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The Atlantic In The Eighteenth Century: A Southern Perspective On the Need to Return to the ‘Big Picture’

  • Kenneth Maxwell (a1)


Looking at the Atlantic in the eighteenth century, it seems to me that we still lack a comprehensive view of what changed during this period, where we should set its boundaries, and how we might interpret the salient characteristics of the century. Perhaps, we have been both too general and too specific, simultaneously seeking with the synthesisers to explain too much and with the more specialised monographic literature to explain too little.



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1 Latin America and the Enlightenment, ed. Whitaker, A. P. (Ithaca, 1961); I am drawing in this section on my chapter, ‘The Impact of the American Revolution on Spain and Portugal and Their Empires,’ in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of the American Revolution, ed. Greene, Jack P. and Pole, J. R. (Oxford, 1991), 528–43. Since my lecture at the Liverpool seminar was intended as an interpretive essay I have kept footnotes to a minimum. When I have based my arguments on my own work the full documentation can be found in the sources cited. In other cases I have indicated the principal contributions by other scholars rather than provide a comprehensive bibliography in each case.

2 Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Modern World System, 2 vols. (New York, 1980).

3 Palmer, R. R., The Age of Democratic Revolutions, 2 vols. (Princeton, 1959 and 1964); Godechot, Jacques, Les revolutions, 1770–1799 (Paris, 1964) and L'europe et l'Amerique a l'époque napolienne, 1800–1819 (Paris, 1967).

4 Novais, Fernando, Portugal e Brasil na crise do antigo sistema colonial, 1777–1808 (São Paulo, 1978). Also see da Costa, Emilia Viotti, ‘Introdução ao estudo da emancipaçao política do Brasil’, in Brasil em perspectiva, ed. Mota, Carlos (São Paulo, 1969).

5 Farris, Nancy, Maya Society Under Colonial Rule (Princeton, 1984).

6 Boxer, C. R., Salvador de Sá and the Struggle for Brazil and Angola, 1602–1680 (1952).

7 Schwartz, Stuart B., Sugar Plantations and the Formation of Brazilian Society: Bahia, 1550—1835 (Cambridge, 1985).

8 Wood, A. J. R. Russell, Fidalgos and Philanthropists: The Santa Casa da Misericórdia of Bahia, 1550–1755 (Berkeley, 1968).

9 Hansen, Carl, Economy and Society in Baroque Portugal (Minneapolis, 1981); also the classic works by Boxer, C. R., The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415–1825 (1969) and The Golden Age of Brazil, 1695–1750 (Berkeley, 1962).

10 Davidson, David, ‘How the Brazilian West Was Won,’ in Colonial Roots of Modern Brazil, ed. Alden, D. (Berkeley, 1971); Lapa, J. R. Amaral, Economia Coloniol (São Paulo, 1973).

11 Maxwell, K. R., Conflicts and Conspiracies: Brazil and Portugal, 1750–1808 (Cambridge, 1973) [hereafter Maxwell, Conflicts and Conspiracies].

12 Fisher, H. E. S., The Portugal Trade: A Study of Anglo-Portuguese Commerce, 1700–1770 (1971). Also, Pinto, Virgilio Noya, Ouro Brasileiro e o comércio Anglo-português (São Paulo, 1979).

13 Maxwell, Pombal: A Paradox of the Enlightenment (Cambridge, forthcoming) [hereafter Maxwell, Pombal]; and Falcón, Francisco José C., A época Pombalina: político, económica e monarquia ilustrada (São Paulo, 1982).

