For the southern Italian autocracy, see Croce (1970), Runciman (1958), Kantorowicz (1928), and Burckhardt (1958). For Spain, see Elliott (1963 and 1986), Parry (1966), and Palmer and Colton (1984). For the low countries (now Belgium and Holland), see Wedgewood (1944), Boxer (1965), and Palmer and Colton. Similarly, for Britain see Palmer and Colton, and Plumb (1967).
We stretch the category of "absolutist" to include such examples as the Norman regno of southern Italy. Certainly the state and the administrative apparatus of the d'Hautevilles and the Hohenstaufens was feeble and inefficient compared to the bureaucracies and administrations of the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century states that are usually termed "absolutisms." Nevertheless, there is a qualitative difference between other feudal monarchies and those set up in Norman conquest kingdoms like Sicily. Those who would support our inclusive definition of "absolutism" include not only Kantorowicz (1928) but also Haskins (1915) and Runciman (1958).
De Vries constructs population estimates from archives: church attendance lists, baptisms and burials, censuses, tax records, and so forth. He accepts as sources "secondary works, usually town histories, where the historian makes population estimates based on his general knowledge about the city."
Russell puts more stress on estimates of the size of the inhabited area at a given time as a way to estimate population. He argues that the average density of a medieval city was about 120 persons per hectare, with the most densely populated cities approaching 200 persons per hectare. Russell thus rejects high estimates in the several hundreds of thousands for the circa 1000 population of Mediterranean cities like Cordova, Palermo, and Constantinople, because according to his calculations the built-up areas of these cities were too small to support such populations. Our Russell-de Vries database is available from the authors upon request.
Bairoch et al. began with the estimates of city size provided by Chandler and Fox (1974), and extended them using Sundbard (1908) and the international retrospective sections of the official French Annuaire Statistique. They continued to add to and correct their database for more than a decade, following what they call a "craftsmanlike" approach: "...the system was...1) replace a figure each time a more recent source revealed an alternative, but without systematically noting the reference...2) add...previously unavailable figures ...following the same procedure." The Bairoch database is printed in Bairoch, Batou, and Chèvre (1988), and is available in machine-readable form from the Centre d'Histoire Economique Internationale of the Université de Genève.
Lords nominally subject to the kings of France, like the dukes of Burgundy or of Acquitaine, could draw on their compact and extensive territorial domains for support and defy the king of France almost at will within their domain--in one famous episode the Valois king Louis XI "the spider" was lucky to escape with his life after a visit to the domain of the duke of Burgundy, Charles "the rash" (see Commynes, 1498) By contrast William I of England and his successors prevented the emergence of such compact territorial lordships, and so were able from a very early date to impose a unified system of royal justice on England and extend their administrative reach throughout the country.
We carried out two separate classification exercises, one by us directly and a second by a research assistant relatively unfamiliar with European history, Mr. Hoang Quan Vu. His classification was based on McNeill (1963), Palmer and Colton (1984), and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Only two disputes have arisen regarding our classification. The first concerns France: we date the establishment of French absolutist monarchy to the era of Louis XIII and the centralization carried out by Cardinal Richelieu in the first half of the seventeenth century; our research assistant dates it from the twelfth-century defeat of the Anglo-French Angevins by Philip II "Augustus" and the ca. 1300 centralization and extension of royal power under Philip IV "the fair." For an account supporting Mr. Vu's point of view, see Strayer (1970). In support of our point of view, we would argue that Philip IV's work did not last, but was undone by his Valois dynasty successors and by the collapse of royal authority during the 100 Years' War. Which classification of France is adopted has no significant effect on our statistical estimates.
The second dispute concerns Germany, which we had originally removed from the "absolutist" category on the grounds that the German king--the Holy Roman Emperor--usually had little authority, and when German kings did have power they tried to project it across the Alps to control northern Italy and Papal Rome rather than centralizing and strengthening the royal administration in Germany. This judgment of ours has provoked criticism in several seminars: the absence of royal authority did not make property secure but instead gave subordinate territorial princes free rein to attempt to establish little despotic principalities. See Palmer and Colton (1984). Once again, however, which classification of Germany is adopted has no significant effect on our statistical estimates
These results imply that, under the maintained regression assumptions, there are 95 chances out of 100 that the "true" effect lies in the range from 80,000 to 280,000 urban inhabitants lost per century of absolutism.
Under the maintained regression assumptions, there are 95 chances out or 100 that the "true" effect lies in the range from 0.4 to 3.9 cities of 30,000 or more inhabitants lost per century of absolutism.
Experimentation with a division into three régime types--constitutional and city-state merchant régimes as one type, absolutist princes as a second, and feudal anarchy as the third--uncovered some evidence that anarchy was worse than absolutism for city growth when the dependent variable was growth in urban populations but not when the dependent variable was growth in the number of cities. Regions suffering from anarchy lose 59,000 people per century from their largest cities, with a standard error of 39,000.
In addition, shifting to a three régime type division strengthed contrast between absolutist princes and merchant-based or constitutional régimes. T-statistics increase by about one in the regressions corresponding to lines 1 and 3 of table 3.
The database underlying table 3 has 150 year periods; the database underlying table 9 has 100 year periods. However, all coefficients are reported in units of number of people or cities per century in order to make comparisons easy.
The pattern of region and era effects for the Bairoch database is very similar to the pattern for the Russell-de Vries database, and is not shown here.
Absolutist princes sought conquest and expansion for its own sake, or for ideological reasons. For Philip II of Spain, the prosperity of the Catalonian or Belgian merchant towns weighed lightly against the necessity of building two fleets and two armies to reconquer northern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean for international Catholicism. For Louis XIV of France, it appeared easier to tax French commerce heavily and fund an army to conquer the merchants of Holland than to follow policies to nurture trade to make French merchants as wealthy as the Dutch.
Indeed, one of the major reasons that princes turned to absolutism was their desire to free themselves from these intermediary bodies that sought to limit confiscatory taxation and imposed constraints on princely revenues. Absolutisms were introduced to increase the potential supply of tax revenue--and we do not find it surprising that such an increase comes at the expense of trade and commerce.
William, however, was the nephew of Edward "the confessor," king before Harold Godwinson.
The Habsburgs and the medieval Capetians are the only possible exceptions. Yet the medieval Capetians were nearly powerless. The Habsburgs lost Holland and Portugal to revolts, nearly lost Belgium, Bohemia, and Catalonia to revolts, and were always on the verge of losing Belgium and northern Italy to the French.