Labour relations in the silver mines of Potosí are almost synonymous with the mita, a system of unfree work that lasted from the end of the sixteenth century until the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, behind this continuity there were important changes, but also other forms of work, both free and self-employed. The analysis here is focused on how the “polity” contributed to shape labour relations, especially from the end of the seventeenth century and throughout the eighteenth century. This article scrutinizes the labour policies of the Spanish monarchy on the one hand, which favoured certain economic sectors and regions to ensure revenue, and on the other the initiatives both of mine entrepreneurs and workers – unfree, free, and self-employed – who all contributed to changing the system of labour.
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