chapter  2
31 Pages

The economy

ThefiftyyearsofnearlyuninterruptedpeacethecountryenjoyedafterSpanish hegemonyhadbecomefirmlyestablishedin1559withthetreatyofCateau Cambresiswerealsoaperiodofvigorouseconomicexpansion.Theevidence forthisisabundantandhasledhistorianstodiscardtheoldviewaccordingto whichthegeographicdiscoveriesofthelatefifteenthcentury,theItalianwars oftheearlysixteenthcenturyand,lastly,thecomingofSpanishrulehad destroyedtheveryfoundationsoftheItalianeconomyandhadusheredinan irreversibleprocessofdecline.Wenowknowthat,afterthedislocationsand destructionscausedbywar,theeconomyexhibitedremarkableresilience. 1

Whilepopulationingeneralandurbanpopulationinparticularmade steadyprogressandby1600reachedunprecedentedlevels,economic progresswasbeingachievedalongabroadfront.Inresponsetoarising demandforbasicfoodstuffsgeneratedbydemographicgrowthand manifestingitselfinrisingfarmprices,agreatdealoflandwasreclaimedfrom waste,swamporforestthroughoutthepeninsula,andinsomeareas,notably intheVeneto,inPiedmontandintheTuscanMaremma,reclamationentailed large-scaleinvestmentsindrainageorirrigation.2InApulia,traditionallya

Verona 1986, pp. 165-76 and 192-9; Salvatore Ciriacono, Acqua e agricoltura: Venezia, l'Olanda e la bonifica europea in eta modema, Franco Angeli, Milan 1994, pp. 89-113; and Enrico Stumpo, Finanza e Stato modemo net Piemonte del Seicento, Istituto Storico Italiano, Rome 1979, p. 251.