Road Transport Productivity in the Sixteenth‐Century Low Countries: The Case of Brabant, 1450–1650

20 Pages Posted: 13 Jul 2018

See all articles by Bart Ballaux

Bart Ballaux

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB)

Bruno Blonde

University of Antwerp

Date Written: August 2018


Though there is a consensus that transport plays a central role in economic development, for the period before the eighteenth century there is a lack of strategic information for assessing the importance of road transport productivity changes in economic development. Transport prices in particular are crucial missing pieces of the puzzle. Sources rarely reveal information that meets the standards of reliable price history. However, it is possible to create a reliable transport price series on the basis of the transport of millstones to ducal mills in Brabant. Assessing the impact of the ‘transport productivity changes’ that can be inferred from this transport price series is a hazardous exercise. Moreover, as Masschaele has observed, land transport prices closely match general agricultural price trends. Land transport was essentially an agricultural service, determined both by cost (especially horse provender) and income effects. Transport price inflation was not demand‐led. However, while transport did not impede urbanization and economic growth, conversely, in sixteenth‐century Brabant—a highly urbanized region that experienced considerable growth in the volume of land transport—no significant land transport productivity gains were achieved.

Suggested Citation

Ballaux, Bart and BLONDÉ, BRUNO, Road Transport Productivity in the Sixteenth‐Century Low Countries: The Case of Brabant, 1450–1650 (August 2018). The Economic History Review, Vol. 71, Issue 3, pp. 707-726, 2018. Available at SSRN: or

Bart Ballaux (Contact Author)

Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) ( email )

Pleinlaan 2
Brussels, 1050


University of Antwerp

Stadscampus, Prinsstraat13, 2000 Antwerp
Antwerp, Antwerp 2000

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