At the cradle of the transport revolution? Paved roads, traffic flows and economic development in eighteenth-century Brabant.
The old debate on the origins of the 'transport revolution' initially focused heavily upon nineteenth-century railroad and canal constructions, (1) but during the past two decades attention has shifted towards earlier developments in road transport. (2) In the case of England especially, productivity gains through infrastructural improvements, organisational progress, horse breeding schedules, transport company organization and similar factors have been mapped carefully. In addition, several authors have speculated about the impact road transport exerted upon economic development. A variety of methodologies have been used to assess the impact of changing road transport infrastructures and facilities. Building on that rich historiography this article will examine the interrelationship between road improvements and economic development in a core region of eighteenth-century southern Netherlands.
The Brabant region is a laboratory par excellence to investigate the relationships between pre-industrial economic growth and transport development. First and foremost, eighteenth century Brabant functioned as the economic and urbanised heart of the southern Netherlands. It was the area to which most traffic gravitated. In addition, there were major transport infrastructure improvements in the region during the age of Enlightenment. (3) The construction of the canal between Leuven and the Rupel, and the improved navigability of a number of internal rivers, were among the major impulses to improving inland navigation during the Age of Enlightenment, (4) but it is the development of the roads network that proved particularly spectacular. (5) Before 1704 paved roads in Brabant were limited to a few unconnected stretches of road near Brussels and Antwerp. These only served local interests. It was impossible to make the journey from one city to another without travelling along some sections of dirt track that were barely passable for several months of the year. From the early eighteenth century onwards, however, the Estates of Brabant embarked upon an ambitious road-building program. At first this program--mostly for military and political considerations--aimed to connect the large towns into an integrated network of paved roads. Later, several local authorities took the initiative in constructing paved roads, although the entire infrastructure policy was enhanced and supervised by higher powers. As a result, by about 1780 all the important towns of Brabant and most of the smaller centres were part of a modern transport network of paved and well-drained roads (Figure 1). In quantitative terms, the development of this roads network was substantial: whereas there were barely 94 km of paved roads in Brabant before 1704, by 1793 the total length exceeded 500 km.
The growth of modern roads had important consequences for transport costs and the integration of the Brabantine economy. Paved road construction made it possible to use fewer horses and lighter vehicles to transport heavier loads (sometimes even at greater speed) over longer distances. (6) Whereas it took a whole day and four horses to ride from Brussels to Terhulpen before the construction of the paved roads, the same journey could be completed afterwards in little more than three hours with just three horses. (7) The immediate importance of the saving of horses must not be underestimated, since fodder costs easily amounted to half the total transport costs. (8) Thus, the construction and fairly good maintenance of paved roads helped to bring about significant savings in costs in the Brabant transport sector. As a result, historians and contemporaries alike praised these eighteenth century achievements.
Speculating about the benefits of infrastructural improvements is different from calculating them precisely. On the basis of new quantitative evidence, for instance, some economic historians recently even argued that 18th-century Brabantine turnpikes contributed little to commodity market integration. (9) Indeed, Buyst, Dercon and Van Campenhout observed that the construction of the paved roads did not result in a lowering of transaction costs, and did not contribute significantly to marginal market integration. (10) The new roads facilitated faster arbitrage between different centres, but they did so without actually contributing to a lowering of transaction costs. Indeed, the existing toll structure discouraged professional inter-urban bulk trade. Given the preferential tax tariffs granted to farmers (see below) it is questionable whether the turnpike tolls hindered market-oriented production in much the same way, however. (11) The question certainly needs to be raised whether or not the link between market integration and market oriented production can be left undisputed under all circumstances. After all, the Brabantine markets were already fairly well integrated before the eighteenth century. (12) Moreover, transport improvements most probably impacted differently on different sectors of the economy. Time savings, increased speed, and reliability also account for productivity increases and impacted differently according to the specificity of the transport service.
In tackling this debate it is possible to turn away from classical methods of agricultural price analysis. It is not yet possible to assess productivity changes of transport improvements in a quantitative way, (13) but it is possible to study the relationship between economy and road infrastructure by focusing on the output of the Brabantine overland transport sector and its relationship with economic development in general. Moreover, by studying transport volumes it is possible to suggest that improvements to road infrastructure impacted significantly on the quality and organisation of road transport, and as a result, increased transport volumes and influenced economic development. (14)
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Turnpike tolls and the measurement of transport volumes
Traffic statistics for the eighteenth century are not of a modern kind. To a certain extent, however, the revenue figures for turnpike tolls can fill the gap. (15) At the core of this article is a database of turnpike revenues taken from from tens of turnpikes across the duchy of Brabant in the eighteenth century. These data have been used to estimate the evolution of transport volumes. (16)
The capital needed to building of paved roads in Brabant was raised mostly through the sale of rents. The annuities and other costs related to the exploitation of these roads were financed from the revenues from turnpike tolls. Turnpikes were placed at regular intervals of about five kilometres: those passing by with cattle, a horse, a cart or wagon had to pay a toll. And toll payments were always proportional to the total number of horses harnessed to wagons. Generally speaking, therefore, road users were taxed indirectly according to the weight of the load or the speed they envisaged to bridge distances, hence to the wear and tear they caused to the road surface. The roads were constructed on the initiative of different authorities (private entrepreneurs, municipalities, provincial estates), but Brabantine road ordinances were always issued by the central authorities. Hence the surprising homogeneity in the road technologies, as well as in the financial settlements and the tax tariff structures that were in vigour. (17) The standard tariff was one styver per horse and per toll, but normally the wagon had to be paid for as well (see for example Table 1). If a vehicle was very heavily laden then a double toll was payable. (18) Sometimes there were two turnpikes for every five kilometres, and sometimes just one turnpike was placed every ten kilometres. Half and double tolls applied pro rata. Turnpike taxes were not looked upon as traditional tolls and exemptions were limited. However, practically all the paved roads applied special and similar concessions to farmers. When the farmers used the roads to fertilise and work in their fields or to gather in the harvest, then they were exempted from payment. If they took a load to market then they were usually allowed a discount of one styver. Unlike other road users, they were exempt from the standard payment of 1 styver for the vehicle. If they used the road for their own purposes and did not carry any load they were often completely exempted. These measures were originally intended to compensate villagers who had assisted in the construction of the roads. In the long run these reductions were more generally applied, probably because of the unfavourable relationship between the weight and the value of agricultural loads.
