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The Opportunity of a Disaster: The Economic Impact of the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake


  • Pereira, Alvaro S.


By combining new archival and existing data, this article provides estimates of the economic impact of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, the largest natural catastrophe ever recorded in Europe. The direct cost of the earthquake is estimated to be between 32 and 48 percent of the Portuguese GDP. In spite of strict controls, prices and wages remained volatile in the years after the tragedy. The recovery from the earthquake also led to a rise in the wage premium of construction workers. More significantly, the earthquake became an opportunity to reform the economy and to reduce the economic semi-dependency vis-à -vis Britain. “ Sometimes miracles are necessary, natural phenomena, or great disasters in order to shake, to awaken, and to open the eyes of misled nations about their interests, [nations] oppressed by others that simulate friendship, and reciprocal interest. Portugal needed the earthquake to open her eyes, and to little by little escape from slavery and total ruin.†1

Suggested Citation

  • Pereira, Alvaro S., 2009. "The Opportunity of a Disaster: The Economic Impact of the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 69(2), pages 466-499, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:69:y:2009:i:02:p:466-499_00

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    Cited by:

    1. Altindag, Duha T., 2012. "Crime and unemployment: Evidence from Europe," International Review of Law and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 145-157.
    2. Bas van Bavel & Daniel Curtis, 2015. "Better understanding disasters by better using history: Systematically using the historical record as one way to advance research into disasters," Working Papers 0068, Utrecht University, Centre for Global Economic History.
    3. Okazaki, Tetsuji & Okubo, Toshihiro & Strobl, Eric, 2019. "Creative Destruction of Industries: Yokohama City in the Great Kanto Earthquake, 1923," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 79(1), pages 1-31, March.
    4. Leonor Freire Costa, & M. Manuela Rocha, & Paulo Brito, 2014. "Money Supply and the Credit Market in Early Modern Economies: The Case of Eighteenth-Century Lisbon," Working Papers GHES - Office of Economic and Social History 2014/52, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, GHES - Social and Economic History Research Unit, Universidade de Lisboa.
    5. Hunter, Janet & Ogasawara, Kota, 2016. "Price shocks in disaster: the Great Kantō Earthquake in Japan,1923," Economic History Working Papers 68618, London School of Economics and Political Science, Department of Economic History.
    6. International Monetary Fund, 2014. "Portugal; Fiscal Transparency Evaluation," IMF Staff Country Reports 14/306, International Monetary Fund.
    7. repec:bla:ehsrev:v:71:y:2018:i:4:p:1147-1172 is not listed on IDEAS

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