This new evidence points in the direction that, like in many other European countries, many landless peasants got access to land thanks to the changes in relative prices and the forces of structural change. However, this dramatic change was less intense in Southwestern provinces than in the rest of the country.
Juan Carmona, Assosicate professor in
Economic History, Carlos III Madrid
|James Simpson, professor in|
Economic History, Madrid
|Joan Rosés, professor in Economic|
History at LSE
The European historical experience teaches us that the main determinant for the surge of small-medium farms was the increase in the ratio between wages and land prices. Before the Liberal reforms, institutional constraints allowed only a part of the total available land to be traded, and hence, land supply was quasi-fixed and inelastic. In this situation, any demand shift would result in large upsurges in land rents and decreasing land access. Because Liberal reforms expanded significantly the amount of land that could be bought and sold (the cultivated area increased from 11.4 million hectares in 1800 to 16 million in 1860), the shift in land demand of mid-nineteenth century only resulted in slightly land prices increases. From 1890 in 1931, the cultivated land grew again from 16 to 22 million hectares but land demand shifted downwards due to several concomitant factors including increasing foreign competition in agrarian markets, rural out-migration, and the action of the Engel’s law. Accordingly, the relative price of land decreased substantially as the following graph shows.
|Acces to land: Average family and male days of work necessary for buying the mean plot, 1908-1931|
(unweighted provinvcial average)
|The evolution of the number of landless peasants and their determinants 1910-1930 (percentage change)|
This evidence not only confirms dramatic changes in the composition of Spain’s agrarian workforce but also underlines substantial regional differences, particularly among these provinces to be affected by the Republican land reform act and the rest of the country. Broadly speaking, all land reform provinces had lower levels of labour reallocation from the countryside to the cities due to their higher costs of migration and that their urban labour demand was comparatively limited. The situation was even worse in Western Andalusia (Cadiz, Cordova, Huelva and Seville) and Estremadura (Badajoz, Caceres and Salamanca), where scarce farm labour migration was also accompanied by low levels of genuine land reallocation.
What could explain this workers’ limited access to land in South-Western Spain? It is difficult to argue that this was caused by institutional failure since these regions were integrated into the Spanish land market and had the same laws that were in force in the rest of Spain. To make the situation more puzzling, the nearest region, Western Andalusia, had a substantial market relocation of land from landowners to peasants. Therefore, we are more inclined to think that natural resource endowments constrained land access. The absence of irrigation, the very seasonal character of labour demand, and the use of new labour-saving machinery made these regions more suitable for larger estates than for small-medium family farms.
This blog post was written by:
Juan Carmona (Department of Social Sciences of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid),
Joan R Rosés (Department of Economic History, London School of Economics)
James Simpson (Department of Social Sciences of Universidad Carlos III de Madrid).
The working paper can be downloaded here: http://www.ehes.org/EHES_90.pdf
Carmona, J, and J.R.Rosés, 2012. ‘Land markets and agrarian backwardness (Spain, 1904-1934)’, European Review of Economic History, vol. 16(1), pages 74-96.
Carrión, P., 1932. Los latifundios en España: su importancia, origen, consecuencias y soluciones. Madrid: Gráficas Reunidas.
Deininger, K., 2003. ‘Land Markets in Developing and Transition Economies: Impact of Liberalization and Implications for Future Reform’. American Journal of Agricultural Economics 85(5), 1217-1222.
Malefakis, E., 1970. Agrarian Reform and Peasant Revolution in Spain. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Van Zanden, J,L. 1991. ‘The First Green Revolution. The Growth of Production and Productivity in European Agriculture’. Economic History Review 44 (1): 215–239.