It is obvious that the eighteenth-century road builders strove to balance their budget when they set tolls. In accordance with the principle that the user pays it was the number of horses (and thus chiefly the weight or speed of the transport service) that was taxed. As a result, turnpike taxes represented a very significant extra cost, particularly for the transport of heavy bulk goods. On the route between Charleroi and Brussels, for example, the duties that were levied on the coal soon amounted to half the value of the load. (19) Passenger transport was relatively heavily taxed if more horses were harnessed so as achieve higher speeds. On the coach service between Brussels and Paris, for example, no less than 12,3 per cent of user cost was due to the turnpike tolls in Brabant and Henegouwen. (20)
Turnpike taxes were seldom collected by the road authorities directly. Instead, they were usually farmed out on an annual or three-annual basis. Accordingly, the data collected from dozens of archival sources do not reflect the actual income (road traffic) but rather the net expected future income based on experience and after deduction of the operating fee and the margin of profit which the tax-farmer anticipated reserving for himself. Hence, farmed-out turnpike taxes can only reflect major trends in road transport volumes.
In theory, discounts on the farm price agreed upon were not allowed, but in practice exceptions were often made. This pragmatic and flexible attitude from the road owners side, could well have stimulated aspiring tax-farmers to take greater risks and offer sharper prices when bidding for a turnpike toll. A more fundamental problem, however, is that all farmed out taxes are sensitive to economies of scale. In principle, lease values reflect toll revenues minus the collection costs and the profits for the toll collector. It is extremely unlikely that the share of the profit and operating margins would have remained constant relative to the total revenues from the turnpike. In other words, the percentage of hidden traffic probably was not stable at all. Indeed, while operational costs are very unlikely to have fluctuated, the same is far from true for the margins of profit. As long as there was enough competition between the would-be tax-farmers, the advantages of scale lent more elasticity to the rents they offered. Especially in a growing economy, lease prices do rise more steeply than the economic phenomenon on which they are established. The reverse happens in a contracting phase.
If turnpike lessees also had an inn at their disposal they could supplement expected road traffic revenue with additional income from stabling horses, accommodating travellers, serving beer or brandy, and engaging in other activities connected with running a hostelry. (21) The influence of these subsidiary activities on lessee income and rent is unclear. Yet, it can be assumed that local traffic made relatively little use of hostelry services. The extra income was probably considerably higher on routes with a significant amount of long-distance traffic between towns and between different regions. Because turnpikes close to towns had to compete with inns and hostelries on the periphery of the town, these supplementary incomes give relatively more weight to toll houses located further from the town. Of course, supplementary incomes made the leases susceptible to economies of scale. Finally, it was indeed the local, often agrarian-based traffic which enjoyed considerable discounts amounting to half or even more of the standard tariff. In every respect, therefore, toll statistics can lead to an overestimate of interurban and interregional traffic. Agricultural activities, on the other hand, are less well represented. In other words, the farmed-out turnpike taxes cannot be taken at face value. They do not give an exact measure of the flow of traffic along the paved roads.
Traffic estimates are complicated further by the consideration that horses are living animals. Variations in gradient could significantly influence the number of horses needed for transportation. On sloping grounds disproportionately more energy is needed to move horses and carts. It is important in this respect to observe that south Brabant is hillier than the north of the region. In order to achieve the same cargo-kilometre movement more horses would have to be used on the road from Leuven to Namurs, for example, than on the road from Mortsel to Antwerp. In this way the absolute revenues from the turnpike taxes give more weight to transport over hilly routes such as those south of a Brussels-Leuven line.
In spite of all the data shortcomings, it seems safe to recall the importance and value of the tax series assembled for this research. The tolls that had to be paid are an Ancien Regime-equivalent of the present-day cargo-kilometre concept. Indeed, the turnpike-tax statistics gathered from multiple archive records can be aggregated fairly easily thanks to the uniform tax structure. As a result, the database relates to a mass phenomenon. In the middle of the 1780s, for instance, the taxes from paved roads mounted to more than 140,000 guilders. This is the equivalent of fourteen million horse-kilometres, enough to travel about 333 times round the world with a horse.
Transport and economic growth
It is striking how stable Brabantine road transport volumes remained during the first half of the eighteenth century (Figure 2). In contrast to what one might expect, there was no spectacular traffic growth in the first decades after the completion of some major roads. The second decade of the eighteenth century was marked by a strong expansion, but this growth may reflect a catching up from the economic downturn of the early eighteenth century, as well as a response to the availability of new roads. Thereafter, transport volumes hovered around the same level from the end of the War of the Spanish Succession until about 1760. In the regions of Antwerp and Brussels (which were the first to have significant stretches of paved roads) transport volumes even dropped after the 1720s (Figure 4). The scale of social and economic disruption at the time of the War of the Austrian Succession and during the French occupation of the southern Low Countries was reflected in the revenues for the years 1747 and 1748 when traffic along the paved roads almost halved. Afterwards, the steep rise in road transport between 1765 and 1785 reflects the favourable economic conditions of the second half of the century. This increase corresponds to the positive picture that is usually given of the buoyant economic climate after 1748. Yet the data here suggest that it was only from about 1760 onwards that traffic grew almost continuously, reaching a peak in about 1786. In this period transport expanded strongly in the region round Brussels and Leuven in particular. Change was rather limited in the vicinity of Antwerp.
Assessing the transportation volumes thoroughly involves comparing road volume statistics to population and urbanisation figures (Table 2). (22) These may be taken as proxies for the (disparities in) economic growth in eighteenth-century Brabant. Seen from this perspective, road transport seems to have made a notable contribution to economic development throughout the eighteenth century. Compared to the size of the urban population (which might function as a rough proxy for the volume of market exchanges in the economy) road transport made a significant contribution as early as the first half of the eighteenth century. Even though urban economies suffered from de-industrialisation and lost demographic importance, transport volumes managed to grow. During the second half of the century, per capita growth of road transport volumes almost doubled. This time as well per capita transport growth was considerably larger than per capita growth of urban population.
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In order to interpret the data more accurately, both the economies at large and the impact of road improvements on transportation volumes need to be assessed. The two halves of the eighteenth century, representing well defined phases of urban and economic development, are dealt with separately.
