Water Power and GIS. The Parisian Study Case in the Early Modern Times

Raphaël Morera, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS)
Benoît Pandolfi, EHESS

In Europe, pre-industrial economy was massively based on hydraulic water power for flour production as well as for manufactured activity. In such a technological context, urban growth was constrained by water force availability. That’s why Paris (France) constitutes a relevant study case. During the 18th century, the French capital has grown to reach almost 700 000 inhabitants on the eve of the French Revolution. This growth took place in an area where water was used for more than thousand years : it was impossible to found new sources of water energy. Thus, river supervision became an administrative and political issue at that time. But, it is still difficult to estimate the effective power of each river . Two surveys, ordered by the State, at the end of the 17th century and during the French Revolution gives informations about that. In 1695, Louis XIV decided to tax each mill owner activated by water from public domain. In 1793, in a context of war, the Convention, worried about bread supply in Paris, ordered a large survey on mills production in the Parisian area. Each village had to inform about the flour produced of their watermills . Based on the village or community scale, it is possible to visualize the more productive river sections. The mapping used the taxation data in the one hand, and the effective production in the other hand. GIS shows that, the tax of 1695 was actually a production tax. Moreover, the GIS reveals a process of intensification of the water uses all over the 18th century. The differences between mills seem sharper during the French revolution. Finally, the GIS shows that, more than the natural quality of rivers, the accessibility to Parisian market determined the mills capacities. Such a conclusion stresses on the importance of the supervision of water flows.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 267. Agriculture and Energy in Early-Modern and Modern Europe / North America. The Contribution of GIS