Re: Large cities at time of contact

Mary Beth Williams (
28 Jun 1996 18:21:42 GMT

In <> writes:
>Mary Beth Williams wrote:
>> I've been doing some research, and have to dispute this last number.
>I think the Paris population was more for the 15th century. Didn't
Paris attract a large number of foreigners?

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.

>> I haven't looked into your numbers for Italy, ... then few cities
would fall > into your *large city* category after 1350 AD.
>This was the conclusion I arrived at. Although i have Venice,
>Florence, Milan, Naples, and Genoa, as exceeding 50,000 in the 15th
>century. Paris was the only location with a population exceeding
>100,000. I thought Rome might have, but taking into consideration the
>events you mentioned it doesn't seem likely. I would be interested in
>knowing whether it exceeded 50,000.

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?

MB Williams
Dept. of Anthro., UMass-Amherst

>I appreciate the research you've done.