Calamities and the Economy in Renaissance Italy: The Grand by Guido Alfani (auth.)

By Guido Alfani (auth.)

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First, there was the growing economic-demographic competition of Turin (transformed in 1560 into the capital of the House of Savoy), which had a negative effect on Ivrea just as it did on the rest of Piedmont (Levi, 1985), and second, there was the reinforcement of the Mont Cenis Pass, diverting part of the trade with France that had passed through Ivrea and the Aosta Valley since Roman times (Alfani, 2010d). 41 To a certain extent Ivrea’s misfortunes were an opportunity for Biella, which was able to consolidate its own role as a manufacturing centre of textiles, a specialization that it retains today and of which no trace at all remains in Ivrea.

Of the 5000 inhabitants present before the beginning of the war (already in 1377, the population was estimated at 5300, making Ivrea one of the most populated centres in Piedmont) in 1571, just 3031 remained (Beloch, 1994: 578). 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).

Guicciardini, 1561: 578–89, our translation) A few years previously, the condottiere Orso Orsini had warned that badly paid troops ‘always go vagabonding’ and ‘they wait and see how they might steal some wagons of their allies or commit rascally and miserable acts’ (Orso Orsini, Governo et exercitio della militia, 1476, cit. in Settia, 2002: 25, our translation). It is hardly surprising, therefore, if the difficulties met by the Spanish Crown in procuring supplies and money for the army fighting in the campaign in southern Italy encouraged its troops to procure ‘on the field’ both the resources that it needed for its war requirements and its pay.

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