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Response to Review of The Emergence of a National Market in Spain, 1650-1800: Trade Networks, Foreign Powers and the State

I must say that I feel rather overwhelmed by the stupendous job my esteemed friend and colleague Augstín Gonzalez Enciso has done in summarizing the contents of my book in so few pages, and I am sure that his efforts will be enormously helpful to English-speaking readers interested in ideas I have formed only after years of study. My early works on Catalan commercial networks were published some 30 years ago and were based on the surviving books of account and letters kept by the region’s merchants themselves, an ideal source. However, it took me some time to comprehend the role played by such people in the formation of a peninsular-wide market in Spain in the 18th century. This reality has today been obscured by a certain Catalan nationalist historiography, which has gone to great lengths to talk up some facts and ignore others so as to isolate events from a wider Spanish context in a form of damnatio memoriae, a process that not only distorts but actually falsifies our view of the period.

Similarly, it was the comparative study of French and Navarrese commercial networks which led me to perceive the full import of the idea that mercantilist competition between France and England, in principle a colonial venture, also included the determination to turn the internal market of a fellow European country, the Spanish monarchy, into a mere adjunct of the winner’s own national market. In turn, I found that this idea made sense of the enormous efforts made by the rulers of Enlightenment Spain to launch and carry through a whole raft of economic and political reforms to catch up with its encroaching rivals.

My researches will continue in the near future with an examination of the role played by the city of Madrid, which as Spain’s centre of power and largest market for consumer goods was the crucible where all of these mercantile and financial networks, whether Navarrese, Basque, Castilian French or English, came together to form large financial institutions and transact big business. Understanding these processes will, I believe, shed light on the development of Spain’s internal market before 1808, revealing who were the main players and the extent to which the Spanish Enlightenment ended up by becoming in part, indeed largely, a variant of the economic nationalism found in other European countries.