Transport paradox: 1709-1755
Bearing in mind the extent of the economic crisis and the amount of de-urbanisation that hit Brabant in the first half of the eighteenth century, (23) the relatively strong performance of the road tolls at that time is quite remarkable. A number of factors help to explain this achievement. In the first place our compound index began in 1711, after the regulations of 1710 relating to paved roads issued by the States of Brabant had come into force. The years preceding 1710 were decidedly not years of boom and economic stability. Part of the growth in road transport between 1710 and 1720 should perhaps be interpreted as nothing more than recovering lost economic ground. Moreover, the growth of road transport in the period 1711-20 was also sustained by an intermodal switch at the expense of the internal shipping. In that respect, indeed, the growth recorded was compositional rather than structural, reflecting a transfer of one sector (water) to another (road) with higher productivity levels. Indeed, in spite of the nominal price advantage river navigation still held, part of the water traffic was transferred to the newly-constructed paved roads. In 1732, for instance, the twelve workmen of the 'Platte Stegel' in the port of Antwerp complained that beer was increasingly carried by road whereas previously the waterways had been used. (24) The construction of the Mechelen-Leuven paved road in the 1730s, to give another example, led to a serious reduction of shipping ('vernietinge van de schipvaart') on the Dijle, a competing river. (25)
After the initial decades traffic levels stabilised till about mid-century. Yet, an unsuspected dynamic was hidden behind this relative stability. In order to gain a rough insight into the composing components of the total road transport volumes, a close comparison between different turnpikes along some major Brabant roads was made. The turnpikes closer to the towns, we argue, normally brought in more than the toll houses further away. The latter undoubtedly enjoyed more extra incomes from subsidiaries related to providing inn keeping services. Moreover, as documented above, inter-urban traffic was taxed relatively heavy. Yet, the closer to the town, the more important transport volumes were as a result of the growing proportion of town-countryside related traffic. By comparing the evolution of both categories of turnpikes a rough estimation could be made about the relative importance of town-countryside versus inter-urban traffic on eighteenth-century Brabant roads. (26) Figure 3 is revealing. It is, indeed, especially the interurban traffic which proved to be the most dynamic during the first half of the century.
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How then can this strong growth of inter-urban traffic be explained in a time period in which the urban system in itself suffered from a strong de-urbanisation? First and foremost, the classic image of de-urbanisation assessed through population figures, may well have had a misleading effect. The degeneration of the towns of Brabant was primarily the result of the de-industrialisation of its largest centres and the demographic drain that it brought with it. But, while especially the labour intensive textile sectors were severely hit, it is not at all clear whether the per-capita income in these places, and especially the transport-sensitive industries and services also dropped. (27)
Furthermore, with the expansion of the network of paved roads, the most 'important' parts of which were completed early in the century, the generalised costs of transportation fell and the number of transport services rose. (28) The granting of a license and the construction of a new stretch of road was very often tied to the exploitation of a stage coach service. Road transport productivity gains, we argue, played a crucial role in the expansion of interurban transport. This will be exemplified on the basis of the regulations of passenger transport services by wheeled vehicle carriers between the towns of Antwerp, Lier and Mechelen, in the northern part of Brabant. Needless to stress, inter-urban passenger transport is a small segment of the transport market only: the transport of people and small merchandises. We can, however, argue that these services, simply because of their specific, income-elastic and valuable nature, were particularly sensitive to improvements in the quality of the transport infrastructure.
There is no doubt, that a conspicuous improvement brought about by the new roads was the amount of time won as a result of the better surfaces and straighter roads. In a 1613 regulation for the carrier service between Mechelen and Antwerp the departure time was still left to the discretion of a supervisor (Table 3). In 1671 it was decided that some of the early carriers would leave at 7.00 a.m. in order to reach Mechelen, a distance of some 27 kilometres, before noon. In 1707, after the completion of the paved road between Antwerp and Mechelen, the Antwerp magistrates issued a new injunction: the timetable for all departures was laid down in detail. Though the road was paved already halfway when the earlier regulations applied, the travelling time needed to complete the entire route after paving was reduced by 1.5 hours, a one-third time saving. In between Antwerp and Lier, the paving of the 13 km section between the Oude God turnpike at Mortsel and the Lier town gates led to a reduction of 30 minutes travelling time (Table 4).
As journey times were reduced the need was felt for a punctual, strictly-followed timetable. In this respect, apparently the eighteenth-century consciousness of 'time is money' was also enhanced by transport improvements. (29) The increased awareness of time and the zeal for regulation so characteristic of the Age of Enlightenment were illustrated in the fines that could be imposed on the carriers if they did not depart on time, lost time unnecessarily during the journey or arrived too late. Indeed, increasingly, efforts were made to avoid wasting time during the loading, unloading and delivery of the goods. (30) Although this evidence is of a normative nature primarily, the changing regulation shows there was complete awareness of the importance of a commercial and customer-oriented approach. On Fridays--market-day--an extra early wagon was put on between Lier and Antwerp, for the convenience and comfort of all the passengers and merchants ('tot commoditeyt ende gerieff van alle de passagiers ende Cooplieden'). A whole range of provisions was introduced to ensure quality and comfort: tobacco-smoking was forbidden inside the carriages and baskets, valises and merchandise had to be protected from damage or rain. In addition, discourtesy to the passengers was strictly forbidden. (31)
Another major improvement was of an organisational nature, and was connected with the reliability of the transport services. Eighteenth-century road improvements meant that variations in reliability caused by weather and the seasons largely disappeared. (32) In the interurban passenger traffic between Antwerp, Mechelen and Lier the winter timetable was considerably improved. During the winter months in the seventeenth century the afternoon stage coach between Antwerp and Lier had to leave no later than 1.00 p.m. to ensure it would reach its destination on time. During the months of November, December and January in the eighteenth century the latest time of departure was extended by one hour to 2.00 p.m. (33) Thanks to this improved reliability seasonal fare differentials could be eliminated (Table 5). This is important a finding since it points towards the infrastructure as an explanatory variable for improved road transport productivity. Thus, improved roads allowed for an organisational progress in coach services. This progress, we argue, is exemplary for the productivity gains at large attained by the new paved roads. After all, in spite of the rising horse fodder costs, transportation fares in this segmented of the market stopped to rise. (34)
Eighteenth-century paved roads not only allowed for considerable horse savings, but also contributed to a substantial fall in the generalised costs of transportation. The productivity gains attained had favourable repercussions on interurban traffic and probably on the entire postal and communications sector as well. In conclusion, the strong growth of the interurban road traffic recorded on the major Brabant roads, seems to be the most visible effect of the eighteenth-century 'road construction program'.
