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The Urban Logistic Network Cities, Transport And Distribution In Europe From The Middle Ages To Modern Times by Giovanni Favero, Michael-W. Serruys, Miki Sugiura (

The Urban Logistic Network
Cities,Transport and Distribution
in Europe from the
Middle Ages to Modern Times
Edited by
Giovanni Favero · Michael-W. Serruys
Miki Sugiura
Palgrave Studies in Economic History
Series Editor
Kent Deng
London School of Economics
London, UK
Palgrave Studies in Economic History is designed to illuminate and
enrich our understanding of economies and economic phenomena of the
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Giovanni Favero · Michael-W. Serruys ·
Miki Sugiura
The Urban Logistic
Cities, Transport and Distribution in Europe
from the Middle Ages to Modern Times
Giovanni Favero
Department of Management
Ca’ Foscari University of Venice
Venice, Italy
Miki Sugiura
Faculty of Economics
Hosei University
Tokyo, Japan
Michael-W. Serruys
Faculté des Lettres et Sciences
Universite de Bretagne Occidentale
Brest, France
ISSN 2662-6497
ISSN 2662-6500 (electronic)
Palgrave Studies in Economic History
ISBN 978-3-030-27598-3
ISBN 978-3-030-27599-0 (eBook)
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer
Nature Switzerland AG 2019
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It took many years to make this book, and the editors obtained much
supports in the process. It was 2006 when the editors, Giovanni Favero,
Michael Serruys and Miki Sugiura, met at different occasions: the former
two at a conference of the European Association of Urban History in
Stockholm, and the latter two at a Posthumus Institute masterclass of
Professor Lynn Lees in The Netherlands. The following year, the three
editors embarked on organizing a series of successful sessions at international conferences (European Association of Urban History 2008 and
2010, European Social Science History Conference 2010 and 2012,
Associazione Italiana di Storia Urbana 2013). Furthermore, a workshopconference ‘Gateways and Hinterlands in Europe, 1400–1900’ was
held in January 2011 in Venice at the Ca’ Foscari University to discuss the general approach and contributions of the authors. The
editors thank all the scholars who participated in these occasions and
shared their thoughts and insights, in particular, Andrea Caracausi, John
Davis, Marion Huibrechts, Clé Lesger and Takashi Okunishi. Between
2009 and 2011, these occasions were funded by the Japan Society for
Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grant-in-Aid for Young Scientists(B) No.
21730278 ‘European Gateway and Hinterlands on the Move. Urban
Logistics Model for Mapping Distribution, Transport and Market formations in History’ (April 2009–March 2011). We thank both the administrations of Tokyo International University and Ca’ Foscari University for
assisting our events.
This book would not have come to realization without the support
of the editors at Palgrave Macmillan. Laura Pacey was the first to believe
in this book, together with Ruth Noble, Clara Heathcock and Sophia
Siegler. We thank also Kent Deng, the series editor, together with three
anonymous referees, for their comments which helped us to make the
single chapters and the whole volume better.
The authors were greatly supportive in participating in meetings,
working in coordination with us, waiting very long and finally replying
fast to our requests. This book is their book. We, the editors, feel so fortunate to have met each other, as the process was long but thoroughly
fun and discovering. In particular, we want to thank our partners and
families, who grew with small members participating during these years.
The best part of the editing process was the intensive days we shared at
our homes in Houwaart in summer 2009, in Bassano del Grappa in summer 2011 and in Tokyo in spring 2012. We finally would like to thank
Mirella, Erica and Kohey for their kind support during the stay.
July 2019
Giovanni Favero
Michael-W. Serruys
Miki Sugiura
Giovanni Favero, Michael-W. Serruys and Miki Sugiura
Part I
A Single Gateway
Gateway of Gothenburg23
Per Hallén
Part II Changing Shapes of Urban Networks
Bordeaux from Its Vineyards to Its Hinterland:
A Regional Capital in the Late Middle Ages53
Sandrine Lavaud
Urban Networks on the Move: The Austrian
Netherlands’ Transit Policy and the Development
of the Belgian Urban Networks in the Eighteenth
Century (1704–1793)75
Michael-W. Serruys
Persistence and Evolution in the Eastern Sicilian
Coastal Corridor: The Mobility of Goods and People
at the Port of Catania (1817–1860)101
Giovanni Cristina
Bridging the Gap: The Belfast-Dublin Railway
Corridor in the Nineteenth Century123
Agustina Martire
Part III The Making of a Regional Network
Urban Network and Economic Policy: The Milanese
Case During the Spanish and Austrian Ages145
Giovanna Tonelli
The Construction of an Inland Gateway: Milan
in the Course of the Early Modern Period161
Luca Mocarelli
Gateways as Inter-Modal Nodes in Different Ages:
The Venetian Region, Eighteenth
to Twentieth Centuries173
Giovanni Favero
Part IV Using the Network
10 The Flaxseed Trade Between Courland and Brittany
in the Eighteenth Century193
Pierrick Pourchasse
11 Ports and Their Functions: Some Reflections
About Preindustrial Logistics209
Werner Scheltjens
12 Tracking Waters: Small Cities Transport Network
of Early Modern Friesland225
Miki Sugiura
Giovanni Cristina is a Post-Doctorate Fellow in Contemporary History
at the University of Catania, Italy. His researches deal with public housing in postwar Italy and modernization processes in the port cities of the
Mediterranean Europe between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Giovanni Favero is a Professor of Economic History at the Ca’ Foscari
University of Venice, Italy, in the Department of Management. In 2018–
2019 he was the Thomas K. McCraw Visiting Fellow in US Business
History at Harvard Business School. He works on organizational history
in a long-term perspective.
Per Hallén is a Senior Lecturer in Economic History at the University
of Gothenburg, Sweden, conducting research into maritime history,
urban history and business history.
Sandrine Lavaud is an Associate Professor of Medieval History at the
University Bordeaux Montaigne-UMR 5607 Ausonius, France. Director
of the collection of the Historical Atlas of the Cities of France, she is a
specialist in urban history and in the history of the vineyards and wines
of medieval Aquitaine.
Agustina Martire is a Lecturer in Architecture at Queen’s University
Belfast, England. She specializes in urban history and theory and her
research is currently focused on local mixed streets, their urban form,
histories and experiences.
Luca Mocarelli is a Professor of Economic History at Milano-Bicocca
University, Italy where he teaches economic history and economic history of tourism. His current researches deal with markets and the construction of economic spaces, labour history, environmental history and
digital history.
Pierrick Pourchasse is a Professor at the University of Bretagne
Occidentale, France. His research deals with economical relations
between France and Northern Europe in the eighteenth century.
Werner Scheltjens, Ph.D., (2009) is an Assistant Professor at the Chair
of Social and Economic History at the University of Leipzig. He has
published several peer-reviewed articles on maritime history and is project member at Sound Toll Registers Online.
Michael-W. Serruys is a Marie Skłodowska Curie Action Fellow at the
Université de Bretagne Occidentale in Brest, France. In recent years his
main focus lays on eighteenth century Belgian economic, maritime and
transport history. As an MSCA Fellow he now researches the societal
effects of environmental crisis, like the shipworm epidemic in eighteenth
century Western Europe.
Miki Sugiura is a Professor of Global Economic History at the Faculty
of Economics of Hosei University, Japan. Currently (2018–2020)
she is Visiting Professor of Global History and Culture Centre at the
University of Warwick. Her research interests include history of distribution and trade organizations, urban formation and women’s property
formation. She also has published recently multiple articles and books on
circulations and recycling of textile products.
Giovanna Tonelli, Ph.D., (1999) is an Assistant Professor of Early
Modern History at the University of Milan, Italy.
List of Figures
Fig. 1.1
Fig. 1.2
Fig. 2.1
Fig. 2.2
Fig. 2.3
Fig. 3.1
Fig. 3.2
Fig. 3.3
Fig. 3.4
Foreland, hinterland, rearland and gateway
(Source The authors’ elaboration)
Shapes of urban logistics network (Source The authors’
The idealized sequence of port development (Author’s
elaboration. Source Rimmer [2007, p. 77]) 26
Map of the gateway cities at Göta River (Legend: 1. Lödöse
1050 [about]–1646; 2. Kungahälla 1050–1090 [about]–
1612; 3. Kungälv 1613–1678; 4. Kungälv 1678–today; 5.
New Lödöse 1473–1621; 6. Älvsborgs city 1547 [about]–
1570; 7. Gothenburg 1604 [about]–1611; 8. Gothenburg
1619–today. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2015) 27
Tons of goods transported through the Port of Gothenburg,
1965–2016 (Source The author’s elaboration from Port of
varldens-hamnar-i-siffror/ [February 13, 2019]) 43
The dynamics of Bordeaux’s medieval vineyard, incorporated
into the suburbs (Source The author’s elaboration [map by
O. Pissoat]) 56
Bordeaux’s economic influence in the late middle ages
(Source The author’s elaboration [map by M. CourrègesBlanc])64
Area of expansion of trade in Gascony wine in the late middle
ages (Source Bochaca (1998, 285) [map by O. Pissoat]) 66
Bordeaux’s wine supply area (Source Registres
de la Grande Coutume; [map by O. Pissoat]) 68
Fig. 3.5
Fig. 4.1
Fig. 4.2
Fig. 4.3
Fig. 4.4
Fig. 4.5
Fig. 6.1
Fig. 6.2
Fig. 8.1
Fig. 10.1
Fig. 10.2
Fig. 12.1
Fig. 12.2
Fig. 12.3
Fig. 12.4
Bordeaux’s hinterland: The vectors of domination
(Source The author’s elaboration) 71
The Austrian Netherlands (major cities and rivers)
(Source The author’s elaboration) 81
Austrian Netherlands 1704 (transport network
and centrality values) (Source The author’s elaboration) 86
Austrian Netherlands 1718 (transport network
and centrality values) (Source The author’s elaboration) 90
Austrian Netherlands 1748 (transport network
and centrality values) (Source The author’s elaboration) 93
Austrian Netherlands 1793 (transport network
and centrality values) (Source The author’s elaboration) 95
Railways in Ireland 1845 (Source Westmeath Library
Service Local Studies collection. Pamphlet—Observations
of the Provisional Directors of the Mullingar, Athlone and
Longford Railway on the Report of Board of Trade and
Railways Proposed to Be Made in Ireland, Westward from
Dublin from 1845)132
Dublin Drogheda railway line, 1844 (Source J. D’Alton
(1844), History of Drogheda, with Its Environs
and a Memoir of the Dublin & Drogheda Railway.
Dublin: J. D’Alton) 135
The extraordinary position of Milan (Source The editors’
Northern Europe in the eighteenth century
(Source The author’s elaboration) 197
The commercial chain between the producer and the
consumer of flaxseed for sowing: an example of the trade
between the Baltic and Brittany in the eighteenth century
(Source Author’s elaboration, based on Elisabeth HarderGersdorff 1980, p. 12) 205
Faber’s model (1). The access of Friesland cities with
Amsterdam (Source Made from Faber [1972] appendix) 228
Faber’s model (2). Access from sneek to other cities
(Source Made from Faber [1972] appendix) 229
De Vries’s model (Source De Vries [1981]. Elaborated
by the author) 230
Harm Nijboer’s model: interurban transport network
(Source Nijboer [2010]. Elaborated by the author
and Ito-lab) 230
Fig. 12.5
Fig. 12.6
Fig. 12.7
Fig. 12.8
Fig. 12.9
Fig. 12.10
Fig. 12.11
Fig. 12.12
Image 2.1
Image 2.2
Image 2.3
Harm Nijboer’s model (2) urban-rural market transport
model (Source Nijboer [2010], appendix. Elaborated
by the author and Ito-lab) 231
Regulated routes transiting Franeker in Harlingen–
Leeuwarden transport (Source Redrawn from Sugiura
[2019, p. 219]) 233
Excavation of canals in Friesland (Source The author’s
elaboration from Bosatlas van Fryslân (2009) and other
sources of Tresoar. Redrawn from Sugiura [2019, p. 219]) 234
Sneek and Sneekermeer (Source Monsma, B.P.F.,
Waterkaart van het Sneekermeer, met daarop de route van
een zeilwedstrijd, 1900. Fries Scheepvaart Museum I-105) 237
Mesdag’s first generations’ real estate holdings (Source
Elaborated by Takahashi, on the Schotanus map of 1664
[Sugiura & Takahashi, 2014]) 240
Mesdag families’ early real estates in Bolsward till the third
generation (Source 1729 Reëlkohieren Bolsward, OudArchief Bolsward; Vermoolen [1998]. Elaborated
into a map by Takahashi [Sugiura & Takahashi, 2014]) 241
Mesdag related real estate possessions within Bolsward
around 1832 (Source Kadastrale 1832 and Postboeken 1812.
Notarieel akten van Dirk Roos Mesdag, Johannes Mesdag,
Treasoar, Leeuwarden and Vermoolen [1998]. Elaborated
into a map by Takahashi [Sugiura & Takahashi, 2014]) 242
Gilles and Klaas Mesdag’s family ‘Industrial Cluster’
in Groningen (Source HIS-GIS and Vermoolen [1998].
Elaborated into a map by Takahashi [Sugiura & Takahashi,
The “gateway” to Gothenburg in 2015
Lödöse today (Lödöse today looks like a community from
about the 1960s or 1970. Only in the local museum, the
buildings closest in the picture, you will find the artefacts
from the medieval city. The Göta River in the southern
direction is clearly visible in the picture. Source Photo
by Per Hallén 2013)
Remains of the medieval monastery in the North Western
corner of the city of Kungahälla (It is hard to find traces
of the mediaeval city of Kungahälla. Aside from a few
remains of the local monastery, the medieval town is
completely invisible in the landscape. Source Photo
by Per Hallén 2013)
Image 2.4
Image 2.5
Image 2.6
Image 2.7
Image 2.8
Image 2.9
Waterway in Kungälv, once the harbour for international
trade from 1613 (Today, this area gives the impression of
being a rural idyll. A clear example of a gateway city that
lost its position. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2010)
Site of the medieval church in New Lödöse (All traces of the
medieval city except the memorial stone are gone. Today,
new homes and offices are being built on site. Source Photo
by Per Hallén 2013)
Archaeological excavation of Nya Lödöse in 2015 (Houses
and streets from the medieval town have been visible again
for a short time before being removed to give way to modern
houses. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2015)
On the large open green surface lay the first Gothenburg
(Like all the predecessors of today’s Gothenburg, almost all
traces of the older city have been eradicated. Source Photo
by Per Hallén 2012)
The large harbour channel in central Gothenburg
(The channel is currently only used by tourist boats
and some kayaks. But the city centre is still in use despite
the fact that the canal is no longer the ciity’s backbone.
Source Photo by Per Hallén 2017)
Gothenburg’s harbour today (The port is now closer to the
sea and many residents no longer notice the shipping
activities. But when new large vessels enter the city for the
first time, the beaches are lined with people who want
to see the new “giants” of the sea. When the new generation
of container vessels entered Gothenburg for the first time
in 2013, ferries went out to the harbour with curious
spectators. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2013)
List of Tables
Table 1.1
Table 5.1
Table 5.2
Table 5.3
Table 5.4
Table 7.1
Table 7.2
Table 7.3
Table 8.1
Table 9.1
Table 11.1
Scale, city/region and shape dealt in the chapters
of this book 15
List of shipwrecks occurred between 1818 and 1833
in the Catania maritime district 107
Shipping movements in Catania in 1834 by port and/or
geographical area of origin and destination 110
Shipping movements in Catania between 1849 and 1859 112
Shipping contact points along the Eastern coast of Sicily,
Transit paths through the state of Milan with reduced
duties, seventeenth century 148
Countries and localities of origin and/or of the “style”
of textile products present on the Milanese market
in the 1760s 151
Value of trade of the state of Milan in the 1770s
(currency: Lira Milanese) 156
Population of main Lombard cities in the early modern
Inhabitants in urban centres (more than 10,000)
in the Venetian provinces, 1766–1921 184
Monthly iron exports from St. Petersburg to London,
average of 1755–1779, in tonnes 214
Giovanni Favero, Michael-W. Serruys and Miki Sugiura
‘In 2008, for the first time, the majority of the world’s inhabitants lived in
cities rather than the countryside. The world has become, in some measure,
truly urban,’ wrote historian Peter Clark in the opening to the edited compilation The Oxford Handbook of Cities in World History (2013). There is
no denying the importance of cities in the present world, but a substantive
body of urban history literature is still under construction. Clark’s book,
for example, declares itself to be the first attempt to analyze in detail the
evolution of major urban systems in the world from early times to the
present. Comparative urban history analysis, according to Clark, was a stirring interest 50 years ago, but it met a sudden halt, or at least a deviation
G. Favero (B)
Department of Management, Ca’ Foscari
University of Venice, Venice, Italy
e-mail: [email protected]
M.-W. Serruys
Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Universite de Bretagne
Occidentale, Brest, France
M. Sugiura
Faculty of Economics, Hosei University,
Tokyo, Japan
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
(Clark, 2013, p. 2). To revive such analyses, Clark’s handbook used two
strategies: first, the provision of case studies, and second, the offering of
key variables that help explicate, distinguish, and connect urban systems
and networks.
The present volume also aims to be a handbook, or rather a toolbox,
by providing case studies for urban historians that will hopefully lead to
effective comparative research. The primary attention here is on what we
call urban logistics, by which we mean urban management and operations
of flow as well as circulation of goods and people, in particular, the systems
and networks made out of them. This book is primarily about the interconnections between trade and transport and between urban systems and
Surprisingly, trade and transport networks are not emphasized in the
above-cited Handbook of Cities in World History. As Clark (2013) admits,
with the rise of mega-cities, the focus of urban history research shifted
more and more towards urbanization and how large cities emerged and
grew. Phenomenal works on Global Cities strengthened the trend to look
at large cities as well as international flows of capital and migrations (Sassen,
1991). The situation was much different 30–40 years ago. There was a
boom in the historical analysis of urban networks for European history that
was connected with trade and transport history, as if they were siblings.
Numerous case studies were written; models were discovered and tried.
At the present time, however, one cannot deny the relative stagnation of
urban network research in history and the lack of synthesis of the research
that does exist. A critical review linking existing theories on the formation
and evolution of urban networks in the long term with historical studies on
transport and distribution is needed in order to provide a new interpretation
of the role of gateways. Such an effort has already recently been undertaken
by Mizushima, Souza, and Flynn (2014), which may set a precedent for this
volume. Reflecting the results of new insights coming from other regions to
European history and laying down stepping stones for global comparison
is one of the aims of this volume.
This book’s strategy is to provide bottom-up case studies that give
insights into how to deal with urban networks and systems. Our analysis
focuses on the regions of Italy, the Low Countries, the British Isles, Western France, Scandinavia, Russia and the Baltic regions. These regions have
nurtured historical urban network studies, yet their major population centres are not often treated as mega-cities. Each chapter in this volume closely
reviews existing theories and models, makes references to specialized historiographical literature, stimulates pragmatic discussion, calls attention to
gaps in the literature, and proposes new perspectives, thereby operating as
a comprehensive and useful toolkit for researchers to use in their study of
urban networks.
Urban Network Theory: A Historiography
from the 1930s to the 1990s
To further define our research questions, we must take a closer look at
the relevant historiography and describe how urban network theory was
formed. The notion of urban network theory in historical scholarship
became established in the 1980s, but it was based on earlier work, and
the models that inspired the theory were not confined to the field of history. Some early models were proposed by economists, sociologists, and
geographers. The American economist William Reilly created one of the
first approaches to urban systems to include the dimension of urban hinterlands. In his book The Law of Retail Gravitation (1931), Reilly asserted
that the extent of a city’s sphere of influence depended on its economic
and demographic weight. This Newtonian model, better known as Reilly’s
Law, rapidly received considerable criticism. One of the main objections
was that Reilly’s Law did not explain the phenomena of centralization and
the hierarchization of cities.
In 1933, German geographer Walter Christaller set up a new model that
included the centralization process, the hierarchy, and the configuration in
the geographic space of urban systems. This model is known as the central
place theory or the central place system (1933, 1966). Although Christaller
developed his models for geography, historians enthusiastically adopted
his approach, particularly in the 1960s. The original models were multifaceted, explaining market, transport, and political systems, but historians
were most frequently drawn to his market system model. Using his model,
the centralization of local and intra-regional trade was explained, as were
the inter-urban relationships therein. Because Christaller’s model did not
include international trade, however, the deduced inter-urban relationship
was limited to the point of intra-regional trade. Furthermore, despite the
discussion of centralization, the urban nodes Christaller’s models described
remained considerably isotonic, with each node expected to have the same
operations and functions.
In an attempt to overcome the limitations of Christaller’s central place
theory, James Vance Jr. and other scholars commenced research that
opened a new paradigm in urban history during the 1960s and 1970s.
In The Merchant’s World: The Geography of Wholesaling (1970), Vance
attempted to link long-distance international trade flows to central places
by explaining the development of the American urban system. What was
inspirational about Vance’s reasoning was the way in which he introduced
long-distance trade. Long-distance trade, in his view, was the result of producers trying to find a market for their products and consumers seeking
access to these goods. In the process, both producers and consumers were
helped by wholesalers and middlemen, who created a system of staples,
depots, entrepôts, and transport infrastructure to forward or establish the
flow of goods from producers to consumers. In this way, urban nodes were
incorporated into the process of long-distance trade. Vance established a
heterogeneous geographic environment that included rivers and oceans as
well as nodes and infrastructure built upon commercial relations and historical dynamism. Among the scholars preceding Vance, Guido Weigend
made a model for flows in the maritime worlds. We will discuss these concepts further in the following sections.
In 1967 (at approximately the same time as Vance’s work), the Australian geographer Peter Rimmer created a model explaining the development of Australian seaports. Rimmer did not adopt Christaller’s central
place system; he focused on the impact of inland transportation routes and
maritime trade on the development of seaports, thereby ultimately clarifying how urban networks are formulated through transport. Initially, the
coastline was dotted with small and scattered seaports, which were only
very loosely connected to the interior. Because of the presence or absence
of geographic, economic, and political constraints, only some port communities were able to construct a transport network linking them to inland
settlements. Ports with good connections to the interior areas or their new
hinterlands thus started to develop and attract maritime trade as they were
the only links between these inland areas and the rest of the world. The seaports that failed to connect themselves to the upcountry urban settlements,
or those that joined the transportation system too late, finally lost their maritime functions. These port cities’ maritime facilities sometimes temporarily
became satellite harbours or outer harbours of their larger neighbours, but
they were eventually absorbed into those larger neighbours’ hinterlands.
Rimmer has called this procedure port piracy (Rimmer, 1967, pp. 42–44).
Rimmer’s term, port piracy, has then been replaced by hinterland piracy,
which was introduced by Clé Lesger, a Dutch historian who extensively
used Rimmer’s model to explain the life cycle of harbours in the Low Countries (during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries) and in the North
Holland Peninsula (during the Middle Ages and Early Modern era). From
there, Lesger developed a specific concept of gateway, which was placed
in stark contrast to staple market theory (Lesger, 2001, 2006). Rimmer’s
model thus showed the impact of transportation and trade flows on an
urban system. It was also extremely dynamic in comparison to Christaller’s
central place theory as it showed how transport routes, trade flows, and
ultimately the hinterland develop in time and space.
Vance and Rimmer heavily influenced the new urban network theory
that arose in the 1980s. Jan de Vries (1984) developed a model of urban
systems based on flexibility and competitiveness rather than on stability
and hierarchical relationships. The theoretical framework shown here was
called urban network theory. Key terms such as links, nodes, hinterlands , and
gateways were introduced. Urban network theory can be positioned as a
denial of Christaller’s central place theory. In urban network theory, cities
are presented in clusters; each node (and thus each city) is linked to the
others by trade routes. The emergence and development of cities and their
urbanization/de-urbanization processes are discussed in terms of how the
urban network developed. This theory, combined with a surge of demographic history, succeeded in providing a comprehensive and interregional
understanding of urban developments in Europe.
At the beginning of the following decade, Paul Hohenberg and Lynn
Hollen Lees (1985) provided a model fusing urban network theory and
central place theory. Their model can thus be referred to as a dual network system. Covering the interactions and impacts of both long- and
short-distance trade, their model became the most accepted method of
describing urban systems from the perspectives of trade and transport. Their
book also considered cities over the long-term perspective of 1000 years
(1000–2000 CE). The dynamism inherent in the development of urban
networks, however, was not necessarily their focus, and their work did not
fully explain the issues associated with integration of the short and longdistance trades. Around the same time, Fujita, Ogawa, and Thisse (1988)
and Krugman (1991, 1993) vigorously developed the field of new economic geography and reincorporated the classic central place theory models
by Christaller and Lösch (1940) into spatial economics modelling, and the
field is still growing strongly. New economic geography succeeded in establishing a theoretical logic of the dynamism of spatial allocations covering
multiple levels of scales that range from intra-urban to global (Fujita et al.
1999). As Meijers (2007) notes, ‘While theoretical models on network
paradigm are well established, research demonstrating empirical validity
was non-existent’ (Meijers, 2007, p. 135). Meijers himself (2007) tested
whether the network model better described the spatial organization of
polycentric urban regions than the central place theory. He was able to
detect network formation where nodes developed their complementarity,
and he also concluded that, depending on the research layers (e.g. educational facilities or economic firms), the central place theory could be more
applicable than the network model. We therefore need many more empirical cases, both historical and contemporary, to further test the application
of these models.
Urban network theory has been established through the evolution of
urban theories from Christaller through Rimmer (1967), Vance (1970), de
Vries (1984), and finally Hohenberg and Hollen Lees (1985). De Vries’s
insertion of the urban reality into a network was a large step forward. The
dual urban network brought about by Hohenberg and Hollen Lees (1985)
gave current urban theory the relationship between long-distance trade and
the short-distance catering of a central place to its immediate surroundings.
Towards an Urban Logistics Network
Cities and Logistics—Nodes and Links
The historical urban network model nevertheless needs further refinement.
The above-mentioned models do not necessarily describe the essence of a
network made of nodes and links. The links form the relationship between
the nodes, which are mostly cities, and these links represent the flow of
goods and people. In many cases, links are visible in the landscape as roads,
railways, canals, rivers, and the like, but links are more than transport infrastructure. They are everything that makes goods flow from producer to
consumer. In other words, links can be described as a logistics network.
These links are represented by flows. A flow is defined here as every mobilization with a human origin, whether material or immaterial, that moves
back and forth between nodes through actions directed by human activity. Cities are described as nodes because they are the starting point and
the end point of flows. Although we acknowledge the importance of other
types of flows (such as migration, capital, or information), this book mainly
concerns trade and transport flows.
The logistics network consists of not only the transport infrastructure
but also the distribution system, such as merchants and middlemen. The
logistics network is therefore closely connected to the conceptualization of
supply chains and commodity chains. The main interest of merchants and
other middlemen is to make the flow of goods go from a producer in one
node to a consumer in another node in the most effective way, which can
differ according to time, area, and product. As such, the parties involved
in the flow of goods always try to ameliorate the system by making better
and sometimes new connections. The nodes that promote flow are called
gateways. Seaports are often considered to be gateways, but any node that
facilitates or changes the flow could be a gateway. A myriad of gateways is at
play in a logistics network, and clarification of the interactions of gateways as
well as the political, geographic, technological, economic, social, transport,
and financial factors that influence those gateways are among the goals of
this book.
There is also a mismatch in the speed of change between the logistics
network and the cities. Cities change slowly in comparison to the fast pace
of the logistics system. The historical development of urban networks can
account for these tensions and explain how networks dynamically evolved
from there. At the same time, cities are not static; they seek to change
themselves to attract more flows in order to compete with, cooperate with,
or complement other cities. Links and nodes, meaning logistics and urban
systems, have different dynamics and approaches, but one is unable to exist
without the other. It is this dynamic, which we have renamed the urban
logistics network, that is the theme of this book. The opening chapter of
this book, Chapter 2 by Per Hàllen, showcases this dynamism by focusing
on a single gateway for a long period. Using the city of Gothenburg as an
example, the chapter demonstrates just how fast the changes of logistics
networks can be and how a gateway city reacted to these changes over
the long term, changing its functions and historical meanings. In addition,
Hàllen tests the application of Rimmer’s theory on port city development
for historical studies and suggests some gaps in the literature.
Spatial Formulation: Terminologies
Though Hohenberg and Hollen Lees (1985) presented urban network
theory with models for both long- and short-distance trade, there are still
many refinements that need to be done to the multiple models meant for
the theory, including those that concern spatial coordination. The first of
these examples is the setting of the hinterland. American geographer Guido
Weigend (1958) described the hinterland as an ‘organized and developed
land space which is connected with a port by means of transport lines, and
which receives or ships goods through that port’ (Weigend, 1958, pp. 192–
193). On the other side of the ocean, another port received these goods
and shuttled them to its own hinterland. To distinguish these two identical
structures on both sides of the ocean, Weigend called them hinterland and
foreland, respectively. But Weigend’s setting was difficult to apply to preindustrial Europe. The above-mentioned Dutch historian Lesger (2006)
pointed out that hinterlands are not uniformly connected to the rest of the
world through a single harbour by maritime trade but by a myriad of gateways. He also stresses that gateways aren’t necessarily seaports. Continental
gateways can provide transportation routes to push along trade flows from
one landed urban system to another.
Admitting multiplicity and land-based gateways open up areas for inclusion in the logistics network. To further clarify this, we call the lands beyond
the periphery of an urban network the rearland (Fig. 1.1). The rearland
is another urban system that is separated from the hinterland by an empty
land space. The periphery is rarely completely empty, and the boundaries
of landed urban systems are therefore much more difficult to establish, but
they usually run through less populated areas, such as mountain ranges,
marshes, deserts, forests, and moors. Hinterlands and rearlands are connected through continental gateways. We should not automatically assume
that a dense transport network would gradually fill up the empty space
between the hinterland and the rearland. We should carefully observe and
note what shifts occur between them. Four essays in this book (Chapter 4,
by Michael-W. Serruys; Chapter 9, by Giovanni Favero; Chapter 10, by
Pierrick Pourchasse; and Chapter 11, by Werner Scheltjens) show the network developments between foreland, hinterland, and rearland in a particularly vivid manner. We thus propose that our urban logistics networks
have relatively clear boundaries. Beyond hinterlands, there are peripheries
and rearlands. The use of these terms necessitates the setting of borders in
the geographical environment. We believe that without these definitions
Fig. 1.1 Foreland, hinterland, rearland and gateway (Source The authors’ elaboration)
of space, the dynamism and shifting character of urban logistics networks
cannot be traced.
Likewise, the existing theoretical terminology of nodes and cities is insufficiently descriptive. In describing networks, we require more terms to
reflect the existing diversity. We propose first to tag the nodes with terms
that describe their orientation and function, such as relais , junctions , crossroads, bottlenecks, transshipments , terminus , distribution centres, or industrial centres. We also suggest adding adjectives to the nodes in order to
clarify their functions. For example, rather than calling a node or a city a
simple gateway, it helps to define it as an intermodal gateway, continental
gateway, or maritime gateway. It is also helpful to combine several node
activities into a description to further explain the functions of the node,
such as with ‘intermodal, bottleneck gateway and production centre.’ In
this way, it is possible to cope with the existing diversity. We have named this
process urban adjectivation. Two essays in the present volume, Chapter 4,
by Michael-W. Serruys, and Chapter 5, by Giovanni Cristina, deal extensively with this adjectivation, mainly from the perspective of transport.
Bypassing and Intermodality
Naturally, these terminologies of space change with the scale. An important
gateway in a provincial system might be completely irrelevant to a world
system. Most of the chapters in this book deal with regional-scale networks
within a country. Yet as we will later describe in further detail, we adopt a
methodological strategy focusing on games of scale (Revel, 1996), looking
at smaller cases to develop a model that can be tested on larger gateways
or vice versa and using different cases to highlight the variance of possible
configurations and the dynamics of urban logistical scale in history. In fact,
the scale itself changes over time, following technological, economic, and
social transformations. Space appears to be more related to the time spent
crossing it than to physical distance. The space one can reach within an
hour changes drastically with innovations in transportation and distribution, and the relationship between physical flows and information flows is
also affected by different technological paradigms.
Over the last two centuries, for instance, means of transportation and
distribution have become increasingly concentrated in single cities. This
process usually involved the bypassing of the city as a result of the discrepancy between the effort necessary to create more efficient and direct
connections and the growing complexity of the gateway city’s functions
and services. In early modern times, goods that flowed from producer to
consumer generally passed through a multitude of nodes:
Producer → A → B → C → D → E → Consumer
With the elimination of middlemen brought about by the railways and
other factors related to industrial revolutions, some nodes were bypassed,
which resulted in a streamlined flow:
Producer → A → E → Consumer
Nodes B, C, and D were bypassed in this example. Consideration of bypassing is essential in describing the historical development of urban logistics
networks. In fact, bypassing is closely associated with urbanization, deurbanization, centralization processes, and the emergence of mega-cities.
At the same time, bypassing is again a matter of divergence between
the logistics and urban systems over time, as mentioned above. With the
coming of railways, a divergence has occurred more and more between the
logistics system and the urban system. We are well aware of this impact,
and this book shows how urban logistics networks change before and after
the arrival of railways by carefully describing the process of bypassing. We
are not arguing that the arrival of railways completely transformed prior
urban logistics networks. Rather, our book attempts to connect the networks before and after by showing changes. In many ways, the railways,
especially high-speed trains bypassing a multitude of nodes, foreshadowed
the coming of aeroplanes, which bypass even more nodes by flying over
them. The physical network has become, in a certain way, non-physical.
The emergence of mega-cities can be described this way from a logistics
point of view. Looking at the historical process of bypassing offers a way to
connect the past to the present and opens up a discussion of the networks
made by different modes of transportation.
Indeed, a good starting point is to take into account how different modes
of transportation intertwined in the past. By following the flow of goods
and people through different means of transportation, we identify intermodality as a crucial element influencing the characteristics of a node and
carefully explore how that node and its networks change as a result. Intermodality can be both an asset and a problem for the development of a
gateway node. Chapter 9, by Giovanni Favero, elaborates on these ideas,
adopting a definition of the gateway as a node of intermodal exchange to
shed light on the relationship between changes in transport technology and
organization and the structure of the urban network, focusing on the case
of the Venetian region and the impact of the railway on its urban hierarchy.
A gateway is a connecting point between the hinterland and the external
world, and passing through it usually implies a change in the modality of
transport. This is most evident in the case of port cities, but it can also be
found in inland gateways such as transport hubs, where flows are coordinated and organized, or in market centres, where goods pass from hand to
hand. Considering intermodality as an inherent feature of gateways allows
us to better understand the implications of the above-mentioned tension
between the efforts needed to make the flow of goods and people more
efficient and the growth of urban functions and services around the intermodal bottleneck. From this perspective, it is indeed possible to identify the
structural determinants of urban hierarchy within the historical constraints
of the prevailing technology, economics, politics, and social organization.
It is also possible to see how a change in one or more of these elements
causes a reconfiguration of the entire structure by maintaining, altering, or
dismantling its shape.
Shapes of Urban Logistics Networks
The final fields that need refinement and exploration in the spatial settings
of urban network theory are the shapes of the system and network. Logistics would give every urban system, represented by nodes, a specific shape.
Although studies acknowledge that combining the mapping and detecting of network shapes is a powerful tool for explaining urban systems and
networks, these shapes are not thoroughly explored in historical cases. In
particular, the dynamism of the shapes—both their creation and dissolution—should be pursued to make urban network theory a useful tool for
further comparing cases. From this perspective, we pick up the most representative three shape types of urban systems—dendritic, polycentric, and
corridor—and discuss their evolution (Fig. 1.2).
The term dendritic is typically used to describe water streams or pipeline
networks and is not necessarily familiar for describing an urban network.
Since we have set the flow of goods as our primary focus for urban logistics
networks, however, we can often detect a dendritic shape in the analysis.
Fig. 1.2 Shapes of urban logistics network (Source The authors’ elaboration)
The dendritic shape was used by de Vries (1984), and dendritic shapes are
the most representative shape in historical studies of urban network theory. Careful analysis of maps and a cumulative investigation of distribution
or transport records are needed to draw out the shape for a region. For
example, in addition to the destinations and transit points for the flow of
goods, scholars must have a fair grasp of the frequency and velocity of the
modes of transportation to make the model coherent. Time schedules and
travel journals are helpful as sources.
The second shape, polycentric, is a structure where nodes of similar size
disperse within a region. The regions discussed in this book are areas in
which small cities prevail, and they often have polycentric characteristics.
The existence of relatively similar-sized cities is the complete opposite of
what central place theory proposed. Thus, their relationships and formations should be analyzed carefully. Urban studies have shown that small
cities are more dependent on networks than larger cities (Bell & Jayne,
2009). A polycentric urban region does not necessarily form an urban network (Meijers, 2007, p. 145), and the polycentric shape might, in fact,
be a reflection of the lack of a network. Only when spatial organization
operates relationally and there are certain divisions of functions among the
polycentric nodes can we define them as having the features of a polycentric urban network. This book deals with this tension historically. Historical
cases contribute to uncovering the reasons for the processes a region took
to gain a polycentric shape and to learning if there were network relationships forming among the nodes.
The corridor is a well-researched concept in analyzing the connections
in transport infrastructures. Corridors are also used in broader research
fields, such as urban studies or economics. A corridor identifies developments happening around an axis, which is usually represented by a main
communication or transport line (Yarwood, 2006). The present volume
applies this concept extensively to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Tracing the shape of corridors allows us to detect dynamic regional transformations. For example, attention on the making of corridors can highlight
the process through which a new vertical axis triggers the nodes in the middle of an urban logistics network with minor hinterlands gaining stronger
gateway functions because of the nature of points of access to the new line.
This process, by transforming the line into a regional belt, may have different results. In some cases, the function of the weaker terminal of the
new horizontal axis may be further diminished, finally making the middle
region a part of the extended hinterland of the more important gateway
terminal. In others, the region may maintain a multi-gateway structure.
The outcome depends on many other factors, in part related to the shape
of the network, as on the presence of other corridors converging into one
gateway. This can be seen in Milan during the nineteenth century, which
is connected to the wider historical context and its changes.
These three shapes are distributed evenly throughout the chapters of
this book (see Table 1.1). We have divided the chapters into four sections.
In the second part, Changing Shapes of the Urban Network, the most representative examples of shapes are shown. In Chapter 3, Sandrine Lavaud
shows the operation of complicated distribution networks relating to wine,
using elaborate dendritic shapes. It is also important to note that these
shapes can be used in combination. Chapter 4 (by Michael-W. Serruys)
and Chapter 5 (by Giovanni Cristina) highlight how the dynamic making
of the corridor interacts with the formation of the polycentric and dendritic
urban system shapes of the region. In Chapter 6, Agustina Martire illustrates the railways’ establishment of a corridor between the cities of Belfast
and Dublin.
The third part traces the evolution of a single event: the regional formation of Northern Italy. The three Chapters 7, 8, and 9 cover three related
cases. Chapters 7 (by Giovanna Tonelli) and 8 (by Luca Mocarelli) explore
trade relations as well as the demographic, economic, and monetary history
to explain the emergence of an economic region centred on Milan in spite
of its changing political borders over time. Chapter 9 (by Giovanni Favero)
follows the transformation of the bordering Venetian region, which became
polycentric in the first half of the nineteenth century and then gravitated
towards Milan following the construction of a railway line connecting the
two cities. The formation of a Northern Italian urban network highlights
the interconnected roles of transport innovations, political decisions, and
economic factors.
Users of the Networks
Urban network theory leaves much to explore in terms of how to include
humans in its studies. Within the agency/structure debate that is fundamental to the social sciences, urban network theory, as part of network
analysis, is positioned more at the latter pole: the non-individualist who
sees structural settings and institutional forces as directing the actions of
human beings. Network analysis can go so far as to reject the attributes
of actors both individual and collective (Emirbayer & Goodwin, 1994,
p. 1414). Historical studies of urban networks can also focus mainly on the
Source The authors’ elaboration
Corridor polycentric
Corridor dendritic
Corridor dendritic
Brittany & the Baltic
Russia & London
Urban network shape
Scale, city/region and shape dealt in the chapters of this book
Part I: A Single Gateway
Chapter 2 Hallen
Part II: Changing Shapes of Urban Networks
Chapter 3 Lavaud
Chapter 4 Serruys
Chapter 5 Cristina
Chapter 6 Martire
Part III: The Making of a Regional Network
Chapter 7 Tonelli
Chapter 8 Mocarelli
Chapter 9 Favero
Part IV: Using the Network
Chapter 10 Pourchasse
Regional &
Chapter 11 Scheltjens
Chapter 12 Sugiura
Table 1.1
network itself, explaining the relational operations between its nodes (or
cities). However, this approach has its drawbacks, especially when applied
to the urban logistics network that focuses on trade and transport flows.
This approach is easily confused with setting cities themselves as the actors
of networks, thereby implicitly providing strong agency to the cities and
especially their policymakers and elites. This is a pity because it undermines
a trend in urban studies that places great emphasis on involving the very
urban inhabitants who have historically been neglected, such as women and
minorities (Simonton & Montenach, 2013). It is important to understand
the differences between the initial methodological stances and approaches
that privilege urban agencies and urban networks and to not confuse the
two. This difference, however, does not mean that the two approaches cannot complement each other. The same urban historian may adopt an urban
agency approach for one article and network theory for another, and we
should develop the concept of the urban logistics network in a direction
that enhances that possibility.
In addition, network analysis evolved in a way that transcended macro–
micro levels in scale. In other words, analyzing networks enables researchers
to fluidly converse on various scale levels. Yet we should consider the
fact that, in complementing much-needed empirical and historical cases of
urban logistics networks, our essential approach is bottom-up. The focus
on the logistics aspects points towards source analysis at the micro-level. It
is essential to find a way to involve more micro-level analysis of the larger
picture of networks. From this perspective, we adopt a micro-historical
approach in the book, conceiving ‘the cases we study not as “examples”
but as “experiments.” Examples confirm a hypothesis through accumulation, with the obvious limitations this method entails. Experiments allow us
to change a particular interpretation’ (de Vivo, 2010, p. 392). Obviously,
as ‘the ability to reproduce the causes is excluded’ in history, an experimental approach requires attention to ‘even the smallest dissonances’ as
‘indicators of meaning which can potentially assume general dimensions’
(Levi, 1992, p. 110).
Reflecting these issues, this book presents a fourth section, Using the
Networks. We aim here at reorienting historical inquiries towards the role of
the users of these networks: from merchants shipping their goods through
one route or the other to passengers choosing how to reach their destinations, including the state and other political authorities, and also many others who are on much smaller scales, as interested users who may intervene
to modify the infrastructural network. User is not a familiar word in historical urban network studies, particularly for pre-modern periods. However,
in network studies of transport, innovations, or information technology,
users are becoming indispensable to understanding the configuration and
operations of the network. To what extent we can apply this to the past is
still a question to explore. Nevertheless, the focus on users makes it possible
for historians to reintroduce contingency (or Vidal de la Blache’s and de
Martonne’s [1926] geopolitical possibilisme), as well as reconsider the place
of human agency in the network analysis, while avoiding the pitfalls. The
fourth sequence, Using the Network, includes three chapters that illustrate
how urban logistics networks were used. Each chapter has a different perspective, focusing on merchants (Chapter 10), navigators (Chapter 11), and
small-city entrepreneurs (Chapter 12). Chapter 10, by Pierrick Pourchasse,
sheds light on the flaxseed trade between the Baltic and Brittany, linking
two urban networks and two market organizations. This chapter details
how merchants at the main gateway for trade, the intermediating organization points, and the receiver’s end utilized the network. In particular,
the chapter shows how a third party, the Hanseatic port of Lübeck, could
operate and shape the flow of trade by exploiting the network. Chapter 11,
by Werner Scheltjens, tracks a shipment of iron between St. Petersburg
and London through an analysis of a loadbook. This microscopic time
analysis allows us to see the urban logistics network from refreshing perspectives, which are synthesized as characteristics of pre-industrial logistics.
Chapter 11 helps us to understand the crucial role of port cities as providers
of manpower, sustaining the urban logistics network. Chapter 12, by Miki
Sugiura, focuses on one polycentric region of Friesland and attempts to
discover why polycentricity was maintained by analyzing the transport systems of several of the nodes. This essay shows the dynamic use of the city
canal by one family for more than five generations.
We have described the formation of urban network theory in the 1980s
and 1990s and covered the urban models that preceded and influenced the
theory. We have also defined the urban logistics network and pointed to
several gaps in the literature, which are in three areas: the spatial terminologies and scale, the shapes of networks, and the agency of networks. The
editors do not claim to have established a new theory; the aim of this book
is, once again, to provide a toolbox for other researchers. Each of the four
parts of this book (I. Single Gateway, II. Changing Shapes of the Urban
Network, III. The Making of the Regional Network, and IV. Using the
Network) includes empirical case studies that can be used as comparative
benchmark tools for other researchers to model their own urban networks.
Providing synthesis of the characteristics of urban logistics networks at different phases, such as pre-industrial and modern, is beyond the scope of
this volume, but each of our chapters deals with transitions in its own ways.
This book is neither a comparative urban study in itself. It does not compare
the examined regions with each other, or with other parts of the world. We
nevertheless believe that the perspectives and variables we provide are useful for enhancing the historical research on urban networks, and we hope
our volume will inspire a large body of new research.
Finally, this book highlights that cities are important not only because
more than half of humans now live in them, and more will come to live
in them, as we noted in the opening of this chapter, but also because of
their history. Although each city has its own glorious past when their names
shone in history, cities are collectively ambivalent. There is no doubt that
cities have made a significant difference in human history. Major economic
and political revolutions, as well as technological innovations, would not
have occurred without the existence of cities, even if not all of them were
initiated in cities. Cities are collectively distinguishable, sharing cultural,
economic, and political features and sometimes setting united fronts against
the rural. However, none of these were intended or planned with a pair of
invisible hands.
In this book we searched for the presence of systems, networks, and even
equilibrium among cities. Scholars have been able to construct theoretical
models, but testing them against empirical cases demonstrate ameliorations, tensions, and demolitions of the expected relationships. In particular, as far as the relationship between the cities as nodes and the logistics
networks connecting them is concerned, it is clearly demonstrated from
the case studies presented in this book that a city can develop a coordinating rather than a subordinating role with respect to their hinterland
and other cities. Obviously, such definitions are only the two tails of a
range involving different proportions of coordination and subordination,
and, most importantly, such roles change in time following the phases of
regional developments. In the first case (coordination), however, cities provide much-needed services to maintain and foster the activities going on in
the whole area, without attracting the vital functions of such activities into
themselves. In the latter one (subordination), cities convey not only services
for coordination but also attract such important economic activities.
It is tempting for historians dealing with early modern and modern
Europe, where the Industrial Revolution was the most impactful transformation in this span of time, to identify a general cycle going from coordination in proto-industrial settings, to subordination (with the rise of new
cities) following industrial development, and finally back to coordination
with the growth of services, the spread of industrialization in the whole
area, and eventual de-industrialization (see for instance Bairoch, 1988). It
is however necessary to highlight that this evolution is related to specific
technological paradigms, intertwining with political and social transformations that hindered, neutralized or enhanced their effects on different
regions. In other words, such cycles are historically contingent and model
trajectories exist only in the eye and in the mind of the historian. The
research on cities in this book on urban logistics networks keeps us aware
of how much we can and how much we cannot know and explain. The
choice of half of the human beings to inhabit cities is certainly a reflection
that, despite it all, cities work. However, there is much left to discover
about cities and the spaces they created.
