The Rise of the European Economy: An Economic History of Continental Europe from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century

By Hermann Kellenbenz; Gerhard Benecke | Go to book overview

V Prices and Wages

There was a general economic boom in Europe from the end of the fifteenth century until the 1620s. Many factors contributed to this development, above all a larger population which necessitated increased production to cover growing demands; extension of markets by overseas expansion; and widening and intensification of marketing systems within Europe with increased traffic in the Atlantic and Baltic. Prices moved continually upwards to meet growing demands, especially from about 1510 onwards. A second wave of increases began in about 1550 but this affected parts of Europe differently. Price increases were acutest in the precious-metal-producing areas of central Europe and in the bullion-importing regions of Iberia. Increases in the money supply came at the same time as general population growth, so that pressure on existing resources was doubled. Within a hundred years of 1520 silver production had increased fourfold, although gold production was more modest. The economy of Spain was unable to exploit the stream of precious metals from America, and the chief benefits went to bankers in the low countries, north Italy and south Germany, leaving Iberia with the greatest price rises, followed by France, the Netherlands and Italy.

Price rises did not affect all goods equally. The greatest increase was noticeable in grain prices, which rose well beyond those of meat and fish. Recent research has shown that apart from changes in the influx of bullion, other factors such as population increases, mobility and exchange of goods, together with displacement of population because of political, military and religious factors all led to overall economic growth, albeit uneven, in sixteenth-century Europe.

In 1568 Jean Bodin, in his famous reply to the arguments of Malestroit, tackled the problem of price increases by pointing

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The Rise of the European Economy: An Economic History of Continental Europe from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Rise of the European Economy *
  • Contents *
  • Foreword *
  • Introduction *
  • Part One- The Economic Development of Continental Europe 1500- 1630 *
  • I- Population Movements *
  • II- Organization of Production *
  • III- Production *
  • IV- Service Industries *
  • V- Prices and Wages *
  • Part Two- The Economic Development of Continental Europe 1630-1750 194
  • I- Intellectual Movements *
  • II- Population Movements *
  • III- State Planning and the Economy *
  • IV- Production *
  • Service Industries *
  • VI- Money, Credit and Insurance *
  • VII- Conclusion *
  • Select Bibliography *
  • Index *
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