At the other side of the balance sheet, the growth of the interurban passenger and cargo traffic was compensated in a negative sense by the fading attraction of the urban agricultural markets. The rather stable transport volume statistics indeed do hide shrinking town-countryside transports (Figure 3). Obviously enough, with the depopulation of the Brabant towns the demand for the provisioning of the urban markets fell as well. Market-oriented agriculture was discouraged by the downward trend of agricultural prices and the depopulation of the urban markets. The savings in costs that farmers and grain dealers could gain thanks to the construction of paved roads went nowhere near compensating for the worsening market conditions.
'Urbanisation from below' and transport growth, 1755-1784
During the second half of the eighteenth century, the growth of the urban population went hand-in-glove with transport growth. Yet even though transport expansion surpassed demographic growth everywhere, growth was distributed unevenly (Table 6). Comparing traffic development by sub-region with the demographic development of the Brabant towns, some remarkable parallels are apparent. In the sub-region of Antwerp-Mechelen the urban population grew moderately, and so did the increase in traffic volumes. By contrast, road transport in the environs of Brussels and Leuven grew very fast. The urban economies of both areas performed remarkably well. The growth in the Brussels region should be stressed: by 1755 this area largely surpassed all the other regions as far as the importance of its absolute volumes of traffic was concerned.
Find an explanation for these divergent developments is a complex matter. In the first place the textile industry, which after 1748 was one of the strongest growing sectors and was over-represented in the Antwerp-Mechelen region, did not provide a strong stimulus to road traffic. (35) Although the availability of a modern road network was a crucial in creating a homogeneous internal market for consumption goods, the textile sector contributed little to traffic volumes. (36) Nor did any strong demand for road transport services occur indirectly: there was little increase in population and purchasing power in these centres of industrial growth. In that respect, weak transport growth in the Antwerp area is easy to explain. Social historians who have studied the textile industry have pointed out the unfavourable social conditions in which the textile proletariat tried to make a living. (37) In the Antwerp textile sector, for example, wages were extremely low. The absence of any important social welfare effects resulting from industrial growth after 1748 had economic disadvantages: it eroded any substantial potential contribution from these sectors to urban growth. (38)
At the same time the centre of gravity of (international) trade in Brabant moved from Antwerp to Leuven and Brussels. (39) At the end of the eighteenth century the percentage of the male population occupied in trade was higher in Brussels and Leuven than it was in Antwerp and Mechelen. After the completion of the modern canal between Leuven and the Rupel, Leuven became an important link for the transit trade through the Austrian Low Countries. (40) Brussels, on the other hand, enjoyed the advantage of being the capital; a lot of lobbying occurred in connection with customs administration. (41) Owing to the network of paved roads, Brussels was more than just a conduit for flows of transport. The city also functioned as a hinge in regional trade with the expanding Walloon economy. (42) Thousands of wagons loaded--often overloaded--with coal departed from Mons and Charleroi for the capital (Figure 5). (43) The cheap cargo space for return loads and the absence of urban competitors in the Hainaut region made Brussels the most suitable city to become the central place for this part of the country.
A number of studies show that Brabant's economic prosperity during the second half of the eighteenth century was borne by the favourable developments in the agricultural sector. Relative price shifts, the growth of market-oriented production and the incomes from swelling capitals were, after all, a stimulus for the service sector in the Brabant economy. (44) Moreover, it is a well established fact that the region turned from a net importer of grain in the second half of the seventeenth century into an exporter of grain one hundred years later. (45) The modest urban growth resulting from agrarian growth can thus best be typified as 'urbanisation from below'. (46) This pattern, however, was unequally spread across the territory of Brabant. A detailed analysis of the road traffic on the paved roads reveals that traffic between town and countryside was far heavier round Leuven and Brussels than in the vicinity of Antwerp.
The case of Leuven, the most important grain market of Brabant, with an agrarian hinterland stretching far into the southern part of Brabant, is relevant in this respect. The importance of the paved road from Leuven to Namen in the expansion of the Leuven grain market needs special mention. If the chaussee de Namur, the paved road from Leuven to Namen, was really important, transportation volumes should have expanded after the completion of the road. Figure 7 depicts the indexed total traffic development on this major transportation axis.
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Detailed analysis of the absolute differences of the taxes collected between different barriers provide an estimate of the nature of traffic using the Leuven-Namen route. The different receipts between the barriers located close to the town and the more remote ones can only be understood as the minimum share that has to be explained by rural traffic flows. On the paved road from Leuven to Namen, the difference in tax revenue between the barrier of Heverlee (near Leuven) and the barrier located close to the periphery of the Leuven hinterland, grew by 44 per cent between 1770 and 1784. The close correspondence with the development of the municipal tax on the Leuven grain market is striking. Here, without doubt, agriculture played a major role in the strongly growing road transportation volumes (Figure 8).
Nevertheless, it was only after the completion of the canal between Leuven and the Rupel, a canal giving access to the important Dutch staple market, that road volumes started to expand. The paved road was a welcome but by no means decisive incentive for Walloon farmers to start selling their agricultural surplus on the Leuven market. Thanks to the canal, however, the Leuven grain market grew considerably and the grain trade could easily be integrated into the international grain market. (47) As for Leuven, the growing export facilities to the Amsterdam staple market clearly contributed to a lowering of transaction costs, partly because of the increased economies of scale, such as the famous facilite de la vente on the urban market. It is striking in this respect that the new paved road did not succeed in attracting produce in the neighbourhood of Leuven which was already well-integrated and market-oriented. By contrast, it was the agriculture of Walloon Brabant which was increasingly turning to market production. Between Hamme and Heverlee, in the proximity of Leuven where town-countryside exchange was dense, growth gains were small. Between Hamme and Incourt (towards the periphery of the agricultural hinterland), on the other hand, growth was systematic and relatively-speaking impressive (Figure 9).
