Early Modern Europe: An Oxford History

By Euan Cameron | Go to book overview

7
A Widening Market in Consumer Goods

JAMES C. RILEY


Population

At the beginning of the eighteenth century Europeans numbered some 95 million. By the century's end their numbers had jumped to 146 million, and their share of global population had risen slightly. Sustained population growth began in the eighteenth century, not just in Europe but more forcefully there than elsewhere in the world. The rate at which new people were added to the population also increased. In the century's first half population growth in western Europe, for which quantities are better known, averaged about 0.3 per cent a year, a rate familiar from the past, albeit never previously sustained in the long run. In the second half of the century, the growth rate rose to 0.5 per cent, on its way toward the rapid pace of increase of nearly 1 per cent that Europe would achieve in the nineteenth century.

This growth brought some rearrangements in settlement density, with economic and political implications. Western Europe, led by France and England, gained people at the fastest pace: France's population rose from 21.5 million in 1700 to 28 million on the eve of the French Revolution, and England's between 1700 and 1800 from 5 to 8.6 million. The population grew elsewhere in western Europe, too, but less in the east. The result was a redistribution of people and resources toward the west, a redistribution that helps explain both the growing military importance of west European powers and the primary position of western states in economic growth.

Population growth followed from small conquests over mortality and in England, but probably not elsewhere, from a temporary increase in fertility. Bubonic plague, a disease made frightening by its lethality as well as its

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