THE LIMITS OF A PEASANT ECONOMY
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THE LIMITS OF A PEASANT ECONOMY book
A major challenge facing the Spanish farmer was that of the sheer lack of water for cultivation. ‘If we were only to bleed the rivers,’ wrote the great Jesuit philosopherhistorian Mariana in 1598, ‘we would not only get more grain but have a healthier countryside.’ Considerable technical ingenuity was, in fact, devoted to this problem. The great dam at Tibi was built between 1580 and 1594, fertilising the dry lands of Alicante. Spanning a gorge 78 metres wide, to a height of 45 metres, it was surely the most impressive engineering feat of its kind in pre-industrial Europe-‘really worthy to rank with the works of the Romans for its grandiose and ingenious construction’, wrote Escolano shortly after it was completed. But it never actually delivered as much water as was hoped, and other projects-like the proposal of Toledo in the Cortes of 1583-5 to tap the River Tagus-bore even less fruit.