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00, according to some. In 1377, the population of London was only 35,000 to 40,000 people, the same as Cologne, the largest city in Germany by far. The only region that could be compared to northern Italy when it came to urban development was the southern Netherlands, especially Flanders and Brabant. Although Ghent, the largest city, had only 50,000 inhabitants at the beginning of the 14th century, the urban population of the territory constituted a third of the total, roughly the same number as in northern Italy. There are other similarities as well. Not only in the two areas were the cities with the largest number of inhabitants, but they were also the most populated in Europe. The agriculture of both was the most advanced and intensive and both had the most important commercial and industrial centers. The question arises by itself: did men move to the cities and dedicate themselves to industry and commerce because there was no place for them in the countryside, or was it the existence of commerce and cities, with their potentially lucrative, what stimulated farmers to higher productivity and production? No conclusive answer can be given, certainly the influences were reciprocal. But the fact that agriculture was always more intensive and productive in the vicinity of cities, which in the open countryside seems to assign an important role to demand and urban markets. It is therefore necessary to consider in more detail the development and nature of market mechanisms.

The most lucrative and prestigious trade was undoubtedly the one that stimulated the commercial revival between Italy and the East. Before the Italians made it their own, eastern merchants had already used this route to bring luxury goods to the western courts. When the former took over the trade, luxury items still predominated in the east-west movement – spices from far Eastern places such as the Moluccas, silk and porcelain from China, brocades from the Byzantine Empire, precious stones and other products. But there were also more voluminous materials, such as alum from Asia Minor and raw cotton from Syria. In the opposite direction were transported common woolen and linen cloth, hides from northern Europe, metal utensils from Lombardy and Central Europe, and glass from Venice.

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