by Jaime Reis, Lisbeth Rodrigues and mysef, is now forthcoming at Explorations in Economic History. We show that women’s relative social and economic position was no worse in Portugal than in Northwestern European countries, hence the cause of Portugal’s development failure lies elsewhere. I’ve previously discussed this paper here and here, and we wrote this voxeu column about it as well.
The Little Divergence was the economic and political divergence that characterized the relative decline of southern Europe, which was clear by 1800. Spain and Portugal, previously some of the Europe’s richest regions, were in clear decline for a while, and at the same time Northwestern Europe was was growing and would industrialize fast in the first half of the nineteenth century.
Jan Luiten van Zanden and co-authors have for years argued that there was an “horizontal Hajnal line”: the south of Europe, they argue, had social norms at the family level which did not lead to a strong European Marriage Pattern like Northwestern Europe did, where it encouraged human capital accumulation and having other benefits. This is known as the Girl Power hypothesis, after a well-known 2010 EHR paper by Tine de Moor and van Zanden. Him and co-authors have continued to argue along these lines in recent years, including in a major book. In a recent article, called “Two Worlds of Female Labor”, Sandra de Pleijt and Jan Luiten van Zanden argued that “In the south of Europe women earned about 50 per cent of the wage of unskilled male labourers, a ratio that seems to have been fixed by custom”, while this ratio was higher in Northern Europe.
Sorry, Jan Luiten & co-authors, but the Dutch were not culturally special, as you think. They were just western europeans like all the others. This is of course not to deny that the EMP and relative equality of women – as compared with other parts of the world – in Europe was not an advantage: it must have been. But this must be endogenous to other factors, and cannot explain first-order differences in economic sucess within Western Europe: The Little Divergence. In Western Europe, the main way women were discriminated against concerned the range of professions that they were allowed to take. The same situation also occurred in Northwestern Europe, including the North Sea area, and there is no evidence that it did so to a lower degree than elsewhere in Western Europe.
We provide a blueprint for the construction of historical state capacity measures for premodern states, which has several advantages over the state of the art. First, we argue that nominal GDP is the best deflator for state revenues. Second, expenditure patterns have to be considered in order to assess the changing state capacity. Third, we argue that local-level revenues matter when establishing state capacity, even if their overall contribution appears small. As an application, we tackle the controversial case of Portugal (1367–1844) and show that the country had a relatively high fiscal capacity and its state capacity increased over time as military expenses rose, whereas redistribution favoring the elites and the royal household decreased. This means that state capacity was not an issue in Portugal’s dismal economic performance.
p.s. I heard the recording and take the opportunity to mention that around minute 17.43, when I say “sixteenth century”, I obviously meant to say “eighteenth century”. And just before the break when I said “lending”, I meant “borrowing”: though this should be clear from the context. That was my fault of course: perils of live recordings!
We had a great conference last week (despite a lamentable boycotting attempt). At least I enjoyed a lot learning from and discussing with colleagues, and I believe others did too.
Given Deirdre McCloskey’s visit to Lisbon for this conference, she and I also debated in the day prior to the conference at an event organized by “Instituto +Liberdade”. That too was a fun event, and it was interesting to see how much of a statist I am – at least by comparison with Deirdre! (who has been my friend for 15 years, and from whom I have learned so much). The discussion illustrated what I already knew: that Deirde is a good old-fashioned classical liberal while if I must quickly summarize my political views, I’d say I lie about half way between classical liberalism and social democracy (with the distance to each depending on the topics). There will be a video of the debate, which I’ll post here when made available by the organizers.
Here are the photos from both events, with a focus on the academic conference:
Note: This conference is expected to take place offline only.
Leandro Prados de la Escosura (Carlos III)
Roundtable about the impact in Iberia:
José Luís Cardoso (ICS), Guillaume Daudin (Université Paris Dauphine), Leandro Prados de la Escosura (Carlos III), Margarida Sobral Neto (Coimbra), José Vicente Serrão (ISCTE), Cristina Nogueira da Silva (U. Nova de Lisboa).
The roundtable of the Economic Consequences of the Age of Liberal Revolutions: 1810-48 conference will debate how the economic and institutional historiography has analysed the impact of revolution in the Iberian context in the last decades. The speakers will be challenged to reflect on the following questions: what legacies remained from the Ancient Regime?; what new liberal/constitutional elements were introduced in the first decades after the Revolution?; moreover, was the Revolution truly revolutionary or did it fail in its intentions? The debate will focus not only on how the literature has traditionally considered these matters but also on what new approaches could be brought into the discussion.
