Category Archives: 1914-1945

Visit to the Silk Museum and Paradise Mill in Macclesfield

As readers of this blog know, I take every year my economic history students to the Quarry Bank Mill near Manchester: a large and important cotton factory of the First Industrial Revolution.

But of course, the Manchester region also had other clusters, such as pottery cluster in Stoke-on-Trent (affectionately known as “The Potteries”), and a silk cluster in the region of Macclesfield (where a couple of modern silk-related factories in fact still operate today).

So, in a recent weekend, I visited the Silk Museum and Paradise Mill in Macclesfield. The Paradise Mill had its origins in the early nineteenth century and operated until the 1980s. Visiting was a great experience, and I share some pictures here.

The raw input:

Some general info:

Making the punch cards. These binary instructions define the patterns, and of course influenced modern computers:

An example of the resulting pattern (notice the small upper-left square):

Notice how detailed and fine this could become:

The machines:

The “code” and resulting pattern in a pillow:

Feeding the “code”:

A Short History of the Bank of England: Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast

You can hear my participation in Dan Snow’s History Hit podcast here. Thanks to Dan for the invitation.

For anyone interested in knowing more, this is the paper (joint with Patrick O’Brien) recently published in the EHR and motivated this participation, available in open access here. This was the main paper underlying our discussion, though in the podcast Dan and I also discuss monetary politcy and the role of central banks in more recent times.

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!

Measuring the Great Divergence: a study of global standards of living, 1500-1950

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).

The History panel was in fact mainly composed of archeologists (this is public information) and funded instead of mine, projects such as (again this is public information which can be found online):

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.

Luanda 1.jpg

Stunting and wasting in a growing economy

Update: this post has been updated in 2022, follwing the release of the new version of our paper.

A new paper is out, with the title “Stunting and wasting in a growing economy: Biological living standards in Portugal during the Twentieth Century”. You can find the CEPR (gated) version here, and an open access version here.

In this paper, we document the remarkable progress that happened for the living standards of children and young adults in Portugal during the second half of the 20th century. Portugal’s real income per head grew by a factor of eight during the second half of the twentieth century, a period of fast convergence towards Western European standards of living. To which extent was there a reflection of this progress on the wellbeing of people?

We use a new sample of 3400 children to document trends in the prevalence of stunting and wasting. We additionally use a sample of 26,000 young adult males covering the entire country which shows similar trends.

We find that the prevalence of stunting and wasting fell quickly from the 1950s, for both males and females. Natually, 20 year-olds lagged behind children and the county also lagged behind Lisbon. But life improved for everyone, and it did so for females as much as for males. Stunting and wasting were considerably higher for infants than children (as we show in the paper), at least partly due to selection of survivors. Child mortality was high but steadily declining over our period. For children (2 to 10 years of age), for example, the prevalence of wasting (being underweight, usually due to malnourishment or diseases) fell sharply. The results for stunting (children well below the normal height for a given age) are similar.

Comparison of stunting in Lisbon vs. Portugal for 20 year-old males show that standards of living were higher in Lisbon, but there were improvements over time in the country overal over time, with the timing of the improvements in Lisbon ahead of elsewhere:

In the paper, we discuss the causes of these trends: changes in income and public policy which affected the ontogenetic environment of children. The income and health improvements which happened in Portugal over the second half of the 20th century led to the improvements that we document. From around 1950, infrastructure improved considerably, both with regards to water access, sewage, and quality of dwellings. This decreased the incidence of diarrhea and other digestive diseases that commonly affect children. Infant mortality due to digestive diseases up to 3 y.o. fell, and literacy levels among children also steadily rose from the late 1920s. Later, these became more informed parents, who presumably took better decisions.

The macroeconomic progress which occurred in Portugal during the second half of the 20th century was associated with considerable improvements in the living standards of ordinary citizens including children and young adults. That progress began under the Estado Novo regime and further continued under democracy. As a result of this joint progress, Portugal was transformed during the 1945-1994 half century from a country with dismal development outcomes into a modern developed country as far as health outcomes are concerned.

The efficiency of the Chinese silver standard, 1920-33

Updated September 2021.

This paper is now published in the Journal of Economic History. [open access version here].

Our database: black dots represent the locations of major commercial centers in Central and North China while triangles show our sample of smaller or more remote cities.

