The Independence Of Spainish Colonies In America

1150 words - 5 pages

The Spanish empire in the Americas faced huge political, social and economic problems in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The empire was stretched to its limit politically and socially with the threat of an uprising from the slave population in its empire. The economy also played a major role and the outlook was just as bleak for Spain with the American colonies drifting towards independence.
Spain did not seem able to cope with its empire and had found itself in trouble with regards to mining which was at the centre of political and social systems, the military and the empire’s economic activity. By 1600, mining which was integral to Spain’s prosperity and growth, was under a huge amount of pressure. This pressure was caused by labour shortages, the rising costs of production and finally, as a result of mining being a finite source, the exhaustion of supply became a problem. If managed correctly the latter point should not have caused a problem however, the mining industry at that time was mostly privately owned with the state having hardly any control apart from the taxes it charged. The mining crisis hit the Americas severely, with Mexico feeling the full force of the decline in mining activity, leading it head first into a recession between the 1570s and 1670s. The main features of the recession in Mexico was a large decline in labour, leading to labour rationing or ‘repartimiento’ and subsequently a decline in the food supplies within the cities and mining centres. Although there was a recession within the Americas as a whole, not all countries suffered in the same way that Mexico did. An example of this was in Potosí, Peru which had become a focal point for Spain as it was the richest colonial centre after the 1560s. The labour demand remained relatively stable and it housed a huge economic market. Examples of this include coastal agriculture such as guano and cotton; in Trujillo they harvested wheat and sugar; and the most impressive of economic development during this time could be seen in Quito with its shipbuilding economy.

Although the economy of the Americas relied heavily on mining there was also a large emphasis on agricultural development and manufacturing in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, the development of agricultural during these two centuries led to further economic turmoil within the Americas. The agricultural system was changed from the traditional Indian subsistence agriculture to commercial crops and plantations. This change in agriculture led to the formation of ‘latifundios’ and ‘minifundios’ which were not as self-sufficient as the traditional Indian subsistence farming. The sugar boom meant that the agricultural system in place led to a loss of Indian land and water rights. Venezuela became the centre of the Americas agricultural economy, due to its success of farming cacao in the central valleys and also due to its livestock. However, the success of its livestock meant that large and...

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