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A Single Gateway
Gateway of Gothenburg
Per Hallén
The Göta River (Göta älv) is 93 kilometers long and connects the lake Vänern, almost an inland sea, 5650 km2 , with the North Sea. It has always been
an excellent highway to transport goods and people. Only a few waterfalls
block the journey and forced ships to offload goods and transport the cargo
overland. Since 1800, it has been possible to travel all the way between Vänern and the sea thanks to a system of locks. In medieval Scandinavia, waterways were the main highways to transport goods and people. Rivers, lakes
and even small streams could play an important role in the transportations
system. The Göta River was one of the largest inland waterways in Scandinavia. It is not surprising that the first cities in this part of Scandinavia were
built along the Göta River. The great economic advantage of waterborne
transport has often been pointed out in research. A concrete example was
highlighted by Adam Smith in 1776; “A broad-wheeled wagon, attended
by two men, and drawn by eight horses, in about six weeks’ time carries
and brings back between London and Edinburgh near four-ton weight
of goods. In about the same time a ship navigated by six or eight men,
and sailing between the ports of London and Leith, frequently carries and
P. Hallén (B)
University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden
e-mail: [email protected]
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
Image 2.1 The “gateway” to Gothenburg in 2015
brings back two-hundred-ton weight of goods. Six or eight men, in the
same time the same quantity of goods between London and Edinburgh,
as fifty broad-wheeled wagons, attended by a hundred men, and drawn by
four hundred horses” (Smith & Cannon, 1937, p. 18) (Image 2.1).
In addition to being a transport route, the river was also a border where
the emerging kingdoms of Norway, Denmark and Sweden met. This meant
that many conflicts and war acts affected the area. This made the historian
Curt Weibull write, “The land at the mouth of the Göta River - the old
Nordic border land – is the valley of the dead cities and fortresses” (Weibull,
As in many other places across the world, the first successful cities
emerged around trading places close to important trading routes. In
the eleventh and twelfth centuries, a medieval system of small gateway cities began to grow along the waterways. In this early formation
period, it is already possible to identify the two major gateways in Sweden. The largest of them was built on a small island forming the entry
point to lake Mälaren, today known under the name Stockholm, the
present-day capital of Sweden. To travel between the Baltic Sea and lake
Mälaren ships had to reload the cargo due to the rapids coming from
the higher lake flowing into the lower Baltic Sea. This eastern gateway had several advantages from the early medieval period and into the
modern age. It was located at the only point of access to lake Mälaren
and its iron rich hinterland. The iron went from here to Stockholm
and onward to the export markets (Dahlbäck, 1995; Högberg, 1981).
Another important advantage was that the city remained in the same
location during a long time without facing constant threats of destruction
from invading armies.
Cities and the Gateway Approach
One of the most influential articles on the topic of urban centers in Sweden
is Eli F. Heckscher’s article published in 1923 investigating the economic
outcome of new cities in Sweden during the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. He argued that at the core of explaining a city you would have
to find the economic reason to its foundation and future existence. He
was critical to the attempts of the Swedish crown to create new cites and
regarded most attempts as failures. Only one city created in the seventeenth
century is mentioned as an exception, the city of Gothenburg. Heckscher’s
explanation is that Gothenburg was not a new city, it was only a relocated
medieval city (Heckscher, 1923). Cities with a longer history, a foundation
closely connected to trade and production of goods, were more successful
than cities built only to be centres of administration and taxation.
It is possible to link Heckscher’s argument to the theoretical models
that have been created around the development of gateways and systems
of gateways. In several papers and articles Peter J. Rimmer has discussed
the evolution of ports and systems of ports (Rimmer, 2007). He develops
an idealized sequence of port development based on his own research with
additional ideas from Notteboom and Rodrigue article from 2005 (Notteboom & Rodrigue, 2005). The phases presented by Rimmer are based on
studies of seaports going back to 1883, but in this chapter, I will use it on
much earlier history and over a longer time (Fig. 2.1).
In Phase 1, many small and scattered ports along a coastline or a river
with only a limited hinterland. Phase 2, penetration lines and port piracy,
can be found during building of railways and canals. In Phase 3, ports
became more interconnected and some concentration started. Phase 4 is
called centralization and is typical of the industrial age during the first
part of the twentieth century. Finally Phase 5 and the decentralization of
ports. The large ports get competition from smaller and highly specialized
ports. The idealized sequence of port development in Rimmer’s text can
be compared with the historical and economic development of the gateway
cities along Göta River (Fig. 2.2).
Fig. 2.1 The idealized sequence of port development (Author’s elaboration.
Source Rimmer [2007, p. 77])
Fig. 2.2 Map of the gateway cities at Göta River (Legend: 1. Lödöse 1050
[about]–1646; 2. Kungahälla 1050–1090 [about]–1612; 3. Kungälv 1613–1678;
4. Kungälv 1678–today; 5. New Lödöse 1473–1621; 6. Älvsborgs city 1547
[about]–1570; 7. Gothenburg 1604 [about]–1611; 8. Gothenburg 1619–today.
Source Photo by Per Hallén 2015)
The Early History of the Gateway System at Göta
Long before any permanent cities were built, trade and traveling on the
river brought goods and new ideas. During the building of a new motorway and railway in the river valley, several previously unknown marketplaces were found during archaeological investigations. Large houses, probably warehouses, and many merchandises were found. Including one small
Roman bronze statue, which indicates long-distance trade during the Iron
Age (Claesson, 2014; Eboskog & Lega, 2014; Nordqvist, 2014). Farther
inland at Varnhem, along a road connecting the rich agricultural landscape
of Västergotland with the river, a wooden church from the late 900s and
a stone church from about 1050 were recently discovered (Vretemark,
2018). This discovery reveals that Christianity was established at least 150
years earlier than assumed. This shows that the river’s gateway function was
not just about goods but also ideas.
During the 1000s, two smaller cities, Lödöse and Kungahälla, began to
grow along the Göta River. Both had a long history in the form of smaller
trading places along the river. From the few written sources available, it
has been shown that both cities were created by Norwegian trade interests
and political endeavors from the royal authority. Later, the city became
Swedish, although the circumstances of this transfer are not fully understood. The driving forces behind the new city were primarily long-distance
trading. The new cities created a concentration of trade. This development fits in well with the model of Rimmer presented earlier. The many
scattered ports and trading places were replaced by fewer and permanent
trading places (Andersson & Carlsson, 2001; Bengtsson, 1998; Harlitz,
2010) (Image 2.2).
Lödöse’s market place was in the early years mainly a centre of the longdistance trade. The local marketplace of Grönköp close to the city was
able to maintain control of the local market during the early history of
Lödöse. The reason for this is difficult to clarify. Gradually, the city of
Lödöse gained in weight and the marketplace in the city also increased its
importance for local trade. Wood products probably dominated exports
from Lödöse during the early Middle Ages. Animal products, especially
butter, were also important as export goods. The role of iron exports in
the Middle Ages has been debated, but there are indications that it started
earlier than has been assumed. In addition, there may have been a significant
forging and refinement of iron in the city. Import goods also consisted of
food products like fish, and of course salt. The foreign merchants in Lödöse
Image 2.2 Lödöse today (Lödöse today looks like a community from about the
1960s or 1970. Only in the local museum, the buildings closest in the picture,
you will find the artefacts from the medieval city. The Göta River in the southern
direction is clearly visible in the picture. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2013)
largely consisted of Germans. But trade was of course also conducted with
the Danish area and with the other countries around the North Sea. The
hinterland stretched far up to lake Vänern and into the central parts of
Sweden (Ekre, 1993; Harlitz, 2010; Linge, 1993; Svedberg & Jonsson,
2006; Ugglas, 1931).
A trade agreement with Lübeck meant mutual freedom of duty and the
opportunity for the merchants from the German Hansa to settle in Sweden
and call themselves Swedes. The Hanseatic activities in Lödöse were different than in the rest of Sweden as much of the goods came from England,
France, Flanders and North West Germany. High-quality ceramics and textiles were stored in Lödöse before being sold on domestic trade routes or
re-exported. By the middle of the fourteenth century, the city’s economy
deteriorated and both the plague and a conflict with the German Hansa
resulted in a prolonged recession. In 1368, the German Hansa sent a fleet to
attack Lödöse. However, this was what we would call a surgical attack today,
as it only damaged the castle and one of the four churches in the city. The
organization still had significant financial interests in the city and the troops
apparently had orders not to harm trade or its infrastructure (Ekre, 1993).
In 1473 the situation changed for Lödöse when a new port city—New
Lödöse (Nya Lödöse)—for the long-distance international trade was established closer to the southern river mouth. Old Lödöse (Gamla Lödöse) was
not abandoned and retained its city rights, but the population declined and
trade volumes declined rapidly. In 1550, the households in Lödöse numbred only 45, and finally in 1646 the city privileges were repealed (Harlitz,
2010; Linge, 1969). Kungahälla was situated at the northern river mouth
of Göta River, called Nordre älv (The North River), and had emerged from
previous settlements and market places. The name is mentioned in the Icelandic tales (sagor) already during the tenth century, but it is uncertain
whether there was any city on the site. The earliest archaeological evidence
of Kungahälla is from the end of the eleventh century. The reasons why the
city was built are unknown, but probably it was in order to better monitor
and tax the trade flows, and to some extent also to try to exercise control
over the river (Andersson & Carlsson, 2001) (Image 2.3).
The findings of ceramics have been extensive at the many archaeological
excavations in the area where the city was located. The origins of ceramics
are clearly Western European. Both the quantity and the fact that most
of the ceramics have been imported show an extensive trading activity in
the city (Carlsson, 2001). Archaeological finds in Kungahälla show that
there were many oxen slaughtered in the city in the twelfth century. A
large number of bones from oxen show that it must have been intended
for export. It has been proposed that Kungahälla was Scandinavia’s oldest
ox trade town (Vretemark, 2001).
The city was moved in 1613 to a place below the strong Bohus fortress,
which was never conquered in battle. The name Kungahälla was changed
to Ny-Kongelf. The city would have a better protection there, and it got
a position at the place where the Göta River branches into two river arms.
But building a city next to a fortress may as well constitute a danger as a
protection. During the coming war, the city was destroyed in connection
with Swedish troops trying in vain to take Bohus in 1645. After having been
burned down several times in connection with battles, the city was eventually moved again after a Danish-Norwegian siege in 1678. The transfer
was made in an attempt to reclaim Bohuslän which since 1658 belonged to
Sweden. The Swedish state had plans never to rebuild Kungälv, and to force
the inhabitants to move to the new city of Gothenburg. This proposal was
Image 2.3 Remains of the medieval monastery in the North Western corner of
the city of Kungahälla (It is hard to find traces of the mediaeval city of Kungahälla.
Aside from a few remains of the local monastery, the medieval town is completely
invisible in the landscape. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2013)
never implemented, but the city lost its right to engage in foreign trade
and thus its role as a gateway city ended (Bengtsson, 1998) (Image 2.4).
The New Gateways of New Lödöse and Gothenburg
In 1473 privileges were given to the new city of New Lödöse. It was truly a
new foundation and it did not replace Old Lödöse. The old city retained its
status as a city but slowly started to be depopulated. The reason why New
Lödöse was founded is unclear. In contemporary documents, the customs
tariffs at the castle of Bohus are mentioned as a reason to build a new
city downstream of the castle. It has also been suggested that the new city
had a better location and was able to control a large hinterland to the east
and south. On the other hand, it lost the close connection to some of the
Image 2.4 Waterway in Kungälv, once the harbour for international trade from
1613 (Today, this area gives the impression of being a rural idyll. A clear example
of a gateway city that lost its position. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2010)
northwestern trading routes. These were however still controlled by Old
Lödöse (Linge, 1969). The foundation of New Lödöse fits well the concept
of a gateway city. Soon it became the second city in the kingdom, in terms of
trade, after Stockholm. It was not a city with global connections, but rather
a regional trading centre. Northern Germany and Denmark were the main
trading partners. But the city also had connections to the Netherlands,
England and Scotland, as well as with Norway and the Orkney Islands.
The export from New Lödöse consisted mainly of iron, wood, hides and
agrarian products. Import goods were textiles, household goods, salt and
food. The flow of goods shows the gateway function of the city. Also,
the travels of people tell us about the connections with the foreland and
hinterland. Large parts of West Sweden had connections to the city and
craftsmen traveled long distances to work in New Lödöse (Image 2.5).
New Lödöse was one of several cities forming a gateway corridor from
lake Vänern to the sea. Old Lödöse still was a trading city, as was Kungahälla,
Image 2.5 Site of the medieval church in New Lödöse (All traces of the medieval
city except the memorial stone are gone. Today, new homes and offices are being
built on site. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2013)
the southernmost city in Norway. The three cities were competitors and
had similar trading patterns. New Lödöse was, as mentioned, also a gateway
to other areas in the east and south. But in the south the older city of
Varberg, within Danish territory, was another competitor alongside the
city of Kungsbacka (Image 2.6).
It was difficult for any of the small cities to get the upper hand. Constant
conflicts devastated the urban centers and not a single one could start to
grow and match cities like Stockholm. To strengthen New Lödöse it was
suggested that it would be a good idea to move the city closer to the deep
harbour, by the castle of Älvsborg, at the river mouth. In 1540 evidence
has been found that at least parts of New Lödöse were moved (Älvsborg
city), but at the same time several buildings remained in the old city area.
Perhaps New Lödöse was located in two places at the same time during the
mid-1500s. After a period of warfare, the city moved back to its old location
Image 2.6 Archaeological excavation of Nya Lödöse in 2015 (Houses and streets
from the medieval town have been visible again for a short time before being
removed to give way to modern houses. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2015)
around 1570 (Cornell, Nilsson, Palm, & Rosén, 2017; Grill, 1954; Linge,
1969; Rosén, 2004) (Image 2.7).
During the early 1600s, the connection to the Dutch became stronger
and it was of interest to bring trade from this rich trading nation to the
Swedish territory on the west coast. To make it attractive to Dutch merchants the Swedish government created a new city under the name Göteborg (Gothenburg). The new city was provided with many exclusive privileges to allow Dutch merchants to live and work in this new location.
The grand plans were stopped by a new conflict and the small town with a
limited population of Dutch merchants was burnt down (Scander, 1975).
The land around Nya Lödöse and the castle of Älvsborg were under Danish
occupation until 1619. After the payment of one million riksdaler in ransom the land was returned to Sweden. But during the peace negotiations,
it came close to Denmark keeping this territory (Kirby & Wahlén, 1994;
Wetterberg, 2002). If that had been the case, the history of this gateway
would have been very different.
Image 2.7 On the large open green surface lay the first Gothenburg (Like all the
predecessors of today’s Gothenburg, almost all traces of the older city have been
eradicated. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2012)
After Sweden regained control of the southern estuary of Göta River in
1619, the plan to build a new city was almost immediately realized. No
attempt was made to rebuild the first city under the name Gothenburg.
Instead a new location on meadows close to the river was chosen as the
new location. The city dwellers from New Lödöse were told to be prepared
to move to this new location.
Between 1619 and 1643 the new city of Gothenburg was built in a wet
marshland and on the meadows. Specialists on city planning and building
in wetlands were recruited from The Netherlands. Even the plan of the
city was, and still is, similar to that of Amsterdam, old Batavia and New
Amsterdam (Attman, 1979). At first the defense of the city was rather
weak, but after the threat of a new war, in 1643, a large-scale construction
started on the new fortress of Gothenburg. In a few years’ time the city was
transformed into one of the strongest fortified cities in Northern Europe
(Andersson, 1996; Langenbach, 2004).
The fortunes of war were this time in favor of Sweden. A large part
of the old Danish kingdom was occupied by Swedish forces and after the
peace of 1658, all of the land to the north and south of Gothenburg had
become part of Sweden. This completely transformed the balance of power
in Scandinavia (Eliassen, Mikkelsen, & Poulsen, 2001).
Many former Danish and Norwegian cities were now forced to abandon
foreign trade and only trade on the domestic market, and they became
subordinate to Gothenburg (Helle, 2006).
The gateway function of Gothenburg was strengthened by this development and its power over the hinterland was stronger than before. But it was
a constant struggle to maintain this position. The merchant community in
Gothenburg was very active in the national parliament to defend the rights
of the city and its trade.
During the 1620s Sweden introduced new laws that divided cities into
different groups. Some were allowed to conduct international trade, and
some were only allowed to conduct domestic trade. The new city of
Gothenburg was from the very beginning favored by the new law. Kungälv,
the former Norwegian city to the north was prohibited from conducting
international and domestic trade. Even Old Lödöse lost its privileges in
1646 and its inhabitants were told to move to other cities (Harlitz, 2010;
Heckscher, 1923; Ugglas, 1931).
The gateway of Gothenburg could start growing within the protection
of the new legal framework and expand into the hinterlands of the cities
that had been disconnected.
The influence of Gothenburg on the hinterland was growing
from 1650 to 1815, and the eighteenth century was especially successful
from the economic standpoint. The city experienced both economic and
population growth. From 1733 Gothenburg was home to the Swedish East
India Company. It was a powerful organization with many part-owners
from continental Europe and Great Britain. Compared to the Dutch,
English or French companies the Swedish was tiny. It was not able to create
a colonial empire, but it was powerful enough to be asked to take action
in the conflict between Scotland and England in 1746. The plan was never
carried out, but the attempt is interesting (Behre, 1982).
The great herring fishery 1748–1808 was important to the development
of the cities’ trading network. The merchants of Gothenburg attempted to
get a monopoly on the herring far north of the city. Their mission was
unsuccessful and merchants and cities to the north of Gothenburg could
also get a part of the profit from the rich fishery. But still, most of the
profits ended up in Gothenburg as the main export harbour of herring and
import of salt. The herring fishery was the only non-regulated industry in
Sweden at that time, it was as close to a modern market you could get in
the mercantilist system. The salting-houses and train oil factories changed
the labor market and the flow of goods in the city. This was the first period
of production within Gothenburg aimed at export. The new possibilities of
the herring period opened up new markets around the Baltic Sea, the main
market for salted herring. But the herring period came to an end in 1808,
after that the rich fisheries disappeared (Nilsson, 1963; Poulsen, 2008).
The herring period left some lasting effects in and around Gothenburg. Close to many of the salting-houses and train oil factories new production factories had originated. These consisted mainly of glassworks,
iron foundry, shipyards and sugar refineries (Hallén, 2007). A new suburb to Gothenburg developed during that time. Gothenburg was now a
fast-growing “city”, but the new suburb looked more like a shantytown.
After the end of the herring period the large population in the shantytown
remained and so did some of the factories. In 1868 this urban area outside
Gothenburg was incorporated into the city (Hallén, 2007; Olsson, 2007b).
The French revolution and the following Napoleonic wars laid waste to
Europe and other parts of the world. In Gothenburg, on the other hand,
the economy was booming. The Continental System made Gothenburg
the commercial centre for most of Northwestern Europe. Thousands of
ships arrived in the port during these years (Heckscher & Westergaard,
After the end of the Napoleonic wars, the political change was fundamental across Europe. In Sweden a new royal dynasty came to power and
Norway was forced into a union with Sweden. The balance of power around
Skagerrak and Kattegat had completely transformed. The new union was
going to further strengthen the economic power of Gothenburg. Large
part of the Norwegian shipping, which previously went to Denmark, now
came to Gothenburg (Eliassen et al., 2001; Olsson, 2007a). During the
war Gothenburg had an exclusive position as a trading centre of Northwest Europe. When peace returned and trade resumed its old patterns,
Gothenburg’s golden days abruptly ended. The overvalued property market collapsed and the commercial credit institutions went bankrupt or were
liquidated (Fritz, 1996; Hallén, Aldman, & Fritz, 2015). This was a major
credit crisis. The only formal credit institution left was the government and
its resources were limited. During the Napoleonic wars a new large sugar
refinery was constructed by the deep-water harbour. It was a modern factory, steam powered and using the latest British technology. It soon became
the leading sugar refinery in Sweden. But during the post-war depression the refinery went bankrupt due to high cost of the new technology,
the fluctuations in the price of unrefined sugar and the foreign exchange
rates. A new strong owner from Scotland bought the refinery in 1834 and
expanded the company with a production of porter. This became one of the
most profitable companies in Gothenburg (Olsson, 2007c) (Image 2.8).
The recovery after the economic crisis took several decades. During that
time, the population growth was weak, but the city was gradually transforming into an industrial town. Most of the new industry was located
outside the city’s border. The production was mainly in the sugar refineries and textile mills (mostly spinning). In the gateway city of Gothenburg,
the harbour was the most important part of the infrastructure. During the
pre-industrial age, all large ships had to lie at anchor in the roadstead. All
goods were then on- or off-loaded to smaller barges and carried to the
quay. Harbour facilities are important for understanding the development
of the global transport revolution (Fritz, 1996; Jackson, 1972). The first
true steps toward industrialization happened in the textile production, as in
so many other countries around the world. At first it was only spinning that
Image 2.8 The large harbour channel in central Gothenburg (The channel is
currently only used by tourist boats and some kayaks. But the city centre is still in
use despite the fact that the canal is no longer the ciity’s backbone. Source Photo
by Per Hallén 2017)
was mechanized, weaving was still a manual process. In and around Gothenburg, about a thousand looms were working to make yarn cloth. Most of
these looms were operated by small companies, some owned and managed
by females in breach of the legislation at that time. By 1850 the next step
in the mechanization process took place and the weaving moved into the
factories (Hallén, 2010a, 2010b).
In the 1820s the digging of a canal was initiated between Gothenburg
and Stockholm. The harbour of Gothenburg participated in the project and
it was made deeper and better adapted to the needs of ships and trade. In
1844 the project was completed. It combined natural waterways with canals
to form the first inland connection between the two cities. The importance
of Gothenburg was further strengthened by this canal. Today the effect of
the canal is often forgotten in the shadow of the railways. But the canal made
the flow of goods over Gothenburg so important that it was necessarily to
build the first railways to the city (Forsström, 2003; Fritz, 1996; Gooch,
1991). Many of the new technological advances arrived from Great Britain
to Gothenborg, which became the most important gateway in Sweden of
technological import during the nineteenth century. Also with regard to
the technology imports the Göta canal played a crucial role (Gooch, 1991;
Gooch & Castensson, 1991).
During the mid-nineteenth century Sweden began to transform from a
mainly agrarian country into an industrial nation. Railways made an impact
on transportation and could connect the gateway to new networks. But the
new transportation technology also created competitors, as new harbours
that previously did not have any well-developed connection to a hinterland, could use the railway to develop into new important gateways. At the
same time, institutional reform removed most of the privileges that some
of the seaports previously had. The connection between the new railway
system and the harbour in 1858 was the start of a new age in the history
of the harbour and the importance of the gateway. The first railway connected Gothenburg to the capital city Stockholm. But the expansion of
the network soon made new areas in inland Sweden part of Gothenburg’s
hinterland. At the end of the nineteenth century six railway lines connected
the city to its hinterland. It was a complicated task to provide capital for
the railways in Sweden. It was (and still is) a sparsely populated country
and you have to build long tracks across forests and hills to reach populated
areas. Most of the nationwide railway lines were entirely paid for by public
means. But one, big exception is the line between Gothenburg and mining
district around Falun. That was the largest private infrastructure project
during the nineteenth century. The first plans were to build a shorter rail-
way to a small port on the west coast called Krossekärr. This was the first
true threat to a vital economic interest for the Gothenburg merchants in a
long time. If the export of iron was to by-pass Gothenburg it would be a
serious setback to the gateway city.
In the end the railway line was built all the way to Gothenburg. It
opened in 1879 and soon was one of the most important lines feeding
goods through the harbour (Fritz, 1996). At the same time this railway line
was important to gain access to the hinterland, previously dominated by
economic interests from Stockholm. From the mid-1800s to 1911 Stockholm’s share in the export was reduced from 43 to 10%. Gothenburg share
on the other hand, did not shrink and made up about 25% of the export
figures. The import shares of both Stockholm and Gothenburg from 1840
to 1911 shrunk from almost 40% to 24–27% of the total Swedish import
(Hammarström, 1970). The two old gateways were facing increased competition from smaller harbours around the Swedish coastline after the abolition of the old laws giving only a few cities privileges. The increasing flow
of goods moving through the port of Gothenburg was possible due to
the modernization of the harbours. Railways, modern docks and dredgers
transformed the river into a river harbours in the city centre. The industrial
city became mature in the decades before the First World War. The older
industries developed and many new smaller businesses were established.
One of the most successful was SKF, the manufacturer of ball bearing
(Fritz, 1996). Between the two World Wars, most of European economy
was in a bad shape. Many traditional industries were not able to continue
to produce as before the war. To a gateway like Gothenburg this should
have meant a catastrophe. But that is the great paradox of Gothenburg,
during the 1920–1939 period. Instead of declining, Gonthenburg’s economy expanded. The shipyards, the engineering workshops and the textile
industry not only survived, but they flourished. It was a combination of a
growing Swedish market and of new innovations that saved and developed
the industrial production in Gothenburg. Before the war many industries
took out loans in German banks. After the war the German currency lost
its value during the hyperinflation. That was a great help to many companies and also to the Swedish state that was in debt to German banks and
suddenly could pay the loans back. During the 1930s German rearmament
also boasted industrial development in West-Sweden (Olsson, 1996).
Economic Expansion After 1945
After the Second World War, the economic growth continued to be outstanding (1945–1974). The shipyards in Gothenburg became as important
as Glasgow and Hamburg. About 10% of the world production of ships
took place in the dry docks of Gothenburg. The shipping companies were
part of the development of the shipyards. New lines and new ships were
needed to transport the ever-larger amounts of goods. The oil-harbours
was expanded with new petrochemical industries connected to it. The new
challenges to the gateway were the shift from mixed cargos to a world of
“roll on roll off”, containers and ever-larger ships transporting oil. The
old textile industry was not so successful during these years. It was under
pressure from low-wage countries and many factories had to close. It was
fortunate that the expansion in other industries was so strong, it could
absorb the laid-off workforce from the textile industries (Olsson, 1996).
The oil crisis was the beginning of the end for the shipyards. One by one
the big shipyards were forced to close in the ten years following 1974. The
only surviving shipyard was specialized in repairing ships (Olsson, 1996).
In that aspect, things were back to the “normal” as it was before about
1850. The mass production of large ships lasted less than 50 years.
After 1974 the production of cars and trucks at the Volvo factories
became more and more important to the city and some started to describe
Gothenburg as a “car city” rather than a “sea-faring city”. Looking only on
the number of employees, this could be correct. But, without the harbour,
the industry would have problems with both the export of the products
and the import of the materials needed for production. The impact of the
crisis went beyond the shipyards. The diversity in the local business community was reduced and the surviving large companies like Volvo and SKF
became even more important (Storstadsregioner i förändring, 1989). Aside
from industry, banking and finance in Gothenburg remained important
and went on growing throughout the nineteenth century into the twentieth. Banks with headquarters in Gothenburg controlled about 30% of
the total financial market in Sweden before 1945. After the Second World
War the financial markets were concentrated in Stockholm. As a secondary
financial node, Gothenburg started to shrink. By the 1980s, the concentration the concentration of financial activities in the capital city was complete
(“Statistisk årsbok Göteborg”, 1902–2015).
Railway connections are still important to the port of Gothenburg, but
today traffic by road and air have increased its share of the transportation
of goods in and out of the hinterland. The infrastructure in west Sweden is
pointing toward Gothenburg. It is shaped like a stare due to the landscape
with valleys. Some improvements were made during the depression and
the interwar period. The breakthrough of cars and lorries did not come
until after the Second World War (Schön & Schubert, 2010). After the
Second World War the infrastructure in the western parts of Sweden has
received less funding if compared to other parts of the country (Forsström,
2003). Motorways were built on the approaches to the city in the sixties
and seventies, but further out the road standard was of low quality. To the
south a motorway connection to Malmö was completed in 1999. To the
north, connecting Gothenburg to Oslo in Norway, only parts of the road
have motorway standard. The important road toward Stockholm is also of
a low standard through large parts of Western Sweden. It is a road with
many fatal accidents. The road standard only recently started to catch up
with the rest of Europe.
A new component to the gateway system is air transport. The only
international airports in the western part of Sweden are located outside
of Gothenburg. The first “modern” airport was Torslanda in the western part of the city, not far from the harbour, inaugurated in 1923, when
the city celebrated its 300 anniversary. Torslanda was the main airport
until 1977, when a new larger airport, Landvetter, opened outside the
city. The aim was to move the noise and pollutions away from the city.
Closer to the city an old air force base was converted into a civilian airport in 2000. It was given the grand name of Göteborg City Airport, but
still using old barracks. This was during some years the home of low fare
companies like Ryanair. But the old runway was in poor condition and
in 2014 Göteborg City Airport was closed and all traffic had to move to
Landvetter. Transport by air did not follow the same pattern as transport
by sea. The large gateway of the skies in Sweden is Stockholm—Arlanda
airport. Close to Gothenburg is also the large airport of Copenhagen.
But the number of passengers and goods are growing in Gothenburg
and the airport is now expanding and building new logistic centres and
hotels. Plans are made to build a railway station under the airport ( and Härryda Posten.
01/visioner-pa-vag-att-forverkligas/, February 13, 2019). However, it is
unlikely that the airport will ever be a gateway as important as the port
has been. Through large investments the harbour was modernized in
order to keep up the competition with other harbours (Olsson, 1996).
Today Gothenburg harbour is regarded as part of the Kattegat/The Sound
multi-port gateway regions of Europe (Notteboom, 2010). New investments are underway and it looks like the largest container ships are going
to continue to arrive in the port of Gothenburg (Fig. 2.3).
Since 1965 the transportation of goods through the port of Gothenburg has increased. The rapid expansion during the 1960 is clear in the
diagram, as well as the downturn in the mid-1970s. A long-term slow
recovery has been followed by a peak in the need of transportation in the
early 2000s. Today only a small part of the goods travel on Göta River
to lake Vänern. Most goods are transported on trucks and trains to other
parts of Scandinavia. This shift from water to land transportation started in
the mid-nineteenth century during the industrialization. As a gateway city
Gothenburg depends on the economic structures in its hinter and foreland.
Since the 1970s the diversity in the industrial sector has been reduced and
today it is dominated by the automotive production. In addition, the service economy is to a large part depending on the automotive industry, so
the economic structure of both the city and its hinterland are vulnerable
(Image 2.9).
Fig. 2.3 Tons of goods transported through the Port of Gothenburg, 1965–
2016 (Source The author’s elaboration from Port of Gothenburg. https://www. [February 13, 2019])
Image 2.9 Gothenburg’s harbour today (The port is now closer to the sea and
many residents no longer notice the shipping activities. But when new large vessels
enter the city for the first time, the beaches are lined with people who want to see
the new “giants” of the sea. When the new generation of container vessels entered
Gothenburg for the first time in 2013, ferries went out to the harbour with curious
spectators. Source Photo by Per Hallén 2013)
The Five Phases of the Gateways at Göta River
This chapter’s point of departure was the article by Eli F. Heckscher. He
argued that at the core of explaining a city you will have to find the economic reason to its foundation and future existence. By highlighting some
of the more important economic events in the gateways along the Göta
River from about the year 1000 and until the present day, the development
of the gateway has been shown. When this development is compared with
Rimmer’s five phases of the idealized sequence of port development, some
interesting results emerge.
The first phase represents the many scattered marketplaces along Göta
River during the late iron age and early medieval period. In the second phase
several new cities were established, Lödöse and Kungahälla, at first rural
market places also existed alongside the cities. In 1473 the establishment
of New Lödöse expanded the multi-gateway system along Göta River to
three cities.
Conflicts were common and wars had a devastating impact. The economy was however strong enough to allow rebuilding after the end of each
war. No single city could achieve a dominating position. During the late
1500s and early 1600s it is clear that both Swedish and Danish cities in this
area started to penetrate other cities’ hinterlands in acts of “hinterland piracy”. The first lock in Sweden was built in Göta River to reduce transportation cost and traders from the Norwegian city of Uddevalla attempted to
gain access to the valley of Göta River. This second phase lasted until the
mid-1600s, when Sweden got the upper hand of Denmark and the West
coast was placed under the control of Sweden.
The third phase of interconnection and concentration was during the
integration of the cities into the new Swedish system of regulation of cities.
This phase lasted from the mid-1600s to the mid-1800s and ended with
the abolition of the exclusive status of some cities over others in relation to
international and domestic trade. The end of the third phase also coincides
with the first railways that opened up a larger hinterland to the gateway of
The fourth phase of concentration to the gateway depended on the
transportation system driven by steam and later oil. Especially railways were
an important component in the centralization of trade. It was a massive
investment to build and run railways. The only way to make it profitable
was to have a large amount of cargo. That in turn required a large supplier,
like a large port.
The fifth phase is the contemporary period and in some port regions
decentralization has emerged. That did never develop in any significant
way around Gothenburg. Only the outport of Wallhamn, started in 1962,
has attempted to challenge the port of Gothenburg, but mainly in the
shipping of cars. Instead, the concentration, so far, seems to continue in
the port of Gothenburg.
The gateway theory and the history of Gothenburg form many links
together. The economic driving forces are, as Heckscher told us, important
and explain the changes over time. As always, the international economy is
of great significance to understand the local and regional development of a
port city. Without the effects of the herring, Napoleonic wars, the massive
demand of goods after the Second World War and other important events,
the gateway of Gothenburg would have been different.
Today some of the goods that were important to the first gateway cities
still have a role in the modern economy. Iron has been replaced by steel
and automotive export, wood has been replaced by paper and paper pulp,
but both are still important export goods. The Göta River is still used but
its importance has diminished. Rail and road transport have increased in
importance. Due to the rail and road system, goods like cars and paper can
easily take other roads and bypass the port in Gothenburg.
The present city of Gothenburg has been successful in adapting to
the changes in both its hinterland and foreland. However, can it continue
to play a role as an important port and gateway? Alternatively, will the
Gothenburg of today end like so many of its precursors and disappear from
the map? Nothing is ever certain and a gateway city is always dependent on
the development of other gateway cities in the network.
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Changing Shapes of Urban Networks
Bordeaux from Its Vineyards to Its
Hinterland: A Regional Capital in the Late
Middle Ages
Sandrine Lavaud
It was the economic potential provided by it being a port that enabled Bordeaux to thrive as a locality made suitable for wine-growing by its soil. From
ancient times, the emporium was able to export the output of the vineyards
down the great watercourse and onwards to the eager markets of Northern Europe. Its function as a gateway to the Atlantic was compounded by
its location at the head of the tidal estuary 80 km from the ocean. Bordeaux was the trans-shipment point between fluvial craft laden with cargo
from up-river and sea-going vessels ready to carry those goods out onto
the Atlantic. This location made it the inescapable port-of-call for wine
exports from the Garonne valley. The middle ages and more especially its
final three centuries (thirteenth to fifteenth centuries) saw Bordeaux reach
the height of its fortunes both in wine-growing and as a port, with the
Anglo-Gascon union opening up guaranteed outlets to the English market
in which Bordeaux had a virtual monopoly when it came to wine. Control
S. Lavaud (B)
UMR 5607 Ausonius, University Bordeaux Montaigne, Pessac, France
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
over the production, procurement and sale of wine became a major issue
for the city and initiated or served its claims to be a regional capital. The
celebrated wine privileges,1 secured both by concessions and by infringements of individuals’ property rights and freedoms, served as a prime legal
and commercial weapon in Bordeaux’s endeavour to become a metropolis.
Outlying areas were brought under its sway and a wine-growing system
eventually established. Evaluating and mapping this ascendancy provides
historians with a way to measure the city’s expanding jurisdiction and its
contribution to the formation of the hinterland.
The idea of hinterland shall be construed broadly here, taking into
account the gains from recent approaches that have enhanced the model
first introduced by Christaller and encompassing economic and political
factors. Those factors prove especially operative in the case of Bordeaux
where the hinterland can be approached in any of three ways:
– an economic perspective: the hinterland is assimilated with the territory lying specifically inland from the port city, its area of procurement. The port provided exit points for this area which was directly
connected to it. For Bordeaux, the inland district was the Garonne
drainage basin, which was the place from where Gascony wines were
procured for export. It was akin to a continental gateway the structuring features of which were the river network and the towns that
littered it. This hinterland had no sharp boundaries and was much like
a “horizon”, a Frontierland that graded into a tangle of partially overlapping areas of influence, in the case in point, the areas of Toulouse,
1 It was from the thirteenth century on that the Bordelais used privileges to ward off competition and sell their wine on the best terms. The tax exemption granted to them in 1214 by
John Lackland was a first step. It exonerated the burghers of Bordeaux from payment of the
grande and petite coutume. Then from the 1240s, the municipal councillors claimed to control
the shipment of wines from upstream, prohibiting them from entering Bordeaux before Martinmas and then, from 1373, before Christmas. Lastly in 1401, the councillors of Bordeaux
secured from Henry IV a statute prohibiting the loading of wines for abroad from the Médoc
ports. These protectionist measures continued until they were first abolished by Turgot in
1776. Historical studies on this question abound. The authoritative textbook already dates
(Kehrig, 1886). But the study of these medieval privileges is due to Yves Renouard (1959)
and J.-P. Trabut-Cussac (1950). We should also add the remarkable clarification by Roger
Dion ([1959] 2010).
centred on the upper Garonne, and Bayonne oriented towards trade
with Spain2 ;
– a political conception: the hinterland is viewed as the outlying area
over which the city exercised authority and power of command. This
conception covered the spatial frameworks that were symptomatic of
this control function whether administrative (banlieue, sénéchaussée,
généralité, etc.), judicial (provostship, jurisdiction of the Parlement,
etc.), ecclesiastical (dioceses, provinces, etc.) or regulatory and legal
– a social and cultural connotation: the hinterland was also the spatial
expression of the area of social relations and reciprocal support around
a central core; the social and cultural practices that gave life to it, especially those dictated by the marked impact of wine-growing, forged
its geographical identity and generated a sense of belonging.
Defined in this way, the term is similar to other concepts, such as the concepts of zone of urban influence or fallout, both of which highlight the
political and economic sway the city held over its surroundings; hence
the focus on the agents and markers of urban influence and their level of
Here it is proposed to use the economic indicator provided by the wine
trade as an approach to Bordeaux as a geographical centre. How relevant is
this criterion? Is it a decisive factor in the polarization of the area dominated
by Bordeaux? Does it fully account for the influence of this capital? Is it
consistent with other types of place?
An Operative Indicator for the Immediate
Whether we look at it in terms of the production area or in terms of landholding and market power, the wine-growing criterion is a good indicator
of Bordeaux’s control over its immediate inland area. The city developed
a vineyard in its faubourgs that formed its main area of production and
supply (Fig. 3.1).
2 The continental gateways engendered by the three major cities (Bordeaux, Toulouse and
Bayonne) did not really produce any “rearland”, insofar as, outside the Haute-Lande that
formed a “desert” area between Bordeaux and Bayonne, the areas of influence were contiguous and even overlapped.
Fig. 3.1 The dynamics of Bordeaux’s medieval vineyard, incorporated into the
suburbs (Source The author’s elaboration [map by O. Pissoat])
It was the largest vineyard in medieval Aquitaine in terms of surface
area and commercial value. Clinging to the ramparts, it formed a 4–5 km
radius ring around the city. It was criss-crossed by a dense network of
highways and byways, with the main thoroughfares running like spokes
to the city and interconnected by numerous secondary lanes. Vines were
the sole crop and only the rows of willows (aubarèdes ), planted along the
riverbanks to provide stakes and ties for the vine stocks, marred the uniformity of the landscape. No dwellings disturbed it, apart from the canonical
town of Saint-Seurin and a few isolated buildings. Medieval scribes used
the generic Occitan name of Gravas de Bordeu for the whole of the suburban wine-growing tract. The term designated the gravelly earth of the
upper tiers of the alluvial terrace surrounding Bordeaux, a landscape feature reputed for its wine-growing qualities and duly identified as such by
contemporaries. Even so, by the end of the middle ages, this soil type and
the wine-growing area were not coterminous: not only had the vineyard
extended into the suburban wetlands (palus ) but above all it did not take in
the full extent of the alluvial terrace (graves ). Its spread was halted close to
the villages surrounding Bordeaux by two main factors: the continued production of foodstuffs and in particular cereal crops necessary for the rural
communities; and the legal status of certain village land (finages ) deemed
to be servile (questaux) tenements, such as the commons of Caudéran, Le
Bouscat and Villenave in the parish of Saint-Seurin. The fact is that the people of Bordeaux had made little of this outlying area where the land had
long remained used for mixed farming and contributed little in the way
of supplies for the city. By contrast, they sought to appropriate all of the
wine-growing land to the point of making the vineyard a leading factor in
their identity. As an emanation of the municipality, the vineyard maintained
such numerous and close ties with urban spheres that the city councillors
(jurats ) readily referred to it the “substance” of the town.3
The vineyard was an urban construction on several counts. First, it was
owned by town dwellers. Country folk and aliens had very minor interests in
it. Where land law was concerned, most of the vineyard fell within the sway
of the city’s ecclesiastical institutions. The leading ones (the archdiocese,
the two chapters of Saint-André and Saint-Seurin, the Abbey of SainteCroix) were at the head of huge temporal estates and shared in the winegrowing area with each dominating a specific sector. Where tenancy law was
3 Registres de la Jurade de Bordeaux. Délibérations de 1414 à 1416 et de 1420 à 1422, t. IV,
Bordeaux, 1883, p. 307, 9 janvier 1416.
concerned, it was the inhabitants and among them primarily the burgesses,
all of them wine-growers to some degree, who were the right-holders and
who regularly ventured outside the city walls to maintain their vines. It
was what might be called a popular vineyard, much like a huge “close” or
garden in terms of its proximity and the care lavished on it. In addition to
controlling the land, the citizenry also farmed it and only professional winegrowers, laboradors de vinhas, were called on from time to time for all the
intricate work (pruning, hoeing, etc.). These vineyard labourers were the
city’s largest body of craftsmen. Like the vineyard itself, they contributed
to the identity of medieval Bordeaux and of the Graves area, being rooted
in the land and the vineyard that they criss-crossed on a daily basis.
The wine they produced there served primarily to supply the city. In
Bordeaux as in many medieval communities, wine was primarily for the
community’s own supply and consumption. The urban market was fully
reserved for it and outside wines were only allowed in when local reserves
ran dry. What set Bordeaux apart, though, was the commercial orientation
of its vineyard promoted by the Anglo-Gascon alliance. All surplus production went to foreign trade and was shipped with the autumn fleet to the
British Isles and northern Europe. In the good years of the early decades
of the fourteenth century, the quantities exported by the burgesses of Bordeaux came to 12–15% of all Gascony wine bound for Britain.4 No other
town in the wine-growing area of Aquitaine could boast that sort of contribution. The proportion rose when hostilities began and the lands of the
mid-Garonne valley went over to the French camp. The Bordeaux growers
became virtually the exclusive purveyors to the English market.
The wine privileges contributed substantially to making the Bordeaux vineyard Aquitaine’s leading wine-growing centre. Exemption
from customs duties, wine “futures” and freedom from any competition until Christmas provided legal protection and commercial advantages
unequalled in the region. Even so, those privileges were personal and not
real: they applied not to the wine-growing land but to those of the citizenry
alone who were the holders, not just for their suburban production but also
4 Quantities exported through the port of Bordeaux are known from the registers of the
Grande Coutume for which series are complete for the years 1305–1336 only. In 1305–1306,
of the 97,848 barrels (1 barrel = 800–900 litres) of Gascon wine shipped, 13,958 (14.2%)
belonged to burgesses, ecclesiastics or nobles of Bordeaux. In 1308–1309, the recordbreaking year for traffic at the port of Bordeaux, of the 102,724 barrels exported, 12,260
(11.9%) were supplied by Bordelais. See James (1951, p. 192).
for that of all the vines they held throughout the diocese. On the part of
the municipal council, the rationale behind this was social rather than geographic. It sought to secure the support of its burgesses, its constituent
body, from which, in exchange for those privileges, it could demand civic,
fiscal and military duties. The advantages were equally evident when it came
to the suburban vineyard. To the extent that the burgesses were the main
tenants and producers, they conferred on the vineyard a privileged character and made it a legal estate that could be extended as and when their
investments allowed.5
Through its geographical, landed and social aspects or alternatively its
economic and legal aspects, the Bordeaux vineyard can be viewed as an
extension or even a projection of the city over its immediate surroundings,
where it exercised its domination and from which it derived its identity
and its prosperity. In this way, the vineyard and the entire wine-growing
business to which it gave rise partook of the central character of the city
and of Bordeaux’s claim to the rank of capital. The municipality bolstered
its ascendancy thereby including it within the banlieue.
The gradual formation (over three centuries, approximately from 1250
to 1550) was primarily a response to political rationales: to make it the basis
and the expression of municipal power. Hence its scope was far greater than
that of the area needed for supply and it was expansionist in character. The
venture was favoured by the context of the Hundred Years War which
was conducive to concessions from the dukes and it came about at the
same time as the municipal body was becoming increasingly autonomous
and doing what it took to make its dreams of grandeur come true.
M. Bochaca suggested that the municipality had been struck by “contado
syndrome”6 ; securing wine privileges was contemporaneous with the formation of the suburbs, which became one of the spatial benchmarks of
protectionist rules.7 Bordeaux’s jurisdiction soon extended well beyond
5 Several wine-growing towns adopted a similar policy. Bergerac initially opted to restrict
its wine privileges to the territory referred to as La Vinée, its suburban vineyard on the right
bank of the Dordogne, the bounds of which were defined by the Charter of Freedoms of
1255. When the vineyard expands as a result of reconstruction after the Hundred Years’ War,
the initial territory had to be redefined and the geographical rationale superseded by a more
personal privilege granted to the townspeople alone. See Beauroy (1976).
6 Bochaca (1997, p. 259).
7 For example, the burgesses paid the droit d’Yssac, a tax on retail sales, only on wines they
bought from a non-burgess in the banlieue.
the wine-growing area. However, it was this area that formed the central
location, the first ring beyond the urban core that radiated most densely
over it. This was reflected by the administrative boundary divisions: within
the banlieue, the vineyard came under the Saint-Éloi provostship, the legal
district that encompassed the city and the rural part of the urban parishes
of Saint-Rémi, Sainte-Eulalie and Sainte-Croix, as well as the suburban
parishes of Saint-Seurin, Saint-Genès de Talence and Saint-Pierre de Bègles,
that is, an area that brought under the same governance both the city and
its vineyard and confirmed their merger. The municipality developed its
hold there at the expense of the ducal provost of L’Ombrière.8 Apart from
the enclaves of the ecclesiastical sauvetés, the city councillors exercised full
power of justice and police there.
As applied to the suburban area, the wine-growing criterion appears,
then, to have been closely correlated with the other parameters of urban
ascendancy that it reinforced. To strengthen its rule, the municipality implemented an interspatial arrangement whereby interactions between locations
of different types took on two major forms: nesting, with the Bordeaux
vineyard embedded within the banlieue which was in turn embedded within
the diocese that was dependent on the duchy; and geographical superimposition of the area of production and procurement for a market protected by
privileges, the core territory of municipal control, an area of labour and land
tenancy, a territory that bestowed a specific identity, the area of jurisdiction
of the Saint-Éloi provostship, etc. This nesting and stacking provided a
yardstick for the control achieved by the city over its surroundings so that
it formed a basis for its regional area of influence.