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The Leuven evidence could easily be multiplied for the city of Brussels. In the course of the eighteenth century, for instance, Brussels grain merchants increased their exports. In doing so they also sold grain which was produced and bought outside the immediate hinterland of Brussels. (48)
In sum, during the second half of the eighteenth century, both intercity as well as town-countryside transportation expanded vigorously, but this time they did so on an equal footing (Figure 3). Around Brussels and Leuven the growth of agricultural traffic contributed substantially to the general increase of barrier payments. Only on the vigorously expanding axis of transit trade (via Leuven, Tienen and Liege) did long distance trade grow faster. Yet, this does not necessarily imply that the 'hidden' agricultural traffic was unimportant. (49) In spite of its proximity to the competing market of Leuven, the small town of Tienen, for instance, was a very important agricultural market itself (Table 4). The revenue of the grain trade tax along this axis at the Tienen citygate in Leuven soared during the 1870s and 1880s. (50)
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With rising grain prices, growing urban populations and increasing international marketing facilities of grain surpluses, there was a strong incentive for market-oriented agricultural production. (51) By the end of the eighteenth century, overland transport was challenged by rising horse feeding costs. (52) While, at that moment in time, the relative cost of transportation may have been falling for agricultural producers, it was rising for others. (53)
In his voluminous masterpiece on the provisioning of Paris in the eighteenth century, Steven Kaplan observed that transportation was slow and costly, but made some progress in the age of Enlightenment. The exact change, he noted, had still to be measured. (54)
As far as Brabant is concerned, we are still far from a calculated appreciation of the impact of eighteenth-century paved roads on economic growth. (55) But, a unique series of homogeneous turnpike receipts makes it possible to assess the impact of road improvements upon traffic volumes carried on these new paved roads. Throughout the entire eighteenth century, the growth of transport volumes exceeded the economic and urban growth in Brabant. Evidently the eighteenth-century road transport sector played an important role in the economic development of the region.
At least part of this growth can be ascribed to transport infrastructure and organisational changes. In the first half of the eighteenth century, the commercial advantage that the paved roads acquired over the slower and traditionally organised water transport gave the interurban traffic and passenger transport an entirely new elan. In doing so it contributed to transport volume growth despite the urban crisis at that time. Indeed, road improvements contributed to a considerable fall in the generalised transport costs. Thanks to the turnpike roads, seasonal price and time differentials were reduced. Transport service reliability improved considerably. Cost reductions and improvements to organisational efficiency created the framework necessary for the further integration of the economy of Brabant and enhanced inter-urban commodity and passenger transportation. Conversely, town-countryside traffic contracted in the first half of the eighteenth century. The benefits of faster and paved roads on agricultural development were clearly outweighed by the shrinking agricultural urban markets.
During the second half of the century both interurban and local (agriculture-based) traffic increased, but this time development was differentiated geographically. The central and southern part of Brabant showed vigorous transport growth. Due to the lack of any alternative by water the turnpikes in the south of the region were a sine qua non for the rapid economic growth taking place in the areas round the coalfields of Charleroi and Mons. Also, without the paved roads the international trade and industrial policies of the Austrian government would have become a dead letter. Brussels and Leuven worked themselves to the fore as important trading cities.
Improvements to the infrastructure also served the agricultural sector, though construction of a paved road seldom triggered important productivity gains in the immediate hinterlands of cities. The real breakthrough of agriculture-based traffic did not come until the end of the eighteenth century when rising agricultural prices, falling relative transport prices and improving urban economies once again made market-oriented production an attractive business.
I would like to thank Dr Michael Serruijs for his comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript and Dr Gerrit Verhoeven for drawing the maps.
University of Antwerp
(1) S. Pollard, Peaceful Conquest. The Industrialization of Europe 1760-1970 (Oxford, 1981), pp. 87-94. For Belgium consult: G. Dejongh & Y Segers, 'Een kleine natie in mutatie. De economische ontwikkeling van de Zuidelijke Nederlanden/Belgie in de eeuw 1750-1850', Tijdschrift voor Geschiedenis, 114 (2001), 171-94; B. Van Der Herten, Belgie onder stoom: transport en communicatie tijdens de 19de eeuw (Leuven, 2004).
(2) The importance of road transport for the nineteenth century process is also attested by, among many others, R. Price, The Modernization of Rural France. Communication networks and agricultural market structures in nineteenth-century France (New York, 1983), p. 36; R. Szostak, The role of Transportation in the Industrial Revolution. A Comparison of England and France (Montreal, 1991), p. 52; B. Van Der Herten, 'In de schaduw van de waterwegen en spoorwegen. De economische prestatie van het wegtransport in Belgie 1830-1866', Het tijdschrift van het Gemeentekrediet, 49 (1995), pp. 64-65; A. Belpaire, Notice sur les cartes du mouvement des transports en Belgique (Brussels, 1847), p. 56.
(3) See L. Genicot, 'Etudes sur la construction des routes en Belgique', Bulletin de I'lnstitut des recherches Economiques et Sociales, 10 (1939), pp. 421-51 & 12 (1946), pp. 495-559; L. Genicot, Histoire des routes beiges depuis 1704 (Bruxelles, 1948); E. Lejour, Creation de chausses dans l'ancien Brabant sous le re de (1740-1780) (Bruxelles, 1925); E. Lejour, 'Les routes brabangonnes sous le regne de Marie-Therese', Premier congres international de geographie historique, 2 (1931), pp. 152-57.
(4) Y. Urbain, 'La formation du reseau des voies navigables en Belgique. Developpements du systeme des voies d'eau et politique des transports sous l'Ancien Regime', Bulletin de l'institut de recherches economiques et sociales, 10 (1939) pp. 271-314; L. Van Buyten, 'Bijdragen van stad en platteland in de driehoek Mechelen-Brussel-Leuven tot het scheepsverkeer op de Leuvense Vaart (1764-1794)', Van Brussel tot Siebenburgen. Progress in human geography in Europe. Liber amicorum Prof. Dr. Herman Van der Haegen. Acta Geographica Lovaniensia, 34 (1994) pp. 607-15; L. Van Buyten, 'De Leuvense Stadsfinancien onder het Oostenrijks Regiem (1713-1794)', Arca Lovaniensis artes atque historiae reserans documenta. Jaarboek 1982, 11 (1982) pp. 105-54; A. Van den Broeck, 'Het hoofd boven water houden. Waterbeheersing in het Netebekken tijdens de 18de eeuw', Lira Elegans. Jaarboek van het Liers Genootschap voor Geschiedenis, 2 (1992) pp. 7-38; J. Breugelmans, 'Rivierbeheer tijdens het Ancien Regime: de Demer-administratie in de 17de en 18de eeuw', Het oude land van Aarschot, 22 (1987) pp. 9-25.
