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Bankruptcy of Empire

Bankruptcy of Empire
Mexican Silver and the Wars Between Spain, Britain and France, 1760–1810


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Part of Cambridge Latin American Studies

  • Date Published: April 2010
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521142359


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About the Authors
  • This book incorporates the rich literature on the history of the fiscal organization and financial dynamics of the Spanish empire within the broader historical debates on rival European imperial states from 1760 to 1810. The focus is on colonial Mexico because it served as a fiscal and financial submetropolis that ensured the capacity of the imperial state to defend itself in a time of successive international conflicts. Throughout the reign Charles IV, the finances of the Spanish state began to sink. This collapse was caused by the enormous expense of waging successive wars in the Americas and Europe. In each war, colonial Mexico was a most important source of resources for the Crown, but these demands gradually outstripped the tax base of the viceroyalty despite the extraordinary silver boom of the late eighteenth century. The bankruptcy of the Spanish monarchy and its empire was the inevitable consequence.

    • Incorporates analysis of the Spanish empire into the debates on the end of the ancient regime
    • Demonstrates the importance of Mexican silver in all the major wars of the late eighteenth century and in the Napoleonic era
    • Contrasts tax and financial policies in colonial Mexico and the thirteen colonies in North America
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    • Awarded the A. H. Jones Prize from the Economic History Association of the United States for 'Best book on the Economic History of North America' published in 2006/2007

    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'Bankruptcy of Empire, an amplified version of a 1999 book, is a compelling contribution to the expanding body of research on the economy of New Spain in the eighteenth century and a stimulating addition to the fiscal historiography of the Spanish empire, in particular the monarchy's inability to generate resources in line with the requirements of its foreign policy. … Marichal has made a sterling job of synthesising a great deal of statistical and qualitative data in numerous tables, three appendices and providing a useful index. … This book asks big questions. It is a valuable addition to modern economic history, and will be rewarding for more than its intended audience.' Financial History Review

    'In what by any standards is a major work, Marichal proves the extraordinary influence of Mexican silver in pan-American and European affairs at the turn of the nineteenth century. The Journal of Latin American Studies

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2010
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521142359
    • length: 340 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.5kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of tables and figures
    1. Resurgence of the Spanish Empire: Bourbon Mexico as submetropolis, 1763–1800
    2. An imperial state tax: the fiscal costs and benefits of colonialism
    3. Imperial wars and loans from New Spain, 1780–1800
    4. The royal church and the finances of the viceroyalty
    5. Napoleon and Mexican silver, 1805–8
    6. Between Spain and America: the royal treasury and the Gordon and Murphy Consortium, 1806–8
    7. Mexican silver for the Cortes of Cádiz and the war against Napoleon, 1808–11
    8. The rebellion of 1810, colonial debts, and bankruptcy of New Spain
    Conclusions: the financial collapse of viceroyalty and monarchy

  • Author

    Carlos Marichal, Colegio de México
    Carlos Marichal has been Research Professor of Latin American History at the El Colegio de México since 1989. He received his PhD in History from Harvard University, Massachusetts in 1977 and was a visiting professor at Stanford University, California (1998–9, the Universidad Carlos III, Madrid (1996), the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris (1994), the Universidad Autónoma, Barcelona (1990–3 and 2009) and the Universidad Complutense, Madrid (1987). In September 2008, Bankruptcy of Empire received the Alice Hanson Jones Biennial Prize of the Economic History Association of the United Status as an 'Outstanding Book on North American Economic History'. In August 2009, the same work was awarded the Jaume Vicens Vives Prize of the Spanish Economic History Association, being judged the best book published on the economic history of Spain and Latin America in 2007–8. He is also the author of other works including a history of Latin American debt in English version (1989), with two editions in Spanish, and more recently of Nueva historia de las grandes crisis financieras, 1873–2008 (2010). He is the editor of a dozen collective monographs on the economic history of Latin America, including studies on banking and fiscal history as well as a number of joint studies on the history of enterprise in Mexico in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He is founder and past president of the Mexican Economic History Association and served as member of the executive committee of the International Economic History Association (2000–8). He has received a Guggenheim fellowship (1994–5) and a Tinker Fellowship (1997–8), among other awards. A member of the academic boards of ten international journals on economic history and Latin American history, he is member of the Mexican Sistema Nacional de Investigadores, at the highest level. From 2003 to 2008, he was a member of the Board of Governors of El Colegio de México.


    • Awarded the A. H. Jones Prize from the Economic History Association of the United States for 'Best book on the Economic History of North America' published in 2006/2007
    • Winner of the Jaime Vicens Vives Prize for best book on Latin America and Spain published in 2007/2008, awarded by the Spanish Economic History Association

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