A More Partial Criterion for Evaluating
the Polarization of the Bordeaux Area
On the scale of the Bordeaux area (Le Bordelais), restricted to the diocese
and from which the Bas-Pays is defined, the wine-growing indicator was less
operative in that it involved only a fraction of Bordeaux’s area of influence.
Even so, it was the most dynamic but also the most atypical zone within
the city’s sway. It was only partly continuous with the suburban vineyard.
8 The provostship of Saint-Éloi appears to have followed the contours of the ducal provostship of L’Ombrière. The jurade established jurisdiction over it, first de facto and then de iure,
after sharing out the legal jurisdiction between the two courts, on 18 June 1314. The ducal
provost retained the rights over aliens (see Bochaca, 1997, p. 189).
Geographically first, the vines extended from the urban core not in rings but
linearly along the river. The wetlands bordering the river were prime land
for the burgesses to invest in. These alluvial deposits were often waterlogged
depressions but they were renowned for their fertility and were readily
accessible by the river; accordingly, they were calling to be taken over.
The suburban wetlands were pressed into use early (eleventh and twelfth
centuries) while the levels of further inland were only cultivated towards
the end of the middle ages (see Fig. 3.1).9
The marshland formed a pioneering front for the vineyard. It was there
that the outermost vineyards developed, the bourdieux, the forerunners
of many wine “châteaux”, and truly innovative locations that ushered in
modernity for the medieval vineyard.10 It was still the city dweller that
promoted them but the actors changed. Although the major ecclesiastical institutions of Bordeaux were still the leading landowners, the tenants
of the bourdieux were no longer the common citizenry but the wealthy
notables, who were often merchants and then, from the fifteenth century
onwards the legal profession. The estates they developed differed from earlier cultivation methods in the concentration of the land, the ways in which
it was farmed (adoption of short leases), the adoption of new wine varietals (especially le petit verdot ) and the use of wine presses, all of which led
to the production of new wines geared to the market. All of these innovations made the wetland vineyard, which was decidedly speculative, the
cutting edge or the showcase of Bordeaux’s wine-growing activity. It could
be likened to an elite vineyard, a model that spread from the seventeenth
century throughout the graves area and extended its line of fronts on the
right-hand bank of the river.
On these more outlying fringes of the vineyard, the hold of the city was
very often restricted to ownership of the land. It was only in the marshland that was part of the banlieue 11 that landholding was combined, as
in the suburban vineyard, with legal oversight. Outside of this zone that
was dominated by the city, the citizenry’s investment in the vineyards led
to it expanding dot by dot, or in a patchwork for the most sought-after
marshland, but not beyond a 15 km radius. It did not involve any suburban
9 See Lavaud (2001, 2002, 2005–2006).
10 See Lavaud (2000).
11 On the left bank these were the suburban marshlands of La Palu de Bordeaux to the
north, Paludate and the palus de Bègles and Villenave-d’Ornon to the south. On the right
bank the palus of Cenon to the north and La Tresne to the south.
prerogative of the council; even so, as throughout the diocese, the wine
privileges were applied for the production of the burgesses. Through the
advantageous conditions they produced for the market, these protectionist
measures provided an incentive to develop the vineyard and meant that the
establishment of each new holding by a burgess made it an outpost of the
city’s vineyard area.
Although it was dynamic and promoted urban values, the expansion of
the vineyard represented only one of the forms of Bordeaux’s hold over
its rural surroundings and the wine-growing countryside was not always
sufficient to provide a measure of this influence. It remained operative for
the hold on land because vines were the main type of investment by the
burgesses. In his study of Bordeaux’s area of influence at around 1475,
based on notarial deeds, M. Bochaca observed that 60% of plots held by
townsfolk in the inland area were vineyards.12 The fact is that the geography
of the landed property held by Bordeaux’s inhabitants, of all kinds, matched
that of the vineyard overall, in a ribbon development along the river.
The distribution of profits from livestock farming was based on greater
penetration inland, especially in the Entre-deux-Mers and Le Cernès areas,
but that remained within the ambit of land under the city’s control and
limited to a radius of 10 km or so. Comparison with the provisioning
zone for Bordeaux revealed by commercial indicators points to greater
distortions. The commercial catchment area, while remaining centred on
the river, covered a greater and more loosely knit space. The central core,
where 60% of the clientele was located, occupied a similar area to that of
the landholding, that is a radius of some 15 km around Bordeaux. Beyond
that, its only sizeable extensions were to the north, in the parishes of Médoc
on the banks of the Gironde estuary (20% of the clientele). Elsewhere,
the watercourses guided the sporadic progression. This market radius was
defined in part by the flows of wine that the Bordelais merchants bought
mostly in the Haut-Médoc and Entre-deux-Mers. Even so, the other two
major products in the market, wheat and cloth, drove substantial flows of
trade, which, in the case of wheat, produced a reverse geographical pattern
to that of wine. The Médoc, which produced more wine, was a debtor in
terms of wheat, whereas Le Cernès, which had few vines, was a supplier of
wheat (the Entre-deux-Mers was in a similar position for wheat and wine).
12 Bochaca (1998).
These different forms of economic influence exerted by the city of Bordeaux over its surrounding area combined their polarizing effects. Mapped
out (Fig. 3.2) they show a spatial organization of the area of influence
that differs slightly from the classical ring pattern. That pattern is found
only for the first circle of urban influence over a radius of 10–15 km, that
is, in the nearby countryside that was most subject to the supervision of
the city and where wine-growing was that much more decisive because
it was compounded with other factors of influence. Beyond that radius,
Bordeaux’s reach faded and the circular pattern gave way to ribbon development along the river. The absence of any major settlements to the north
explains why Bordeaux’s influence extended as far as Lesparre, some 40 km
away, whereas southwards the network of small towns took up the running
within a shorter distance.
All in all, Bordeaux brought under its economic supervision, with the
vineyard as its vanguard, the central part of the diocese only. The marches
and especially the river Dordogne escaped its control. Even so, its supervisory power made use of other agents. Apart from its religious function as the
main seat of the diocese, its influence over the Bordelais was ensured more
by political and military parameters. The Franco-English conflict meant
the city was foremost in matters of defence and military operations. This
provided an opportunity for it to confirm its position as the capital of a
diocese to which the duchy was reduced from the early fifteenth century.13
The spatial superimposition of these political, military and ecclesiastic territories facilitated the construction of a regional area under the aegis of
Bordeaux. Its unity was crowned by them all belonging to the Bas-Pays.
The wines produced within this jurisdiction benefitted year-round from
the privilege of being shipped down the river, which was a major protectionist weapon against competition from wines from upstream. But again,
Bordeaux found this a way to reinforce its central position by serving as
the port-of-call through which all wine for export had to transit. And this
could only be done with the assent of the king-duke who made it the place
for levying customs on the Garonne estuary. This meant Bordeaux could
control all traffic on the river and set itself up as the hub for overseas trade
with England.
13 See Lavaud, forthcoming.
Fig. 3.2 Bordeaux’s economic influence in the late middle ages (Source The
author’s elaboration [map by M. Courrèges-Blanc])
A Decisive Factor for the Aquitaine Hinterland
Far more than any other single factor, wine-growing was decisive in the
extension of Bordeaux’s hinterland beyond the boundaries of the diocese.
True, the political parameters,14 with its belonging to one and the same
Anglo-Gascon entity, were also influential but the variations in the duchy
over the course of the three centuries of Franco-English conflict meant they
were not preponderant in the construction of an Aquitaine area. The fact is
that it was wine above all and the challenges of overseas trade that were the
federating factors. They were what gave rise to the supply area, marked by
the boom in Gascony vineyards under the aegis of its towns.15 Bordeaux
and the Bordelais would rather have done without this competition and
held on to the monopoly of trade with northern Europe. However, their
vineyard alone could not suffice and they had to consent to sharing a common destiny with the lands upriver, which were gathered under the name
of Haut-Pays, and whose barrels filled the great merchant fleets. It was the
market, then, that imposed on Bordeaux its supply area in Gascon wines. It
was an area that extended beyond its political and administrative reach and
whose unity depended on the seaward route and the string of wine towns
along its banks. It could be likened to a continental gateway forced open by
the flow of wine that was carried by the watercourse exclusively, since land
routes could hardly be used for so ponderous a cargo. Other commodities shared in this dynamic, especially wheat—which Bordeaux, because of
its infertile land, was always in the market for—and above all, at the very
end of the fifteenth century, Toulouse pastel as dye for the cloth-making
towns of northern Europe. Those towns, and especially the port towns of
England were the foreland that took in the flow of wine and carried it on
to other centres of consumption (Fig. 3.3). Playing on its location as a
trans-shipment point, Bordeaux became the nexus between the Aquitaine
gateway and the English foreland.
14 The ecclesiastical criterion can be taken into account only partially as a polarizing factor in
the Aquitaine area because the ecclesiastical province, headed by the archbishop of Bordeaux,
developed essentially north of the estuary. Its southern part encompassed only the dioceses
of Bordeaux, Condom, Bazas and Sarlat.
15 See Coste (2006). The author argues that the profits from wine-growing under the
Anglo-Gascon union paid for the building of numerous bastides. If the systematic character
of the claim should be nuanced, it is obvious that the development of towns and of the
vineyards combined as part of the same impetus of growth that characterized the “beau XIIIe
Fig. 3.3 Area of expansion of trade in Gascony wine in the late middle ages (Source
Bochaca (1998, 285) [map by O. Pissoat])
Bordeaux’s area of supply in Gascony wines stretched as far as the edges
of the Pyrenees to the south and the Massif central to the east. It was
arranged around the river courses. The Garonne was predominant especially in its middle reaches, from Castelsarrasin as far as Bordeaux. Further
south, where the Garonne ceased to be navigable, Pamiers stood as an
isolated vineyard centre within a Toulouse region that was oriented more
towards cereals and livestock farming. Four wine-growing areas joined up
with this central route, each centred on a tributary of the Garonne: from
north to south, on the right bank, the Dordogne with a series of producing towns from the estuary to a point up-stream of Bergerac; the Lot
valley where the towns that exported most were those closest to the confluence with the Garonne; the Tarn valley, whose remoteness did not prevent
the vineyards of Gaillac and Moissac from booming; and on the left bank
of the Garonne, the Baïse was the channel for wines from La Ténarèze
(Condom, Nérac) and from Buzet which was located almost at the confluence. The volumes exported from this drainage basin (93,452 barrels in
1306–1307, 102,724 in the record-breaking year 1308–1309 (Fig. 3.4);
thereafter quantities plummeted because of the crises of the late middle
ages) were evidence of the driving force of wine-growing in the economy
of medieval Aquitaine and the tremendous impetus and hopes it imparted
in the heyday of the Anglo-Gascon union. Wine-growing became a major
challenge, with Bordeaux seeking to bring it under its control, both to
protect its own vineyard from competition and to extend the area it dominated. This led to the introduction of restrictive regulatory barriers on
wines from the Garonne valley.
As from the 1240s, the Bordelais claimed to prohibit wines produced
upstream of Saint-Macaire from being brought down to Bordeaux before
Martinmas (11 November). The king-duke did not support those claims
and wanted to extend his good graces to the other towns of Aquitaine
which he protected from the demands of the Bordelais. But Bordeaux held
firm and gradually imposed its control over river traffic. Its stubborn policy
saw the emergence of two entities: The Bas-Pays, a privileged region that
was free to ship its wines downstream all year round; and the Haut-Pays,
which only had access to the port of Bordeaux after Martinmas.
Political events hastened this division. In the thirteenth century, while
the Bas-Pays was entirely won over to the Anglo-Gascon cause, the HautPays had already tipped into the Toulousian and French orbit and was only
to return to English allegiance with the Treaty of Paris of 1259, which
became effective in 1279 and then only for two decades until the French
Fig. 3.4 Bordeaux’s wine supply area (Source Registres de la Grande Coutume;
[map by O. Pissoat])
occupation of 1294–1303. The triggering of hostilities of the Hundred
Years’ War only widened the gap between the Bas-Pays, which remained
loyal to the English, and the Haut-Pays, which rebelled in the view of the
Bordelais because it was dominated by the French forces and the lords
who had rallied to them. The armed conflict was duplicated by a trade
war in which wine was one of the major bones of contention. Bordeaux
took the lead. It was confirmed as the administrative and political capital of the duchy, in particular in the days of the principality of Guyenne
(1362–1372), when it received all the favours of the king-duke who abandoned the defences of his lands of Guyenne to the city. This was a fine
opportunity to have its privileges confirmed and Edward III extended
them by strengthening the ban on the towns of the middle stretches of the
Garonne which he sought to punish for their resistance to English occupation provided for by the Treaty of Calais of 1360. In 1373, he presented
these measures as the emanation of his will and ordered that the HautPays could not ship down its wines before Christmas. The privileges of
Bordeaux were thereby legitimized and became official. From then on, the
wines from the Haut-Pays only came down to Bordeaux after 25 December, a late date that left the Bordelais with first call and the monopoly of the
great autumn shipments. Trade in the up-river areas was much disrupted
and subject to the whims of Bordeaux. While it never took things as far
as a complete ban, the capital imposed its conditions on the rebel areas,
such as that of having to ship one barrel of wheat for two barrels of wine,
a measure that was imposed on several occasions in the first decade of the
fifteenth century.
Protectionism was a weapon that enabled Bordeaux to maintain its
hold over the supply area although it escaped from it politically. It meant
Bordeaux could weaken the competing vineyards up-river, particularly as
their output remained heavily taxed.16 The reaction of the different winegrowing areas was variable. While the areas of the middle reaches of the
Garonne turned to mixed farming thereby diversifying their sources of
income, the “têtes de pays ”, the chief towns of the remoter vineyards of the
catchment basin, turned to other strategies. Cahors and Gaillac made the
most of their climate which meant poor harvests were less common than
in the Bordeaux area. They also highlighted the typical character of their
wines, which were reputed to be strong, travelled well, and commanded
high prices that offset the cost of shipping and taxation. However, the
towns that put up the best resistance were those along the strategic route
of the Dordogne, which Bordeaux never managed to control. Bergerac
and Libourne were the most enterprising of these. Bergerac managed to
take advantage of its position as the “key to Gascony” and as a strategic
English position on the marches of the Bas-Pays. Even before the conflict, it
had secured in 1255 from the king-duke Henry III, a charter of franchises
granting it a commune and commercial privileges, especially exemption
from levies on wine on entering the English market. But the founding of
Libourne around 1270 changed the deal. The king-duke sought to make
16 Wines from the Haut Pays were subject to many tolls on the river in addition to the
customs and entry duties to be paid on reaching Bordeaux. The war multiplied these levies
on wine, collected by the king, by the lords and by the municipalities.
it a port-of-call and a point for levying customs, controlling all the traffic
on the river Dordogne.
Although they were partially rivals, Libourne and Bergerac adopted the
same model as Bordeaux when it came to privileges and were similarly
successful, by way of royal concessions and infringements of individuals’
property rights, in playing on the Franco-English conflict and the need for
the sovereign to ensure the loyalty of his “bonnes villes”. They managed
to have their wines sell for good prices and secured their exoneration from
excessive taxation. However, they did not manage to secure the near total
exemption that the burgesses of Bordeaux enjoyed as the privileged among
the privileged. However, like the Bordelais, they did enjoy the privilege
of shipping their wines throughout the year. This still had to be denied
their upstream competitors for the best time of year for selling, that of
the new harvest. Bergerac and Libourne, like Bordeaux, prevented the
shipment downriver of wines for the autumn fleets. This sub-unit formed
by the Dordogne valley within the supply area is evidence of Bordeaux’s
incomplete control and adds nuance to the usual vision of the complete and
implacable character of the wine-growing system initiated by the capital.
The example of Libourne and above all Bergerac remains unique, though,
in the Haut-Pays which usually chose to accommodate rather than resist
the domination of Bordeaux.
While the re-conquest by the French destabilized markets, it did not
upset the protectionist gains. After Bordeaux’s second surrender in October 1453, Charles VII, being keen to punish the city, indicated he wanted to
abolish its privileges. However, as early as the following springtime, given
the city was withering away and the danger of rebellion, royal letters set out
milder conditions for the capitulation of the city and restored the ban on
sending Gascon wines downriver, although only until Saint Andrew’s day
(30 November). In 1462, Louis XI changed the date back to Christmas.
Bordeaux therefore recovered all of its privileges, much to the dismay of
the areas up-river. A matter brought by those areas before the king’s council resulted in the compromise of 23 March 1500 which relaxed the rules
somewhat, but only for Languedoc wines and especially those from Gaillac.
They could in future be shipped to Bordeaux as from Martinmas, provided
they were not sold to the English before Christmas and to other nations
only after Saint Andrew’s day. Things were unchanged for wines from the
middle reaches of the Garonne until Turgot’s edict of 1776, which was
itself invalidated in 1785, and then until the French Revolution, their wines
were banned from being shipped downriver until Christmas. In Bordeaux,
they were unfairly treated. They had to be offloaded out of town—in the
faubourg des Chartrons—and placed in different barrels from the Bordelais wine vessels. Over the long term, French domination therefore froze,
by officializing it and standardizing it, a protectionist system that arose
from an empirical medieval development the effects of which were profoundly unequal. It made Bordeaux’s economic and legal domination of
its hinterland a permanent feature, particularly as it duplicated it with an
administrative foundation (Fig. 3.5).
Fig. 3.5 Bordeaux’s hinterland: The vectors of domination (Source The author’s
The Bas-Pays became the sénéchaussée of Bordeaux, whereas the HautPays was encompassed in the généralité of Guyenne, which was created in
1523. Bordeaux’s commercial influence was reinforced by administrative
prerogatives that were related to its role as the capital of a vast government
stretching from the confines of the Saintongeais to Couserans, and from
Rouergue to the Labourd. This area of jurisdiction was roughly the same
as that of the Parlement set up in 1462. In addition to its judicial and
regulatory function, the Parlement became a new instance for economic
and commercial regulation. The legislation it introduced made it a body
for regulating and controlling most matters relating to the workings of the
Aquitaine market: the length of stay of foreign merchants, the prevention
and handling of shortages, control of weights and measures, punishments
and frauds, supervision of the circulation of commodities, and so on. The
frequency of appeals from the syndics of a newly formed corporation, that
of “merchants frequenting the rivers Gironde, Lot, Tarn, Aveyron and
Garonne” were indicative of the constant conflicts and the role of umpire
that fell to the Parlement.
As the Renaissance dawned, Bordeaux was able to take up the challenge
imposed by its re-attachment to the French crown and the loss of its English
ally and its dreams of becoming a principality. The happy conjunction of
its different territories and areas of influence enabled it to make its status as a central place more permanent, aggregating the higher supervisory
functions and imposing it as a regional capital.
Ultimately wine-growing appears as a decisive factor in the way Bordeaux
polarized its hinterland. However, its relevance varied and was modulated
with the different scales and degrees of urban control. In the immediate
surroundings, the wine-growing criterion—which was particularly intense
and akin to a criterion of centrality involved in the definition of the city—
combined with the other forms of domination to serve as the basis of
Bordeaux’s area of influence. On the scale of the Bas-Pays, through the
privilege of shipment downriver, wine-growing ensured a legal unity that
reinforced the feeling of belonging to one and the same geographical entity.
Conversely, wine-growing was only a vanguard of Bordeaux’s economic
control over its countryside. In the context of the Aquitaine basin, it was
decisive in the definition of a hinterland, which, without it, could not have
extended so far and for so long. Bordeaux owed to wine-growing its status
as regional capital; and for Aquitaine wine-growing was a major feature of
its identity but also of its divisions and contrasts. Whatever the scale contemplated, the wine-growing factor only exercised any influence through
its combination with the river network, which was the structural feature
that truly determined both the geography of the vineyards and the market
for and flow of wine. Roger Dion was the first to point out this fortunate
combination of the city, vineyard and river. Bordeaux provides a textbook
case of how this state of affairs could be successfully turned into a major
instrument of the extension of urban influence from as early as the middle
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Urban Networks on the Move: The Austrian
Netherlands’ Transit Policy
and the Development of the Belgian Urban
Networks in the Eighteenth Century
Michael-W. Serruys
Ville au bout de la route prolongeant la ville: ne choisis donc pas l’une ou
l’autre, mais l’une et l’autre bien alternées. —Victor Segalen (1878–1919)
With the exception of maritime commerce—where the ship’s wake rapidly
disappears in the ocean’s vastness—trade routes leave an indelible mark
on the earth’s surface. From the earliest prehistoric trails via the Medieval
earthen cart roads to the modern motorways and high-speed railroads,
M.-W. Serruys (B)
Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines, Universite de Bretagne
Occidentale, Brest, France
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
transport infrastructure has left its impression on the natural landscape.
The same can be said about rivers and canals, as their specific nature as
‘roads of water’ makes them easily distinguishable in every geographical
environment. Both land routes and waterways thus form an intrinsic network of lines connecting villages, cities—or for that matter—every urban
settlement with each other. It is on this network of lines, consisting of
roads, railroads, rivers and canals, that raw materials, semi-finished articles
and commodities are pushed from producer to consumer in an economic
activity called transport (Lesger, 2001, pp. 17–18). According to Scheltjens
(2009, p. 63) transport can be described as: ‘[the] human process that reallocates, transfers and distributes [goods] through time and space’. Transport is also the process that creates, according to Ullman (1956) as cited
in Scheltjens (2009, p. 63), the: ‘measure of the relations between urban
areas’. It is indeed in the urban settlements—cities or villages—situated at
the extremities of every line of communication that producers produce,
middlemen enhance and consumers consume. In doing so the urban settlements, the nodes at the end of the transport lines, give a meaning to
their activities. To put it differently, the transport system with its array of
roads and waterways is a fundamental element of the urban network system as it enables cities to position themselves and thus to relate with each
other via trading activities. The transport system also gives the urban network a specific spatial structure. By analysing the transport system, it thus
becomes possible to position the urban network in its spatial or geographical environment and to assess its relation with other urban networks, like
the foreland and the rearland, but also with its periphery.
In the eighteenth century, the central government in Brussels launched
the transit policy. This policy aimed to improve the Austrian Netherlands’
commercial relations by building an integrated transport system of paved
all-weather roads encompassing the whole country. Like most European
countries, the Austrian Netherlands had almost no paved roads in the early
eighteenth century. But by the end of the same century, at the eve of the
French revolution, it boasted one of the most modern transport systems
and densest road networks of the world (Stols, 1987, pp. 511–512; Van
den Broeck, 1995, pp. 129–130, 134). According to Voltaire, cited by
Pirenne (1920, Vol. V, p. 276), only France and Belgium had roads that
equalled in splendour that of ancient Rome. In any case the growth of the
Belgian road and transport system had far-reaching consequences for the
country’s urban networks in the eighteenth century. This turns eighteenth
century Belgium into an ideal case study. It allows to analyse the structuring qualities of the transport system on urban networks and to examine the
relation between these different urban networks and their peripheries. Furthermore, the impact of the decision-making process on this development
can be determined.
As a country with many cities, urban history has always been quite
important in Belgian historiography. Like in other countries, the topic
of urban networks became very fashionable among Belgian historians in
the late 1980s and early 1990s. Their research culminated in a two-day
international conference on Belgian urban networks in Spa in September
1990, where some 25 historians exposed their views on this subject. The
conference’s proceedings (Le réseau urbain en Belgique dans une perspective historique (1350–1850). Une approche statistique et dynamique, 1992)
remain a must-read for all those interested in Belgian urban networks. In
the years following the Spa conference quite a few excellent monographies
were published, like Stabel’s Dwarfs Amongst Giants. The Flemish Urban
Network in the Late Middle Ages (1997) and Blondé’s monography on the
Brabantine urban network in the late eighteenth century (1999). With the
exception of authors, like Blondé (1999, pp. 168–230) and Van Uytven
(1992, pp. 44–46), little notice has been given to the transit policy and its
eighteenth century road-building and canal-digging activities. As such the
transport system’s impact on the Belgian urban network has only received
very limited attention. One of the reasons why the different studies on the
Belgian urban networks did probably not include the growth of the transport system was the transit policy’s overarching character, as it encompassed
the whole Austrian Netherlands. Historical research in Belgium, on the
other hand, is by tradition a regional affair. Even if all the authors acknowledge that urban networks spread out across political borders, most Belgian
studies on urban networks resolutely focussed on a single province. As a
result of this, most authors have been contained by the historical and political boundaries of their subject. The result of this perspective is that most
authors focus on ‘christallerian’ or central place aspects and not so much
on the long distance/transport angle. Even the above-mentioned studies
of Blondé and Van Uytven do not grasp the full impact of the transit policy on the Belgian urban networks because of their regional focus on the
province of Brabant. Nevertheless, many of those authors, like Van Uytven
(1995, pp. 222–223) have stressed the importance of transport links to
understand urban networks. According to Hélin: ‘C’est effectivement du
côté [de la géographie des communications,] de ces axes qui structurent
l’espace que se trouve la clef d’explication ultime du profil des hiérarchies
et des réseaux urbains’ as cited in Morsa (1992, p. 476).
After Britain, Belgium was the second country in the world to adopt railways. Not surprisingly, Belgian historiography is well endowed with transport history. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, two articles of paramount
importance were published on the transport system in the pre-railroad
period. These articles—discussing the construction of the waterway and
road network—were respectively written by Urbain (1939) and Génicot
(1939, 1946, 1947). Both articles explain the political, economic and technological aspects of the setting-up of the Belgian transport system in the
Ancien Régime. At that time urban networks were not yet much discussed
amongst historians, so this aspect was not picked up by the authors. Both
publications also contain a set of valuable maps showing how the waterway and road network gradually evolved. From the 1980s on, Belgian historians started to write what can best be described as road or waterway
monographies, like that of Hanegreefs (1980) on the Louvain-Diest road
and Suttor (2006) on the river Meuse. In recent years the focus has shifted
to understand the functioning of urban networks by looking at transport
statistics (toll accounts). This method was used by Blondé (1999) and Serruys (2014b). But in both cases these studies remain centred on a specific
province, respectively Brabant and West-Flanders.
To grasp how transport systems structured urban networks, and how
these networks positioned themselves vis-à-vis other urban networks and
their peripheries, we will use methods developed in transport geography
(Haggett & Chorley, 1969, p. 3; Nijboer, 1995, p. 109). One of these
methods is the so-called matrix analysis, which was employed by transport geographers analysing transport systems in developing economies,
like Stanley (1973, pp. 100–101) for Liberia. A matrix analysis allows to
calculate the centrality values of different places within that network. De
Vries (1978, pp. 64–74, 347–351) was one of the first historians to apply a
matrix analysis in his research on the seventeenth-century Dutch barge network. This research proved to be an important step with regard to his ideas
on urban networks, which he further developed in his European Urbanization 1500–1800 (De Vries, 1984). Other historians followed suit, like
Lepetit (1984, pp. 107–114) with his study on the French transport system
between 1740 and 1840. Most historians have applied the matrix analysis
on one specific year, for instance 1665 and 1835 in the case of respectively
De Vries (1978) and Lepetit (1984). In this article, matrix analysis will be
made on meaningful moments in time so to depict the transport system’s
evolution. The centrality values of the urban centres will become available for comparison in time. Furthermore, the drawing of ‘iso-centrality
values’-lines will generate the mapping of the urban networks’ spatial structure through time. By looking at different moments in time, it also becomes
possible to assess the impact of decision-makers on the transport system,
for investment in transport is—without doubt—a matter of political negotiation according to Adams (1981) cited in Hoyle and Smith (1998, p. 13).
And since the transport system is a driving force in the shaping of urban networks, the role of the decision-making process or decision-makers should
not be neglected.
In this article we will use matrix analysis as a method to calculate the centrality values of the different cities linked to the Belgian transport system at
meaningful moments in time throughout the eighteenth century. Thanks
to the centrality values, the spatial structures of the urban networks will
become clear, as well as the relations between the various urban networks
and the periphery. This article’s first paragraph will focus on the methodological aspects, which includes the construction of a graph, the making
of the matrix, the computation of the centrality values and the mapping or
visualisation process. The following four paragraphs will discuss the state
of the transport system and urban networks as well as the impact of the
decision-making process at four moments in time, namely 1704, 1718,
1748 and 1793. These years have not only been chosen for their explicit
historical meaning, but also because we are well informed on the status of
the Belgian transport system thanks to the accurate maps drawn by Urbain
(1939, pp. 286, 290, 302) and Génicot (1946, map 1, 3, 6). The 1704
matrix analysis gives an excellent overview of the situation of the transport
system and urban networks after what has been called in Belgian historiography the Spanish era (seventeenth century). In the eighteenth century’s
early decades, the Southern Netherlands became one of the main battlefields of the War of Spanish Succession. Nevertheless, it was during this
period that a French-styled road building policy was initiated. The 1718
matrix analysis will show the results of this policy on both the transport system and urban networks. From 1715 on, the Southern Netherlands were
ruled by the Austrian Habsburgs. During the first half of the eighteenth
century they tried very hard to find a modus vivendi to rule the now Austrian Netherlands. The 1748 matrix analysis will present the findings with
regard to the transport system and urban networks for what has been called
in Belgian historiography the ‘Trial and error’-period. In 1748, new directives were sent from Vienna to Brussels which resulted in the launching of
the transit policy. This policy ordered the construction of a new transport
system with the explicit wish to remodel the country’s urban networks. The
1793 matrix analysis will allow us to gauge the success of this governmental
From Transport Systems---Via Graphs
and Matrices---To Mapping Centrality Values
The first step in a matrix analysis is to convert the transport system into a
graph. A graph is a topologic reduction of a transport (or any kind of) system into two features: vertices and edges. With regard to transport systems
it makes more sense to speak of nodes and links. The nodes represent the
origins, the intersections or the end point of all the links. In other words,
the nodes can be viewed as cities or urban settlements. The links, which
never intersect, run from node to node and stand for the transport routes
connecting cities. In a graph no differentiation is made between the nodes,
or to put it differently, all cities are equal to one another. The length, orientation and straightness of the links are of no importance to the graph. But
links can be graded and receive a certain value and/or a direction. In those
cases, we speak of respectively valued and directed graphs. Apart from this,
the only thing that counts in a graph is which node is connected to which
node (Haggett & Chorley, 1969, pp. 3–6).
The graph’s construction implies the making of choices. Not all the
urban settlements in the Austrian Netherlands and its medium and smallsized neighbours, that is the Prince-bishopric of Liège, the Principality
of Stavelot-Malmédy and the Duchy of Bouillon, have been selected.
Figure 4.1 can be used to find and locate cities and rivers. Large cities
(e.g. Brussels or Ghent) and medium-sized cities (e.g. Namur or Mons)
were of course included. Quite a number of smaller cities and towns (e.g.
Diest or Chimay), which played a role as a regional centre, were represented on the graph. On the other hand, several cities which were not
connected to the transport system (e.g. Sankt-Vith) or which only played
a very limited role as an urban centre (e.g. Vilvoorde) were left out. Sometimes very small towns were included in the graph. These towns usually
functioned as a point of transhipment (e.g. Warneton), as head of navigation (e.g. Barvaux) or as an important junction (e.g. Aubange). The
overall guideline in constructing the graph of the Austrian Netherlands’
transport system was to simplify the network while retaining a workable
abstraction of the historical reality. This explains why some cities have been
Fig. 4.1 The Austrian Netherlands (major cities and rivers) (Source The author’s
merged, forming twin cities, like Ath/Lessines, Herve/Henri Chapelle or
Beaumont/Labuissière. In one case, even a triplet city was formed to serve
these interests, namely Nivelles/Waterloo/Genappe. Several foreign cities,
Condé and Monthermé in France and Maastricht in the Dutch Republic,
were included in the analysis, because these cities constituted important
nodes in the urban network.1
In the same way a choice was made with regard to the transport connections, which are shown on the maps in Urbain (1939, pp. 286, 290, 302)
and Génicot (1946, map 1, 3, 6). Paved and gravel roads were included,
whereas dirt roads were left out from the graph. Every finished road (or
link) between two cities (or nodes) received a length of 1. Of course,
some roads between two cities were not yet finished. The road connecting
Antwerp to Turnhout was only paved up to the village of Schilde, some
eleven kilometres from Antwerp. This was nearly 29% of the length of
1 Constitutionally Maastricht was a Dutch-Liègeois is condominium.
the (future) 38 kilometres long Antwerp-Turnhout road. As such the link
between Antwerp and Turnhout will be valued as 0.29. Finished roads are
represented by bold lines, while unfinished roads are shown as dotted bold
lines on the graph (Génicot, 1946, p. 514; Haggett & Chorley, 1969,
pp. 3–6). Waterways were of great importance in the Austrian Netherlands’ transport system. There were many rivers and canals, but this does
not mean that these waterways were all similar. Large sea-going ships could
easily sail on the river Scheldt near Antwerp (even if these rarely appeared in
these waters because of the Closure of the Scheldt) and small to mediumsized sea-going ships were not uncommon on some canals (Ostend-Bruges,
Bruges-Ghent, Boom-Brussels and Mechlin-Louvain). But the inland river
system was unable to accommodate these kinds of vessels. On these rivers’
navigation was hampered by natural conditions, such as flood and drought,
and by man-made obstacles, like bridges, watermills or dams. Goods were
carried by shallow-bottomed barges that were pulled by horses or men. In
spite of these differences, all waterways will be viewed as equal and receive
a length of 1. The waterways are represented by thin lines on the graph.
On quite a few rivers fluvial traffic was only going in one direction, that
is downstream. Pulling barges upstream was a costly affair and therefore
many carriers decided only to float their products downstream, for instance
on timber rafts. In the Austrian Netherlands it seems that unidirectional
navigation was the prevailing mode of transport on the rivers Dyle, Demer,
Big Nete, Ourthe, Semois, Sûre and Our. The links representing these unidirectional trade flows are shown by a thin arrow on the graph. These
arrows indicate that there is a connection from the upstream node to the
downstream node (e.g. Barvaux to Liège), but not from the downstream
node to the upstream node (e.g. Liège to Barvaux). The length of these
unidirectional links remains 1 (Haggett & Chorley, 1969, pp. 3–6; Urbain,
1939, pp. 271–314). Finally, it must also be pointed out that coastal shipping occurred between seaside communities, such as Ostend, Newport and
Blankenberge. Coastal shipping was of minor importance in the Austrian
Netherlands because of its short coastline (Parmentier, 2001, app. VII;
Serruys, 1999, pp. 277, 280–281). These maritime connections are bidirectional, have a length of 1 and are represented as waterways (thin lines)
on the graph. Although roads and waterways are shown differently on the
graph, there are no differences between the two in the matrix analysis. The
different graphs—each showing the situation of the Austrian Netherlands’
transport system at different times—can be viewed on Figs. 4.2, 4.3, 4.4,
and 4.5. The graphs contain 84 nodes (or selected cities) and an increasing
number of links.
To calculate the centrality values, we first have to configure the graph—
the abstracted transport system—in a mathematical expression. This mathematical expression is called a matrix. Since the graph contains 84 nodes,
the matrix M consists of a field made up of 84 rows and 84 columns. As
such, the matrix consists of 84 × 84 or 7056 entries. Because the graph
is valued, each entry stands for the length of the existing links between a
city in a row and another city in a column (De Vries, 1978, p. 66; Haggett
& Chorley, 1969, p. 6; Lepetit, 1984, p. 107). Let’s look for instance at
Brussels in 1704 (graph on Fig. 4.2). We can fill in a 0 for both the entry
Brussels (row)-Louvain (column) and the entry Louvain (row)-Brussels
(column), since there is no direct road or waterway linking these two cities
in 1704. In the 1718 matrix (graph on Fig. 4.3), the same entries would
feature a 1, for a road connecting Brussels and Louvain has been built. The
entry for unfinished roads, like the one being built between Brussels and
Mechlin in 1704, is marked by 0.53. This figure stands for the finished
part of the Brussels-Mechlin road in 1704. An entry in a matrix can thus
perfectly feature 1.25, like for the Liège-Huy/Huy-Liège entry in 1748
(graph on Fig. 4.4). 1.25 is obtained by adding 1 (the river Meuse is a
‘finished’ waterway linking Liège and Huy) and 0.25 (25% of the LiègeHuy road is finished). When a road and a river run parallel to each other
between two cities the entries will feature a 2. This is the case for the entries
which stand for the connections between, for instance Ghent and Deinze
in 1748 and 1793 (graphs on Fig. 4.4 and 4.5) (Génicot, 1946, map 1, 3,
6; Haggett & Chorley, 1969, pp. 5–6; Urbain, 1939, pp. 286, 290, 302).
There are always two entries for connections that can be used in both
directions. Unidirectional links, when goods are floated down the river,
have only one entry. In the case of the river Ourthe, iron bars were sent
downstream by barge from Barvaux. Many of these barges did not return,
or if they did, returned empty from Liège. Since the goods were shipped
from Barvaux, a 1 will be filled on the entry Barvaux (row)-Liège (column). But since no commodities or barges left Liège via the river Ourthe,
a 0 will be shown on the entry Liège (row)-Barvaux (column) (Haggett
& Chorley, 1969, pp. 5–6; Urbain, 1939, pp. 286, 290, 302). Necessarily,
there are also entries on the matrix where the row of a certain city meets
the column of that same city. These entries always feature a 0 (De Vries,
1978, p. 66; Haggett & Chorley, 1969, p. 6; Lepetit, 1984, p. 107).
Once matrix M has been made, it is possible to calculate the cities’ centrality values. The centrality value of a given city is equal to the sum of that
given city’s row. This value stands for the number of one-path-journeys
offered by that city. The journey has nothing to do with the distance or the
travel time between two cities, it just refers to the fact that two nodes are one
link away from each other on the graph. In 1704, Deinze’s centrality value
is 2, for there are only two one-path-journeys possible. Deinze is indeed
connected by two cities by the river Lys, namely Ghent (downstream) and
Kortrijk (upstream). In 1793, Deinze has increased its number of connections, and thus one-path-journeys. Four more cities can be reached by road
(Ghent, Oudenaarde, Kortrijk and Tielt). Deinze’s centrality value now
totals 6. To obtain this information, one hardly needs matrix M, for the centrality value can be easily read from the graph. One-path-journeys are however not very interesting when one tries to determine how central a city is in
a transport system. A poorly connected city, like Wavre, can still be very central if its neighbour (Brussels) offers many links to other cities. The opposite is also true, for instance with Liège and Luxembourg. It makes therefore more sense to look at multi-path-journeys. In his study on the Dutch
barge network De Vries (1978, pp. 69–72) used four-path-journeys. Lepetit (1984, pp. 107–111) went as far as five-path-journeys in his research
on the French transport system. There are no concise rules on the number
of path-journeys. In this article we opted for four-path-journeys. Centrality values increase considerably with four-path-journeys. In 1793, Deinze’s
centrality value totals 1978. This means that 1978 four-path-journeys can
be made out of this city, like Deinze-Ghent-Dendermonde-RupelmondeAntwerp, Deinze-Ghent-Bruges-Tielt-Deinze or Deinze-Kortrijk-DeinzeKortrijk-Deinze. In order to calculate the cities’ centrality values based
on four-path-journeys, a new matrix M must be computed. Matrix M is
obtained by mathematically processing original matrix M in the following
M = M + (M × M) + (M × M × M) + (M × M × M × M)
M = M + M2 + M3 + M4
Matrix M is added and raised to the power of 4 because we look at fourpath-journeys. How to calculate this can be easily found in every mathematical handbook or on the internet (De Vries, 1978, pp. 69–72; Lepetit,
1984, pp. 107–111).
From a purely mathematical point of view the centrality values can only
be attributed to the nodes, since everything else is considered void. Of
course, in reality the links and the areas enclosed by these links consist
of roads/waterways and a large number of hamlets, villages, small towns,
etc. The closer one of these urban settlements is to a city (or a node), the
more it will share its properties with regard to its position in the transport system. It makes therefore more sense to look at centrality values in
the same way a meteorologist would look at temperature or barometric
pressure measurements received from a set of weather stations. To obtain
an overview the meteorologist will use the data from the scattered information points and draw approximate contour lines on a map. In this case
isotherms and isobars, where respectively temperature and barometric pressure are deemed equal. In the same way we will draw iso-centrality value
(iso-cv) lines on a map of the Austrian Netherlands to show where centrality values are approximatively the same. Areas enclosed by high iso-cv lines
thus represent better connected areas or the core of urban networks.
1704: The Legacy of the Seventeenth Century
In 1704, the Spanish king Philip V embarked upon a large road building
programme in the Southern Netherlands (Génicot, 1939, p. 447). 1704,
is therefore an ideal moment to gauge the existing transport infrastructure and to see how the urban networks were structured in the Southern
Netherlands at the end of the seventeenth century. A glance on Fig. 4.2
shows that there were still very few paved roads and that the majority of
intercity connections consisted of waterways. As a matter of fact, there were
four distinct waterway systems which were only loosely or not connected
with each other. Three of these four transport systems were centred on a
river, respectively the river Scheldt, the river Meuse and the river Moselle
(a tributary of the river Rhine). The fourth transport system consisted of
the coastal waterways next to the North Sea. The Southern Netherlands’
most important cities were all situated along one of these rivers, their tributaries or along the coast. Amsterdam—and in a lesser degree Rotterdam,
Dordrecht and Middelburg—functioned as the commercial hub and gateway of these river and maritime based transport systems. Until the final
decades of the sixteenth century, Antwerp had acted as the main gateway,
but the Dutch revolt and the ensuing Closure of the Scheldt had put an end
to this city’s commercial hegemony. As such, the Southern Netherlands’
international trade relations were dominated by the Dutch Republic in the
Fig. 4.2 Austrian Netherlands 1704 (transport network and centrality values)
(Source The author’s elaboration)
seventeenth century. The four waterway systems that formed the Southern Netherlands’ transport infrastructure also shaped the country’s four
urban networks. These four urban networks have been called after the main
waterways that structured them. From east to west the following urban
networks can be observed: Mosellean urban network (A), Mosan urban
network (B) and the Scaldian urban network (C). These urban networks
were all part of the Dutch seaports’ hinterland. The Southern Netherlands’
coastal urban network goes by the name Maritime urban network (D).
The relation between the Maritime urban network and the Dutch seaports
can be described as hinterland-foreland, depending on one’s point of view
(Serruys, 2007, pp. 321–326; Serruys, 2008, pp. 150–153).
The riverine cities of these urban networks were generally better connected and therefore their centrality values were higher. As such the four
urban networks can be easily seen on Fig. 4.2. A first cluster of higher centrality values in the Southern Netherlands is to be found in the country’s
south-eastern corner. The Mosellean urban network, situated along the
banks of the river Moselle, was the Southern Netherlands’ least dynamic
urban network. The only noteworthy city was its regional capital Luxembourg (centrality value of 4). This urban network was separated from
the Mosan urban network by the Ardennes (E). These wooded highlands
functioned as a peripheral area or land space, somewhat analogous to the
ocean space mentioned by Weigend (1958) as cited by Lesger (2001,
pp. 19–20). The Mosan urban network was a thin strip of land along the
river Meuse and its tributaries (Sambre, Semois and Ourthe). Namur and
Liège (respectively centrality values of 78 and 35) were the urban network’s major cities. Rich in coal deposits, the Meuse valley was politically
divided between the Southern Netherlands, France, the Prince-bishopric
of Liège, the Dutch Republic and to a lesser degree by the Duchy of Bouillon and the Principality of Stavelot-Malmédy. This geopolitical situation
made it more difficult to build out an adequate transport system. By the
end of the seventeenth century the city of Namur had started to connect
itself to neighbouring cities. The yet unfinished Namur-Brussels road via
Nivelles/Waterloo/Genappes was one of the first undertakings to link the
Mosan urban network to the Scaldian urban network through the HesbayeKempen plateaux/land space (F). Much denser with transport connections
was the Scaldian urban network. The river Scheldt, with its numerous navigable tributaries (Rupel, Nete, Dyle, Demer, Dendre, Lys), connected
more important cities (e.g. Brussels, Antwerp, Louvain, Mechlin, Ghent,
Kortrijk, Tournai, Mons, etc.) with each other. The existence of canals,
like Brussels-Boom and Ghent-Lokeren, considerably increased the centrality values of the cities and towns in this part of the country (e.g. 475 in
Boom). The Scaldian urban network was connected to the Maritime urban
network via the Warneton-Ypres road and the Bruges-Ghent canal. These
links were not ideal at the end of the seventeenth century, for the area
around Ypres belonged to France and the navigation on the Bruges-Ghent
canal was hampered by shipping monopolies and mandatory transhipments.
Although less pronounced than the Ardennes and Hesbaye/Kempen land
spaces, the Houtland ridge land space (G) separated the Scaldian urban network from the Maritime urban network. The Maritime urban network’s
major cities were Bruges, Ostend and Ypres (French until 1713). These
cities were relatively well connected to each other via an intricate network
of canals and by coastal shipping, which explains why the centrality values
were relatively high in this area (e.g. 256 in Newport).
The existence of multiple unconnected urban networks was a serious
commercial disadvantage for the Southern Netherlands, especially in a time
period when mercantilism was the main economic paradigm. The Southern
Netherlands were completely dependent on the Dutch Republic for their
export and import, because their main harbour—Ostend—was badly or
not linked at all with the country’s remaining urban networks. During the
seventeenth century the central government in Brussels tried to remedy this
by digging the Bruges-Ghent canal (1624), the Veurne-Newport-Bruges
canal (1641) and the Ostend-Bruges canal (1664) in order to bypass the
Dutch enforced Closure of the Scheldt (Vandewalle, 1982, pp. 76–81). But
the central government’s political weakness and its lack of financial means
was not enough to reconnect the Maritime and the Scaldian urban network with each other. Local authorities continued—as explained above—
to obstruct the free navigation on this canal. Moreover, the construction of
transport infrastructure was not a task that befell the central government.
It was usually taken up by local authorities (provinces, cities, districts, villages), who asked the central government—the so-called Collateral Councils—permission to levy toll in order to repay the construction loans. Before
giving their approval by way of an octroi, the central government’s Council
of Finance—one of the three Collateral Councils—checked if the privileges
and rights of other local authorities were not pushed aside. In the age of
mercantilism these rights and privileges were rapidly trampled on, since the
gain of one local authority was necessarily seen as another’s loss (Génicot,
1948, p. 18). This, and the ongoing wars with the Dutch Republic (until
1648) and France (from 1635 to 1697), explain why no major transport
connection were built in the Southern Netherlands after 1664 (Urbain,
1939, pp. 281–284).
1718: A ‘Star of Roads’ or the French-Angévin
Centralised Road-Building Programme
The death of the last Spanish Habsburg king Charles II in 1700, heralded a
tumultuous period for the Southern Netherland. Between 1700 and 1706,
the Southern Netherlands were ruled by the young Spanish king Philip V
of Anjou, the grandson of Louis XIV. The French king rapidly made sure
that his grandson aligned himself with Versailles’ political views. This meant
that a French style centralisation process with ditto government was put in
place in the Southern Netherlands. In Belgian historiography this period
became known as the Angévin regime. When Philip V decided to launch
a road building project in 1704, it was—not surprisingly—a copy of the
French transport system. Like in France, all the roads radiated from the
capital (Génicot, 1948, p. 13; Livet, 2003, pp. 229–230, 238; Reverdy,
1995, p. 37). Within a few years, Brussels was connected by a star-shaped
road network to the main cities in Brabant (Antwerp and Louvain) and to
the capitals of the neighbouring provinces, like Ghent, Mons and Mechlin.
