the seventeenth century, and were shipped mostly to London orAmsterdam.43

Russia was the objective of many of the early Baltic merchants, whowanted not only the pelts of its fur-bearing animals, but also the tradewhich crossed Russia from 'Inner' Asia. The Baltic traders had,however, to compete with those who dealt with Russia by the sea routeto Archangel, but in the course of the seventeenth century the formergained the upper hand.44 The Russian trade was at first carried onmainly by way of Narva and Novgorod. In 1582 Narva was taken by theSwedes, and the trade continued through Tartu and Pskov. Riga was thechief rival of Tartu for this commerce, and after the destruction of Tartuin the war of 1654-60 Riga was left as the undisputed gateway toRussia.45 In 1710 Riga was absorbed into the Russian empire, but noteven the foundation of St Petersburg (Leningrad) in 1706 affected itsfortunes adversely.

Russia's exports came mainly from her Baltic provinces until the riseof the Russian iron industry (see p. 277). The latter in the secondhalf of the eighteenth century dominated the international market forbar-iron, and was able to undersell Swedish iron in the British market.The reason lay not, as might have been expected, in the superiority ofRussian resources in ore and timber, but in lower costs of transport. Forthe iron trade was intimately linked with the export of flax and hemp.The latter were bulky but very light, and ships which loaded flax at Riganeeded also to take on ballast; iron served as ballast and, furthermore,paid a small freight. In 1755, Hildebrand has recorded, a large amountof iron remained in Russia, unexported because there was no flax for itto accompany.46 The Russian iron export lasted only into the earlynineteenth century, when the spread of the puddling process (seep. 252) restored self-sufficiency to western Europe.

The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars virtually extinguishedDutch trade with the Baltic, but added immeasurably to the needs andopportunities of their rival. British trade, especially in timber and naval

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stores, continued to increase, and only tapered off in the nineteenthcentury with the extinction of the iron trade and the replacement ofBaltic timber with supplies from North America.

The Atlantic

In contrast with the long stagnation of Mediterranean trade and the riseand subsequent decline of that of the Baltic, the Atlantic trade ofwestern Europe showed an almost continuous expansion. An increasingproportion of Europe's trade was conducted through its western ports.This trend had been apparent even before the opening up of the oceanicroutes, in the salt trade, the wine trade, and the periodic sailing of theItalian galleys for the Low Countries. It received an immense impetusfrom the development of Portuguese trade with Africa and Asia andfrom Spain's commerce with the New World.

The trade of Spain and Portugal. The twin foci of this new trade wereLisbon and Seville. The former had been the port of departure for thePortuguese voyagers, and it was in Lisbon that the earliest cargoes ofspices brought to Europe by the sea route were unloaded. Lisboncontinued to be the home port of the Portuguese merchant fleet. ButPortuguese trade remained relatively small. Its chief problem was thatPortugal produced nothing of importance with which to requite itsimports from Africa and Asia. It was, in fact, obliged to export bullion,and for this was dependent on its neighbour, Spain.

The Spanish voyages to the New World had all set out from ports insouth-western Spain, much frequented by Genoese and other Italians.47

The ships in which the Spaniards sailed were mostly made along thecreeks of Galicia and the Basque territory, but the focus of theirseafaring activities lay in the small ports near the mouth of theGuadalquivir: Palos, Huelva, Cadiz, San Lucar de Barrameda. Inland,dominating them and controlling their commercial activities, wasSeville, where the Casa de Contratacion had its headquarters. Throughthis cluster of ports flowed almost all the commerce between Europeand the New World. 'Compared with other trade of the period', wroteChaunu, 'the Spanish-American was enormous.'48 The transatlantictrade of Seville and its dependencies grew from some 3-4000 ton-neaux49 at the beginning of the sixteenth century to about 30,000 by1580. There was a decline in the volume erf trade during the closingyears of the century owing to the Spanish losses in the defeat of theArmada. The early seventeenth century, however, marked the culmina-tion of Spanish Atlantic trade, which in 1608 reached 45,078 ton-neaux.50 Thereafter there was a gradual decline in Spanish trade, until inthe eighteenth century Spain was left struggling to protect what

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remained of it from British and Dutch predators.The Spanish ships returned to Spain with cargoes made up in part of

the precious metals. The Spanish import of gold and silver began soonafter 1500 and grew at an accelerating rate until the 1590s. Thereafter itdeclined equally rapidly, and was of little significance by the second halfof the seventeenth century. But returning ships did not carry bulliononly. They lacked the spices which the Spaniards had hoped to find, butthey brought subtropical plants, including maize, which they had withina generation established in Europe (see p. 184). Cargoes outwardsfrom Seville consisted overwhelmingly of corn, wine and olive oil, thatMediterranean trilogy on which the Spanish settlers long subsisted in theNew World. Spain continued for almost a century with what Chaunu hascalled this 'folie economique' - shipping goods of low value at a veryhigh cost. The settlers then began to produce their own food supply, andimports to the New World came to consist mainly of manufacturedgoods, especially cloth, which Spain did not produce. One must,however, beware of exaggerating the scale of Spanish Atlantic trade. Nomore than seventy ships as a general rule sailed from Spain in a year,and the total tonnage of the Spanish fleet in the later sixteenth centurywas appreciably less than that of the revolting Netherlands at the sametime. It has even been suggested that the shipping which frequentedSeville and its outports was less in total tonnage than that which pliedwith cargoes of wool and iron along the coast of northern Spain.51

Antwerp and Amsterdam. Seville and Lisbon, near the meeting place ofMediterranean and Atlantic trade, were complemented by the ports ofthe Low Countries, in which Atlantic merchants met those of northernEurope. During the later Middle Ages the latter had consisted primarilyof the havens of the river Zwin, known collectively as the port ofBruges. In the fifteenth century these were gradually replaced byAntwerp, which became for more than half a century the focus of tradein north-western Europe.52 Its rise was as meteoric as that of Seville hadbeen, and its eclipse a great deal more sudden (see p. 129). To theadvantages of accessibility from the sea and relatively easy communica-tions with the Rhineland and Germany Antwerp added those of a liberalcity administration and an industrially developed hinterland. TheItalians began to use Antwerp as their commercial base in north-westernEurope; the English used it as the staple from which their cloth wasdistributed in northern Europe, and when in 1499 the Portuguese alsochose the city as the staple for their spice trade, the seal was put uponAntwerp's greatness. The Portuguese needed cloth and metal goodswith which to purchase oriental spices; these they could obtain inAntwerp, thus providing a return freight to Lisbon. Antwerp had

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already become a centre for trade in the metal goods of Liege and theEifel; it also attracted metal goods from central Europe, and when theFuggers developed the copper industry of the Carpathian region, it wasonly natural that they should send their metal by river and sea to theport of Antwerp.53

