Carlos Alvarez Nogal, Leandro Prados de la Escosura

La decadenza spagnola nell'Età Moderna: una revisione quantitativa

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A widespread consensus exists about the poor performance of early modern Spain and numerous explanatory hypotheses have been put forward. However, lack of quantification makes the macroeconomic performance of Spain during the sixteenth to the eighteenth centuries largely an unknown. Was there decline or stagnation? Was it absolute or relative to other European nations? Was it possible for one of the poorest countries in Europe, as Spain is often depicted in the literature, to enjoy one of the highest wages in Europe and to be a leading world power over three centuries? Is the widespread view of a backward agrarian economy compatible with the high wages documented for early modern Spain? These are some of pressing questions that demand a response. In this essay estimates and conjectures about Spain's economic performance over three hundred years are tested for consistency with available evidence on real wages, population trends and rates of urbanization both at regional and national level. Our survey shows a more favourable picture than from recent accounts by Albert Carreras, Angus Maddison, and Jan Luiten van Zanden. Economic progress took place during the 16th and 18th centuries while decline occurred during the 17th century. On the whole we posit that Spanish standards of living were higher by 1800 than in the early 1500s.

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