Category Archives: Spain

Internal Migration and Trade Unions Strength: an Alternative Look on Pre-Civil War Spain

Structural change, collective action, and social unrest in 1930s Spain


Jordi DOMÈNECH FELIU (  Universidad Carlos III

Thomas Jeffrey MILEY ( University of Cambridge


The Spanish 2nd Republic (1931-1936) witnessed one of the fastest and deepest processes of popular mobilization in interwar Europe, generating a decisive reactionary wave that brought the country to the Civil War (1936-1939). We show in the paper that both contemporary comment and part of the historiography makes generalizations about the behaviour of the working classes in the period that stress idealistic, re-distributive and even religious motives to join movements of protest. In some other cases, state repression, poverty, and deteriorating living standards have been singled out as the main determinants of participation. This paper uses collective action theory to argue that key institutional changes and structural changes in labour markets were crucial to understand a significant part of the explosive popular mobilization of the period. We argue first that, before the second Republic, temporary migrants had been the main structural limitation against the stabilization of unions and collective bargaining in agricultural labour markets and in several service and industrial sectors. We then show how several industries underwent important structural changes since the late 1910s which stabilized part of the labour force and allowed for union growth and collective bargaining. In agricultural labour markets or in markets in which unskilled temporary workers could not be excluded, unions benefitted from republican legislation restricting temporary migrations and, as a consequence, rural unions saw large gains membership and participation. Historical narratives that focus on state repression or on changes in living standards to explain collective action and social conflict in Spain before the Civil War are incomplete without a consideration of the role of structural changes in labour markets from 1914 to 1931.


Review by Anna Missiaia

This paper was distributed by NEP-HIS on 2013-06-30. The authors, Jordi Domenech from Carlos III and Thomas Miley from Cambridge, aim to explain why and how workers’ protests rose in Spain during the Second Republic (1931-1936). This question is very interesting from a historiographical point of view, as this period of popular mobilization is considered to be one of the causes of the subsequent Civil War (1936-1939). Standard explanations include state repression, poor economic conditions, economic inequality and possibly the flourishing of socialist ideologies in Spain. The authors detach from these standard explanations and follow an institutional approach. They claim that a significant part of this social process can be attributed to changes in the labour markets. In particular, that increasing mobilization was due to a decrease of temporal migrations in labour markets.


Spanish Republic Allegory displaying Republican paraphernalia and symbols of modernity

The conceptual argument underpinning their effort is roughly as follows: collective action theory contends that the greater the diversity of workers’ preferences (for example over their type of contract or their work conditions), the lesser the workers will be able to organize effectively. These preferences also include decisions to enter labour contracts. For instance, temporary workers accept to be paid pro-rata (i.e. by unit of output) while permanent workers accept (or prefer) to be paid by hour of in-the-job labour.

Domenech and Miley remind us that at in the first third of the 20th century, Spain characterized by substantial internal migrations that enabled the rise of temporary workers within manufacturing and agriculture. However, in the early 1930s Spain experienced changes in both the markets for its products and the demand for labour. These changes led to the introduction of legal limitations over temporary migrations. The result of regulatory innovations was the strengthening of unions by increasing their membership and also as union leaders increasingly faced more homogeneous requests by they represented workers and all this, therefore, led to greater social mobilization.

Wall painting during the Spanish Civil War

To prove their point, Domenech and Miley make a remarkable use of qualitative evidence which, let me emphasize, is not always easy to find. They collected oral testimonies, reports and newspaper articles to show the increasing tension between permanent and temporary workers. The work on original qualitative sources is vast and necessary to fill the gap left by quantitative estimates. In fact, to my surprise, this paper does not propose any formal model or empirical test on quantitative data. The reason is well explained on page 29, where the authors point out that census data would not cover this period: the relevant laws that imposed restrictions were passed just after the 1930 census and abrogated before the next census of 1940. The fact that census data are not of any use for this work is surely a severe limitation to any attempt to study the causality between migrations, union power and social unrest. However, looking at the extensive sources used for the qualitative analysis, the impression is that a further step to at least quantify the changing role of unions could be taken. Possibly,  a measure of union power (for example by number of strikes, number of members, etc) could be proposed. At the same time, conceptual framework is not all together clear, particularly when dealing with specific relationships leading to the increase of union power. For instance, poor economic conditions and greater income inequality have been proposed as causing of popular unrest and social mobilization. It is not clear why greater union power rather than the changes in labour regulation could have also been a contributing force.

Comisiones Obreras (one of the main Spanish unions – circa 1970s)

To conclude, this paper proposes an innovative explanation to social unrest in Spain in the 1930s based on labour markets and provides comprehensive qualitative evidence. This is a very important topic in light of the subsequent events: popular mobilization has been followed by four years of civil war and the beginning of Franco’s dictatorship. In spite of the severe restrictions on the data, some further quantification (even just descriptive) would improve a paper which casts light on such an fundamental period of Spanish history.

