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License to till: The privileges of the Spanish Mesta as a case of second-best institutions

  • Drelichman, Mauricio

The Mesta was the association of the migratory shepherds of Castile, controlling fine wool production between the thirteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Its royally granted privileges have often been blamed for the stagnant Spanish agricultural productivity during the early modern period. I argue that the Mesta's privileges allowed Medieval Castile to develop its comparative advantage in wool, and that the Crown was able to restrict their scope and application when economic conditions favored arable farming interests. I support my argument with extensive archival data, including a new series of wool prices and a detailed analysis of lawsuits involving the Mesta.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Explorations in Economic History.

Volume (Year): 46 (2009)
Issue (Month): 2 (April)
Pages: 220-240

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Handle: RePEc:eee:exehis:v:46:y:2009:i:2:p:220-240
Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/inca/622830

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  1. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2000. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," NBER Working Papers 7771, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Rodrik, Dani, 2008. "Second-Best Institutions," CEPR Discussion Papers 6764, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  3. Drelichman, Mauricio, 2007. "Sons of Something: Taxes, Lawsuits, and Local Political Control in Sixteenth-Century Castile," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(03), pages 608-642, September.
  4. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why Do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output per Worker than Others?," NBER Working Papers 6564, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Gene M. Grossman & Elhanan Helpman, 1992. "Protection For Sale," NBER Working Papers 4149, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  6. Daron Acemoglu & Philippe Aghion & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2002. "Distance to Frontier, Selection, and Economic Growth," NBER Working Papers 9066, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  7. Richardson, Gary, 2004. "Guilds, laws, and markets for manufactured merchandise in late-medieval England," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 41(1), pages 1-25, January.
  8. Nugent, Jeffrey B. & Sanchez, Nicolas, 1989. "The efficiency of the mesta: A parable," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 261-284, July.
  9. Dani Rodrik & Arvind Subramanian & Francesco Trebbi, 2002. "Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions over Geography and Integration in Economic Development," NBER Working Papers 9305, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. John H. A. Munro, 2005. "Spanish Merino Wools and the Nouvelles Draperies: An Industrial Transformation in the Late-Medieval Low Countries," Working Papers munro-04-03, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
  11. Drelichman, Mauricio & Voth, Hans-Joachim, 2007. "The Sustainable Debts of Philip II: A Reconstruction of Spain's Fiscal Position, 1560-1598," CEPR Discussion Papers 6611, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  12. Acemoglu, Daron & Johnson, Simon & Robinson, James A., 2005. "Institutions as a Fundamental Cause of Long-Run Growth," Handbook of Economic Growth, in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 6, pages 385-472 Elsevier.
  13. Drelichman, Mauricio, 2005. "The curse of Moctezuma: American silver and the Dutch disease," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 349-380, July.
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