Agrarian elites and economic growth in nineteenth-century Portugal: the example of the Alentejo in the Liberal era (1850-1910).

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    • Abstract:
      The Alentejo is a southern Portuguese region which is generally recognized for the social and economic importance of the latifĂșndio system and for its economic backwardness, phenomena which are usually associated with the existence of a regional elite of the traditional type. This article seeks to review this question by examining the action of the economic elite which operated in the region during the second half of the nineteenth century, when modern capitalism was just beginning to develop in Portugal and Liberal institutions were being established. How this sociologically renewed and plural elite group conducted its private business dealings is described, and investment strategies and sources of financing are examined, as well as the management of farm businesses. Three aspects are highlighted here: the varied nature of investments, although over the long term there was an increase in the acquisition of land; investment carried out at the cost of growing indebtedness to the regional banks, the modern financial institutions which the elite helped to set up; and the high degree of involvement of land-owners in the running of large estates, which were marked by a trend towards division into smaller units, moves towards productive diversification, and the drive for technical progress and the modernization of rural buildings. Examined as a whole, this scenario suggests that the new economic elite which emerged with the triumph and development of Portuguese Liberalism in the nineteenth century was not a force for conservatism in the regional economy. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]
    • Abstract:
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