Business and Accounting History of Religious Organizations

Awareness to Accounting and Role of Accounting at Religious Organizations: The Case of Brotherhoods of Seville at the Last Decade of 16th Century

Jesus Damian Lopez-Manjon (, Juan Baños Sanchez-Matamoros ( & Maria Concepcion Alvarez-Dardet Espejo ( (all at Universidad Pablo de Olavide)



This work questions if religious organizations with common shared beliefs and sacred objectives, but which members had a different level of awareness to accounting, should show a different behaviour concerning: a) the status of accounting in their internal organisations; and b) the permeability of such organizations to new accounting techniques. To reach our aim, we have analysed the content of 6 rules of brotherhoods located in the city of Seville (Spain), and enacted at the last decade of the 16th century. We have split the brotherhoods depending on its link or not with a guild or professional group. We can conclude that the awareness to accounting of its members and the perception of the belief system are explanations to cover the dissimilar behaviour of the brotherhoods in relation to accounting.

Review by Masayoshi Noguchi

This paper is a new instalment of the most interesting work on accounting of religious orders that is emanating from Seville and was distributed by NEP-HIS on 2012-05-22. As the authors point out, the analysis of accounting function in religious organisations is currently one of the most important topics in accounting history research. It has successfully provided a reinterpretation of the past whether at monasteries or cathedrals. Institution that came to dominate everyday life in Europe during the middle ages.

Brootherhood of the Holy Cross – Seville

The basic research question of the paper is: ‘if religious organizations with common shared beliefs and sacred objectives, but which [sic] members had a diverse level of awareness to accounting, should show a different behaviour concerning: a) the status of accounting in their internal organisations; and b) the permeability of such organizations to new accounting techniques’ (p. 3). Through the analysis, the authors argue how the combination of the ledger control system; the context in which the organisations were placed; and, more importantly, the awareness of the members to accounting techniques, all came together to forge a unique link between professional guilds. This link could play an important role in explaining why accounting in religious organisations adopted specific features (p.9). As a result, they argue, a categorisation of accounting between sacred and profane over simplifies the operational context of religious organisations.

As the analytical object the authors choose the rules of six brotherhoods located in the city of Seville and which established in the second half of the 16th century. An important element of this study is the relation of the brotherhoods with closed craft groups called ‘guilds’. Specifically, the authors argue that the guilds exercised significant influence on accounting procedures prescribed in the rules adopted by some of the brotherhoods. Seville was the most active city in terms of the activities of the guilds, because of the recognized monopoly of the commerce with the Spanish American colonies (p. 4). Also the location within the city played an important part in the story: ‘Traders and craftsmen dedicated to the same profession used to live in the same neighbourhood and, therefore, attend to same parish or convent’ (p. 12). So, guild members would normally belong to the same brotherhood (p.12)

Processions are typical of Holy Week in Seville

The main conclusion of this paper is as follows: the three brotherhoods linked to guilds tended to use more advanced accounting devices and terminology than those not linked. Those most closely connected with specific guilds (i.e. the Santiago and the Buen Viaje), their rules contained more advanced technical terms and accounting jargon than the others. However, the categorization based on the linkage with the guilds could explain difference in the rules concerning the submission of accounts to a body of members for approval.

This study has some limitation, as the authors themselves recognise. Namely, it only analyzed the rules but not the practices of the brotherhoods. So it is not clear the extent to which they actually adopted accounting practices. Indeed, as has been documented by Bátiz-Lazo and others, a common shortcoming of Spanish accounting historiography has been its inference based on text books and rule books. Nothing definite can be said about the technical level of accounting adopted unless actual practices are analysed. It is quite normal that every day practice is carried out in completely different way from that prescribed in rules or regulations. Probably, establishing this link between rules and actual practices in the religious orders explored is the next research task.

Although there are issues, this paper is quite enjoyable to read but as noted, further development is expected.

Who’s Who in Spanish Corporate Governance?

Corporate Structure and Interlocking Directorates in Spanish Firms, 1917 – 1970

By Juan Antonio Rubio-Mondéjar  and Josean Garrués-Irurzun (Universidad de Granada)



This paper analyses some of the characteristics of Spanish capitalism between 1917 and 1970. For that purpose, we resort to the technique known as interlocking directorates and applies the methodology of social network analysis (SNA) to the board of directors of the 210 largest Spanish companies, in a benchmark dates (1917, 1930, 1948 and 1970). The results allow us to answer the questions of what has been the evolution of the Spanish business structure over the twentieth century and which sectors have been central to each of the moments analysed. At the same time, we identify the main groups of companies, and the links established among them, assessing the role of financial sector in the national economic structure. Based on the relationships between the members of the Board of Directors and social capital theory, the second objective identifies the circle of Spanish economic power, quantifies the degree of cohesion, and follow its evolution over time, confirming its continuity/ disappearance.