Nuno Palma (U. Manchester, ICS-UL and CEPR) and Renato Pistola (ICS-UL).
We plan to accept papers that cover economic aspects of the impact of the liberal revolutions of the first half of the nineteenth century. We are particularly interested in the context of Iberia but in a comparative framework, both relative to different countries and across time. To which extent did the Liberal/Constitutional reforms change the nature of property rights and the law, in ways that affected economic incentives? Why did the reforms did not in fact lead to sustained economic growth and convergence for the Iberian economies?
Costs and funding:
There will be a small conference fee (around 20 euro) to cover lunch and coffee breaks only. Due to limited funding, we cannot cover travel and accommodation costs, unfortunately.
September 2, 2022 – deadline to send us a paper proposal (1 page max.)
September 5, 2022 – we will communicate the accepted proposals (and possibly a waiting list)
My French is not great so I responded in English. I copy below the responses that I sent them.
In your study “Historical gender discrimination does not explain comparative Western European development”, you mention the fact that the slow economic growth of south-western Europe since the Middle Ages is often attributed to the lesser influence of women compared to northern countries such as England or the Netherlands. Where do we find such statements? Why is this explanation so common?
Around 1900, Global Inequality between countries was at an all-time high. Most of Europe and its offshoots (such and the USA and Australia) had been growing systematically for a long time, while much of the rest of the world had not, including the largest regions by population like China and India.
In the prior centuries, from the late Middle Ages until the early Twentieth Century, the world had witnessed two important economic divergences. One was the Great Divergence: how the richer parts of Europe (e.g. England) became much richer than the richer parts of the rest of the world (e.g. the Yangtze Delta). And even the poorer parts of Europe became considerably richer than the poorer parts of the rest of the world.
The other was the Little Divergence: how the richer parts of Europe (Northwestern Europe) became much richer than the poorest parts of Europe (Southern and Eastern Europe).
There are different explanations in the literature for why these divergences happened. One explanation is cultural, and states that there is a particular “European” way of thinking and acting, and one manifestation of this was comparatively high female agency and an original European Marriage Pattern (EMP), which can be characterized by later female first marriage ages than other parts of the world, a relatively high celibacy rate, and marriages that were monogamous, exogamous, based on consensus and neo-locality. Regardless of the ultimate cause of these cultural behaviors — I personally believe that political institutions are jointly determined with and can shape culture over time and not just the opposite – it does seem undeniable that there was particular, individualist, comparatively liberal way of thinking and acting in Europe, coming from the Middle Ages already – an European culture, if you will.
This European culture was reflected in comparatively high female agency, by contrast with most other parts of the world. It was, in particular, Western European: the first to propose the EMP was a Hungarian scholar, John Hajnal, who in 1965 proposed what is now known as the Hajnal line: an imaginary line running between Saint Petersburg and Trieste, to the West of which the EMP operated. A good book to understand the deep origins of a Western European mentality and political culture is in my view Siedentop’s Inventing the individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism.
Concerning the Little Divergence, one well-known and increasingly popular explanation for it, associated in particular with Jan Luiten van Zanden and his multiple co-authors, is essentially that Southwestern/Mediterranean Europe was not really part of Western Europe in this EMP sense. According to this explanation, the lower female agency which characterized regions such as Spain, Portugal, or even south France and south Italy explain their comparative underdevelopment. Women, this literature claims, married early, had high fertility (with consequences for low human capital accumulation, of themselves and their children), did not participate in the labor market as much as elsewhere, and faced comparatively high gender wage gaps, which were supposedly determined by social norms, not market forces. A related literature also exists which splits Europe in religious terms, for instance Joseph Henrich argues that the EMP was stronger in Protestant regions of Europe.
What we’ve done in our present paper was show this was not, empirically, the case. Culturally, something we can call “Western Europe” did exist, with variations within, but these differences could not be first-order to explain the Little Divergence. Dennison and Ogilvie had already shown in fact that the parts of Europe where the EMP were historically stronger were not the most successful in a development sense.
