By Guido Alfani (auth.)
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Extra info for Calamities and the Economy in Renaissance Italy: The Grand Tour of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse
Now it is worth giving at least one example of the possible long-term effects that the destruction suffered during a siege or a sack could have on urban economies. Our case is Ivrea, a small town in the north-west of Piedmont, whose population from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries fluctuated between 3000 and 5000 people (Alfani, 2010d). This important stronghold, which controlled access to the Aosta Valley and thus to the Alpine passes with Switzerland and France, was spared in the first part of the conflict (1494–1529), but when hostilities broke out once more, it had the singular misfortune of being attacked three times by French troops, in 1535, 1544 and 1554, and on the last two occasions was also besieged.
I tell you that the list of the useless mouths amounted to 4,400 or more, and of all the wretchedness and devastation I have seen, I have never seen anything like it, nor do I hope to ever see it again. Masters had to abandon servants who had been with them for many a year, mistresses their maids, and a 24 Calamities and the Economy in Renaissance Italy world of poor people who had nothing but their manual work to live on; and the desolation and laments lasted for three days. These poor folk went out to meet the enemy, who pushed them back towards the city, and all the enemy camp were armed day and night […] they drove them back right up to the walls, so that we would allow them back in, in order that the little bread left would be eaten more rapidly, and to see whether the city would rebel out of pity for their servants and maids but [the city] did nothing, and this lasted for eight days.
The more reliable sources available for the beginning of the seventeenth century show only partial recovery in the fifty years following the return to the government of the Savoy. The level of 4400 to 4500 inhabitants, reached once more at the beginning of the seventeenth century,38 would once again be lost with the plague of 1630, and recovered only at the end of the century (Alfani, 2010d). 39 From a macro-demographic point of view, this is basically correct (Livi Bacci, 1978; Alfani and Gourdon, forthcoming) and a War 31 rapid recovery was the common experience also in sixteenth-century Italy.