A Tale of Three Thirsty Cities

The Innovative Water Supply Systems of Toledo, London and Paris in the Second Half of the Sixteenth Century


In A Tale of Three Thirsty Cities: The Innovative Water Supply Systems of Toledo, London and Paris in the Second Half of the Sixteenth Century, Chaim Shulman presents an analysis of three projects of urban water supply systems carried out between 1560s–1610s. The technical and economic differences between these projects resulted from external conditions not directly related to the water supply problem. Although the same basic technology was apparently available at the time in all cases, the geographical, engineering, entrepreneurial and cultural nature of each region differed. The inhabitants’ wellbeing improvement achieved varied accordingly. Much broader insights are drawn on the policies of the three monarchies regarding the initiative of and support for grand scale public works in general.
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Biographical Note

Jaime-Chaim Shulman, Ph.D. (History, 2015), Tel-Aviv University, is a graduate of Harvard Business School and an Electromechanical engineer from Buenos Aires University. As an accomplished businessman and executive, he contributes a fresh approach to the study of urban public works.

Table of contents

Abbreviations, Date Conventions and Notes
List of Figures Included in the Text

 The Subject of Our Research
 Mechanical’ Engineers and Know-How Migration

1 Human Water Consumption in England, France and Spain in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

2 Water-lifting Technology in the Graeco-Roman World and Its Development through the Renaissance
 The Invention of Water-lifting Devices
 The Use of Water-lifting Devices in the Roman Era
 Islamic Technological Influence
 The Diffusion of the Waterwheel in Europe
 The Improvement of Water Lifting Technology in Europe, Evolution or Quantum Leaps?
 Basic Water Raising Technologies
 Direct Water-lifting with Compartmented Waterwheels
 Archimedean Screws
 Ctesibius’ Double-Acting Force Pumps
 Theatres of Machines
 Complex Water Lifting Configurations Relevant to the Present Study
 Water-Raising Machines at Atmospheric Pressure
 Transmission of Power through Distances
 Waterwheels Sensitivity to Variations in the Level of the River Flow
 Piping Networks
 The Diffusion of False Know-How
 The Italian Strategy—Gravity Based Solutions

3 Toledo
 Spain and Toledo in the 1560s
 Early Attempts to Supply Water to Toledo
 Water Supply to Toledo in the Sixteenth Century
 Juanelo Turriano
 The Artificio
 Iconographic Representations and Exact Location of the Artificio Building
 The Artificio’s Technology—The Operational Principle
 Escosura y Beck—The Inclined Plane Theory
 The Vertical Solution, Proposed by Ladislao Reti
 Juan Luis Peces Ventas’ Improvement of the Inclined Plane Theory
 Nicolás García Tapia’s Proposition
 Francesc Xavier Jufre García’s Concept: Operating Valturio Scales
 Unanswered Technical Questions
 Technical Conclusions
 The Artificio, as Seen by Contemporary Writers
 The Ingenio of Juan Fernández del Castillo
 Land Reclamation and Sewerage in Spain
 The Spanish Attitude Towards Science and Technology during the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries

4 London
 Tudor London in the 1580s
 Early Attempts to Provide the City with a Water Supply System
 The Elizabethan Patent System
 Peter Morris
 The London Bridge Waterworks in Contemporary Sources
 Technical Operation
 Supporting Evidence for Bate’s Interpretation of Morris’ Operational Principle
 The External Appearance of the London Waterworks
 The Consequences of the Installation of Waterwheels on the London Bridge
 The Later Development of the London Bridge Waterworks
 Other Initiatives
 The New River
 Competition between the Different Water Suppliers
 Land Reclamation and Sewerage in England

5 Paris
 Government and Municipal Authorities—Paris Administration and Development in the Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Centuries
 History of Former Water Supply Undertakings
 La Samaritaine
 The Operational Principle of La Samaritaine
 Description of the Original Samaritaine Building in Contemporary Travelogues
 Depictions of the Original Building of La Samaritaine in Maps and Views of Paris
 The Samaritaine Building after its Renovation in 1714
 Additional Initiatives to Solve the Water Problem in the Seventeenth Century
 Pumps at Pont Notre Dame
 The Machine at Marly
 Land Reclamation and Sewerage in France

6 Conclusions

Sources and Bibliography
 Online Sources for Retrieved Images


All students, academics and general public interested in how technological developments affected historical processes, and the role that regional, political and cultural conditions had in the shaping of these enterprises.


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