The Population of Early Modern Europe Essay

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The population of early modern Europe

After a long century of population loss—the period from 1347 to the later 15th century—Europe in the 16th century experienced a strong recovery. The recovery did not come without setbacks, but in general the population in any given place in Europe reached the level it had had prior to 1347 some time during this century. This fundamental fact of rising population affected all sorts of things, from economics to social relations to immigration patterns.

Somewhere around the mid-17th century (this varied by region), the strong growth of the 16th century levelled off. In some areas, population even lost ground again. Growth remained relatively stagnant right into the early to mid-18th century; when it took off again, it was into the astonishing growth that was to last for over two centuries and shows little signs of slowing even now. But that takes us well beyond the bounds of this course.
General Trends and Some Specific Examples

Some numbers

Here as elsewhere for our period, we finally can provide some reasonably reliable statistics. Here are some population levels for European cities in the early 16th century.
Bristol 12,000 Lübeck 20,000 Strassburg 25,000
Cologne 35,000 Florence 50,000 Genoa 50,000
London 60,000 Venice 100,000 Naples 100,000
Milan 100,000 Paris 200,000 Constantinople 500,000

By 1700, the following cities were up over 100,000: London, Rome, Seville, Antwerp, Amsterdam, and Palermo. London had 500,000; Paris was nearly as large.
Demographic Crises

Plague and famine continued to stalk Europe, though with less severity than in the earlier period (the fourteenth century and into the fifteenth). The causes were generally the same, but some new diseases appeared in the 16th century that had a major effect. Syphilis was one of these, a disease brought back from the New World and which various peoples tended to blame on foreigners. Thus, for example, the Italians called it "the...

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