English Mercantilist Influences on the Foundation of the Portuguese School of Commerce in 1759

By Rodrigues, Lucia Lima; Craig, Russell | Atlantic Economic Journal, December 2004 | Go to article overview

English Mercantilist Influences on the Foundation of the Portuguese School of Commerce in 1759


Rodrigues, Lucia Lima, Craig, Russell, Atlantic Economic Journal


Introduction

This paper examines an instance of the transfer of ideas for the development of commercial education in mercantilist 18th century Western Europe. The authors explore the source of the educational know-how embodied in the courses offered by what has often been claimed to be the world's (or at least, Europe's) first official, government-sponsored teaching academy offering formal instruction in commerce (including in double-entry accounting): the Portuguese School of Commerce, established in Lisbon in 1759 [Rodrigues et al., 2004]. There have been many claims and claimants regarding the Portuguese School of Commerce's "firstness." For example, the Portuguese Government, by Decree Number 5029 in 1918, stated that "Portugal was the first country where commerce teaching was organized and the honour belongs to the Marquis [of Pombal]." Correa [1930, p. 14] claimed that "The School of Commerce was, without any doubt, ... the first technical school of commerce established in Europe." Azevedo [1961, p. 6] claimed that:

   "... two hundred years ago, in [Portugal] the first
   school of commerce was created. And it was not only the
   first school of commerce but also the first technical
   school. Further, it was not only the first in Portugal,
   but so far as one knows, it was the first technical and
   professional school officially created in the world."

The School of Commerce was an important part of the social, economic, and educational fabric of Portugal from its foundation in 1759 until about the time of the French invasions of 1807. Many government positions were reserved for graduates of the school. Such was the esteem with which it was held that, at various times, King D. Jose and his Chief Minister, the Marquis of Pombal, attended the exams and the ceremonies marking the opening each academic year, often with the Royal Court in attendance. Ratton [1813, p. 194] observed that:

   "The appreciation that King D. Jose had about the School of
   Commerce was such that many times he went to see the students
   take the exams with all his Court; for that purpose he built
   special seating for himself and members of his court; and
   when the King could not attend, his Minister, The Marquis
   of Pombal, usually attended."

Many graduates of the school made important contributions to the economic life and public service of Portugal, in the Board of Trade, Royal Treasury, and other private and public institutions, such as the Royal Hospital of All Saints and the Royal Silk Factory [ANTT; Board of Trade, book 111, folio 111V]. Famous graduates included Alexandre Herculano (a romantic poet), Francisco Honorato da Costa, (sponsor of the first crossing of Africa from Angola to Mozambique, 1804-11), and Antonio Juliao da Costa, Portugal's consul in Liverpool (1810-33) [Felismino, 1960; Santana, 1989; Rodrigues et al., 2004].

This paper argues that the educational know how incorporated in the curriculum design and general planning of School of Commerce when it was founded in Lisbon in 1759 had been transferred from England by Sebastiao Carvalho e Melo, the Portuguese ambassador to England, 1738-43. (Carvalho e Melo is much better known by the title, Marquis of Pombal, acquired in 1769. For clarity and consistency, he is referred to as "Pombal" throughout this paper.) Pombal was influenced strongly in London by the successes of English mercantilist endeavour and by exposure to the ideas of prominent English economic writers. From this paper, a clearer understanding emerges of the formative influences on the School of Commerce and of the innovative thinking about commercial education that took place in the first half of the 18th century.

The paper begins by briefly explaining mercantilism. Then follows a review of the leading proponents and implementers of formal academy-based commercial education in 18th century mercantilist Europe who have been identified by Redlich [1957]. …

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