Kindleberger C. (1991) An early manic episod

December 25, 2009

Kindleberger, Charles P. (1991) The economic Crisis of 1619 and 1623. The Journal of Economic History, 51/1 : 149-175.


The early European 17th century has commonly been described as the troublesome transition from a medieval to a modern economy (p.149). The multi-layered crisis of 1619-23 is a perfect embodiment of the woes of the time. However, the author’s “interest in that crisis does not concern its potential role as a catalyst of modern economies, but rather its function in the mechanism for the spread of a primarily financial crisis from one part of Europe to another” (p.150). Read the rest of this entry »

Blanchard I. (1986) The 16th-century European cattle trade

March 14, 2009

Blanchard, Ian (1986) “The Continental European Cattle Trades, 1400-1600”, The Economic History Review, 39/3, 427-460.



The European international cattle trade arose in the 1470s out of a “context of a network of regional markets” for locally grazed animals (p.428). Antwerp for instance drew its supplies mostly from Zealand and Holland. The diminutive livestock trade was limited to the Hungarian exports to Venice and some Rhenish towns (Frankfurt, Cologne; p.429). “As gold production recovered in Hungary during the second quarter of the 15th century, […] the economy was subject to the dual pressures of a hard exchange and an excessive money supply which caused its export products to be overpriced on international market and turned a previously strong balance of trade into a decidedly weak one” (p.430). The northern Polish (Breslau, Poznan, Gniezno) products partly replaced the Hungarian cattle after the 1420s, they were exported through the fair of Leipzig. The Hungarian solely retained the south European markets. Read the rest of this entry »

Munro J. (2006) A non-mercantilist approach to the balance of payment problem

March 5, 2009

Munro, John H. (2006) “South German silver, European textiles, and Venetian trade with the Levant and Ottoman Empire, c. 1370 to c. 1720: a non-Mercantilist approach to the balance of payment problem”, in Relazione economiche tra Europea e mondo islamico, seccoli XII – XVII, ed. Simonetta Cavaciocchi, Florence: Le Monnier, 905-960.


This article is available on line


For mercantilists, gold and silver are not just mediums of exchange but the most tangible form of wealth (store of value) and a country’s veritable life-blood. In their view, the economic contraction of the later 14th and 15th centuries were caused by the outflow of precious metal to the East (p.905). But according to J. H. Munro, there was no such thing as a ‘bullion famine’, at worst some “periodic scarcity of coined money” in 1320-1340, 1370-1420, and 1440-1470 (p.906). Read the rest of this entry »

Brenner, R (1976) Class struggle and development in pre-industrial Europe

February 9, 2009

Brenner, Robert (1976) “Agrarian class structure and economic development in pre-industrial Europe”, Past and Present, 70/1, 30-75.



In this article, the author offers one of the most commented “general interpretations of the processes of long-term economic change in late medieval and early modern Europe”. He rejects the rigid Malthusian theory based solely on the laws of supply and demand and introduces class struggle as the key element driving European pre-industrial economic history (p.30). Read the rest of this entry »

Wiesner M. (1999) Single working women in premodern Germany

January 22, 2009

Wiesner Merry E. (1999) “Having her own smoke. Employment and independence for singlewomen in Germany, 1400-1750” in Benett Judith M. and Froide Amy M., Singlewomen in the European past 1250-1800, Philadelphia: University Philadelphia Press, 192-213.



Premodern German cities commonly worried about their Frauenüberschuß, or surplus of women. As early as the 14th century from 15 to 25% of women were headed by singlewomen (p.192). Women married relatively late (25 to 28 in villages and 21 to 25 in cities; p.194).

Importantly the situation of never-married single women (as opposed to widows) varied considerably whether or not they children. Those with children were considerably poorer (p.195).

The rising tide of hatred

In the late 15th century Catholic humanist and later Protestant scholars reverted the medieval praise for the holy celibate to defend the values of marriage. Single men were targetted by moralists but they were too economically valuable to suffer significant legal persecution (p.196). Read the rest of this entry »