By Jaime Reis
Pedro Lains was a senior research professor at the Instituto de Ciências Sociais (ICS) of the University of Lisbon, where he joined the staff in 1984. While there, he edited the journal Análise Social (2005-2007) (Portugal’s oldest social science journal) and directed the Imprensa de Ciências Sociais press (2008-2010). He was on the board of management of the ICS, as deputy director between 2016 and 2018.
He was a visiting professor at Universidad Carlos III, Madrid, at Brown University (USA), and the Catholic University, Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Évora University, in Portugal.
His research in Economic History represents a critical contribution to the renovation of this discipline in Portugal during the last three and a half decades. Following his Ph.D. at the European University Institute (1992), he went on to publish numerous articles and books in Portuguese and in Spanish, French and English, mostly relating to the determinants of the development of the Portuguese economy during the XIX and XX centuries. This became known as the “ historical problem of Portuguese economic backwardness”, which he insisted could only be properly grasped by means of a comparative, long term perspective, a solid empirical basis, and quantitative methods.
His most significant books in this respect were: A Economia Portuguesa no Século XIX. Crescimento Económico e Comércio Externo (1995) (The Portuguese Economy in the XIX Century; Economic Growth and Foreign Trade); Os Progressos do Atraso. Uma Nova História Económica de Portugal, 1842-1992 (2003) (The Progress of Backwardness); A New Economic History of Portugal, 1842-1992); and História da Caixa Geral de Depósitos, 3 vols., (2002-2011) (History of the Caixa Geral de Depósitos) soon to be published in the UK. He also co-authored Agriculture and Economic Development in Europe since 1870 (2009) and the Rise of Public Finance in Nineteenth-Century (2010).
More recently, he was co-author (with Leonor Costa and Susana Miranda) of An Economic History of Portugal, 1143-2010 (Cambridge University Press, 2016), the finest and most up-to-date treatment of the subject. This was followed in 2017 by a volume with the latest historiographical research on Portuguese agriculture, co-edited with Dulce Freire and entitled An Agrarian History of Portugal, 1000-2000. Economic Development on the European Frontier (Brill).
Pedro Lains was the Secretary-General of the European Historical Economics Society (2005-2011) and the president of the Portuguese Association of Social and Economic History (2003-2007).
In his last months of life, Pedro struggled against a cancer and, true to his personality, never gave up on his plans of research and publication, which he bravely carried on to his final days. His death is a great loss for all his many friends and colleagues and for Economic History.