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The sustainable debts of Philip II: A reconstruction of Castile's fiscal position, 1566-1596

  • Mauricio Drelichman
  • Joachim Voth

The defaults of Philip II have attained mythical status as the origin of sovereign debt crises. We reassess the fiscal position of Habsburg Castile, deriving comprehensive estimates of revenue, debt, and expenditure from new archival data. The king’s debts were sustainable. Primary surpluses were large and rising. Debt-to-revenue ratios remained broadly unchanged during Philip’s reign. Castilian finances in the sixteenth century compare favorably with those of other early modern fiscal states at the height of their imperial ambitions, including Britain. The defaults of Philip II therefore reflected short-term liquidity crises, and were not a sign of unsustainable debts.

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Paper provided by Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra in its series Economics Working Papers with number 1121.

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Date of creation: Dec 2006
Date of revision: May 2009
Handle: RePEc:upf:upfgen:1121
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