14 There had, of course, been clandestine direct trade between British merchants and Brazil, especially involving the slave trade. The rolled tobacco of Bahia, most of it from the Cachoeira and Mantiba regions, was the basic commodity of exchange on the African coast, as necessary to other European slavers as to the Portuguese. [Lisboa, José da Silva to Vandelli, Domingos, Bahia, , 19 Oct. 1781, Anais da Biblioteca National, Rio de Janeiro (ABNRJ), XXXII (1920), 505; Rodrigues, J. H., Brazil and Africa (Berkeley, 1965) and Verger, Pierre, Flux et reflux de la traite des nègres entre le golfe de Bènin et Bahia de todos os santos du dixseptième au dix-neuvième siècle (Paris, 1968).] Some fifty vessels a year, corvettes and smaller vessels, left Bahia for Africa, four-fifths of them for the Guiné Coast and the remainder for Angola. [Vilhena, Luís dos Santos, Recopilação de noticias soteropolitanas e brasilicas (1802), 3 vols. (Bahia, 19221935).] European goods and gold dust came back to Bahia with the cargoes of slaves. This clandestine commerce had outraged the secretary of state for overseas dominions, Melo e Castro, as had the degree of control that the merchants of Bahia exercised over the African commerce to the exclusion of metropolitan merchants. [‘Instrucção paro o marquêde Valença’, Queluz, Martinho de Melo e Castro, 10 09 1779, ABNRJ, XXXII (1910), 442.] The Bahians always pleaded that they were forced into accepting European goods by the other slavers who needed their tobacco. [‘Officio do Desembargador Gervasio de Almeida Paes para o Governador Marquês de Valença, no qual informa a respeito da referida devassa …’, Bahia, 4 Feb. 1783, ibid., 529.] The contraband manufactures, however, did underprice those imported from the metropolis, and restricted the market for metropolitan goods. [José da Silva Lisboa to Domingos Vandelli, Bahia, 19 Oct. 1781, ibid., 505.] The profitable subsidiary trade which accompanied the slave and tobacco commerce contributed to the favourable balance Bahia enjoyed with the metropolis. Most of the capital obtained was sunk into the purchase of more slaves. Martinho de Melo e Castro held that the working of the Bahian-African trade was the same as ‘according to the English, French and Dutch a free trade by the ports of Africa between those nations and the Portuguese dominions in Brazil without the intervention of the merchants of the metropolis.’ [‘Instrucção para o marquêz de Valença’, Castro, Martinho de Melo e, Queluz, 10 Sept. 1779, ABNRJ, XXXII (1910), 444.

15 Arruda, José Jobson de Andrade, O Brasil no comércio colonial (São Paulo, 1980); Miller, Joseph, The Way of Death: Merchant Capitalism and the Angolan Slave Trade, 1730–1830 (Madison, 1988).

16 I am drawing here on the work of Stein, Stanley J. Stein and Barbara in ‘Concept and Realities of Spanish Economic Growth, 1759–1789’, in Historia Ibérica, I (1973), 103119. Also see Noel, Carlos C., ‘Charles III of Spain’, in Enlightened Absolutism, ed. Scott, H. (1990), 119–43.

17 Fisher, John, Commercial Relations Between Spain and Spanish America in the Era of Free Trade, 1778–1796) (Liverpool, 1985); and González, António Garcia-Baquero, Cádiz y el Atlántico, 1717–1778, 2 vols. (Seville, 1976).

18 Ribiera, Fernando Murillo, L'Amerique et le changement economique de l'espagna du XVIII siècle: administration et commerce, 1126; Fuentes, Lutgardo Garcia, El comércio español en America, 1650–1700 (Seville, 1980); Artola, Miguel, ‘América en el pensamiento español del siglo XVIII’, Revista de indias XXIX (1969); and Sutherland, N. M., ‘The Origins of the 30 Years War and the Structure of European Polities’, English Historical Review, CVII (07 1992), 586625.

19 Malamud, Carlos D., ‘España, Francia y el comércio directo com el espacio peruano, 1695–1730’; ‘Cádiz y Saint Mario’, in La economia española al final del antiquo regime: comércio y colonias, III (Madrid, 1982). Also, Girard, Albert, Le commerce français à Seville et Cadix au temps de Habsbourgs: contribution à l'étude du commerce étranges en Espagna aux XVIe et XVIIe siècles (Paris, 1932).

20 L'Amerique espagnole a l'epoque des lumieres: Tradition – innovation – représentation, XV (Paris, 1987). Also the excellent overview by Brading, D. A., ‘Bourbon Spain and its American Empire’, in Cambridge History of Latin America, I, ed. Bethel, L. (Cambridge, 1984), 389439.

