Re: economic and demographic statistics in 14th century

Wed, 01 Jan 1997 18:11:52 +1100
Bruce R. McFarling (

On Fri, 27 Dec 1996 U17043@UICVM.UIC.EDU wrote:

> Dear Bruce R. McFarling,
> You ask such good questions that I fear that, whilst there are lots of
> statistics, some of them are quite bizarre or opaque as to what they might
> actually mean. For instance, when the Mongol Yuan regime introduced
> capitation tax, hitherto collected by them exclusively in North China,
> to South China as well, to alleviate embarassing cashflow problems, the
> population reported by the census of 1290 fell by 30 million from the
> previous combined totals for North and South China, about 100 million,
> without considering probable natural increase to a minimum of 115 million.
> Central Place Theory," which you rightly emphasize, is the basis for G.
> William Skinner's introduction of the construct of "Macroregions" into
> the study of Chinese market hierarchies. See his three major theoretical
> articles in George William Skinner (Ed.), The City in Late Traditional
> China, Stanford, 1977. This applies best to the Qing period (1644-1912),
> when population and commercial patterns were assuming the form in which
> the Europeans found them. Before that, there are Very Serious Problems.
> Specifically, discontinuities due to disease and warfare.
> ...

Thanks for the citation.

In E.A.J. Johnson's argument, the critical feature seems to be
the *extensive* high-frequency relationships between rural and urban
producers, and given the dispersion of rural producers, that implies
a large number of market towns filling the bottom levels of the urban
hierarchy. Looking for places that have that type of central place
hierarchy, we find, for example, portions of peninsular West Asia, in
North America the U.S. "Northeast" heading into the "middle west", in
South America Sao Paolo, in East Asia much of Japan (the Tokugawa
Shogun's and their castle towns, etc.).

Filling in this synchronic list, China would seem to be an
interesting case for either supporting or undermining Johnson's thesis.
Were China's 'moving market' market town hierarchies prevalent before the
Bubonic Plagues? Were they perhaps a response of traders in fixed-market
market town systems to demographic declines? Or did they emerge well
after this whole period? And have the communes in the post WW-II period
had the effect of re-establishing fixed market towns and/or filling in
the lower levels of the market town hierarhcy? And, importantly, if either,
where, and is there a spatial coincidence between this (these) effect(s)
and more recent urban economic growth?


Bruce R. McFarling, Newcastle, NSW