Distant Tyranny

Distant Tyranny: Markets, Power, and Backwardness in Spain, 1650-1800

Regina Grafe
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7rh8g
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Distant Tyranny
    Book Description:

    Spain's development from a premodern society into a modern unified nation-state with an integrated economy was painfully slow and varied widely by region. Economic historians have long argued that high internal transportation costs limited domestic market integration, while at the same time the Castilian capital city of Madrid drew resources from surrounding Spanish regions as it pursued its quest for centralization. According to this view, powerful Madrid thwarted trade over large geographic distances by destroying an integrated network of manufacturing towns in the Spanish interior.

    Challenging this long-held view, Regina Grafe argues that decentralization, not a strong and powerful Madrid, is to blame for Spain's slow march to modernity. Through a groundbreaking analysis of the market forbacalao--dried and salted codfish that was a transatlantic commodity and staple food during this period--Grafe shows how peripheral historic territories and powerful interior towns obstructed Spain's economic development through jurisdictional obstacles to trade, which exacerbated already high transport costs. She reveals how the early phases of globalization made these regions much more externally focused, and how coastal elites that were engaged in trade outside Spain sought to sustain their positions of power in relation to Madrid.

    Distant Tyrannyoffers a needed reassessment of the haphazard and regionally diverse process of state formation and market integration in early modern Spain, showing how local and regional agency paradoxically led to legitimate governance but economic backwardness.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4053-3
    Subjects: Economics, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-xx)
  5. Chapter 1 Markets and States
    (pp. 1-37)

    Historians of early modern Europe have to explain at least two exceedingly far-reaching phenomena. The first one turned people who had thought about themselves as the citizens of a town or the subjects of an estate or village—be it seigneurial or royal—slowly but surely into subjects and eventually citizens of a nation-state. The second one, less often appreciated but equally important, was that Europeans’ livelihoods became subject to changes in markets that were a long way out of their local or regional reach. By the eighteenth century almost all people in Europe, even in relatively remote areas, had...

  6. Chapter 2 Tracing the Market: The Empirical Challenge
    (pp. 38-51)

    Historians and economists have quite distinct working definitions of market integration. On the one hand, historians of the early modern period tend to think about market integration as a process in which agriculture and manufacturing directed largely at guaranteeing subsistence were increasingly replaced by specialized production that had to be sold on the market in return for other goods. This was accompanied by a similar increase in labor allocation that was fully monetized. Hence, market integration was intimately linked to changes not only in the commercialization of agricultural and manufacturing goods but also in their production and consumption patterns.

    On...

  7. Chapter 3 Bacalao: A New Consumer Good Takes on the Peninsula
    (pp. 52-79)

    This is how the great Spanish encyclopedia of Esteban de Terreros y Pando defined dried, salted codfish in the 1780s.¹ Quite a lot has been written about the rise of the cod trade as one of the first transatlantic commodities; indeed, cod might be the only fish that has had its (collective?) biography written.² Yet less is known about its introduction into southern European markets and next to nothing about how the transatlantic end of the trade interacted with markets within southern Europe. Since this book breaks new ground in usingbacalaoinstead of grain in understanding market integration and...

  8. Chapter 4 The Tyranny of Distance: Transport and Markets in Spain
    (pp. 80-115)

    Spain suffers from a particularly unforgiving geography by European standards. Within its present borders the average altitude above sea level is about 660 meters, which also happens to be the altitude of Madrid. That makes Spain the country with the second-highest average elevation in Europe after Switzerland.¹ In terms of landmass it is just smaller than France, but it has only two navigable rivers, the Ebro and the Guadalquivir, and even these become unnavigable barely 100 kilometers from the sea. Fast currents and abrupt changes in water levels resulting from the large elevations render other rivers useless for transport purposes....

  9. Chapter 5 Distant Tyranny: The Historic Territories
    (pp. 116-164)

    Domestic market integration in Spain was indeed slow; more specifically, it was much slower than Spain’s integration with the international economy over the long run, and its progress was regionally extremely diverse. That much should be clear from the results of chapter 4. Poor transport technology and bad roads did not help matters and provide some of the background for understanding Spanish markets. Still, transport itself exhibited a trend toward slow but steady improvement over the century and a half under consideration here, and this progress proceeded faster than the overall trend of price convergence proxied by the time it...

  10. Chapter 6 Distant Tyranny: The Power of Urban Republics
    (pp. 165-189)

    Writing about widespread riots in Spain in the autumn of 1854, a German journalist and incisive commentator on European affairs tried to trace the deep historical roots of the “revolutions” Spain had experienced since the turn of the century. In a series of articles for theNew York Daily Tribunehe quipped, “Spain has never adopted the modern French fashion . . . of beginning and accomplishing a revolution in three days.” Instead it experienced revolutionary upheaval during the periods 1808–12, 1820–23, and 1834–43, and of course again in 1854. The writer traced the social origins of...

  11. Chapter 7 Market Growth and Governance in Early Modern Spain
    (pp. 190-212)

    Caught between anxieties about Anglo-Spanish imperial rivalry and their own hubris, English travel writers of the eighteenth century had few charitable things to say about their Iberian competitor. Spaniards were “lazy, improvident people,” taunted one observer. Another thought that “the listless indolence equally dear to the uncivilized savage, and to the degenerate slave of despotism, is no where more indulged than in Spain; thousands of men in all parts of the realm are seen to pass their whole day, wrapped up in a cloak, standing in rows against a wall, or dosing [sic] under a tree.”² The author of the...

  12. Chapter 8 Center and Peripheries
    (pp. 213-240)

    The magic of the market, dependent as it is on price signals, worked poorly where a multitude of local trade and consumption taxes affected relative prices in unpredictable ways. The persistence of fragmented fiscal systems and economic and political institutions further limited market integration in an economy that was already saddled with relatively high transport costs. Allocative inefficiencies were the consequence. Interregional integration was slowed down and sometimes even reversed, and local markets remained at the mercy of the performance—past and present—of urban finances. Naturally, regional and local outcomes varied greatly; this was precisely the nature of the...

  13. Conclusions
    (pp. 241-246)

    In his magnificent account,Boundaries: The Making of France and Spain in the Pyrenees, Sahlins demonstrates how European nation-states were constructed at least as much from the periphery to the center as from the center to the periphery. On the boundaries, allegiances and identities were built in contrast to those on the other side, as well as out of commonality with those on one’s own side. The peoples of the peripheries were not the unconscious objects of a process of institutional, ideological, economic, and social-state building imposed from Madrid or Paris but participants in a process that redefined relations across...

  14. A Note on the Sources
    (pp. 247-250)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 251-280)
  16. Index
    (pp. 281-292)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 293-294)