But let me be clear. The evidence does not support the view that the Southern or Catholic part of Western Europe discriminated against women more, but it does largely support Hajnal’s original point that there is such a thing as a “Western European” culture reflected in high female agency and the EMP, among other aspects. In the long run, this may have been a key advantage of Western Europe relative to other parts of the world. In this sense my disagreement with Jan Luiten van Zanden – a scholar for whom I have the utmost respect – is only partial.
One of your conclusions is that economic development fosters the improvement of women rights and not the over way round. Is that the explanation for usual misreading of the situation?
The usual explanation – most associated with Jan Luiten van Zanden and his co-authors – is that the high female agency was a cause of development: the regions of Europe that had it grew more. We are pointing out that, within Western Europe, there were not important historical differences in female agency. Consequently the differences in rights that emerged – mostly only visible only by the early Twentieth century and for the most part gone by the late 1970s – were more in fact a consequence of differential development.
You’ve compared the discrimination against woman in several countries, including, Portugal, England, Netherlands, etc. You’ve found no significant differences in the discrimination towards women. How do you measure that?
We rely on a new dataset of thousands of observations from archival sources covering six centuries, and we complement it with a qualitative discussion of comparative social norms. Compared with Northwestern Europe, women in Portugal faced similar gender wage gaps, married at similar ages, and did not face more restrictions to labor market participation.
What are the influences of the European Marriage Pattern (EMP) according to your findings?
Please see above
You write that “an explanation for the growing income inequality between European countries during the early modern period, especially from the mid-seventeenth century onward – the ‘Little Divergence’ – must be found elsewhere” than gender discrimination. Do you have leads on what might be the explicative factor?
As I mentioned, by the late Middle Ages Western Europe was characterized by an individualist culture that was jointly determined with representative and even proto-democratic political institutions. Parliaments, the judiciary, and the independent power of the Church led to checks and balances to executive power in a way that was particularly Western European and absent from all other parts of the world. Scholars such as Acemoglu and Robinson believe that the Crowns of Spain and Portugal were absolutist already around 1500, but the evidence does not in fact support this claim. Instead, the evidence suggests that Iberia [later] suffered from a resource curse. Note that the second country to have an Industrial Revolution was [Catholic] Belgium, and France followed shortly afterwards. At the same time, Italy and Germany were able to industrialize quickly once they unified politically, in the second half of the nineteenth century.
I’m delighted to announce that I have been awarded a ESRC New Investigators grant for the project: “Measuring the Great Divergence: A study of global standards of living, 1500-1950”. A call for a postdoc will open soon. In this thread I briefly give details about the project. Stay to end for some juice about Portugal’s funding agency, FCT, which had twice rejected a similar proposal of mine previously (and for less money, €250K instead of the £300K that I was now awarded).
We will use archives in Portugal and its former colonial sites to collect five centuries of real wages and welfare ratios. We will focus on locations such as Luanda in Angola, the Mozambique island, Goa in India, and Macao. We will know their comparative development and inequality levels over time.
Our data will be the earliest quantitative welfare comparative information for several regions in Africa, for example. Hence the project will open new avenues for understanding the causes and timing of the ascendency of Europe.
Some scholars argue that slavery and colonialism were what made Europe rich – and kept Africa and other regions of the world poor. We will, for example, be able to see the evolution of the welfare levels in Africa before (and during) any large-scale European presence and demand for slaves. Portugal’s sources go two centuries further back than any others, and cover regions such as Angola from which a disproportionate amount of slaves were taken.
We will produce a set of outputs for academically interested stakeholders and the interested general public. These will include a book to be published by a major publisher and three articles for international peer-reviewed academic journals, plus dissemination events, etc.
Now a personal anecdote about my attempts at getting this funded. This was my third attempt. I tried twice before with a similar project via FCT, Portugal’s research funding agency. It was rejected once by a History panel, and once by an Economics one. It got funded at my first attempt with ESRC.
The comments provided by FCT were factually incorrect, and pathetically bad from a scientific standpoint. – claims made in direct contradiction to the project’s abstract – claimed I was “too junior” to be the PI (no rules placed any age constraint, and my CV is top compared with any full professor in Portugal; so this is an example of Portugal’s gerontocracy, and probably illegal).
