Proposal preview

A long wave of globalization: maize diffusion in Mediterranean world (XVIth-XVIIIth century)

The proposed session will examine one of the most important and yet little studied aspects of the Colombian exchange: the introduction and diffusion of maize in mediterranean Europe. While the potato and its impact has been examined in quite some detail thanks to a great number of articles and monographs, the same cannot be said for maize despite the incontrovertible importance this plant took on as a foodstuff in many rural areas of mediterranean Europe.
The session will examine the following points from a comparative point of view:
1. Chronology and geography of the diffusion of maize in the mediterranean world
2. Ways in which the diffusion took place, examining the reasons for its success or, even, its lack of success
3. Links between greater (or lesser) success of maize and land ownership/types of contracts
4. Impact and consequences of the spread of maize on grain markets and on peasant diets
5. Possible link between the increased cultivation of maize and the diminishing cases of famine

Organizer(s)

  • Luca Mocarelli Milano Bicocca University luca.mocarelli@unimib.it Italy
  • Allen J. Grieco Villa I Tatti (The Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies) allengrieco@gmail.com USA

Session members

  • Alvaro Aragon Ruano, Basque Country Univeristy
  • Giulio Ongaro, Milano Bicocca University
  • Ida Fazio, Palermo University

Discussant(s)

  • Guido Alfani Bocconi University Milan guido.alfani@unibocconi.it

Papers

Panel abstract

The session will examine one of the most important and yet little studied aspects of the Colombian exchange: the introduction and diffusion of maize in mediterranean Europe. In particular we'll deal with the following points: chronology and geography of the diffusion of maize; ways in which the diffusion took place; impact and consequences of the spread of maize on grain markets and on peasant diets; links between greater (or lesser) success of maize and land ownership/types of contracts; possible link between the increased cultivation of maize and the diminishing cases of famine

1st half

The maize diffusion along the Cantabrian region and its economic and demographic consequences(1)

Alvaro Aragon Ruano

The aim of this paper is to analyse the diffusion of maize as human nourishment -though this plant previously had different uses- along the Cantabrian region from the end of the 16th century onwards. Along with it, the research purpose is to deepen into the reasons why Cantabrian peasants and farm holders started cultivating maize, and this crop turned into the principal during the 19th century, even over the wheat. Likewise, the introduction of maize had several economic and demographic consequences, which are going to be measured throughout the paper. Eventually, it is our purpose to focus on the case of Gipuzkoa, which has been subject of less analysis than other areas.

The aim of this paper is to analyse the diffusion of maize as human nourishment -though this plant previously had different uses- along the Cantabrian region from the end of the 16th century onwards. Along with it, the research purpose is to deepen into the reasons why Cantabrian peasants and farm holders started cultivating maize, and this crop turned into the principal during the 19th century, even over the wheat. Likewise, the introduction of maize had several economic and demographic consequences, which are going to be measured throughout the paper. Eventually, it is our purpose to focus on the case of Gipuzkoa, which has been subject of less analysis than other areas.

Maize in eastern Sicily (1766-1786)

Ida Fazio

Economic historiography on the Early Modern period has always considered Sicily as a major producer and exporter of wheat. However, the Valdemone, a region of the North East of the island, was dedicated to specialized commercial crops (for silk, oil, wine), as the territory wasn’t suitable for the production of wheat. The Valdemone area suffered from a chronic deficit of wheat, and imported it from western Sicily for private consumption and for public provisioning. There are relatively few quantitative data on peasant self-consumption, even if figures on the correlation between quantities traded on the domestic market and the population suggest that it definitely existed, especially in areas where geopedological characteristics and the peculiar nature of settlements strongly limited the production of wheat. Finally, the presence of maize as a substitute for wheat among other minor grains (rye, barley) has not yet been attested yet in Sicily in the Early Modern...

Economic historiography on the Early Modern period has always considered Sicily as a major producer and exporter of wheat. However, the Valdemone, a region of the North East of the island, was dedicated to specialized commercial crops (for silk, oil, wine), as the territory wasn’t suitable for the production of wheat. The Valdemone area suffered from a chronic deficit of wheat, and imported it from western Sicily for private consumption and for public provisioning. There are relatively few quantitative data on peasant self-consumption, even if figures on the correlation between quantities traded on the domestic market and the population suggest that it definitely existed, especially in areas where geopedological characteristics and the peculiar nature of settlements strongly limited the production of wheat. Finally, the presence of maize as a substitute for wheat among other minor grains (rye, barley) has not yet been attested yet in Sicily in the Early Modern period.

The diffusion of maize in Eighteenth century Northern Italy

Giulio Ongaro

The aim of the paper is to analyze the characters of the maize market in Eighteenth century Northern Italy. We will on the early creation of a cohesive market within the states and of an integrated international market. For this purpose, we will firstly compare the year averages of the maize price in some markets of Northern Italy. More, given that a market is as much integrated as its prices rapidly change according to the trends in the bordering markets, we will compare also the monthly price series. It is also interesting to make compare the trends of the wheat prices and the maize ones. To this quantitative analysis, we will add also a more “qualitative” one in order to underline the role of the maize in Eighteenth century Northern Italy.

The aim of the paper is to analyze the characters of the maize market in Eighteenth century Northern Italy. We will on the early creation of a cohesive market within the states and of an integrated international market. For this purpose, we will firstly compare the year averages of the maize price in some markets of Northern Italy. More, given that a market is as much integrated as its prices rapidly change according to the trends in the bordering markets, we will compare also the monthly price series. It is also interesting to make compare the trends of the wheat prices and the maize ones. To this quantitative analysis, we will add also a more “qualitative” one in order to underline the role of the maize in Eighteenth century Northern Italy.

2nd half