Broadly speaking, historians have considered the development of British business on the west coast of South America in the 19th and 20th centuries with a strong focus on Chile and Peru and in the light of two different historiographical approaches: debate over the organization of British business overseas and controversies over informal imperialism and dependency. Initially, the most visible examples of British business influence were merchants who arrived at the time of independence in the early 19th century, although from the middle of the century there was also significant investment in government bonds (sovereign debt). After the War of the Pacific (1879–1883), “freestanding companies” and investment groups, often organized by commercial houses handling Latin American exports, became the main vehicle for British capital flows. The activities of merchants and other suppliers of business services, such as shipping firms, banks, and insurance companies, together with the development of freestanding companies in railways and resource extraction after the War of the Pacific, certainly accelerated the incorporation of Peru and Chile into the expanding global economy. While it is difficult to find concrete examples of direct intervention by British firms in local politics, the growth of foreign business did set constraints on the autonomy of Latin American governments, which became dependent on the direct and indirect income from commodity exports. However, it also provided opportunities for local politicians and business elites, especially in the 1880s and the decade before the First World War when London financial institutions were seeking new openings for direct investment overseas. During the interwar period, British business influence began to fade as merchants and banks ran into greater difficulties, and US participation in the west coast economies, especially in resource extraction (mining and oil), grew. Although some major British multinational firms did invest in industry in Peru and Chile following the Second World War, little British business remained in the region after the 1970s.
Robert G. Greenhill and Rory M. Miller
During the period of European expansion and consolidation (1500–1700) Mapping the world during the European expansion and consolidation (1500–1700) was a challenging intellectual activity which included the development of new ways of making knowledge, the invention of new instruments, the creation of unprecedented scientific-political institutions, a wider circulation of knowledge thanks to the improvements in printing, and the emergence of radical questions about the nature of the world. In order to record the information provided by travelers, new cartographic genres and languages began to be created in Spanish institutions. On the one hand, they made use of and readapted well-established traditions, like Mediterranean portolans; on the other, they introduced more and more systematic methodological protocols, that would become solid cartographical traditions by the end of the 17th century, specifically sea charts, world maps, and atlases, among others. This new accuracy and updated geographical information elevated the ideal of scientific mapping and cartographical activities. The expansion of the book market and particularly, within that market, the rapidly expanding demand for atlases in the Low Countries in the 17th century, contributed to the dissemination of cartographical images of a changing world (constantly being modified as a result of ongoing expeditions and explorations) to the educated public. The buyers of these images were not only scientists but also wealthy and curious people who could afford the high prices charged for the luxurious atlases produced by some of the most renowned publishers. From this time onward, maps were no longer exclusively scientific instruments but also commodities that helped “common people” to imagine how the world looked; in effect, they helped to create a shared modern geographical imagination.
The mission economy supported tens of thousands of Guaraní Indians and made the Jesuit reducciones (1609 to 1767) the most populous and financially prosperous of all the missions among native peoples of the Americas. The communal structure of collective labor, shared ownership, and redistribution of communal property formed the basis of the mission economy and seemed to leave little room for the possession of private property, independent trade, and economic initiative on the part of the resident Guaraní. Late 18th century Jesuit authors reinforced such an understanding in an attempt to defend their order and its actions in Paraguay. They argued that the Guaraní were incapable of managing their own affairs and that Jesuit management of the communally structured economy was indispensible for the wellbeing of both the missions and the Guaraní. Such accounts overlook evidence to the contrary. Mission Guaraní did in fact own private property—yerba mate, horses, clothing, and jewelry—and Jesuit leaders repeatedly issued orders for the missionaries to allow the Guaraní to independently trade yerba mate. Furthermore, although Jesuit authors repeatedly denied that they paid mission Guaraní wages—to do so would go against the communal structure that they so vehemently defended—the missionaries acknowledged that they paid mission Guaraní bonuses as a reward for their skills or extra labor. These bonuses served as a way to motivate individual economic initiative or agency within the framework of the missions’ communal structure. In sum, the communal structure allowed for more flexibility in the ownership of private property, independent commerce, and economic initiative by the Guaraní than has been portrayed in both the 18th century writings of Jesuit authors and much of the current literature.
Luis R. Corteguera
Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the Inquisition in New Spain tried individuals for a broad range of sacrilegious acts against religious objects, including spitting, trampling, stabbing, and breaking them to pieces. Men and women also desecrated images through verbal insults, irreverent gestures, and even sexual acts. In most of these cases, the term sacrilege does not adequately reflect the often-complex motivations behind such actions. The Protestant iconoclastic violence of the 16th century unleashed on Catholic sacred images has made us think of acts of sacrilege as primarily directed at denying the power of images and their ability to represent divinity. Yet even seemingly obvious cases of iconoclasm in New Spain challenge this assumption. In many and possibly most cases, such actions betrayed the longing of men and women for spiritual closeness with divinity. The anger, desperation, and desolation sacrilegists sometimes expressed were not always unlike the ardent emotions that sacred images could elicit from devout Catholics. At other times, men and women sought to appropriate the power of sacred images and relics for reasons that challenge an easy distinction between religious and superstitious intentions. Taken together, cases of sacrilege, blasphemy, desecration, irreverence, profanation, and superstition can therefore reveal the variety and creativity of authorized and unauthorized religious practices in colonial Spanish America.
Natalia Sobrevilla Perea
The wars of Spanish-American independence were a series of military campaigns that took place in the Americas between 1809 and 1825, which resulted in the creation of more than a dozen republics in the territories that had previously been part of the Hispanic monarchy. Triggered in the short term by the Napoleonic invasion of the Spanish peninsula in 1808, there were more deep-seated reasons, however, that led to the collapse of an empire that had existed for three hundred years. Classic historiography has stressed the importance of the Bourbon Reforms that brought to the fore the contradictions within the Hispanic monarchy and gave rise to a sense of proto-nationalism. These interpretations have given much importance to the role of the Enlightenment and the fear brought by possible social revolution. Some authors consider that these wars were the result of the Americans’ long-held contempt for Europeans. These views consider that struggle for liberation had begun much earlier, possibly as far back as the 1780s, inspired by the American and French Revolutions. More recent historiography has highlighted the war that engulfed Spain itself between 1808 and 1814 as the crucial event that led to fighting in the Americas. This event is seen as not just the trigger for the events to unfold, unleashing conflicts that had been simmering for much longer, but what shook to the ground the archaic but surprisingly durable composite Hispanic monarchy. This article will discuss the main events that caused the wars, the moments each national historiography has identified as the ones linked to the independence of their particular region, as well as the events themselves. It begins by looking at the historical antecedents, including the Bourbon Reforms, the American, French, and Haitian revolutions, and at the Napoleonic invasion of the Spanish peninsula. It then discusses the creation of juntas in the Americas and how the confrontation between different jurisdictions resulted in war. The article discusses who were the people involved in the wars and the main events that took place.