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Brazilian Export Growth and Divergence in the Tropics during the Nineteenth Century


The objective of this article is to reappraise both the accuracy of the official export statistics and the narrative of Brazilian export growth during the period immediately following independence. We undertake an accuracy test of the official values of Brazilian export statistics and find evidence of considerable under-valuation. Once corrected, during the post-independence decades (1821–50) Brazil's current exports represented a larger share of its economy and its constant growth is found to be more dynamic than any other period of the nineteenth century. We posit that this dynamism was related to an exogenous institutional shock in the form of British West Indies slave emancipation that afforded Brazil a competitive advantage.

Spanish abstract

El objetivo de este artículo es reconsiderar tanto la exactitud de las estadísticas oficiales de exportación y la narrativa del crecimiento de exportaciones de Brasil durante el período inmediatamente posterior a la independencia. Aquí se realiza un examen sobre la exactitud de los valores oficiales de las estadísticas sobre la exportaciones brasileñas y encontramos evidencias de una subvaloración considerable. Una vez corregidas, durante las décadas post independentistas (1821–1850), las exportaciones de Brasil representan una parte mayor de su economía y demostramos que su constante crecimiento resultó ser más dinámico que en cualquier otro periodo de ese siglo. Sostenemos que dicho dinamismo se relacionó con un choque institucional externo en la forma de la emancipación de esclavos de las colonias británicas en el Caribe que dio a Brasil una ventaja competitiva.

Portuguese abstract

O objetivo deste artigo é reavaliar tanto a precisão das estatísticas oficiais relacionadas às exportações quanto as narrativas sobre o crescimento das exportações brasileiras no período logo após a independência. Realizamos um teste de precisão dos valores das estatísticas oficiais de exportações brasileiras e encontramos evidências de uma considerável subvalorizarão. Uma vez feitas as correções, durante as décadas pós-independência (1821–1850) as exportações brasileiras representaram uma parcela maior da economia do país e o crescimento constante das exportações demonstra ter sido mais dinâmico que em qualquer outro período do século XIX. Postulamos que este dinamismo estava relacionado ao choque institucional exógeno representado pela abolição da escravidão nas Índias Ocidentais britânicas que garantiram uma vantagem competitiva ao Brasil.

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Nathaniel H. Leff , ‘Tropical Trade and Development in the Nineteenth Century: The Brazilian Experience’, Journal of Political Economy, 81: 3 (May–June, 1973), p. 690

Nathaniel H. Leff , ‘A Technique for Estimating Income Trends from Currency Data and an Application to Nineteenth-Century Brazil’, Review of Income and Wealth, 18: 4 (1972), p. 363

Nathaniel H. Leff , ‘Economic Development and Regional Inequality: Origins of the Brazilian Case’, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 86: 2 (May, 1972), pp. 243–62

Richard B. Sheridan , ‘The West Indian Sugar Crisis and British Slave Emancipation, 1830–1833’, Journal of Economic History, 21 (1961), pp. 539–51

J. R. Ward , ‘The Profitability of Sugar Planting in the British West Indies, 1650–1834’, The Economic History Review, 31: 2 (May, 1978), pp. 197213

Jock H. Galloway , ‘The Sugar Industry of Pernambuco during the Nineteenth Century’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 58: 2 (June, 1968), pp. 285303

Herbert S. Klein , ‘The Internal Slave Trade in Nineteenth-Century Brazil: A Study of Slave Importations into Rio de Janeiro in 1852’, The Hispanic American Historical Review, 51: 4 (Nov. 1971), pp. 567–85

Nathaniel H. Leff , ‘Economic Retardation in Nineteenth-Century Brazil’, The Economic History Review, 25: 3 (Aug. 1972), p. 494

Warren Dean , ‘Latifundia and Land Policy in Nineteenth-Century Brazil’, The Hispanic American Historical Review, 51: 4 (Nov. 1971), pp. 606–25

Amilcar Martins Filho and Roberto B. Martins , ‘Slavery in a Nonexport Economy: Nineteenth-Century Minas Gerais Revisited’, Hispanic American Historical Review, 63: 3 (Aug. 1983), pp. 537–68

Giovanni Federico and Antonio Tena-Junguito , ‘On the Accuracy of Foreign Trade Statistics (1909–1935): Morgenstern Revisited’, Explorations in Economic History, 28 (1991), pp. 259–73

Antonio Tena-Junguito and Henry Willebald , ‘On the Accuracy of Export Growth in Argentina, 1870–1913’, Economic History of Developing Regions, 28: 1 (2013), pp. 2868

Christopher Blattman , Jason Hwang and Jeffrey G. Williamson , ‘Winners and Losers in the Commodity Lottery: The Impact of Terms of Trade Growth and Volatility in the Periphery 1870–1939’, Journal of Development Economics, 82 (2004), pp. 156–79

J. D. Richardson , ‘Constant Market Shares Analysis of Export Growth’, Journal of International Economics, 1 (1971), pp. 227–39

Luis A. V. Catão and Solomos N. Solomou , ‘Effective Exchange Rates and the Classical Gold Standard Adjustment’, The American Economic Review, 95: 4 (Sept. 2005), pp. 1259–75

Eliana A. Cardoso , ‘Exchange Rates in Nineteenth-Century Brazil: An Econometric Model’, Journal of Development Studies, 19: 2 (1983), p. 175

Lincoln Hutchinson , ‘Coffee “Valorization” in Brazil’, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 23: 3 (May, 1909), pp. 528–35

Evelyn Hu-Dehart , ‘Chinese Coolie Labour in Cuba in the Nineteenth Century: Free Labour or Neo-slavery?’, Slavery and Abolition, 14: 1 (1993), pp. 6786

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Journal of Latin American Studies
  • ISSN: 0022-216X
  • EISSN: 1469-767X
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-latin-american-studies
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