Textiles and Capitalism in Mexico

Textiles and Capitalism in Mexico: An Economic History of the Obrajes, 1539-1840

Copyright Date: 1987
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Textiles and Capitalism in Mexico
    Book Description:

    The obrajes, or native textile manufactories, were primary agents of developing capitalism in colonial Mexico. Drawing on previously unknown or unexplored archival sources, Richard Salvucci uses standard economic theory and simple measurement to analyze the obraje and its inability to survive Mexico's integration into the world market after 1790.

    Originally published in 1988.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4772-3
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-ix)
    (pp. x-x)
    (pp. x-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)
    (pp. 3-8)

    This is a study of a major economic activity in colonial Mexico: the production of woolen cloth. Its significance is twofold. Until the eighteenth century, the inhabitants of New Spain largely made their own cloth. Until then, colonial textiles were sheltered from competition, since imports—by price or quality, or both—were essentially luxury goods. The establishment of commercial production under relative autarchy, and its inability to survive integration into the world market after 1790, therefore tells much about the structure and productivity of the economy as a whole and, particularly, about conditions of supply. Supply in turn reflects cost,...

  8. ONE A Web of Weavers
    (pp. 9-31)

    The existence of an artisan textile industry in the Industry was never viewed unambiguously by successive generations of royal officials. For example, in theNuevo sistema de gobierno económico para la América, José del Campillo y Cosío indicated his interest in the “large number of looms in both Kingdoms that not only supplied poor Indians, but also Spaniards of middling means.”¹ Although Campillo’s treatise, written in 1743, was delayed in publication until 1789 (it appeared as part of Bernardo Ward’sProyecto económicoin 1762), its concerns were echoed in the thoughts of the viceroy of New Spain in that era,...

  9. TWO Embrión de la Fábrica?
    (pp. 32-62)

    In 1938, Luis Chávez Orozco published hisHistoria económica y social de México, in which he called the obraje a “factory in embryo.”¹ According to Chávez Orozco, the Conquest occurred just as economic institutions in the Peninsula were evolving beyond late medieval corporative forms. Thus, he understood the artisan workshop—in his view, the trapiche or obrador—and the obraje as representing different historical epochs and forms of production. The artisan workshop was precapitalist and essentially medieval. The obraje was an “advanced,” if anomalous, institution. It was a factorylike structure that epitomized the leading edge of a modern, entrepreneurial, and...

  10. THREE “Little Wealth and Considerable Debts”
    (pp. 63-96)

    As businesses that operated under a series of market constraints, obrajes faced three related problems. One, common to all enterprise, dealt with daily operations, accounting, finance, and routine supply. The second was peculiar to the obraje, a consequence of the need to recruit and to retain labor outside well-organized markets, frequently at variance with colonial law practiced in New Spain. This need drew the obrajes into close contact with civil officials, particularly the judiciary, and raised difficult questions of power and influence. The third dealt with the coordination of technically complex enterprise under conditions of uncertainty. It required the creation...

  11. FOUR “Nor More Servitude Than in Other Work”
    (pp. 97-134)

    In his relación de mando to the Marqués de Valero (1716-22), the Duque de Linares (1710-16) wrote that the obrajes recruited labor through “deception by the peso.” “[The obrajes] hold [the workers] in such violence,” Linares wrote, “that if one of them should happen to die, or to flee, they seize their wives and children as slaves.” “Poorly instructed in the faith, and worse fed,” he concluded, “they suffer in a Christian land what is unknown among barbarians.”¹ Linares’s view was not a new one. The labor problem was coeval with the obraje and was its reason for existence. Without...

  12. FIVE A Business Much Diminished
    (pp. 135-169)

    Over the long run, the volume and distribution of woolen production in New Spain changed dramatically. By the later 1820s, some observers found the industry in a state of decline. Of Puebla, William Bullock wrote, “[it] was formerly celebrated for its manufactory of coarse woollen cloth, but … has now fallen off in this branch of industry.”¹ Descriptions of Querétaro were equally pointed. Although the British minister to Mexico was “struck with [its] busy look, which has quite the air of a manufacturing district,” others were less enthused.² “The town was, in days of yore, famous for the manufacture of...

    (pp. 170-176)

    Although other passages ofThe Wealth of Nationsare perhaps better known, Adam Smith’s discussion of woolens, England’s traditional staple industry for a long while, is likewise enlightening. The example, used to illustrate the principle of specialization, is worth quoting:

    The woollen coat, for example, which covers the day laborer, as coarse and rough as it may appear, is the produce of the joint labour of a great multitude of workmen. The shepherd, the sorter of the wool, the wool-comber or carder, the dyer, the scribbler, the spinner, the weaver, the fuller, the dresser, with many others, must all join...

  14. APPENDIX: The Measurement of Cloth
    (pp. 177-178)
    (pp. 179-180)
    (pp. 181-182)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 183-228)
    (pp. 229-244)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 245-249)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 250-250)