I came across the following sentence on this web page.

This development, coming as it did when the bottom had fallen out of the European economy, provided an impetus to a long-held desire to secure direct relations with the East by establishing a sea trade.

What does the bottom had fallen out of the European economy mean?

And what does did in coming as it did mean?

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    Metaphorically, the economy was falling/sinking. If you say the bottom fell out of something like that, you effectively mean there was no "bottom" of the fall - it just kept falling even lower. And coming as it did [at some particular time, or in some particular way] states not only that it did happen then / in that way. It also strongly implies that the fact of that happening caused or was necessary for the "main" statement (that the development provided an impetus). That's to say, if it had happened earlier or later, it might well not have provided that impetus. Commented Aug 18, 2016 at 16:48

1 Answer 1


This is an idiom for a disastrous loss or collapse. As the American Heritage Idioms Dictionary has it (via Reference.com):

(the) bottom drops out
Also, the bottom falls out. A collapse occurs, as in The bottom dropped out of the steel market, or When they lost the game, the bottom fell out of their hopes to make the playoffs. This term alludes to collapsing deeper than the very lowest point, or bottom. [First half of 1600s]

A very similar expression is for something to fall through the floor, similarly indicating a breach of what was previously thought to be the worst something could be.

The quoted text, therefore, is alluding to a dramatic decline in the condition of the European economy in the 14th century. Coming as it did indicates that the timing of it is significant— in other words, the closing of Europe's overland trade routes with Asia occurring at the same time the European economy was in poor condition made the pursuit of seaborne trade all the more important.

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