chapter  7
25 Pages

Textbooks and the teaching of political economy in Portugal 1759-1910

An interesting and innovative experience took place in Portugal in the second half of the eighteenth century. The Aula do Comércio (School of Commerce) was founded in 1759 as part of the activities of the Junta do Comércio (Board of Trade), a state department responsible for the overall regulation and development of agriculture, manufactures and national and foreign trade, which was particularly engaged in the administration of state direct investments. Both the Junta and the Aula were part of a strategy for economic development set down by the Marquês de Pombal. According to the guidelines of Pombal’s enlightened mercantilist view, the state should be the main player of an economic dynamic that presupposed the existence − or otherwise the creation − of a favourable institutional framework, a set of well-defined incentives, and the existence of highly qualified public and private human resources. Interestingly, the Marquês de Pombal cared to enhance the technical intermediate education by establishing the Aula de Comércio before he launched the 1772 enlightened reform of the University of Coimbra. The statutes of the Aula de Comércio clearly stated its responsibility:

having taken into consideration that the lack of formal procedures in distribution and order in bookkeeping in commerce is one of the first causes and one of the most obvious principles of decadence and ruin of many traders; also that the ignorance regarding the scales of money, weights and measures, and also the ignorance regarding exchange rates and other mercantile dealings cannot but cause great damages and obstacles to each and every business with foreign nations.