Posts categorized under Economic History

Quest for riches and the colonization of the “New World”

June 15, 2021
“Behold rich lands! May you know how to govern them well!” Hernández Puertocarrero to Cortés in 1519 How did the discovery of large deposits of gold and silver in the “New World” affect the world economy? This paper argues that the long-run consequences were not the same everywhere. In Western Europe, the colonizers par excellence – Spain and Portugal – suffered negative consequences in the long run. The Spanish government enjoyed increased revenues, but it squandered those revenues on ultimately unsuccessful European wars.

Literacy and primary school expansion in Portugal: 1940–62

December 3, 2019
In Portugal, in 1940, only 40% of the population knew how to read. The causes of this backwardness, as well as the the rapid increase of literacy rates in the subsequent decades have been the focus of considerable research, and some controversy. This paper measures the contribution of the increase in the number of primary schools since the 1940s to the increase in school enrolment and literacy rates by the beginning of the 60s.

From convergence to divergence: Portuguese demography and economic growth, 1500-1850

November 8, 2016
When did Portugal’s economy diverge from the European core? This paper constructs the first time-series for Portugal’s per capita GDP for 1500-1850, drawing on a new and extensive database. Starting around 1550 there was a highly persistent upward trend on per capita income, which accelerated after 1700 and peaked 50 years later. At that point, per capita incomes were high by European standards. Portuguese per capita GDP was about as high as that of Britain, Italy and the Netherlands, and higher than that of France, Spain, Germany and Sweden.

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