Discussion paper

DP16523 Spending a Windfall

We study the effect of the discovery of precious metals in America from 1500 to 1810 on international trade. Around 1500, there was a simultaneous discovery of precious metals and new trading routes. We construct a counterfactual of new routes but no precious metals. The discovery of precious metals increased the stock of precious metals more than tenfold. We show that Euro-Asian trade at its peak increased up to 20 times compared with the counterfactual. Our simulations match the observed price dynamics. We find that precious metals were at least as important as the new routes.


Palma, N and A Silva (2022), ‘DP16523 Spending a Windfall‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 16523. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp16523