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Late medieval and 16th century urbanization – Stagnation, expansion or both?

Late medieval and 16th century urbanization – Stagnation, expansion or both?

By Per Gunnar Sidén

Paper given at the Eighth International Conference on Urban History, Stockholm 2006

Abstract: Were the later Middle Ages a period of urban stagnation or expansion in Europe? Lack of aggregated population estimates has made it difficult to reach any consensus among urban historians, while a 16th century expansion has generally been accepted. Based on population estimates of all medieval and 16th century towns in Sweden and Finland with corresponding levels of urbanization for 1349, 1410, 1460 and 1510, 1560 and 1610 this paper presents a surprising doubling of the level of urbanization during the agrarian crisis 1350-1460, followed by stagnation until the 17th century. This paper also argues for a closer look at GDP per capita as a determinant for urbanization level in pre-industrial Europe.

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