DP8369 The Rise and Fall of Spain (1270-1850)

Author(s): Carlos Álvarez-Nogal, Leandro Prados de la Escosura
Publication Date: April 2011
Keyword(s): Black Death, Decline, Frontier economy, preindustrial Spain, Reconquest, Rise, Western Europe
JEL(s): E01, N13, O47
Programme Areas: International Macroeconomics
Link to this Page: cepr.org/active/publications/discussion_papers/dp.php?dpno=8369

Two distinctive regimes are distinguished in Spain over half-a-millennium. A first one (1270s-1590s) corresponds to a high land-labour ratio frontier economy, pastoral, trade-oriented, and led by towns. Wages and food consumption were relatively high. Sustained per capita growth occurred from the Reconquest?s end (1264) to the Black Death (1340s) and resumed from the 1390s only broken by late-15th century turmoil. A second regime (1600s-1810s) corresponds to a more agricultural and densely populated low-wage economy which grew along a lower path. Contrary to preindustrial Western Europe, Spain achieved her highest living standards in the 1340s, not by mid-15th century. Although its population toll was lower, the Plague had a more damaging impact on Spain and, far from releasing non-existent demographic pressure, destroyed the equilibrium between scarce population and abundant resources. Pre-1350 per capita income was reached by the late 16th century but only overcome after 1820.