The prosperity of Antwerp was at its height in the 1540s and 50s.Here were to be found colonies of merchants from every trading countryof Europe. Agents bought cloth and metal goods on behalf of theirItalian principals, and their correspondence reveals an intimate pictureof the variety and volume of the goods which passed through the port ofAntwerp.54 In 1553-4 there are said to have been no less than 283Spanish and Portuguese merchants and factors in Antwerp, togetherwith 17 from Italy and a large number from Germany.55 Amongst theforeign residents of Antwerp was Ludovico Guicciardini, who describedthe commerce of the city at the height of its prosperity.56 Every varietyof Italian and English cloth; dyestuffs and leather; alum from Tolfa andsalt from the Bay of Bourgneuf; wool from Spain and Germany; Frenchand Rhenish wines; metal goods and copper 'en quantite incroiable';57

Baltic wheat and rye; flax, honey, skins and furs, and even amber fromthe forests of Poland.58 He estimated the value of goods enteringAntwerp at 16 million crowns yearly, of which English cloth amountedto 5 and Italian to nearly 3. Corn and Rhenish and French wines wereeach worth from 1 to 2 million crowns. All in all the commerce of theScheldt was incomparably greater than that passing through Seville andits outports or, indeed, any other European trading centre at this time.

Antwerp was primarily an entrepot, in which goods from distantsources were traded or exchanged, but it was also, with its Flemish andBrabantine hinterland, a manufacturing region. Part of the trade of theScheldt consisted of wool for the local cloth industries, and amongst theexports were the serges, linens and other fabrics made in this region.Part of the metal imported was also fabricated here, and exportsincluded metal goods from local workshops.59

The glory of Antwerp was short-lived. A recession in the 1560s wasfollowed by the Dutch revolt, and this in turn by the 'eighty years' war'which destroyed the basis of the city's prosperity. In 1576 mutinousSpanish soldiery did irreparable damage to the city. Many of Antwerp'smerchants migrated northwards and helped to build the prosperity ofAmsterdam. Lastly, the truce of 1609 drew a boundary across theScheldt a few kilometres below the city, thus cutting it off from the sea.Much has been made of this so-called 'closure of the Scheldt', and it hascommonly been taken to mark the end of Antwerp as a port until theriver was reopened by the French in 1792. The Scheldt and its estuary,the Honte, had never been easy to navigate, and many 'great' ships had

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normally been offloaded on to lighters which then carried their cargoesup to the city.60 Indeed, it is improbable that Antwerp could ever haveaccommodated all the ships that regularly came to the Scheldt. Theeffect of the closure was to prevent any ship from sailing directly fromthe sea to the city. All had henceforward to unload at Middelburg intoriver craft. This somewhat limited traffic was never interfered withexcept in time of war. The chief obstacle to the use of the Scheldtbecame, in fact, the high tolls imposed by the Dutch on this transit trade.

The 'closure' of the Scheldt proved not to be a complete disaster; itwas, as Van Houtte remarked, 'loin d'etre hermetique'.61 The popula-tion of Antwerp, which had fallen by half by 1595, began to increaseagain during the following century. Merchants continued to use Ant-werp as a business centre, if no longer as a commercial base. Theydevised ways of circumventing the Scheldt, including the use of theFlemish port of Dunkirk and even of Calais, and they were able tomaintain their overland trade with the Rhineland and Germany.62

In most respects, however, the mantle of Antwerp was assumed byAmsterdam, but it underwent a number of alterations in the process. Inthe first place, Antwerp had never developed a merchant fleet, ownedand based in the city. At most, an Antwerp 'registration' extended onlyto a number of small coasting vessels.63 Amsterdam, on the other hand,built up a large fleet of vessels whose home ports lay around the ZuiderZee. The Dutch fleet, most of it based on Amsterdam, was withoutquestion the largest in Europe - or indeed in the world - in the latersixteenth century. The commerce of Amsterdam and of its neighbouringports of the Zuider Zee had developed in the later Middle Agesprimarily as a northern trade. The expanding traffic in corn and timberoffered the opportunity and Dutch energy and initiative provided themeans for the rapid growth of this northern trade in the later sixteenthcentury; 'they shame us with their industry', wrote Owen Feltham in1660; ' 'tis their Diligence makes them rich'.64 At the same time theDutch developed financial organisations and institutions in advance ofthose known in Antwerp and more suited to their new commercial role.A new bourse was begun in 1608; an exchange bank was opened duringthe next year, followed by a bank for loan transactions, and, in 1616, bya special bourse for the Baltic grain trade.65

The trading activities of Amsterdam soon extended far beyond thescope of the northern trade. The influx of refugees from Antwerpbrought with it an interest in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean and theoriental trades. 'Of the 320 greatest depositors in the exchange bank',wrote Barbour, 'more than a half had come from the southern pro-vinces', and by 1631 'about one-third of the richest Amsterdammerswere of southern origin'.66 It was the merchants of Amsterdam who

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established a connection between the northern and the Mediterraneantrades, exchanging the grain and timber of the one for the wine, oil,cotton and silk of the other. The opening up of Dutch trade with theOrient created a third dimension to their commerce. The Portuguesehad pioneered the route to the east, but no longer had the strength todefend it. The first Dutch voyage to Asia, in 1595, promised well, andduring the following half century they created an empire in south-eastern Asia, from which they virtually expelled the Portuguese andexcluded the British. For the first half century spices and pepper madeup more than two-thirds of Dutch imports from Asia; during the second,textiles and textile materials increased almost to a half of a greatlyincreased total. During the eighteenth century, when the value of DutchAsiatic trade grew only to a small extent, that of spices and pepperdeclined, while the value of tea and coffee increased to a quarter of thetotal.67

To these maritime commercial activities the Dutch added the mosthighly developed fishery known to this date. In the 1660s they are saidto have had a thousand specially built craft of 50 to 60 tonneaux.68 Mostimportant was the 'great fishery', the herring fishery carried on off theeast coast of Great Britain between June and January. During the rest ofthe year the 'small fishery' was conducted in the area of the DoggerBank. These were supplemented by the less important North Atlanticand Newfoundland fisheries. These fisheries supplied an important itemin the Dutch diet as well as an export commodity, particularly to theMediterranean. '. . . it is difficult', wrote Wilson, 'to overestimate thevalue of the fisheries in the Dutch economy. They were basic to it, asagriculture was basic to most other contemporary economies.'69

The Atlantic coast of Europe. Between Seville and the Sound laycountless small ports, carrying on an active trade with one another,receiving goods from the major ports and feeding cargoes into thesystems of long-distance commerce. Many lay at or near the mouths ofrivers which provided a link with their hinterlands. Some - those forexample on the rock-bound coasts of Brittany and Galicia - suppliedships and sailors rather than commodities, serving as carriers forwestern Europe. The Breton was 'le transporteur universel'.70 Therewas an intense maritime activity. Around the coast of north-westernFrance alone, from Mont-Saint-Michel to the Bay of Bourgneuf - some600 kilometres - there lay the astonishing total of 123 small ports.71 AtSaint-Malo, probably the largest port on this coast, there were abouttwo thousand arrivals a year in the 1680s.72 Only about 5 per cent ofthese ships belonged to le grand commerce and were over 100 tonneauxburden. Nearly 60 per cent were each of less than 20 tonneaux, and

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carried on only a short-distance trade with neighbouring ports.73 LeHavre, Dieppe, La Rochelle and Nantes were comparable with Saint-Malo. All others had a very much smaller trade and were visited by veryfew 'great ships'. Most harbours were in fact too small to receive them.

