T h e influence of the bourgeoisie in every period of the Middle Ages, is all the more surprising because it is in strong contrast with its numerical importance. The towns contained a minority, sometimes even a very small minority of the population. In the absence of statistical data prior to the fifteenth century no precise numerical estimate can, of course, be formed, but we shall probably not be far wrong
in supposing that in the whole of Europe between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries the urban population never comprised more than a tenth part of the total number of inhabitants.1 It was only in a few districts, such as the Low Countries, Lombardy or Tuscany, that this proportion was exceeded to any large extent. In any case, it is an undoubted fact that from the demographic point of view, medieval society was essentially agricultural.