The Economic Aspects of Spanish Imperialism in America, 1492-1810

The Economic Aspects of Spanish Imperialism in America, 1492-1810

The Economic Aspects of Spanish Imperialism in America, 1492-1810

The Economic Aspects of Spanish Imperialism in America, 1492-1810

Excerpt

The traditional, stereotyped interpretation of economic relations between Spain and Spanish America during the colonial period may be summed up as follows: the principal motive for Spanish imperial expansion was the search for gold; the commercial system created in the sixteenth century for the regulation of trans-Atlantic trade succeeded on the whole in protecting treasure shipments, but its restrictive features encouraged Spanish Americans to turn to contrabandists for supplies of manufactures and outlets for their produce; an official preoccupation for over two centuries with shipping to Spain as much American bullion (initially gold, subsequently silver) as possible, caused inflation and industrial decline in the peninsula, and also inhibited the development of America's potential as an exporter of agricultural goods and raw materials; although the defects of the Hapsburg commercial system were widely discussed in Spain during the first half of the eighteenth century, it was not until the 1760s that serious attempts were made to restructure it; the commercial and economic reforms introduced in the reign of Charles iii (1759–1788) encouraged rapid economic growth in both Spain and America, but their beneficial results were undermined by Spain's involvement from 1796 in a long cycle of international conflict which culminated in the collapse of the monarchy in 1808; during the subsequent Wars of Independence in Spanish America, economic grievances and aspirations constituted the fundamental force which impelled creoles to seek separation from Spain; however, the destructive aspects of the transition to independence ruined the modest prosperity of the late Bourbon period and left the emerging republics bankrupt, economically decadent and ripe for subjugation in the nineteenth century by British and United States economic interests.

This dark picture of incompetence and underdevelopment is not . . .

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