Roads to Namur and the adjacent Prince-bishopric of Liège were under
construction. In 1706 however, the Anglo-Dutch forces beat the French
army at Ramillies, hereby ending French rule. Until 1715, the Southern
Netherlands were ruled simultaneously from London and the Hague. The
Anglo-Dutch army commanders rapidly discovered the road network benefits and they eagerly pursued the Angévin regime’s road-building policy in
order to continue to move back and forth their armies. In 1712, the Princebishopric of Liège also decided to launch a road-building programme. Like
with Paris and Brussels, the Liégeois road system was going to radiate from
the city of Liège. Although construction started in 1716, the Liégeois road
system only advanced piecemeal, barely reaching 17 kilometres of paved
road in 1718. By that time the Southern Netherlands, which were now
ruled by the Austrian Habsburgs, already had 414 kilometres of paved road
(Demoulin & Kupper, 2002, pp. 106, 178; Génicot, 1946, pp. 547–549,
555; Génicot, 1948, pp. 13–14).
Figure 4.3 shows the growth of the transport system as well as the
increase of centrality values in 1718. Two typical features of centralised
road networks radiating out of a city are easily perceptible on this map.
The first feature is the high centrality value ‘island’ around the central hub.
This is certainly the case for Brussels. With its new position as a transport
hub, the Austrian Netherlands’ capital increased its centrality value from
180 to 593. This is clearly visible on the map as Brussels and a few surrounding cities form an island of high centrality values (500 iso-cv line) in
the midst of the country (H). Nevertheless, the highest centrality value is
reached in the little town of Boom (773), which is situated at a junction
of important waterways. Another important feature that can be seen on
map 2 are the arm-like protrusions formed by the roads radiating out from
the central hub. This is quite visible for the roads leading from Brussels
to Liège, Namur and Mons, as a number of cities (e.g. Tienen, Mons)
became englobed by the protuberant contours of the 100 iso-cv line (I,
J and K). It is however less clear for the Brussels-Antwerp and BrusselsGhent roads, both situated in the transport infrastructure rich environment
of the Scheldt valley (L).
Fig. 4.3 Austrian Netherlands 1718 (transport network and centrality values)
(Source The author’s elaboration)
The majority of the roads—with the exception of a few short stretches
near Namur and Liège in the Mosan urban network—were built in the
Scaldian urban network. The centrality values increased in the Austrian
Netherlands’ central part. But the different urban networks remained badly
connected. With regard to the Maritime and Scaldian urban networks (L
and M) the 100 iso-cv line shifted somewhat. It broadened the corridor
along the Bruges-Ghent canal (N) and hereby strengthened a bit the ties
between the two urban networks. Nevertheless, because of the shipping
monopolies and mandatory transhipment activities in both Bruges and
Ghent, the bonds between these two cities and respective urban networks
remained weak. The still unfinished roads (Brussels-Namur and BrusselsLiège) crossing the Hesbaye/Kempen plateaux land space created two narrow corridors connecting the Scaldian and the Mosan urban networks (O),
but not enough to create important commodity flows between the two
areas. As for the Mosellean urban network (P), it remained as isolated as
In 1718, Amsterdam and the Holland-Zeeland seaports continued to
function as the Southern Netherlands main gateway. From these Dutch
ports, commodities were distributed towards the four urban networks.
Cities as Ostend (Q), Antwerp (R) (and in a lesser degree Ghent (S)), Liège
(T) and Wasserbillig (U) performed the role of local or regional gateway,
redistributing the goods in respectively the Maritime, Scaldian, Mosan and
Mosellean urban networks. The roads built by the Angévin regime altered
little to the commodity flow pattern in the Southern Netherlands. It did
however lay the foundation for the future transport hub function of Brussels. The construction of the Brussels-Liège (I) and Brussels-Namur roads
(J) was an evident token of how the Scaldian urban network was reaching
out across the Hesbaye/Kempen land space (V) to its eastern rearland, the
Mosan urban network.
1748: Trial and Error or the Age of Local
The first three decades of Austrian Habsburg rule in the Southern Netherlands, that is from 1715 to 1748, have been called the ‘Trial and error’period. ‘Trial and and error’ because emperor Charles VI tried to find the
best political framework to govern these newly acquired lands. At first, he
continued the centralisation process put in motion by the Angévin regime.
But both the local elites and the population rejected the emperor’s centralisation policy, which was deemed unconstitutional. In 1725, Charles
VI returned to the traditional mode of government with its three Collateral Councils. Since the Austrian Netherlands were facing grave financial, economic and commercial difficulties, Charles VI knew he had to
modernise the political system to implement changes. In 1734, FriedrichAugust von Harrach—the emperor’s minister in Brussels—exposed his
reforms in the Expédients. The Expédients insisted on changing the system from within by rationalising the chain of command and by nominating well educated, enlightened and centralist policy-makers in the state
administration. These men would then execute the well-defined state policies imposed by Vienna. Charles VI acquiesced, but asked Harrach to
carry out the reforms after peace had returned. The Habsburg monarchy was indeed involved in a series of wars—War of Polish succession
(1733–1735), Ottoman War (1737–1739) and War of Austrian succession (1740–1748)—which would last until 1748 (Lenders, 1988, pp. 41,
44–45; Serruys, 2007, pp. 334–335).
During the ‘Trial and error’-period, Vienna and Brussels were so busy
finding a way to implement reforms that the Angévin road-building programme was not continued. The construction of roads was taken up by
the local authorities, like in the seventeenth century. This time cities and
provinces had a reason to complain to the Brussels’ based Council of
Finance. They could easily prove that the star-shaped road system around
Brussels had altered the status-quo and that they needed new roads to
counter the benefits the capital had received (SAL VL, inv. nr. 3843). Especially, provincial capitals like Ghent, Mons, Mechlin and Namur sought to
build a radiating spoke-like road system in their respective province. The
provincial capitals were generally large and powerful cities, with good political connections in the Brussels government circles. This allowed them
to lobby successfully to obtain an octroi to build their wished-for roads.
In doing so, these capital cities increased their position as the dominant
transport and commercial hub in their own province (Génicot, 1939,
pp. 495–496, 498, 510). Smaller cities, like Ath, complained about this,
especially since the provincial capitals feverishly opposed road projects from
smaller cities in government circles (AGR CF, inv. nr. 279). Bruges for
instance, was unable to obtain an octroi for its road projects to Kortrijk
and Menin because Ghent successfully lobbied against it in the Council
of Finance (Delameilleure, 2003, pp. 36–55; Haerynck, 1997, pp. 10–28;
Serruys, 2014a, pp. 28–29). The Council of Finance had little knowledge
of trade flows and was not up to the task. In 1730, they even gave an octroi
to Mechlin to build a road to Louvain. This road mainly served Dutch
commercial interests (Flaba, 1983, pp. 43–47).
Although none of the local authorities planned roads to bridge the
land space between the urban networks, the 361 kilometres of road that
were built between 1718 and 1748 made the centrality values converge.
Figure 4.4 shows how the Maritime (W), Scaldian (X) and Mosan (Y)
urban networks coagulated in 1748. Here and there small pockets of the
Houtland ridge land space (e.g. Torhout) (Z) and the Hesbaye/Kempen
plateaux land space (e.g. Enghien) (AA) subsisted. This points out that the
different urban networks in the Austrian Netherlands—with exception of
the Mosellean (AB) urban network, which remained a distant rearland—
were on the brink of merging. Nevertheless, the centrality values were still
relatively low, not even exceeding the 1000 iso-cv line in the Scheldt valley
Fig. 4.4 Austrian Netherlands 1748 (transport network and centrality values)
(Source The author’s elaboration)
rhombus or the square formed by Brussels, Ghent, Antwerp and Louvain
(AC). Connections between the different urban networks were still comparatively weak. The Bruges-Ghent canal continued to be a bottle-neck (AD)
and many merchants in the Scaldian urban network therefore persisted to
import or export goods via the Dutch Republic. The Prince-bishopric of
Liège, on the other hand, gradually started to favour the Liège-LouvainMechlin-Antwerp connection (AE) instead of the river Meuse (AF) for its
commercial relations with the Dutch seaports. This shows a hinterlandrearland type of merging, whereby Louvain and Liège functioned as continental gateways.
1793: The Theresian Compromise and the Transit
It is only after the signing of the Aachen peace treaty (1748), that put
an end to the War of Austrian Succession, that the reforms expressed in
the Expédients were implemented by empress Mary-Theresa, Charles VI’s
successor. These reforms are known in Belgian historiography as the Theresian compromise, as they merged the traditional mode of government with
enlightened measures and concepts. The reign of Mary-Theresia has generally been viewed as a time of political and economic progress in Belgian
history. A large part of the economic reforms mentioned by Harrach go
by the name of transit policy. The transit policy favoured the construction
of east-west connections, linking the different urban networks (or hinterlands) with each other and the port of Ostend. This North Sea port
had to become the Austrian Netherlands’ gateway and window upon the
world instead of the Dutch seaports. In ‘hinterland’-terminology, it had to
broaden its foreland. According to the transit policy no new connections
towards the Dutch Republic should be built and the existing commercial
relations with the Dutch Republic should be restrained by imposing restrictive customs duties. At the same time the customs duties in Ostend had to
be lowered to attract new trade flows. The transit policy attached furthermore great importance in curtailing all obstacles to the east–west transport
flows through the Austrian Netherlands, like the shipping monopolies and
transhipment activities on the Bruges-Ghent canal. These impediments
were gradually phased out after 1763. Despite the fact that the transit
policy emanated from the Austrian Netherlands’ central government, the
new roads and canals were traditionally built and dug by numerous local
authorities. Although Joseph II installed an absolutist mode of government in the Austrian Netherlands after 1780, the concepts of the transit
policy remained unchanged until the end of Habsburg rule in the Southern Netherlands (Scheltjens & Serruys, 2019, pp. 187–199; Serruys, 2007,
pp. 334–342, 346; 2008, pp. 154–159).
Figure 4.5 shows the Austrian Netherlands’ transport system in 1793.
Since 1748, 1697 kilometres of road were built. Although only 36 kilometres of new waterways were dug, most canals were upgraded. The
port of Ostend was also modernised and enlarged in order to function as
the country’s new gateway (Génicot, 1946, pp. 547–549; Serruys, 2007,
pp. 340–341). It has a very prominent position on Fig. 4.5, as it features
the second-highest centrality value (2184) after Ghent (2710). Brussels,
Fig. 4.5 Austrian Netherlands 1793 (transport network and centrality values)
(Source The author’s elaboration)
despite its favoured position in the early eighteenth century, has lost its
position in the top-five high centrality value cities. With a centrality value
of 1450, it is still well above the 1000 iso-cv line. The area enclosed by
these 1000 iso-cv lines not only comprises extremely well-connected cities,
but also stretches across what used to be three different urban networks in
the early eighteenth century. By 1800, it is clear the Maritime, Scaldian and
Mosan urban networks have merged and become one elongated east–west
network, featuring many characteristics of the contemporary Belgian urban
network (AG) (Van der Haegen et al., 1992, pp. 459–463, 479–480). Remnants of the former land spaces are still visible, like the Roeselare salient
(AH) (for the Houtland ridge) and the pockets of Enghien-Halle (AI)
and Wavre (AJ) (for the Hesbaye/Kempen plateaux). But even then, these
cities all have fairly high centrality values ranging well above 250. As a matter of fact, the north–south oriented land spaces have almost disappeared.
Only in the north-east, the desolate moors of the Kempen form a loose
barrier with the Dutch urban networks (AK). To the east, a large part of
the Ardennes highlands (AL) still functions as a land space separating the
Mosan urban network from the Mosellean urban network. Nevertheless,
this land space has been breached by the new road connecting Namur to
Luxembourg via Dinant and Arlon (AM). Thanks to this new connection
built in 1770, Ostend could function as an alternative gateway for Central
Germany (via Treves and the Moselle valley) (AN) and Switzerland (via
Longwy and Thionville, Lorraine and Alsatia) (AO). Evidence of these new
trade routes and integration of urban networks can be found for instance,
in the growing number of international carriers from Lorraine operating in
Louvain (the terminus of the waterway network to Ostend), the increase
of transport toll revenues on this route, the tripling of shipping numbers
in Ostend and the growing foreland or number of maritime destinations
(Parmentier, 2001, pp. 15–19; Serruys, 2008, pp. 159–167; Van Buyten,
1972, p. 326).2
In this article we have shown the importance of the transport system as
a structuring element of urban networks. Eighteenth century Belgium
was taken as a case study, for an extensive transport system (roads and
waterways) was built during this century. By analysing the development of
the transport system, it is possible to draw elaborate graphs at meaningful
moments in time. In turn, these graphs allow to constitute a series of matrices. By multiplying these matrices according to the following formula—M
+ M2 + M3 + M4 —we can calculate the transport-related centrality values (for four-path-journeys) for the different urban centres in eighteenth
century Belgium. A map showing the areas with higher centrality values—
representing the urban networks—can be obtained by connecting urban
centres sharing equal centrality values with iso-cv lines. Over time these
maps make up a dynamic sequence of how urban networks and peripheries (land space) evolve and eventually can merge with each other. It also
becomes clear that the policy-makers deciding on the construction of roads
and waterways play an important role in the structuring of urban networks.
2 The tripling of shipping numbers in Ostend refers to the years before and after the War
of American Independence. During this war shipping numbers increased by a factor six.
This article shows how the different enforced transport policies, among
which the transit policy, shaped the urban networks in eighteenth century
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Persistence and Evolution in the Eastern
Sicilian Coastal Corridor: The Mobility
of Goods and People at the Port of Catania
Giovanni Cristina
Aims and Sources
This paper seeks to reconstruct features and dynamics of the maritime traffic of goods and people touching at the port of Catania during the first half
of the nineteenth century. The analysis has mainly been based on the shipping movements booked by the Maritime Police registers of Catania from
1819 to 1851.1 Despite the relative chronological shortness of this documentation,2 data have to some extent been applied to theoretical models
1 These registers are kept at the State Archive of Catania, Fondo Intendenza Borbon-
ica, Categoria VIII Agricoltura e Commercio, bb. 1015–1033.
2 Moreover, most of the years included in the period 1819–1851 are not complete.
For instance, the shipping movements of 1819 are available just for 15 days out of
G. Cristina (B)
University of Catania, Catania, Italy
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
elaborated by economic, urban and maritime historiography in order to
briefly compare the Eastern Sicily picture of the early nineteenth century
to other regional cases within the European context. The result is a sort of
«formalized description» of the trade flows differently converging on the
port of Catania, combining some statistical trends and «empirical»—e.g.
territorial, geographic, socio-economic—dynamics.
The production of the above-mentioned sources is a direct consequence
of the Bourbon administrative reform of 1817 (Iachello, 1994): in keeping with the overall judicial restructuring, also the bureaucracy that managed ports and customs was involved in the process of redefining powers,
authorities and jurisdictions. Due to sanitary, political and social control
issues, ports and navigation were considered crucial targets by the Bourbon
repressive apparatus in Sicily (Di Figlia, 2015). This reorganization ended
up influencing the registration procedures of shipping movements by the
port authorities of Sicily. With reference to Catania, the local Delegazione
di Polizia Marittima drew up the Stato de’ legni, a daily report whose typical scheme included: date of arrival/departure, type of the ship, its name,
its flag (e.g. nationality), name of the shipmaster, cargo, last/next port
of origin/destination, list of passengers (Cristina, 2017). Compared to the
whole shipping movements spreading all over the coasts of the Kingdom of
the Two Sicilies, not to mention maritime trade of all the Mediterranean,
Catania absorbed only a small part of them. Consequently, the Etnean
city has been chosen as an observation point, without any hierarchical
Traffic, Territories, Cities: The Context
Historiography has consolidated for more than thirty years the paradigm
of modern and contemporary Sicily as «land of cities» (Barone, 2003;
Militello, 2016). In fact, Sicily since the early modern age had a greater
concentration of population in urban centers above 10,000 inhabitants,
compared to the Kingdom of Naples (Sakellariou, 2012).
The fundamental importance of cities in the socioeconomic structure
of modern Sicily and the growth of coastal urban settlements compared to
those of the interior did not entail an increase in the maritime functions
in those same cities, which instead, especially since the sixteenth century,
were separated from their waterfront by the fortification works promoted
by Charles V and his successors (Simoncini, 1997). Even when, between
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, threats from Barbary piracy diminished, the growth of Sicilian cities was due to political, administrative and
economic reasons that had to do more with the land than with the sea.
Only Messina had a local commercial fleet and a merchant class devoted
to maritime trade from the Middle Ages to the nineteenth century (Bottari, 2010). Other cities such as Palermo, Trapani, Syracuse and Catania
were more like marketplaces «colonised» by foreign merchants-navigators
(Ligresti, 2006). Also because of its inferiority compared to other Sicilian cities, Catania almost never appears in the most important historical
researches that analyze Mediterranean port cities and urban networks in
the Modern Age. This is especially true for the historiography that, rather
than understanding networks in a «geographical» way, and thus taking into
consideration the spatial relationships cities interweave with other territories and their distribution, insists more on the «social» role of the single
actors in the construction of logistic and merchant networks (Jarvis & Lee,
2008; Molho & Ramada Curto, 2003).
However, despite the limited relevance of its «maritimity» (Marzagalli,
2016), Catania saw a notable urban growth after the 1693 earthquake.
Peter Burke (2015, p. 122) has stated that «cities have been described as
engine of change, but the engine needed fuel». Condorelli (2010) individuated this fuel in the increase in wheat prices. Consequently, the physical reconstruction of the city and its demographic and economic growth
were due to an enlargement of the spatial relations of Catania with a rural
hinterland dominated by the feudal nobility residing in the city (Condorelli, 2009). The emblem of this link city/hinterland is the noble family
of the Biscari, the most influential family of the Catanese nobility of the
eighteenth century. Its most important exponents, Vincenzo and Ignazio
Paternò Castello, dedicated themselves to artistic collecting, to patronage,
but also to business, thanks to their cutting-edge farmlands where they
mainly produced wheat and rice.
Wheat was undoubtedly the main asset in the Sicilian trade of the eighteenth century (Giarrizzo, 1989). Regarding our topics, it is significant to
note that the wheat of the Biscari Princes’ estates in the first half of the eighteenth century was exported to the ports of Southern Sicily (Condorelli,
2009, pp. 245–247), while from the ‘60s and 70s’ it was diverted to Catania not only for city consumption, but also for export by sea (Condorelli,
2012; Petino, 1976, p. 248). This shows that the local élites, and therefore
the social actors, contribute to «move» the goods and, to some extent, also
to create spatial relations.
The modernizing project by Ignazio Paternò Castello, Prince of Biscari, of building a port on the waterfront of Catania represented the first
attempt to open the city to the sea trade (Aymard, 2003; Cristina, 2012).
This process went on, between delays and hindrance, throughout the nineteenth century. The rhetorical devices of the debates that accompanied the
beginning of the building works insisted more on the opening of Catania to foreign traffic, rather than on the port as an opportunity for the
creation of a local shipping industry (Cristina, 2010). In parallel, the first
half of nineteenth century represented a phase of transition from a type of
maritime trade that could do without port facilities to a progressive centralization of cabotage toward increasingly «urban» nodes, which configured
an interurban system as a corridor. The transition also occurred in productive terms if one considers that precisely between the eighteenth and
nineteenth centuries sulfur overcomes wheat as a «natural monopoly» of
the Sicilian economy (Blando, 2009).
Overall, our sources confirm what have also been reported by other
researches analyzing maritime trade along the Sicilian Ionian coast between
eighteenth and nineteenth century (Condorelli, 2012; Iachello, 1991):
Catania was part of a wider route that connected Malta to Naples, passing
by Syracuse, Augusta and Strait of Messina area in Sicily, and by the Tyrrhenian Calabria, the Amalfi Coast and the Neapolitan area in the Kingdom’s
During the Early Modern period, due to both the weakness of the road
system and the absence of navigable rivers, most of the communications
among Sicilian urban centers pivoted on the cabotage system. Benigno
(2001) states that the cheapest way to transport goods from a point of
the island to another was by sea. Even if the origin and the destination of
a single trade were in the inland Sicily, the trajectory between these two
places, wherever possible, was deviated to the coast, then ascending again
toward the interior. Nevertheless, Benigno refers to the settlement structure of rural Western Sicily, made up of internal agro-towns and correspondent small coastal calls—i.e. the scari in Sicilian dialect—that represented
ephemeral contact points between land and sea.
This model also reminds of the studies of Salvemini and Carrino (2002,
2006) that deal with the effects of international market and trade dynamics
on the agricultural productions and the placement of the scari 3 in some
regions of Southern Italy. According to these researches, which analyze
Marseille Santé registers during the eighteenth century, French manufactures required from the Two Sicilies rural goods—such as wheat, blended
wines and olive oil—and raw materials, like sulfur. This trade took place in
unequal forms: Southern Italian production depended and conformed to
the requirements of foreign merchants. These «maritime entrepreneurs»
were also able to adapt loading operations to these un-equipped «rural
ports», which were functional to commerce just because of their proximity
to the agricultural productions. Salvemini-Carrino and Benigno respectively define the relationship between sea trades and crop by the concepts
of «flexible territory» and «economic-geographic islands-shaped layout of
the Sicilian territory». The «liquid» character of this trade that rested on
scattered ephemeral ports is also found in other European contexts, such
as the Provence (Buti, 2010) or Galicia (Vázquez Lijó, 2006) in the eighteenth century. This unstable and informal scenario clashes with the rigidity
of the system of caricatori—e.g. loading points—that regulated and limited
the export of wheat in the Ancien régime Sicily (Blando, 2008). From this
point of view, Catania, which was a royal caricatore, can also be associated
with Polanyi’s port of trade model (1963), dominated by administrative
To sum up, Eastern Sicily at the beginning of the nineteenth century
was mainly characterized by small-scale cabotage compensating for poor
communications by land, a rather primitive intermodality, a wheat exports
restriction scheme (until 1819), and a fairly widespread presence of urban
centers of various sizes located on the coast, but with strong relations with
their rural hinterland and in competition with each other.
All factors that did not favor the creation of integrated urban networks,
but rather a zero-sum game in which the competing cities fought for the
location of port infrastructures and therefore to conquer shares of «exogenous» maritime trade or to extend the domain on ever greater rural
hinterlands, at the expense of other nodes in the corridor.
However, as the years went by, tentative signs of change occurred. During the «English period» (1806–1815) the Sicilian merchant fleet increased
3 The scaro is a small coastal settlement in which maritime trades are conducted in an
«informal» way (weakness of port and road infrastructures, small local ship-ownership, less
tax control, etc.).
(Battaglia, 1983). Besides, starting from 1817, the Two Sicilies signed commercial treaties with several Mediterranean countries (Pagano, 1960) and
in 1824 a new customs reform established a free trade regime between the
two parts of the Kingdom.
Forms of Trade and Navigation
These preconditions had long-term positive effects on the development
cabotage navigation along the East coast of Sicily.
Nevertheless, cabotage is not a unitary and homogeneous phenomenon.
It subdivides into various typologies depending on the specific context
and adapts itself to the political, economic and geographical conditions,
concerning the market, the presence of cities or a particular territorial and
relational layout. For example, the French historian Gilbert Buti speaks
at the same time of «cabotage lointain» (2005), of «trafic de proximité»
and «grand cabotage européen» (2008a) to describe both the flows that
moved from one end of the Mediterranean to the other, and those journeys
of very short distance connecting greater coastal cities with centers of lesser
importance in the immediate vicinity.
An example of how Mediterranean long-distance cabotage did not necessarily stop at Sicilian Ionian ports is given by a short list of shipwrecks
that occurred between 1818 and 1833 in the Catania maritime district
(Table 5.1).
In quantitative terms, for the entire period in which the records are available, most of the communications occurred between Catania and Augusta,
the latter followed by Messina and Syracuse. The route that linked Augusta
to Catania was mainly «direct», without any further stop. Augusta’s fleet,
captained by «dynasties» of sailors-shipowners-shipmasters-merchants—
whose surnames were Giummo, Prato, Bellistri, Daniele, Ternullo, Bianco,
Rodo, Malfitano, Poli—daily transported salt or straw toward Catania,
returning back without any load, with postal correspondence or, especially
starting from the 1840s, with clay products. At the same time, the limestone—used in the building industry—represented the principal item of
the total importations to Catania: its traffic took place between the natural canal-port of Brucoli or Augusta, and Catania. In this case, Catania’s
mariners entirely managed the shipping: the paranze or the feluche were
commanded by families of sailors like Spampinato, Mirabella, Sampognaro.
As a sample, in 1834 the felucca Fedeltà captained by Giuseppe Giannitto
covered the «stone route» between Brucoli and Catania 67 times. It always
Table 5.1 List of shipwrecks occurred between 1818 and 1833 in the Catania
maritime district
Date of the
Name of the
Madonna di
Kerson e S.
Il vecchio
Barley and
Not specified
Silk, oil, dried
figs, rough
leather, 16
cows, 1 horse
and 7
«Forty sacks
of cochineal»
and «seven
cases of silk
S. Nicolò
January 1833
Source State Archives of Catania, Fondo Intendenza Borbonica, Categoria VII Agricoltura e Commercio, b.
followed the same scheme, arriving at Catania by loading stone and departing empty toward Brucoli.
Similarly to Buti’s description of the European cabotage (2008b), also
in Catania the different distance of maritime trade flows affected the features of navigation. Indicatively, on one hand we find traffic on a regional
and sub-regional scale, with specific origin and destination. This kind of
flows included importations—i.e. limestone from Augusta and Brucoli, salt
anchovies from Sciacca and Girgenti, almonds from Avola, etc.—and exportations of a single good (e.g. wheat toward Strait of Messina’s area). On
the other hand, the port of Catania represents just a stop in a wider route.
Similarly to the Scilla venturieri described by Cingari (1979), in this case
the captains-merchants stopped over several ports looking for goods to be
sold somewhere else; by keeping the holds full, their itineraries aimed at
maximizing the profits of maritime enterprises through extemporaneous
The Role of Catania in the Corridor
In accordance with this double layout of «its» cabotage, the port of Catania
was characterized by two principal functions: consumption and distribution
center for importations, while bulking and wholesale center for exportations.
In the light of the above, can Catania be considered a gateway for the
Eastern coast of Sicily? It depends on the perspective we assume.
If one considers the whole corridor between Naples and Malta, Messina
remains, indeed, the main Sicilian harbour during the whole nineteenth
century, despite its long decline after the glorious centuries (sixteenth—
seventeenth). On the contrary, as witnessed by the statistics of the period
1821–1825, only 6% of the total traffic with the United Kingdom involved
Catania without a stopover in Messina. Still in 1841, the scientist Carlo
Gemmellaro (1841, p. 4) complained about the fact that several «products from Catania’s hinterland were carried by land to Messina, to be
loaded there» with a charge in transportation fees. Because of the disparity between Messina—an excellent natural port with a long tradition—and
Catania—a growing commercial city without a port—«merchant houses
had not been established in Catania, unlike in Messina» (Su’ lavori pel
molo, 1843, pp. 45–46). The catching up process with Messina started in
1818, when the Intendente of Catania—the provincial governor—asked for
the extension of the favorable tax treatment of Messina free port to Catania, which was defined as «a city that has no less importance, neither for
population, nor for any other reason, than Messina» (Giornale Intendenza,
1818, p. 23). However, the gap between Catania and Messina ports did not
Nevertheless, if we consider Catania within a smaller context than the
whole Eastern Sicily, the situation partially changes. As previously mentioned, still in the 1840s Catania had not an equipped artificial port.
Meanwhile, the possibility of new profits fired an interurban competition between Catania and Acireale for the port localization. The struggle occurred on both a political and territorial level. A veritable «catch
for hinterland» opposed the two cities: Catania, provincial capital, exerted
its leading weight in order to «conquest» further productions, lying on
the Southeast side of Etna, close to Acireale. The latter asked Naples to
freely develop its own port strategy. The construction of a road between
Catania and Acireale during the 1830s is particularly significant on this matter: Acireale hoped for a coastal way, that could get Catania’s marketplace
closer to the possible port in Capo Mulini, while Catania opted for a longer
route—the «wood way»—in order to attract some Etnean products—e.g.
snow, fruits, vegetables—to itself. Finally, Catania won the challenge: it
became the gateway—in Lesger’s sense (2006)—for most of its province,
with the only, but important, exception of Riposto. This coastal town, since
the eighteenth century, specialized in wine exportations (Iachello, 1991).
Riposto was able to develop a local commercial fleet, built in its own shipyards. A flourishing class of merchants-shipowners emerged, due to the
wine trade that, managed at every step by local forces, involved the whole
population at different levels. During the first half of the nineteenth century, our sources reported the existence of a thriving wine trade with Malta,
entirely—captains’ origin, ship ownership—in the hands of Riposto, which
seems to have some similarities with the homeports of Scheltjens (2015).
Connections between Catania and Riposto remained sporadic during
the examined period: Riposto did not need a «big city» as a marketplace
for its wines. At the same time, Riposto had two solutions in order to supply
itself with the goods needed by the local market: either by land, exploiting
the same Etnean hinterland, or by sea, depending on the cargos of its own
returning fleet. Even if belonging to the same territorial framework, Catania
and Riposto were involved in different and un-connecting trade networks.
Statistics, Descriptive Models and Classifications
On the basis of these and other processes, can we draw a model of the
traffic trends converging to the port of Catania? Is it possible to consider
these maritime flows as part of a network system? Let’s turn back again to
the sources. Here is the scheme of the shipping movements registered in
Catania in 1834, the most complete year of the series (Table 5.2).
As already stated, statistics confirm the existence of an interurban connection system along the Ionian Sicily. It can be configured as a corridor, rather than a «network system» (Hohenberg & Hollen Lees, 1995).
The main route extended from Messina to Syracuse, with Malta and
Naples/Palermo as further appendixes of this traffic. This «inter-city way»
will also be followed by the steamships that started to connect regularly
the Sicilian coastal cities with Naples and contributed to a «tertiarization
of exchanges». The Real Ferdinando—a steamer bought in London by the
Società dei pachetti a vapore delle Due Sicilie, founded in Palermo in 1823—
rode for the first time on th 20th June 1824. We find it in Catania on the
25th October of the same year, arriving from Messina with 106 passengers.
Two days after, the steamship came back to Messina, boarding 66 voyagers.
Table 5.2 Shipping movements in Catania in 1834 by port and/or geographical
area of origin and destination
Southern coast of Syracuse
Avola, Marzamemi, Vendicari, Capopassero
African Sicily
Pozzallo, Vittoria, Scoglitti, Terranova, Licata, Girgenti, Sciacca,
Western and Northern Sicily
Trapani, Termini, Pollina, Patti, Milazzo, Lipari, Salina
Strait of Messina’s area
Scaletta, Guidomandri, Fiumedinisi, Savoca, Sant’Alessio;
Reggio, Gallico, Catona, Villa S. G., Cannitello, Scilla, Bagnara
From Catania to Taormina
Taormina, Calatabiano, Riposto, Acireale, Capo Mulini,
Tropea, Pizzo, Sambiase, Amantea, San Lucido, Gerace, Roccella,
Badolato, Santa Maria di Soverato, Soverato, Catanzaro, Cotrone
Amalfi coast, Neapolitan area, rest of Southern Italy
Salerno, Vietri, Majori, Conca, Massa Lubrense, Castellammare,
Naples, Gaeta, Taranto
«Italian» port cities
Venice, Trieste, Leghorn, Genoa, Savona
Foreign ports (France, UK, Ottoman Empire)
Marseille, Nice, Rouen, Havre de Grace, London, Liverpool,
Belfast, Londonderry, Gloucester, Bristol, Greece, Smyrna
Source State Archives of Catania, Fondo Intendenza Borbonica, Categoria VII Agricoltura e Commercio, bb.
In the 1840s shipping lines structurally consolidated, thanks to the Società
dei battelli a vapore siciliani, established by Vincenzo Florio and Benjamin
Ingham in 1841. Maritime transportation became a popular system for
displacements, due to the presence of four class rates. Navigation reports
for those years recorded several steamships—l’Etna, l’Indipendente, Maria
Cristina, Palermo, Mongibello, il Duca di Calabria—which carried mail
and passengers all year long. However, all these shipping companies, settled in Naples or Palermo, used the port of Catania as nothing more than
a stopover among others. Twenty years later, the interurban connections
were so structured that, as stated by A Handbook for Travellers in Sicily
(1864, p. 388), «steamers [sailed] from Messina every Tuesday at 2 p.m.,
and Saturday about noon, touching for alternate Saturdays at Riposto».
Another «boat [sailed] for Messina and Naples every Friday at 10 a.m.; for
Syracuse and Malta, every Sunday, at 9.30 a.m.». This consolidation of the
interurban connections along the corridor reminds of the passage from the
first phase—e.g. «scattered ports» linked by «irregular shipping services»—
to the second one—regular lines that prepared the «port piracy»—of Rimmer’s model (1973).
However, the most appropriate model to interpret the different flows
touching at the port of Catania should be based on the coexistence of
a multilevel scale with several overlapping circles, similarly to what Buti
(2008b) observed for the small town of Sète, in the Languedoc, in the
eighteenth century.
At the first level, we find the short-range cabotage connections analyzed
above. The traffic belonging to this category included the importations
with a specific origin, or the exportations with a direct destination. The second level—the medium-range cabotage—includes longer traffic that took
place on medium-tonnage ships. These vessels sailed the same routes of
the steamships and assumed their functions (mail and passengers transport). The Maltese speronare that imported in Catania colonial goods and
raw materials, such as leather and tobacco. The brigs from Messina, Catania
and Syracuse that carried iron, sand and stone from the mainland toward
the Sicilian ports. These ships also made soldiers, aristocrats, farmhands’
moving and transfers possible. Speronare, brigantini and schooners were the
flagships of the local fleet of Messina, Syracuse, Malta, Naples and Catania.
The third level of traffic linked Catania to Northern Europe (long-range
cabotage and international trade). Besides wheat—which suffered competition from Ukrainian cereals, carried to Western Europe by Ligurian
ships (Doria, 2001)—since the 1830s Catania started to become a collection point for sulfur—extracted from Enna hinterland mines—sumac,
soda and dregs ash and citrons. If British and French vessels carried by
themselves the mentioned goods toward their countries, between 1830s
and 1840s exchanges with Trieste started to be managed by ships belonging to the fleet of Catania. In these cases, the most recurrent names were
Sampognaro, Mirabella, Guarrera, Viscuso, Napoli and Ajello. If in 1834,
among the ships toward the Julian port, 8 out of 25 belonged to Catania, in 1843 the weight of the local fleet in the trade with Trieste increased,
ending up reaching the exact half of the total schooners directed to the Habsburg port (21 out of 42). In this case, rather than through a «port piracy»
(Rimmer, 1973), the port of Catania seemed increasing its importance in
the international traffic through a «flow piracy».
However, hierarchies between the nodes of the Eastern Sicilian corridor
were established on land, rather than being defined by sea. The «flow piracy» of a specific port was a consequence of interurban conflicts that were
played on the political, administrative and economic level, but not on the
properly maritime one. As for other urban contexts in southern Italy such
as Naples (Marin, 2018), the most articulated links of Catania were with
the rural hinterland rather than deriving from maritime commerce, which
instead represented a simple means of interurban communication or export
of goods, such as wheat and sulfur.
As mentioned above, the development of the port infrastructures in
Catania was determined by the tenacious initiative of the merchant class
linked to the hinterland productions. The development of a local fleet in
Catania was also favored by the building of the port infrastructure, that
started in 1840 and ended, with reference to the called «old quay», in
1854. Such growth is witnessed by these aggregate statistics of the shipping
movements in Catania between 1849 and 1859 (Table 5.3).
Table 5.3 Shipping
movements in Catania
between 1849 and 1859
Source C. Sciuto Patti (1862), Sull’ingrandimento del porto di Catania.
Catania, Italy: Galatola
However, this does not mean that the maritime role of Catania grew so
as to exceed its other functions, such as commerce and tertiary.
At this point, on the basis of the information extracted by Catania’s
police registers, could we classify the nodes composing the whole traffic
framework through a theoretic model?
Economic history and geography researches about ports and trade tend
to use formalized generalizations—even if limited to a single case study—
which privilege a quantitative and theoretic approach rather than a descriptive and qualitative analysis. However, especially in historical studies, these
two trends usually coexist together. It is the case of Scheltjens (2015, p. 70),
who takes into consideration the shipmasters’ domiciles—the homeports —
frequencies in order to layout «a novel classification of ports […] that
cannot be derived solely from traditional port statistics».
If we limit the classification to the Eastern Sicilian coast of 1817–1860,
we face with different features characterizing its nodes. These features can
be traced both to the «individual» functions and traits of a single node—
irrespective of their interconnections—and to the role they assume in the
whole corridor. This is particularly true for a context—the Sicily of the nineteenth century—in which relationships between land and sea, and subsequently between urban centers and «ports», were particularly problematic
(Simoncini, 1997, p. 7).
The classification here proposed has been conceived by privileging an
«empirical» perspective based on the interpretation of some recurrent
dynamics emerging from the registers.
Gelina Harlaftis (2002) identifies five factors explaining the
dynamism/interaction between cities and ports that are responsible
for their wealth. These categories include: (1) ports localization; (2) the
local, regional and international condition of exchanges in a given period;
(3) the shipping entrepreneurship; (4) the identity sense of a port city; (5)
and the interaction between the foreland and the urban context.
In the light of our classification, these criteria have been partially modified or integrated with other studies. In order to categorize every node of
the Eastern Sicilian shipping framework, we referred to: (1) the state and
the localization of the port infrastructures; (2) the presence of an intermodal transport system; (3) the weight of the maritime function on the
whole urban context (e.g. the grade of maritimity 4 ); 4) the scale of the
4 This criterion includes Harlaftis’ 4 and 5 ones.
trade flows managed by a local fleet (basically corresponding to Scheltjens’
homeports ). If the points 1-2-3 determine the «own» features of a node,
the fourth one refers to its role in the corridor.
Corridor and Nodes Features (1817–1860)
With reference to Rietberger’s definition (1988), Messina is the only port
city of the corridor. It also represents the gateway of the whole system.
Messina was a wholesale center for many Sicilian productions that reached
the international markets, playing an important conjunction role between
Northern Europe and the Mediterranean; at the same time, it was a bulking center of foreign and regional goods that waited for being sorted in
other nodes (Battaglia, 2003). In the early nineteenth century, Catania was
basically a growing commercial city, which aimed at overcoming Messina in
the regional urban hierarchy. With concerns to its trade, Catania’s hinterland ended up increasing in terms of internal penetration, until arriving to
Enna’s sulfur mines. Catania both represented a gateway just for its hinterland and a consumption center for external goods. Thus, it simultaneously
configures itself as a city with shipping trade, but without a port; as a coastal
city with a small, but growing local fleet; as a gateway just for a limited area
and limited goods.
The high level of intermodal integration described by Lesger (2006) for
the Low Countries of the seventeenth–eighteenth centuries and by Rimmer (1973) for the last three phases of his model does not fit for Eastern
Sicily of that time. For this reason, Lesger’s identification between gateways
and nodes composing his exchange system cannot be applied here. In the
following scheme, we preferred not to cancel the geographical peculiarities
and urban functions in a theoretical classification in which the points of
the network would have been the same. At the same time, since the documentation does not include the whole traffic of the corridor, but only the
part that stopped in Catania, it is not possible to trace a structured and
formalized model.
In the Eastern coast of Sicily, we are faced with a corridor composed
by a number of contact points (nodes). Urban centers (Messina, Acireale,
Catania, Syracuse), port cities (Messina), homeports (Riposto, Augusta),
maritime centers (Capopassaro, Brucoli) and a consistent number of scari
coexisted. The latter ones were principally dislocated between Messina and
Taormina. Along the Peloritan ridge a considerable number of calls, coastal
offshoots of internal settlements, lied on the mouths of seasonal streams
that flowed in the brief trait between the mounts and the sea. Following is a descriptive classification of nodes during the period 1817–1850
(Table 5.4).
A Brief Epilogue: Railways and Navigation
on the Corridor
After the integration of Sicily into the Kingdom of Italy (1860), the intermodal transport system of Catania was strengthened by the construction of
railways (Giarrizzo, 1986) that connected the city with Messina and Syracuse (1867) and with the sulfur mines of inner Sicily (1870–1876). Subsequently, Catania became the most important collection center of exporting and refining the mineral. Due to the «sulfur boom», whose trade was
addressed to the French and British chemical industry, the industrial side of
the city rapidly developed. At the same time, port infrastructure remained
inadequate to manage this increasing traffic mainly conducted through foreign vessels. In this regard, Hein (2011, p. 7) states that «institutions […]
in the different cities of a network take more time to respond to new or
changed networks by establishing or adapting institutions and social structures, as well as buildings and infrastructure».
In the long term, the Unification of Italy damaged Messina, which lost
its free port status. Because of the higher railway transportation rates, conveying sulfur to Messina became more expensive than the direct exportations from Catania. Thus, Messina «maritimity» lost against the commercial Catania. The mix of sulfur plus railway reversed the hierarchies of
the corridor. When the centrality of the sea transportation on a regional
scale decreased, also the function of Messina as a regional gateway failed.
Evermore, urban hierarchies in Sicily formed regardless of port function.
From then on, Messina’s maritime activities basically oriented toward the
sea transportation between the two shores of the Strait.
Generally, the coming of the railway structured further the connections
along the corridor. If trains and steamships mainly covered the interurban
connections, the different forms of cabotage still persisted, occupying the
space of the short-range movements and the links between minor urban
centers (scari, fishing villages, homeports). In the Peloritan area, as well
as in the Ionian Calabria, railway stressed further decoupling processes,
already started in the eighteenth century (Aymard & Bresc, 1973, p. 971):
the plain and coastal calls overcame in importance their internal origin
settlements, destined remaining isolated. However, as shown by the debates
High and
importance of the
port. Excellent
natural harbor
Port infrastructure
under construction.
Absence of a natural
Excellent natural
Absence of a port
Natural port
State of port
Weak road system
Strong relations
with a limited rear
Strong relations
between city and
Weak links to the
rest of its province
Multi-scale maritime
State of the
intermodal system
Port «colonised» by
foreign ships. The
function overalls the
maritime ones
The urban identity
pivots on sea. Fish
and trade are
High specialized
town (wine exports
by sea). Maritime
Specialized town
(salt exports by sea).
Commercial and
maritime function
High grade of
integration between
the port and the city
Grade of
Shipping contact points along the Eastern coast of Sicily, 1817–1850
Table 5.4
cabotage managed.
Medium-long trade
in foreign hands
High grade of
integration in the
international trade
Some routes
towards Malta and
Catania managed
Weak, but growing,
Some local traffic is
High capacity in
managing cabotage,
but not
international trade
Power of the local
Small homeport
City with a port
Commercial coastal
city; gateway for its
Port city; regional
Absence of a port
Integration between
internal villages and
Average road system
Fishermen and small
shipowners only on
the coastal part of
the settlement
Population made up
of fishermen and
small shipowners
Population made up
of fishermen and
small shipowners
Very low maritime
function compared
to the others
Grade of
Low power
Very low power
Very low power
Very low power
Power of the local
Source State Archives of Catania, Fondo Intendenza Borbonica, Categoria VII Agricoltura e Commercio, bb. 1015–1033
Absence of a port
Weak road system
Absence of a port
Natural port
Capo Mulini
State of the
intermodal system
State of port
Internal cities that
have a coastal point
in their county
Decoupled centers,
with a part on the
hills and a coastal
call. Scari
Fishing village
Fishing village
collected in the Parliamentary Inquiry on the Merchant Marine (1882),
the definitive transition from sail to steam confirmed the obsolescence of
the short and medium-range cabotage and its progressive marginalization
(Moricola, 2001).
(1818). Giornale Intendenza borbonica del 30 ottobre 1818, n.d., p. 23.
Aymard, M. (2003). Una Città alla Ricerca del suo Porto. Il Porto di Catania tra
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Bridging the Gap: The Belfast-Dublin
Railway Corridor in the Nineteenth Century
Agustina Martire
Dublin and Belfast were broadly considered peripheral cities in the United
Kingdom during the nineteenth century. However, they had a central role
in the Irish urban network and an increasingly engaged role in the British
and transatlantic trade network. The transformation of Dublin and Belfast
was complex and interdependent. Technological and infrastructural transformations were significant for the cultural and spatial transformations of
both cities, and this was manifested in the fragmented construction of the
railway between 1839 and 1855.
The spatial turn (Finnegan, 2008; Withers, 2009) and material turn
(Trentmann, 2009) in geography and history opens up a wider debate
about the way that urban networks evolved in the nineteenth century. This
approach especially influences how we understand those complex processes
that align political and economic transformations with spatial, material and
cultural ones. This shows that the construction of the railway had a strong
impact not only on trade and economy of both cities but also on the way
A. Martire (B)
Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK
e-mail: [email protected]
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
these infrastructures changed their spaces and material culture, transforming the way Dublin and Belfast were perceived and described. Railways
radically transformed cities in the nineteenth century. The International
Railway History Association (2010, p. 3), highlights that the relationship
between railways and cities is complex and under-researched, and emphasized that: “with a railway station, a city became part of a greater chain of
production and consumption in a network without borders.” The recent
revalorisation of railways in Europe in the quest for a more sustainable
future refocuses attention on their history.
Dublin and Belfast were part of a complex historical relationship between
Great Britain and Ireland. Early historians considered the nineteenth century one of decline for Dublin, attributed to the Act of Union of 1801,
among other causes. On the other hand, Belfast was praised for its industrial development and growth in this period. Scholars now present a more
nuanced picture for both cities. These new perspectives unveiled the fact
that on the one hand, Dublin did not really fall into decline until the famine
of the late 1840s, to soon recover and develop significantly; and on the
other hand, despite the industrial development of Belfast, this city was
not considered to have the socio-cultural transformations that were experienced in other British Victorian cities of similar industrialisation. These
new perspectives can be also understood by the increasing exchange that
was enabled with the introduction of the Dublin-Belfast railway. Historians
have widely and deeply investigated different aspects of the history of both
cities, their politics, their production, their built environment and their culture, but the role of the railways is under-represented in the historiography
of Belfast and Dublin.
This paper aims to reveal the process by which the railway line between
Belfast and Dublin was established, providing a gateway to each city, thus
creating a local network with repercussions in an international trade and
transport network from the 1830s to the 1850s. It also opens a line of
enquiry that investigates the links between infrastructural changes and the
perception and narratives of both cities.
Small City Networks
Peripheral and smaller cities are distinct entities, more dependent
on networks than larger urban centres (Bell & Jayne, 2009). A series of
scholars have discussed the uniqueness of smaller cities (Burayidi, 2013;
Garrett-Petts, 2005; Ofori-Amoah, 2007) and raised awareness of the
importance of their urban networks. Conferences and seminars have highlighted this under-researched area (AIHCF, 2010; AHRA, 2011; Global
Micro History 2018; Small cities 2009). Scholars have described the
relationship between industrial small cities and their transport networks.
Castells (1989, 1999) refers to ‘spaces of flows’ as the material arrangements that allow a simultaneity of practices without territorial contiguity.
This is a widely accepted idea for the turn of the twenty-first century, however, it can also refer to the rise of the railway network. In this context,
small cities do not have the same mechanisms or spatial developments as
larger ones. Charles Tilly (1996) explained this by encouraging scholars
to consider the power of place. One step toward this is to approach small
cities without assuming they were scaled-down versions of the metropolis.
