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The chronic food deficit of early modern Portugal: curse or myth?

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  • Leonor Freire Costa
  • Jaime Reis

Abstract

Two historiographical currents have debated whether early modern Portugal was cursed by an excessive dependence on foreign food imports as a result of being unable to feed its population, or not. In this short paper, the first long-run systematic quantitative study of this question, we show that the former view is a myth and therefore could not be a curse. Throughout the entire period, a certain amount of grain was in fact imported but cereal purchases abroad never represented more than a diminutive percentage of total food consumption. More importantly, the country carried out a diversified trade in foodstuffs which was seldom seriously out of balance. Portuguese agriculture showed itself consistently capable of specializing in different foodstuffs for export. It was thus not hopelessly inefficient and succeeded reasonably well in meeting the basic nutritional needs of the population.

Suggested Citation

  • Leonor Freire Costa & Jaime Reis, 2016. "The chronic food deficit of early modern Portugal: curse or myth?," Working Papers GHES - Office of Economic and Social History 2016/58, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, GHES - Social and Economic History Research Unit, Universidade de Lisboa.
  • Handle: RePEc:ise:gheswp:wp582016
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    File URL: https://ghes.rc.iseg.ulisboa.pt/wp/wp582016.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. A-B. Nunes & C. Bastien & N. Valério & R. Martins De Sousa & S. Domingo Costa, 2011. "Banking in the Portuguese Colonial Empire (1864-1975)," Economies et Sociétés (Serie 'Histoire Economique Quantitative'), Association Française de Cliométrie (AFC), issue 44, pages 1483-1554, September.
    2. Ana Bela Nunes & Nuno Valerio & Rita Martins de Sousa, 2005. "The Long-Run Behaviour of the Income Velocity of Money in Portugal: 1854-1992," Working Papers GHES - Office of Economic and Social History 2005/23, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, GHES - Social and Economic History Research Unit, Universidade de Lisboa.
    3. Ana Bela Nunes & Miguel St. Aubyn & Nuno Valerio & Rita Martins de Sousa, 2011. "The Determinants of the Behaviour of the Income Velocity of Money in Portugal 1891-1998: An Econometric Approach," Working Papers GHES - Office of Economic and Social History 2011/45, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, GHES - Social and Economic History Research Unit, Universidade de Lisboa.
    4. Amélia Branco & Nuno Valério & Rita Martins de Sousa, 2012. "Echoes from the Past: Portuguese Stabilizations of the 1890S and 1920S," Working Papers GHES - Office of Economic and Social History 2012/47, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, GHES - Social and Economic History Research Unit, Universidade de Lisboa.
    5. Amelia Dias & Francisco M. Parejo Moruno, 2006. "0 Comércio Externo Corticeiro na Peninsula Ibérica no Período de 1930 a 1974 - Uma Perspectiva Comparada," Working Papers GHES - Office of Economic and Social History 2006/28, ISEG - Lisbon School of Economics and Management, GHES - Social and Economic History Research Unit, Universidade de Lisboa.
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    Cited by:

    1. Nuno Palma & Jaime Reis, 2018. "From Convergence to Divergence: Portuguese Economic Growth, 1527-1850," Working Papers 0137, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    2. Jaime Reis, 2016. "The Gross Agricultural Output of Portugal: A Quantitative, Unified Perspective, 1500-1850," Working Papers 0098, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).
    3. Pedro Lains, 2017. "Portugal’s wine globalization waves, 1750-2015," Working Papers 0113, European Historical Economics Society (EHES).

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Food deficit; Agriculture; Foreign trade; Portugal JEL classification: N53; O49;

    JEL classification:

    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • O49 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Growth and Aggregate Productivity - - - Other

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