Montesquieu
 

XXIII.24 Changes that have occurred in Europe with respect to the number of inhabitants

Given the state Europe was in, one would not have ima­gi­ned she could res­tore her­self, espe­cially when, under Charlemagne, she became just one vast empire. But by the nature of the govern­ment then, she split up into an infi­nite num­ber of small sove­rei­gn­ties. And since a lord resi­ded in his vil­lage or his city, since he was great, rich, power­ful, or even safe, only by the num­ber of its inha­bi­tants, each of them applied him­self with sin­gu­lar atten­tion to making his lit­tle coun­try flou­rish : which suc­cee­ded so well that, des­pite the irre­gu­la­ri­ties of the govern­ment, the absence of the know­ledge we have since acqui­red of com­merce, and the great num­ber of wars and quar­rels that end­lessly arose, there were more peo­ple in most regions of Europe than there are today.

I have not the time to deal exten­si­vely with this sub­ject, but I will cite the pro­di­gious armies of the Crusaders, com­po­sed of all sorts of men. Mr. Pufendorf says that under Charles IX there were twenty mil­lion men in France.1

It is the per­pe­tual unions of seve­ral small sta­tes that have pro­du­ced this decline. Formerly, each vil­lage of France was a capi­tal : today there is just one great one ; each part of the state was a cen­ter of power : today eve­ry­thing rela­tes to one cen­ter, and that cen­ter is, in a man­ner of spea­king, the state itself.

History of the World, ch. v on France.