5. Economic transformations and social changers
5.1 Demographic growth
During the 15th and 16th centuries, population growth was favoured by improved harvests, the eradication of the plague and relative peace. However, the population increase was slow due infectious diseases, the limited development in medical practice and lack of hygiene.
The population increase gave rise to higher demand for agricultural and handicraft products, and simulated trade.
5.2 Economic growth
Agrarian activities continued to account for most professional activity. In the 16th century, the agricultural sector was encouraged by good harvests and clearing of new land.
The handicrafts sector avoided guild control by developing a system of homeworking, in which businesspeople provided the peasantry with raw materials and tools to make products at home. They would then collect them and sell them on.
Trade grew as a result of geographical discoveries; trade routes were diversified and new products from America were incorporated. The importance of the Atlantic and North Sea trade had a positive impact on the ports of Lisbon and Seville, as opposed to the Mediterranean trade, which focused on Italian ports.
5.3 Social changes
The nobility and the clergy accepted the increased power of the monarch, yet they continued to be the privileged estates and maintained both their economic power and privileges.
The bourgeoisie grew wealthier with the transoceanic trade, business dealings and banking. Thereby they establised their social status over the other commoners and especially the urban groups consisting of minor artisans, merchants and waged workers.
The peasantry made up the majority of the commoners. Their living conditions improved Western Europe or else were paid a wage to work the land of the nobility. In Eastern Europe, the peasantry were more closed tied to the land.