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Silver, Trade, and War

Spain and America in the Making of Early Modern Europe

The 250 years covered by Silver, Trade, and War marked the era of commercial capitalism, that bridge between late medieval and modern times. Spain, peripheral to western Europe in 1500, produced American treasure in silver, which Spanish convoys bore from Portobelo and Veracruz on the Carribbean coast across the Atlantic to Spain in exchange for European goods shipped from Sevilla (later, Cadiz). Spanish colonialism, the authors suggest, was the cutting edge of the early global economy. America's silver permitted Spain to graft early capitalistic elements onto its late medieval structures, reinforcing its patrimonialism and dynasticism. However, the authors argue, silver gave Spain an illusion of wealth, security, and hegemony, while its system of "managed" transatlantic trade failed to monitor silver flows that were beyond the control of government officials. While Spain's intervention buttressed Hapsburg efforts at hegemony in Europe, it induced the formation of protonationalist state formations, notably in England and France. The treaty of Utrecht (1714) emphasized the lag between developing England and France, and stagnating Spain, and the persistence of Spain's late medieval structures. These were basic elements of what the authors term Spain's Hapsburg "legacy."

Over the first half of the eighteenth century, Spain under the Bourbons tried to contain expansionist France and England in the Caribbean and to formulate and implement policies competitors seemed to apply successfully to their overseas possessions, namely, a colonial compact. Spain's policy planners (proyectistas) scanned abroad for models of modernization adaptable to Spain and its American colonies without risking institutional change. The second part of the book, "Toward a Spanish-Bourbon Paradigm," analyzes the projectors' works and their minimal impact in the context of the changing Atlantic scene until 1759. By then, despite its efforts, Spain could no longer compete successfully with England and France in the international economy. Throughout the book a colonial rather than metropolitan prism informs the authors' interpretation of the major themes examined.

Silver, Trade, and War is about men and markets, national rivalries, diplomacy and conflict, and the advancement or stagnation of states.

About the Authors

Stanley J. Stein is the Walter Samuel Carpenter III Professor in Spanish Culture and Civilization, emeritus, at Princeton University. His publications include Vassouras: A Brazilian Coffee County, 1850–1900 and (with Roberto Crotes Conde) Latin America: A Guide to Economic History, 1830–1930. Barbara H. Stein is an independent historian and former bibliographer for Latin America, Spain, and Portugal at Princeton University's Firestone Library. The authors previously collaborated on The Colonial Heritage of Latin America.

Reviews

"All serious students of Spain's national tragedies should find room for the book on their shelves."

- Eric Rust - History: Reviews of New Books

"Sets a new standard for the writing of Spanish imperial history."

- Michael J. Schreffler - Sixteenth Century Journal

"[The authors'] ability to synthesize a broad and disparate historiography on economic, political, and diplomatic developments in early modern Europe as they related to the new opportunities created by the opening of American territories represents a significant achievement and contributes to our understanding of the relationship between economic trends and political formation."

- Ida Altman - American Historical Review

"This book is highly recommended to a broad array of scholars... The authors make a compelling case for the centrality of the Spanish Empire in the emergence of Europe's economic and political hegemony."

- Jeremy Baskes - Historian

"This is a brilliant and pioneering study packed with research and is original in both its presentation and its conclusions... While communicating concrete historical information, the study stimulates the reader to speculate more widely on the fundamental problem of economic growth and the specific case of Spain. The authors inevitably take account of the evolution of the whole Atlantic world; in choosing so vast a canvas on which to execute their magisterial composition, they encourage scholars to take a more global vision of the problems of empire."

- Henry Kamen - Economic Society

"This is a magisterial work from two scholars who have spent a lifetime investigating the economic history of Spain's overseas empire. It will be impossible for the next generation of scholars not to cite the Steins' latest book when writing about the early imperial economies of Europe."

- Choice

"What could one say of the beginnings of a Chaunu-like magnum opus other than to highlight its demonstration of a great depth of reading and research and the profound learning behind it? This is perhaps the most comprehensive, detailed examination in English of Spain and empire since Haring took up the subject during World War I."

- David Weiland - Hispanic American Historical Review

"This book presents a compelling vision of the role of American silver in the making of Spain, the Americas, and Europe, and it merits a wide readership."

- Kenneth J. Andrien - The Americas

"The authors survey and comment on the complex historiography of Spain's rise and fall in the Atlantic world and Western Europe. This work is also deeply grounded in archival research... that allows ample insight into the functioning of the Spanish court and colonial bureaucracy."

- Christopher Schmidt-Nowara - Latin American Research Review

Endorsements

"The authors successfully develop the economic interaction of Spain, her colonies, and Europe in a book that is an unparalleled example of Spanish imperial history. Their emphasis on the vital role played by American silver is fully convincing. They point out the negative consequences of silver production and the transatlantic trading system on Spanish administrative institutions and economic development in Peru and New Spain, arguing that by the close of the Hapsburg era the institutions were 'involuted,' the economy dependent and immobile."

- Mark Burkholder, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Johns Hopkins University Press
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9780801861352 : silver-trade-and-war-stein-stein
Hardback
368 Pages
$68.00 USD
9780801877551 : silver-trade-and-war-stein-stein
Paperback / softback
368 Pages
$35.00 USD
9780801876950 : silver-trade-and-war-stein-stein
Electronic book text
368 Pages
$35.00 USD

Other Titles by Stanley J. Stein

Crisis in an Atlantic Empire

Barbara H. Stein and Stanley J. Stein
Dec 2014 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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Edge of Crisis

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Jan 2010 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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Apogee of Empire

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Dec 2004 - Johns Hopkins University Press
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Crisis in an Atlantic Empire

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Edge of Crisis

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Apogee of Empire

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