A citation Jim Blaut would have appreciated

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Sep 27 14:57:53 MDT 2001


In the nineteenth century, as is true today, Seville was a
magnificent array of fountains and walled gardens, of red-tile roofs
and white-stucco walls and windows covered by wrought-iron grillwork,
of orange and lemon and palm trees. Threading through the Spanish
city were narrow cobblestone streets filled with visitors come to
look at one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in Europe.

When the twenty-seven-year-old Leopold [future tyrant over the Congo
Free State] arrived in Seville, in March 1862, his purpose was not to
see the cathedral or the famous mosaics and courtyards of the
brightly tiled Alcazar palace. Instead, he spent a full month in the
Casa Lonja, or Old Exchange Building, a massive, square structure
opposite the cathedral.

For two centuries Seville was the port through which colonial gold,
silver, and other riches had flowed back to Spain; some eighty years
before Leopold's visit, King Carlos III had ordered that there be
gathered in this building, from throughout the country, all decrees,
government and court records, correspondence, maps and architectural
drawings, having to do with the Spanish conquest of the Americas.
Collected under one roof, these eighty-six million handwritten pages,
among them the supply manifest for one of Columbus's ships, have made
the General Archive of the Indies one of the great repositories of
the world. Indifferent to his schoolwork as a boy, with no interest
whatever in art, music, or literature, Leopold was nonetheless a
dedicated scholar when it came to one subject, profits. During the
month he spent in Seville, he wrote home to a friend, "I am very busy
here going through the Indies archives and calculating the profit
which Spain made then and makes now out of her colonies." The man
whose future empire would be intertwined with the twentieth-century
multinational corporation began by studying the records of the
conquistadors.

--
Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 09/27/2001

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