Early Modern Europe: 1500–1800

Bruno Blondé and Ilja Van Damme

in The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199589531
Published online April 2013 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Early Modern Europe: 1500–1800


This article discusses the volatile changes in Europe, as the urban revival of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, signalled by the rise of capital cities in all regions and the foundation of hundreds of new market towns, gave way to urban stagnation or decline. Deceleration was caused by economic and political instability, extensive warfare, and high levels of epidemic disease. Recovery in the late eighteenth century was limited and marked by urbanization from below, including the renewed dynamism of small towns having agrarian and industrial functions and boosted by general population growth. Only in England (and later in the southern Low Countries) was there a new kind of urbanization powered by innovative technology, improved transport, more intensive and productive agriculture, and heavy investment in international trade, most evidently with the Americas but also with Asia. Nonetheless, right across Europe cultural life and material culture were urbanized.

Keywords: urbanization; urban revival; early modern cities; urban decline; England; poverty; social inequality

Article.  8269 words. 

Subjects: History ; European History

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