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The Salt Trade: The Flavour of Progress

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Chapter Summary

The major debates in historiography have tended to focus on changing and allegedly innovative products, like cotton, coal or colonial commodities. This chapter shows that precisely these goods afford one significant aid in tracing and assessing the major shifts in economic history. Although discussions addressing traditional products have rarely occasioned noteworthy stir in the wider debates concerning economic growth, such products are often the ones which in fact exerted the broadest influence, as they were deeply embedded in society and flowed in huge volumes. Salt clearly is one such product. The importance of salt in the history of human civilization is well known. The salt-refining industry in the Austrian Netherlands thus appeared to cope quite poorly according to the sources and, foreign salt imports remained voluminous for the Southern Low Countries. Economic history has often overlooked salt, in large part because of the commonplace nature of the commodity.

Keywords: Austrian Netherlands; economic growth; human civilization; salt trade; salt-refining industry



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