16th century Paris: Size vs. Population

KorbenDallas

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In our today's world Manila leads the way in population density with 107,561 people per square mile. I was looking for something unrelated and came up on the population of the city of Paris in the 16th century. Wikipedia states: Paris was the largest city in Europe, with a population of about 350,000 in 1550. That same very article stated that the size of Paris in the 16th century was 439 hectares within the city walls. You can look at the map below, there was not much on the outside of the walls in 1572.

It appears that we had 350,000 people living on 439 hectares of land. 439 hectares is 1.69 square miles.

The Munser map of Paris from 1572

Munser_Paris_1572.jpg
350,000 people in 1.69 sq mi​

  • 16th century
#1 - Paris: 205,882 people per square mile
  • 21st century
#1 - Manila: 107,561 people per square mile
#25 - Paris: 55,673 people per square mile

Note: If we use Manila density to calculate the population of Paris in the 16th century, we end up with 181,778 people.

2017: List of cities by population density

Sad Manila fact: A photographer took aerial photos of Manila and they’re utterly suffocating

manila_population.jpgmanila_population_1.jpgmanila_population_2.jpg

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Question: Is there anything wrong with the information provided to us by the official sources?
 

whitewave

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Was trying to see if there were any cars/trucks on any of the narrow roads. It's like trying to find Waldo.
Why in the world would people want to live packed in like that, especially in the 16th century when they supposedly had so much room to expand?
 

dreamtime

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When looking at contemporary cities with a similar old style architecture and design (for example in historical city centers), it appears that there are usually around 10,000 - 20,000 people per square mile.

Since a couple of people also live outside the walls, that would make Paris back then inhabited by around 20,000 - 40,000 people.

Going up to the current population numbers of Paris, this comes down to a yearly growth rate of a bit less then 1%, which is in line with expected population growth (A bit less, since the growth of a city is limited in multiple ways compared to the growth of the population of a whole country for example).

The elephant in the room is the fact that all cities in the world seems to have been founded between 1,000 and 1,200 AD by only a handful of people, and then grew organically up to a certain point in the 16th century, after which population exploded in such a massive way that cities soon looked like cancer and lost their cozy feeling. This is in line with the expected population growth in general, which seems to indicate a massive catastrophe that wiped out humanity around 1000 years ago. We basically started from scratch with the population numbers, but not without knowledge, as the high level of arhcitecture and other stuff shows.
 
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KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

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The army of Xerxes at the battle of Thermopylae was reported by Herodotus as 5.2 million, including the support personnel.

Of course it was announced by our contemporary historians as an exaggeration, and according to them it could not be bigger than 200k, for the population numbers would not support such figures.

While I do think that the event took place at a different time, the numbers provided by Herodotus were most likely correct.
 

dreamtime

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So you think the population number on Wikipedia is true and the map wrong?

If there's conflicting information I tend to go with the maps. Most of written history is a lie, often it was used to push a certain narrative. The maps seem to be one of the most valuable sources of the past, because they needed to be true in order for society to work smoothly and they can be confirmed to a certain extent when looking at modern maps and the cities itself.

There's another missconception in the article. When it mentions the wooden Houses at 13-15 rue Francois-Miron as typical Houses of the Renaissance period. Apart from the fact that such style is usually ascribed to earlier medival times, the 16th Century map and paintings shows mostly stone houses. So either the house is way older, like 1000 years, or the building style was existing parallel with the antique/classical style.

Personally I suspect that both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance are only constructs and neither existed in reality. I can even see the possibility of the whole medieval painting style being the invention of the church itself.

I also think that the wooden houses were built when catastrophes or other events led to the destruction of some of the more sophisticated stone houses, but for some reason they needed to quickly rebuilt the house with fewer resources. That's why the lowest floor is made of stones. They used the stones that survived the catastrophes and put the new house on top of the older structure. The wooden style with crossbar was the typial building style in post-medieval Europe on the country side even up until the 19th century, and it looks like it coexisted with the Classical styles, which was part of a more sophisticated lifestyle emanating from the cities.

After looking more closely at 16th Century Paris I also find it remarkable that some of the buildings from 500 years ago are still standing without a sign of aging.
 
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KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

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Nah, that's the opposite from what I'm saying. I think the population was much greater at the times. Like may be multiple billions of people during the times of Sparta.

Another good example is the army of Napoleon, which was 1 mln people, allegedly. Today only armies of China and USA are bigger in size. To logistically support a 1 mln strong army, they would need about as much in the support personnel. This would suggest that we do not know a whole lot about as recently as 1812.
 

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