Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Enclosing literacy? Common lands and human capital in Spain, 1860–1930


The slow growth of the stock of human capital in Spain has been related to weak levels of economic development and a low commitment of Spanish institutions to primary education. This paper adds to these explanations by showing that common lands positively contributed to achieving significantly higher levels of both schooling expenditure and literacy rates. By supporting both municipal and households’ incomes, these collective resources sustained not only the local supply of education, but also the demand for it, although their influence decreased over time. Likewise, either low levels of economic development prevented human capital from growing endogenously or demand factors were not as important as previously argued. Lastly, even though the active intervention of the central government was crucial to promote education, its effort was not enough and human capital in Spain lagged behind other European countries in the early stages of economic development.

Corresponding author
Hide All
D. Acemoglu , and J. A. Robinson (2000), ‘Why Did the West Extend the Franchise? Democracy, Inequality, and Growth in Historical Perspective’, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 115 (4): 11671199.

R. C. Allen (1992), Enclosure and the Yeoman, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

R. C. Allen (2003), ‘Progress and Poverty in Early Modern Europe’, Economic History Review, 56 (3): 403443.

G. S. Becker , K. M. Murphy , and R. Tamura (1990), ‘Human Capital, Fertility, and Economic Growth’, Journal of Political Economy, 98: s12s37.

F. Comín , and B. Yun-Casalilla (2012), ‘Spain: From Composite Monarchy to Nation State, 1492–1914. An Exceptional Case?’, in B. Yun-Casalilla , P. O'Brien and F. Comín (eds.), The Rise of Fiscal States. A Global History, 1500–1914, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 233266.

K. Deininger and L. Squire (1998), ‘New Ways of Looking at Old Issues: Inequality and Growth’, Journal of Development Economics, 57 (2): 259287.

T De Moor . (2009), ‘Avoiding Tragedies: A Flemish Common and Its Commoners under the Pressure of Social and Economic Change during the Eighteenth Century’, Economic History Review, 62 (1): 122.

F. Dopico (1987): ‘Regional Mortality Tables for Spain in the 1860s’, Historical Methods, 20 (4): 173179.

W. Easterly (2007), ‘Inequality Does Cause Underdevelopment: Insights from a New Instrument’, Journal of Development Economics, 84: 755776.

O. Galor and D. N. Weil (1999), ‘From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth’, American Economic Review, 89: 150154.

O. Galor and J. Zeira (1993), ‘Income Distribution and Macroeconomics’, The Review of Economic Studies, 60 (1): 3552.

O. Galor , O. Moav , and D. Vollrath (2009), ‘Inequality in Land Ownership, the Emergence of Human Capital Promoting Institutions and the Great Divergence’, Review of Economic Studies, 76: 143179.

P. H. Lindert (1994), ‘The Rise of Social Spending, 1880–1930’, Explorations in Economic History, 31 (1): 137.

P. H. Lindert (1996), ‘What Limits Social Spending?’, Explorations in Economic History, 33 (1): 134.

P. H. Lindert (2003), ‘Voice and Growth: Was Churchill Right?’, Journal of Economic History, 63 (2): 315350.

J. Moreno-Luzón (2007), ‘Political clientelism, elites, and caciquismo in Restoration Spain (1875–1923)’, European History Quarterly, 37 (3): 417441.

J. M. Neeson (1993), Commoners: Common right, Enclosure and Social Change in England, 1700–1820, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

D. C. North and R. P. Thomas (1977), ‘The First Economic Revolution’, Economic History Review, 30: 229241.

C. E. Núñez (2003a), ‘Schooling, Literacy and Modernization: A Historian's Approach’, Paedagogica Historica, 39 (5): 535558.

C. E. Núñez (2003b), ‘Within the European Periphery: Education and Labour Mobility in 20th Century Spain’, Paedagogica Historica, 39 (59): 621649.

K. O'Rourke and J. G. Williamson (1997), ‘Around the European Periphery, 1870–1913: Globalisation, Schooling and Growth’, European Review of Economic History, 1: 153190.

E. Ostrom (1990), Governing the Commons, the Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

E. Ostrom (2010), ‘Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems’, American Economic Review, 100 (3): 641672.

G. Quiroga (2003), ‘Literacy, Education and Welfare in Spain (1893–1954)’, Paedagogica Historica, 39 (5): 559619.

J. Reis (2005), ‘Economic Growth, Human Capital Formation and Consumption in Western Europe before 1800’, in R. Allen , T. Bengtsson , and M. Dribe (eds.), Living Standards in the Past: New Perspectives on Well-Being in Asia and Europe, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 195227.

J. R. Rosés , J. Martínez-Galarraga , and D. A. Tirado (2010), ‘The Upswing of Regional Income Inequality in Spain (1860–1930)’, Explorations in Economic History, 47: 244257.

X. Sala-i-Martin , G. Doppelhofer , and R. I. Miller (2004), ‘Determinants of Long-Term Growth: A Bayesian Averaging of Classical Estimates (BACE) Approach’, American Economic Review, 94 (4): 813835.

B. Sánchez-Alonso (2000), ‘Those Who Left and Those Who Stayed Behind: Explaining Emigration from the Regions of Spain, 1880–1914’, Journal of Economic History, 60 (3): 730755.

R. S. Schofield (1973), ‘Dimensions of Illiteracy, 1750–1850’, Explorations in Economic History, 10 (4): 437454.

J. Silvestre (2005), ‘Internal Migrations in Spain, 1877–1930’, European Review of Economic History, 9: 233265.

G. Tortella (1994), ‘Patterns of Economic Retardation and Recovery in South-Western Europe in the 19th and 20th Centuries’, Economic History Review, 47 (1): 121.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Institutional Economics
  • ISSN: 1744-1374
  • EISSN: 1744-1382
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-institutional-economics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 4
Total number of PDF views: 33 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 194 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 17th October 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.