Imperial Reform in an Age of Globalization: Iberian Empires, Enlightenment, and Commercial Society, Part 1: Commercial Society and Iberian Empires

AHA Session 163
Conference on Latin American History 36
Saturday, January 9, 2016: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Room M106 (Atlanta Marriott Marquis, Marquis Level)
Jesus Bohorquez, European University Institute
The Audience

Session Abstract

Imperial reform has long been a topic of great interest for scholars of eighteenth-century Iberian empires. Nonetheless, while we have learned a great deal about the actual policies and effects of imperial reform, we have yet to fully grasp the intellectual impetus behind these imperial transformations. By approaching this old line of inquiry with fresh eyes, this panel aims to reconsider the intellectual and cultural origins of imperial reform. It is especially interested in the issue of economic reform, paying particular attention to how Enlightenment political economy influenced the administration, governance and functioning of colonial outposts. Rather than concentrating on how imperial policies affected the economic performance of Iberian empires, the panel’s main goal is to scrutinize the relationship between economic ideas and policies. One of the key insights that the panel highlights, but which economic and institutional historians rarely note, is the fact that, for many contemporaries, imperial reform was an immediate response to what some historians call proto-globalization, the rise of global trade and consumption. By paying attention to this contextual thread, these papers hope to recast in a new light how we write and understand the history of imperial reform in the eighteenth-century Hispanic and Lusophone worlds. The panel highlights two issues in particular:  1) the introduction of new vocabularies and concepts that affected policy-making, and 2) imperial ministers’ attention to and interaction with political economy, a form of knowledge that many contemporaries understood as new and essential for the survival of nations. Although the panelists share a similar goal and perspective, the papers range from local and regional to imperial, comparative, connected and entangled approaches. As a matter of course, however, panelists share a commitment to studying sources beyond the great treatises of political economy that historians of economic thought often use, including, but not limited to, literature, administrative documents, history books, journals, and images.