James Connolly agrees: ‘…most assume that urban life is uniform across
cities of all sizes. Yet there is reason to question that premise and to consider peripheral cities more closely’ (Connolly, 2008, p. 3). Connolly also
mentions the processes of change of these smaller cities and their dependence on manufacturing, transportation networks and political hierarchies:
‘State policies often had decisive influence as well, and the capacity of urban
elites to shape them has varied considerably across time and place’ (Connolly, 2008, p. 10). The complementarity of urban networks is addressed
by Meijers ‘in a polycentric network of cities, each city performs a distinct,
specialised role and provides specialised services, also to the inhabitants
and businesses in the other cities in the network’ (Meijers, 2006, p. 1).
Therefore, there must be two conditions for complementarity in a network
of cities: each city must have different urban activities, and the markets
that demand for these activities must partly overlap. Hague and Kirk agree:
‘different settlements or regions can fulfil different and mutually beneficial
roles, through simultaneously embracing the advantages of competition
but also overcoming the associated disadvantages’ (Hague & Kirk, 2003,
p. 4).
Furthermore, it is worth mentioning how Michael Freeman (1999) challenged the limitations of railway history, opening up a larger debate on the
role of railways in the cultural development of towns and landscapes. One
of the main spatial and cultural impacts of the railways in cities were the
railway stations. They were purposefully built for the movement of people
and goods, but eventually provided much more complex and rich spaces
of cultural interaction. A railway station is therefore a space of culture, a
stage in which the drama of communal life unfolds (Glasser, 1970).
Dublin and Belfast---Peripheral and Complementary
Dublin and Belfast were peripheral and complementary cities in the early
1800s. This peripheral position influenced not only the way they developed
but also the way they were seen and framed by the public and private stakeholders in charge of many of these transformations. Ireland, according to
most English commentators, belonged to the periphery; texts about development, estates, tourism and policies in the nineteenth century considered
Ireland as peripheral. According to Ralph Disraeli for example, in 1843, Ireland was not understood by the British and the island and its people were
misrepresented. ‘It is a sad thing to believe, that to the greater portion
of Englishmen, Ireland is comparatively an unknown country’ (Disraeli,
1843, p. 6). He explained how the biased image of the Irish was mistaken,
and how they were not ‘half savages’. He also mentions the differences
between the people of different parts of Ireland, describing the population of the north of the island as better lodged, clothed and fed, while the
southern were in every respect in a worse condition (Disraeli, 1843, p. 9).
Even though Disraeli is sympathetic with the Irish, his tone is patronising
and Ireland is viewed as a peripheral place. This is only one of the many
framings of Ireland from the English, but a significant one, as Monacelli
explains: ‘Although permeated with disgust, anger, contempt or exasperation, the English writings of the 19th century about the Irish are rarely
one-dimensional, more than often they can be remarkably ambiguous or
contradictory; a feeling of closeness to and kinship with Ireland surfaces as
a counterpoint’ (Monacelli, 2010). Perceptions and descriptions of Ireland
were a reflection of a relationship between both islands and depended upon
networks and flows that relied upon the transport and trade networks.
Production and Trade and Transport in Dublin
and Belfast
The production of goods and their trade were significant driving forces
behind urban development in nineteenth century Ireland. This was therefore one of the main reasons for the development of a more effective system
of transportation that would link cities which produced different goods
(Schwartz, 2018; Simmons & Biddle, 1997). Until the introduction of
the railway, the main transport routes in Ireland, as well as in many other
European regions, were the canals. These were centred in Dublin (Fisher,
1941). In 1715 an Act of Parliament proposed to make a large number of
rivers navigable and by 1751 the Board of Inland Navigation was formed
by Parliament with powers to spend £7000 per annum in the construction
of the canals in Ireland. Thereafter, the Shannon Navigation (1755), the
Grand Canal (1756) and Barrow and Boyne (1759) were built to connect
Dublin to its periphery. Belfast was only connected to the Irish canal system
by the end of the eighteenth century, when the Lagan canal was built in
1794 (Thomas, 1952, p. 120). Apart from the canals, there were also roads
and a system of coaches. In 1741 there was a coach that took passengers
and mail from Dublin to Belfast. It took 5 whole days to get from Dublin
to Belfast (Riddell, 1947, p. 26). By the beginning of the nineteenth century and due to the growth of population and development of industry, a
regular coach service was established.
As Bielenberg (2014) explains in his Ph.D. theses, the narrative of
decline of industry in Ireland in the nineteenth century (Cullen, 1968,
1972; O’Malley, 1981) is a misconception, as he proves that industry
sustained an increased development throughout this period. Belfast and
Dublin developed different types of manufactures but catered to a similar market (Bielenberg, 2014). Most of the trade was with Great Britain;
Dublin connected to England through the Dunleary-Holyhead route and
Belfast to Scotland and the north of England. Therefore, they were at the
same time competitors and collaborators in a network that connected them
with Great Britain and the rest of Europe.
Nineteenth-century commentators and twentieth-century historians
have described Belfast as a strong industrial centre, with all the characteristics of this type of Victorian town, comparable to Manchester, Glasgow
or Liverpool. The main industries produced metal, glass, salt and vitriol,
but cotton was the most important of these products. In 1833 eight large
cotton mills in Belfast gave employment to a great amount of population
(Belfast & O’G, 1833, p. 12). By 1838 there was a shift to linen production, Belfast and its immediate vicinity had at least 15 mills for spinning
linen yarn (Second Report IRC, 1838, p. 261). Aiken and Royle (2013,
p. 4) highlight the importance of linen production in Belfast, and also how
significant the trade networks were in this process to fuel the local economy. Belfast had direct access to coal and to a trade route that linked to
Scotland and the north of England, which made the production of linen
more profitable, and justified the shift from cotton to linen production in
the 1830s. As explained by Fisher, the development of industry in Belfast
was exceptional, attributed to ‘the possibilities of coal import from Ayrshire, and partly because the system of land-ownership and tenure in Ulster
encouraged accumulation of capital’ (Fisher, 1941, p. 265). Technology
was also an enabler of the linen industry, as the wet spinning machine
crated in 1827 allowed the flax to be spinned without damage (Connolly,
2012, p. 197). The Commissioners’ data on the export of linen show how
the market grew between 1823 and 1835 from over 55 million yards to
70 million by 27% (Second Report IRC, 1838, p. 261). Linen therefore
became more significant for the market than cotton, and by 1838 several mills designed for cotton-spinning were employed in spinning flax.
As production increased and the markets of Britain and the United States
opened up, Belfast became a much larger exporter of linen than Dublin.
M. Comb described the history of Belfast as: ‘principally remarkable for
the rapid progress of the town in commercial and manufacturing progress,
in its increase of population and the extension of its churches, benevolent,
educational, literary and other institutions, and its public buildings generally’ (Comb, 1861, p. 16). So he does not only address the development of
industry and manufacture, but also the institutional, political and literary
conditions of the city. However, the approaches to this development have
been contested (Connolly, 2012; Purdue, 2013; Royle, 1993, 2012).
Despite this ‘success story’ of production and trade, poverty was not
uncommon in Belfast (Laragy, Purdue, & Wright, 2018). Even though
it was comparable to other industrial cities in the United Kingdom, some
early authors had a different perspective. In 1833, O’G writes about the unimpressiveness of Belfast (O’G, 1833, p. 349). Disraeli in 1843 comments
on Belfast as the only place where trade seems to carry on, but expresses
his concern on the lack of remains of ancient art, ‘to make you for a time
forget the modern decay.’ (Disraeli, 1843, p. 10) This comment evidently
reflects a picturesque approach to urban landscape, considering trade and
commerce in the city as part of modern decay. Belfast had a shorter history
than its English counterparts, so the medieval city was never there. Even
the local Belfast media carried ‘expressions of dismay at Belfast’s undistinguished appearance. In particular, they complained of the lack of large-scale
public buildings and of substantial constructions in stone’ (Connolly, 2013,
p. 36). These type of derogatory comments are questioned by Connolly
and Mackintosh (2012, p. 15).
The nineteenth century was a period of dramatic transformation for Dublin (Brady & Simms, 2001). Even though it has been
considered as a period of decline by earlier historians (Craig, 1952; Flood,
1974; McCullough & Mulvin, 1987) due to extreme poverty in the mid
nineteenth century, decline and dereliction did not characterise the whole
century, and they were limited to certain areas of the city. The decline has
been explained as a consequence of the Act of Union of 1801 (Craig, 1952).
As Parliament was removed from Dublin, a great part of the elite moved
away to London. Comments about the decline of the city and the relationship between this decline and the moral values of society, such as William
Smith O’Brien, were common in the 1840s: ‘With regard to Dublin, this
decline of prosperity cannot be denied (…) In reference to the condition
of the labouring classes, I am persuaded that at no period of the history
of Ireland, did they experience equal difficulty in obtaining the means of
subsistence; and this state of things is the more painful, because their moral
habits are much improved, and because it can no longer be said that their
destitution is to be traced to intemperance’ (O’Brien, 1843, p. 44). Dublin,
however, kept its cultural functions during the nineteenth century. In a letter to her mother, Elisabeth Pembroke in 1830 wrote about Dublin ‘What
beautiful a bay and town this is, we have been finding about this event
and have been so much amused, we walked along the quay, saw the Bank,
Custom House, University, of which are magnificent buildings of stone
and in the best style of architecture’ (Pembroke, 1830). One stark difference between Dublin and Belfast in the early nineteenth century was the
fact that banks were established earlier in Dublin (1783) than in Belfast
(1825) and still in 1844 held a much larger capital (Thom, 1849, p. 191).
Even though production of linen shifted to Belfast, certain industries grew
and expanded in nineteenth century Dublin. The harbour docks on the
north wall saw the introduction of new trade; the southern riverfront had
industries such as salt works, boat building, foundries and glass works using
imported coal. According to Daly (1984) the food industry was not prominent in Dublin, but several breweries and bakeries such as Guinness and
Jacob’s were largely successful. Textile was also produced in Dublin, but it
reached the market later than Belfast as it was specialised in silk and cotton.
By 1870 there were 14 mills dedicated to cotton, wool and flax around the
city of Dublin (Daly, 1984, p. 42).
Dublin and Belfast appear to have a periodical growth and crunch of
different industries throughout the nineteenth century (Bielenberg, 2010),
which affected their economy and the relationship with one another. All
these highs and lows were affected by the transportation system between
these two cities.
The Railways in Ireland
The main reasons for the establishment of railways in Ireland were trade and
passenger transport. The harbours of Dublin and Belfast had an established
market with Britain, from Dublin to Holyhead and from Belfast to Scotland
and the north of England. By 1770, 76% of all Irish exports were sent to
Britain, with a smaller share of the exports directly shipped to Europe, the
Americas and the Far East (Cullen, 1968). According to Ferris (2008) the
motivation of the early railway entrepreneurs was driven by a mixture of
self-interest and a sense of duty to their districts. He also highlights how
there was a wider sentiment that the railways represented progress and ‘not
to have a network would mark Ireland out as a backwater lagging behind
the rest of the kingdom’ (Ferris, 2008, p. 8). One of the incentives for the
construction of railways in Ireland had to do with the importance of the
trade and passenger routes to America (Bermingham, 1841). Trade was also
instrumental for the railways, as the importance of the connection to ‘great
manufacturing districts in the midland counties of England’ (Bermingham,
1841, p. 36) and explained that the lines between Belfast, Dublin and
Galway would embrace the trading and manufacturing population of the
As early as 1824 there was an interest in building railways in Ireland. The
Leinster and Munster Railway company was established in 1825, which proposed a Dublin-Belfast line. Even though this line would not be built until
decades later, members of the company were involved in the first railway
in Ireland, the Dublin Kingston railway. In the Dublin Penny Journal of
1834 an account of the cost of building railways was exposed, comparing
the prices of horse-drawn railways and steam engine railways (Dublin Penny
Journal, vol. 2, 1834, p. 402). Railways were favoured for the benefit of
speed and safety. ‘Unlike canals, they are not obstructed by frost in winter, or drought in summer, or by frequent repairs’ (Dublin Penny Journal,
vol. 2, 1834, p. 403). This was also explained by Thomas Birmingham,
as a more efficient alternative to the ‘dangerous and tedious navigations
of the channels, both on the North and South extremities of Ireland and
England’ (Bermingham, 1841, p. 36). The difference of costs was also
explained ‘Railways are constructed at much less expense than ordinary
canals. They also occupy less ground, and can often be carried in a more
direct line, in consequence of their not requiring the same precision in
point of level’ (Dublin Penny Journal, vol. 2, 1834, p. 403).
The first intention of the Irish Railway Commissioners was to establish
one single enterprise to develop railways, thus not building separate lines
but ‘a well-combined and judicious system, in which the joint traffic of
many places and districts should pass to a great extent over one common
line’ (Report IRC, vol. 1. n. 5, p. 258). The first railway in Ireland was built
between Dublin and Kingstown, promoted in 1825 and opened in 1834.
In the following 7 years, only 2 of the 26 Irish schemes were granted some
investment from their subscribers (Railways Commission Minute Book,
1839, P.R.O.I., 2D. 59. 5). By 1845 there were only 65 miles of line, but
soon afterwards a ‘fever’ for railways developed and led to the construction
of 700 miles of railway five years later (Lee, 1968, p. 35) (Fig. 6.1).
The investment in Ireland became a crucial factor in the development of
the railways. Ireland was practically left in the periphery of investment from
England. ‘Even in the comparatively prosperous years before the famine,
early development of Irish railways lagged behind that of England. Little
capital could be acquired in Ireland itself, and British investors preferred
the more remunerative fields of enterprise both in the home country and
in the Americas’ (Fisher, 1941, p. 267). There was pressure from private
enterprise to the Commissioners to develop a convenient and fair scheme,
where there would be a proper connection between the different railway
lines managed by different companies. An anonymous commentator, supporting railway schemes, stated that the new projects had to consider the
existing lines and that a specific governmental body should assign a commission to prepare an integral plan for railways in Ireland (Bristol Selected
Pamphlets, 1853, p. 7). However, according to Joseph Lee, even though
the railways in Ireland were the largest consumers of capital of the midnineteenth century, the investment was unstable and erratic (Lee, 1968,
p. 33). Charles Webb wrote in 1852, that Parliament was anxious of the
burden that the Irish Railways would cause on the public treasury, but it
gave sanction to many of the petitions presented by private companies. In
1846 this investment amounted to more than 11 million pounds between
shares and loans, but this went down to only 250,000 by 1851 (Webb,
1852, p. 29). The disinvestment was not exclusive to Ireland, for 80% of
the capital invested in railways was authorised before 1850 also in England
(Lee, 1968, p. 34). According to Lee (1968), the famine in Ireland and the
decline in railway investment are not directly related, ‘It was the reaction in
the stock market after 1845, not the famine per se that reduced the flow of
funds to the companies’ (Lee, 1968, p. 38). Nonetheless, the investment in
Irish railways was primarily private, having 12% coming from government,
Fig. 6.1 Railways in Ireland 1845 (Source Westmeath Library Service Local Studies collection. Pamphlet—Observations of the Provisional Directors of the Mullingar,
Athlone and Longford Railway on the Report of Board of Trade and Railways Proposed to Be Made in Ireland, Westward from Dublin from 1845)
10% from private lenders and 80% from private investors (Thom, 1855,
p. 383).
By 1868 the situation had changed and it was considered favourable
to build railways in Ireland as opposed to Scotland or England, because
of their lower cost. ‘The English lines cost in 1865, £41,033 per mile.
The Scotch lines cost 22,821 per mile. The Irish lines cost 13,964 per
mile.’ (Dodds, 1868, p. 4). The cost of labour was therefore obviously
much lower in Ireland than in Britain. The process of development of the
Dublin-Belfast line will be analysed in the following section.
The Dublin Belfast Line
The construction of the railway line from Dublin to Belfast was fragmented.
Even though there were efforts to build one single line managed by one
company since the 1820s, this took a few decades to take shape. The Dublin
and Drogheda Railway was sanctioned by an Act of Incorporation in 1836,
while the Commissioners planned a link between Dublin and Belfast by a
new line through Navan and Armagh. Eventually the line was built by
three separate companies: the Ulster Railway Company from Belfast to
Portadown in 1842, a line from Dublin to Drogheda in 1844 and finally
the Dublin Belfast Junction. They were finally amalgamated by 1875.
The Ulster Railway (UR) was the second railway to open in Ireland,
from Belfast to Lisburn in 1839 and then to Portadown in 1842. This
happened in the context of municipal reform in Belfast, enacted in 1840,
that replaced the self-perpetuating corporation with an elected mayor and
council (Connolly, 2013, p. 31). This line was negatively compared with the
lines in England, stating that the Ulster railway only had 25 miles, ‘while in
England the Great Western Railway, and by four different but continuous
lines a traveller may proceed in one direction from London to Darlington,
a distance of 263 miles’ (Porter, 1844, p. 173), thus already dismissing the
development of Ireland in this field. The construction of the Dublin and
Drogheda railway started in 1844, but the investment and construction was
not an easy process. The Irish Railway Commission did not readily give an
incentive for the construction of the railways, as William Galt (1844, p. 90)
explained. Finally, a loan of £150,000 was granted by the Exchequer Commissioners, which enabled the company to continue building it. Eventually
in 1849 the need of support for the railway from Dublin to Drogheda was
justified by the needs of passengers, instead of trade: ‘This would lead to
the conclusion that the numbers of persons passing between Dublin and
Drogheda had been increased more than three-fold, in consequence of the
opening of the railway. (…) before the railway was opened, the number
travelling by public conveyances was only 232 per week—just one-third of
the present number. If this account had been taken in summer, the increase
would have appeared greater’ (Murland, 1849, p. 6) (Fig. 6.2).
A document released (Bristol Pamphlets, 1853) on the railways in the
north of Ireland reveals the choice of a coastal route instead of an inland one
to connect Belfast and Dublin. According to this document, the railways
were part of the enterprise that ‘has elevated their town to its great mercantile eminence’ (Bristol, 1853, p. 4). This would imply that Belfast growing
industry had to be paired with transport networks inside the island. The
proposal to Parliament by the Ulster Railway Company, with the support of
Belfast and Lord Rossmore, was at the time the coastal one, passing through
Newry, Dundalk and Drogheda (Bristol, 1853, p. 4). Discussions about the
establishment of a Dublin Belfast railway continued and the option of an
inland line was weighed against a coastal one. Even though the Drummond Commissioners considered the coastal line to be ‘too formidable’,
the coastline was finally preferred to the inland one (Fisher, 1941). There
was serious conflict about the gauge size of the lines, as the UR had a wider
6ft 2in, but more expensive gauge than the Dublin Drogheda rail at 5ft
3in. After much disarray and pressure form the Board of Trade and Royal
Engineers, the smaller gauge of 5ft 3in. was finally chosen, which meant
having to change the gauge of the UR. Interestingly enough, the cost of
building this cheaper gauge, that enabled cheaper tickets, led to a raise in
the amount of passengers that were approaching harbour cities to emigrate
during the famine of the mid-nineteenth century (Ferris, 2008, p. 37).
The Dublin Belfast Junction was designed to link the Dublin &
Drogheda Railway with the Ulster Railway at Portadown. It was incorporated on 21 July 1846, but although Drogheda was linked to Portadown
in 1852, the Boyne was not crossed by a viaduct until 5 April 1855. Finally,
the amalgamation of the four main-line companies of the area took place in
1875–1876, forming first the Northern and then the Great Northern Railway. This process was followed by twenty years of intensive consolidation
and standardisation characterised by the reconstruction or remodelling of
a large number of stations (McCutcheon, 1964, p. 157).
By the late 1870s the railway craze was over and most of the network in
Ireland was at risk. A proposal was raised, where the Government would
purchase the railways for £24,000,000, and then invite public companies to
compete for their maintenance (Dillon, 1879, p. 21). This was considered
Fig. 6.2 Dublin Drogheda railway line, 1844 (Source J. D’Alton (1844), History
of Drogheda, with Its Environs and a Memoir of the Dublin & Drogheda Railway.
Dublin: J. D’Alton)
favourable but there is no evidence that this project was financed. The distribution of investment in the different companies of the Dublin-Belfast
scheme shows an interesting picture. The railway line based in Dublin
received a much greater investment from England than the northern Irish
ones based in Belfast. The Dublin Drogheda railway line received 300,000
from Ireland and 249,000 from England, while the Ulster Line only
received 27,000 from England and 510,000 from Ireland. The Dublin
Belfast junction received the same amount of investment from England
and Ireland, which can be due to an increasing interest in the Irish Railways and the more favourable economic period when it was built.
Dublin and Belfast Reframed
A shift in understanding of Dublin and Belfast has replaced the stories of
gloom and industry, respectively. In Dublin, a steep decline in living conditions did not happen until the mid-nineteenth century, during the great
potato famine (Brady & Simms, 2001; Prunty, 1997). According to Simms
and Brady, in the nineteenth century ‘… there was more to the city than
poverty and gloom. The city functioned as a large regional capital. There
were industries and commerce, an important banking and insurance sector and there were elegant streets for shopping and enjoyment’ (Brady &
Simms 2001, p. 159). The extent to which the slums characterised Dublin
is also relativised by Prunty: ‘The 19th century quickly became synonymous
with poverty and slum conditions. However, it is important to note that
such stories only tell a partial truth. Dublin had large numbers of poor in
the eighteenth and preceding centuries, the removal of the upper echelons
of society served to make the underlying poverty more visible, while the
development of social theory and the science of statistics ensured that the
recording, measurement, and management of poverty would be a major
concern in all 19th century cities’ (Prunty, 1997, p. 16). David Dixon also
highlights the importance of Dublin compared to other cities in Ireland
and England, saying that in the first decades of the nineteenth century ‘the
winter season, the law and the medical and educational resources of the city
remained far superior to any Irish or English rival outside London’ (Dixon,
2014, p. 279). Campbell explores the development of nineteenth century
Dublin, stating that: ‘The 19th century is generally portrayed as a time of
gradual but continuous decline for the city, after its Georgian heyday. This
thesis contends however, that this story of decline ignores many significant
developments and transformations within the city, which demonstrate a
different scale of order of urbanism from that which typified the 18th century’ (Campbell, 1998, p. 1). Therefore, according to recent scholarship,
despite the low standard of living conditions, works of infrastructure and
urban development in the city and the surrounding estates allowed Dublin
to be a large and productive regional capital.
Early commentators highlighted the value and prominence of production and trade in Belfast. Recent historians have also supported this appreciation of its industrial development. Because of its growth and industrialisation, according to Prunty, in the 1830s Belfast was described as: ‘more
rapidly advancing in importance, magnitude and wealth than any of its former rivals’ (Prunty, 1997, p. 16). However, despite the growing wealth of
the ruling class, the conditions of urban communities were far from comfortable (Royle, 2012, p. 201). Connolly explains how the management
of the town, as it changed from an aristocratic patron to a more broadly
representative body, still maintained corrupt practices where the marquis
was able to appropriate funds that were meant for the relief of the poor
(Connolly, 2013, p. 29). He also highlights the fact that in the context of
changes in government structures from oligarchies to corporations, most
cities in Britain had progressive and liberal tendencies, while Belfast was
widely Conservative (2013, p. 30). Finally, Connolly comments (Connolly,
2010, 2013, p. 25) that even though Belfast had a significant commercial
and industrial development, it was not accompanied by the socio-cultural
improvement that other British cities developed, especially in the second
half of the nineteenth century.
Dublin and Belfast are part of an Irish network of cities, which was consolidated during the nineteenth century, through the construction of the
railway. These two ‘peripheral’ cities became nodes in a wider network due
to significant transformations in technology and transportation. However,
the development of this transportation was complex and this was reflected
in the investment and construction of the fragmented railway line between
Dublin and Belfast. Both cities specialised in different types of industry to
cater for their own market and for the growing external market. The link
between both cities, nevertheless, was not seen as significantly important as
the possible links with other cities in America or the UK, which contributed
to delays in building the Dublin Belfast railway line.
According to John R. Kellett ‘It was the influence of the railways, more
than any other single agency, which gave the Victorian city its compact
shape, which influenced the topography and character of its central and
inner districts, the disposition of its dilapidated and waste areas, and of its
suburbs, the direction and character of its growth’ (Kellett, 1969, p. 1). The
fragmented construction of the railway affected the development of each
of these cities, contributing to framing their position in the wider urban
network. This paper opens a series of new questions about the nuances of
the development of each city and their railways. This issue, as well as the
material and spatial transformation of both cities due to the railways and
their respective stations deserve deeper and further investigation.
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The Making of a Regional Network
Urban Network and Economic Policy: The
Milanese Case During the Spanish
and Austrian Ages
Giovanna Tonelli
Since the 1980s research on pre-industrial manufacturing—particularly
the proto-industrial model that analyses economic development on the
regional, rather than national, scale (Mendels, 1982)—has persuaded Italian scholars to study the Italian economy during the Modern Age not only
within the traditional Italian states’ borders, but also from regional perspectives. In this setting, research has identified important economic interactions between neighbouring territories of different states and identified
spatial dimensions based on economic interdependencies (Tonelli, 2008,
notes 8–11), in particular for the State of Milan (Moioli, 1988; Tonelli,
2015b). This is why one can now speak not only about the economy of
the State of Milan, but also about the economy of the ‘Lombard economic
region’. For the same reason, we cannot define an economic network of
G. Tonelli (B)
University of Milan, Milan, Italy
e-mail: [email protected]
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
cities and ‘rural towns’1 relative to the State of Milan alone, but rather
we must deal with a broader regional network of urban spaces and their
hinterlands, with Milan as the economic capital.
This chapter focuses on the factors upon which the economic network of
the Lombard cities were based. It also sheds light on the State’s policies that
allowed the economic network to survive during the Spanish and Austrian
Ages and let Milan preserve its role, until the French Era, as the gateway
and the ‘emporium’ both for the other cities of the State and for a larger
territory comprising the principal cities of the neighbouring states.
The Spanish Age
During the Spanish Age (from 1535 to the beginning of the eighteenth
century), the borders of the network of cities and rural towns inside the
‘Lombard economic region’ extended north from Domodossola, Varese
and Como in the State of Milan; south to the southern cities of the
State—Alessandria, Tortona, Voghera, Pavia, Cremona, Lodi, Crema (in
the Republic of Venice), Piacenza (in the Farnese’s State) and Mantua
(capital of the homonymous Duchy); and from Novara and Vigevano, the
western cities of the State of Milan, to Bergamo and Brescia, the western
territories of the Republic of Venice.
Many factors explain the economic relationships among the cities of this
large part of Northern Italy, starting with the resources and productive
structures in the region. The variety of economic resources is self-evident if
we observe the geographical structure of the territory: mountains (Ossola
Valley and the districts north of Como, Bergamo and Brescia), hills (Como,
Varese, Lecco and the north of Novara and Milan) and plains (Novara,
Vigevano, Alessandria, Pavia, Milan, Lodi, Cremona, Mantua and their
hinterlands). The Lombard plain, and above all the section between the
Ticino and Adda rivers, was some of the most fertile land on the continent.
It produced cereals in large quantities, which fed the whole State of Milan,
one of the most populated and urbanised areas of Europe (Sella, 1982,
pp. 16–20; Capra, 1984, pp. 558–560), and the neighbouring territories.
The lands to the north of Milan were not as fertile as the plain, but they had
iron mines and produced cheap textile products (wool, cotton and linen
clothes) and raw silk, which was increasingly in demand abroad (Sella, 1982,
1 Centres with populations from 5000 to 10,000 residents.
ch. 1, 6). This meant that, during the seventeenth century, from within the
Lombard economic region’s borders, the State of Milan exported cereals
and silk to Bergamo (in the Republic of Venice) and imported iron goods
and cheap woollen clothes; and it exported cereals, raw linen and rags to
Brescia (a Venetian city) and imported arms, yarns linen and paper (Moioli,
1986, p. 181; Tonelli, 2012, pp. 17–23).
The second factor upon which the strong economic relationships among
the cities of this part of northern Italy were based was the economic role
of Milan. It was a market for luxury goods for the upper classes of the
cities of the State and its neighbours (Tonelli, 2012, pp. 17–18; 2015a,
pp. 149–150). Milan sold unique pieces produced by its artisans (Romani,
Maino, Ferino-Pagden, Napoleone, & Beaufort-Spontin, 2015), the socalled ‘court products’, although it had not had a court since the early
decades of the sixteenth century: ceremonial armour, jewels, crystal and
above all silk products (including fabrics with precious metals and ribbons). Milan also sold imported products, particularly fabrics made beyond
the Alps. Jewellery, ceremonial armour, crystal, silverware, clothing accessories and valuable furnishings for homes and churches—clocks, tapestries
and paintings—left Milan and reached Lodi, Pavia, Turin, Bergamo and
The third fundamental factor that united the Lombard cities in an economic network was the transit trade, thanks to a particular chapter of the
Milanese trade law: international transits paid lower customs duties on the
roads that the government wanted such transits to use (Tonelli, 2007,
pp. 89–91), which not accidentally passed by the cities of the State of
Milan and its neighbouring states, as shown in Table 7.1.
Of course, the economic relationships with the cities of the Lombard
regions, and with the continent in general, had developed thanks to the
wide roads—a gift of nature improved by men’s labour. The Duchy of
Milan lay near the Alps and many international roads crossed it. These
were military roads, built by the Romans, which became trade roads that
were well-maintained during the Middle Ages (Frangioni, 1983; Soldi Rondinini, 1978). During the Spanish Age, they were not in as good a condition
as in the past, but, in spite of concerns about the roads and transportation,
2 Recognitio of January 4, 1620 (Asm, Notarile, 22055); promissio September 6, 1631
(ibid., 28442); procuratory July 17, 1632 (ibid., 27508); procuratory November 1, 1635
(ibid., 26494); inventory attached to the deed of tutela of April 24, 1654 (ibid., 28881);
Piccinelli (2003); Tonelli (2009b, pp. 155–156).
Table 7.1 Transit paths through the state of Milan with reduced duties, seventeenth century
Spanish Netherlands
Spanish Netherlands and
Florence, Rome, Naples
Lugano and Locarno
Bologna and Tuscany
Bellinzona, Lake Maggiore,
Ticino River, Pavia, Tortona,
Bellinzona, Milan, Pavia,
Tortona, Alessandria
Como, Milan, Pavia,
Alessandria, Tortona
Como, Milan, Lodi, Piacenza;
back: Lodi, Milan, Como,
Cremosina or Domodossola,
Alessandria, Tortona, Pavia,
Alessandria, Tortona, Pavia
Milan, Novara
Cremona, Lodi, Milan,
Parma, Piacenza, Pavia,
Source (Capitoli 1669, §42, pp. 32–36)
scholars speak of this as a superiority of this part of Italy over the rest of
the country (Bortolotti, 1985, p. 292; Caizzi, 1985, p. 9). In this part of
northern Italy, one could also use many alternative roads and river transportation. The most important river was the Po, which flows across the
north of Italy, from Piedmont to the Adriatic Sea, with many tributaries
and many canals that were dug during the Middle Ages and used for both
navigation and irrigation (Bigatti, 1995; Corritore, 2001).
These consolidated trade relationships between the cities of different
states could have been compromised during the seventeenth century, with
the prohibition on the imports of some wool and silk products in the 1640s
and 1650s (Vigo, 1991, p. 123). These laws were anomalous for the State
of Milan, which had never shut its borders to foreign goods nor to foreign
tradesmen (Tonelli, 2002, pp. 159–165; 2011; 2012; 2014; 2015c), and
were the government’s response in the aftermath of the plague of the early
1630s. The deaths of many artisans from the plague produced an increase
in the prices of some textile goods produced in some cities of the State,
so Milanese merchants chose to import them from abroad instead of producing them locally, paying for them with the export of goods that were
increasingly in demand abroad: silk, cereals and cheese (Moioli, 1999b,
pp. 51–52).
However, the protectionist trade policy failed, because the merchants
simply ignored the law, which was possible because the government did
not have its own employees to enforce the prohibitions. Only the foreign trade of food supplies (cereals, wine) was directly controlled by public
employees. The supervision of foreign trade of all other goods depended
on those to whom the collection of customs duties was contracted, and
their employees. Of course, the contractors did not want to stop any trade,
but neither did the government itself want the contractors to enforce these
laws; in fact, if the collection of customs duties decreased, the contractors
could claim damages from the government. Moreover, during the seventeenth century, many of those contracted for the collection of customs
were bankers and merchants who worked in the import–export trade and
lent money to the town of Milan and to the Spanish Monarchy during the
seventeenth century—a century of war (Tonelli, 2002, pp. 161–164).
As one can see, the management of the customs duties was favourable
for allowing Milan and the other cities of the State to easily trade abroad.
The structure of the system of customs duties was no less favourable to the
trades than to the management.
As far as the structure of customs duties—the fourth factor on which the
network among the cities of the Lombard economic region was based—
was concerned, the State of Milan in the seventeenth century was still
divided into provinces (Moioli, 1999a, pp. 851–859). These provinces
corresponded to the cities of the State and their territories—an inheritance from the Middle Ages, when Milan conquered the other Lombard
cities but let them maintain their autonomy concerning customs duties. As
a consequence, import, export and transit duties were based on the number
of provinces crossed by the goods: a product made in Cremona (a city in
the South of the State) and sold in Como (in the north) paid the export
duty in Cremona, the transit duties in Lodi and Milan and the import duty
in Como. For this reason, during the Modern Ages it was more convenient
for Cremona to trade abroad, especially with Piacenza (in the Duchy of
Parma and Piacenza) and Mantua, than with Como.
The Austrian Age
During the first half of eighteenth century, the State of Milan handed to
Piedmont its western territories: the Ossola Valley (upper Novara), and the
cities of Alessandria, Tortona, Novara and Vigevano and their hinterlands,
with their fruitful lands. Despite these changes, the economic relationships between the different areas of the Lombard economic region did not
change. Ossola, an infertile land near Switzerland, continued to be fed by
Lombard cereals (Bognetti, Moioli, Porta, & Tonelli, 2006, p. 141, note
116). Lombard landowners, who had properties in the territories ceded to
the Savoy family, continued to carry their harvests to the State of Milan
duty-free (Bognetti et al., 2006, p. 369, note 137). Raw skins continued
to be carried from the State of Milan to Cannobio (a small rural town
near the Swiss border) to be tanned, and then imported into the State
of Milan (Moioli, 1988, p. 45). Lombard silk continued to be bought in
Vigevano, from where the State of Milan imported silk products (Moioli,
1988, pp. 75–76).
This structure still did not change in the second half of the eighteenth
century, when Vienna tried to support a home market inside the State
of Milan. In doing so, they removed the province-to-province customs
duties, introducing instead customs duties that encouraged domestic products, particularly textile fabrics. In fact, as shown in Table 7.2, there were
numerous foreign (or foreign-styled) textile products on the Milanese market that some members of the government thought could be produced in
the State. The Table contains customs registry data and shows the products
that crossed the borders of the State of Milan in 1762. Unfortunately, it is
an incomplete list for two reasons.
First, there are few luxury products, because the list was prepared based
on data extrapolated from customs records. For example, the precise origins
of the precious French silk products were not registered in the customs registers, which was not due to the negligence of the employees, but because,
for many products in the tariff book, there was no specification regarding
their origins. Second, the list does not address colour; in fact, there are
few coloured products recorded, as the customs duties for dyed products
were no different, so the records do not distinguish the products by colour.
However, the range of colours of textile products sold in the State of Milan
was very broad, as seen in the clothes in contemporary Milanese portraiture,
in modern exhibitions in galleries and museums, and in other archival documents, such as inventory records of houses and shops and governmental
Alemagna [Germany]
baracanello di filo e lana d’Alemagna
baraccano d’Alemagna
baraccano di filo e lana d’Alemagna
berrette di lana d’Alemagna
bindello di lana d’Alemagna
bombasina d’Alemagna
bondinella d’Alemagna
burattoni d’Alemagna
calze d’Alemagna
calze di lana d’Alemagna
calze di lana e stame d’Alemagna
calze di stame d’Alemagna
cambraglia d’Alemagna
camelotto d’Alemagna
cappelli d’Alemagna
coperte di lana d’Alemagna
crespone alto d’Alemagna
dobletto d’Alemagna
dobletto di filo e bombace
dobletto di Germania
fanella stampata di Alemagna
fazzoletti di tela d’Alemagna
grograni bassi d’Alemagna
mezza-lana alta d’Alemagna
mezza-lana alta d’Alemagna
mezza-lana bassa di Alemagna
mezza-lana d’Alemagna
panno alto d’Alemagna
panno alto ordinario d’Alemagna
panno basso d’Alemagna
panno d’Alemagna
panno fazione d’Alemagna
panno fino d’Alemagna
peluzzo basso ordinario d’Alemagna
saglia bassa d’Alemagna
saglia bassa d’Alemagna e Francia
saglia d’Alemagna
saglia di scotto d’Alemagna
sempiterni bassi di Alemagna
sempiterni d’Alemagna
tela bianca ordinaria d’Alemagna
tela del Settanta d’Alemagna
tela di mussolo d’Alemagna
tela fina d’Alemagna
tela greggia d’Alemagna
tela Sangallo d’Alemagna
tela tinta d’Alemagna
teleria grossa d’Alemagna
terlisetti ordinarj di Alemagna
terliso d’Alemagna
tovaglie d’Alemagna
zuccottini di lana d’Alemagna
baraccano d’Ambevill
baraccano d’Ambevill diverso
panno d’Ambevill
stamina d’Amiens ordinaria
Basilea [Basel]
calze di lana di Basilea
panno alto di Basilea
panno fino di Basilea
panno Bassano
panno basso di Bassano
baetta di Bergamo
droghetto basso di Bergamo
droghetto di Bergamo
fanella solia di Bergamo
fanellone solio di Bergamo
fazzoletti di tela di Bergamo
mezza-lana alta di Bergamo
mezza-lana bassa di Bergamo
mezza-lana di Bergamo
panno alto di Bergamo
panno alto ordinario di Bergamo
panno basso di Bergamo
panno basso ordinario di Bergamo
panno di Bergamo alto ordinario
panno fazione di Bergamo
panno feltrino di Bergamo
panno ordinario di Bergamo
peluzzo basso di Bergamo
rattina alta di Bergamo
rattina bassa di Bergamo
rattina di Bergamo
roverso basso di Bergamo
roverso cottonato di Bergamo
roverso di Bergamo
roverso di Bergamo bianco
roverso di Bergamo ordinario
roverso fino di Bergamo
roverso ordinario di Bergamo
Table 7.2 Countries and localities of origin and/or of the “style” of textile products present on the Milanese market in
the 1760s
saglia alta di Bergamo
saglia bassa d’Italia e Bergamo
saglia bassa di Bergamo
saglia di Bergamo
saglia nera di Bergamo
saglia ordinaria di Bergamo
stame, ossia stametto di Bergamo
stametto di Bergamo
stamina di Bergamo
mezza-lana di Biella
Boemia [Bohemia]
panno di Boemia
canevazzo greggio di Bologna
tela di canape di Bologna
velo di seta di Bologna
panno alto di Brescia
panno basso di Brescia
panno Bristollo
panno Bristollo fino
panno del Nord «ossia Bristol»
camelotto fino di Bruxelles
panno alto Carcassone
panno Carcassone
Table 7.2 (continued)
berette di Catel-franco
panno Carsè
telette di Codogno
panno alto di Como
roverso di Como
Costanza [Constance]
tela Costanza
tela Costanza bianca
tela Costanza greggia
tela Costanza piombata
tela Costanza tinta
tela fina d’Alemagna
baraccano cremonese
fustagno di Cremona alto
calze di Fabriano
calze di lana di Fabriano
Fiandre [Flanders]
grograni alti di Fiandra
grograni bassi di Fiandra
tela fina di Fiandra
Firenze [Florence]
roverso di Firenza
Francia [France]
baetta di Francia
camelotto basso di Francia
camelotto di Francia
camelotto fino di Francia
camelotto ordinario d’Alemagna
camelotto ordinario di Francia
droghetto appannato di Francia
droghetto di Francia
panno alto di Francia
panno alto ordinario di Francia
panno basso di Francia
panno fino di Francia
panno scarlato di Francia
perpetuello alto di Francia
perpetuello e droghetti di Francia
rattina alta di Francia
rattina bassa di Francia
saglia bassa d’Alemagna e Francia
saglia bassa di Francia
saglia di Francia
saglia principessa
spagnoletta di Francia
stamina bassa di Francia
stamina di Francia
tela fina di Francia
panno di Gandino
panno fazione di Gandino
roverso alto di Gandino
roverso bianco di Gandino
roverso cottonato di Gandino
roverso di Gandino
roverso fino di Gandino
roverso scarlato di Gandino
scarlato ordinario di Gandino
panno di Gavazzo
Genova [Genoa]
mantini e tovaglie di Genova
reti di filo [di lino] genovese
Germania [Germany]
mezza-lana di Germania
sarza di Germania
stame di Germania
stametto di Germania
tapeti di Germania
tela bianca di Germania
tela ordinaria di Germania
teleria diversa di Germania
Inghilterra [England]
baetta bassa d’Inghilterra
baetta d’Inghilterra
calamandra bassa d’Inghilterra
camelotto basso ordinario
camelotto d’Inghilterra
droghetto appannato basso
droghetto basso d’Inghilterra
droghetto d’Inghilterra
fanella d’Inghilterra
fanella solia d’Inghilterra
grograni alti d’Inghilterra
grograni bassi d’Inghilterra
marbrucco d’Inghilterra
panno alto d’Inghilterra
panno fino d’Inghilterra
peluzzo d’Inghilterra
perpetuello d’Inghilterra
saglia alta d’Inghilterra
saglia bassa d’Inghilterra
saglia d’Inghilterra
sempiterni bassi d’Inghilterra
Italia [Italy]
panno basso ordinario d’Italia
panno d’Italia
panno fazione d’Italia
panno fino d’Italia
saglia bassa d’Italia
saglia bassa d’Italia e Bergamo
saglia d’Italia
Lione [Lyon]
buratti da mistura da burattare
di Lione o d’Overgna
mezza-lana bassa di Lione
saglia bassa di Lione
Londra [London]
saglia di Londra
panno fino Loviè
panno Loviè
calze di lana di Lovere
calze di Lovere
panno Lovere
panno Mastrich
Mantova [Mantua]
calze di Mantova
Marocco [Morocco]
saglia di Marocco
panno alto di Matelica
Milano [Milan]
panno alto di Milano
panno ordinario di Milano
saglia bassa di Milano
saglia di Milano
saglia di Modena
guanti di lana di Moravia
calze di lana di Mosso
mezza-lana bassa di Mosso
mezza-lana di Mosso alta
saglia di Mosso
Olanda (Holland)
camelotto fino d’Olanda
panno alto alla fazione d’Olanda
panno alto d’Olanda
panno d’Olanda
panno fazione d’Olanda
panno fino alto d’Olanda
panno fino d’Olanda
roverso fino d’Olanda
tela d’Olanda
tela d’Omens
Overgna [Auvergne]
buratti da mistura da burattare
di Lione o d’Overgna
buratti da mistura di Overgna
burattoni d’Overgna
Padova [Padua]
calze di lana e stame di Padova
panno alto alla fazione di Padova
panno alto di Padova
panno di Padova
panno fazione di Padova
panno fino di Padova
panno nero di Padova
panno ordinario fazione di
baraccano di Piacenza
saglia bassa di Piacenza
saglia di Piacenza
Renso [Reims]
mantini di renso
renso nero
serviette di renso
tela di renso
tela di renso tinta
Roma [Rome]
saglia bassa di Roma
saglia di Roma
tela roana
San Gallo (St. Gallen)
tela Sangallo
tela Sangallo bianca
tela Sangallo bianca ordinaria
tela Sangallo d’Alemagna
tela Sangallo piombata
panno alto Sedano
panno alto Sedano di Francia
panno Sedano
Toscana [Tuscany]
canevazzo greggio di Toscana
Venezia [Venice]
panno scarlato di Venezia
scarlato di Venezia
tela di Venezia
tela d’Olmo
tela rigata d’Olmo
calze di lana di Verona
calze di stame di Verona
calze di Verona
calze di Verona fine
panno alto di Verona
panno di Verona
roverso appannato di Verona
roverso di Verona
Zurigo [Zurig]
buratti bassi di Zurigo
buratti di Zurigo
crespone alto di Zurigo
crespone basso di Zurigo
velo [di seta] di Zurigo
Source: The author’s data processing of the Ricapitolazione generale (1762)
Meaning of the ancient names of the textile products sold in Milan in the eighteenth century—Amiens: woolen fabric; baetta: light woolen cloth;
baraccano/baracanello: woolen fabric or linen and woolen fabric; berretta: cap; bindello: ribbon; bombace: cotton; bombasina: cotton and linen fabric;
bondinella: linen fabric; buratto/burattone: woolen fabric; calza: sock; calamandra: woolen fabric; cambraglia: linen fabric; camelotto: woolen fabric;
canape: hemp; canevazzo: canvas; cappello: hat; coperta: blanket; crespone: woolen fabric; dobletto: cotton and linen fabric; droghetto: woolen fabric or
woolen and linen fabric; fanella: woolen fabric; fanellone: woolen fabric; fazzoletto: handkerchief; filo: linen thread; fustagno: cotton fabric; grograno:
woolen fabric; guanti: gloves; lana: wool; mantino: napkin; marbrucco: woolen fabric; mezza-lana: woolen fabric; panno: woolen fabric; peluzzo: woolen
fabric; perpetuello: woolen fabric; rattina: woolen fabric; renso: linen fabric; rete: net; roverso: woolen fabric; saglia/sarza: woolen fabric; scarlatto: woolen
fabric; sempiterno: woolen fabric; servietta: towel; spagnoletta: woolen fabric; stame: spun wool; stametto: woolen fabric; stamina: woolen fabric; tapeto:
carpet; tela/teleria: canvas; teletta: linen fabric; terliso/terlisetto: canvas; velo di seta: silk veil; zuccottino: headgear (more details on the meaning of the
ancient names and on the value of the textile products sold in Milan in the 1760s: Tonelli, 2018)
panno Sedano e del Beuf
Salonicco [Thessaloniki]
panno basso Saloniccio
panno Saloniccio
panno di Schio
tela di Tolmezzo
tela rigata di Tolmezzo
Table 7.2 (continued)
documents. For example, a document of the 1780s shows that the Guaita
company (Como) produced the highest quality ‘panni d’Elbeuf’ in over
ninety different colours.3 Despite these shortcomings, Table 7.2 shows
clearly that Milan was an ‘emporium’—a crossroads of trade between the
continent and the Italian Peninsula. In fact, one can find more than 300
products made in (or ‘in the style of’) Austrian Lombardy (Milan, Como,
Cremona, Mantua, Codogno) or various parts of Italy (Piedmont, Republic of Venice, Genoa, Tuscany, Papal State) and from abroad, both from
Europe (England, Austrian Netherlands, Dutch Republic, France, Germany, Switzerland, Bohemia, Greece) and Morocco.
