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    Sawchuk, Lawrence A. Tripp, Lianne Damouras, Sotirios and DeBono, Mark 2013. Situating mortality: Quantifying crisis points and periods of stability. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Vol. 152, Issue. 4, p. 459.

    Pfister, Christian 2006. Climatic Extremes, Recurrent Crises and Witch Hunts: Strategies of European Societies in Coping with Exogenous Shocks in the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries. The Medieval History Journal, Vol. 10, Issue. 1-2, p. 33.

    Landers, John 2005. The Destructiveness of Pre-Industrial Warfare: Political and Technological Determinants. Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42, Issue. 4, p. 455.

    VASEY, DANIEL E. 1996. population regulation, ecology, and political economy in preindustrial Iceland. American Ethnologist, Vol. 23, Issue. 2, p. 366.

    Fogel, Robert W. 1994. El crecimiento económico, la teoría de la población y la fisiología: La influencia de los procesos a largo plazo en la elaboración de la política económica. Revista de Historia Económica / Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History, Vol. 12, Issue. 03, p. 719.

    Pitk�nen, Kari J. and Mielke, James H. 1993. Age and sex differentials in mortality during two nineteenth century population crises. European Journal of Population, Vol. 9, Issue. 1, p. 1.

    Fogel, Robert William 1993. New Sources and New Techniques for the Study of Secular Trends in Nutritional Status, Health, Mortality, and the Process of Aging. Historical Methods: A Journal of Quantitative and Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 26, Issue. 1, p. 5.

  • Print publication year: 1989
  • Online publication date: June 2011

5 - Demographic crises and subsistence crises in France, 1650-1725


In his essay, ‘Grain prices and subsistence crises in England and France, 1590-1740’, Appleby

attempts to explain why England had no food crises from 1650 to 1725, a period when France was unusually vulnerable to famines. During this time, oat and barley prices in England did not always increase following a failure of the wheat crop. In France, however, all grain rose in price simultaneously, leaving the poor with no affordable substitute grain when the wheat and rye harvests failed.

He argues

that in those regions where both winter and spring grains were grown – that is, northern France and most of England – a symmetrical price structure, in which prices of all grains increased significantly at the same time, and famine went hand in hand.

Appleby's arguments are impressive and the graphs accompanying his article show clearly that while the market price of spring grains at Norwich and Reading in the 1690s rose much less than the price of winter wheat, at Pontoise (thirty kilometers from Paris) the market prices of all grains remained closely correlated during the crises of 1661, 1693, 1709, and 1740.

We have absolutely no intention of challenging Appleby's general thesis. Rather, in this chapter we propose to examine whether there were any significant differences between France and England in their experience of major mortality crises between 1650 and 1725, and whether the correlation between mortality crises and high prices in France was absolutely clear, as supporters of the ‘subsistence crisis’ theory claim was the case.

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Famine, Disease and the Social Order in Early Modern Society
  • Online ISBN: 9780511599637
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