Market fragmentation prevailed in China during its Republican and Nationalist periods. That is what most of the existing literature says, at least: domestic markets were segmented due to a largely self-sufficient peasant economy, backward transport, and low state capacity. The latter led to political instability and various warlords controlling different regions of the country. As a consequence, port cities and the countryside had independent markets, which limited economic growth.

In a new CEPR discussion paper (written by Liuyan Zhao of the school of economics of Peking University and myself), we test for money market integration in China during 1920-1933 using a new dataset of daily domestic exchange rates. We consider ten Chinese cities, all of which were on a silver standard, for 1920-1933. We find that despite political instability, domestic financial markets were highly integrated in much of the country.

With the exception of the period of the Northern Expedition (09/1926-12/1928), the
exchange-market efficiency of the Chinese silver standard among China’s main economic hubs was not much different in magnitude to that of the classical Dollar-Sterling gold standard before World War I. We hence conclude that there was a substantial degree of Chinese financial markets integration before the Sino-Japanese War, and we attribute this fact to technological advancements such as the rapidly explanding railway and telegraph lines, to monetary innovations, and to China’s low labor costs which contributed towards low transportation costs. Most of these factors were of Western origin, and spread due to Western influence and presence in China, even if that presence also arguably represented a threat to Chinese sovereignty. However, remote cities in South China not under central government control were less integrated.

Our study carries implications for the historical understanding of market integration
at a time of political disintegration during the Warlord Era and the early years of the
Nanjing Decade. We find that the Chinese silver standard in the most advanced parts of the country was remarkably efficient at this time. However, political turmoil and weak state capacity implied that Chinese economic development in parts of the country was kept in check.

A open access version of our paper is here. The CEPR discussion paper version is here.

Big debates and economic history: the case of World War II

Economic history matters for big debates. This can be true of even historical national accounting work which to some observers can appear to be as dry a topic as any can be. Here’s an example of why it matters.

In this interview with Tyler Cowen, the notable historian Adam Tooze mentions (from around minute 32) how in writing his celebrated book “Wages of Destruction: the making and breaking of the Nazi economy”, he was critically influenced by the work of top economic historians Angus Maddison and Stephen Broadberry. Their work on productivity comparisons between the USA and Europe, as well as between the UK and continental European countries was of fundamental importance to the formulation of Tooze’s innovative arguments in his book, which relied in part on the rejection of anachronistic assumptions about German economic power prior to (and during) the war.

Tooze’s book rationalizes some of Hitler’s strategic military actions, such as the invasion of the Soviet Union, arguing that it was an ideological but also calculated move to grap resources in antecipation of war with all-mighty USA. The book has at times been criticized for downplaying the role of the UK, but is undeniably brilliant, and it deservingly won the Wolfson History Prize.

Watch the interview here:

“Standards of living in Europe’s Global Empires” session in the WEHC, Paris 2022

UPDATE: the date and locations are out – July 29th 2022 PA.137, 09:00 – 12:30,  Centre des colloques – Room 3.09

This session has been accepted to the World Economic History Conference in Paris.

Session title: “Standards of living in Europe’s Global Empires”

Organizer: Nuno Palma (University of Manchester; ICS, Univ. de Lisboa; CEPR)

Please notice this program is still subject to changes. I will update it as new information arrives.

There are 10 papers in total, which means approx. 15 minutes per paper (plus questions at the end of each session) as this will be a double (2 x 90 minutes) session.

Session 1 (90 minutes)

India and Bengal

Pim de Zwart (Wageningen University), When did India’s decline begin? Real wages in western India, c. 1500-1850 (with Hélder Carvalhal, Jan Lucassen and Paulo Teodoro de Matos)

Jan Lucassen (IISH, Amsterdam): Deep monetization and real wage developments: India C13th-19th

Joseph Enguehard (Lyon): Local living standards and development in Bengal, 1890-1930


Nuno Palma (Univ. Manchester, Univ. Lisboa; CEPR), Living standards in Angola, 1760-1800, with Hélder Carvalhal (University of Manchester)

Session 2 (90 minutes)

Latin America & Southern Europe

Tancredi Buscemi (University of Perugia), Real wages in the Kingdom of Sicily (1540-1830)

Guilherme Lambais (ICS-UL), Welfare and real wages in Bahia (1574-1920), with Nuno Palma (University of Manchester; ICS-UL; CEPR),


