Forwarded from Anthony (Brenner)

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Nov 5 07:10:15 MST 2000

>British Imperialism under Queen Elizabeth I was essentially government
>sanctioned piracy against the Spanish empire. Sir Francis Drake, Sir John
>Hawkins and others plundered Spain's treasure ships and ports for God, for
>Queen, for fun, and for profit.

Anthony, one of the questions I am exploring is the degree to which Spain
enriched England indirectly during the time of the silver trade. While
piracy did exist, there were also 'normal' forms of trade that funneled New
World gold and silver into British banks. Thus, arguments I have heard in
the past about Spain's failure to capitalize on its New World plunder don't
necessarily take into account the intermediary role of English colonies in
the Caribbean, Jamaica in particular.

There's an interesting article titled "England and the Spanish-American
Trade: 1680-1715" by Curtis Nettels that appeared in the Mar. 1931 Journal
of Modern History. (I found it by doing a keyword search on "silver" and
"Spain" and "England" in the JSTOR database.) Basically Nettels lays out a
scenario in which Jamaicans sold provisions, manufactured goods and slaves
to the Spanish, while in return they received gold and silver freshly dug
in the Latin American colonies.

Since England required vast quantities of bullion in order to facilitate
trade with India (the annual exportation amount to 400,000 pound sterling a
year), it was desperate to get its hands on foreign silver. The bulk of
this, according to Nettels, came from 'ordinary' trade rather than piracy.
The governor of Jamaica reported that ships carried 100,000 pound sterling
to London in 1691. By the end of the century, shipments accounted for
200,000 pounds.

I'll probably have more to say on this in a future post, but for the time
being the key point seems to be that it is erroneous to speak about
capitalism originating in a single country. As Perry Anderson pointed out,
it was a value added process that had multiple points of entry spread
across not only countries but continents.

Louis Proyect
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