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  • Cited by 1
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

4 - Liberal Colonialism


During the late colonial period the population and economies of the once-stagnant peripheral colonies in Spanish America grew rapidly…The economic expansion of the periphery during the last hundred years of the empire equaled the rapid growth experienced during the early stages of the mining boom in Peru and New Spain.

– Mark A. Burkholder and Lyman L. Johnson

During the late colonial reorientation the Atlantic seaboard areas experienced growth and consolidation, since they profited most from navigational improvements and were best placed for the bulk exports to Europe which were becoming increasingly viable. Some former fringe areas now took on many of the characteristics of centrality and even displaced the old central areas to an extent…We must not think, however, that the mercantile communities of Mexico City and Lima faded away under the onslaught…Although the established commercial centers lost their exclusive status, they seem to have maintained a certain dominance, and such diminution as occurred seems to have been more in percentile terms than absolute.

– James Lockhart and Stuart B. Schwartz

The liberal phase of Spanish colonialism (1700–1808) was a major departure from the mercantilist era. Especially under the late Bourbon monarchy, institutional development and colonial settlement were redirected to several territories that had been peripheral under the Habsburgs, while some former colonial centers and semiperipheries became marginal peripheries. Moreover, there was a transformation in the kinds of institutions and settlers brought to the New World.

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