(5) See Genicot, Histoire des routes belges.
(6) J. L. Van Belle, 'Le role des chaussees au XVIIIe siecle dans le transport des pierres de Feluy-Arquennes-Ecaussinnes', Lindustrie de la pierre en Belgique sous PAncien Regime (Ath, 1979), p. 35; D. Gerhold, Road trans-port before the Railways: Russell's London flying wagons (Cambridge, 1993), p. 141.
(7) Archives Generales du Royaume a Bruxelles, Brussels (hereafter AGRB), Conseil des finances, no 3296 (5/XII/1732).
(8) Gerhold, Road transport, p. 127-34; Th. Barker & D. Gerhold, The rise and rise of road transport, 1700-1990 (Cambridge, 1990), p. 6; K. Van Der Jonckheyd, Diligencediensten in Brabant in de achttiende eeuw (Leuven, 1995), pp. 73-4.
(9) E. Buyst, S. Dercon & B. Van Campenhout, 'Road expansion and market integration in the Austrian Low Countries during the second half of the 18th century', Histoire & Mesure, 21 (2006), pp. 185-219.
(10) See also E. Buyst, S. Dercon & B. Van Campenhout, 'Market integration in the Southern Low Countries in the second half of the 18th century', in C.--E. Nunez, ed., Integration of commodity markets in history (Sevilla, 1988) pp. 31-42.
(11) M. Overton, Agricultural revolution in England. The transformation of the agrarian economy 1500-1800 (Cambridge, 1996).
(12) C. Bruneel, 'L'economie et la societe au siecle des Lumieres', in R. Van Uytven, C. Bruneel, A. M. Koldeweij, A. W. F. M. van de Sande, J. A. F. M. van Oudheusden, ed., Histoire du Brabant du duche a nos jours (Zwolle, 2004), p. 499; G. De Jongh, Tussen immobiliteit en revolutie. De economische ontwikkeling van de Belgische landbouw in een eeuw van transitie, 1750-1850 (Leuven, 1999) p. 298.
(13) D. Gerhold, 'Productivity change in road transport before and after turnpiking, 1690-1840', Economic History Review 49: 3 (1996), pp. 491-515.
(14) See also B. Blonde, 'Transport and the Economic Development of Brabant in the 18th Century', in H. Van Der Wee & A. Maddison, ed., Economic Growth and Structural Change. Comparative Approaches over the Long Run on the Basis of Reconstructed National Accounts. International Colloquium: Leuven, 8-11 September, 1993 (Leuven, 1993), unpaginated; B. Blonde, 'Het transport en de economische ontwikkeling in de regio Antwerpen-Mechelen-Lier (1710-1790)', Bijdragen tot de Geschiedenis, 78 (1995), pp. 93-105; B. Blonde, Een economie met verschillende snelheden. Ongelijkheden in de opbouw en de ontwikkeling van het Brabantse stedelijke netwerk, ca. 1750- ca. 1790, (Brussels, 1999); B. Blonde, 'Steenwegen, transportkosten, tijdsbesef, economische ontwikkeling en verkeerscongestie in de eeuw van de Verlichting. Het voorbeeld van de Brabantse steenwegen', Tijdschrift voor Ecologische Geschiedenis, 2 (1997), pp. 18-26.
(15) Cf. G. Arbellot, 'Les barrieres de l'an VII', Annales, Economies, Societes, 30 (1975), pp. 745-72.
(16) With the purpose of reconstructing paved road transport volumes an index was calculated using turnpikes revenues from the roads Brussels-Leuven, Leuven-Boutersem, Tienen-SintTruiden, Brussels-Mons, Brussels-Gent, Mechelen-Kontich, Lier-Mortsel [turnpikes at: Sint-Joost-ten-Node (1711-1790), Sint-Stevens-Woluwe (1711-1790), Kortenberg (1711-1790), Diependaal (1711-1790), Leuven (1717-1790), Boutersem (1717-1790), Hakendover (1735-1790), Orsmaal (1738-1790), Veeweide (1711-1790), Lot (1711-1790), Tubize (1711-1790), Zellik (1711-1790), Asse (1711-1790), Asse ter Heide (1776-1790), Walem (1711-1790), Kontich (1711-1790), Boechout-Lier (1718-1790), Oude God (1718-1790)]; the roads around Antwerp, i.e. Antwerp-Mortsel, Merksem-Brasschaat, Wijnegen-Deurne-Schilde, De Pauw (near Antwerp) [turnpikes at Luithagen (1711-1790), Mortsel Oude God (1711-1790), Merksem (1742-1790), Brasschaat (1763-1790), Wijnegem (1754-1790), Deurne (1754-1790), Schilde (1754-1790), Borgerhout (1763-1790); Sources: AGRB, SvB, Reg. 30-104; AGRB, SvB, Cart. 496; AGRB, SvB, Cart., 5078-5079, 5166-5167, 5255-5256); Sources: H. De Groote, 'Weg en tol ter Luithage. II. De steenweg.' Mortselse Heemkundige Kring. Jaarboek 1959, (Mortsel, 1959) pp. 55-6 & 61-2 and B. Baillieul, De aanleg, pp. 129-133]; the road Leuven-Namur [turnpikes at: Heverlee (1761-1788), Blanden (1761-1788), Pietrebais (1761-1788), Incourt (1761-1788), Rosiere (1761-1788); Source: Archives Etat Namur, Ville de Namur, 577-587 and AGRB, Rekenkamers, Reg. 27725-27728]; the road Mechelen-Vilvoorde [turnpikes at: Zemst (1718-1790), Eppegem (1718-1790); Source: Municipal Archives Mechelen, Oud Archief, L S I, Chaussees, nr. 16-87]; the road Mechelen-Leuven [turnpikes at: 'Slottien' (1764-1790), 'Biststraat' (1764-1790), Kampenhout (1764-1790), Herent (1764-1790)]; the roads Nivelles-Mont St.Jean and Nivelles-Bois d'Arbre [turnpikes at: Mont-Saint-Jean (1766-1790), Witterzee (1766-1790), Bois d'Arbre (1760-1790); Source: AGRB, Ville de Nivelles, 1676, 1776-1781; Ibidem, Rekenkamers, Reg. 27611-27628; Ibidem, Junta Besturen en Beden, 214], the road Brussels-Vilvoorde [turnpike at: Lakenbrug (1726-1789); Source: Municipal Archives Brussels, Oud Archief, Kanaal en Zenne, 818-908]; Domanial roads around Brussels [turnpikes at: Vleurgat (1732-1787), Diesdelle (1732-1787), Cantershutte (1732-1787), Waterloo (1732-1787), Manchard (1732-1787), Genappe (1732-1787), Frasnes (1732-1787); Source: AGRB, Rekenkamers, Reg. 4373-4429].
