Published by EH.NET (August 2006)


Albert Carreras and Xavier Tafunell, editors, Estad?sticas hist?ricas de Espa?a: Siglos XIX – XX. Bilbao: Fundaci?n BBVA, 2005. Second revised edition, 3 volumes. 1439 pp. 52 euros (paperback), ISBN: 84-96515-00-1.

Reviewed for EH.NET by Mauricio Drelichman, Department of Economics, University of British Columbia.

In the preface to the three volumes of the Estad?sticas Hist?ricas de Espa?a (Historical Statistics of Spain), Albert Carreras and Xavier Tafunell explain that their work started out as a basic update to the 1989 first edition (then overseen by Carreras alone). There is no need to read on, or to look up the first edition for that matter, to realize that they have accomplished much more. As the most cursory of looks at the table of contents will reveal, the organization of the work reflects the enlarged scope of the profession. Entire chapters dedicated to research and development or elections and politics, sections on climate and health, or a distinct separation between government and public administration would have been rare in the economic history literature of a few decades ago.

The work boasts a total of seventeen chapters authored or co-authored by twenty-four different scholars and a study group that together comprise a veritable who’s who of nineteenth and twentieth century Spanish economic history. Each chapter begins with a “presentaci?n” — a ten to twenty page introduction to the subject matter illustrated with the most relevant series in table or chart format and placing particular emphasis on additions to and departures from the established scholarship. This is followed by a discussion of the sources and methods employed in constructing the series, a list of bibliographical and statistical sources, and the statistical series themselves.

The first volume kicks off with a chapter on climate by Albert Carreras (complete with a series on sunspots, which the author highlights as the only one exogenous to the entire planet). Chapter two, by Roser Nicolau, delivers a standard treatment of demographic statistics, including indicators of morbidity and migration, as well as anthropometric measures. The Spanish economic historian might have wished for greater detail than the single page and four decadal tables devoted to the discussion of regional migration, a phenomenon that has always had a profound impact on economic activity in Spain. The third chapter, in the care of Clara Eugenia N??ez, is sheepishly entitled “Education,” although its focus is smartly placed on human capital formation, and its abundant series are complemented by a chronological review of the relevant legislation. The volume continues in more traditional fashion with a chapter on agriculture and fisheries (Carlos Barciela, Jes?s Gir?ldez, Inmaculada L?pez and the Grupo de Estudios de Historia Rural), the 90-page strong and detail-rich chapter on industry by Albert Carreras, and a study on urbanization and housing by Xavier Tafunell that one can’t help but think will be much enriched in future versions with the recent advances in urban economics and geographical information systems.

Volume II opens with a chapter by Antonio G?mez Mendoza and Elena San Rom?n on transport and communications, a vital topic in a country with numerous mountain ranges and an average altitude of 660 meters above sea level despite its vast coastline. Its several series on air, sea and land traffic are a suitable lead-in for the following chapter on the external sector, in the care of Antonio Tena. While one may have desired some more detail on the financial side of the balance of payments, its trade series are among the longest unbroken ones in the entire work, starting as early as the 1815 restoration. By contrast, the chapter on the financial and monetary systems, by Pablo Mart?n Ace?a and Mar?a Angeles Pons, vividly brings home the Herculean challenge of constructing historical series for nineteenth-century Spain. On subjects on which there is normally an abundance of data, such as interest rates or the assets of the financial system, the authors state clearly that few figures from before 1874 can be trusted; it is not a stretch to say that it is easier to reconstruct the financial history of sixteenth-century Spain than its counterpart in the early 1800s. Xavier Tafunell follows with a chapter on corporations (including publicly owned companies) and stock exchanges, providing data on the creation and dissolution of societies, capital structure, and market capitalization. The brief chapter on research and development by J. Patricio S?iz consists exclusively of patent counts; while this is a welcome first step to close the gap with the related literature for Europe and the United States, it would be desirable to expand it to at least include data on learned societies, scientific publications, and state sponsorship of research activities. The volume closes with a chapter on public administration and the welfare state by Francisco Com?n and Daniel D?az. Behind a carefully crafted title one finds a standard rendition of state revenues and expenses; the most useful series are perhaps the breakdown of expenses by functional classification.

The first two chapters in volume III, entitled government and public administration (Jacint Jordana and Carles Rami?) and elections and politics (Juan J. Linz, Jos? Ram?n Montero and Antonia Mar?a Ruiz) introduce a political economy focus, delving into public employment (including the armed forces), the organization of the several levels of government, and the multiplicity of constitutional and political regimes that dotted a turbulent and sometimes dark period in Spanish history. The work closes with three of the most traditional chapters in statistical compilations: work and labor relations (Jordi Maluquer de Motes and Montserrat Llonch), consumption and prices (Jordi Maluquer de Motes) and income and wealth (Albert Carreras, Leandro Prados de la Escosura, and Joan R. Ros?s). Each of them is blessed with an abundance of data, the unmistakable result of over two decades of strong progress in these areas of Spanish economic history in which the authors of these chapters played no small part; all three are worthy literature reviews and unbeatable starting points for quantitative work on nineteenth and twentieth century Spain.

The included CD-ROM contains a large PDF file with the entire contents of the printed version, as well as the tables and charts used in the “presentation” of each chapter in Microsoft Excel format. To my dismay, the wealth of statistical series that the editors themselves call the “backbone” of the work and that scholars are likely to draw on for years to come are nowhere to be found. In an email exchange, one of the editors indicated that this shortcoming was dictated by the need to rush the volumes to press, and that the publisher has expressed the intention of remedying it in the near future. It is my sincere hope that this intention soon becomes a reality, as the absence of a database-readable version of the data series greatly diminishes the functional value of the compilation, forcing scholars to duplicate efforts by inputting the data manually, resorting to optical character recognition, or torturing the PDF file in the hope of extracting the data series in a moderately useable format.

This second edition of the Estad?sticas Hist?ricas de Espa?a represents a notable accomplishment. If it doesn’t exactly live up to its subtitle, which promises coverage of the nineteenth and twentieth century, this is through no fault of its multiple contributors, but merely as a result of the extreme dearth of data up to 1850, against which this work puts up a valiant struggle. Its seventeen chapters represent virtually every area of modern economic history. The first edition is now a rare find; I urge scholars of Spain to arm themselves with a copy of these three volumes before their certain popularity condemns them to the same fate.

(Albert Carreras is Professor, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu i Fabra. Xavier Tafunell is Professor, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu i Fabra.)

Mauricio Drelichman is Assistant Professor of Economics at the University of British Columbia, Canada. His recent publications include “The Curse of Moctezuma: American Silver and the Dutch Disease” Explorations in Economic History (2005) and “All That Glitters: Precious Metals, Rent Seeking and the Decline of Spain,” European Review of Economic History (2005).