Every port, however small, handled an immense variety of merchan-dise. The ports of Normandy exported grain and cloth, and importedwine, salt, timber, iron and a vast range of exotic goods relayed fromBritain or the Netherlands.74 Saint-Malo gathered by means of le petitcabotage coarse linen cloth for export to Spain or America; grain fromNormandy; wood and fuel; slates and lime; wine and salt, and fish fromboth inshore and deep-sea fisheries.75 Brest also exported coarse Bretoncloth.76 La Rochelle shipped wines from Saintonge and salt from thelocal salines, and distributed Spanish wool to the clothiers of Poitou.77

The traffic of Nantes was augmented by the wheat and wine broughtdown the Loire. In return salt, metals from Spain and England, salt fishfrom Brittany and the Netherlands, and Breton toiles brought incoasting vessels, were sent upstream.78 In the later seventeenth centurythe trade of Nantes was expanding despite the depressed economicclimate of the times;79 it seems probable that the French were beginningto take over some of the traffic previously handled by the Dutch.

The most rapid expansion in these years was, however, in the trade ofBordeaux and of the ports of the Seine estuary. Bordeaux had long beenthe chief port of Aquitaine and handled most of its large wine export. Inthe late seventeenth century it began also to trade with the Frenchoverseas dependencies, and in the eighteenth century became theforemost French port in the New World trade. On average 150 ships ayear cleared the Gironde for the West Indies, laden with cloth, wine,grain, salted meat, fish and butter. Their return cargoes were made upchiefly of sugar - mostly in the form of molasses - coffee and indigowhich were distributed by coastal shipping to the ports of north-westernand northern Europe.80 Much of the sugar went to Amsterdam,Hamburg and Stettin. Bordeaux was slowly taking over much of thecolonial trade in which a century earlier the merchants of Amsterdamhad been supreme.

The ports of Rouen and Le Havre, despite the difficult channelleading to the former and the lack of protection of the latter, alsodeveloped during the eighteenth century. They commanded the largestand the richest hinterland of any European port at this time. Theyimported, not only wine, grain, fish and other foodstuffs, but alsoindustrial raw materials - cotton and Spanish wool - for the clothindustries of their hinterland. Rouen and Le Havre also developed aBaltic trade, and in the eighteenth century were second only toBordeaux in that with the West Indies.81

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The growth of the major French ports during the eighteenth centurywas paralleled by that of the German North Sea ports. Both groups werein part heirs to the commercial predominance of the Dutch. In the earlyseventeenth century Emden enjoyed a short-lived prosperity largelybecause it provided, as it were, a flag of convenience for Dutchmerchants, allowing them to continue to trade with Spain, with whichtheir country was at war. Hamburg and Bremen remained ports of littlemore than regional importance until the early eighteenth century, whenthey began to take on the role, formerly played by the Dutch, ofexporters of German - particularly Silesian - cloth and of forwarders ofFrench sugar and wines to the Baltic.82 By the later eighteenth centurythe Bordeaux-Hamburg trade had gone far towards supplanting theolder Amsterdam-Danzig relationship.

Hamburg had considerable advantages: its freedom from seriousdisturbance during the wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centurieswhen its rivals were destroyed; its links by river and canal with easternand south-eastern Germany, and its social structure, which resembledmore closely that of Amsterdam or London than that of the gild-riddentowns of Germany. The completion of the system of canals in Branden-burg, linking the Elbe with the Oder, extended the port's hinterland,while the orderliness of Prussian rule greatly facilitated trade. The largeexport of Silesian linen, according to Mirabeau, went exclusively by wayof Hamburg, and the latter became the chief centre for the distributionof colonial wares in central Europe.83 On the eve of the FrenchRevolution, it has been said,84 Hamburg absorbed 'fully one-third of allFrench exports', which it transhipped to central Europe. Bremen came adistant second in the foreign trade of Germany at this time, largelybecause it lacked easy communications with an extensive hinterlandsuch as Hamburg enjoyed. Its forwarding trade tended, in consequence,to make greater use of the Danish Sound and the Baltic ports.

Internal trade

Only part, and probably a very small part, of Europe's trade passedthrough its ports; most crossed its internal boundaries, despite theobstacles which these presented to the movement of goods. Tolls andtariffs were charged at most boundary crossings and also at many pointswithin each country. This led in a few instances to the keeping of recordsof the flow of merchandise; more often it led to smuggling, for whichthere is no statistical record. There was during the eighteenth century agradual relaxation of internal obstacles to trade. In Germany many suchrestraints disappeared during the Thirty Years' War; within the Habs-burg lands internal tariffs were abolished in 1775, and this free-trade

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area was extended in 1796 to include the Austrian share in thePartitions of Poland. In France internal barriers to trade were morerestrictive than elsewhere. Every historic province had at one timeimposed its system of duties. In 1664 Colbert succeeded in forming acustoms union for northern France, known as 'les Cinq GrossesFermes', but his attempts to extend it to the rest of France were wreckedon the parochialism and vested interests of the remaining provinces. Notuntil 1790 were all obstacles to internal trade abolished; 'instead ofmore than a thousand bureaux scattered over the country, slowing uptraffic by their inspections and bureaucratic controls, there were nowsome 750 concentrated on the frontiers alone'.85 At the same time thegabelle and the tabac, highly variable local taxes on salt and tobacco,were also abolished. A unified customs system was a necessary condi-tion of its use as an instrument of national policy. In Germany, wherethe multiplicity of staple rights (see p. 357) and tariff barriersreached their extreme, the situation was not resolved until thenineteenth century.

