Re: Large cities at time of contact
Fri, 28 Jun 1996 12:45:35 -0700

Mary Beth Williams wrote:

> The population of 40,000 previously given by G. Duby was for 1390 AD,
> only 10 years from the start of the 15th century. The population
> didn't completely rebound for nearly two centuries. Furthermore, think
> of the meaning of the phrase you supplied *attrack a large number of
> foreigners*.. Attract from *where*? All of Europe at this time was
> devastated by plague, and in fact, foreigners were shunned, and often
> killed due to suspicion that they were the cause (not completely
> unjustifiably) of the spread of the disease. Furthermore, the fate
> suffered by those in the cities terrified many country folk, who for
> generations avoided such large congregations of population.

Even your estimates jumped from 40,000 to 100,000. Isn't it concevable that Paris,
if it was more successful in recovery, would have drawn people looking for a
better life? Of course, if they were killing off foreigners, that would make this
sort of immigration a bit difficult. Honestly, I do not know where the figures
came from. I've taken your 100,000 estimate as more probable.

> I'm not sure that the sources you used even took into account the Black
> Death, but merely picked up an early population estimate and calculated
> a population growth. Italy was hit hard by plague, and if these cities
> were this large only a few years _after_ the epidemics hit, what were
> their populations _beforehand_. As I stated, Paris was apparently the
> largest city in Europe at the beginning of the 14th century, and yet
> had only 40,000 by the end of the century. How did these other cities
> manage to have larger populations?

There are several possible factors.

First, with the increasing dependence in water transport (it was more affordable
and safer than land), these cities would have become important trade centers, and
Paris would have lost much of it's importance. Also, just because Paris lost over
half it's population doesn't mean that these cities were hit as hard. I'm only
talking a growth to over 50,000. If Paris grew from 40,000 to 100,000 isn't it
likely that these cities also experienced rapid growth? Surely they attracted
people from all over Europe; even more so than Paris.