The Effects of Tenurial Change In 19th Century Spanish America and New Zealand: A Search For Parallels

Abstract: There is already a growing specialist literature that compares and contrasts the modern economic history of Argentina and Uruguay on the one hand and Australia and New Zealand on the other, starting from the premise that all four countries were settler societies as at 1900 with economies based on the export of primary products to Great Britain and dependent on British investment, and which all had generally high rates of growth and and rapidly developing economies at that time. This article suggests that it might also be fruitful to compare New Zealand with other Latin American countries as well, because New Zealand is fundamentally unlike Australia in that the indigenous Maori people of New Zealand have long been a significant economic, political and cultural presence in New Zealand and remain so today. That might mean that it could be instructive to compare New Zealand with, for example, Chile, Guatemala, and Mexico. This article also draws attention to the relationship between law and economic history, but rejects any tendency to link economic growth to the supposedly deep or proto-capitalist foundations of either Anglo-American Common Law or to the Civil Law systems of of Western Europe and Latin America. In both cases, what really counted in terms of law was not these supposed deep affinities between European and/or Common law commitments to the freedom and sanctity of contracts, but rather specific statutes enacted by elite-controlled legislatures that enacted statutes (leyes) specifically designed to attract capital investment and remodel existing collective tenures. The importance of legislation is very apparent in the case of Mexico (the Reforma laws), Central America (las leyes cafetales) and in New Zealand (the Native Lands Acts of 1862 and 1865). The ideologies underpinning this legislation, i.e. liberal capitalism, were in all of these cases the same. Overall the article strongly supports comparing the economic histories of Latin America and Australia and New Zealand, but suggests that within such a comparative framework a number of factors must be kept in play, including the political importance of indigenous people and the extent to which liberal economic policies were restrained by other political commitments such as a belief in the benefits of small proprietors and family farms.