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Crisis in an Atlantic Empire

, 808 pages
November 2014



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Crisis in an Atlantic Empire

Spain and New Spain, 1808-1810

With a compelling narrative that weaves together story and thesis and brings to life immense archival research and empirical data, Crisis in an Atlantic Empire is a finely grained historical tour of the period covering 1808 to 1810, which is often called "the age of revolutions."

The study examines an accumulation of countervailing elements in a spasm of imperial crisis, as Spain and its major colony New Spain struggled to preserve traditional structures of exchange—Spain's transatlantic trade system—with Caribbean ports at Veracruz and Havana in wartime after 1804. Rooted in the struggle between businessmen seeking to expand their economic reach and the ruling class seeking to maintain its hegemonic control, the crisis sheds light on the contest between free trade and monopoly trade and the politics of preservation among an enduring and influential interest group: merchants.

Reflecting the authors’ masterful use of archival sources and their magisterial knowledge of the era’s complex metropolitan and colonial institutions, this volume is the capstone of a research endeavor spanning nearly sixty years.

Barbara H. Stein (1916-2005) was an independent historian and former bibliographer for Latin America, Spain, and Portugal at Princeton University's Firestone Library. Stanley J. Stein is the Walter S. Carpenter Professor in Spanish Civilization and Culture, Emeritus, at Princeton University.

"Taken together, the four works are a vital reference point for the study of the Hispanic Atlantic in its period of resurgence and crisis in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Crisis in an Atlantic Empire is a fine culmination, a gripping, learned, and revelatory work that makes the reader look anew at the Hispanic world in the age of revolution."

"In a sophisticated, literate, and detailed analysis, eminent historians Barbara Stein and Stanley Stein dissect the interwoven responses between 1808 and 1810 in Spain and New Spain (Mexico) to the challenges resulting from Napoleon's invasion of the Iberian peninsula and the Bourbon monarchs' abdications... Based heavily on extensive archival and published primary sources, this deftly argued, magisterial work, along with its three preceding volumes—Silver, Trade, and War; Apogee of Empire; and Edge of Crisis—belongs in every academic and large public library. Essential."

"This book is a gold mine for the sheer amount of primary sources brought to the surface...[and] a valuable contribution to the shelf of any historian dealing with the independence era in any of the Spanish colonies."

"The authors' research is clear and meticulous, with extensive quotes from sources in Spanish and French... it is a book that belongs on the bookshelf of anyone interested in European expansion, Atlantic maritime competence, and Hispanic revolutions."

"Stein and stein leave is a fascinating account of the entangled relations between money and power, between Europe and the Americas on the eve of economic liberalism. This meticulous study of policy making under duress may have an underlying structural argument about the brittleness of the Spanish ancient regime, but it never loses sight of the contingencies and complexities of rulership. It is a tour de force."

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