Markets and fairs

The mechanics of trade changed little during the period. It continued, asduring the later Middle Ages, to be built on the broad foundation ofmarket and fair, and, if the role of fairs had begun to decline in westernEurope, they remained very active into the nineteenth century in centraland eastern. Europe was strewn with markets, each serving its marketarea of a hundred square kilometres or more. The market was held onceor twice weekly. Here the peasant disposed of his surplus produce andbought those necessities which he could not grow or make himself. Herecame the petty merchants and dealers, offering a few exotic goods forsale and buying up corn, skins, leather and live animals for the supply oflarger and more distant places. The small town or village was the firststage in provisioning the large city and in the export of coarse cloth forthe colonial trade. The market was also a social occasion, the 'principaldistraction' of the peasant, who would often go to market even if he hadnothing to sell or buy.86

The fair served a somewhat different purpose, complementing theactivities of the market. It met less frequently, often only once a yearand rarely more than three or four times. It usually lasted for severaldays, and its business often included some specialised activity. Itattracted traders from a much wider area than the market, and it was anoccasion when the peasant or the inhabitant of the small town couldmake an exceptional or unusual purchase. Fairs tended to disappearfrom the larger towns, from Paris and Antwerp, for example, and theattempt to establish a fair at Nuremberg failed.87 This was because the

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occasional gathering of traders at a fair could offer nothing that was notnormally available in a rich and prosperous city. Fairs belonged toregions of Europe where towns were few and small.

There was nonetheless no lack of fairs in France; no less than about130 were active in the generalite of Paris, but their most importantactivity was the seasonal trade in horses, other animals or wine. Fairs inthe thinly populated province of Quercy, where there were no towns ofsignificance, had a very much wider range of function.88 The Guibrayfair in western Normandy and that of Beaucaire in Languedoc wereamongst the most active in France, but the Parisian fairs of Lendit,Saint-Germain and Saint-Laurent were becoming the occasion more forjollification than for commerce,89 and the Lyons fairs, founded in thefifteenth century to detract from the importance of those of Geneva,were of steadily diminishing importance in the seventeenth and eight-eenth centuries.90

The most important fairs in the Low Countries were those of Antwerpand of Bergen op Zoom. They had been very important in the fifteenthcentury for trade in cloth and general merchandise, but in the sixteenththey were becoming increasingly superfluous, and they did not outlastthe century.91 In the northern Netherlands the chief medieval fair, thatof Deventer, declined with the growth of Amsterdam.92

If the role of fairs was declining in western Europe in the face of thegrowing commercial importance of the larger towns, this was far frombeing so in central and eastern Europe. In Germany there were animmense number of fairs, many of them merely Krammdrkte, at whichonly goods of trifling value were sold; some concerned mainly with thesale of horses and cattle. In the Prussian Rhineland province there wereno less than six hundred in the early nineteenth century,93 though mostwere of negligible importance. At least until the end of the eighteenthcentury a dozen or more leading German fairs continued to play animportant, even a decisive, role in German trade. Foremost amongstthem were the Rhineland fairs at Frankfurt, Strasbourg and Zurzach,the last held at a village of that name on the Swiss bank of the upperRhine.94 It was pre-eminently the fair of south-western Germany andthe Swiss plateau. It had lost something of its earlier significance withthe decline of the south German cloth industry, but was still a fair ofregional importance.95 Frankfurt, however, never lost its importance asa general fair. A French report of 1810 showed the immense range ofgoods bought and sold and the very great area from which its clientelewas drawn.96 Every variety of cloth and leather and of metalwork andjewellery could be bought there, and it was still, even at this late date,frequented by traders from as far away as Poland and the Danube basin.The smaller size and lower frequency of towns in east-central Europe

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led to the growth of many other important fairs: Nordlingen in southGermany; Brunswick, Naumburg, Erfurt and above all, Leipzig incentral Europe, and Breslau (Wroclaw), Frankfurt-on-Oder, Poznariand Danzig on the borders of Poland. In the Balkan peninsula therelative importance of fairs was even greater than central and easternEurope. Here the fairs served as fixed points in the otherwise unstruc-tured movements of traders. The medieval fairs, most numerous andimportant in the mining districts of Bosnia and Serbia, were destroyedby the Turkish invasions. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuriesanother group of fairs developed, mainly along the traditional highways:in Transylvania, near the Danube, and in the Marica valley of Thrace.97

Thessaloniki had never lost its medieval importance as a fair town, andthere were other fairs in Macedonia and Greece. As late as themid-nineteenth century the fair of Uzundzovo, held on the old imperialroad from Istanbul to Sofia, still had three thousand stalls, and the fairsof the Balkans decayed only with the coming of the railway and thecreation of the modern boundaries, which obstructed the freedom ofmovement on which the fairs had depended.

Transport and travel

Most of the internal movement of goods before the railway age was byroad, despite the problems presented by poor surfaces, steep inclines,and the slowness and clumsiness of the vehicles in general use. Thegreater convenience of water transport was recognised, but few riverswere without obstacles to navigation and they rarely flowed in directionsin which merchants most often needed to go. Nevertheless, attemptswere made at intervals from the later Middle Ages to the present tomake rivers more navigable and to link river basins together by canals.

Roads. The network of roads described in the first chapter underwentno significant change before the nineteenth century. Some roads passedinto disuse; traffic was intensified on others. But no new roads werecreated and few improvements were made. Travellers would still usehilly roads rather than those across the level plain, because the formerwere likely to be dry, though rough, and the latter, muddy andimpassable. The route taken between Paris and the Rhone valley, whichtoday follows river valleys for most of its course, more often crossed tothe Loire and threaded the mountains of the Lyonnais. Occasionally ariver was used to supplement the roads, and travellers, their baggageand even their horses were taken on to flat-bottomed boats. Thetranscontinental routes which linked Italy with Germany incorporatedsections of river, and many were the travellers who rested as they glideddown the Rhine or the Po after the rigours of the Alpine crossing.

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There was a gradual shift in emphasis between these great routeswhich linked the north with the south of Europe. Medieval merchantsand travellers had teided to use the more westerly passes, especially theMont Cenis and the two St Bernard passes. The ascendancy of Antwerpled to a greater use of the Rhineland route which led to the centralpasses, of which the St Gotthard was the easiest and most favoured.98

More easterly routes, notably that from Hamburg by way of Nurembergand Augsburg, tended to use the passes of the Engadine, particularly theSpliigen and Septimer, now largely abandoned in favour of the Malojaand Julier. Much of the traffic to and from Venice crossed the Alps bythe Brenner Pass, but there was also a considerable movement of goodsover the low Tarvis and Semmering passes to Vienna and Bohemia.

