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State-Civil Society Cooperation and Conflict in the Spanish Empire: The Intellectual and Political Activities of the Ultramarine Consulados and Economic Societies, c. 1780–1810

  • GABRIEL B. PAQUETTE (a1)

Abstract

This article analyses the intellectual and political activities of the newly-created consulados and Economic Societies in Spanish America between 1780 and 1810. It argues that these institutions decisively shaped both the formulation and implementation of metropolitan policy. Colonial elites used the consulados and Economic Societies as a vehicle to pursue licensed privilege and moderate, incremental reform in the context of a revivified, socio-economically stable Old Regime. They embraced the Bourbon reforms and used them to their advantage. Judging from consulado documents, the prevailing relationship between civil society and the state in Spanish America, at least until the late 1790s, was amicable and mutually supportive. After that time, mainly due to the disruption of Atlantic commerce, close co-operation gave way to conflict, but always within the framework of a cohesive empire. Drawing on archives in Argentina, Chile, Cuba and Spain, this essay traces the coalescence of numerous local intelligentsias that collaborated, to varying degrees, in the renovation of imperial governance and, simultaneously, incubated a robust public sphere in the nascent polities which gradually emerged after the collapse of Spanish royal authority in 1808.

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Thanks are due to Richard Drayton, Anthony McFarlane, T.C.W. Blanning, Jeremy Adelman, and five anonymous JLAS referees whose constructive criticism and helpful suggestions greatly improved this essay. The ‘Program for Cultural Cooperation Between Spain's Ministry of Culture & United States Universities’ and various institutions in the University of Cambridge (Trinity College; the Centre for History and Economics; the Centre of Latin American Studies; and the Faculty of History) provided generous material support that facilitated archival research in Argentina, Chile, Cuba and Spain. An earlier version of this essay was awarded the Harold Blakemore Prize of the Society for Latin American Studies in 2006.

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State-Civil Society Cooperation and Conflict in the Spanish Empire: The Intellectual and Political Activities of the Ultramarine Consulados and Economic Societies, c. 1780–1810

  • GABRIEL B. PAQUETTE (a1)

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