Trade in a Changing World: Gold, Silver, and Commodity Flows in the Northern Andes 1780-1840
Torres, James Vladimir
This dissertation studies trade connections in the Viceroyalty of the New Kingdom of Granada (present-day Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Western Venezuela), one of the largest global gold producers, during the Age of Revolutions (1780-1840). It interweaves a unique, broad set of quantitative sources to analyze the direction, magnitude, and dynamics of interregional flows of three sets of goods: precious metals (silver and gold in both bullion and coins), domestic staples (textiles, manufactures, and cash crops), and global goods (textiles, foodstuffs, and manufactures of Asian and European provenance). The dissertation examines how the urban triad conformed by Bogotá, Popayán, and Quito intertwined a thick set of interregional trade ties that encompassed mining belts, highland producers, and entrepôts in the Caribbean and Pacific lowlands.The dissertation explores the mechanisms through which increased/decreased export income was transmitted to other sectors of the North Andean economy. It states that during the second half of the eighteenth century the region experienced a process of market deepening and widening, with the flows of gold and commodities promoting Smithian growth through specialization, polycentric connections, and the expansion of the market and monetary economy. By integrating gold flows into the analysis of trade patterns in the Americas, the dissertation challenges the silver-centered nature of the literature and provides insights into the way in which bimetallic exchanges oiled the wheels of continental-wide supply chains. The research also demonstrates that the military conflicts that plagued the Age of Revolutions transformed the late colonial market expansion, with the region experiencing an important process of trade disruption and deviation. Conflicts led to economic contraction, but the dissertation argues that the post-independence crisis has been overestimated by scholars. Instead, it offers an image of an economy reorganizing itself, readjusting old ways to interact with the world economy, and deploying key institutional reforms throughout the 1820s and the 1830s. I argue that warfare constituted not only a conduit of political and social change but also a huge mobilization of manpower, coins, and resources that spurred sectoral transformations. The dissertation, then, analyzes a region pivotal to global bullion markets within a context of political change.
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