Within the Alps traffic was concentrated on a half-dozen routes. Thepasses were in consequence heavily used. Bishop Burnet, who crossedthe Spliigen Pass in the mid-seventeenth century, described Spliigenitself as 'a large village of above two hundred Houses, that are well built,and the Inhabitants seem to live at their Ease, tho' they have no sort ofSoil but a little Meadow-Ground about them . . . Those of this Villageare the Carriers between Italy and Germany, so they drive a greatTrade; for there is here a perpetual Carriage going and coming; and wewere told, that there pass generally a hundred Horses thro' this Town,one day with another; and there are above five hundred carriage-Horsesthat belong to the Town.'99 Thousands must have been employed incarting merchandise and assisting travellers across the mountains.Bertrand de la Broquiere in the fifteenth century described how guideswere used on the Mont Cenis whenever the path was hidden by snow.100

The volume of traffic on the roads of Europe was increasing in thesixteenth century. In France Louis XI had in the previous centuryestablished a system of couriers; this had the effect of emphasisingcertain roads and of attracting more travellers to them. In 1599, HenryIV's minister Sully appointed an official with responsibility for maintain-ing and improving the roads. Some work was done on bridges in the firsttwo decades of the seventeenth century, but then the project lan-guished101 until it was revived by Colbert in the 1660s. He directed thatroads linking the more important towns, including the ports, should bekept in good order. But he was obstructed, like Sully before him, bothby those provinces - the pays dfelection - over which he had littleauthority, and by certain vested interests which had no reason towelcome competition from outside their local areas.102 The intendantswere given responsibility for roads, and in some instances madeattempts to improve their appalling condition. In Burgundy, the provin-cial estates in 1682 took up the problem, though without any significantresults.103 The turning point came, however, towards the middle of the

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eighteenth century. In 1738 a new form of corvee, la corvee royale, wasimposed on the peasantry, an obligation to contribute labour towardsthe improvement of the roads. Even more significant for the future wasthe creation in 1747 of the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussees, and, threeyears later, a corps of engineers was established. Henceforward therewas, in Trenard's expression, 'une veritable politique routiere',104 andFrance began to develop a network of trunk roads radiating from thecapital and spanning most of the country.

Thus the task of creating a road system, which in England wasentrusted to the unco-ordinated activities of turnpike trusts, wasassumed by the state. Nowhere else in Europe, not even in Prussia, wasanything significant done to make land travel less difficult before thenineteenth century.

Rivers and canals. These provided the only alternative to the roads.Water transport was generally cheaper and often safer, but it wasusually very slow. Tavernier travelled from Vienna to Budapest early inthe seventeenth century by boat, for, he wrote, 'the Road by Land isseldom travelled, in regard that the Fontiers of both Empires [i.e.Habsburg and Ottoman] are full of Thieves and Boothaylers [i.e. thosewho carry off booty]. In fair weather you may go from Buda to Belgradein less than eight days, but we were forc'd to stay longer upon the water,in regard of the Cold weather.'105 The distance by road would not havebeen more than 350 kilometres, which could certainly have beencovered in less than half the time. Few travellers made use of rivers,except for short distances. There was no navigable river which was not,at some time during the year, rendered impassable for boats by lowwater, floods or ice. In the Mediterranean region this closure lasted formuch of the summer. The design of boats had to be adjusted to theconditions of the stream, just as navigation was to the seasons. Thecapacity of river boats was in most instances small, never more than 10tonneaux (about 15 cubic metres), except on a few large rivers, andgenerally less than 5.106 Boats normally tied up at the river's bank forloading and unloading; only in a few cities were there masonry-builtquays. The boats were usually owned by the boatmen who sailed them,and river navigation was for many of them only a secondary occupation.Not surprisingly, inland navigation was 'saisonniere, sporadique, inter-mittente'.107

In Italy there was a regular traffic on the Po, and the Tiber was usedto transport supplies, chiefly corn and timber, to Rome. In Spain onlythe Guadalquivir was much used, but there was some navigation on thelowermost stretches of the Tagus, Duero and Ebro. Some Spaniardsnevertheless formed the extraordinary opinion that internal navigation

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had a future in their country, and proposed the construction of canals tojoin up the river basin.

France was well endowed with navigable rivers. Their radial patternand their relatively even flow encouraged not only their use for localtraffic but also fostered the opinion that they could be linked into anational system. Sully included the improvement of rivers and theconstruction of canals in his plan to revolutionise internal transport.Late in the seventeenth century Vauban saw in the improvement ofnavigation the chief means of increasing trade, and listed the riverswhich he thought most suited for navigation and capable of improve-ment.108 The intendants showed a praiseworthy, but not always effec-tive, zeal in improving rivers, and one of their most frequent recom-mendations during the crisis years of the 1690s was for navigablewaterways, which alone, it seemed, could bring relief to their afflictedprovinces.

Most French rivers were in fact used only irregularly. The Rhone waseasily navigated in its deltaic course, but above Aries there was little orno upstream traffic, and not a great deal came down the river. TheLoire, despite its shallow and shifting bed, was used more than mostrivers, since, alone amongst French rivers, it flowed westwards, thusallowing a sail-driven boat to move upstream with the wind for much ofthe time. It carried a good deal of salt from the Bay of Bourgneuf, and,after the completion of the Canal de Briare in 1642, timber, corn andcoal for the Paris market were brought down its upper course. Only theSeine appears to have been used more regularly than the Loire, and thisbecause of the immense demands made by Paris.109 Food, wine, metalsand salt were brought upstream from Rouen and Le Havre, as well asthe farm products of Normandy. Downstream traffic included timber forconstruction and rough wood for fuel. In fact almost all Paris's supplyarrived by water.110 In 1725 this amounted to 420,000 voies. Muchcame from the Morvan by way of the Yonne; most was floated to Parisin winter when the level of the river was at its highest. Other down-stream cargoes included corn from Champagne and Brie and wine fromBurgundy. Paris was the focus of one of the largest - perhaps thelargest - system of waterborne commerce in Europe, but its volumemust not be exaggerated. If all the boats which passed upstream fromNormandy had been fully loaded - which they were not - they could notin the eighteenth century have carried more than 75,000 tonnes ofcargo. In fact, they probably carried no more than about 45,000.in

On most other French rivers the traffic was small and irregular. Thetributaries of the Garonne had long been used to convey wine toBordeaux, more because the smooth movement of the boat was lessdamaging to the wine than the road journey than for any reasons of

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Fig. 6.2 European canals and navigable rivers, early nineteenth century

economy. On the Dordogne, for example, traffic was significant only inwinter and spring, and consisted, in addition to wine, of chestnuts,cheese and building materials from the Central Massif.112 Most riverswere, however, used, if only intermittently: the Somme to aboveAmiens, the Aa to Saint-Omer, and the lowermost courses of otherrivers despite the continued silting which impeded navigation.113

Rivers were very much more important in the network of transportand communication in the Low Countries than elsewhere in Europe.Road construction in the alluvial region of north-western Europe wasdifficult. Bromley, at the end of the seventeenth century, found the roadfrom Emden to Groningen 'only passable in Summer, for most of theWinter it is under Water'.114 Within the Netherlands, however, hetravelled 'in large cover'd Boats drawn by Horses, which is not only easybut expeditious; the Hour of the Boats coming in, and going out, is sopunctually observed, that upon the Ringing of a bell it goes off, without

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staying for any Person whatsoever'.115 This highly organised system ofcanal travel was made possible by the close control which the Dutchwere obliged to maintain over the level of the water in their rivers anddrainage canals. There was no significant current; the banks weremaintained; there was no danger of low water and little of flood, andonly ice in winter held up navigation. Sir William Temple noted 'thegreat Rivers, and the strange number of Canals . . . [which] do not onlylead to every great town, but almost to every Village, and everyFarm-House in the country; and the infinity of Sails that are seen everywhere coursing up and down upon them'.116 It is likely that theNetherlands, and here only the more westerly provinces, formed onepart of Europe where transport by water was more important than byland.