Elena Korchmina (University of South Denmark): Living standards in Russia, 1700-1850, with Viktor Borisov (HSE University, Moscow)


Calumet Links (Stellenbosch University), Ecology and Agency: Indigenous responses to Europeans in the Cape Colony and Hudson Bay, with Ann Carlos, Erik Green and Angela Redish

Michael Adelsberger (University of Vienna) and Georg Stoger (Salzburg). Re-evaluating Urban Real Wages and Standards of Living for the Central European Area, ca. 1450-1850


What can we learn from two centuries of budget data? (Highlight IV)

This post continues the highlights series. The author is Per F. Andersson, who is a Lecturer at Lund University, and an expert in Comparative Politics, Institutions, and Taxation. He is responsible for the text below, and the amazing dataset he mentions was was put together both by him and by Thomas Brambor.

The data and codebook are available at:


What can we learn from two centuries of budget data? Introducing the “Financing the State: Government Tax Revenue from 1800 to 2012” dataset – Per F. Andersson

The history of the state is closely linked to the history of taxation. Austrian sociologist Rudolf Goldscheid held that “the budget is the skeleton of the state stripped of all misleading ideologies”, and  Joseph A. Schumpeter went even further, famously stating that “The spirit of a people, its cultural level, its social structure, the deeds its policy may prepare – all this and more is written in its fiscal history, stripped of all phrases. He who knows how to listen to its message here discerns the thunder of world history more clearly than anywhere else ([1918]1991 p. 101).“ If Schumpeter and Goldscheid were right, much can be gained from studying taxation during the last two centuries, an era that saw dramatic changes not only in the extent of taxation but also in economic and political organization.

Given the importance of taxation for understanding politics, state capacity, and economic growth, it is surprising that there is no historical cross-country dataset over government finances. In this post I present an attempt by me and Thomas Brambor to provide this information. The dataset provides information from 31 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, the United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela from 1800 (or independence) to 2012. In other words, it includes all South American, North American, and Western European countries with a population of more than one million, plus Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and Mexico.

We make three main contributions. First, we move beyond previous historical studies which focus on Western Europe by including North America, all major countries in South America, and Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and Japan. Second, in contrast to existing modern datasets, usually covering a large number of countries but only for a few decades, our dataset goes back to the early nineteenth century. Third, while previous efforts have concentrated on overall revenue or contrasting direct and indirect taxes, we provide more detailed information allowing for a more comprehensive understanding of the rise of the modern tax state.

This post begins with a short description of how the dataset was put together, and how it differs from previous efforts (for longer discussion see the online codebook available at: In the second part of the post I demonstrate how the data can be used to explore changes in the size and composition of government revenue during the last two centuries.

Constructing the dataset

The dataset contains information on the public finances of central governments. We focus on tax revenues, defining taxes as compulsory and unrequited levies by the government. The information on tax revenue is presented as a share of the total budget and as a share of total domestic product. We have divided tax revenue from the central state into several categories. First, we are interested in the shares of total revenue coming from direct and indirect taxes. Further, we measure types of direct taxes, namely taxes on property and income. For indirect taxes, we separate excises (taxes on specific goods, such as salt or tobacco), broad-based consumption taxes (such as value-added tax), and taxes on international trade (a complete list of variables and their definitions is available in the codebook.)

Collecting data for a large number of countries over long time spans presents difficult issues regarding measurement and consistency. The overall goal of the data collection has been to create long time series that are internally consistent within a country over time and that connect to contemporary datasets which in turn allow easy continual updates in the future. When different sources of data are combined, there need to be decisions about how to decide which sources to use and how to judge their quality. In addition, using and combining different sources has the potential to introduce measurement error and potentially bias the constructed estimates. In the codebook we describe in detail the decisions about how we integrated disparate sources, and also address a few issues that are relevant for analysis based on these data.

Comparison with related efforts

Previous research using historical tax revenue data either relies on information with a long historical coverage (some even long before 1800, e.g., Dincecco 2009, Karaman and Pamuk 2013) but for a few number of countries — usually Western Europe (Aidt and Jensen 2013), sometimes adding English-speaking off-shoots and Japan (Tanzi and Schuknecht 2000) — or a wide geographic coverage but only for the most recent decades (e.g., Prichard et al. 2014). These efforts rarely provide yearly data (e.g., Tanzi and Schuknecht 2000), or present information only on the size of government (Mauro et al 2013, Karaman and Pamuk 2013).

