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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

7 - Landownership, Economic Development, and Poverty in Andalusia and Southern Spain

from Part IV - Rural Elites, Poverty, and the Attempts at Land Reform


This chapter challenges contemporary beliefs that latifundios were inefficient by showing that farmers were quick to respond to changes in factor and commodity prices. Land ownership in southern Spain was heavily concentrated, both on the rich cereal lands of the Guadalquivir valley, as well as the huge dehesas found in the less populated upland regions. Contemporaries believed that large numbers of landless workers lived in extreme poverty at the same time as absentee landowners left significant areas of fertile land abandoned, or under-cultivated. In fact, large farms by the late 1920s were especially suitable for extensive cereals and livestock given the growing possibilities for reducing labour costs through mechanization, and there were difficulties to extend labour-intensive olive and vine cultivation. The chapter also shows that the living standards of rural workers improved over time, although they were vulnerable to economic downturns because of the erosion of traditional safety nets, and the failure of the state to create new ones. Finally, it examines why large landowners were often uninterested in extending state capacity.

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