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Public Finance During an Era of Economic Decline

  • Carl A. Hanson

Abstract

From roughly 1670 to 1690, Portugal and its European neighbors experienced a general recession that adversely affected national economies and the collection of government revenues. During these years, price levels for most basic commodities dropped markedly, reaching their nadir in the late 1680s.1 According to Frédéric Mauro, the period was characterized by an insufficiency of precious metals, capital shortages, and limited wars.2 The cyclical nature of such recessions has been closely examined by Gaston Imbert, who discerned the movement of regular, long-term price cycles throughout the early modern era. The movement of one such cycle, as Imbert showed, was clearly downward during the late seventeenth century.3

Keywords

Precious Metal Seventeenth Century Conspicuous Consumption Revenue Collection Silver Coin 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Fernand Braudel and Frank Spooner, “Prices in Europe from 1450 to 1750,” The Cambridge Economic History of Europe, 8 vols. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966), 4:470.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Frédéric Mauro, L’Expansion Europeéne (1600—1870), 2nd ed. (Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1967), pp. 312–13.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Gaston Imbert, Des Mouvements de Longue durée Kondratieff (Aix-en-Provence: Pensée Universitaire, 1959), pp. 402–5.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    For discussion of the so-called little ice age, see Emmanuel LeRoy Ladurie, “Climat et récoltes aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles,” Annales: ESC 15 (May–June 1960):434–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Eric J. Hobsbawm, “The Crisis of the Seventeenth Century,” in Crisis in Europe, 1560–1660, ed. Trevor Aston (New York: Basic Books, 1965), p. 5. Various other views on the nature of the General Crisis can be found in Aston, ed., Crisis in Europe, passim.Google Scholar
  6. A strong, if unconvincing, critique of Hobsbawm’s thesis is presented in A. D. Lublinskaya, French Absolutism: The Crucial Phase, 1620–1629 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1968), chapter 1.Google Scholar
  7. A useful discussion of certain aspects of the General Crisis (which shows that similar political disruption occurred in the mid-sixteenth century) appears in J. H. Elliott, “Revolution and Continuity in Early Modern Europe,” Past and Present 42 (February 1969):35–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 6.
    Jan de Vries, The Economy of Europe in an Age of Crisis, 1600–1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976), pp. 24–25.Google Scholar
  9. 7.
    Recently, it has been suggested that the economic crisis that beset most of Europe during the seventeenth century “was in the last analysis a crisis of agrarian productivity, resulting… from the maintenance of relationships of property or surplus-extraction which prevented any advance in productivity.” Robert Brenner, “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-Industrial Europe,” Past and Present 70 (February 1976):66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 9.
    Unfortunately, documentation on the annual net income of the Portuguese crown during this period is quite sparse. However, data on the income of the English government show that, after exceeding 2 million pounds in the mid-1660s and again in the early 1670s, revenues sagged below that figure until the mid-1680s. See C. D. Chandaman, The English Public Revenue, 1660–1688 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975), pp. 333–35.Google Scholar
  11. 13.
    Freire de Oliveira, Elementos, 7:368. Schomberg’s activities in Portugal were examined in C. R. Boxer, “Marshal Schomberg in Portugal, 1660–1668,” History Today 26 (October 1976):653–63.Google Scholar
  12. 15.
    João Lúcio de Azevedo, Épocas de Portugal Económico (Lisbon: Livraria Clássica, 1929), p. 211.Google Scholar
  13. 18.
    For a breakdown of these expenditures, which also included the cost of embassies, see Paixão, Monstruosidades, 3:118–24. After garrisoning Lisbon with a large standing force in 1673, D. Pedro pressed for further increases in military strength, including raising the number of men serving in the Alentajo terço to 450 in that year and increasing the size of the Setúbal terço from eight to ten companies in 1675. ANTT, Conselho da Guerra, Decretos, maço 32, doc. 22; ibid., maço 35, doc. 24. Further discussion of military reforms carried out during D. Pedro’s reign can be found in Gastão Mello de Matos, Notícias de Terço da Armada Real (1618–1707) (Lisbon: Imprensa da Armada, 1932), pp. 77–95.Google Scholar
  14. 23.
    BA, 44-XIII-42, fls. 389, 429. For a similar contract, see João Mascarenhas, Contrato dos rendimentos dos consulados das alfandegas da cidade de Porto, Vianna, Aveyro, uarcos, e As mais de Barlovento do Tejo pera o Norte entrando Peniche, que se fez com Simão a Sylva de Govea, e seus companheiros (Lisbon, 1675).Google Scholar
  15. 29.
    Virginia Rau, A Casa dos Contos (Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade, 1951), p. 130–31.Google Scholar
  16. 38.
    This request for money to help the Poles was turned down by representatives of the three estates, who almost uniformly cited Portugal’s economic woes as justification for their refusal. Luis Ferrand de Almeida, “As Cortes de 1679–1680 e o auxílio à Poloia para a guerra contra os Turcos,” Biblos 27 (Coimbra, 1951): 101–9.Google Scholar
  17. 50.
    J. M. Esteves Pereira, A Industria Portuguesa (Séculos XII–XIX) (Lisbon: Imprensa o Occidente, 1900), pp. 31–32. The housing of this minting machine, which produced oins until 1837, is now in the Museu do Carmo in Lisbon.Google Scholar
  18. 58.
    Earl J. Hamilton, War and Prices in Spain, 1651–1800 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1947), pp. 30–32.Google Scholar
  19. For a further discussion of decline in Spain, see Henry Kamen, “The Decline of Castile: The Last Crisis,” Economic History Review, 2nd series, 77 (1964):63–76;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. António Domínguez Ortiz, “La Crisis de Castilla en 1677–1687,” Revista Portuguesa de História 10 (1962):435–51.Google Scholar

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© University of Minnesota 1981

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  • Carl A. Hanson

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