Many recent papers still rely heavily on Mitchell (2007) (e.g., Beramendi et al. 2019; Lee and Paine 2020). For various reasons we have a different approach which we believe has much to contribute.

Instead of taking existing cross-country databases (such as Mitchell) at face value, we took great pains at comparing and evaluating different sources – often cross checking them with country-specific sources – in order to find as reliable data as possible. During our work we discovered that Mitchell in particular is often unreliable. When comparing the information provided in his volumes with contemporary, high-quality, country-specific data we found two main causes for concern. First, Mitchell is often inconsistent in the way budget items are coded or even which parts of government budgets are presented, which causes problems when interpreting changes over time and across countries. The second problem is that the subcategories of revenues in Mitchell (e.g., direct and indirect taxes) at times sum to more than a hundred percent, which suggest underlying issues in the aggregation process. For these reasons, among others, we have tried to minimize our use of Mitchell as a source, and when we use it, we try to find ways of validating the trustworthiness of his estimates (for example by using country-specific sources).

Overall, a substantial part of our dataset comes from country-specific sources, all listed in the codebook. For users who wish to explore the data in more depth, we also provide detailed information by country allowing analysts to scrutinize by variable which sources were used for every year.

Exploring the data

To begin with, Figures 1 and 2 below present total tax revenues and the share coming from direct and indirect taxes (averages for all countries in the dataset). The figures show how the overall size of the state grew from about six percent of GDP in the nineteenth century to almost twenty percent in the 2000s. During the same period states went from financing themselves mainly through indirect taxes to a more even mix of direct and indirect taxes.



   Figure 1. Central Tax Revenue/GDP


Figure 2. Share of Direct and Indirect Tax Revenue

However, this general development hides important changes within the categories of direct and indirect taxes. As Figure 3 shows, excises and taxes on international trade were the main sources of indirect tax revenue in the nineteenth century, while broad-based consumption taxes – such as value-added tax – became more important in the late twentieth century. Figure 4 shows the evolution of direct taxes in the same period, documenting how property taxes — an important part of budgets in the nineteenth century — were superseded by income taxes in the twentieth century.


    Figure 3. Indirect Taxes.


Figure 4. Direct Taxes.

It is also interesting to observe what happened to taxation around the world during and after major international conflicts. Figure 5 below show total revenues and the share of income taxes — which is considered to be a good indicator of fiscal capacity (e.g., Rogers and Weller 2014) — and three major conflicts: the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, and the Second World War. While the number of countries for which we have data (and some did not exist at the time) is lower during the Napoleonic wars, it is still interesting to note that the conflict is neither associated with a permanent increase in income tax share nor in the overall size of the state. The two world wars are different. After World War I, the average size of government remained higher than before the war, and this tendency is even stronger after World War II. Looking at the share of revenue coming from income tax, this tendency is much weaker after World War I: while the share increased dramatically during the war, it decreased after the conflict ended (but not all the way down to pre-war levels). In contrast, income tax revenues not only became hugely important during World War II, they also remained so afterwards.


Figure 5. Size of Government, Income Tax, and War.

Finally, one of the great strengths of our wide geographic coverage is that it allows for comparisons between regions. Figure 6 below shows the evolution of total tax revenues and income tax share between Latin America and Europe.


Figure 6: The Size of Government and Income Tax in Europe and Latin America

There are several interesting things to note. First, although Latin America does not experience an increase in the income tax share during World War I as Europe does, both regions experience an increase in income tax revenues around the time of World War II. Second, between the end of World War II and the mid-1970s, Europe and Latin America relied to a similar extent on income taxes. But after around 1975, the two regions diverge, both in terms of the income tax share and in terms of total tax revenues.

These are just a couple of examples of what can be explored using our dataset. In my own work I have looked into how democracy and urbanization affect the tax mix (Andersson 2018),  how electoral systems condition the impact of ideology on taxation (Andersson 2019a), and how the adoption of taxes affects fiscal capacity and what types of states make these investments (Andersson 2019b). Thomas Brambor has investigated the legacy effect of non-democratic introductions of the income tax (Brambor 2016).

The data and the codebook are available at:


Andersson, Per F. 2018. “Democracy, Urbanization, and Tax Revenue.” Studies in Comparative International Development 53(1):111–150.