The first step of the reform was in 1765, when the customs duties from
province to province were removed from silk, linen, cheese and some cheap
textile clothes, while wool and silk clothes and some typical Milanese products, like bells, chocolate and coaches, were exported completely duty-free
(Tariffario, 1765). The second step of the reform was in 1771, when the
customs duties were no longer contracted out. In theory, without the private collectors, the government was free to carry out its reforms, but, from
1771 to the mid-1780s, Milanese statesmen strongly opposed it for two
main reasons. They knew that, in spite of fiscal facilities, local manufacturers were unable to produce goods of the same quality as those bought
abroad. After removing the customs duties from province to province, the
easiest way to balance the fiscal yield was to increase import and export
duties (Tonelli, 2009a, pp. 281–282). This would have caused considerable
damage to the Lombard trade, which was so focused on the international
market, as the trade data collected in those years shows.
Table 7.3 is an elaboration of the Trade Balance of the State of Milan of
1778—the only balance in which both trade data between the provinces
of the State and between each province and abroad was collected. Before
analysing, one needs to know that this source is imperfect as it only includes
data on the goods for which duties called ‘Datio della Mercanzia’ were
paid—in other words, it excludes some cereals and some animals for which
other duties were paid, and some duty-free goods that were not registered
at all following the partial reform of 1765.
As you can see, the mercantile vocation of each province is evident;
the fruitful lands of the South fed the capital and its hinterland with butter (Lodi) and wine (Pavia and Lodi) and also supplied the countryside
3 Asm, Finanze, p.a., cart. 8, fasc. 3.
Pavia and
Milan and
Lodi and
Como and
among the
provinces of
the State
Value of trade of the state of Milan in the 1770s (currency: Lira Milanese)
39,092,038 23,859,329
25,287,465 11,405,287
Sources The author’s data processing of the Trade Balance (1778)
Note Only goods traded for a value equal to or greater than 100,000 ‘lire milanesi’ were considered—a significant sample because they represent 79% of total
imports, 65% of total exports and 85% of the exports traded among the provinces of the State (Trade Balance, 1778; Vianello, 1938, p. 61; Tonelli, 1997,
p. 55, note 74)
Milan and
Pavia and
Lodi and
Como and
Table 7.3
around Milan with bulls, which were indispensable for agriculture. The
textile manufacturers of the Busto Arsizio and Legnano (in the north of
Milan) also operated thanks to linen from Lodi. Concerning trade abroad,
Como exported silk, Lodi exported cheese, Pavia exported cheese and rice
and Cremona exported linen.
The data also shows the role of Milan as a gateway and ‘emporium’
for its territory and for the cities of the State and the neighbouring states.
The roads of the capital were travelled by cotton or olive-oil (both mainly
bought in Genoa) for the manufacturers located in the northern part of
the province, while silk products and cotton and linen textiles reached the
other cities of the State. Milan sent raw and spun silk abroad, mainly to
Piedmont and France, and luxury goods (either produced in the State or
imported), especially silk products, clothing accessories, linen laces, linen
textiles and wax candles, were sent to the neighbouring states.
In the mid-1780s, Joseph II, fed up with Milanese obstructionism,
charged Stefano Lottinger from Lorraine, a foreign statesman, to implement the reforms, and, in 1786, they were finally carried out (Tonelli, 1997,
pp. 64–65). The customs duties inside the State were removed, but the
peculiar structure of the Lombard trade, so defended by the Milanese statesmen, could not be modified. The peculiarity of Milan’s trade was again confirmed; the export of silk, cereals, cheese and linen and the import–export
of luxury goods were further promoted; and the economic relationships
with the neighbouring territories of the neighbouring states were not cut
off (Tonelli, 2009a, pp. 287–288). On the contrary, they were further promoted thanks to improvements to the infrastructure of the State, planned
in the 1770s and realised after twenty years (Capra, 1984, p. 478; Mozzarelli, 1986), and to the confirmation, in 1785, of the reduction of customs duties paid on the roads that the government wanted transiting trade
to use (Tonelli, 2007, p. 102).
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i Paesi d’Oltralpe nel primo Seicento. In L. Mocarelli (A cura di), Tra identità
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spagnola. Rivista milanese di economia, 40, 113–124.
The Construction of an Inland Gateway:
Milan in the Course of the Early Modern
Luca Mocarelli
The aim of this contribution is to highlight the reasons that, from the
Middle Ages and increasingly with the early modern period, have made
Milan an extremely important inland gateway with very specific features.
As an observer at the end of the seventeenth century succinctly pointed out,
it was one of the most important urban centres in Europe, even though “it
was situated on the plain, its court was small, neither the sea nor a navigable
river fostered trade and, lastly, that it was the capital of a State, which today
is of little consequence” (Burnet, 1686; cited in Gozzoli, 1993, p. 1593).
In the first part, the long-term reasons which led Milan to establish its role
as an inland gateway will be discussed, while in the second part the focus
will be on the period between the mid-eighteenth and mid-nineteenth
centuries, a crucial period of very important changes which consolidated
L. Mocarelli (B)
University of Milano-Bicocca, Milan, Italy
e-mail: [email protected]
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
Fig. 8.1 The extraordinary position of Milan (Source The editors’ elaboration)
Milan’s role, i.e. the political reunification of the Lombard region after over
three centuries of division and the advent of the railway.
The Lombard area, with Milan at its centre, is especially privileged on
account of the spring line, the ‘fontanili’ which separates the northern part
with its plentiful woodland resources from the southern area, well-suited to
agriculture, and guarantees an easy supply of water, while its geographical
position facilitates its links with the centre of Italy, the Adriatic (both by
land and by the Po River), Switzerland and the area of the Rhone basin
(Fig. 8.1).
It is no mere coincidence that Milan developed in Roman times exactly
where the Via Emilia, a crucial feature in a communication system that
connected central Italy and the Adriatic to the Alps and the basins of the
Rhone and the Rhine, crossed the belt of the fontanili. An intersection
that, thanks also to the vicinity of some of the main Alpine passes, gave the
city its role as an international crossroads, thus enabling it to make the most
of the favourable convergence of environmental conditions, well-suited to
settlement and production, and the reorganisation of the territory by man
(Gentili Tedeschi, 1988).
From the Middle Ages the already extremely favourable position of
Milan was consolidated with the implementation of impressive infrastructures, and in particular by the construction of navigable canals able to connect the city to the Po river and to pre-alpine lakes. It was a far-reaching
operation initiated with the digging of the “Naviglio Grande” canal at the
end of the twelfth century and completed three centuries later with the
construction of the Martesana Canal (Dalmasso, 1972, pp. 36–39).
What further strengthened the position of Milan was its inclusion in a
territorial context where, as early as the economic recovery in the Middle
Ages, the presence of the irrigated area, characterised by an early adoption of advanced technical solutions, helped to outline a “functional” and
“complete” region marked by a clear productive bifurcation. Some major
cities—Milan itself, Bergamo and Brescia—acted as links between the lowlands and the mountain area (Dowd, 1961). The consolidation of internal
links and the inclusion in a network of important trade routes and of flows
of migrant labour contributed to the realisation of the infrastructures and
of the organisations required to support the development of a wide range
of trade relations, which, in turn, from the early modern age, favoured the
growth in the level of economic specialisation of the Lombard economy.
Thus, it was the characteristics of this exceptional regional setting and
their evolution during the early modern era which sustained and furthered
the development of Milan. The city was capable of greatly benefitting from
its role as a junction between two economically interdependent areas, the
irrigated plains and the hilly and mountainous areas, and from the presence
of a hinterland of extraordinary vitality, highly diversified with respect to
resources (Mocarelli, 2001). Milan, therefore, found itself in an ideal position to make the most of the potentials of a regional system with an increasingly integrated hinterland, despite the political divisions experienced since
the fifteenth century (Mocarelli, 2005), and at the same time definitely projected outwards, thanks to the numerous links maintained with the international market. In the same way in a framework of synergistic relationships
of give and take, it was able to consolidate its own role as a privileged link
between the world of the Alps and the Po Valley and as crucial pivot of an
articulated and complex whole. To understand this, it is sufficient to take
into consideration the variety and substance of the transactions that converged on the Lombard city, a real magnet with a growing and diversified
power of attraction that made it an inland gateway of extreme importance.
This is already evident with regard to the recruitment pool of the workforce for the urban market that, more or less temporarily, flowed in from
the other Lombard provinces, in particular from the area of Bergamo and of
Como as well as from Biella and the Canton of Ticino, from the Valtellina,
the Val Vigezzo and the Val d’Ossola. The same thing, though, applied
to the goods coming, above all, from Lower Lombardy and the Oltrepo
area; the cattle from the eastern part of the region and from Switzerland;
building materials and wood from the pre-alpine and alpine areas; manufactured goods like hides, tanned at Cannobio on Lake Maggiore, or silk
obtained from the numerous spinners in the region. Not to mention the
broader range of commercial channels that Milan was able to cater for,
both by providing raw materials, especially to Genoa and to Venice, and
with the purchase of numerous finished products destined for urban consumption, mainly from France and Germany, and with the flow of goods,
both semi-finished and manufactured that it sent abroad, confirming its
role as exporter (Mocarelli, 2003).
Finally neither should we ignore the flow of goods converging on Milan
as an important hub of commerce in transit, and those from and to rural
areas, which instead were involved in the process of decentralisation of various manufacturing activities between the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, connected to the availability in the countryside of sources of energy
and cheap labour able to manufacture low-cost goods of medium quality
(Moioli, 1988).
Milan grew and strengthened its position as time went by, making the
most of the fact that it had firmly established itself at the centre of a region
which was economically diversified and vital. Exploiting its exceptional
position of a city on the plain and above all directed towards the Alps: developing its marked international propensity; counting on advantages offered
by that great multiplier of opportunities which, in the case of its manufacturing activities, is a far-reaching and diversified urban market. Among the
factors that led to an increasing integration of the Lombard area on an east–west axis, making it the cornerstone in the construction of the economic
regional area, with Milan at its centre, are certainly the means of communication and the ability to access markets, which in turn requires the existence
of a large urban network (as argued by the New Economic Geography: see
Fujita, Krugman, & Venables, 1999; Krugman, 1991, 1995).
As for the roads, we could begin with Caizzi who held that “Lombardy
- as far as its roads were concerned - was ahead of any other region in Italy”
(Caizzi, 1985, p. 14). Of course this relative superiority over the rest of the
peninsula concealed the difference between the State of Milan, where the
central position of the capital had created a wide network of roads which
had been greatly improved following the plans proposed by D’Adda in
1775 (Mozzarelli, 1986), and the real, much-criticised conditions in the
rest of Lombardy, for a start the Venetian part of the region.
Regarding this, it is sufficient to recall a dispatch sent by Cesare Vignola,
the Venetian representative in Milan, after the historic setting up of the
postal service of Mantua in Hapsburg Lombardy. In his letter he described
“the difficulties encountered (when travelling) in Venetian Lombardy on
many main roads, in parts carried away by fast torrents, in parts lacking
bridges, like the road toward France, and in parts reduced to an untidy
heap of rubble”. As a result, “deliveries along the Venetian roads, in present
conditions, take a long time and are unreliable, so that goods are often
damaged and have deteriorated on arrival in Milan, and the cost of transit
is arbitrary”.1
Nevertheless, Venetian Lombardy had an important card to play irrespective of the state of its roads: there was a wide variety of possible alternative routes, should one road prove to be impassable.2 And this was particularly the case of roads leading to the State of Milan, since smuggling was
endemic. In 1780 Cesare Vignola once again noted that Venetian Lombardy was able to obtain “from Genoa, Leghorn and Nice, all kinds of
commodities” precisely because there was “a border without any controls,
and entirely open”.3
The links between Hapsburg and Venetian Lombardy benefitted not
only from this wide network of roads, but also, and even more, from the
extremely useful integration of roads and waterways, able to consolidate
the economic space at the heart of the Po Valley. What was crucial in this
case, as has already been mentioned, were the canals and especially the
1 Cesare Vignola’s dispatch of 15th October 1779, in the State Archives of Venice (hereafter
SAVe), Senato Dispacci Milano, f. 223.
2 Antonio Ferro points this out very clearly in his well-known “Relazione intorno il bilancio
di commercio” (Report on the commercial balance-sheet) written in 1787 and kept in SAVe,
Deputati e aggiunti alla regolazione delle tariffe mercantili, c. 94.
3 See Cesare Vignola’s dispatch of 16th February 1780, in SAVe, Senato Dispacci Milano,
f. 223.
Martesana which, when the branch connecting it to the Naviglio Grande
was opened in 1497, meant uninterrupted navigation from the River Adda
to Milan and from Milan to Ticino.
Indeed, it is no wonder that Venetians who lived in the Lombard capital
repeatedly voiced their appreciation of the Martesana “for the merchandise
and other commodities which arrive from the region of Bergamo”. In fact,
“the goods, after ten miles overland, are shipped at Vaprio and travel the
remaining twenty by water”, with a considerable reduction in time and cost
of transport, since downstream it only took six and a half hours to cover
the distance of over thirty kilometres from Vaprio to Milan”.4
Another incentive to internal trade and to the building of a wide network of roads in the middle of the Po Valley gravitating on Milan was the
existence of so many urban centres. It is important to remember that since
the Middle Ages, Lombardy has been in a privileged position, being one of
the most urbanised areas of Europe. At the end of the eighteenth century
the State of Milan and Venetian Lombardy numbered more than 350,000
people living in centres with more than 7000 inhabitants, out of a total
population of around 1,700,000.5 The fundamental long-term fact of this
consolidated urban network is that the centralising power of Milan, one of
the largest metropolitan cities of the Early Modern Age, did not prevent the
growth of a multi-polar network of cities and the prospering of numerous
other centres, such as Brescia, Cremona, Bergamo and Pavia (Table 8.1).
The presence of such a wide and interconnected urban network made
a substantial contribution to the development of trade, not only with the
creation of infrastructures to support them, but also with the setting up of
institutions able to foster trade. With regard to this, the great importance
of fairs should be emphasised and especially that of Bergamo which became
crucial for goods from the area of Bergamo and Brescia sent to the State
of Milan, taking on the role of “great centre of almost all the reciprocal
4 Compare the letter concerning this sent 17th January 1755 (SAVe, Senato Dispacci Milano,
f. 197) expressing great fear that the business world suffer considerably if operators were forced
to use the route via Cremona and Lodi—although in fact this did not happen, with the report
of Franco Rigola sent 13th November 1772 in the State Archive of Milan, Acque, p.a., c. 948.
5 In 1790 in the west of the region there were 1,153,878 inhabitants, as against 565,000
in the Eastern part (Bellettini 1987, pp. 114–117).
Table 8.1
Population of main Lombard cities in the early modern period
Source The author’s elaboration from Malanima, P. (1998). Italian cities 1300–1800. A quantitative
approach. Rivista di storia economica, 14(2), 118–119
transactions and correspondence that meet and are established between
foreign and national retailers throughout the year”.6
It should also be noted how important the Fair of St. Alexander had
become during the eighteenth century, following the enormous expansion
of the silk industry. Concerning this it is significant that the fair of Brescia
saw the role it had traditionally played in the negotiations for the purchase
of raw silk steadily weakened by the steps taken by merchants from Milan
and Bergamo, operating at the fair of Bergamo, who cornered the market
for the cocoons and semi-finished goods (Mocarelli, 1995, pp. 135–139).
Moreover, if the province of Brescia had previously been only slightly oriented towards Venice, the growth of the silk industry only further diminished what slight attraction the Venetian market held, as Captain of Brescia,
Giovanni Labia, was well aware when he observed that the province “made
most of its profit from the State of Milan”, so he considered it was entirely
wrong to think that the Brescia area could focus its attention economically
on Venice—the distant “Dominante”.7
6 See the letter sent to Bergamo on 4th May 1796 (SAVe, Deputati alla regolazione delle
tariffe mercantil i, c. 61).
7 See his letter of 21st July 1787 in the Historical Archive of the city of Brescia, c. 1550.
A few years earlier the V Savi alla Mercanzia had already stated that
the areas of Brescia and Bergamo “obtain for their profit maritime goods
from Leghorn and Genoa” because they were less subject to tolls than
those arriving from Venice, thus further loosening ties with Venice and
strengthening those with Milan.8 Well aware of this situation, for some
time, Venice had waived its tight control over the provinces of western
Lombardy, to which it had allowed a large margin of autonomy and where
it even found it difficult to impose its own monetary supremacy. In fact,
the Venetian provinces were flooded with Milanese filippi and chronically
short of Venetian ready cash, which, consequently, was at a premium.
The obsessive promulgation of decrees (in 1704, 1722, 1736, 1750,
1752, 1753, 1763, 1777) aimed at bringing the Venetian currency back
into line, prompted the well-justified observation that “the very fact that
these same laws are so urgently re-introduced shows how ineffective they
are, because everybody knew what caused such a situation”.9 It was equally
obvious that the preference for Milanese rather Venetian currency would
encourage export trade to the Hapsburg part of the region and support
integration. Indeed, when Venice intervened to restore its currency to the
official rate, commercial activity in Venetian Lombardy ran into considerable difficulty.10 On the contrary, the deflationary tactics of the State of
Milan, such as the reform of the currency in 1778, had quite the opposite
result because, by bringing about the realignment of the exchange rates,
they put to use the dominant position achieved by Venetian Lombardy in
its exchanges with the Austrian zone.11
8 See the missive by the V Savi alla Mercanzia of 29th February 1776 (Historical Archive
of the city of Brescia, c. 1549).
9 Carli, for example, held that the chaos in the monetary system was due to growing passivity
with the Republic of Venice, because the market preference for silver to gold, on the other
side of the Adda, had led to an ever-increasing flow of silver currency away from Milan and
towards the neighbouring region of Bergamo. This is shown in Gianelli (1984).
10 The Venetian resident in Milan in 1751 observed that the unequal exchange rate, which
was to the disadvantage of the Venetian side, inevitably compromised “the purchase of foodstuffs, cloth and iron goods made in the areas of Brescia and Bergamo” (see his dispatch of
28th May 1751, in SAVe, Senato Dispacci Milano, f. 193). This was later confirmed by Captain
Labia of Brescia, who underlined the difficulty in exporting iron and steel from the province
following the Venetian manoeuvre in 1777 (see the letter cited above of 21st July 1787, in
the Historical Archive of the city of Brescia, c. 1550).
11 Cesare Vignola was well aware of this when he noted that “Crema, Bergamo and Brescia are the subject provinces on the boundaries which will reap the benefits of the present
regulations (the new monetary rate of 1778 in the State of Milan), an enormous advantage
In the heart of the Po area, in the course of the early modern age, the
area centred on Milan was strengthened and its hinterland increasingly
integrated from an economic point of view, but at the same time reaching
out also towards the more dynamic markets of the continent. It was a
situation that took a very long time to consolidate, so much so that still
today Midland, the great and dynamic economic area centred on Milan,
which includes the provinces of Lodi, Pavia, Lecco, Varese and Como (de
facto the territories that belonged to Hapsburg Lombardy) as well as those
of Novara, Bergamo and Brescia and Piacenza, actually marks the economic
area that gravitated on Milan in the course of the early modern age (Abis,
Airoldi, Goggi, & Lisciandra 2008).
How did Milan and its consolidated network of trade relations and of
communication routes that led to the Lombard city react to the political reorganisation of the region and the success of the railway? Political
reunification undoubtedly upgraded the role of the Lombard metropolis
which found itself at the centre of that which, since the French era, had
increasingly taken the form of a “functional” region.12 Equally important,
though, was the railway because it reinforced its aspect as gateway not only
at a regional level but also at an international one.
The Lombard area in this respect found itself in a strange position
because the early debate on the construction of railway lines, begun in the
1830s in connection with the Milan-Venice line, was followed by a delay in
the actual construction, above all for political reasons and disagreement on
the routes to choose, which at the time of the Unity of Italy saw the region
decidedly lagging behind the Kingdom of Savoy (Bernardello, 1996).
However, the financial efforts and the strategic clarity of the Rothschilds
who, from the 1850s, managed the existing sections of the railways in
Lombardy, and then built new ones, laid the foundations which made the
Lombard and Milanese network the hub of the railway system in the new
kingdom of Italy and the privileged link with the heart of Europe. The
because they will be able to sell all kinds of goods to the Milanese with a more favourable
balance and at competitive prices” (see his dispatch of 4th November 1778, in SAVe, Senato
Dispacci Milano, f. 222).
12 The “functional” region corresponds to the area of radiation of a big city, in this case
Milan, around which “gravitates a cluster of medium-sized centres, whose population is usually
between 50,000-200,000 units, which constitute a market for a vast agricultural area, and
industrial activity which is often oriented to one particular type of production, they are also
the hub of communications for a sub-regional area, for which they provide certain services”
(Gambi, 1972, pp. 55–56).
Rothschilds’ strategy, in fact, put Milan on the development map of the
railway network on a continental scale, while the Piedmont’s railway companies, despite Cavour’s efforts, in the end operated mainly in a limited
area with little regard for efficiency (Giambiasi, 1995). Thus, Milan bolstered its function as an open gateway towards the most developed part of
Europe, to which Napoleon, with regard to land routes, had already made
a significant contribution insofar as promoting the construction of the new
Simplon road.
Abis, M., Airoldi, A., Goggi, G., & Lisciandra, G. (2008). Midland: la città di
mezzo. Dedalo, 2, 25–103.
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della imperial-regia privilegiata strada ferrata Ferdinandea Lombardo-Veneta
(1835–1852). Venice, Italy: Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere e arti.
Burnet. G. (1686). Letters containing an account of what seemed most remarkable
in Switzerland, Italy, etc. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Abraham Acher.
Caizzi, B. (1985). Strade lombarde. Itinerari e uomini in epoca austriaca. Milan,
Italy: Banca del Monte di Milano.
Dalmasso, E. (1972). Milano capitale economica d’Italia. Milan, Italy: Franco
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Gateways as Inter-Modal Nodes in Different
Ages: The Venetian Region, Eighteenth
to Twentieth Centuries
Giovanni Favero
This paper focuses on the theoretical implications of a regional case study
for the analysis of transportation networks and gateway functions. The
starting point is the result of a research on the changing role of gateways,
and on the relocation of the gateway function from one city to a series of
cities in the Venetian region from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.
Against this evolution, I test the validity and usefulness of a definition of the
gateway as a point of inter-modal exchange for its historical interpretation.
Changing transport technologies involve different organisations of intermodal exchanges, and imply more or less intense economic functions of
gateway cities. These changes intertwine with political events and decisions, and more general economic changes: they could at the same time be
read as an effect of these transformations, and as a causal factor. From this
G. Favero (B)
Department of Management, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Venice, Italy
e-mail: [email protected]
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
perspective, a study of intermodality shows to be useful to shed new light
on specific changes in the structure of urban hierarchies.
A Definition of Gateway from a Transport-Focused
Starting from the definition given in Hohenberg and Lees (1995), we could
say that a city’s gateway function is that of linking the region (for which it
usually plays also the function of central place) with the world beyond. This
could mean that a gateway city works as a bottleneck inside the network
system for goods, humans and information passing from the region to the
outside world and vice versa, but this is not enough: it implies also that
through the gateway it is possible to shift from a local communication
or transport infrastructure to a wider one. From this specific (and limited)
point of view, inter-modality is the main characteristic function of gateways.
From a historical perspective, different kinds of city functions can be
identified with this definition of gateways: trade fairs, port cities, border
cities, rail junctions, airport hubs could all fit in this category, both as bottlenecks and as points of inter-modal exchange and stop. In these cases, trade
formal and informal rules, international politics, and most of all transport
technology have a strong influence on the configuration of the network
system and in the rise and fall of the gateway function of a city.
Using a model derived from the economic geography of trade (Krugman, 1991), we could expect that the development of a gateway intermodal function should foster the localisation of other functions making
them more convenient: intermediation and transportation costs implied
in the inter-modal exchange could in fact favour the growth not only of
economic activities directly linked with transportation or communication,
but also of other services and of the manufacturing of goods to be shipped.
This in turn should imply a growth of the urban population, attracted to
the city by these activities, allowing us to use population as a proxy of the
growth of urban functions.
We should notice that these assumptions suggest also that a reduction in
intermediation and transportation costs (and stops) would imply a reallocation of economic activities and a reduction in the importance of gateway
cities. What is more, a definition of gateway focused on inter-modality
implies that there could exist major and minor gateways, the latter somehow overlapping with the central-place function.
In the following paragraphs, a tentative reconstruction of the evolution
of the Venetian urban network will be given, to test the hypothesis drafted
above against the changes in political borders and transport technology
that the area experienced from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.
From a Weak Centralism to Polycentrism and Back Again
The long-period weakness of the Venetian regional structure, dating back
from the sixteenth century, came to its results in the first half of the nineteenth century, not in fragmentation, but in a network-like reorganisation
of regional functions. The loss of the capital city position of Venice left a
void, which was gradually filled by means of a more complex spatial organisation, centred on mainland cities and their hinterland. The resulting economic polycentrism bent on the east–west corridor (Magrini & Martellato,
2000), ending up by orienting regional interests towards Lombardy and in
general Italian territories. Many different factors favoured this evolution.
A Republic, Not an Economic Region
The mainland territory of the Venetian Republic before its fall in 1797 was
not a unitary economic region, or better, it was so only from some points
of view and in some areas. Venice was actually the main trade gateway just
for the Brenta and Piave basins, while the Adige river, together with the
Adda and Mincio, both tributaries of the Po, allowed an easy route to the
Southern border avoiding the obligation to pass by the port of Rialto in
Venice. If the Eastern rural area of Friuli was excluded from direct trade with
the Hapsburgic territories, Vicenza and Verona were instead able to manage
their autonomous trade relationships towards the Adriatic and Alpine fairs,
while Brescia and Bergamo were virtually part of the Milanese economic
space (Lanaro, 1999, pp. 35–39).
A Capital City Levelled
The Napoleonic wars cut off the former capital city from the mainland and
reorganised economic relationships on different foundations, subordinating trade policy to the interests of French mercantilism and fiscalism. The
crisis of the Venetian nobility (Derosas, 1990) and the sale of church and
state property redistributed land rent towards mainland cities, taking it away
from Venice (Berengo, 1963, p. 172). The city seemed incapable of reacting to a long-period decline, which political changes emphasised with the
loss of maritime territories in 1798, the reduction of its mainland dominion, and after 1806 the administrative subordination to Milan as the capital
of the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy, levelling Venice to the rank of other
departmental centres (Zaghi, 1986, pp. 365–377). In the early quarter of
the nineteenth century, the city lost 30% of its inhabitants (from 140,000
in 1800 to 100,000 in 1826: Bertoli & Tramontin, 1971, pp. LI–LIII)
and trade and manufacturing were in fact paralysed (Monteleone, 1969).
Hapsburg Infrastructures
After the Vienna Congress, Venice was formally restored as a secondary
regional capital, but it never recovered its role of financial and economic
centre (Berengo, 1963). Even the institution of the free port in the city in
1830 did not make of Venice a trade centre again. The regional hinterland
did not find in the Venetian port a market for its victuals, as the actual
outlet for the Hapsburgic Empire in the Mediterranean was now Trieste,
whose population had almost doubled from 23,000 inhabitants in 1792
to 40,000 in 1821 (Balbi, 1833, pp. 131–132). But the ongoing decay
of Venice was not paralleled by mainland major and minor cities, which
pursued an independent path of development, experiencing a growth of
their service functions linked to the amelioration of the main roads passing
by them, and in a subsequent phase to the construction of the railway from
Venice to Milan (Mancuso, 1984, pp. 64–67).
Those changes, together with the abolition of communal properties in
1839, had different effects on the local economy, fostering proto-industrial
and agricultural development in some areas and altering the traditional economic structure of others (Zalin, 1969, pp. 154–159). Aside from reimposing tariffs on the Southern border, the Hapsburgs restored internal
customs on the Mincio river towards Lombardy and maintained customs
at the northern borders with Tyrol and Carynthia, on request of the Venetian representatives. The specialisation of the Venetian region in agriculture
was strategic to Austrian and Bohemian industrial exports in the Italian
territories, and internal protectionism seemed the only option to avoid the
disruption of local agriculture (Berengo, 1963).
Favoured by protection, the fertile plain areas and piedmont hills,
located closer to main roads and cities, were able to develop a more efficient farming, exploiting the enlarged outlets to expand wine and raw silk
exports. The workforce expelled from the agricultural sector following the
abolition of communal properties could be employed in proto-industrial
activities, which expanded exploiting the same amelioration of transports
(Roverato, 1996, pp. 29–46).
In the mountains of Carnia and of Belluno, as in the swampy areas
along the Adriatic coast, instead, the abolition of communal properties
did not cause a reorganisation of agriculture, but simply destroyed the
means of subsistence their inhabitants found in gathering, hunting and
fishing. Where no proto-industrial traditions were available, temporary or
permanent emigration became a widespread solution. In the Eastern Treviso province and Southern Friuli, conflicts and resistances aroused by the
explicit opposition of the Church to the abolition of communal properties prevented the modernisation of agriculture that the central part of the
region was experiencing. This meant an enfeeblement of the areas between
Venice and Trieste, compared with the strengthening of those pivoting on
the Venice-Milan corridor.
An Appendix of the Empire
This slow process of specialisation and growth was suspended by the 1848
war and revolution: the following fiscal and political stiffening of the Habsburgic rule was going to make worse the consequences of the war. The
abolition of Venice’s free port until 1851, and the following crisis of transit
trade because of the Crimea War, made the port activity stagnating until
1855 (Luzzatto, 1961, pp. 101–105). At the same time, the extraordinary taxes imposed during and after the conflict were enough to bring the
regional economy to its knees. But the early 1850s coincided also with
the spreading of two diseases, grape phylloxera (leaf louse) and silkworms
pebrine, affecting the main market and export activities: wine production in
the late 1850s was reduced to one-tenth of what it was in the 1840s, and raw
silk was one-third (Berengo, 1963, p. 303; Romani, 1982, pp. 154–156).
This crisis choked the rising agricultural market economy draining liquidity.
The Hapsburgs did not support farmers, diverting fiscal resources towards
the military effort against Piedmont and applying tax discrimination in
favour of Northern Imperial provinces (Zalin, 1969). At the same time,
the 1854 customs agreements with the Duchies of Parma and Modena
favoured the growing exports of wool and cotton clothes, wares and tanned
leather from the foothill manufacturing areas.
In 1859 the second Italian independence war reduced Hapsburgic
dominions in Italy to Venetian provinces, Mantua and Peschiera, cutting
the economic connections with Lombardy, which was annexed to Piedmont. The Venetian region was for some years in the uncomfortable and
uncertain position of a southern appendix of the Empire, which fortified
its military presence, using it to justify heavier taxes.
What is important to point out is that the structure of the region annexed
to Italy in 1866, with the third independence war, was roughly the same
looming up before 1848. The following years were dominated by exogenous elements, such as the agricultural crisis and Hapsburgic repression,
which only partially affected a going process.
Water Power Industrialisation
After the unification of Venetian provinces to Italy, in 1866, the extension of the railway network reinforced the administrative urban hierarchy,
which had been confirmed in the passage from the Hapsburgic to Italian
rule. It was also the main engine of urban transformations both in big and
smaller cities, with the rail-station boulevard opening the way for building
expansion and attracting industries.
Despite the strengthening of the urban hierarchy centred on provincial cities, the regional industrial development of the last three decades of
nineteenth century followed a different path, privileging minor centres or
new company towns. Its localisation seemed still determined, in the times
of the first industrial revolution but in a country where coal was almost
totally imported, by the availability of a pre-industrial source of energy as
water-power was.
As a consequence, the main industrial concentrations were developing in
little towns such as Schio (Fontana, 1985) and Valdagno (Roverato, 1986)
for wool textiles, Piazzola sul Brenta (Fumian, 2010), Crocetta del Montello, Montagnana, Monticello, Dueville and Cavazzale for hemp factories
(Celetti, 2009, pp. 50–59), Lugo for paper industries (Fontana, 1993).
Though investing in urban commercial or sometimes productive extensions of their firms, these industrialists put a strong attention to the social
impact of factory system, and were eager to avoid the kind of social conflicts involved by labour-force concentration. They built up a network of
welfare institutions for workers and their families, inserted in a paternalistic
framework of social initiatives. In some cases, they expanded their business
operations by means of functional and territorial de-centralisation, settling
factories in the rural villages surrounding the industrial town centre. This
was usually connected to the rail network for raw materials supply, but other
specific transportation systems were developed allowing rural labour force
to commute, connecting main provincial cities and other industrial centres
to their labour basin.
Electric Power and the Industrial Port
In the first decades of the twentieth century, a tramway network complemented the regional railway system, exploiting the changes brought
about by second-industrial-revolution innovations, in particular by electricity. The construction of long power lines connecting the hydroelectric
stations on the Prealps to main provincial cities, and passing by foothill
industrial centres, generated an energy and capital surplus which found an
outlet during WWI in the building of the new Venetian industrial port at
Marghera (Chinello, 1979), where productive concentration allowed the
birth of a big urban agglomeration in the immediate Venetian hinterland
(Piva & Tattara, 1983), together with a functional reorganisation of the
ancient regional capital. Greater Venice became then the main regional
industrial pole, producing semi-finished industrial goods for Lombard and
Piedmont manufactures. Yet its activities had no direct connection with the
still polycentric and rural regional framework, which only in the 1960s will
experience a boom of diffusive industrialisation and urbanisation, coinciding with the shift to automotive as the dominant transportation technology.
The Role of Changes in Transport Modality
on the Urban Hierarchy
The history outlined above shows a complex interaction between local
and international policy, business strategies, and geographic and economic
constraints, which contrasts with the simplified model of gateways as intermodal junctions proposed in the first paragraph. When confronted with historical complexity, the role transportation played in structuring the urban
hierarchy becomes less determinant. It would be possible to say that the
evolution of transport networks is in its turn a result of investment choices
responding to structural conditions and technological changes. Still, once
undertaken, these investments do have a crucial influence on urban development, and it is worth inquiring how this influence was exerted.
What is more interesting in the focus on intermodality I propose in this
paper, is the odd relationship it highlights between the growth of urban
gateway functions and the presence of bottlenecks and discontinuities in
the transport network. Investments aimed at easing the flow of goods and
persons by means of an integration of local and wider transport networks
could result in a decline of gateway functions and sometimes in shifting
their location.
Is it possible to test this hypothesis in the case I presented above? During
the century and more dealt with in this story, we could point out three or
four overlapping waves of investment in transport: roads (1815–1830) and
railways (1840–1860) building in the Austrian period, then a resumption
of rail works in the Italian period (1870–1915), paralleled by investments
in local tramlines (1880–1940). How did they change the distribution of
major and minor gateway functions in the area?
The Crisis of the Venetian Gateway
Before the fall of the Venetian Republic, the main urban gateway was
obviously Venice, which was still the main international port gateway connecting the river waterways with sea routes. Some provincial cities such as
Verona, Padua and Vicenza performed also minor gateway functions thanks
to the yearly trade fairs where customs exemptions were allowed, and to
their role of river ports of shipment to Venice (or directly abroad) serving a
wide hinterland or connecting land routes coming from the North or from
the Venetian Lombardy. This situation changed in the first decades of the
nineteenth century, with the decline of the trade functions of Venice and
a consequent enfeeblement of the dependent junction of Padua. Verona
became for a while a border city, still maintaining its junction function
towards Lombardy, and a minor provincial city as Udine enjoyed a new
role after 1815, becoming the Friuli hinterland gateway to the Austrian
port of Trieste.
Austrian Roads
The roadworks undertaken under the Austrian rule after the end of the
Napoleonic wars provided a paved road (Strada Maestra) connecting longitudinally the main provincial cities with Venice, which port recovered
some functions as a minor shipping point to the Trieste hub. Some of the
main cities in the mainland developed also a role as inter-modal junctions
between river and road transportation: it is the case of Padua, but also Treviso (with the Sile waterway) and Vicenza (with the Bacchiglione). Minor
river ports were also Legnago on the Adige river, Belluno on the Piave
river and Bassano as the shipment point for the carts arriving through the
Valsugana road from Trento. Renovated roads following river flows (the
Valsugana along the Brenta from Padua to Trento, the road along the
Adige from Verona to Bolzano, and the Strada d’Alemagna) allowed an
easier upward connection to the North (Mancuso, 1984, pp. 69–70). The
Strada di Vallarsa turned Vicenza into a road junction for North-bound
traffic. It cut off Verona from the transit trade between the Venetian plain
and the German areas North of the Alps: despite the building of military
roads to Legnago, Peschiera and Mantua, Verona evidently suffered from
The Austrian Railway
The construction of the Ferdinandea railway connecting Venice to Milan
following the path of the Strada Maestra was started in 1840, and in 1842
the connection from Padua to Mestre was opened (Bernardello, 1996). In
1846 a longer stretch of the railway was inaugurated, connecting the insular city with a bridge on the lagoon to Mestre and from there to Padua and
Vicenza. Another branch was built on the other side, going from Milan to
Treviglio. The revolution interrupted rail construction works, which however restarted even before the end of the siege to Venice, connecting Verona
to Marghera in 1849, and eventually restoring the bridge connection to
Venice in 1850. The line then connected Verona to Brescia (via Peschiera)
in 1854 continuing until Coccaglio towards Treviglio, which was finally
reached through a long deviation passing by Bergamo in 1857. Since 1851
a line from Verona to Mantua and a secondary connection from Mestre to
Treviso were opened. The latter was extended to Pordenone and Casarsa
in 1855, and finally connected to Udine and the line to Trieste in 1860.
The unification of Lombardy to Italy following the 1859 war stopped
further investments in the rail sector by the Austrian government: military needs were satisfied by the connections to Peschiera and Mantua, and
the Ferdinandea strategic function of attracting the Milanese international
trade to Venice as a complementary port to Trieste in alternative to the
Savoy port of Genoa resulted impaired (Bernardello, 1996). Only after
1866 new rail works were started under the Italian rule.
For some years, temporary rail terminal cities (Treviglio for almost ten
years, but in turn also Padua, Vicenza, Verona and Coccaglio, and Treviso and Casarsa at the end of the period) enjoyed the role of inter-modal
gateways for the carts and coaches connecting the ending points of the
rail road. Once this was finished, it emphasised the inter-modal function
of rail stop provincial cities which were also road junctions, and their role
of minor gateways for their hinterlands. The role of river ports was instead
weakened, as the railway offered an alternative direct connection to the
Venice seaport.
Italian Railways
After the unification of the Venetian provinces and Mantua to Italy, the railway line already connecting Treviso to Milan with a ramification to Mantua was extended southward, with a line going from Padua to Bologna
via Rovigo and Ferrara already in 1866, but also northward finally connecting Verona via Ala to Trento and the railway to Bozen and Innsbruck
in 1867. However, the higher cost of imported technology and materials following the discontinuation of currency convertibility with the 1866
war implied an interruption of rail works for almost one decade (Merger,
1989, pp. 339–342). The lack of secondary connections explains the lasting importance of waterways until the late 1870s, and the stagnation in the
volume of rail freight traffic from the Venice station despite the increase in
the port movement of goods (Schram, 1997, pp. 133–136).
Only in 1872 the State financed a strategic line connecting Udine to
the railway from Ljubljana to Vienna via Gemona, Pontebba and Tarvisio, which should decrease the cost of wood, coal and iron imports from
Carinthia and Styria: the line was open to traffic in 1878. In the meanwhile,
many local connections were added by initiative of provincial governments,
building up an actual rail network connecting medium centres (in particular industrial towns) to provincial cities or minor joints placed on the main
lines by means of State co-financing.
It is possible to follow the growth of such a network by using the data
collected by Crispo (1940, pp. 135–236). In 1876 the provincial government of Rovigo built a railway running South of the Ferdinandea from
Dossobuono (on the line from Verona to Mantua) to Legnago, Rovigo
and Adria; the Vicenza government connected the city to Schio through
Thiene; the Treviso one shifted funds from the maintenance of the Strada
d’Alemagna to the construction of a rail line from Conegliano to Ceneda,
which should be extended up to Belluno. The provincial government of
Venice, instead, could not realise at the time the project of a railway from
Mestre to Castelfranco, Bassano and Trento (which would increase the
freight accessibility of the port from Germany as an alternative to Trieste)
because of the priority assigned by Padua, Treviso and Vicenza to a direct
connection between the latter two cities through Cittadella and Castelfranco, and from Padua to Camposampiero, Cittadella and Bassano: both
lines were financed in consortium by the three provinces (Crispo, 1940,
pp. 164–166).
Such a situation brought to a revision of railway regulation in 1879,
reducing the State contribution to non-strategic lines. As a consequence,
rail works stagnated until the 1884 stabilisation of the Lira allowed cheaper
imports of construction materials, and the subsequent 1885 law regulated
the concession to private companies of the construction, management and
maintenance of rail lines, subsidising the hiring of Italian suppliers for new
construction works (Merger, 1997). The new wave of railway building
modified in part the projected connections, as in the case of the line opened
in 1886 from Treviso to Belluno, which for military reasons followed the
river Piave through Montebelluna and Feltre, instead of extending the line
from Ceneda as planned in the 1870s (Crispo, 1940, p. 193). The same
year, the new line was connected from Montebelluna through Castelfranco
and Camposampiero to Padua, on the initiative of the latter provincial
government, which at the same time financed also the extension of the
railway from Rovigo to Adria up to Loreo in 1884 and to the port of
Chioggia in 1887. Along the Adriatic coast, the State financed the line
from Mestre to San Donà di Piave (opened in 1885) and Portogruaro (in
1886), which in 1888 was extended to Casarsa, San Giorgio di Nogaro and
Palmanova on the initiative of the province of Udine, which financed also
a secondary line to Cividale in 1886. The province of Treviso in its turn
financed a connection from the city to Motta di Livenza, which was opened
in 1885 and should be connected to Portogruaro on the coastal line. A local
committee including the municipalities of the Valpolicella obtained State
subsidies and private investments for the construction of a railway from
Verona to Caprino, which was opened in 1889.
The two waves of growth of the local railway network offer an occasion to test in detail the idea of a direct relationship between inter-modal
exchanges, gateway functions, and the economic and demographic growth
of urban centres. It is in fact possible to compare directly the figures of
the decennial population censuses with the timing of the extension of
the railway network, distinguishing its terminals, stops and junctions (see
Table 9.1).
Interestingly, the connection of a centre to the railway network had
an almost immediate impact on its growth, with a jump in population
size followed by a long stagnation, interrupted only in the case of new
connections being added to the first: the Rovigo case is perhaps the best
example, but many other centres follow this pattern. In short, a change
in the connectivity of a centre can change its size but has no permanent
effects on its growth.
Inhabitants in urban centres (more than 10,000) in the Venetian provinces, 1766–1921
Ariano nel Polesine
Azzano Decimo
Badia Polesine
Ceneda – Serravalle
Table 9.1
Note Railway stops, junctions and terminals; tramway stops; railway/tramway only junctions
Source The author’s elaboration from official statistical data (Istat)
Piove di Sacco
Porto Tolle
San Donà di Piave
San Vito al Tagliamento
Tramways as a Complementary Modality
The introduction in 1887 of a protectionist tariff and the start of a commercial war between Italy and France made again the investment in rail works
more expensive and less profitable than expected (Bodio, 1891, pp. 69–72;
Crispo, 1940, p. 237), at the same time reorienting Italian trade connections towards the German area.
On the one hand, this implied that in the two decades at the turn of the
century the connections between the Venetian region and the Hapsburgic
Empire were finally completed. The construction of the international line
from Gorizia to Trieste, Monfalcone and Cervignano was completed in
1894, and connected to San Giorgio di Nogaro and hence to Mestre in
1897. In 1908 also the projected line from Mestre to Castelfranco and
Bassano was eventually realised, and connected to the border station in
Primolano and the line to Trento in 1910.
On the other hand, while the railway network was finally nationalised in
1905 (Castronovo, 2005), from 1890 private railway construction companies (first of all the Società Veneta: Cornolò, 2005) gradually shifted
most of their investments into tramway lines, which ran on different tracks
from ordinary railways, and were employed only for passenger transport.
Tramways allowed rural labour force to commute towards industrial cities
and towns, and connected some provincial cities and other industrial centres to their labour basin, sometimes paralleling railway lines. In 1910 three
different systems, in the Paduan-Venetian area, in the Vicenza province and
in the eastern Veronese area had emerged. After WWI, this polycentric constellation was finally expanded and integrated into a regional network.
It is possible to interpret the relationship between tramway and railway
in terms of a translation into different transport modality of the centralplace and network-system (gateway) functions: working commuters used
tramways, travellers and goods used railways, even if some exceptions
existed. What is interesting is observing if there existed also some kind
of inter-modal exchange between the two networks, and if it had some
impact on population growth.
We could indeed expect that a transportation means conceived for commuters had negative effects on urban concentration, and this is true for
cities and main centres: in fact, the building of tramway extra-urban systems seems one of the causal factors involved in the rapid exhaustion of the
growth of urban population propelled by the railway connection of cities.
This implies that the use of population growth as a proxy for economic
development is directly impaired by the construction of a new transportation network that contrasts migration; or to say it better, it implies that the
relevant area affected by the gateway effect of railway becomes as large as
the tramway network (reasonably) allows.
But what is true for the central place of labour force commuting networks is not true for their terminations, which in turn could attract migration as the access point to the commuting network: it was the case for Piove
di Sacco (Favero, 2011) and other minor towns. Also minor inter-modal
junctions between tram and railways such as Bassano, Schio and Montagnana, which were not so big as urban centres, seem to have enjoyed the
benefits of entering a more integrated network.
A distinction should indeed be made between first-generation tramways,
usually steampowered, and second-generation, electric-powered trams,
which in some cases could also be used to ship goods and raw materials:
but in fact tramways and urban growth were both results of the availability of electric power connections, fostering urban industrialisation in the
region in an unprecedented way. Again, transport dynamics alone seem
not enough to explain urban growth, but they interact with other factors
generating unexpected outcomes.
A Larger Region: Northern Italy
Looking back at the century-long evolution of the urban system in the
Venetian region, it appears evident that the development of transport infrastructures favoured a better and more efficient connection between Milan
and the port of Venice. The rising costs of the intermodal exchange made
however of Genoa the favourite port of access to Milan after WW1, and
only the establishment of the industrial area in Marghera restored the role
of Venice as an important secondary gateway, focusing on the import of
raw materials and their transformations in semi-finished industrial inputs
for Lombardy manufacturing industry. At the same time, along the railway
corridor an integrated logistics network had been built, allowing the permanence of a polycentric constellation of smaller centres, where manufacturing activities finally flourished when domestic demand started expanding in
the 1960s. The growth of an industrial periphery (with reference to Milan,
Turin and Genoa as the core area of Italian industrialisation) where manufacturing activities clustered into local systems of specialisation was in part
the result of the evolution of the corridor logistics.
The causal relation is highlighted by the similarity with the parallel evolution of transport networks and manufacturing specialisations all along the
other main corridor connecting Milan to the Central Adriatic coast and to
the port of Ancona, running through the main cities of Emilia. In both
cases, the connection to Milan was crucial to offer an access to domestic
and foreign market outlets, but also to capitals and services which were
not available in the peripheries. In both cases again, the terminal port was
gradually declining in importance, the coastal line was extended beyond it,
and intermediate junctions with North–South connections as Verona and
Bologna saw their positions rise in the urban hierarchy as secondary nodes
in the larger regional system of Northern Italy.
The interplay among different scales, from the regional to the provincial
to the local level, shows how logistics interacts with social and economic
constraints. This interaction at the same time explains the resilience of urban
hierarchies and the irreversibility of their changes.
