External Trade

  • B. R. Mitchell


Because it has long been an important source of revenue to governments, external trade provides more statistical material at an earlier date for most countries than does any other economic activity. It was always one of the first things to be recorded by colonial administrations, though the Spanish and Portuguese were less diligent in this respect than other colonizers. However, as independent regimes established their authority they began to follow West European practice in this field. Unfortunately, it was standard practice in most Latin American countries until around the middle of the nineteenth-century, or later, to record the values of imports and exports in terms of officially fixed ‘prices’ for each commodity. Since these were not normally kept up-to-date, the recorded values, both for individual goods and in the aggregate, tended to become increasingly misleading as a representation of the actual values of imports and exports. The size of the gap which could develop is well illustrated by the Uruguayan figures in table 1 for 1913, when the system was changed.


North AMERICA Latin American Country Economic History External Trade Merchandise Trade 
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  1. Colombian data for 1835-44 are from Jorge E. Rodriguez and William P. McGreavey in Miguel Urrutia and Mario Arrubla (eds.), Compendio de Estadisticas Historicas de Colombia (Bogota, 1970), and those for 1845-1929 are fromGoogle Scholar
  2. William P. McGreavey, An Economic History of Colombia, 1845-1930 (Cambridge, 1971).Google Scholar
  3. Peruvian data to 1896 are based on Laura Randall, A Comparative Economic History ofLatin America 1500-1914, vol 4 Peru (New York, 1977).Google Scholar
  4. The Canadian nonferrous metals series to 1915 is from K.W. Taylor, Statistical Contributions to Canadian Economic History (Toronto, 1931).Google Scholar
  5. The Peruvian statistics to 1910 are from Rosemary Thorp and Geoffrey Bertram, Peru, 189D-1977(London, 1978).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© B R Mitchell 1993

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  • B. R. Mitchell

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