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The Sustainable Debts of Philip II: A Reconstruction of Spain's Fiscal Position, 1560-1598

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  • Drelichman, Mauricio
  • Voth, Hans-Joachim

Abstract

The defaults of Philip II have attained mythical status as the origin of sovereign debt crises. The king failed to honour his debts four times during his reign. In this paper, we reassess the fiscal position of Habsburg Spain. New archival evidence allows us to derive comprehensive estimates of debt and revenue. These show that primary surpluses were sufficient to make the king's debt sustainable for most of his reign. Spain's debt burden was manageable up to the 1580s, and its fiscal position only deteriorated for good after the defeat of the "Invincible Armada". We also estimate fiscal policy reaction functions, and show that Spain under the Habsburgs was at least as "responsible" as the US in the 20th century or as Britain in the 18th century. Our results suggest that the outcome of uncertain events such as wars may have more influence on a history of default than strict adherence to fiscal rules.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:6611
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Mauricio Drelichman & Hans-Joachim Voth, 2008. "Debt Sustainability in Historical Perspective: The Role of Fiscal Repression," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 6(2-3), pages 657-667, 04-05.
    2. Drelichman, Mauricio, 2009. "License to till: The privileges of the Spanish Mesta as a case of second-best institutions," Explorations in Economic History, Elsevier, vol. 46(2), pages 220-240, April.
    3. K. Kývanç Karaman & Þevket Pamuk, 2009. "Ottoman State Finances in Comparative European Perspective, 1500-1914," Working Papers 2009/05, Bogazici University, Department of Economics.
    4. Pablo Martín-Aceña & Pilar Nogues-Marco, 2012. "Crisis bancarias en la historia de España. Del Antiguo Régimen a los orígenes del capitalismo moderno," Documentos de Trabajo (DT-AEHE) 1201, Asociacion Espa–ola de Historia Economica.
    5. Álvarez Nogal, Carlos & Chamley, Christophe, 2011. "Debt policy under constraints between Philip II, the Cortes and Genoese bankers," IFCS - Working Papers in Economic History.WH wp11-06, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid. Instituto Figuerola.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    early modern history; fiscal stability; natural resources; sovereign debt; Spain; sustainability;

    JEL classification:

    • F34 - International Economics - - International Finance - - - International Lending and Debt Problems
    • H62 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Deficit; Surplus
    • H63 - Public Economics - - National Budget, Deficit, and Debt - - - Debt; Debt Management; Sovereign Debt
    • N24 - Economic History - - Financial Markets and Institutions - - - Europe: 1913-
    • N44 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: 1913-

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