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Using the Network
The Flaxseed Trade Between Courland
and Brittany in the Eighteenth Century
Pierrick Pourchasse
Flax cultivation in Brittany gives an example of the linking of two distant
areas, the one, a seed producer on the south coast of the Baltic, «land areas
beyond the sea» and the other, in central Brittany, land areas which lie
on the landward side of a port, «beyond maritime space» (Lesger, 2001,
pp. 18–19). Between these two areas and for several centuries, a trade flow
was set up. In the eighteenth century, the connections between Libau, main
exporting gateway, and Roscoff, main importing harbour, were organized
and controlled entirely by the merchants of a third place, Lübeck. The
interest of this research is to explain how this third participant dealt at the
same time with the hinterland, by monopolising the export of the product,
by maritime routes, by shipping goods through its own commercial fleet,
and with the distribution it presented as essential for the peasants of the
foreland while imposing very high prices.
The south-coast regions of the Baltic were flax areas: “clay soil, a sufficiently humid climate and arable land which had recently been cleared of
trees favoured the culture of flax in the whole of the forest area of eastern
P. Pourchasse (B)
University of Bretagne Occidentale, Brest, France
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
Europe” (Zoutis, 1960, p. 84). The zone of production stretched over the
north-west of Russia, the Baltic provinces, Byelorussia and Lithuania. A
great number of varieties, rakitzer, drujaner, marienburger and dreyband,
etc., differentiated by their production zone, their quality and price were
grown there. The best known was the “rakitzer” coming from the district
of Rakischeka in Lithuania. Each variety was commercialised depending on
its quality, the superior category being identified under the name “paternoster.” In the markets, these varieties of flax (Dunsdorfs, 1938, pp. 1126,
1149) were distinguished by the number of ties used to make up the bundles of fibres.
Exports of flax were, in the majority, made up of raw or simply combed
fibres intended for the cloth industry, a textile product of prime importance
in the manufacture of clothing, household linen or sails. The seed was also
commercialised, either for sowing or as raw material for the manufacture
of oil for the soap and dyeing industries. The seeds for the oil industry and
those intended for agriculture were not identical, those for sowing needed
to be of better quality and the exporting ports paid close attention to their
The very high quality of seeds from the Baltic and their wide variety
made them an export product particularly sought after by Western farmers in order to renew their seed stock. It created a regular trade between
the Baltic and Western Europe. The increase in seed exports continued
throughout the eighteenth century and symbolised the economic expansion of the West. The Baltic ports had no difficulty in responding to this
increase in demand and the price of seed made little progress during this
French Purchases, Between Necessity and Fatality
France, which was a large producer of linen cloth, was one of the main
buyers of flax seed for sowing (Pourchasse, 2010, pp. 53–78). Of course,
the question arises of the reason for these imports. Was it due to “the prejudice of the farmers” (Harder-Gersdorff, 1980, p. 14), biological reasons
or special agricultural practices?
The reason accepted today was that the flax seed produced in the Baltic
area was of higher quality and gave a better return than that of the same
variety produced in Western Europe. According to the Encyclopédie, flax
from the North or “cold flax,” as opposed to the native flax or “warm
flax, [...] grows slowly. We can see that six weeks and more after sowing,
the plants are not even two fingers high; but become strong and finish
by being taller than the others” (Diderot & D’Alembert, 1752/1969,
pp. 549–551). Seeds from the North produced flax with a longer stalk
(Tanguy, 1994, p. 30) likely to produce more tow. On the other hand, the
native flax seed, of poor quality, rapidly became exhausted and one could
see the plants deteriorate when the same seeds were used for more than
three years. The Encyclopédie explained that the seed from Riga was the
best, “it withstands frost better than all other species. But as the ‘linuise’
(seed) is never perfect, when it is ready to harvest, we see other kinds of
flax; the mixture increases with each sowing, warm flax producing more
seeds than cold flax and one is obliged to go back to buying more seed
every three or four years” (Diderot & D’Alembert, 1752/1969, p. 549).
From this we see that flax could only regenerate through the import of
foreign seeds.
Deterioration resulted from local harvesting practices where the plant
was cut before reaching maturity in order to make it easier to work
with (Martin, 1998, p. 116). The same practices were found in Germany
where the seeds were sown very close together and where the flax was cut
around eleven weeks before the crop was ready for harvesting. This technique guaranteed long, fine and fat fibres of the kind required by cloth
manufacturers for their fine linen intended for foreign markets (HarderGersdorff, 1980, p. 20). The French linen industry had the same needs.
Close-sown seeds and early harvesting were common despite seed deterioration. In Brittany, the harvest usually took place at the beginning of July
while the real cutting time was in September (Quéré, 1991, p. 158).
During the eighteenth century, studies and reports were devoted to the
regeneration of native flax seed to protect farmers from having to depend
on Northern countries. Some specialists suggested “renewing the country’s
seeds by sowing small areas sparsely to produce better nourished seed, as
was the practice in Holland” (Sée, 1930–1931, p. 303). Others suggested
producing the seed in Canada, “thus we would have the double advantage
of creating a fall in demand for the seed from Riga and to obtain it by
creating profitable business for our colonies” (Pinczon du sel des Monts,
1756, p. 41). These suggestions had little influence and brought only disappointing results. Therefore, the import of foreign seeds continued (Corps
d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 197).
The west of France, an important textile region with more than a quarter
of national production (Léon, 1978, p. 526), was the main French buyer for
Baltic seed. From the end of the sixteenth century, Brittany, a region with
conditions favourable to the cultivation of flax (Martin, 1988, p. 182),1
imported seed from Zeeland and the Baltic (Minois 1984, p. 118). Seeds
from the United Provinces were exclusively used in the bishopric of SaintMalo and in part of that of Rennes (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762,
p. 370). Elsewhere, in the large areas of fibre production of the Trégor and
Léon, they were less-favoured and sold cheaper than those from Riga and
Libau (Sée, 1925, p. 186). If some documents sometimes refer to “Flanders
flaxseed,” this term covered all the seeds from the North (Tanguy, 1994,
p. 28). During the years 1727–1731, Brittany received the largest part of
French imports from the Baltic, that is 92.7%. But this tended to diminish
regularly: 79.3% for the years 1750–1754 and 52.3% for 1784–1788. The
goods usually arrived at Roscoff, sometimes at Morlaix. Some other Breton
ports appeared from time to time for small quantities, Saint-Malo or Nantes
for example.
The greater part of Breton purchases was made in the port of Libau
in Courland: 88.6% for 1727–1731, 73.3% for 1750–1754 and 94.2% for
1784–1788. In the course of these fifteen years, the total number of flaxseed
loads leaving Libau for France bound for Roscoff-Morlaix was 86 ships
carrying 96.215 barrels of seed. The rest of the Breton purchases were
usually made in Riga, less often in Windau or Memel, other ports of the
South-East Baltic area. Customs archives have not kept any trace of the
decision reached by the States of Brittany, at the start of the Seven Years
War, to import first quality seeds from Riga for the farmers in the bishoprics
of Saint-Malo, Rennes, Vannes and Quimper in order to increase the zones
of flax production (ADCA) (Fig. 10.1).
For forty years (1720–1759), the accounts of the Sound Customs, toll
books set up by the King of Denmark at the exit from the Baltic, listed
256 ships loaded with 303,937 barrels of flaxseed heading for Roscoff or
Morlaix. This figure is definitely slightly less than the truth as some ships
did not state their final port of destination but simply indicated that they
were going to France. Of the total number of barrels listed, 93% came from
Libau, 4.5% from Riga and 2% from Prussia. The average annual purchases
1 The coastal fringe between Lannion and Saint-Brieuc, corresponding to the areas of Trégor and Goëllo, thanks to the oceanic climate, mild and humid, with their soil quality (with
a covering of loess), and the possibility of enriching the ground with seaweed, was a region
favourable to the cultivation of flax. In particular, it supplied fibre for the Breton cloth manufacturers in the area of Quintin-Pontivy, where flax was not grown.
Fig. 10.1 Northern Europe in the eighteenth century (Source The author’s elaboration)
during these forty years amounted to 7600 barrels. The years between 1750
and 1759 was the period when imports were at their highest with an average
of 12,600 barrels per year (Martin, 1998, p. 97). This figure corresponds
to the report made by the inspector of manufactures Coisy who assessed the
imports to Roscoff at 12,000 barrels in 1750 and at 12,500 barrels in 1751,
“each weighing one hundred and sixty pounds, for the bishoprics of SaintPol-de-Léon, Tréguier and Saint-Brieuc.” The seeds were then distributed
by boat to the ports of Morlaix, Tréguier, Pontrieux or Saint-Brieuc, and
sold in the fibre-production zones. Seven thousand barrels were sent to
Trégor, three thousand to Léon and two thousand to Goëllo (ADIV).
During the years 1780–1789, the figures show a decrease in Breton
purchases while the Norman ports and especially Dunkirk recorded a larger
number of ships. The decrease in purchases was explained by the decline in
the production of Breton cloth which, following regular progress during
the eighteenth century, collapsed after the American War of Independence
(Tanguy, 1994, p. 11). This progression corresponded to a change in the
geography of cloth production at the end of the eighteenth century (Léon,
1978, pp. 525–526). The West which, until then, held a dominant position
had “its vitals severely affected” (Léon, 1978, p. 519) and was superseded
by the North of France, a region where the flax industry reached its peak
on the eve of the French Revolution (Deyon, 1979, p. 89). Three reasons
may be given to explain the decline in Breton cloth manufacturing: the
increase in middlemen, the shortcomings in methods unchanged since the
seventeenth century and internal social activity which had not led to any
real middle-class in business (Martin, 2000, p. 124).
Brittany, a Market Reserved for Lübeck
The accounts of the Sound Toll recorded the first ship loaded with flaxseed
departing for Roscoff in 1583, then a second one in 1595. Then, throughout the following years, the Breton port “regularly sent two to three ships
each year to the Baltic, up until 1633, the date they finally stopped” (Tanguy, 1994, p. 30). From this time on, Breton ships were supplanted by the
Dutch whose freight charges were much more attractive. In the eighteenth
century, it was the Lübeckers who took this trade in hand, creating a real
monopoly in the import of flaxseed to Brittany.
The Lübeckers used their ships mainly to transport flaxseed. Of the 257
ships delivering seeds to Roscoff—Morlaix between 1720 and 1759, 204
were from Lübeck (79.4%). The Breton market was, in fact, of great interest
to the shipowners of this Hanseatic port because it was close to Bordeaux
and Nantes. Ports where it was possible to reload with wine and colonial
goods intended for their home port. A great number of ships regularly
took part in the Libau—Roscoff—Bordeaux—Lübeck circuit. For example,
between 1720 and 1732, Captain Johan Nippe’s ship went to France eleven
times. He delivered ten loads of flaxseed to Roscoff and, in return, loaded
four times at Bordeaux, twice at Nantes and five times at Le Croisic with
goods for Lübeck.
In the eighteenth century, the Roscoff merchants totally lost control of
flaxseed imports from the Baltic. The Lübeckers who organised deliveries
became the masters of this business and the “Breton farmers considered them
to have formed a monopoly” (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 199).
Cambry, an administrator of the Convention who travelled in Brittany in
1794, confirmed that “the Roscoff merchants were nothing but agents for
those of Danzig and Lübeck, etc.… who allowed them three francs off each
barrel” (Cambry, 2000, p. 59). Bretons who tried to trade directly with
the North usually gave up their plans in the face of the difficulties created
by their competitors who protected their territory very carefully. In 1729,
the Morlaix merchant, Guillotou de Kérever, wanted to import seeds from
Libau. To do this, he contacted the Widow Labat and Sons of Amsterdam
and proposed a business partnership. This would require an agent in the
Courland port who would be responsible for sending the seeds but the
affair came to nothing due to the unwillingness of the Dutch firm which
preferred to sell seeds from Zeeland (Sée, 1925, p. 186).
Cambry, in his Voyage dans le Finistère (Travels in Finistere), gave
another example: “From 1783 to 1787, a merchant of St-Pol-de-Léon
traded in flaxseed, but only for himself. Every year, two ships arrived from
Holland in the Bay of Penpoul for him. This competition frightened the
traders working with the North; they lowered the price of their goods and
the poor man was ruined” (Cambry, 2000, pp. 59–60).
The Lübeckers were very clever businessmen. They “allowed a one year
term for payment” and “agreed to take back the unsold seed” (AN, 1767).
The advantages of this were manifold for the merchants of the Hanseatic
town. Firstly, taking back the unsold goods, “reduced their demand in the
North, by keeping the lowest price there resulting in the seed bringing in
much more profit than they would have suffered through the return of the
seed” (AN, 1765). Following that, these facilities of payment contributed
to the depreciation of the seeds from Zeeland for the Breton merchants as
these latter did not benefit of the same commercial advantages (Sée, 1925,
p. 186). Finally, taking back unsold goods was not very risky as the seed
was used to make oil or sent off again the following year (AN, 1765). The
unsold seeds were, in fact, sent to the oil industry in the United Provinces,
though some might be put back on the market in the Breton ports. According to the businessman and economist Pinczon du sel de Monts, the Bretons were doubly at fault: “it is only in Brittany that there is but a single
mill to make oil from this seed. The Dutch, always careful of their interests,
took advantage of this negligence by taking up all our flaxseed then sell us
back the oil and often the same seed” (Pinczon du sel des Monts, 1756,
p. 41) which came back to Brittany. These returns penalised the producers
as “their harvest was neither as abundant nor of such good quality” (AN,
1767), the freshness of the seed being indispensable.
Cheating with flaxseed appears to have been an extremely current practice (Diderot & D’Alembert, 1752/1969, p. 549),2 because very difficult
to detect, the quality of the product could not really be seen until four to
six weeks after sowing (Harder-Gersdorff, 1980, p. 13). In order to reduce
these problems, seeds were inspected on departure and also on arrival. In
the Baltic ports, the seed was carefully checked by the buyers: “though the
flaxseed was normally well-cleaned of all foreign matter, the buyers had it
passed once again through a clean sieve to get rid of any remaining dust.
This operation took place upon delivery, when weighing. The seller was
responsible for the waste” (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 360).
Sometimes, the authorities certified the goods which were conditioned to
be easily identified. At Libau, the barrels were said to be “burned with the
crown” or “Libau crowned with fire” that is, marked with a branding-iron
by a certified expert (or “braqueur”) with a crown surmounted by flames
(Tanguy 1994, p. 29). On the contrary, in Riga, “there was no “braqueur”
or certified expert to guarantee the quality of the seed, one had to rely
on the broker’s knowledge” (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 360).
In Brittany, when the seed arrived, the judges of the “régaires” of Léon
at Saint-Pol-de-Léon proceeded with another check on the quality of the
seed. They were especially interested in the freshness of the seed which was
very difficult to detect, and the origin, identifiable by the mark and the
purity, that is the absence of seeds other than flax.
These precautions did not stamp out cheating. In 1729, the merchant
Guillotou de Morlaix “was not satisfied with the six barrels of flaxseed with
which he had earlier been supplied; however, he would rather keep them
than embark upon a court action” (Sée, 1925, p. 186). In 1758, according
to the President of La Société d’Agriculture de Bretagne, la Bourdonnaye
Montluc, “there are complaints everywhere in the bishopric of Léon of the
poor quality of the seeds from the North; It is claimed that they are mixed
and that we get a lot of old seeds. We have found that our own seeds produce
better than those imported” (Sée, 1930–1931, p. 303). Still in Léon, the
local merchants were accused of cheating the peasants, of putting unsold
seeds from the year before back on the market and of selling a poor quality
product, originating in Trégor, as seeds from the North (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, pp. 42–43). Seeds coming from Dunkirk would be those
unsold from the North and reconditioned in Holland after having been
2 The country’s seed, “when good, not being easily distinguished from that of Riga, the
brokers sealed it in similar barrels and sold it as such”.
“benefited” that is, after having had “all that appeared defective removed”
(Pinczon du sel des Monts, 1756, p. 41).
The Lübeck merchants had a reputation which leads one to think that the
manipulations regarding the freshness or the origin of the seeds must have
been common practice. In 1775, Coquebert de Montbret, Consul General
in Hamburg, pointed out that the Lübeckers’ business is “complicated,
varied and of a singular nature” and that he was convinced “that it consisted
only in the smuggling trade, above all in imports from Denmark, Sweden
and Russia” (AN, 1775). A report of 1777 confirms that the Lübeckers
were specialised in smuggling in the Baltic: “It is in this profession that the
owners of the Lübeck ships make a large fortune. The merchant they deal
with does not run any risk and speculates with as much security and profit
as no other” (AN, 1777). If the producers were conscious of the fraud,
without having any firm proof, it was no doubt true. The speculation due
to the many middlemen was a well-known practice suffered regularly by all
the seed buyers.
A Long Chain of Middlemen
As with hemp, the characteristics of flax culture demanded a great deal
of work for the small volume produced on the farms. As a result, in the
regions of Eastern Europe, flax was cultivated on plots of land worked by
serfs, where a major part of the harvest was for domestic use, rather than
on large estates (Kahan, 1985, p. 175). The surplus seeds, harvested in
September (Harder-Gersdorff, 1980, p. 13), supplied rural markets where
it was collected by retail peasant-merchants or by the Jewish community.
The latter usually sold it on to wholesalers or sent it directly to the ports,
where large flaxseed markets were held for export (AN, 1765) The huge
number of sellers put a brake on speculation and “stopped any secret agreements being made” even if there were abuses “in the month of February
or March because, at that time, seed was rather rare and in the hands of a
lot fewer people. This manoeuvre did not always succeed” (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 360).
In the Baltic ports, the seed collectors could only sell their products
to the bourgeois and merchants having the rights of the bourgeois. The
latter sold on the seeds “to foreign agents or sent them themselves when
they received direct orders” (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 359).
In practice, the foreign community controlled these local merchants financially. Payments were made in advance which made the seller dependent on
the buyer and limited speculation: “It was normal for the buyer to pay the
major part of the total of the purchases at the end of the transaction, the
remainder being paid upon delivery…” (AN, 1765). The Lübeckers had,
in effect, the means of monopolising this business, “they used the Department of Agents which was in the area, sending them the ships necessary for
the loads and opened a credit for them in Amsterdam or Hamburg making
it possible for them to fulfil orders quickly and correctly” (AN, 1765).
The seeds arrived in the exporting ports “never earlier than the month
of September and never later than October” (AN, 1765). Sales began
towards November and continued into March. Ships bound for France
usually loaded at the end of autumn, unlike those from Bremen which
left the Baltic ports at the beginning of spring. The distance between the
exporting port and those of destination explains this difference. The ports
of Livonia and Courland being frozen over, sailing was usually interrupted
between the end of December and the beginning of March when it was
too late to go to France.
The ships passed through the Sound Strait during the months of December or January. Of the forty-three ships on their way to deliver seeds to
Roscoff between 1751 and 1754, twenty-nine made their declaration at
the customs office in Elsinor between the 11th of December and the 8th
of January. In the winter period, a relatively difficult time to sail, ships
needed at least a month and a half in the best of cases, even two months or
more, to cover the distance from Elsinor to Roscoff. The ships arrived in
the Breton port between the end of January and the beginning of March
which was relatively late as sowing took place “at the end of March or
the beginning of spring, depending on the weather” (Sée, 1930–1931,
p. 302).
This organisation for the transport of the seeds was a voluntary arrangement: “It must be noted that flaxseed can always be brought to the gateways to France well in advance of sowing time” (AN, 1765). The sailings,
grouped together in general, lead us to think that the purchasers had sufficient supplies prior to the sowing season. The reality appears to have been
quite the opposite and the ships arrived “in succession” which gave rise to
new speculation. The captains controlled the sale of the seeds and acted
as agents for the Hanseatic merchants (Harder-Gersdorff, 1980, p. 12).
The brokers of Morlaix or Roscoff, under orders from the Lübeckers, distributed the seeds in reduced quantities (from 6 to 10 barrels) and at various times (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 368) “to some secondary
agents who sold them in the rural areas” (Sée, 1930–1931, p. 304). And,
“if the wind was against them or other accidents held up the ships and
made them dock in the first port, one after the other, distribution to the
other ports was made in succession and in small loads. The peasants who
had come 4, 5, 6 or 8 leagues and who had remained in the port worried
and fearing that they would get no more seed, made up their mind to buy
at whatever price the merchants asked” (AN, 1765).
The commercial chain between the seed producers in Livonia or in Courland and the fibre producers appears to have been most complex and was
not controlled by the leading figures, that is the supplier and the consumer.
For the Breton Agricultural Society, the activity of the middlemen, in particular the Lübeckers, was “an impenetrable mystery” (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 199). To gain information on this trade, it appealed
to the Duc de Choiseul, the Chief Minister of the Kingdom, and several reports were drawn up so that the French merchants could obtain
directly “this type of seed of which, in France, we know only the name,
“Siberian hardy flax” (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 199). If the
reports clarified some aspects of the seed trade, others remained obscure
for unknown reasons, particularly in Courland, where the seed market was
strictly controlled by the Hanseatic towns and where silence seems to have
been the done thing: “We were unable to obtain details of the charges
up to embarking. There were probably reasons which hindered the Libau
merchants we consulted from responding to this article…” (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 366). How the prices were fixed between the
supplier in Courland and the Breton retailer was therefore unknown to the
buyer and beyond control of the French authorities. According to Cambry,
the Northern merchants “sold at whatever price they liked” (Cambry, 2000,
p. 60).
The result of this commercial arrangement was, of course, a higher price
for the seed, “vicious exploitation which ensured large profits for the foreigners” (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 368). In 1760, the price
of a barrel of first quality seed from Courland cost, to begin with, around
16 livres 8 sous, which rose to 26 livres 9 sous with the different taxes
and freight costs, to be finally sold in the port of Roscoff for 33–36 livres,
depending on the quality of the seeds. The profits for the Lübeckers also
rose by circa 38.5% for first quality seeds, not counting that the transport
was carried out by their own ships and the possible fraud on the resale of
the devalued seed.
The Breton merchants who resold the seeds to the peasants made similar
profits because they sometimes offered seeds at 60–70 livres per barrel,
depending on circumstances (ships arriving late, poor quantities allocated
by the Lübeckers, etc.) (Corps d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 368). The
farmer was completely dependent on his supplier, as much for the quality
of the seeds as for the price he had to pay. Even if the total amount of seeds
bought was of very low value compared to the trade figures generated by the
sale of cloth, the way the seeds market was run created a state of dependence
for the peasantry and a noticeable increase in the price of cloth for export
(Martin, 1998, p. 97). The high price of seeds reduced the purchases made
by the peasants, stopped the expansion in cultivation, limited supplies to
the textile industry, caused Breton products to be overpriced and, because
of this, put a brake on the economic development (AN, 1767). We find
one of these causes invoked to explain the decline in the manufacturing
of Breton cloth: the proliferation of middlemen “parasites” but this time
between the places of seed production and those of production of linen
fibre (Martin, 2000, p. 124).3
Maintaining trade relations between the Baltic suppliers and the Breton
merchants was established, however, upon certain confidence and the fraud
regarding the quality of the seeds, was cleverly organised so that no one
was totally cheated. Lübeckers and Bretons both had to get something
out of the business as per the example of Guillotou who did not want
to clash with his supplier. Trade terms offered to merchants spared them
all potential risks and guaranteed a sure profit. The “Observation Corps
of the Agricultural Society, Commerce and Arts, set up by the States of
Brittany” noticed that return of unsold seed “delivered the farmers to the
sellers who ran no risk regarding the seeds that they would not have sold”
(Sée, 1930–1931, p. 360). The only obligation for the Breton merchants
was “to pay the total sum at the end of the year without being able to get
out of it by saying that they had not been paid by the peasants” (Corps
d’observation, 1760–1762, p. 368).
The trade of flaxseed between Courland and Brittany linked two urban
networks and two market organisations, one providing the products, with
Riga and Libau as gateways, the other receiving the goods with Roscoff as
the main port. These two networks were interconnected by a third player,
the Hanseatic port of Lübeck, “middleman organizer,” which provided
3 The scattered areas of flax cultivation from its transformation into cloth and its transformation, far from uniting Trégor, Central Brittany and the banks of the Rance, favoured the work
of parasite middlemen. From its cultivation to its export, the flax passed through too many
hands, causing the finished product to be overpriced. It was these different interventions that
explained the high cost of Breton products as opposed to those of foreign competition.
transport between the Baltic and Brittany and got large profits from its
intermediary operations.
According to the game theory, relations between the two protagonists
are a “zero sum game”. The Lübeck merchants and the Breton retailers
could win together but, if one of them left the game, both parties would be
losers. The only problem for the Bretons was that the cards were held by the
Northern merchants and only they decided on the quality, the quantity and
the price of the product to be delivered. The major part of the winnings
went to Lübeck, though inside a structure where both parties win and
have an interest in keeping trade going. The only losers were the peasants
of inland Brittany subjected to the high cost of the seeds they could not
do without (Fig. 10.2).
P1  I1  I2  M1  C1  M2  S1  C2  I3  P2
P1 Peasant producer in Livonia or Courland
I1 (Peasant) collector in the local markets
I2 Wholesaler in the markets of the exporting ports (often belonging to
the Jewish community)
Bourgeois merchant in the exporting port
Broker working for the Lübeck merchants
Lübeck merchant
Captain of the ship working for the Lübeck merchants
Breton broker working for the Lübeck merchants
Breton retail-merchant
Peasant, seed-buyer and fibre-producer
Fig. 10.2 The commercial chain between the producer and the consumer of
flaxseed for sowing: an example of the trade between the Baltic and Brittany in
the eighteenth century (Source Author’s elaboration, based on Elisabeth HarderGersdorff 1980, p. 12)
Archives départementales des Côtes d’Armor (ADCA) C 143.
Archives départementales d’Île-et-Vilaine (ADIV) C 3929.
Archives nationales (AN) B3 432, Mémoire sur le commerce des graines de lin à semer
à Königsberg et à Riga du 21 janvier 1765.
Archives nationales (AN) B3 432, Mémoire sur les avantages d’un commerce direct
entre la France et la Russie (1767).
Archives nationales (AN) B1 611, Hambourg, courrier du 27 avril 1775.
Archives nationales (AN) B3 426, Allemagne, mémoire sur les villes hanséatiques du
10 janvier 1777.
Cambry, J. (2000). Voyage dans le Finistère. Voyage d’un conseiller du département
chargé de constater l’état moral et statistique du Finistère en 1794. Paris, France:
Alternatives (First published in 1986).
Corps d’observation de la Société d’agriculture, de commerce et des arts établis par
les Etats de Bretagne. (1760–1762). Tome 2, années 1759–1760. Paris, France:
Jacques Vatar.
Deyon, P. (1979). La diffusion rurale des industries textiles en Flandre française à la
fin de l’Ancien Régime et au début du XIXème siècle. Revue du Nord, 61(240),
Diderot, D., & D’Alembert, J. L. R. (1969). Encyclopédie ou dictionnaire raisonné
des sciences, des arts et des techniques, Volume II. New York, NY: Readex Microprint Corporation (Original work published 1752).
Dunsdorfs, E. (1938). Dažas tirdzniecı̄bas parašas 17. un 18. gadu simtemı̄. Latvijas
Vēstures Institūta Zurnāls, 2, 247–278.
Harder-Gersdorff, E. (1980). Leinsaat. Eine technische Kultur des Baltikums als
Produktionsbasis westeuropaïscher Textilwirtschaft im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert.
XVe Congrés International des Sciences Historiques (Unpublished). Budapest,
Kahan, A. (1985). The Plow, the hammer and the knout. Chicago, IL: University of
Chicago Press.
Léon, P. (1978). Histoire économique et sociale de la France, Tome 3, Inerties et
révolutions 1730–1840. Paris, France: Presses Universitaires de France.
Lesger, C. (2001). Handel in Amsterdam ten tijde van de Opstand. Kooplieden commerciële expansie en verandering in the ruimtelijke economie van de Nederlanden
ca. 1550–ca. 1630. Hilversum, The Netherlands: Uitgeverij Verloren.
Martin, J. (1988). Les “toiles bretagnes” de 1760 à 1860. Vie et mort d’une
industrie rurale. Mémoires de la Société d’Histoire et d’Archéologie de Bretagne,
65, 177–218.
Martin, J. (1998). Toiles de Bretagne. La manufacture de Quintin, Uzel et Loudéac
1670–1830. Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes.
Martin, J. (2000). Un échec proto-industriel: la manufacture des toiles Bretagne.
Annales de Bretagne et des Pays de l’Ouest, 107 (2), 101–134.
Minois, G. (1984). Un échec de la réforme catholique en Basse-Bretagne: le Trégor
du XVI e au XVIII e siècle (Unpublished PhD thesis). University of Rennes II,
Pinczon du sel des Monts. (1756). Considérations sur le commerce de Bretagne.
Rennes, France: Jacques Vatar.
Pourchasse, P. (2010). De Libau à Roscoff: l’indispensable graine de lin de Courlande. Histoire & Sociétés rurales, 34, 53–78.
Quéré, B. (1991). Le lin et son industrie. In J. Dombres (Ed.), La Bretagne des
savants et des ingénieurs (pp. 1750–1825). Rennes, France: Ouest-France.
Sée, H. (1925). Le commerce de Morlaix dans la première moitié du XVIII° siècle
d’après les papiers de Guillotou de Kerever. J. Hayem, Mémoires et documents
pour servir à l’histoire du commerce et de l’industrie en France, 9, 168–210.
Sée, H. (1930–1931). Un mémoire du Président de la Bourdonnaye Montluc sur
la culture et le commerce du lin (juin 1758). Annales de Bretagne, 39, 301–305.
Tanguy, J. (1994). Quand la toile va. L’industrie toilière bretonne du 16e au 18e
siècle. Rennes, France: Apogée.
Zoutis, M.-J. (1960). Riga dans le commerce maritime en Baltique au XVII° siècle.
Le navire et l’économie maritime du nord de l’Europe du Moyen Age au XVIII° siècle, Troisième colloque international d’histoire maritime. Paris, France: SEVPEN.
Ports and Their Functions: Some Reflections
About Preindustrial Logistics
Werner Scheltjens
On 10 September 1764, the British skipper Joseph Longbottom passed
through the Danish Sound, the narrow strait connecting the North Sea
with the Baltic, with a cargo of iron, planks and ordinary deals exported
from St. Petersburg and destined for London.1 Longbottom was not an
inexperienced master on the shipping routes between Britain and ports
on the Baltic Sea coast. According to the Danish Sound toll registers, his
earliest return voyage was made in 1757; his latest in 1771. Longbottom
1, record 362633, 10 September 1764. More information about
the Danish Sound Toll Registers and the electronic database based upon these
registers can be found in Scheltjens and Veluwenkamp (2012) and Scheltjens,
Veluwenkamp, and Van der Woude (2018).
W. Scheltjens (B)
University of Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany
e-mail: [email protected]
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
was registered in the Danish Sound 15 times.2 Although Longbottom executed return voyages to the Baltic for several years in a row in the 1760s,
these voyages probably reflect only part of his activities at sea. When Longbottom returned from the Baltic, his ship was loaded mostly with iron
and timber, and sometimes with other naval stores such as hemp, flax and
tar. The commodities, which Longbottom had carried from St. Petersburg
to Britain in September 1764, were characteristic of Anglo-Russian trade
during the reign of Catherine II (Åström 1988, 1989; Clendenning 1990;
Demkin 1994, 1998; Kaplan 1995; Zakharov, 2005, pp. 92–130).
The Iron Caravan to St. Petersburg
The iron exported from St. Petersburg and destined for London was produced in the heart of the Russian mainland, and most importantly in
the large metallurgic plants of the Demidov family in the Ural Mountains (Hudson, 1984; Johannsen, 1953; Kafengauz, 1949; Minenko et al.,
1993), before being transported to St. Petersburg for exportation. The
St. Petersburg export trade statistics for the year 1764 mention Siberia,
Bryansk and Tula as the main places of origin of the iron exported from St.
Petersburg to London (Demkin, 1996, p. 18). Smaller quantities arrived in
St. Petersburg from Serpukhov and Olonec (Demkin, 1996, p. 18). As the
centre of the Russian metallurgic industry was located in the Ural Mountains (Kahan, 1962; Portal, 1950), and most international iron trade took
place in Moscow and St. Petersburg, its production obviously went a long
way before it reached Britain.
2, record 444772, 23 June 1757; record 430239, 2 August 1757; record
517537, 14 September 1760; record 521620, 28 November 1760; record 377554, 26 May
1763; record 385231, 1 August 1763; record 348439, 21 July 1764; record 362633, 10
September 1764; record 388656, 10 May 1765; record 381415, 27 July 1765; record
436661, 2 October 1766; record 317356, 6 August 1768; record 330175, 25 October 1768;
record 1741595, 16 September 1771; record 1744728, 10 December 1771. Longbottom’s
name was spelled differently in several registrations (6× Longbottom; 3× Longbottam; 1×
Langbothen, Langbottam, Longbothan, Langbothom, Longbotam, Longbotton). Such variation has two causes: misspelling in the original registers, or misreading and/or typing errors
during the process of data entry in the electronic database. His registered domicile varied
as well (Scarborough, London, Whitby). The latter was not an uncommon phenomenon in
the Danish Sound toll registers (and other sources of preindustrial maritime shipping), and is
perhaps explained best as the result of variation in the customs officers’ registration practices
(Scheltjens, 2015a).
The transportation of iron (and some ironware) from the Ural Mountains to St. Petersburg was a complex undertaking, which required the
careful organisation and employment of manpower, technical and financial means. Iron could be transported from the Ural Mountains to St.
Petersburg in the course of one year, starting in May and arriving at the
Mouth of the Neva in October; more often, however, the so-called ‘iron
caravans’ were required to halt in Tver on the Volga during the winter,
and arrived in St. Petersburg only in the summer of the next sailing season (Kafengauz, 1949, p. 398). Logbooks kept by the supervisors of the
‘iron caravans’ of the Demidov mines in Nizhny Tagil in the Ural Mountains provide a detailed insight into the logistics of delivering iron to the
Russian capital around the middle of the eighteenth century (Kafengauz,
1949, pp. 402–404). Expense reports and hiring protocols of the workforce
accompanying the ‘iron caravan’ on its various stages—from its departure
on the embankment of the Chusovaya river in Siberia to its arrival in St.
Petersburg on the shores of the Baltic Sea—reveal the different ranks and
occupations of at least 2580 people that were involved in the delivery of
about 90,000 pud of iron in 1762–1763 (Kafengauz, 1949, pp. 412–413).
The total personnel costs of this ‘iron caravan’ amounted to 12,391.86
rubles, which were financed for the most part from the sales proceeds in
commercial centres along the way (most importantly Kazan, Nizhny Novgorod, Yaroslavl and Tver) (Kafengauz, 1949, pp. 414, 459).
The 1758 ‘iron caravan’, which we describe in detail here (Kafengauz,
1949, pp. 398–423),3 consisted of 16 river boats and departed on 5 May
from the banks of the Chusovaya river. The ‘iron caravan’ passed by the
Rozhdestvenskaya quay on the river Kama on 9 May, and arrived at Laishev on 20 May (Kafengauz, 1949, p. 402). At the so-called ‘caravan fair’
of Laishev, where the Kama fell into the Volga, boats carrying metallurgic production arrived in large groups in May and June, when the rivers
became free of ice and the sailing season began (Kerblay, 1966; Scheltjens,
2018). At Laishev, manpower was hired to equip the boats carrying the
iron and to tow them upstream on the Volga in the direction of Kazan
and Nizhny Novgorod, whereas a smaller part of the metallurgic production went downstream in the direction of Astrakhan (Kafengauz, 1949,
pp. 412–413). Kazan was reached on 31 May, and Nizhny Novgorod on
3 As early as 1954, the French historian Portal (1954) pointed towards the historical interest
of Kafengauz’s detailed descriptive account of Demidov’s ‘iron caravans’, and provided an
abridged account that is quite similar to the one in this section.
19 June. After having to execute some sales in Kazan and Nizhny Novgorod
under the auspices of a representative of the Demidov company, the remaining part of the iron was transported to Yaroslavl and Rybinsk. The ‘iron
caravan’, which now consisted of 14 river boats, arrived in Yaroslavl on 10
July, where part of the cargo was unloaded and handed over to a local sales
representative of the Demidovs. The remaining 12 boats arrived at Rybinsk
on 13 July. Rybinsk was another town on the Volga that was famous for its
‘caravan fairs’, where part of the labour force for the remaining stages of the
voyage to St. Petersburg was hired, and the loading, reloading and storage
of goods took place. At Rybinsk, the iron was reloaded into a different kind
of river boats, and skilled pilots (Ru. locmany) and workers were hired to
direct the boats on the Upper Volga to Tver. The latter town was reached
on 16 August. Here again, pilots and horse-holders (Ru. konovody) were
hired to direct the caravan from Tver to the Canal of Vyshny Volochek via
the river Tvertsa. In Tver as well, extra workforce was hired to assist the
caravan on its way to St. Petersburg. The ‘iron caravan’ arrived at Vyshny
Volochek on 7 September. After having executed some necessary changes
in the composition of the caravan and after having hired another group of
workers, 16 boats left Vyshny Volochek on 12 September and went on the
river Msta in the direction of Lake Ilmen and the old town of Novgorod.
The caravan arrived in Novgorod on 29 September and was reloaded there
to prepare for the final and perhaps most complicated part of the voyage
to St. Petersburg via the river Volkhov and the Ladoga Canal. The ‘iron
caravan’ arrived at St. Petersburg on 14 October in the morning. The sales
and delivery of the iron to British merchants in St. Petersburg started on
16 October and was completed on 13 November, when unsold iron was
stored at the Demidov property on Vasilevsky Island near the embankment
of the Neva (Kafengauz, 1949, p. 404).
The Canal of Vyshny Volochek and the Ladoga Canal were vital elements in a system of rivers and lakes linking St. Petersburg to the Volga
and thus to a significant part of the Russian mainland (Jones, 1984; Matley, 1981). Whereas the latter had been constructed in the 1720s as a
means to avoid the dangerous currents of Lake Ladoga (Gorelov 1953,
pp. 40–71), the former has become famous as one of Peter the Great’s
important infrastructural achievements in the modernisation of Russia. By
means of the Canal of Vyshny Volochek, the construction of which had
started during the Great Northern War (1700–1721), the city and port
of St. Petersburg at the mouth of the Neva was connected with the river
Volga, and thus with Central Russia, the Ural Mountains (via the Kama) and
the Caspian Sea (Gorelov 1953, pp. 72–158; Istomina, 1975; Stuckenberg
1841, pp. 337–392). Although details about the commodities transported
through the canal system of Vyshny Volochek are scarce and unsystematic,
Stuckenberg’s account of the state of affairs since 1781 reveals a threefold
increase in the tonnage of iron passing through Vyshny Volochek between
the early 1780s and the 1820s.4
The Sea Route to London
After having been loaded on to Joseph Longbottom’s ship, the iron, which
had probably been underway from the Russian interior to St. Petersburg
for several months (if not for more than a year), was transported by sea
to London. Longbottom was one of many skippers active on this maritime route between the Russian and British capitals, London being by
far the most important importer of Russian iron and naval stores in the
second half of the eighteenth century. The time of his departure from St.
Petersburg in September 1764 was not unusual either. Iron was carried
from St. Petersburg to London throughout the sailing season. The average estimated tonnage of iron exports on this route between 1755 and
1779 reveals that almost equal volumes passed through the Danish Sound
from July to November (see Table 11.1). Only in July and September, the
average tonnage shipped was somewhat higher.
This preliminary finding seems to indicate that the interdependence
between the iron supply from the Ural Mountains and other locations in
the Russian interior to the port of St. Petersburg and its subsequent exportation to ports in North-West Europe was not very strong. Rather than
relying on the timely delivery of iron in the course of the sailing season,
iron producers such as the Demidovs seem to have been preoccupied with
a steady (but slow) supply of their product. In turn, iron exporters could
rely at least in part on the availability of iron stored at the port of St. Petersburg (Kafengauz, 1949, pp. 458–459), and negotiated the procurement
of more iron with the Demidovs and their representatives while it was on
its way to the port.
4 Stuckenberg (1841) notices that he had possessed lists of commodities passing at Vyshny
Volochek since 1737, which—unfortunately—he had lost. The rise noticed by Stuckenberg is
also reflected in the increasing size of the ‘iron caravans’ of the Demidov company (Kafengauz,
1949, p. 418).
Table 11.1 Monthly
iron exports from St.
Petersburg to London,
average of 1755–1779,
in tonnes
Source The author’s calculations based on STRO. The conversion of
local measures as registered in STRO to tonnage estimates was done
based on the rules of conversion described in Scheltjens (2009, 2015b)
In 1764, the British merchants Sutherland, Dingley and Watson bought
about 85,000 pud iron from Nikita Demidov; the British company Thornton, Ritter and Kelly purchased a similar amount (Appleby, 1992, p. 272;
Kafengauz, 1949, pp. 460–461; Zakharov, 2005, pp. 106–111). British
merchants in St. Petersburg were in regular contact with their partners in
London and used several strategies to contract Nikita Demidov for the
future delivery of iron. Contracts were signed between British merchants
and the local representative office of Nikita Demidov in St. Petersburg. The
first kind of contract was signed during the winter and anticipated the next
arrival of an ‘iron caravan’ during the summer (Kafengauz, 1949, p. 462).
The second kind of contract was similar, but stipulated that excess supply of
iron would also be bought by the contractor (Kafengauz, 1949, p. 457).
The third kind of contract was a long-term contract, which included a
schedule for several years, and outlined the delivery of iron taking into
account, among other factors, the length of the sailing season (Kafengauz, 1949, pp. 463–464). Before signing such long-term contracts, Nikita
Demidov consulted his mining office in Nizhny Tagil (Urals) directly to
ascertain the timely production and delivery of the requested quantities of
iron (Kafengauz, 1949, p. 464). Thus, the ‘iron caravans’ that left the Urals
twice per year went hand in hand with an exchange of information, negotiations about the terms of delivery and contractual agreements between the
Demidov headquarters in Moscow, its offices in St. Petersburg and Nizhny
Tagil, and British merchants in St. Petersburg and London. Regional representatives of Nikita Demidov secured the information exchange along
the ‘continental leg’ of the iron supply route.
Similarly, the toll station of Elsinore, about halfway between St. Petersburg and London at the entrance to the Danish Sound, the narrow strait
between the North Sea and the Baltic, was an important centre of information exchange on the ‘maritime leg’ of commodity flows between the Baltic
Sea region and North-Western Europe. Indeed, the Danish Sound was a
place where “[t]he shipmasters obtained information from the shipowners
and the agencies concerning the places where the cargo they were carrying should be delivered, (…) the situation within the freight markets,
and other economic and even political and personal information” (Ojala,
2017, p. 344). Parallel to the production, distribution and use of handwritten and printed documentation about ship movements, insurance rates
and commodity prices, which found their way into newspapers and specialist publications for the maritime sector, the development of means to
secure information flows between business partners across long distances
boomed in the eighteenth century (McCusker, 2005; Ojala, 2002, 2019;
Vinnal, 2014, 2018), and thus preceded the breakthrough of steamships
and telegraphs (Kaukiainen, 2001; Laakso, 2007). So far, however, most
of these historical data sources—be it published lists and newspapers or private correspondence—have hardly been used to address in a systematic way
how business decision-making processes before and during the transportation of goods affected the routes and organisation of long-distance supply
chains. Equally so, it may be assumed that Joseph Longbottom, the master
who shipped the iron collected at the port of St. Petersburg to London,
was contracted by London merchants active on the Russian market, but we
do not know where and how this happened, or on what terms the contract
was signed.
The Carrier and His Domicile
What we do know, however, is that Joseph Longbottom was probably
domiciled in Scarborough, a coastal community in North-Eastern England.
On 10 September 1764, the customs officers in the Danish Sound registered London as Longbottom’s domicile, but on his way to St. Petersburg
earlier that year, the domicile entered into the customs accounts was Scarborough.5 Like many other domiciles of shipmasters registered in the Danish Sound toll registers, Scarborough was not a large port where significant
quantities of goods were traded internationally. On the contrary: whereas
the name of the port is mentioned in the registers 7788 times as domicile of
a shipmaster between 1634 and 1857, it only occurs in the Danish Sound
toll registers 1017 times as port of departure of a passage through the Danish Sound and 465 times as port of destination. Insofar as trade with the
Baltic Sea region is concerned, Scarborough seems to have delivered the
professional skills of shipmasters active on shipping routes between large
centres of international trade in England and the Baltic. It had probably
acquired this ‘special role’ as a supplier of carrying services in the course
of its long historical development as a fishing village and coastal trading
town located between Sunderland and Newcastle, on the one hand, and
Hull and London, on the other (Foy, 2012; Nash, 2012). Scarborough’s
role in British trade with the Baltic resembles in a remarkable way the longterm development of several maritime communities in the Low Countries
during the early modern period (Scheltjens, 2015a).
During the sixteenth century, the number of merchant ships at Scarborough was small and the town was said to be in a state of decay (Nash, 2012,
p. 203). Although precise figures are not available, the growth of the maritime community of Scarborough seems to have had its origins in the early
seventeenth century. By the start of the eighteenth century, the shipping
fleet of Scarborough had obtained national significance, whereas the maritime community’s involvement in fisheries started to decline (Nash, 2012,
pp. 203–204, 210–211). A predominant factor in the rise to national significance of Scarborough’s commercial fleet was the coal trade between Sunderland and Newcastle, on the one hand, and London as well as some destinations in France, Norway and—most importantly—the Dutch Republic,
on the other hand (Nash, 2012, pp. 214, 217). For a period of time in
the seventeenth and part of the eighteenth century Scarborough ‘was the
leading collier-owning port in England’ (Davis, 1962, as cited in Nash,
2012, p. 206). Scarborough’s rise to prominence in the coastal trade was
not only due to the increasing demand for coal; it was also stimulated
by developments in the local shipbuilding industry, which had started to
5 Cf., record 348439, 21 July 1764 and record 362633, 10 September
build Dutch-type vessels for carrying bulk goods, and—for some time at
least—by the abolition of the duty on coal in 1709 (Nash, 2012, p. 207).
