Urban geography in Early Modern Period

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 24-05-18 17:33
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  • Urban geography in Early Modern Period (according to Penny Roberts)
    • Northern Italy and southern Netherlands
      • In 1500, most heavily urbanised areas
        • due to having been economic powerhouses of medieval European economy
      • Largest towns housed over 50,000 inhabitants
    • Largest towns housed over 50,000 inhabitants
      • Italy contained most of these
        • Venice
        • Milan
        • Genoa
        • Florence
        • Rome
        • Naples
        • Palermo
      • Most countries only had one town this large
        • e.g. London, Paris, Lisbon
      • In Spain
        • Seville
        • Granada
      • Istanbul was sole contender in east (alongside further-flung capitals of Mughal Delhi and Persian Isfahan
        • Underlines how unusually urbanised Europe was by world standards
      • Urban growth was largely concentrated in these major cities rather than smaller towns
      • According to Clarke and Saupin
        • Mid-C16th England
          • England, by contrast with much of Western Europe, was 'lightly urbanised'
          • Only 5% of its population living in communities of over 5,000 inhabitants
            • Rose to 8% by 1600
        • France had seven towns of more than 20,000 and further twenty of 10-20,000
    • settlements of 5,000+ inhabitants were  'chief' towns of Europe
      • most were set to grow, a few to decline, but no new ones to appear
      • typical urban community remained much smaller than this
        • and urban density was therefore much greater than might be presumed
    • urban density
      • Depends how towns are defined or what urban characteristics such settlements displayed
      • Previously, historians have favoured size (typically over 2000 inhabitants) or presence of physical demarcations (principally walls)
        • regional variation renders such distinctions problematic
      • in some places (such as Southern France), almost any settlement was walled, whereas elsewhere even quite large towns were not, and in general need for and function of walls as means of protection declined over period
      • there is now general consensus that a more secure measure to determine where a large village ended and a small town began is economic status
        • to be categorised as a town, a community must have contained a diversity of trades and manufacture, meaning majority of population was not producing for its own subsistence as agricultural workers
          • common occupations included:
            • weavers
            • shoemakers
            • bakers
            • smiths
          • further characteristics included:
            • acquisition of certain privileges
              • e.g. towns were often taxed differently from countryside
            • development of urban elite
    • definitions of urban
      • According to Postan
        • towns described as 'non-feudal islands in the feudal seas'
          • implies their development and nature were quite distinct from countryside which surrounded them
      • it is clear most towns, even largest,  contained significant proportion of agricultural workers, who lived in town but worked in neighbouring fields or vineyards during the day
      • development of market-gardening within town walls suggests many contained quite extensive land suitable for cultivation
        • as well as stimulus given to agricultural output in general by growth of urban demand
      • there were all kinds of urban/rural interdependencies, with even continuing involvement of 'feudal' lords  in governance of some towns
      • complicating picture further was existence of near-autonomous city-states which dominated surrounding countryside
        • such as those in Italy, parts of Swiss Confederation and the Empire
      • As early modern period proceeded, urban life drew traditional rural nobility into towns
        • attracted by new theatres and salons in major cities
        • most obvious pull was court in princely residences
    • As serfdom decline in Western Euroepe, rural society became less feudal
      • other dependencies developed which were more related to socio-economic change than to urban oppression
        • thus, urban/rural relationships should be seen as  mutually beneficial, not automatically antagonistic
      • towns had an established role in local economy because of their essential function s a market where peasants could sell their surplus or exchange goods
      • evident areas of tension
        • especially over grain supply, taxation and exploitation of countryside by town
      • relationship was dependent to large extent on region
        • factors such as degree of rural immigration (necessary for towns to sustain and, certainly, increase their populations due to high urban mortality) o purchase of rural lands by members of urban elite
      • Growing tendency in this period was for closer ties in production through the 'putting-out' system or proto-indutrialisation
        • involved manufacture of certain goods, especially textiles, in countryside, where labour was cheaper and there were fewer regulations
          • so merchants - who provide raw materials and marketed finished product - were able to prosper from increasing peasant need to supplement meagre incomes at a time of socio-economic adversity
            • thus craftsmen in towns adopted other functions: finishing off goods or specialising in production of luxuries, e.g. silk industry and stocking-making
        • development of system threatened livelihoods of textile workers
          • workers made up significant proportion of urban population, but many were able to adapt and to embrace complementary practice

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