Europe in Transition, 1300-1520

By Wallace K. Ferguson | Go to book overview

V
The Growth of Capitalism and the Disintegration of Manorial Economy

For the economy of Western Europe as a whole the period from the end of the thirteenth century to the middle of the fifteenth was not an age of expansion and steady growth, such as had characterized the two preceding centuries. The reversal of the upward trend struck different countries at different times. In some of the northern countries there was evidence of a slackening in the rate of growth early in the fourteenth century. In Italy it did not assume serious proportions until the 1340's. After the middle of the century Europe entered upon a prolonged depression, which lasted well into the fifteenth century, and during which the volume of production and exchange of goods remained relatively stable or may even have declined. The clearing of new land for cultivation practically ceased, as did also the great movement of expansion by colonization in eastern Germany. In many places land that had been cultivated was allowed to return to waste. With the data now available neither the causes nor the extent of this recession can be determined with certainty. It seems probable that in the great expansion of the thirteenth century marginal land had been put under cultivation and after a time wore itself out and had to be abandoned. The long devastation of France

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