21 Goebel, Dorothy, ‘British Trade to the Spanish Colonies, 1796–1823’, American Historical Review, XLIII (1938), 288320.

22 Inglis, Allan Kuethe and Douglas, ‘Absolution and Enlightened Reform Charles III and the Establishment of the Alcabala’, Past and Present, CIX (1985), 118143; and Barbier, Jacques, ‘Indies Revenues and Naval Spending: The Cost of Colonialism for the Spanish Bourbons, 1763–1805’, Jahrbüch für Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gessellschat Latinamerikas, XXI (1984).

23 Barbier, Jacques, ‘Peninsula Finance and Colonial Trade: The Dilemma of Charles IV's Spain’, Journal of Latin American Studies, XII (1980), 2137; Fisher, John, ‘The Imperial Response to “Free Trade”: Spanish Imports from Spanish America, 1778–1796’, Journal of Latin American Studies, XVII (1985), 3578; and González, A. Garcí-Baquero, ‘Comércio colonial y producción industrial en Cataloñia a fines del siglo XVIII’, Actas del I Coloquio de história economica de España (Barcelona, 1975), 268–94.

24 Edwards, Michael M., The Growth of the British Cotton Trade, 1780–1815 (Manchester, 1967); Redford, Arthur, Manchester Merchants and Foreign Trade, 1794–1858 (Manchester 1934); and [Robert Walpole] to [Lord Granville] Lisbon, 12 Oct. 1791, PRO: FO 6/14.

25 ‘Minute of Propositions Impeding the Treaty with Portugal’, Sept. 1786, Chatham Papers, PRO 30/8/342 (2) f. 59; Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, 25 June 1787, PRO, BT 3/1, 102; [W. Fawkener] to [Borough Reeve] and [constable of Manchester], Office of Privy Council for Trade, 23 August 1788, PRO, BT, 3/1, 290.

26 D. José de Almeida de Melo e Castro to Dom João, 1 Sept. 1801, Arquivo Institute Historico e Geografico Brasileiro, Rio de Janeiro, Lata 58, doc. 17.

27 [Robert Fitzgerald] to [Lord Hawkesbury], Lisbon, 21 Oct. 1803, PRO, FO, 63/42.

28 Maxwell, , Conflicts and Conspiracies, especially 115–40.

29 Phelan, John Laddy, The People and the King: The Communero Revolution in Colombia, 1781 (Madison, 1978).

30 Liss, Peggy K., Atlantic Empires: the Networks of Trade and Revolution, 1713–1826 (Baltimore: 1983).

31 Lynch, John, The Spanish American Revolution, 1808–1826 (1973). The North American Role in the Spanish Imperial Economy, 1760–1819, ed. Barbier, Jacques and Kuethe, Allan (Manchester, 1984); also The Economics of Mexico and Peru During the Late Colonial Period, 1700–1810, eds. Jacobson, Nils and Puhle, Hans-Jürgen (Berlin, 1986).

32 Barrow, John, A Voyage to Cochinchina in the Years 1792 and 1793 (1806), 133–4; Also see Lynch, John, ‘British Policies and Spanish America’, Journal of Latin American Studies, I (1969), 130; Saint Dominique had been producing about 40% of the world's sugar and over half of the world's coffee, according to David Geggus, when the 1791 slave revolt occurred. The government of William Pitt and Henry Dundas sent some 15,000 soldiers to their deaths in Saint Dominique and spent some £10 m trying to conquer it. Geggus calls this 'among the greatest disasters in British Imperial History. Geggus, D., ‘The British Government and the Saint Dominique slave revolt 1791–1793,’ EHR, XCVI (1981), 285305.

33 Diplomatic Correspondence of the United States Concerning the Independence of the Latin American Nations, ed. Manning, William R., 3 vols. (New York, 1925), I, 72.

34 Britain and the Independence of Latin America, 1812–1830’, in Selected Documents from the Foreign Office Archives, ed. SirWebster, Charles, 2 vols. (1938), I, 190–3.

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The Atlantic In The Eighteenth Century: A Southern Perspective On the Need to Return to the ‘Big Picture’

  • Kenneth Maxwell (a1)


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