The Rhine is today the most-used internal waterway in Europe, yetthe primitive river was not an easily navigable stream. Its upper coursecould generally be used only for downstream travel, and from Basel toStrasbourg very little traffic moved against the current. Not until Mainzwas approached did one find a really active river traffic. This continuedto Cologne, where Stapel- and Umschlagsrechte effectively endedthrough navigation, and there was little traffic on the lower Rhine. Theseventeenth century saw a decline in long-distance traffic; the localMarktschiffe were as active as ever, but the larger boats had disappearedfrom the river. Some of the princes of Baden and the Palatinate tried toopen up a through trade, but tolls, the vested interests of some of theriverine cities, and the physical conditions of the river always defeatedthem. Gothein described the 'ode Stille' of the river, disturbed only for ashort period each year by the traffic of the Frankfurt fair.117 In fact, therafting of timber remained the most important activity on the riverabove Mainz.

Two changes were necessary before the Rhine could become a majorcommercial highway. The first, legal and political, would sweep awaythe toll-stations and abolish the rights of certain cities to hinder andobstruct the movement of boats. The second was technological, thestraightening and deepening of the bed of the stream in certain criticalsections of its course. The former was accomplished between 1803,when France advanced her boundary to the Rhine, and 1831, when theConvention of Mainz abolished the last of the medieval restrictions onthe freedom of the river.118 In 1816 the first steamboat appeared on theRhine, and in the following year the first steps were taken to straightenthe very difficult section of the river above Speyer. The work wasentrusted to the Baden engineer Tulla. His method was to cut a new bedfor the river through its convoluted meanders. The effect was to steepenthe stream-bed and thus to increase the speed of flow.119 This in turn

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scoured the bed and kept it free of sediment. Unfortunately it also madeupstream travel more difficult, so that the success of Tulla's work was infact contingent upon the use of steam-powered ships. Work continuedon the river during most of the century, and by about 1850 the effectivelimit for barges pulled by a steam tug was Mannheim. By this date,however, the railway had been built along the Rhine valley and wasdrawing traffic away from the river. The importance of the latter wasrestored only by the development of the bulk transport of goods ofrelatively low value - coal, iron-ore, crude oil - late in the century.

The tributaries of the Rhine had little importance as navigablewaterways before the present age. The poet Goethe, in his hasty retreatfrom the battle of Valmy (1792), took a boat down the Moselle, but theriver was in fact very little used. The lower Main was used for localtraffic, but goods coming upstream from the Rhine had to be tran-shipped at Mainz into smaller craft. The little river Lahn was usedprimarily to transport iron-ore and charcoal from the hills of Nassau,120

and there was some movement on the lower course of the Neckar. Coalwas shipped down the river Ruhr to Duisburg for the supply ofRhineland towns, but of long-distance trade there was little evidence.On no European river did the volume of trade before the industrial agefall so far short of its potential as on the Rhine.

The north German rivers, the Weser,121 Elbe and Oder, were used inthe sixteenth century mainly for local traffic. The Weser in particularwas used for shipping timber and grain to Bremen as well as salt fromthe numerous salt-springs of the vicinity. The importance of the Elbe layin the linkages which it provided with the Baltic region, allowingmerchants to circumvent the Danish Sound. The Stecknitz Canal joinedLiibeck with the Elbe at Lauenburg. Plans were made in the sixteenthcentury to join the Elbe with the Oder, though the first such connectionwas not completed until 1620.

The Vistula was much used, even though its physical conditions werefar from favourable. Its bed was shallow and changing, and the river wasobstructed by ice in winter and liable to severe floods. On the otherhand there were few fiscal or political obstacles, and boats had arelatively unimpeded voyage from the limit of navigation to Danzig atthe river's mouth. There was, however, little navigation aboveKazimierz Dolny, where the road from Ruthenia reached the river.Here a number of granaries, many of which still survive, were built inthe sixteenth century, to hold the corn until shipment in 'great Flatt-bottomed lighters called Canes, off which some tymes 1500 or 2000 attonce ly Neare the Citty [of Danzig] and May have, one with the other,aboutt 15 men each. By report above 160,000 tonnes of Corne isshipped from hence every Summer.'122 Peter Mundy left a sketch of the

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canes passing under the great wooden bridge at Torun, the lowest on theriver, 'comming downe laden with Corne rowed with paddles . . .Another setting uppe against the stream and with poles and staves,laden with Herrings, wyne, etts. Commodities from Dantzigk.'123

The boats were adapted to navigating the shallow river. In thesixteenth century they had a capacity of about 12 lasts, or over 10 tons.This was increased in the seventeenth century to about 38 lasts.124 Theriver was generally open for navigation from March to November, whenthe grain from the previous year's harvest was sent down to the Baltic.Figures survive for a few years in the mid-sixteenth century of theamount of grain passing the toll station at Wrodawek, between Torunand Ptock; it amounted at most to about 20,000 lasts,125 only a fractionof the volume suggested by Mundy. The river trade is said to haveemployed up to 28,000 boatmen. Cargoes were made up overwhelm-ingly of rye, though the quantity of wheat increased during theeighteenth and early nineteenth centuries with changes in demand inwestern Europe.126 The amount of river traffic fluctuated with politicalconditions. It declined during the period of the Partitions, but remainedimportant until the coming of the railway swept the last grain ships fromthe river.

