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This special issue of the Revista deHistoria Económica — Journal of Iberian and Latin American Economic History contains a selection of papers originally presented at the conference «A Comparative Approach to Inequality and Development: Latin America and Europe» organized by the three authors of this introduction. The conference was supported by the Instituto Figuerola (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid), and it met at the Fundación Ramón Areces on May 8-9, 2009. The conference was sponsored by the GlobalEuroNet- Research Networking Programme of the European Science Foundation, the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación (Acciones Complementarias), Fundación Ramón Areces and the HI-POD Project. Each of the papers published here has undergone the journal's usual blind peer review process. Inequality has been a topic of intensive research and debate over the last decade, especially in Latin America. The aim of the conference was to put the recent Latin American experience with inequality in the long-term perspective of many centuries, and to promote a comparative analysis. Compared with Europe and other parts of the periphery, has inequality really been a distinctive aspect of Latin American development since the arrival of the Iberian conquerors? What form has it taken? Has it made an important contribution to the region's disappointing growth performance over the 20th century?