Hapsburg Imperial Vision, Portuguese Merchants, and the Pacific Slave Trade

Saturday, January 7, 2012: 12:10 PM
Superior Room A (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Tatiana Seijas, Miami University of Ohio
This paper employs a hemispheric approach to reconsider the economic reach of the Hapsburgs during Iberian Union (1580-1640), when Philip II, III and IV, looked to the colonial territories of Castile, Aragon and Portugal as sources of revenue for the royal treasury.  It argues that the Hapsburgs encouraged trade between the colonies and supported merchant networks in order to foster the generation of wealth.  In Asia, the Hapsburgs favored Portuguese merchants and allowed them to dominate intra-colonial trade between the Portuguese and Spanish demarcations.  The Portuguese had established a network that crossed from Goa to Macao during the first half of the sixteenth century, so it was easy for them to bring merchandise, including human chattel, from across Asia to the Philippines.  Portuguese merchants were key players in the forced migration of slaves from places such as Bengal and Malacca, and many of the slaves they transported were subsequently taken to the American colonies on the Manila Galleon.  Notably, the Hapsburgs ignored requests from Spanish merchants in the Philippines who wanted permission and funding to expand their own trade networks in Asia in order to supply the Manila market themselves.  Weighing the interests of competing subjects, the Crown sided with the Portuguese who already had a proven record of trading profitably in distant regions and provisioning colonial outposts.  Bullionism certainly shaped the Hapsburgs’ economy policy, but their attitude towards merchants in the Asian colonies shows an evident interest in the potential of trade, including the trafficking of slaves, to create wealth.
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