(17) See for a complete overview Blonde, Een economie, pp. 281-297.
(18) This happened when two-wheeled vehicles were harnessed with more than two horses or four-wheelers with more than four horses.
(19) Genicot, 'Etudes sur la construction des routes', p. 535.
(20) K. Van Der Jonckheyd, De diligencediensten, p. 74.
(21) J. F. D' Herbouville, Tableau statistique du des Deux-Nethes (Paris, 1802), p. 56.
(22) Population figures from P. M. M. Klep, Bevolking en arbied in transformatie. Een onderzoek naar de ontwikkelingen in Brabant, 1700-1900 (Nijmegen, 1981) and Blonde, Een economie, pp. 255-257.
(23) P M. M. Klep, 'Urban decline in Brabant: the traditionalization of investments and labour (1374-1806)', H. Van Der Wee, ed., The Rise and Decline of Urban Industries in Italy and in the Low Countries (Late Middle Ages-Early Modern Times) (Leuven, 1988), pp. 261-86; Bruneel, 'L'economie et la societe', pp. 480-513.
(24) A. K. L. Thijs, 'The river Scheldt closed for two centuries, 1585-1790', G. Asaert, A. De Vos & A. Thijs, ed., Antwerp, a port for all seasons (Antwerp, 1986), p. 202.
(25) R. Van Uytven, 'De scheepstrafiek tussen Leuven en Mechelen in de zeventiende en achttiende eeuw', Van Brussel tot Siebenburgen. Progress in human geography in Europe. Liber amicorum Prof. Dr. Herman Van der Haegen. Acta Geographica Lovaniensia, 34 (1994) p. 619.
(26) The estimate was achieved by dividing the revenues from barriers at a greater distance of towns by the receipts of bareers close to towns. This exercise was repeated for all major transport routes and yielded different coefficients which were averaged and multiplied by the total index of transport volumes.
(27) H. Van der Wee, 'Industrial dynamics and the process of urbanization and de-urbanization in the Low Countries from the late middle ages to the eighteenth century. A synthesis', H. Van der Wee, ed., The Rise and Decline of Urban Industries in Italy and in the Low Countries (Late Middle Ages--Early Modern Times) (Leuven, 1988), p. 365.
(28) Van Der Jonckheyd, Diligencediensten, pp. 130-131.
(29) J. Goudsblom, Het regime van de tijd (Amsterdam, 1997), p. 31.
(30) One example must suffice: carriers were required to report half an hour before the departure of the wagons so that the loading of the merchandise would not delay the passengers.
(31) Theory and practice, however, could, needless to stress that, diverge. Th. De Wolf, De visie van reizigers op Brabant en Mechelen (1701-1801) (Ghent, 2004), www.ethesis.net/ reizigers/reizigers_inhoud.htm.
(32) Special restrictions were in place only during periods of thaw which, especially when thaw and frost alternated, caused serious limitations to the roads. At the beginning of the nineteenth century cadastral experts constantly emphasised the unreliability of transport over unpaved dirt roads. Of the villages that were only accessible via dirt roads they wrote that the roads turned out to be impassable during winter, compelling farmers to sell their harvests at home at rather moderate price. AGRB, Cadastre de Brabant, no 227 (document no 5bis).
(33) Municipal Archives Antwerp, Privilegekamer, nr. 1121 (21 October 1759).
(34) Blonde, 'De transportwegen', p. 97.
(35) B. Blonde & H. Deceulaer, 'The Antwerp port and its hinterland: port traffic, urban economies and government policies in the 17th and 18th centuries)', in Maritime Industries and Public Intervention. The Fourth North Sea History Conference, 18-20 August 1995, Stavanger (Stavanger, 2002), pp. 21-44.
(36) Compare Szostak, The Role, pp. 164-200.
(37) A.K.L. Thijs, Van 'werkwinkel' tot 'fabriek'. De textielnijverheid te Antwerpen (einde 15de-begin 19d eeuw) (Brussel, 1986); C. Lis, Social Change and the Labouring poor. Antwerp, 1770-1860 (New Haven-London, 1986), pp. 14-6.
(38) B. Blonde, 'Economische groei en armoede in de pruikentijd. Het voorbeeld van de Brabantse steden (ca. 1750-ca. 1790)', C. Reyns, ed., Werkgelegenheid en inkomen. Referaten colloquium 30 jaar UFSIA (Antwerpen, 1996), pp.343-58 & pp. 421-22.
(39) L. Van Buyten, 'Bronnen voor de geschiedenis van de transitohandel en de transitowegen in de Oostenrijkse Nederlanden. De doorvoerhandel op Lorreinen', Histoire
de la Belgique. Traitement des sources et etat des questions. Actes du colloque de Bruxelles, 17-19 nov. 1971 (Ie-IV sections) (Bruxelles, 1972) pp. 311-33; H. Van Houtte, Histoire economique de la Belgique a la fin de TAncien Regime (Gand, 1920) pp. 356-97; H. De Smedt, De groothandel in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden in 1771, in Bijdragen voor de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden 6 (1952) pp. 47-65.
(40) L. Van Buyten, Leuven anno 1789 (Winksele, 1989).
(41) R. De Peuter, 'Note sur le grand commerce a Bruxelles a la fin de l'epoque autrichienne.' R. Mortier & H. Hasquin, ed., Bruxelles au XVIIIe (Bruxelles, 1977) pp. 27-32.
(42) H. Hasquin, 'Nijverheid in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden, 1650-1795', Algemene Geschiedenis der Nederlanden, 8 (Haarlem, 1979), pp. 124-59.
(43) G. Hansotte, Le metallurgie et le commerce international du fer dans les Pays-Bas autrichiens et la Principaute de Liege pendant la seconde moitie du XVIIIe siecle (Bruxelles, 1980), pp. 106-17; C. Douxchamps-Lefevre, 'Le commerce du charbon dans les Pays-Bas autrichiens a la fin du XVIIIe siecle', Belgisch Tijdschrift voor Filologie en Geschiedenis 46 (1968) pp. 393-421.
