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License to Till: The Privileges of the Spanish Mesta as a Case of Second Best Institutions

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  • Drelichman, Mauricio

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Drelichman, Mauricio, 2006. "License to Till: The Privileges of the Spanish Mesta as a Case of Second Best Institutions," Economics working papers drelichman-06-04-24-11-33, Vancouver School of Economics, revised 03 Oct 2008.
  • Handle: RePEc:ubc:bricol:drelichman-06-04-24-11-33-27
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    File URL: http://mauricio.econ.ubc.ca/pdfs/mesta.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Daron Acemoglu & Philippe Aghion & Fabrizio Zilibotti, 2006. "Distance to Frontier, Selection, and Economic Growth," Journal of the European Economic Association, MIT Press, vol. 4(1), pages 37-74, March.
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    4. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James A. Robinson, 2001. "The Colonial Origins of Comparative Development: An Empirical Investigation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 91(5), pages 1369-1401, December.
    5. Dani Rodrik & Arvind Subramanian & Francesco Trebbi, 2004. "Institutions Rule: The Primacy of Institutions Over Geography and Integration in Economic Development," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 9(2), pages 131-165, June.
    6. Robert E. Hall & Charles I. Jones, 1999. "Why do Some Countries Produce So Much More Output Per Worker than Others?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 114(1), pages 83-116.
    7. Munro, John H., 2004. "Spanish Merino wools and the Nouvelles Draperies: an industrial transformation in the late-medieval Low Countries," MPRA Paper 15808, University Library of Munich, Germany, revised 22 Mar 2005.
    8. 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.
    9. 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.
    10. 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.
    11. R. G. Lipsey & Kelvin Lancaster, 1956. "The General Theory of Second Best," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 24(1), pages 11-32.
    12. Dani Rodrik, 2008. "Second-Best Institutions," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 100-104, May.
    13. 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.
    14. 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.
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    Cited by:

    1. Di Liberto, Adriana & Sideri, Marco, 2015. "Past dominations, current institutions and the Italian regional economic performance," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 12-41.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Mesta; Institutions; Property Rights; Privileges; Enforcement; Legal Records; Spain; Castile;

    JEL classification:

    • N0 - Economic History - - General
    • N43 - Economic History - - Government, War, Law, International Relations, and Regulation - - - Europe: Pre-1913
    • N53 - Economic History - - Agriculture, Natural Resources, Environment and Extractive Industries - - - Europe: Pre-1913

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