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From Convergence to Divergence: Portuguese Economic Growth, 1527–1850

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 April 2019

Nuno Palma
Nuno Palma is Assistant Professor, Department of Economics, University of Manchester and CEPR, The Arthur Lewis Building, Univ. of Manchester, Oxford Road Manchester M13 9PL. E-mail:
Jaime Reis
Jaime Reis is Professor, Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa, Av. Aníbal de Bettencourt, 9 1600-189 Lisboa, Portugal. E-mail:


We construct the first time-series for Portugal’s per capita GDP for 1527–1850, drawing on a new database. Starting in the early 1630s there was a highly persistent upward trend which accelerated after 1710 and peaked 40 years later. At that point, per capita income was high by European standards, though behind the most advanced Western European economies. But as the second half of the eighteenth century unfolded, a phase of economic decline was initiated. This continued into the nineteenth century, and by 1850 per capita incomes were not different from what they had been in the early 1530s.

Copyright © The Economic History Association 2019 

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We are grateful to Steve Broadberry, Leonor F. Costa, António C. Henriques, Kivanç Karaman, Wolfgang Keller, Cormac Ó Gráda, Şevket Pamuk, Leandro Prados de la Escosura, Joan R. Rosés, Jacob Weisdorf, Jeffrey Williamson, and many participants at the Nova SBE lunchtime seminar, the 2014 Accounting for the Great Divergence conference, The University of Warwick in Venice, the 2014 APHES conference in Lisbon, and the 2015 EHES conference in Pisa for discussion of this paper. We also thank colleagues on the Prices, Wages and Rents in Portugal 1300–1910 project. This paper partly relies on joint work with Leonor Costa and Conceição Andrade Martins, to whom we owe special thanks. We are also grateful to Bruno Lopes, Carlos Faísca, Fátima Farrica, Ricardo Pereira, and Paulo Paixão Silva for dedicated research assistance. Finally, we thank Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia for financial support.



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