Review by Beatriz Rodríguez-Satizábal

This paper was distributed by NEP-HIS on 2012-05-22. Juan Antonio Rubio-Mondéjar and Josean Garrués-Irurzun offer a striking overview of the corporate structure in Spain during the twentieth century following up the work by Carreras and Tafunnel published in the early 1990s.  Using Social Network Analysis (SNA), the authors build the interlocking directorates of the 210 largest firms by assets (manufacture -200- and insurance -10-) based on information collected from the Anuarios Financieros de Bilbao and Anuario Financiero y de Sociedades Anónimas de España. The examination of the characteristics of the corporate governance seems to be now one of the issues that require a long-term view, this paper offers a general approach to the Spanish case.

The paper is divided in four sections. The first presents a review of the theoretical literature on corporate governance and economic entrenchment, including an overview of the literature on Spanish capitalism. The next two sections discuss the methodological approach and the results of building the interlocking directorates for 1917, 1930, 1948, and 1970. The final section is a short conclusion that opens a discussion regarding the proliferation of business groups and the role of the board members.

Firms network in 1917 (p. 49)

The paper strikes the reader in two ways. First, the discussion on the theoretical approach to interlocking directorates presents the importance of identifying the networks in order to prove the existence of a traditional business elite. This follows the sociological approach on the role of the elites, but do not include the recently findings on the rise of business groups as an organizational form to increase the entrenchment of the business people. It is shown that between 1917 and 1970 the members of the boards in the largest Spanish firms were related and share common professions and family names. Moreover, the names collected proved that there have been only small changes in the corporate governance among the twentieth century. The old families remained and only a few new names appeared after 1948. However, there is no discussion in regards to the family businesses, an issue that has been well studied in the last decade by the likes of Paloma Fernández, Jesús Valdaliso, Eugenio Torres, Nuria Puig and others.

Secondly, Rubio-Mondéjar and Garrués-Irurzun introduce a hypothesis on the importance of the interlocking directorates among the largest firms as an answer to the close relationship between the industry and the banks. The result is that the interlocking directorates affected more than 80 per cent of the firms studied, with the majority of the members linked in both the manufacture industry and the banks. This brings back the discussion on the role of banks in development started by Alexander Gerschenkron, but also poses into discussion the relationship between politicians and businessmen. There is a novelty approach to the former, the results show that there is no a unique network that linked all the firms together and the banks did not used a collusive strategy; could this mean that the firms used other ways to increase their market power and keep their ownership control; or, maybe, there are some regional differences. In the case of the later, the results are a surprise for those who use Spain as a comparative case with the Latin American countries: differently from what is expected, a politician usually became a member of the board, but not the other way around. This gives a new meaning to the professional lobbying and poses a question on the links between the political and business elites, traditionally assumed as the same.

This paper brings a discussion on the literature on Spanish corporate governance that could be useful for those studying other countries. The methodological approach combines the use of historical data with the social network analysis, bringing the question of who is who to the understanding of the economic development of a late development country. Moreover, it leaves questions open for future research such as the relation between the changes in the economic and social environment with the interlocking directorates.

Financial crises and financial reforms in Spain: What have we learned?

By Pablo Martín-Aceña, Ángeles Pons & Concepción Beltrán


Like the rest of the world, Spain has suffered frequent financial crises and undergone several changes in its regulatory framework. There have been crises that have been followed by reforms of the financial structure, and also troubled financial times with no modification of the regulatory and supervisory regime. In various instances, regulatory changes have predated financial crises, but in others banking crises have occurred without reference to changes in the regulatory regime. Regulation and supervision has been usually absent in the XIXth century, while in the XXth century policy makers have been more active and diligent. Moreover, all major financial crises have been followed by intense financial restructuring, although as elsewhere banking restructuring and interventions not always have been successful (in fact, the cases of failures and mixed results overcome the successful cases). The paper provides a short history of the major financial crises in Spain from 1856 to the present, and also reviews the main financial reforms and the distinctive regulatory regimes that have been in place in this last 150 years time span.

This paper is representative of a series of recent contributions in a number of ways: first, the financial crisis of 2007-9 has opened opportunities to highlight the role of historians to help formulate public policy. Second, there is more to the financial crisis than events around 1929 and the so-called “Atlantic continuity”. As the authors argue, there are lessons to be learn even from economies in the “periphery” such as Spain (which even at times of  “isolation” it has seen drops in real income and industrial production as a result of international events). Third, I think the authors summarize the crux of the discussion here:

But can we really prevent financial crises? Can we design a potent regulatory framework capable to assure the stability of the financial system against all kind ofeconomic events?