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Land reform and conflict before the Civil War: landowner response to tenancy reform in 1930s Catalonia

Jordi Domenech and Francisco Herreros

Economic History Review, 2018, vol. 71, issue 4, 1322-1348

Abstract: This article studies the impact of insecure property rights on the behaviour of owners of land before the Spanish Civil War. The theoretical literature on land reform argues that legal threats to the status quo determine agrarian organization, with owners selling land and moving to other asset classes or engaging in large‐scale substitution of sharecroppers and tenants with wage labourers. This study, which uses municipal data on tenant evictions in Catalonia in 1934–5, does not find that uncertainty over property rights in the 1930s meant that owners tried to substitute tenants with wage labourers, especially in the case of the controversial rabassa morta contracts on vineyards. Here it is argued that after 40 years of organizational adjustment to shocks related to phylloxera infestations, legal changes, urbanization, and changes in relative prices, by the 1930s the margin for adjustment was small.

Date: 2018
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