Journal of Economic Growth

, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 409–464 | Cite as

The economic consequences of the Spanish Reconquest: the long-term effects of Medieval conquest and colonization

  • Daniel Oto-Peralías
  • Diego Romero-Ávila


This paper shows that a historical process that ended more than five centuries ago, the Reconquest, is very important to explain Spanish regional economic development down to the present day. An indicator measuring the rate of Reconquest reveals a heavily negative effect on current income differences across the Spanish provinces. A main intervening factor in the impact the Reconquest has had is the concentration of economic and political power in a few hands, excluding large segments of the population from access to economic opportunities when Spain entered the industrialization phase. The timing of the effect is consistent with this argument. A general implication of our analysis is that large frontier expansions may favor a political equilibrium among the colonizing agents that is biased toward the elite, creating the conditions for an inegalitarian society, with negative consequences for long-term economic development.


Economic development Political power Structural inequality Spanish Reconquest History 

JEL Classification

C21 N2 O1 



Diego Romero-Ávila would like to dedicate this article to the memory of his father, Pedro José Romero de Ávila Aguilar, for encouragement and support throughout his career. A previous version of this article was presented at the 2014 American Economic Association Meeting held in Philadelphia (January 2014) and at the EH Clio Lab UC Second Annual Conference held in Santiago de Chile (August 2014). The authors are particularly indebted to Oded Galor (the Editor) and the anonymous referees of this Journal for valuable comments and suggestions that led to a substantial improvement of the original manuscript. We also thank Marcella Alsan and James Fenske for detailed comments on an earlier version of this article. Thanks also go to participants at the 2014 AEA meeting, EH Clio Lab UC Second Annual Conference, 2016 Royal Economic Society Annual Conference, and seminars at Pablo de Olavide University, Malaga University and Vienna University of Economics and Business for valuable comments. The authors are indebted to Joan R. Rosés, Julio Martínez-Galarraga and Daniel A. Tirado for sharing with us province-level data on GDP, and industrial and agricultural output in 1860 and 1930. Thanks also go to archival staff of the Provincial Historic Archive of Seville for helping us with the access to some of the data employed in this research program. The authors acknowledge financial support from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Technology (grant ECO2009-13357), the Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitiveness (grant ECO2012-35430), and the Andalusian Council for Innovation and Science (Excellence Project SEJ-4546).

Supplementary material

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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Management, Centre for Responsible Banking & FinanceUniversity of St AndrewsSt AndrewsUK
  2. 2.Departamento de Economía, Métodos Cuantitativos e Historia EconómicaUniversidad Pablo de OlavideSevillaSpain

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