Growth recurring in preindustrial Spain? Articles uri icon

publication date

  • April 2021

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1863-2505

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1863-2513


  • Research in economic history has challenged a strict Malthusian depiction of preindustrial European economies, highlighting 'efflorescences', 'Smithian' and 'growth recurring' episodes. Do these defining concepts apply to preindustrial Spain? In this paper, we carry out new yearly estimates of output and population for over half-a millennium. We find that our estimates of agricultural output on the basis of tithes largely confirm those obtained using a demand function approach supporting its use in the absence of direct information. We show that, although levels of output per head in the early nineteenth century were not much different from those in the eve of the Black Death, preindustrial Spain was far from stagnant. Phases of simultaneous per capita output and population expansion and shrinkage alternated, lending support to the recurring growth and frontier economy hypotheses. A long phase of sustained growth and lower inequality collapsed in the 1570s and gave way to another one of sluggish growth and higher inequality. As an alternative to a Malthusian interpretation, we hypothesise that, in preindustrial Spain, growth and decline are largely explained by individual and collective economic decisions.


  • Economics


  • economic; preindustrial; demography; agriculture; black death; malthusian; spain