The Economic History Review

Feeding the colleges: Cambridge’s food and fuel supplies, 1450–1560

Volume 56 Issue 2
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Pages: 243-264Authors: John S. Lee
Published online: November 3, 2003DOI: 10.1046/j.1468-0289.2003.00249.x

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Summary Von Thunen’s model of the relationship between concentrated urban demand and rural land use proposes that towns will draw agricultural produce from a series of zones of specialized production around the urban centre. Using the accounts of King’s Hall and King’s College, this article identifies the areas that supplied Cambridge with food and fuel during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and the persistence of such trade. Local geographical conditions meant that, contrary to von Thunen’s model, firewood and charcoal were brought from more distant regions than those supplying wheat and malt barley, and Cambridge’s hinterland also had to compete with demand from London.