(44) Blonde, Een economie, passim.
(45) C. Vandenbroeke, Agriculture et alimentation, (Gent; Leuven, 1975).
(46) J. Vries, European Urbanization 1500-1800 (London, 1984), pp. 258-260.
(47) J. Materne, De prijzenadministratie van de centrale overheid te Brussel tijdens de 18de eeuw. Vlaamse, Brabantse, Noordnederlandse, Engelse, Duitse en Baltische graanprijzen op de Amsterdamse beurs (1767-1792) (Brussel, 1994).
(48) R. De Peuter, Brussel in de achttiende eeuw. Sociaal-economische structuren en ontwikkelingen in een regionale hoofdstad (Brussel, 1999).
(49) M.-J. Tits-Dieuaide, 'Peasant dues in Brabant. The example of the Meldert farm near Tirlemont, 1380-1797', in H. Van der Wee & E. Van Cauwenberghe, ed., Productivity of land and agricultural innovation in the Low Countries (1250-1800), (Leuven, 1987) p. 117.
(50) Blonde, Een economie, p. 225.
(51) De Jongh & Seghers, 'Een kleine natie', pp. 177-78.
(52) L. Van Buyten, L. (1972) 'Bronnen voor de geschiedenis', pp. 311-33.
(53) B. Blonde & R. Van Uytven, 'Langs land- en waterwegen in de Zuidelijke Nederlanden. Lopend onderzoek naar het preindustriele transport', Bijdragen tot de Geschiedenis, 82 (1999) p. 148.
(54) S. Kaplan, Provisioning Paris. Merchants and millers in the grain and flour trade during the eighteenth century, (Ithaca, 1984), p. 596.
(55) Compare for the difficulties in assessing the importance of road transport for economic development Barker & Gerhold, The Rise and Rise, p. 33.
Address for correspondence
University of Antwerp, Centre for Urban History, Prinsstraat 13, B 2000 Antwerp. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Table 1 Tariff structure on the turnpikes used by the Brabantine Estates, 16 October 1710 Number of horses Turnpike tariff (in styvers) Two wheeled vehicle 1 2 2 3 +1 (unloaded) +1 +1 (loaded) +2 Four wheeled vehicle 2 3 3 4 +1 (unloaded) +1 +1 (loaded) +2 Farmers, marketing their agricultural products 1 1 2 2 +1 +1 Farmers, returning 0 unloaded from cities Source M. Gachard & P. Verhaegen (eds), Receuil des ordonnances des Pays-Bas autrichiens, III, 1700-1794, 2, pp. 317-321. Table 2 Comparison of total population, urban population and traffic growth, 1709-1784 1709-1755 1755-1784 % difference % difference Total population +3,9 +27 Urban population -21 +20 Transport volumes (1) +21 +69 Per capita transport growth +16 +33 Per capita (urban population) +53 +41 transport growth (1) Average for the years 1711-1715; 1753-1757 and 1783-1787. Source Klep, Bevolking, p. 354 en Blonde, Een economie, p. 26. Table 3 Departure times of carriers from Antwerp to Mechelen and vice versa 1613 (a) Departure hours of ordinary carriers will be decided upon by the supervisor, according to the circumstances (b) 1671 (c) a.m. p.m. Early coach 7.00 [before noon] 1762/1763 (d) January-February (e) 8.00 [four hours max.] 1.00 March-April 7.00 2.00 May-September 7.00 3.00 October 8.00 Idem November-December 8.00 1.00 Notes (a) Municipal Archives Antwerp (=MAA), Pk, nr. 1121, Gebod van 21-X-1613. (b) Sal oock den voors. toesiender naerde gelegentheijt des tijts; stellen d'Uren van het vertreck, vande ordinarise vrachtwaghens. (c) MAA, Pk, nr. 1121 en SAM, OA, C. Magistraat Ordonnantien, S V, nr. 7, f[degrees]103,v[degrees]-104,v[degrees]. (d) MAA, Pk, nr. 1121, Reglement van 23 september 1762 en Municipal Archives Mechelen (MAM), OA, C. Magisstraat Ordonnantien, S V, nr. 10, f[degrees]18,v[degrees]-30,r[degrees]. (e) Arrival always within four hours! [ ] = time of arrival. Table 4 Departure times of carriers between Antwerp and Lier Antwerp--Lier in 1691 Summer season 7.00 a.m. [10.00 a.m.] 4.00 p.m.--5.00 p.m. [8.00 p.m.] Winter season (a) 1.00 p.m. Lier--Antwerp 1759 a.m. p.m. January 8.00 (b) [10.30] 2.00 February Idem 2.30 March Idem 3.30 April (c) 7.00 (d) [9.30] 4.30 May Idem 6.00 June Idem Idem July Idem Idem August Idem 4.30 September (e) Idem 4.00 October 8.00 (f) [10.30] 2.30 November Idem 2.00 December Idem Idem Notes (a) During the winter season. (b) On Fridays an early coach leaves at 7.00 a.m. and arrives at 9.30 a.m. (c) From the 21st of April. (d) On Fridays an early coach leaves at 5.30 a.m. and arrives at 8.00 a.m. (e) Until the 21st. (f) On Fridays an early coach leaves at 7.00 a.m. and arrives at 9.30 a.m. [ ] = time of arrival. Table 5 Seasonal differences in prices on coaches between Antwerp and Mechelen, and Antwerp and Lier Price of the best place between Antwerp and Mechelen in styvers Winter Summer 1613 15 12 1671 24 20 1762 24 24 1780 24 24 Price of the best place between Antwerp and Lier in styvers 1692 14 12 1759 12 12 1780 12 12 Table 6 Comparison between urban population growth and road transportation volume growth between 1755 and 1784 District Urban population growth Road traffic growth Antwerp/Mechelen +10.7% +24% Brussels +29.5% +79% Leuven +25.0% +165% Source B. Blonde, 'Disparities in the development of the Brabantine urban network: urban centrality, town-countryside relationships, and transportation development, 1750-1790', C.--E. Nunez, ed., Recent Doctoral Research in Economic History (Madrid, 1998), p. 49.
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|Date:||Jun 1, 2010|
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