Edge of Crisis: War and Trade in the Spanish Atlantic, 1789–1808

JHU Press
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This authoritative study of colonialism in the Spanish empire at the end of the eighteenth century examines how the Spanish metropole attempted to preserve the links to its richest colony in the western Atlantic, New Spain (Mexico), in the face of international developments. Continuing the approach in Silver, Trade, and War and Apogee of Empire, Barbara and Stanley Stein detail Spain’s ad hoc efforts to adjust metropolitan and colonial institutions, structures, and ideology to the pressures of increased competition in the Old and New worlds.

In reviewing the attempts at reform, the authors explore networks of individuals and groups, some accepting and others rejecting the Spanish transatlantic trade system. They provide accounts from both sides of the Atlantic to show how economic policy, imperial goals, and consequent social divisions and factionalism in New Spain and Spain undermined the government’s efforts at economic and political adjustments. The Steins draw on a wide range of archival material in Mexico, Spain, and France to place the waning of the Spanish empire in an Atlantic perspective. They also show how Spain came to the verge of collapse in a time of revolution and at the beginning of the transition from commercial to industrial capitalism.

Comprehensive and carefully researched, Edge of Crisis explains the broad array of factors that led up to the French invasion of Spain in early 1808.

-- Carlos Marichal
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About the author

Barbara H. Stein (1916-2005) was an independent historian and former bibliographer for Latin America, Spain, and Portugal at Princeton University's Firestone Library. Stanley J. Stein is the Walter S. Carpenter Professor in Spanish Civilization and Culture, Emeritus, at Princeton University. The Steins coauthored Silver, Trade, and War and Apogee of Empire, both also published by Johns Hopkins.

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Additional Information

Publisher
JHU Press
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Published on
Jan 1, 2010
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Pages
640
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ISBN
9780801895890
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
History / Europe / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Once Europe's supreme maritime power, Spain by the mid-eighteenth century was facing fierce competition from England and France. England, in particular, had successfully mustered the financial resources necessary to confront its Atlantic rivals by mobilizing both aristocracy and merchant bourgeoisie in support of its imperial ambitions. Spain, meanwhile, remained overly dependent on the profits of its New World silver mines to finance both metropolitan and colonial imperatives, and England's naval superiority constantly threatened the vital flow of specie.

When Charles III ascended the Spanish throne in 1759, then, after a quarter-century as ruler of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, Spain and its colonial empire were seriously imperiled. Two hundred years of Hapsburg rule, followed by a half-century of ineffectual Bourbon "reforms," had done little to modernize Spain's increasingly antiquated political, social, economic, and intellectual institutions. Charles III, recognizing the pressing need to renovate these institutions, set his Italian staff—notably the Marqués de Esquilache, who became Secretary of the Consejo de Hacienda (the Exchequer)—to this formidable task.

In Apogee of Empire, Stanley J. Stein and Barbara H. Stein trace the attempt, initially under Esquilache's direction, to reform the Spanish establishment and, later, to modify and modernize the relationship between the metropole and its colonies. Within Spain, Charles and his architects of reform had to be mindful of determining what adjustments could be made that would help Spain confront its enemies without also radically altering the Hapsburg inheritance. As described in impressive detail by the authors, the bitter, seven-year conflict that ensued between reformers and traditionalists ended in a coup in 1766 that forced Charles to send Esquilache back to Italy. After this setback at home, Charles still hoped to effect constructive change in Spain's imperial system, primarily through the incremental implementation of a policy of comercio libre (free-trade). These reforms, made half-heartedly at best, failed as well, and by 1789 Spain would find itself ill prepared for the coming decades of upheaval in Europe and America.

An in-depth study of incremental response by an old imperial order to challenges at home and abroad, Apogee of Empire is also a sweeping account of the personalities, places, and policies that helped to shape the modern Atlantic world.

-- Kendall W. Brown
Brilliant and engagingly written, Why Nations Fail answers the question that has stumped the experts for centuries: Why are some nations rich and others poor, divided by wealth and poverty, health and sickness, food and famine?

Is it culture, the weather, geography? Perhaps ignorance of what the right policies are?

