Abstract: The Networked City: Power and Water Utilities in Portugal, 1850s-1920s

Álvaro Ferreira da Silva and Ana Cardoso de Matos


This paper explores the evolution of power and water systems in Portugal throughout the period of urban infrastructure modernization. The network characteristics of electricity, gas, and sanitary equipment are emphasized, not only in its economic and technical characteristics, but also in its impact on management, regulation, and initial installation. Regulatory issues and conflicts between private entrepreneurs and public authorities are particularly emphasized. Sometimes they provided the path to municipalization. Otherwise, the outcome of these conflicts enhanced regulatory mechanisms and long-term relationships between public and private institutions. The analysis of agency problems and the theory of contracts are used as the main theoretical devices to explain the outcome of these relationships.

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