History Department
History Department

Talk: "The Revolutionary Fall of the First Global Economy: Haiti and the Bajío, 1790-1820"," John Tutino, Professor of History, Georgetown University

Thu, March 7, 2013 | GAR 4.100

3:00 PM - 4:00 PM

Professor John Tutino
, Professor of History, Georgetown University, earned his doctorate in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He received two prestigious awards for his most recent book, Making a New World: Founding Capitalism in the Bajío and Spanish North America.  The first came from the Social Science History Association and the second, from the Conference on Latin American History.

Citation for the Allan Sharlin Memorial Award:

This book is a vast, synthetic work—the product of decades of scholarship—sweeping across three hundred years of Mexican history.  It is self-consciously designed in the spirit of Fernand Braudel, as it explores the nexus of physical, cultural, social, and economic factors that brought about an intensive production of goods for market exchange, and a concentration of social power, in one critical part of the New World.

More specifically, the book argues for the central importance of the Bajìo region in Mexico for the development of a globe-encompassing capitalist world-order.  Rather than interpreting the Bajìo as a colonial backwater, a mere supplier of raw materials to Europe, in Tutino’s treatment its production of silver based on obligated labor and patriarchal rule becomes the engine of global capitalist development, linking China and Europe.  Furthermore, its denizens are revealed from the outset as innovating, profit-oriented, exploitation-utilizing capitalists, commercializing agricultural production as well as mineral extraction.  Thus, Tutino’s project contributes to our “fundamental rethinking” of the rise of capitalism, via a detailed reconsideration of where it first grew.

While the book is written with considerable historical scope and with powerful rhetoric, it also functions as an intimate regional history, full of prosopographical detail culled from archival sources.  Here is revealed a world of great social inequality, controlled by a set of elite entrepreneurial individuals and families, each dominant in one industry and dabbling in others, linked together by a shared interest in profit, by a deep culture of patriarchy, by letter-writing, by court cases, and by networks of favors, patronage, and marriage.  Beneath this elite toiled the multitudes in dangerous and backbreaking conditions.  As one inspector reported concerning one of the Bajìo silver mines in 1704, “if anywhere in the world there is any place like hell, this is it.”

Tutino is sensitive to dramatic regional variations within Spanish-controlled areas of the Americas.  He also warns against oversimplified ideas of racial hierarchies through his many stories of elite entrepreneurial activity.  And he offers comparisons with the British colonies on the North American coast, to understand why the Bajìo and the soon-to-be United States followed considerably different trajectories.  Finally, his rich narrative, containing elements of alternately intimate and global scope, is backed up with a battery of appendices containing over a hundred pages of tables of data on work conditions, production, households, population, and ethnicity, synthesized from an abundance of archival and printed sources.

Citation for the Bolton-Johnson Prize:

John Tutino's Making a New World is longue durée history that portrays the Mexican Bajío as a central pole of globalizing capitalism in the eighteenth century, showing how the region's social and economic structures were intimately tied to transnational flows of trade and capital. By building on
the local and regional social, cultural and political historiography of the last three decades, not to mention his own sustained interest in the material and economic record, Tutino reveals how, by its silver mining, agricultural production, and textile manufacturing, the Bajío was linked to the burgeoning global processes of capitalism. He simultaneously explores the multi-ethnic webs of labor, religion and gender at the local level that undergird complex relations of power. As he continually shifts from the global macro to the local and regional micro, he manages to bring into relief real, three-dimensional men and some women whose specific lives and economic activities forged everyday connections to much larger processes. In these ways Tutino de-centers the story of global capitalism (against persistent Eurocentric assumptions) by showing how the Bajío emerged as centrally influential in the Atlantic instability of the late eighteenth century that culminated in revolution.

Prof. Tutino's faculty web page:

Free and open to the public. No RSVP needed.

Sponsored by: Institute for Historical Studies, Department of History

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