Decadent, backward, feudal Spain?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri May 25 16:07:48 MDT 2001

The result of these [Bourbon commercial] reforms was a rather remarkable
increase in trade between Spain and her colonies. The Cuban trade with
Spain, which in 1760 engaged only 6 ships, required over 200 ships in 1778.
The exportation of hides from Buenos Aires rose from 150,000 in 1778 to
800,000 per year in 1783. Between 1778 and 1788, the value of the entire
trade with Spanish America is estimated to have multiplied by 700%. The
revival of Spanish industry, especially the Catalan cotton industry, helped
to support the new trade pattern. In 1792, the Catalan textile industry
employed 80,000 workers and exported 16 million pesos worth of merchandise
to the Indies. Catalonia ranked second only to the English midlands in the
production of cotton cloth. The Basque hardware industry also expanded. In
1790, 4000 tons of finished iron products were exported to the New World.
While the British still sold merchandise to Spain to be resold in the
Indies, the proportion of Spanish goods carried in the trade was growing.
At the end of the seventeenth century, only about 15% of the products
shipped to America were Spanish. By 1798, the figure was closer to 50%. The
proportion of Spanish national goods imported into New Spain continued to
rise. In 1804, the consulado of Veracruz recorded the value of imported
Spanish goods at 10,412,000 pesos, while foreign products imported through
Spanish middlemen had dropped to 4,493,000 pesos.

James Lang, "Conquest and Commerce"

Louis Proyect
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