Andersson, Per F. 2019. “Power-sharing and Income Taxation in non-Democratic States.” STANCE Working Paper. Lund University.

Andersson, Per F. 2019. “Left-wing Tax Strategy Depends on the Electoral System.” Working Paper. Lund University.

Aidt, Toke ., & Peter S. Jensen. 2013. “Democratization and the size of government: Evidence from the long 19th century”. Public Choice, 157(3/4), 511-542.

Beramendi, Pablo, Mark Dincecco and Melissa Rogers. 2019. “Intra-Elite Competition and Long-Run Fiscal Development.” The Journal of Politics 81(1):49–65.

Brambor, Thomas. 2016. “Fiscal Capacity and the Enduring Legacy of the First Income Tax Law”. Unpublished manuscript: Lund University.

Dincecco, Mark. 2009. “Fiscal Centralization, Limited Government, and Public Revenues in Europe, 1650–1913.” The Journal of Economic History 69(1):48–103.

Flora, Peter, Franz Kraus, and Winfried Pfenning. 1983. State, Economy, and Society in Western Europe 1815-1975: The growth of industrial societies and capitalist economies, Frankfurt: Campus Verlag.

International Monetary Fund (IMF). 2012. “Government finance statistics (GFS).”

Karaman, K. Kivanc and Sevket Pamuk. 2013. “Different Paths to the Modern State in Europe: The Interaction Between Warfare, Economic Structure, and Political Regime.” American Political Science Review 107(3):603–626.

Lee, Alexander and Jack Paine. 2020. “The Great Revenue Divergence”. Working paper.

Mauro, Paolo, Rafael Romeu, Ariel Binder, and Asad Zaman. 2013. “A Modern History of Fiscal Prudence and Profligacy,” IMF working paper WP/13/5

Mitchell, Brian R. 2007. International historical statistics: Africa, Asia & Oceania, 1750- 2005, 5. ed., New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

, International historical statistics: Europe, 1750-2005, 6. ed., New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

, International historical statistics: the Americas, 1750-2005, 6. ed., New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Prichard Wilson, Alex Cobham and Andrew Goodall. 2014. “The ICTD Government Revenue Dataset” ICTD Working Paper 19.

Rogers, Melissa Ziegler and Nicholas Weller. 2014. “Income taxation and the validity of state capacity indicators.” Journal of Public Policy 34(2):183–206.

Schumpeter, Joseph. 1991. “The Crisis of the Tax State”. In Joseph A. Schumpeter: The Economics and Sociology of Capitalism, ed. Richard Swedberg. Princeton: Princeton University Press. First published in 1918.

Tanzi, Vito & Ludger Schuknecht. 2000. Public spending in the 20th Century. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Can autocracy promote literacy? evidence from a cultural alignment success story

Update: This paper is now published at the Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization. See also below for a permanent open access link to the paper.


What can the XXth century Portuguese experience teach us about the interaction between political regimes, culture, and literacy attainment?

Here’s a recent paper on this topic by Jaime Reis and myself. The CEPR version is gated, but you can find a free (open access) version here. There is also a voxeu summary available.

Here’s the abstract: 

“Do countries with less democratic forms of government necessarily have lower literacy rates as a consequence? Using a random sample of 9000 individuals from military archives in Portugal, we show that 20-year old males were 50% more likely to end up literate under an authoritarian regime than under a democratic one. Our results are robust to controlling for a host of factors including economic growth, the disease environment, and regional fixed effects. We argue for a political economy and cultural explanation for the success of the authoritarian regime in promoting basic education.”

In a sense, this is a paper in the spirit of Edmund Burke’s argument that successful social change needs to be gradual, and we cannot change societies by top-down design overnight.

To contextualize the paper further, note that Portugal during the first half of the XXth century was very poor. In 1910 it had a GDP per capita of international GK $1228, compared with 4,611 for England, and hence closer to that of Côte d’Ivoire today (1,195 in 2010). Even as late as 1950 Portugal, at IGK $2,086, was behind Mozambique today (with IGK $1876 in 2010), and was clearly poorer than Cape Verde today its last avaliable data year, 2008 (IGK $2,735). Source: the 2013 Maddison Project. (I haven’t updated these numbers using the newest MPD but the general pattern won’t have changed much).

Literacy increased the most in the most Catholic areas of the country because these were more alingned with the values of the Estado Novo regime