“A aldeia histórica de Idanha-a-Velha: cidade, território e população na antiguidade (séc. I a.C. – XII d.C.) – The historical village of Idanha-a-Velha: city, territory and population in ancient times (first century BC. – twelfth century AC)”
“O Percurso Cromático do Azulejo Português – The Chromatic Journey of the Portuguese Azulejo”
“Pensa em grande sobre as pequenas vilas de fronteira: Alto Alentejo e Alta Extremadura leonesa (séculos XIII – XVI) – Think big on small frontier towns: Alto Alentejo and Alta Extremadura leonesa (13th – 16th centuries)”
“Na espessura das paredes e na profundidade do solo – In the width of the walls, in the depth of the soil”
Undeterred, I tried FCT again the following year. To avoid the History panel, I tried Economics, and got these comments: – contributions the proposal not clear – only one study country (Mozambique) fits into East Africa (!!) – The PI (…) has insufficient expertise and the team isn’t sufficently international
In fact, I have published several papers on long-run standards of living (see for instance this), and the proposed team was composed of the PI, me (having my main affiliation abroad) and only two other Portuguese scholars with affiliations in Portugal; the latter two were experts in the sources, located in Portugal and its former colonies. All the other 4 proposed team members are nationals of other countries with affiliations in foreign institutions and all were experts in these types of sources.
To be fair, you sometimes get idiotic comments from referees at good journals too. But FCT does this far too consistently. A key source of criticism to FCT concerns not only the bad scientific quality of the comments one gets but also the fact that one does not have a chance to respond. In ESRC, I got 4 referee assessements of my project, and had a chance to respond to clarify any misunderstandings. Two of those 4 classified this project as “outstanding” along all categories and there was really nothing to respond to; while the other two had minor criticisms, and I got a chance to clarify whether these were misunderstandings. This led to much more fairness and transparency of the process. By contrast, FCT hires supposedly “international experts” – but really most are substandard researchers from often terrible universities – perhaps because it pays them badly, so no one better wants to do the work. The result is what it is: they send their assessment, and if you appeal the rejection, it goes to the same people again (and they just double down on the nonsense).
Anyway, the moral of the story is of course: Starting out is hard, but don’t give up! I’m now looking forward to looking deep into the comparative quantiative history of Africa and other regions of the world.
Gender discrimination has been pointed out as a determining factor behind the long-run divergence in incomes of Southern vis-à-vis Northwestern Europe. In this paper, we show that there is no evidence that women in Portugal were historically more discriminated against than those of other parts of Western Europe, including England and the Netherlands. We rely on a new dataset of thousands of observations from archival sources which cover six centuries, and we complement it with a qualitative discussion of comparative social norms. Compared with Northwestern Europe, women in Portugal faced similar gender wage gaps, married at similar ages, and did not face more restrictions to labor market participation. Consequently, other factors must be responsible for the Little Divergence of Western European incomes.
We show that despite its centrality, slavery was not essential for the production of cotton or industrialization. Our paper provides a critical comparative perspective to the New History of Capitalism literature that has attracted a lot of attention from both scholars and the media in recent years by arguing that slavery was essential for economic development and industrialization in the USA.
We show that the Brazilian cotton export boom kickstarted by the American Civil War took place both in regions dependent on slave labor and those relying on free workers and was rooted in new seeds and technologies rather than an increase of violence.
We further show that large-scale slavery distorted and constrained industrial development by diminishing the ability of areas of Brazil well-suited for industrial development to leverage their comparative advantage.
We conclude that slavery enriched a small elite, while damaging Brazilian society and economy at large, as indeed was also the case for the U.S. south (e.g. as argued by Gavin Wright).
New working paper by Patrick O’Brien and myself, avaliable here (open access), and also as a CEPR discussion paper (gated), here.
Not an ordinary bank but a great engine of state: the Bank of England and the British economy, 1694-1844
From its foundation as a private corporation in 1694 the Bank of England extended large amounts of credit to support the British private economy and to support an increasingly centralized British state. The Bank helped the British state reach a position of geopolitical and economic hegemony in the international economic order. In this paper we deploy recalibrated financial data to analyse an evolving trajectory of connections between the British economy, the state, and the Bank of England. We show how these connections contributed to form an effective and efficient fiscal-naval state and promoted the development of a system of financial intermediation for the economy. This symbiotic relationship became stronger after 1793. The evidence that we consider here shows that although the Bank was nominally a private institution and profits were paid to its shareholders, it was playing a public role well before Bagehot’s doctrine.
Here’s a picture of Patrick and me in my office in Manchester about two years ago, making progress: