Wages for crew on Christopher Columbus’ ships.

Model of Santa Maria. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Wages paid to the crew and a current understanding of crew list for Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas is provided at Columbus Ships Crew.

Crew size:

  • 41 – Santa Maria
  • 26 – Pinta
  • 20 – Nina
  • 87 – total

Of particular interest to me is the pay information provided in the article. It also lists reference points for gold and silver.

Will list that info here for future reference. All amounts are maravedis, which was the Spanish currency at the time. This data is for 1492 in Spain.

Continue reading “Wages for crew on Christopher Columbus’ ships.”

Cost and time to cross the Atlantic has dropped by more than 90% in the last 500 years.

Columbus’ Ships. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Transatlantic travel time has dropped radically in the last 500 years.  Time to transit the Atlantic has dropped about 99% and cost has dropped about 95% by my calculations.

Let’s look at several data points for cost and time, then calculate one indicator of improved quality of life.

(Article cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change.)

Human Progress provides fun data points on August 2, 2018 in their post, A Reminder of How Far Transatlantic Travel Has Come.

Columbus’ first trip

The 1492 trip by Christopher Columbus took two years of lobbying before the king and queen of Spain approved 2 million Spanish maravedis to fund the trip. A professor has calculated that would be comparable to about US$1,000,000 today.

The cost seems low to me. I’ll look at that more later.

Crew size was 87 according to this article. The accountant in me is driven to calculate the cost per crewman.  That would give an average cost of $11,494. I’ll round that to $11,500 and ignore any adjustment for several crew members who died on the trip.

His trip took two months, nine days, which I calculate at 70 days (30+31+9).


Mayflower. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Continue reading “Cost and time to cross the Atlantic has dropped by more than 90% in the last 500 years.”

Most of the improvement in life expectancy in the last 10,000 years has taken place in the last 100 years.

Johan Norberg describes the tremendous progress in the last several hundred years in so many areas: life expectancy, health, sanitation, liberty, education, and equality. He discusses these wonderfully delightful trends in his book Progress: 10 Reasons to Look Forward to the Future. I will highlight merely a few of the many things I found fascinating in the book.

Life expectancy

This discussion is cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change, because  the information from ancient times is useful on this blog.

In particular, notice the major trend that there was no change in life expectancy from prehistoric times through the early 1800s.

People in the Reformation era lived roughly as long as during the Viking Age, who lived about as long as during the Roman era and New Testament times, who in turn lived about as long as during the time of Alexander the Great and stories in the Old Testament after the book of Genesis.

Book provides the following estimates of life expectancy, which I graph above:

Continue reading “Most of the improvement in life expectancy in the last 10,000 years has taken place in the last 100 years.”

Gross World Product over last 27,000 years

Gross World Product, according to Wikipedia is

the combined gross national product of all the countries in the world. Because imports and exports balance exactly when considering the whole world, this also equals the total global gross domestic product (GDP).

I got curious about the world-wide GDP after thinking about two previous posts:

What would happen if you multiplied the drastic increase in  population with the radical increase in per capita income? I made a feeble effort to multiple the two data sets and quickly realized that wouldn’t work. Poked around a bit on the ol’ internet thingie and found the answer at Wikipedia – gross world product is what I was looking for.

This discussion is cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change, because the ancient data is relevant to this blog.

27,000 year time horizon – Check out the graph at top of this post for the estimated gross world product on a very long time horizon, specifically from estimates back in 25,000 B.C. through 2014 A.D.

Copyright notice:  Graphs in this post are based on data in an article titled “Gross world product” by Wikipedia, which is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.  As a result the following tables which are derived from this information are licensed for use by anyone under the same CC BY-SA 3.0 license. Any use of these graphs must in turn be distributed under the same license.

I will show the raw data at the end of this post.

With that 27,000 year time horizon, there is a radical turn in the 1900s, at which point the graph appears to goes from horizontal to straight up vertical.

That is too long of a time horizon to understand, so I broke it out into smaller blocks.

Last 2,000 years – To remove the many earlier millenniums of slow growth, time horizon was revised to 1 AD through now. Notice there is still a radical change in the 1900s. With the dramatic changes in the last 200 years, the line from earlier looks like it is flat, but it isn’t.

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Growth in world population

Our World in Data, the web site of Max Roser, visualizes data in amazing ways. Check out this graph of world population:

World Population over the last 12,000 years and UN projection until 2100” by Our World in Data is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.  The graphs which follow are derived from this information and are licensed for use by others under the same CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Very cool. The dramatic expansion in the number of people is amazing.

This discussion is cross-posted from my other blog, Outrun Change, because it provides context for past and future discussions of ancient finances.

The graph includes projections through 2100. I pulled out the projections and developed the following graph:

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Illustration of 16th century armament

All photos by James Ulvog taken at Cabrillo National Monument.

The Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego describes the expedition by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo to explore the west coast of what is now the U.S.  He arrived in San Diego harbor in October 1542.

In the museum, there are two models demonstrating replicas of 16th century arms.

The crossbowman above is wearing a metal helmet and hip length chain mail.

He is armed with a metal cross-bow and is preparing to load it. His foot is in the stirrup. The “goat’s foot” in his left hand will be used to pull the string back and latch it to the trigger catch.

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Prices in late Middle Ages

Armour of the medieval knight. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

While browsing the ‘net looking for indicators of prices in the Viking Age, I came across a treasure trove of prices for the late Middle Ages. Range of age is from the middle 1300s to the  middle 1500s, with most of the prices in the 1300s, it seems. Items listed are clothing, work tools, food, weapons, and armor. A large number of data points for wages are listed.

As a topic for further analysis, there is more than enough data to compare wages across various skill sets for relative pay. There is also enough data to calculate costs in terms of hours of labor in order to impute current prices.

The data is attributed to Kenneth Hodges at Berkeley.

The listing can be found at two places:

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