Between ideas and interests. The end of the Spanish free trade movement, 1879-c. 1903


  • José María Serrano Universidad de Zaragoza
  • Marcela Sabaté Sort Universidad de Zaragoza



free trade, tariffs, 19th century, Spain, pressure groups


This paper researches the unexplored life of the Asociación para la Reforma de los Aranceles de Aduanas (Association for the Reform of Customs Tariffs) after its “reconstitution” in 1879. The result is a picture of a group of academics, politicians and businessmen actively involved in the spreading of free trade ideas during the 1880s and early 1890s, coinciding with the disappearance of this type of organization in continental Europe. Neither differences in its composition or procedures can be found to explain the longer duration of the Asociación’s activism over time. This longer persistence can be put down to the delay with which the Asociación faced the discontent arising from the distributional effects of globalization, not reflected in peaks of agrarian emigration in Spain until the late 1880s. When the failure to sign a treaty with France in 1892 jeopardized the gains from wine exports, the loss of support from public opinion was deemed irreversible and the Asociación, just as its European counterparts had done ten years earlier, stopped campaigning publicly to defend free trade.