Canals were constructed to supplement the rivers, to extend theirrange and to link two or more river systems together. Most canalscrossed a watershed, necessitating not only the construction of sluices orlocks, but also the provision of water at the highest point of their course.The first European canal to breach a watershed was the Stecknitz Canal(see p. 297 above). In the 1540s plans were prepared for linkingrespectively the Havel and the Spree with the Oder, using a marshyUrstromtal or glacial river valley for the purpose and thus minimisingthe need for locks. The canal from the Spree to the Oder was in factcompleted by the Great Elector and was opened in 1669. The linkbetween the Havel and the Oder, later known as the Finow Canal, wasbegun in 1605 and completed in 1620. But its life was short. It had beenpoorly constructed; it fell to ruin during the Thirty Years' War, and hadto be rebuilt under Frederick the Great. The annexation of West Prussiaby Frederick in 1772 gave him the opportunity to construct a linkbetween the Oder and the Vistula. The Notec, which joined the Wartha, atributary of the Oder, approached to within 30 kilometres of the Vistulain the vicinity of Bydgoszcz, and the two rivers were separated only by amarshy valley. In 1773-4 a canal was cut through this depression, anarmy of 8000 peasants being drafted for the purpose. During thefollowing years the canal was much used by boats sailing from as faraway as Poznan to the port of Danzig.127 Nowhere else in Germanywas a comparable work undertaken before the late nineteenth century.

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At the end of the eighteenth century the Upper Silesian coalfieldpromised to become a major source of fuel for Prussia, and in 1788 itwas proposed to construct a canal along the valley of the little riverKlodnica from the Oder to the coal basin. Work was begun in 1792, andby 1806 a section of the canal from Gliwice to the mines at Zabrze wasopen for traffic. The main section of the canal, from Gliwice to Kozle onthe Oder, was not completed until 1812. It was used almost exclusivelyto transport coal, which then passed down the Oder and through thecanals of Brandenburg to Berlin. The waterway was not particularlysuccessful. A normal coal barge proved to be too large for the shallow,twisting Oder, and no more than 60,000 tonnes ever passed downstreamin a single year before the coming of the railway made the canalsuperfluous.128

The magnates of Poland were much impressed by the potentialities ofwater transport; many of them owed their fortunes to the shipment ofcorn by way of the Vistula. In the later eighteenth century plans werelaid for the eastward extension of the catchment area of Baltic trade.First in the field was Michal Oginski, who in 1765 began the construc-tion of a canal to join the Niemen with the Prypec and thus with theDnepr (fig. 6.3). The Oginski Canal was opened in 1784. At the sametime work was completed on the so-called Royal Canal, which linkedthe Bug, a tributary of the Vistula, with the Prypec. A third canal, theAugustow Canal, was cut to join the Vistula system with the Niemen.This activity was then brought to an end by the final Partition and theNapoleonic Wars, and there was to be no further development beforethe twentieth century.

Early in the sixteenth century Gustavus Vasa had envisaged a canalacross southern Sweden both to serve the needs of Swedish internalcommerce and to circumvent the Danish Sound. Nothing came of thisidea, but canals were cut to join lakes Malar and Hjalmar, and in theseventeenth century surveys were made near lakes Vattern and Vanernwith a view to extending this canal westwards to the newly founded portof Goteborg. It was not, however, until the end of the eighteenthcentury that this difficult project was undertaken. The resulting canalwas not opened until 1832, and was replaced by the Gota Canal later inthe century.129

The most ambitious canal-building projects in Europe before theindustrial age were in France, where they were encouraged by the gentlerelief, by the interpenetrating river basins and, above all, by politicalunity. The plan to connect the great river basins of France, and thus tolink the Atlantic coasts with the Mediterranean, was initiated by FrancisI, who discussed it with Leonardo da Vinci and had a survey made ofpossible routes. The project lapsed during the religious wars of the

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fDanz ig^







150 krrN-\r

"V. Nie

T\Q Vilna

Augustdw Canal

^ _ ^Grodno r^~

\ Canal / "


f OginskiCanal

Fig. 6.3 Canals and navigable rivers in eastern Europe

second half of the sixteenth century, but was revived by Henry IV andSully. Only one of the projected canals was completed at this time, thatlinking the Loire at Briare with the Loing, a tributary of the Seine, atMontargis. It was begun in 1608, interrupted after the assassination ofHenry IV and not completed until 1642. Paris had come to depend onthe Central Massif and the Loire valley especially for wine, timber andcoal. These goods now used the canal, together with the salt which wasbrought up the Loire from the sea. The canal was a financial success,and it has been claimed that during the seventeenth century 200,000tonnes of merchandise a year were carried along it.130 This encouragedthe construction of a further canal from the Loire near Orleans toMontargis. The river Loing was itself replaced for navigational purposesby a lateral canal during the following century.

The Languedoc Canal, or Canal des Deux Mers, was a much moreambitious project, and work was not begun on it until nearly a centuryand a half after Francis I had first proposed it. It was designed to join the

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301 The pattern of trade

Garonne at Toulouse with the Mediterranean at Sete, a distance of 240kilometres, and it called for a rise of 190 metres and the construction ofseventy-four locks. The project received strong support from Colbert,and was completed in the years 1665-81. It was, in Skempton's words,'the greatest feat of civil engineering in Europe between Roman timesand the nineteenth century'.131 It aroused the admiration of contem-poraries. John Locke described it before its completion, with its '17locks between Castelnaudary and Toulouse, and at each the goods areto be carried from one boat to another, for at each lock the boat ischanged'.132 There was even a daily packet-boat from Castelnaudary toToulouse a year or two before the canal was completed. To ArthurYoung the Languedoc Canal was 'a noble and stupendous work . . .alive with commerce'. At Beziers was a 'port . . . broad enough for fourlarge vessels to lie abreast; the greatest of them carries from 90 to 100tons', and, he concluded, 'This is the best sight I have seen in France.'133

There is no question but that both the Orleans-Briare and theLanguedoc canals were technically and economically successful. Theywere, however, followed by a multiplicity of projects, most of themunsuccessful or left incomplete. Plans to link the Moselle with both theMeuse and the Saar were never put into effect;134 the Picardy Canalfrom the Oise to the Somme was left unfinished owing to lack ofmoney,135 as was also the Burgundy Canal from the Seine system toDijon and the Saone. The only other canal to be completed in theeighteenth century was the Canal du Centre, cut from the Loire atDigoin to the Saone at Chalons. The French did not lack vision ortechnical skill; they were defeated primarily by the cost of canal-construction. The Canal de Briare, it should be noted, was completedonly because Sully drafted 6000 soldiers to assist in the laborious workof digging and carting earth. Under Napoleon the Saint-Quentin Canalwas finished to allow coal from the departement of Nord to reach Paris,and the short Ourcq Canal was cut around Paris from the Marne to theSeine. After the Napoleonic Wars a veritable canal mania seized theFrench. In 1820, the engineer in charge of transport, Louis Becquey,secured approval for an ambitious plan which would, in effect, completethe canals left unfinished before the Revolution and add a number ofothers which were thought to have a political or economic significance.Between 1820 and the mid-century no less than 2500 kilometres ofcanal were constructed. Apart from the canal from the Loire to Brest,built for strategic purposes, the new canals either focussed on thedeveloping industrial region of Le Centre (see p. 340) or linked theParis basin with the coalfield of the north and the increasingly importantindustrial regions of the north-east and east (see fig. 6.2). By 1850France had an integrated system of internal navigation. Its many

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segments had, however, been constructed at differing times and tovarying specifications. It remained only to standardise their sizes and tobuild canal barges to suit them. This was done by the Freycinet reform,beginning in 1879.

