The period from 1650 to 1800 was one of general economic stagnation in German lands, with most enterprises remaining small. The majority of manufacturing was performed by local guilds and cottage industry. Economically, guilds continued to be powerful, but politically their authority as well as that of the free cities declined precipitously beginning in 1650. Prussia during the 1670s was typical. Its rulers eliminated most self-government in the towns and dominated all secular and ecclesiastical appointments. Prussian rulers also attempted to improve commerce by building new canals and improving roads as well as by introducing standard weights and measures throughout German lands. However, great economic obstacles resulted from the multitude of German states.
For example, a voyage on the Rhine from Basel to Rotterdam involved 38 separate tolls. Agricultural production also remained relatively low. Some high-grade fodder crops were introduced in Prussia, and potatoes from the Americas became a common crop in western German lands, particularly in the Rhineland. The eastern nobility operated large personal estates whose produce provided them with most of their income. German landowners in the west derived most of their agricultural income from the rents paid by tenants. "Germany" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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