"An important work of synthesis in which the author's own extensive research is brought to bear on an immensely complex and difficult subject. It shows an extraordinary command of its subject matter and makes excellent use of a vast body of quantitative data . . . on the performance of the 18th-century economy; it should be read by every serious student of Mexican and Latin American economic history."--John H. Coatsworth, University of Chicago
Although the 18th century in Mexico has been described as the "golden age," the century must have seemed far from gilded to many of its inhabitants. For years scholars have attempted to resolve the conjunction of economic growth and relatively enlightened public policy with widespread poverty. In this work Richard Garner and Spiro Stefanou solve the puzzle and demonstrate why growth did not lead to economic development.
Mexico's own material wealth, such as its precious metals, was not used to broaden or diversify its economic activities but rather to underwrite various imperial ventures. Though its population grew by several million persons and its economy by several tens of millions of pesos, people there were only marginally better off by the end of the century than at the beginning.
By assembling numerical series from as many different sectors of the economy as possible, Garner and Stefanou could analyze trends and calculate and compare growth rates. Separate chapters deal with agriculture, mining, manufacturing, commerce, and public policy. The most impressive upward trends relate not to what the economy produced but to how much the royal treasury collected as taxes and monopolies and to how much bullion the colonial government exported to Spain, Europe, and other colonies.
Making a contribution well beyond the area of Mexican history, the book offers new perspectives on continuing debates about the nature of colonialism and economic development.
Richard L. Garner is associate professor of history at Pennsylvania State University. He has written extensively in the field of Mexican and Latin American economic history and is the editor of the Latin American Economic History Newsletter.
Spiro E. Stefanou is associate professor of agricultural economics at Pennsylvania State University and has published widely on production economics, quantitative methods, and natural resource economics.
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