Simply, no. None of these factors is either definitive or destiny. Otherwise, how to explain why Botswana has become one of the fastest growing countries in the world, while other African nations, such as Zimbabwe, the Congo, and Sierra Leone, are mired in poverty and violence?

Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson conclusively show that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea, to take just one of their fascinating examples, is a remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities.

The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas is due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.

Based on fifteen years of original research Acemoglu and Robinson marshall extraordinary historical evidence from the Roman Empire, the Mayan city-states, medieval Venice, the Soviet Union, Latin America, England, Europe, the United States, and Africa to build a new theory of political economy with great relevance for the big questions of today, including:

- China has built an authoritarian growth machine. Will it continue to grow at such high speed and overwhelm the West?

- Are America’s best days behind it? Are we moving from a virtuous circle in which efforts by elites to aggrandize power are resisted to a vicious one that enriches and empowers a small minority?

- What is the most effective way to help move billions of people from the rut of poverty to prosperity? More philanthropy from the wealthy nations of the West? Or learning the hard-won lessons of Acemoglu and Robinson’s breakthrough ideas on the interplay between inclusive political and economic institutions?

Why Nations Fail will change the way you look at—and understand—the world. 
With a compelling narrative that weaves together story and thesis and brings to life immense archival research and empirical data, Crisis in an Atlantic Empire is a finely grained historical tour of the period covering 1808 to 1810, which is often called "the age of revolutions."

The study examines an accumulation of countervailing elements in a spasm of imperial crisis, as Spain and its major colony New Spain struggled to preserve traditional structures of exchange—Spain's transatlantic trade system—with Caribbean ports at Veracruz and Havana in wartime after 1804. Rooted in the struggle between businessmen seeking to expand their economic reach and the ruling class seeking to maintain its hegemonic control, the crisis sheds light on the contest between free trade and monopoly trade and the politics of preservation among an enduring and influential interest group: merchants.

Reflecting the authors’ masterful use of archival sources and their magisterial knowledge of the era’s complex metropolitan and colonial institutions, this volume is the capstone of a research endeavor spanning nearly sixty years.

Edge of Crisis: War and Trade in the Spanish Atlantic, 1789–1808Hardcover edition published in 2009, 978-0-8018-9046-8 Apogee of Empire: Spain and New Spain in the Age of Charles III, 1759–1789 Hardcover edition published in 2003, 978-0-8018-7339-3 Silver, Trade, and War: Spain and America in the Making of Early Modern EuropeHardcover edition published in 2000, 978-0-8018-6135-2Paperback edition published in 2003, 978-0-8018-7755-1

-- Christopher Schmidt-Nowara, Prince of Asturias Chair in Spanish Culture and Civilization, Tufts University
An unimpeachable classic work in political philosophy, intellectual and cultural history, and economics, The Road to Serfdom has inspired and infuriated politicians, scholars, and general readers for half a century. Originally published in 1944—when Eleanor Roosevelt supported the efforts of Stalin, and Albert Einstein subscribed lock, stock, and barrel to the socialist program—The Road to Serfdom was seen as heretical for its passionate warning against the dangers of state control over the means of production. For F. A. Hayek, the collectivist idea of empowering government with increasing economic control would lead not to a utopia but to the horrors of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

First published by the University of Chicago Press on September 18, 1944, The Road to Serfdom garnered immediate, widespread attention. The first printing of 2,000 copies was exhausted instantly, and within six months more than 30,000 books were sold. In April 1945, Reader’s Digest published a condensed version of the book, and soon thereafter the Book-of-the-Month Club distributed this edition to more than 600,000 readers. A perennial best seller, the book has sold 400,000 copies in the United States alone and has been translated into more than twenty languages, along the way becoming one of the most important and influential books of the century.

With this new edition, The Road to Serfdom takes its place in the series The Collected Works of F. A. Hayek. The volume includes a foreword by series editor and leading Hayek scholar Bruce Caldwell explaining the book's origins and publishing history and assessing common misinterpretations of Hayek's thought. Caldwell has also standardized and corrected Hayek's references and added helpful new explanatory notes. Supplemented with an appendix of related materials ranging from prepublication reports on the initial manuscript to forewords to earlier editions by John Chamberlain, Milton Friedman, and Hayek himself, this new edition of The Road to Serfdom will be the definitive version of Hayek's enduring masterwork.
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