In the Low Countries it was sometimes difficult to distinguishbetween rivers and canals, for most rivers were in some degreecanalised. Nor were the canals constructed primarily for navigation.Most served in the first instance to evacuate the water pumped from thefields. The first modern canal cut exclusively for navigation was theBrussels Canal, which in 1550-60 was dug from the city to the riverRupel. Its purpose was to improve connections with the port ofAntwerp, though these expectations were ended by the Spanish war andthe closure of the Scheldt. The latter did, however, contribute to a flurryof canal-building in Flanders. The Scheldt was linked with Bruges andthe coastal ports from Ostend to Dunkirk, which served as one ofAntwerp's outlets to the sea.

The reopening of the Scheldt in 1792 and the formation of the UnitedNetherlands led to a further programme of canal-building. A canal linkbetween Antwerp and the Meuse was begun under Napoleon, and after1815 the Ghent-Terneuzen Canal was enlarged to take sea-going ships.A canal was also cut from Brussels to the coal basin at Charleroi.

In the northern Low Countries transport and communication werealready in the sixteenth century heavily dependent on waterways,natural and artificial, and subsequent works were in the main designedto improve them. In particular, the Voorne Canal was constructed in1827-9 to improve access to the port of Rotterdam, and the NorthHolland Canal (1820-5) linked Amsterdam with the sea at Den Helder.Attempts to improve Amsterdam's connections with the Rhine wereless successful. Canals cut through Gouda and Utrecht silted up, and theproblem was not solved until late in the century.

Spain's halting economic progress in the later eighteenth centuryencouraged plans to develop a canal network. Attempts had been madeas early as the sixteenth to canalise the Ebro. In 1768 the project wasrevived. It was to consist of a canal, the Aragon Canal, along the Ebrovalley and through the mountains to the north of Burgos to the coast.This was then to link with the Castile Canal, to be cut through OldCastile to Valladolid, Zamora and Segovia. Lastly, the navigableGuadalquivir was to be extended northwards, across the Sierra Morena,to La Mancha and thus to Madrid.136 Improved communications withthe coast, it was expected, would revive the moribund economy of theinterior. This project was pursued only intermittently, and was probablybeyond the financial and technical resources of Spain. In all some 300kilometres of canal were built, but 'none of the critical junctions was ever

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made, with the result that for economic purposes the canals began nowhereand ended nowhere'.137 By 1840 only two sections of canal were in use:from Valladolid to Palencia, and along the Ebro valley from Zaragoza toTudela.

European trade at the end of the eighteenth century

The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars came at the end of a period ofsteadily increasing external trade. There are, however, no statisticalseries which measure its rate of growth other than those of the trade ofGreat Britain with continental Europe. The aggregate trade of Englandand Wales rose from £20,471 thousand in 1750 to £39,173 in 1791.Growth was even more rapid during the next decade. The total trade ofGreat Britain increased from £42,402 thousand in 1791 to £73,723 in1800. A significant fraction of this was with continental Europe (table6.1).138 These figures, when allowances are made for inflation, show astagnating trade with the Mediterranean and a rapidly expanding tradewith northern Europe. Since Great Britain had become the dominantcommercial power in the latter region, one must assume that the volumeof trade of northern Europe was growing steadily through the secondhalf of the eighteenth century.

Table 6.1a









Percentage ofBritish trade

a In thousands of pounds sterling. Figures for 1791 and 1800 relate to GreatBritain; those for 1750, to England and Wales.

Nevertheless, European trade constituted a steadily diminishingfraction of Great Britain's external trade during these years. This was inpart due to the reduced export of Swedish iron to Great Britain; in partto wartime interference with trade, but, above all, to the increase in thecolonial and New World trade. Amongst imports the biggest increaseswere in raw cotton, sugar, tea and, towards the end of the period, coffee.Exports which showed the sharpest increases were cotton yarn andcloth, but there were also noteworthy increases in shipments of coal,woollen cloth and, in the last decade of the century, iron.

One cannot of course use British statistics to throw light on the trade

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of continental Europe, except insofar as their trade was mutual, but thequalitative evidence suggests that the more important ports of westernEurope also experienced a considerable increase in their colonial trade,greatest probably in the case of France;139 least in that of Spain andPortugal. There is no evidence for a comparable expansion in internaltrade, except insofar as this was linked with external. The increasedexport of Silesian linen, for example, mainly through the ports of Stettinand Hamburg, is well documented, and must have been accompanied bya movement of bread grains and other consumer goods into the weavingtowns and villages along the foot of the Sudeten mountains. But overcontinental Europe as a whole there was no mass demand for consumergoods until well into the nineteenth century.

The northern trade

Aside from the colonial and New World trade, that of northern Europewas the most active at the end of the eighteenth century. This was due inlarge measure to the fact that Scandinavia and the Baltic regionconstituted the most important source by far of ships' timbers and navalsupplies, the demand for which was increasing at the end of the century.Great Britain, in particular, considered the Baltic trade to be of criticalimportance, and in 1801 fought a naval battle in the Danish Sound inorder to keep it open for British trade. Four years later Jepson Oddypublished his treatise on European trade, which, despite its title, wasrestricted to the commerce of Russia, Germany and the Baltic.140 It wasthe most detailed and comprehensive study of the trade of this region tohave been published up to this time.

Oddy's study showed the exports of northern Europe to be dominatedby timber, flax and hemp from the more northerly ports, and by grainfrom the more southerly. Russia was the source of most of the timber,half of it coming from St Petersburg. '. . . by far the best fir wood inEurope, and the finest masts came by way of Riga', but an immenseamount also came from Russia through Memel and Danzig. The Oginskiand Royal canals greatly extended the hinterlands of Russia's Balticports, and the trade of Memel, previously very small, was increased bythe timber 'from the forests of Prince Radziwitt, whose father would notsuffer the forests to be cut in his time'. Hardwood timber from theCarpathians was rafted down the Dunajec and other tributaries of theVistula, but it is evident that forest products had been reduced to minorimportance in Poland.

Hemp, flax and the oil expressed from them were particularlyimportant exports of the east Baltic region, making up no less than athird by value of all Russia's exports. There was also an export of coarselinen. Tallow, grain and iron made up most of the remaining cargo

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