Reappraising the Early Modern Economy, 1500–1650

T. M. Devine

in The Oxford Handbook of Modern Scottish History

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199563692
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Reappraising the Early Modern Economy, 1500–1650


Though exact figures cannot be cited, Scotland's population started to grow from the later fifteenth century, continuing for much of the sixteenth century, and only stabilizing again in the 1630s and 1640s. Estimates vary from 500,000 to 700,000 around 1500, while a figure of just over one million has been most favoured by historians for the later seventeenth century. There is evidence that even modest increases in the numbers to be fed could put pressure on a fragile economy. One indicator was the expansion of settlement and cultivation areas into more marginal land. Another was evidence of the splitting of townships as some reached greater sizes because of population growth, thus making the working of field systems less manageable. These demographic and economic pressures resulted in strategies to manage risk and reduce the impact of overpopulation on poor communities. By far the most significant of these was the remarkable scale and increase of emigration. This article focuses on the Scottish economy between 1500 and 1650, and also considers overseas trade, agriculture, and food supply.

Keywords: Scotland; economy; population growth; townships; emigration; overseas trade; agriculture; food supply

Article.  7625 words. 

Subjects: History

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