Grantham G. W. (1997) The impact of pre-industrial cities on agrarian productivity

May 25, 2008

Grantham George W. and Sarget Marie-Noëlle (1997) “Espaces privilégiés : productivité agraire et zones d’approvisionnement des villes dans l’Europe préindustrielle” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 52/3, 695–725

Article available on line.

Low agricultural productivity and high transportation costs before the second half of the 19th century induced a low demographic density (695). In 1821, J. H. von Thünen showed that – due to these characteristics – a series of specialised agrarian rings tended to encircle the cities and ordered so as to minimize transportation costs. The most precious productions (milk, vegetable) were located close to the urban centres, while the bulkiest (wood, grain) tended to be rejected further. Read the rest of this entry »

Van Zanden J. L. (2002) The revolt of the early modernists and the first modern economy

May 18, 2008

Van Zanden, Jan Luiten (2002) “The ‘revolt of the early modernists’ and the ‘first modern economy’: an assessment”, Economic History Review, 55/4, 619-641.


The vision the historians (Abel, Le Roy Ladurie) of the 1950-60s had of the early modern European economy was particularly pessimistic. They emphasized increase of poverty and production ceilings. In their view this agrarian stagnation was abruptly ended by the Industrial Revolution (I.R.). Later the consensus shifted toward a more gradual improvement of productivity and the very term ‘revolution’ was kept only out of convenience (Craft) (p.619). Developments such as international trade, proto-industry, enhanced agricultural productivity were seen as necessary for the structural changes of the 19th century to take place. De Vries branded this revisionist pattern the ‘revolt of the early modernists’ (Persson). Read the rest of this entry »

Rapp R. T. (1975) The unmaking of the Mediterranean trade hegemony

May 11, 2008

Rapp Richard T. (1975) “The Unmaking of the Mediterranean Trade Hegemony: International Trade Rivalry and the Commercial Revolution”, The Journal of Economic History, 35/3, 499-525.

“It was the invasion od the Mediterranean, not the exploitation of the Atlantic, that produced the Golden Ages of Amsterdam and London” (p.501).

Even if the expression of “commercial revolution” has been somewhat demonetized, but the author maintains that there was a “shift in the locus of European trade from the markets of the Mediterranean to the North Atlantic overthrew a centuries-old pattern of commerce and established the basis for the predominant role of North Atlantic Europe in the era of industrialization.”(p.499) This shift is often credited by scholars to the sole geographic discoveries of the 15th and 16th century, while internal factors are deemed secondary. The author hypothesises that the rise of Antwerp and London may have more to do with the Northerners aggressive competition in the Old World’s marketplaces than with their proximity with those of the New World.. (p.500) In his view, production capacities are what gave the Dutch and English traders an edge on their Mediterranean competitors. Thus, for the Mediterraneans perspective, it was not a decline relative to a competitor’s unmatched growth, but rather an active destruction of their hegemony. (p.501)
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Goldstone J. A. (1998) The Problem of the ‘Early Modern’ World’

May 4, 2008

Goldstone Jack A. (1998) “The Problem of the ‘Early Modern’ World”, Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 41/3, 249-284.


Goldstone proposes here his elegant “own interpretation with minimal defence”(271) of what was the pre-modern world and what brought the modern one. Was there such a thing as an “early modern” period for each nation and the world in general? Goldstone argues, this period was neither “modern” nor “early”. Read the rest of this entry »