In the wake of changes in the economic structure of the regions surrounding Scarborough, on the one hand, and changes in the structure
of international trade relations of the major ports in these surrounding
regions, on the other hand, the operations of Scarborough’s merchant fleet
obtained a third-party services-oriented character, whereas ‘during the sixteenth century much of the ship’s time was spent in trade connected with
the [home] town’ (Nash, 2012, p. 209). Such is the regional economic context of the sailing patterns and international maritime activities of Joseph
Longbottom and other members of the Scarborough maritime community
in the eighteenth century. When Sunderland and Newcastle started to take
control of the coastal coal trade to London in the first half of the eighteenth century (Nash, 2012, pp. 214–216), Scarborough masters seem to
have increased their involvement in third-party shipping on international
routes. The Sound Toll Registers Online reveal a sharp increase in the number of passages between the North Sea and the Baltic by masters domiciled
at Scarborough since the early 1730s. A period of decline during the Seven
Years’ War (1756–1763) notwithstanding, the number of passages through
the Danish Sound by Scarborough masters continued to grow until 1775,
when 144 passages were registered in the Danish customs account books.6
Logistics in the Age of Sail
The voyage of Joseph Longbottom carrying iron from St. Petersburg to
London in the autumn of 1764 has been introduced to highlight some
aspects of long-distance commodity flows that are often taken for granted
in historical studies of international trade. Although detailed case-studies
in maritime, transport and infrastructural history do shed light on parts of
long-distance commodity flows and the logistical challenges they involve,
it remains quite a task to get a clear idea of the amount and kind of coordination and effort necessary to carry commodities from their place of
production to their final destination. Pasting together bits and pieces of
relevant information from a variety of sources is anything but a straightforward exercise. Moreover, our example makes clear that the combination of
available sources with the historiography of different parts of the international supply chain unavoidably remains inconclusive. Nevertheless, some
characteristic features of what may be called ‘preindustrial logistics’ can be
‘Preindustrial logistics’, or the study of long-distance supply chains relying exclusively on regenerative energy sources (wind, water, man- and animal power), addresses (1) the various surfaces of the earth, that may be used
for transportation, i.e. solid ground, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans; (2) manmade physical infrastructure, i.e. roads, canals, bridges and portages; (3) the
technical means of covering distances along these surfaces, like ships, waggons, animals, etc. and (4) the manpower and animal power employed to
cover these distances. As a field of inquiry related to established disciplines
in the historical sciences, such as maritime and transport history, labour
history, and the history of infrastructure, ‘preindustrial logistics’ analyses
the requirements for their use, their development through time and their
meaning for international commercial exchange. The running example of
this paper suggests at least three characteristic features of ‘preindustrial
Firstly, the significance of small places connecting the nodes of international maritime and overland trade networks seems to be a characteristic
feature of ‘preindustrial logistics’. In maritime history, several attempts have
been made to get a grip on ‘small’ ports and their functions in trade networks and transport systems, making a rudimentary distinction between
‘large’, ‘secondary’ and ‘small’ ports (Jackson, 2001; Le Bouëdec, 2006a,
2006b, 2009; Polónia, 2008). Characteristic of this classification is the
focus on ‘small’ ports, which, contrary to the orthodox view, are not seen
as ‘unimportant’. Although the above-mentioned classification most certainly contributes to the understanding of port systems in history, it does
not distinguish clearly between the different roles and functions of ports in
trade networks, on the one hand, and transport systems, on the other hand.
Trade networks are sets of locations that are connected by the exchange
of people, goods and information between communities populating these
locations. Transport systems comprise both natural and man-made infrastructure (rivers, roads, canals, seas, etc.) as well as the communities using
this infrastructure to various degrees, thus allowing for the exchange of
people, goods and information between the locations of a trade network
(Scheltjens, 2015a).
Secondly, the mere fact that a shipmaster from Scarborough carried
goods from St. Petersburg to London is indicative of the importance of
information exchange in ‘preindustrial logistics’. The importance of major
ports as gateways of business and price information for international trade
is clear and has been studied for several major European ports in the early
modern period, such as Amsterdam, London and Hamburg. In contrast,
much less attention has been paid to their role as international transport
markets, and to the complexity of providing instructions while being ‘en
Thirdly, the ambivalent role of time in long-distance commodity flows
seems to be characteristic of ‘preindustrial logistics’. This feature may be
responsible for the biggest and most obvious difference with ‘modern’
logistics, which strives to reduce costs by means of on-time delivery and
the minimisation of time spent at ports. Time played different roles in the
preindustrial era. Generally speaking, the dependence of transporters on the
availability of regenerative energy sources, such as wind, water, man- and
horsepower is obvious and also encompasses questions related to the costs
of employing the latter.7 The availability of workforce for transportation has
as much relevance for the ‘iron caravans’ as it has for seafaring communities
such as Scarborough. Taking into account that working on ships was not
a full-time occupation for most members of the seafaring community, part
of the challenge of ‘preindustrial logistics’ constituted of gathering enough
men to sail the ship. Insofar as the ‘overland leg’ of the iron supply chain is
concerned, Kafengauz’ statement that the ‘iron caravan’ that spent time in
Tver during the winter was actually cheaper than the one that managed to
deliver the iron within one (river) sailing season requires further attention.
Besides these issues of time related to the ‘overland leg’ of the iron
supply chain from the Ural Mountains to Great Britain, the issue is also
at play for the ‘maritime leg’ of the supply chain. Little is known about
turnover times at ports and possible changes in the speed of shipping in
the Baltic and North Seas.8 Although more details about the departure
of Longbottom from St. Petersburg might be found in the shipping lists
published in the newspaper St. Petersburg times, such precise information
would only obtain analytical value from a logistics perspective, when it
were available systematically and for several years in a row. Only in that
7 A question that requires further analysis in this context is that of the wages for the workforce employed during the various stages between the Ural Mountains and St. Petersburg.
Were they paid for the distance covered, or for the number of days worked? Either case
presupposes a radically different relation to the factor ‘time’.
8 One noteworthy exception is Rönnbäck (2018).
case, it might be possible to provide more solid empirical statements about
changes in the speed of shipping during the Age of Sail, which is another
topic related to the question of time in ‘preindustrial logistics’.
Final Remarks
In the preceding sections, some reflections about ‘preindustrial logistics’ were presented, paying attention mostly to the organisation of longdistance commodity chains, the people involved in ‘manning’ these chains
and the ways in which the chain unfolded in space and time. At least three
additional aspects of ‘preindustrial logistics’ have not been discussed here,
although their significance for the complex activity of transporting and
delivering commodities relying on regenerative energy sources is evident.
Firstly, ‘preindustrial logistics’ should also take into account the long-term
impact of transport and trade policies on the physical distribution of goods.
Secondly, the role of formal and informal institutions (treaties, monopolies,
guilds, etc.) also played an important role in the execution of long-distance
supply chains. Perhaps even more important were usances, the unwritten
rules of the game (Scheltjens, 2015a), which probably affected the ways in
which business was done, but which are hard to grasp since they typically
belong to the tacit knowledge of communities of transporters.
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Tracking Waters: Small Cities Transport
Network of Early Modern Friesland
Miki Sugiura
This chapter sheds lights on the transport and logistics network of small
cities, by focusing on the province of Friesland in the Early Modern Dutch
Republic. Two major features have characterized Friesland’s Early Modern
urban network. First, it was a polycentric network composed of ten to
eleven small-sized cities. Although Leeuwarden, the capital of the province,
became its central city, the city’s dominance was never as pronounced as
that of Amsterdam or Groningen, the provincial capitals of neighbouring
Holland and Groningen, respectively. Furthermore, the preconditions that
the cities were built upon waters—they were settlements in the marshland
with constantly changing waterways—inevitably made the region to have
distinctively dispersed characters.
Second, the characteristics of Friesland’s networks were built upon the
comparison with Holland’s urban network. The dynamics of the urban
network were mainly determined by how Holland cities rapidly urbanized
M. Sugiura (B)
Faculty of Economics, Hosei University, Tokyo, Japan
© The Author(s) 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
and Friesland cities did not. Therefore, in analyzing their small cities network, the stagnation of their urbanization and urban growth during the
seventeenth century, or the dynamics of de-urbanization in the eighteenth
century became the central focus. De-urbanization did not make cities disappear. Indeed, the process strengthened the polycentricity of the network.
However, overshadowed by the attention on de-urbanization, how Friesland’s cities maintained their small cities over centuries or what element
has changed within the network is hardly discussed in the context of urban
network formation.
To discover the functions, operations and maintenance of small cities
networks is an important theme in the historical analysis of urban networks.
An urban network does not necessarily need a strong central node, nor are
urban interrelationships necessarily hierarchical. Analysis on transport and
logistics should unveil the dynamics between the nodes, but sometimes it
can extract simplified views on interurban relationships. This chapter first
questions the existing representative models of Friesland’s urban transport
and logistic networks by J. A. Faber, Jan de Vries and Harm Nijboer and
unravels their limitations in analysing the network’s functions. The chapter
points out that these models were focusing on the linear concentration and
dispersion of transport networks, and that interurban relationships were
featured predominantly as competition to be the hub. If urban entities are
positioned equally in the same race to be the central hub, the interurban
transport networks would be mainly interpreted as the consequence of that
competition. It is then difficult to see the different conditions, functions
and dynamics each city had within the urban network. It therefore makes it
difficult to see how and why polycentric small cities networks operated and
were maintained. The model, therefore, to be pursued is one that sets cities
as having different settings and characters, and having various purposes, and
describes the interurban relationships and holistic urban networks based on
that setting.
In order to put forward the multifaceted functional relationships small
cities created, the chapter focuses on the transport network in the southwest part—so called Zuidwest Hoek—of Friesland. It particularly emphasizes that each city, because of their different physical and geo-political
conditions in accessing the same waterway, would form varied urban transport networks, and that existing water flows and interurban relationships
affected the formation of the networks, creating a few detailed Early Modern cases. Finally, to understand micro-level operations of this transport
and logistics network, the chapter will turn its attention to the users of
the network. The last part of this chapter will see how a Mennonite family
from the city of Bolsward utilised the city canal during their development
over six generations. The chapter will conclude by stressing that these more
micro-focused analyses at interurban, urban, and user levels help to unravel
the functions and dynamics of the small cities network as a whole.
Historiography: Three Transport Network Models
F. A. Faber, Jan de Vries, and Harm Nijboer were the historians who made
representative models on Early Modern Friesland’s transport network.
These three historians all tried to demonstrate the character of Friesland’s
urban network, through modelling its transport network. Interestingly, de
Vries and Nijboer have quite contrasting views on the centrality/hierarchy
and polycentricity/disparity of the network.
Faber (1972) showed the water transport network through the connection between the major cities. He picked out mainly interregional cargo
and passenger water transport beurtvaart, which was developed during
the seventeenth century throughout the Dutch Republic and showed the
access of Friesland cities with Amsterdam (Fig. 12.1) or the access from one
Friesland city to other cities (Fig. 12.2), which was the standard modelling
Wageningen School historians took.
In Barges and Capitalism (1981), Jan de Vries in turn focused on the
passenger and towing-barge canal transport, the trekvaart network (de
Vries, 1981). This work is highly valued within the historiography of urban
network as successful and innovative research that analysed the character
of the urban network through the development of transportation network.
De Vries’ model was a route diagram with a linear structure (Fig. 12.3).
In this approach, Friesland is part of a model, defined as “single-lined,
rural” (right), and put in strong contrast with Holland’s “developed urban”
model (left). Friesland and Groningen are connectively set in the right
model: half of the nodes are in Friesland and the other half are in Groningen. The model illustrates that multi-directional access only happened from
the provincial capitals of Leeuwarden and Groningen, respectively. The two
cities are expressed as central nodes. Even though the model extracts the
entire structure, the diffusion and concentration from and towards the
central city is the main feature of the model.
Moreover, de Vries classified transport networks into rural or urban
depending on whether the number of passengers increased in summer or
not. According to this categorization, most of Friesland networks were
Fig. 12.1 Faber’s model (1). The access of Friesland cities with Amsterdam
(Source Made from Faber [1972] appendix)
defined as rural compared to those of Holland. He thus emphasized the
backwardness of Friesland’s transport network in contrast with Holland. In
his pioneering other book Dutch Rural Economy in the Golden Age (1974),
de Vries emphasised the commonalities between Holland and Friesland and
aligned the two provinces, focusing on commercial agriculture (de Vries,
1974). However, as for the passenger transport networks, the two provinces
were positioned in opposition.
Nijboer (1995, 2010) developed his argument based on Faber and de
Vries’s models, but introduced several new perspectives (Nijboer, 1995,
2010). First, in addition to the cargo-passenger-based beurtvaart and
passenger-based trekvaart that Faber and de Vries analysed, Nijboer analysed the cargo-passenger marktveer that connected rural areas and urban
market towns. Importantly, Nijboer described each of these traffic networks as one of three differentiated dimensions: the beurtveer represented
the interregional dimension, the trekvaart was the interurban, and lastly,
the marktveer was the intraregional.
Fig. 12.2 Faber’s model (2). Access from sneek to other cities (Source Made from
Faber [1972] appendix)
At the same time, Nijboer investigated the usage frequency of the three
different networks. This analysis enabled him to present a holistic view of
the network, connecting the two dimensions of interurban and urban–rural. As a result, his model, as shown in Fig. 12.4, demonstrates a highly
interactive interurban relationship between the Friesland cities. Furthermore, he concludes through his zone analysis of marktveer that the city’s
market spheres, which means the commuting and trading hinterland zones
of a market city, were juxtaposed in similar sizes. Taking central place theory as a basis, Nijboer took an innovative approach to visualize the market
zones through the networks of marktveer (Fig. 12.5). The market sphere of
the central city of Leeuwarden was not necessarily much larger than those
of the others. The main focus of Nijboer’s work was to judge the degree
of centralization towards Leeuwarden, and the application of hierarchical
analysis between cities. In strong contrast to de Vries’ model, his analysis
reflects strongly Friesland cities’ polycentric character.
Fig. 12.3 De Vries’s model (Source De Vries [1981]. Elaborated by the author)
Fig. 12.4 Harm Nijboer’s model: interurban transport network (Source Nijboer
[2010]. Elaborated by the author and Ito-lab)
Fig. 12.5 Harm Nijboer’s model (2) urban-rural market transport model (Source
Nijboer [2010], appendix. Elaborated by the author and Ito-lab)
Problems of the Models
How can we solve these contrasting views that emerge from these models?
These models commonly illustrated the urban connections virtually and
conceptually, not using the real physical water routes. The most prominent
example would be models by Faber and models by Nijboer (Figs. 12.1,
12.2, 12.4 and 12.5). These models set one city as a fixed starting point,
and basically show the diffusion of all the access. A radiation from a point
is shown, as if each connection has different routes for access, but naturally
these lines do not reflect the actual waterways. If actual waterways were
reflected, these figures would be similar to single linear model by de Vries,
as the limited number of transport routes is shared for reaching many access
points. However, the model by de Vries only shows the latest established
canal route that was newly laid out in a rigid style with equal depth and
surface material for realizing barge transport, for describing one purpose of
usage. In actuality, both the routes and purposes were intermodal. These
new canals were laid out intertwiningly with other natural and man-made
waterways, and were just a fragment of the waterway network. Moreover,
the same waterway routes were used for the purpose of beurtveer, trekvaart
and marktveer as well as private individual sails. This situation could hardly
be demonstrated by radiations between the start and the goal or by a linear
extraction of the routes.
The outlook of the model instantly implies a city’s strong initiative in
building up the transport network. It suggests that cities cultivated intermodal transport networks using multiple levels of transport. However, at
the same time, the physical appearance of the entire water transport model
remains extremely simple: a single—linear structure as de Vries’s model
suggested (Fig. 12.3). Two different perspectives resulted in very different
models. Moreover, the two perspectives cannot be reconciled. It is difficult
to analyze the true function of polycentric small cities urban transport networks, using this fixed-point network analysis. In order to overcome this
problem of setting singular city a fixed starting point, we need to turn to
an alternative perspective and question what roles a city has in a transport
and logistics network. In Friesland’s case, we need to start from looking at
the historical relationship between waterways, settlements and cities.
In Friesland, waterways existed and operated before cities came into the
picture. The cities were strategically allocated to utilise and further activate existing water flows. This background assumed that cities operate as a
group or collective, as networked collections of nodes from their onset. As
a process, this meant that multiple cities were bound to common-use of the
existing waterways, but alteration of the routes and improvements afterwards (as building canals upon them), urged consideration whether and
how each city involved would use the questioned part of the waterway.
Therefore, cities were not only starting and ending points, but also channelling infrastructure to facilitate multi-directional flows. In other words,
cities were allocated as channels to diversify the single-lined waterflow,
and to complete circulation of the transport network. This aspect is represented physically in the urban construction: cities had circular waterways along their city walls and canals that travelled through and across
them (Fig. 12.6). At the same time, depending on how much cities would
enhance these infrastructures, or to what extent they would limit the usage
of them, a city could easily turn into a bottleneck of the flows. In other
words, by this way cities could intervene and hinder the flow and logistics
of people and goods.
Fig. 12.6 Regulated routes transiting Franeker in Harlingen–Leeuwarden transport (Source Redrawn from Sugiura [2019, p. 219])
In sum, the models of Faber, de Vries, and Nijboer are built upon the
assumption that cities initiated and cultivated the transport network. Therefore, the models hardly show the interactions cities had with the pre-existing
waterways. While these models show concentration and diffusion of the
network from a city, they hardly discussed whether a certain small city
could make an impact upon the network as a whole. The models could not
explain the historical development and operations of polycentric transport
network. To understand the network, we need to have closer look at the
relationships between cities and the waterways.
Periods of Waterway Development
We want to start from understanding the dynamics of urban waterway formation. However, even if we turn our eyes to the actual development of
waterways or canals, the frameworks and figures could be sometimes as misleading or partial, as the transport network models above were. In the historical description of water canal formation, often boom periods are taken
up. Also, Friesland’s canal formation became more intensive when major
environmental changes occurred on the waterways, such as the formation of
the Middenzee in the medieval period. Times when cities’ activities became
intense, such as the middle of the fifteenth century or the first half of the
seventeenth century, are also considered as boom periods of canal formation on the major waterways. However, in comparison to other provinces,
the formation periods of Friesland were not as concentrated in one period.
Fig. 12.7 gives an overview on the major waterway development of Friesland, Groningen and Drenthe for both drainage and water transport. The
thinner the colour of a route is, the more later the change. In Groningen,
only the waterways to the sea were built in the early half of the fifteenth
century. The other waterways were built mainly around the 1640–1650s.
In Drenthe, the east–west axis water canal development was concentrated
in the 1850–1860s. In contrast, the development of other waterways was
Fig. 12.7 Excavation of canals in Friesland (Source The author’s elaboration from
Bosatlas van Fryslân (2009) and other sources of Tresoar. Redrawn from Sugiura
[2019, p. 219])
dispersed equally throughout the fourteenth-twentieth centuries. The oldest waterway development on this map, thus, is found in Friesland. This
figure is an excerpt from one originally drawn of the entire Netherlands.
Even if we broaden the scope for the whole of the Netherlands, the waterway between Leeuwarden and Bolsward, developed during 1300–1400, is
the oldest of all. This southwestern part of Friesland experienced other old
developments, such as waterways from Leeuwarden to Franeker in 1507
and Dokkum to Groningen in 1571. These figures suggest these older
waterways (in dark colours) were dispersed, and as if the whole network
was only connected in the latter half of the twentieth century, when new
waterways (in light colours) were built. However, as we have seen, the
whole part of Friesland was navigable by water in the medieval to Early
Modern phase. The fact that many canals were dug only after the twentieth century means paradoxically that they could use natural waterways in
developing their transport system so much that they did not have to build
additional canals. However, a quick glance at this map in comparison with
other provinces will not lead to that understanding.
It is therefore vital to understand that in Early Modern Friesland, excavation of water canals, thus, was not necessarily targeted for expanding new
routes. Most of these canals were built upon existing natural waterways.
The purpose for building canals in addition should be considered carefully.
Change in the transport means, such as trekvaart, was one of such purposes. In all cases, we can again confirm from here that closer examination
(on what was added to the existing waterways) is needed in understanding
Early Modern Friesland cities’ relationships towards transport networks, as
well as the operation of their polycentric small cities’ networks. Therefore
we explore the development, operation and usage of new waterways in the
southwestern part of Friesland in the latter half of this chapter.
Small Cities Waterway Networks Kept Apart
The key factor for the south-west region of Friesland to keep a polycentric
structure was that the two small cities of Bolsward and Sneek both maintained their hub function, despite being located near each other. The cities
are only 11 km in distance from each other. During the economic stagnation period of the eighteenth century, the hub function did not converge
on one. Sneek was clearly the city of growth between the two during the
Early Modern period. Its market as well as water transport facilities were
expanding. Bolsward did not grow as much as maintaining the status quo;
its population was in decline, but it was not taken over by Sneek. The development of these cities marks a strong contrast with the city of Dokkum in
the northeastern part of the province, which suffered a dramatic decline in
its population, as well as market functions during the Early Modern period.
Here, we will analyze the reasons by focusing on how and why Bolsward
kept its functions apart from Sneek.
Despite the cities’ closeness, from the perspective of the waterway, the
two cities had developed separately. As noted in the previous section, the
oldest water canal in the entire northern Netherlands was laid between
Bolsward and Leeuwarden in the fourteenth century. This waterway was
built as an extension of the Middlezee and was connected to the port city
of Workum. It became the east–west axis transport route for the Southwest
region. Sneek’s waterways were kept apart from this route. The route from
Leeuwarden to Sneek started from the eastern side of Leeuwarden and did
not transit Bolsward. In addition, Sneek’s waterway orbited around the
large-sized lake Sneekermeer, which is located 5 km away from the city.
As Fig. 12.8 shows, the lake was more than 10 times larger than the size
of the city. The lake came in its present form only by the Early Modern
era due to the water flow changes. The city and the lake were connected
by a broad canal. The advantage of using a lake on the waterway is that
the lake makes a multi-directional channel possible. Each city in Friesland
functioned as an artificial version of such a channel, but as a lake was natural, the connection it enabled had broader potential. A city could gain
much from having such channels nearby, and seventeenth-century Sneek
was an exemplar case. Suddenly, the lake provided Sneek with an east–west
axis, which other settlements could not easily develop. When we go back
to Fig. 12.5 by Nijboer, we can confirm that waterways were developing
westwards from Sneek via Sneekermeer. This figure depicts only Friesland,
but Sneek gained access through these waterways beyond the province, to
eastern Groningen, inland Overijssel, Gelderland, as well as to the German
regions beyond the border. The development of Sneek as a marketplace for
dairy products and livestock owes much to its ability to facilitate its trade
to more regions through this access (Schoor, 2011).
There is also not so much difference in the occupational structure and
choices of industry between the two cities. Why did Bolsward not merge
with Sneek, or become more subordinate to the growing city? The structure
of the waterway provides an explanation. During the Early Modern period,
Bolsward maintained the function of the axis route from Leeuwarden to
the port of Workum. The route was further connected to Makkum, which
Fig. 12.8 Sneek and Sneekermeer (Source Monsma, B.P.F., Waterkaart van het
Sneekermeer, met daarop de route van een zeilwedstrijd, 1900. Fries Scheepvaart
Museum I-105)
became renowned for its export-oriented pottery. In addition, the route was
connected to the re-excavated canal connecting the most growing cities of
the province, Leeuwarden and Harlingen. Bolsward was positioned as one
of the hub-channels of this network. Bolsward did not function as the gateway for the connections towards interregional areas, but it functioned as a
node that connected the settlement of the western edge of the southwest
corner of the province. Thus, Bolsward and Sneek operated within different
waterway networks and had different roles in this network. It was the Early
Modern period when this differentiation becomes particularly distinct.
It is therefore not surprising that Bolsward and Sneek had different
attitudes towards introducing barge transport. Bolsward played a central
role in adding a barge route to its network. Expecting the development of
a barge network, Bolsward invested in excavating canals towards Workum
in the 1620s. It also paid for adjusting the existing waterways, so that
barges could pass between Leeuwarden and Bolsward in 1638. Through
these foundations, Bolsward succeeded in opening barge transport from
Leeuwarden, and within a few years it also started transport to Workum.
Through the network, the city enjoyed direct transport to Harlingen and
Makkum. Bolsward became the transit hub between barge transport which
operated on the interregional and interurban levels and intraregional water
transport between the city and smaller settlements.
In contrast, Sneek was less enthusiastic about barge transport. The barge
transport canal between Sneek and Leeuwarden is a popular one, loved and
called by the nickname of ‘Zwette’. It is still used today for the famous skate
race. The route was built utilising the waterway that naturally occurred by
the opening of the Middenzee. This greatly reduced the cost for implementation, but it also made the commencement of the transport late. The
canal between Sneek and Leeuwarden was introduced even after the barge
transport between Sneek and Bolsward.
To sum up, Bolsward and Sneek developed different transport networks.
In the barge network, Bolsward played a much more proactive role compared to Sneek. Sneek’s transport network was based on a completely different basis. The introduction of a barge transport network was done with the
existing waterway network as the basis. It was unthinkable for both of the
networks to be absorbed and integrated. At the same time, the inhabitants
of Bolsward and Sneek could utilise their different networks. It is highly
likely, for example, that Sneek inhabitants travelled to Bolsward to use their
passenger barges and that caused delays in Sneek having their own passenger barges. Small cities could provide inter-modal transport networks.
The Users of the Network: Small City’s Business
In the final section, we turn our eyes to the users of small cities’ transport
networks. The aim is to see how small city inhabitants used and maintained a
waterway infrastructure in operating their businesses and developing their
real estate strategies. These businesses and real estate strategies lie at the
core of sustaining polycentric transport networks, as without their success,
polycentricity would have not been maintained. Whether a small city could
maintain its capacity to actively coordinate a network was reliant on how
much their entrepreneurs could establish businesses that could communicate beyond themselves utilizing their own transport networks. In this
aspect, the entrepreneurs of the small cities were the agents of polycentric
transport networks.
We first investigated the occupational structure of Bolsward from their
tax registers of the sixteenth century and eighteenth century. There was a
provincial set of occupations, with international traders and agriculturebased manufacturers providing thin layers for potential entrepreneurs.
However, we should not judge the content of their business with the cover,
i.e. their occupational names. What small cities’ occupations, such as merchants or entrepreneurs, implied and how those occupations operated were
different from the meaning and function of these occupations in larger
cities. Too often it is assumed that artisans and traders in small cities were
operating similarly to those in the larger cities, but on smaller scales. However, business and trade operations from small cities could be very different
from those of the large cities. In addition, to compensate for the limited
size of the market, traders and artisans often sought multi-functional operations, and they also sought to expand their clients geographically beyond
the small city. For example, country traders turned to become travelling
peddlers or all-purpose merchants, such as general stores. Artisans and
traders alike opted for combining their work with commercial farming.
Transport of goods and capital, and the establishment of infrastructures
that enabled mobility were therefore evermore crucial for business operations from small cities.
The canal structure of Bolsward was simple. It was representative of
cities of this size, the main canal Grote Dijlakker, which ran from the northwest gate to the southeast, divided the city in half. Six smaller canals supported this main canal in order to provide multi-directional exits. Grote
Dijlakker was built upon a natural waterway. Its course has not changed
since the twelfth century. We will see how a Mennonite family, the Mesdags,
developed their business over seven generations. The sources we have used
are real estate registers, cadastrals, probate inventories and family history
books (Mesdag, 1946; Vermoolen, 1998). The family’s continuity itself
was exceptional for Frisian Mennonites (Trompetter, 2007). The family
first moved from artisanal to entrepreneurial status in the late seventeenth
century. At the peak of their success in the mid-eighteenth century, they
purchased an aristocratic estate outside of the city, and incorporated it into
their business. Thereafter, in the nineteenth century, the numerous siblings
of the family attempted to build industrial clusters within the city, as well as
outside of the city. We will trace these developments in detail, and see how
the family utilized the canal at each stage (Figs. 12.9, 12.10 and 12.11).
Fig. 12.9 Mesdag’s first generations’ real estate holdings (Source Elaborated by
Takahashi, on the Schotanus map of 1664 [Sugiura & Takahashi, 2014])
The first generation of the Mesdag family was of humble origin, the
son of a shoemaker. He began to be entrepreneurial by purchasing a tannery (A-1) with his wife’s inheritance in the northeast outskirts of Bolsward (Fig. 12.9). Shoemaker’s workshops were concentrated along Grote
Dijlakker by the city wall, and therefore he transported tanned leather using
the short distance of the canal. About a decade later, he bought a house
(B-1) along the Groot Dijlakker, close to the tannery. We can confirm from
a seventeenth-century map, that this area was newly developed, with the
backsides of the houses towards the city wall still left as open fields. The
houses near the city gates practiced gardening or milking and operated
mills. The parcel of the house was divided in the back, and another shoemaker was living on the back parcel of the house (B-2). The couple had
one son, and this second and then the third generation gradually owned
multiple houses and locations within the city. The table shows their possessions in 1729. At the point of his marriage, the second generational son did
not even own his house, but when his father died the couple bought the
Note: Reelkohieren: Possessions of “Hessel Gerbens” (1729)
No.178 Dijk Shoemaker’s parcel (A-3)
No.318 Dijlakker A house with dairy farming (D-1)
No.319 Dijlakker A house for rent (D-2)
No.325 Dijlakker A house (B)
No.425 Noorder Haitsebaan, A small house (A-1,A-2)
Fig. 12.10 Mesdag families’ early real estates in Bolsward till the third generation
(Source 1729 Reëlkohieren Bolsward, Oud-Archief Bolsward; Vermoolen [1998].
Elaborated into a map by Takahashi [Sugiura & Takahashi, 2014])
Fig. 12.11 Mesdag related real estate possessions within Bolsward around 1832
(Source Kadastrale 1832 and Postboeken 1812. Notarieel akten van Dirk Roos Mesdag, Johannes Mesdag, Treasoar, Leeuwarden and Vermoolen [1998]. Elaborated
into a map by Takahashi [Sugiura & Takahashi, 2014])
house at the back of their original family home (B-2). Since then the two
houses were registered as one. At the same time, the other houses along
this part of Grote Dijlakker started to integrate the backside and became
large townhouses of wealthier inhabitants. The family began to own multiple houses within Bolsward, with the widow living in another house on
the other side of the city (C).
The third and fourth generation Mesdags were connected to the Cnoop
family, one of the most powerful families in Bolsward. The Cnoop family
operated both a tannery and pottery. We can confirm from Cnoop’s account
book that the canal was used for bringing clay from a borrowed pit about
30–40 km away from the city and to transport the finished pottery. Moreover, the Mesdags’ real estate ownership experienced a drastic turn, when
the fourth generational son married a wealthy second wife, and together
they purchased an aristocratic estate, the Donia Estate (fl 7150) based in
Burgewerd, 30–40 km away from Bolsward. It could be directly accessed by
water via an extension of the Grote Dijlakker. The purchase and the building increased step by step. On a wedding anniversary, the couple bought a
parcel in Burgwerd, and by 1749 they owned several lands directly outside
of the city wall, and had purchased a ship. They bought another piece of
land with houses, yard and watermills along the trekvaart to Bolsward (fl
4000), and developed concentric landholdings around the Donia Estate,
thus completing their investment outside of Bolsward. They kept the original house by the Grote Dijlakker and used the new estate as a summer villa.
In doing so, they expanded the social meaning of the canal. The family
invited elite families of other cities to their homes in Bolward and treated
them to a sail along the canal and to picnic at the summer villa. They promoted businesses and deals and marriage arrangements with those powerful
families at such occasions. At seasonal turns, the family organized gorgeous
parades on the canal, and contributed to regional festivals. Thus, what used
to be the outskirt end of the town canal with workshops of shoemakers was
converted to a grand canal fronting the townhouses of the wealthy.
However, the purchase of the aristocratic estate did not mean this family had left manufacturing. The purpose of the estate outside of Bolsward
was also for business. The purchase of the estate meant having access to
the rights connected to the land and water: not only hunting, lumbering and fishing rights, but also the access to developing waterways. Most
importantly, the place produced the best clay for pottery around the area,
and they also traded the lumber grown there, a trade dominated then by
the Mennonites in Zuidwesthoek. Thus, Burgewerd provided the necessary raw material for their family business. They traded lumber and pottery
clay from Burgewerd via Bolsward to Makkum, which was booming with
pottery exports.
The Mesdag family’s business expanded at the fifth generation with 10
siblings. Half of the six sons remained in Bolsward and operated not only
the tannery and pottery, but also started running tobacco, dairy and bread
operations within the city. One of the brothers, Dirk Roos Mesdag, was
registered as a wine merchant. In 1822, he bought a house at the corner of
Groot Dijlakker and another city canal. He performed massive renovation;
as described before, the houses of this area were initially divided into those
facing the canals and those at the back, nearer to the city wall, used for
smaller cottages and workshops in the seventeenth century. During the
eighteenth century, these front and back houses were reintegrated into one
parcel. Dirk Roos Mesdag not only integrated the front and back houses,
but also added extensions to the city wall, as well as built a quay annexed
to the house, so that he could load and unload packages directly from the
house to the boats on the canal. He had transformed the house into a
trading warehouse, the first to be built in the block.
The siblings owned multiple real estate holdings inside and outside of
Bolsward. The inner city factories, quays in the middle and north, the pits
and farms outside of the city were all connected, establishing a small-town
version of an industrial complex. The family’s businesses, which used to
concentrate in the North-eastern part of the city, were now spread out
throughout the city. From their real estate purchases, we can see that
the family was acquiring access to infrastructures that strengthened their
interurban connections to Makkum, Leeuwarden and Groningen. Moreover, the other siblings moved to other cities and developed their own small
industrial complexes. They wed to the daughters of Groningen residents,
purchased houses together, annexed in a quarter near the Groningen port
and developed workplaces to run factories (Fig. 12.12). The urban nexus
built as a result of these connections was in part arbitrary. Nevertheless,
they certainly helped Bolsward to form its own urban network, apart from
the nearby city of Sneek or the provincial capital Leeuwarden.
The family’s tactic was to develop their industrial complex within Bolsward, connecting with their resources developed in the outskirts of the
city. Their capital was not enough to purchase a large parcel to build factories anew. Thus, they purchased residential places with work annexes
Fig. 12.12 Gilles and Klaas Mesdag’s family ‘Industrial Cluster’ in Groningen
(Source HIS-GIS and Vermoolen [1998]. Elaborated into a map by Takahashi
[Sugiura & Takahashi, 2014])
that had access to waterways and gradually transformed them into industrial workplaces. These operations were essential in maintaining the small
cities. The family members’ occupations recorded in the registers, such as
wine merchants, bakers, tanners, pottery makers or farmers, were nominal.
Their operations could not be clarified without understanding the complex
industrial and commercial networks they had built upon over generations.
The Mesdags over generations were the users of the urban transport and
logistics networks to their full extent. At the same time, they were the true
facilitators for maintaining the polycentric small city networks.
The analysis of transport and logistics networks is vital in the understanding the function and operation of individual cities as well as their urban
networks, because those networks were crucial in their maintenance. Their
polycentric structure as well could only be explained by understanding their
transport and logistics networks. However, the multi-faceted operations of
small city transport networks have been often overshadowed by researches
and models too focused on the centrality of the network, or on the comparison with larger city networks. This chapter unravelled the limitations
of existing transport models in urban history studies by focusing on the
province of Friesland in the Early Modern Netherlands. As conclusion, the
chapter emphasizes the following points.
First, the need has emerged for water environment to be included more
carefully in transport models. Transport models in urban history assume
cities as the initiator of the transport networks, and transport models in
urban history in turn have strengthened this view, However, the case of
Friesland reveals in particular that waterways existed way before the establishment of cities. Therefore, cities were not necessarily at the origin of the
transport network. We saw cases in which newly-risen water environments,
such as the formation of a new lake or the opening/closing of the routes
towards the sea, drastically determined the formation of transport network.
Interactions with the pre-existing and newly risen water environments also
decided what the new canal excavation was meant for. In looking at the
transport development maps, we tend to equalise the new excavation of a
canal to a new major expansive addition of routes to hitherto unreached
directions, but this was not necessarily the case. The excavation of a new
canal, albeit being costly investment, could also mean a simple addition
of intermodal transportation means such as passenger transportation, or a
supplement of natural waterway routes.
Second, this chapter demonstrated how small cities could develop
their transport networks apart, based upon different conditions they have
towards waterways as well as upon the positioning they have in the urban
network. The generalized notion in the urban transport history that cities
commonly entered the race to become the principal and central hub of the
province, is only one aspect of transport network formation. The chapter
showed that Bolsward and Sneek, two cities no more than 10 km apart, have
developed unique networks. Maintenance of these individual networks certainly was the backbone of sustaining polycentricity of South-Western part
of the Friesland. Emphasis on city’s individual development does not mean
to lessen the existence and influence of interurban interactions. Rather, it
asks for a more delicate understanding of the interurban interactions in the
formation process of transport network.
These two factors call for a more micro-focused as well as interdisciplinary multi-layered analysis in investigating transport network creation.
It is therefore not only necessary to better understand the environmental
and infrastructural implications of the natural waterways, but we need also
to analyse in detail the local and interlocal decision-making process.
Lastly, as third, the chapter emphasised the importance of user-analysis in
transport network creation. Average urban inhabitants are usually assumed
to have been using transport networks as passengers or senders and receivers
of goods and money. Urban inhabitants are generally not seen as the facilitator or creator of transport networks, as even the wealthier part of the
citizens would not have been able to own capital enough to direct the formation of transport network. Indeed, the ownership of urban real estates
of the small cities in Friesland was never concentrated in one or a few
families, but scattered among many. In particular during the eighteenth
century, when the size of the city did not grow but remained the same,
city entrepreneurs could not easily purchase large pieces of land inside the
city to build industrial clusters. Nevertheless, we saw through the experience of five generations in the Mesdag family that the family was constantly
conscious of the utilisation of the city canal and how they could use and cultivate the canal’s multi-directional connections. Their operations are at the
heart of how small cities could maintain themselves and keep the province
Acknowledgements This chapter owes much to the project ‘Urban & Territorial History: Friesland (2009–2019) of Ito-lab, Spatial History: Architecture-CityTerritory, led by Professor Takeshi Ito at the Faculty of Engineering, the University
of Tokyo (currently Professor at Aoyama Gakuin University, Tokyo). I express my
sincerest gratitude to Professor Ito and all the members of his team. In particular, I
would like to thank Dr. Genki Takahashi and Dr. Satoshi Miyawaki for their insights
and support in collaborating in research together and in making figures and maps.
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Netherlands: Wijdemeer.
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Anglo-Gascon union, 53, 65, 67
armour, 147
banker, 149
border, 8, 14, 24, 38, 77, 124,
145–148, 150, 165, 174–176,
180, 186, 236
bottleneck, 9, 11, 174, 179, 232
Bourbon, 102
broker/intermediary/middlemen, 4,
7, 10, 76, 198, 200–205
bypass/bypassing, 10, 11, 46, 88
cabotage, 104–108, 111, 115, 118
canal, 6, 17, 25, 39, 76, 82, 87, 88, 90,
93, 94, 126, 127, 130, 148, 163,
165, 213, 218, 227, 231–240,
243, 244, 246, 247
Cavour, Camillo Paolo Filippo Giulio
Benso, (1810–1861), 170
centrality values, 78, 79, 83–87, 89,
90, 92, 94–96
centralization, 3, 10, 25, 45, 104, 229
central place, 4–6, 13, 72, 77, 174,
187, 229
Charles V (Holy Roman Emperor,
1550–1558), 102
Charles VI (Holy Roman Emperor,
1685–1740), 91, 94
cheese, 149, 155, 157
cloth/fabrics/textile, 29, 32, 38–41,
62, 129, 146, 147, 149, 150, 155,
157, 168, 177, 178, 194–198,
coastal shipping, 82, 87
Collateral Councils, 88, 91
commodity chain, 7, 220. See also
supply chain
consumption, 58, 65, 103, 108, 114,
124, 164
Continental System, 37
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s),
under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019
G. Favero et al. (eds.), The Urban Logistic Network,
Palgrave Studies in Economic History,
contingent/contingency, 17, 19
corridor, 13, 14, 32, 90, 104, 105,
108, 109, 111–115, 175, 177,
187, 188
cotton, 127–129, 146, 157, 177
customs/tariffs/duties, 29, 31, 58, 63,
69, 70, 94, 102, 106, 130, 147,
149, 150, 155, 157, 176, 177,
180, 186, 202, 210, 215, 217
dendritic, 12–14
distribution center, 108. See also
wholesale center
economic geography, 5, 6, 174
emporium, 53, 146, 155, 157
energy, 164, 178, 179, 218–220
engineering, 40, 247
entrepreneur, 17, 105, 130, 238, 239,
flax/flaxseed, 17, 128, 129, 193–196,
198–202, 204, 210
foreland, 8, 32, 43, 46, 65, 76, 86, 94,
96, 113, 193
freight, 182, 198, 203, 215
French Revolution, 37, 70, 76, 198
gateway, 2, 5, 7–11, 13, 14, 17, 24, 25,
28, 31–34, 36, 38–46, 53–55, 65,
85, 91, 93, 94, 96, 108, 109, 114,
115, 124, 146, 157, 161, 164,
169, 170, 173–175, 179–181,
183, 186, 187, 193, 202, 204,
219, 237
glass, 127, 129
Hansa/Hanseatic, 17, 29, 198, 199,
Hapsburg, 165, 168, 169, 176, 177
Harrach, Friedrich-August von
(1696–1749), 91, 94
herring, 36, 37, 45
hierarchy, 3, 11, 114, 178, 179, 188,
hinterland piracy/port piracy, 5, 25,
111, 112
hinterland(s), 3–5, 8, 11, 13, 18, 24,
25, 29, 31, 32, 36, 39, 40, 42, 43,
45, 46, 54, 55, 65, 71, 72, 86,
94, 103, 105, 108, 109, 111, 112,
114, 146, 150, 155, 163, 169,
175, 176, 179–181, 193, 229
homeport, 109, 113–115
hub, 11, 63, 85, 89, 91, 92, 164, 169,
174, 180, 226, 235, 238, 247
industrialization, 38, 43
Industrial Revolution, 10, 19, 178
industry, 36, 38, 40, 41, 43, 104, 106,
115, 127–129, 134, 136, 137,
167, 194, 195, 198, 199, 204,
210, 216, 236
intermodal/intermodality, 9, 11, 105,
113–115, 174, 179, 187, 231,
232, 246
international trade/import/export,
3, 4, 24, 28, 30, 32, 36, 37,
39–41, 46, 53, 54, 63, 85, 88, 93,
103, 105, 111, 112, 124, 127,
128, 130, 148, 149, 155, 157,
168, 176, 177, 181–183, 187,
193–198, 201, 204, 213, 216,
217, 219, 237, 244
interurban, 104, 108, 109, 111, 112,
115, 226, 228, 229, 238, 244
iron, 17, 24, 28, 32, 37, 40, 44, 46,
83, 111, 146, 147, 168, 182, 200,
209–215, 217, 219
iso-centrality values, 79, 85, 89, 90,
92, 95, 96
Joseph II (Holy Roman Emperor,
1741–1790), 94, 157
junctions, 9, 80, 89, 133, 134, 136,
163, 174, 179–181, 183, 187,
labour/workforce, 41, 60, 133, 147,
163, 164, 176, 178, 186, 187,
211, 212, 218, 219
land routes, 65, 76, 170, 180
leather/hides, 32, 111, 164, 177, 240
linen, 127–129, 146, 147, 155, 157,
194, 195, 204
link, 4, 6, 7, 25, 45, 77, 80–85, 87,
103, 112, 115, 124, 126, 133,
134, 137, 162, 163, 165, 169
logistics, 2, 6–12, 16–19, 187, 188,
211, 218, 219, 226, 232, 246
marginalization, 118
maritime center, 114
maritimity, 103, 113, 115
market/marketplace, 3, 4, 11, 17, 24,
28, 30, 36, 37, 40, 41, 44, 53, 55,
58, 60–62, 65, 69, 70, 72, 103,
104, 106, 108, 109, 114, 125,
127–131, 137, 147, 150, 155,
163, 164, 167–169, 176, 177,
188, 194, 195, 198–201, 203,
204, 215, 219, 228, 229, 235,
236, 239
matrix analysis, 78–80, 82
mega-city, 2, 3, 10, 11
merchant, 7, 16, 17, 28, 29, 34, 36, 40,
61, 62, 65, 72, 93, 103, 105–109,
112, 149, 167, 193, 198–205,
212, 214–217, 239, 244, 246
metal, 127, 147
micro-history, 16, 125
mine/mining, 111, 114, 115, 146
model (theoretical), 6, 18, 25, 101,
monopoly, 36, 53, 65, 69, 104, 198
Napoleon, Bonaparte, (1769–
1821)/Napoleonic, 37, 45, 147,
170, 175, 176, 180
node, 4–7, 9–13, 16–18, 41, 76,
80–85, 104, 105, 112–115, 137,
188, 218, 226, 227, 232, 237
Ottoman War, 92
passenger, 16, 42, 102, 109, 111, 127,
130, 133, 134, 186, 227, 228,
238, 246, 247
periphery/peripheral, 8, 76, 79, 87,
123–127, 131, 137, 187
policy, 59, 67, 76, 79, 80, 89, 91, 149,
175, 179
Polish succession, 91
polycentric/polycentricity, 6, 12–14,
17, 125, 179, 186, 187, 225–227,
229, 232, 233, 235, 238, 246,
population, 3, 30, 34, 36–38, 91, 102,
108, 109, 126–128, 130, 146,
166, 169, 174, 176, 183, 186,
port/port cities, 4, 7, 8, 11, 17, 25,
30, 37, 40–46, 53, 54, 58, 65, 67,
94, 101–105, 107–109, 111–115,
174–177, 179, 180, 182, 183,
187, 188, 193, 196, 198, 199,
202–204, 212, 213, 215, 216,
218, 236, 244
possibilism, 17
poverty, 128, 136
protectionism, 54, 59, 62, 63, 69–71,
149, 176, 186
quay, 112, 129, 211, 244
railway, 6, 10, 11, 14, 25, 28, 39–42,
45, 78, 115, 123–126, 130, 131,
133, 134, 136–138, 162, 169,
170, 176, 178, 179, 181–183,
186, 187
rearland, 8, 55, 76, 91, 92
relais , 9
road, 6, 28, 41, 42, 46, 75, 76, 78, 79,
81–85, 87, 89–92, 94, 96, 104,
105, 108, 127, 147, 148, 157,
165, 166, 170, 176, 180, 181,
Rothschild, 169, 170
rural, 18, 44, 57, 60, 62, 103–105,
112, 146, 150, 164, 175, 178,
179, 186, 201, 202, 227, 228
sailor, 106
salt, 28, 32, 36, 106, 107, 127, 129
scari, 104, 105, 114, 115
seaport, 4, 7, 8, 25, 39, 86, 91, 93, 94,
shipmasters, 102, 106, 113, 215, 216,
shipowners, 106, 109, 198, 215
shipyards, 37, 40, 41, 109
silk, 129, 146–150, 155, 157, 164,
167, 176, 177
small cities, 13, 33, 125, 225–227,
232, 233, 235, 238, 239, 246,
Sound, The, 43, 196, 198, 202, 209,
staple market, 5
station, 42, 85, 124, 125, 134, 138,
179, 182, 186, 215
steamship, 109–111, 115, 215
sugar, 37, 38
sulfur, 104, 105, 111, 112, 114, 115
supply chain, 7, 215, 218–220
Swedish East India Company, 36
tax, 30, 54, 59, 105, 108, 177, 239
terminus/terminal, 9, 13, 14, 96, 181,
183, 188
tobacco, 111, 244
trade networks, 109, 123, 126, 127,
transatlantic, 123
transhipment/transshipment, 9, 80,
87, 90, 94
transit policy, 76, 77, 80, 94, 97
transit trade/transiting trade, 147,
157, 177, 181
transport cost/transportation cost, 45,
urban center, 25, 33, 102, 104, 105,
urban network, 2–8, 11–14, 16–18,
76–81, 85–88, 90–97, 103, 105,
123, 125, 138, 164, 166, 175,
204, 225–227, 244, 246, 247
Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet,
1694–1778), 76
War of Austrian Succession, 92, 94
water-power, 178
waterway, 23, 24, 39, 76, 78, 82, 83,
85, 86, 89, 94, 96, 165, 180, 182,
225, 226, 231–239, 243, 246,
wholesale center, 108, 114
wine, 14, 53–55, 57–63, 65, 67–73,
105, 109, 149, 155, 176, 177,
198, 244, 246
wool, 129, 146, 148, 155, 177, 178
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