The history of Latin America, as well as its way to independence and prosperity, was long and characterised by a number of unpredictable partnerships and influential reforms. The situation at the Atlantic between the 18th and 19th centuries was not stable from economic and political perspectives, especially, it was noticed at the Ibero-Atlantic region. According to Maxwell, it was the period when Latin American powers were able to establish a new look at the Enlightenment ideals and colonial affairs (71). The reforms provoked by the Bourbon monarchs in the Spanish Empire and the conditions that led to the Latin American Independence movements introduced additional guidelines to experiment with some other forms of governance and decolonisation. The current leaders wanted to control the actions and thoughts of the population and tried to implement as many economic, political and military reforms to predict the creation of new dangerous movements. However, international trade relationships, conflicts and the growth of social discontent could not be stopped. Old and new hegemonies were mixed up, and the Spanish Empire had to be ready to transformations caused by Latina American nationalists regardless of the Bourbon reforms.
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Situation Between the 18th and 19th Centuries
There were two major themes that determined political and economic decisions in Latin America in the 18th century and led to independence movements in the 19th century. On the one hand, the death of Charles II resulted in the crisis of the Spanish monarchy and the necessity to fortify colonial connections, re-establish powers and recognise northern competitors (Maxwell 71). Despite evident problems and uncertainties, at that period of time, Spain remained a significant element in Europe and American colonies. The rise of the Portuguese powers because of gold production and distribution challenged Spain. First, it was necessary to stabilise trading connections and increase the number of Spanish ports in the Atlantic commerce line (Maxwell 80). The next step included the implementation of various reforms to promote the power of metropole. Finally, new technologies and approaches could not be ignored in the Atlantic region.
As soon as the first reforms took places in the 18th century, Latin American nationalists began reconsidering their opportunities and future developments. They saw British monarchs as the representatives of ex-colonial power who could become the best allies against the growing Spain rule (Maxwell 71). In addition to the Enlightenment ideas, nationalists were inspired by the motifs of Simon Bolivar and Toussaint L’Ouverture and disappointed by the presence of Spain on their land. Finally, revolutions in North American weakened colonial power and made new leaders be identified.
Reforms in the Spanish Empire
Taking into consideration the situation in the Atlantic at the beginning of the 18th century, it was important for the Bourbons to strengthen their positions and make sure they were able to control the colonies. In the Spanish-Atlantic world, there were three types of reforms for the management of colonial affairs, including administrative, mercantile and fiscal (Maxwell 80). According to the Bourbon monarchs, mercantile reformation should help to not only fortify colonial links but also benefit from Atlantic commerce and win northern competitors. The introduction of free trade helped to remove the shortages of the Andalusian monopoly and stabilise the support of Spanish ports (Maxwell 80). These reforms were closely related to administrative issues in terms of which the number of powers and the reestablishment of power and prosperity could be possible. The creation of intendancies according to the already approved French model was another example of how the Bourbons regained Spanish control over colonies.
Finally, several attempts to reform the Spanish Empire rooted in the struggle between France and England. In case of Portugal, the country was compromised and had to make a decision which side to choose (Britain). Spain, in its turn, became a market for manufacturing silver and expanding it by means of international trade without evident competitors. Not to allow the penetration of other cultures and rules, the Spanish Empire based its reforms on social, racial and castle diversity aspects. Almost every crisis in Spain was the result of wrong colonial affairs (Maxwell 81). Therefore, the task of the Bourbons was reform traditional attitudes, diminish the pressure of international interests and increase the participation of the Empire in transatlantic trading relationships. All these attempts had a positive impact on the Spanish Empire. Still, the growth of discontent and the rise of nationalist ideas were observed that resulted in new independence movements, as well as social and political changes.
Latin American Independence Movements
The process of Spanish colonisation and the inability to predict the development of events for local people could be considered as one of the possible causes of the Latin American Independence movements. As soon as Spain set its colonies, some communities began experiencing pressure in their trading and social relationships. For example, white Creole oligarchies who ruled on the land of the old Latin America were not satisfied with the Bourbon reforms, including the creation of the intendant system (Maxwell 83). In addition, Enlightenment was characterised by the presence of new ideas and scientific knowledge. Spain was not ready to control people’s actions and be involved in various experimental advancements. Therefore, the population of Latin America used available opportunities and weakened the authority of the Empire.
The examples of other colonies and rulers like those in North America after the defeat of the French king motivated the representatives of Latin American nationalism. They believed they had enough chances to weaken Spain and destroy aristocrats who prevented the development. As a result, new movements occurred and involved as many people as possible. The decline of the population was one of the outcomes because of countless fights and deaths of innocent people. At the same time, Latin America was able to win its independence from the Spanish crown, introduce its Constitution and begin its way to economical and political independence. The spirit of unity and the necessity to rise were approved. However, due to poor governance and the lack of experienced leaders, the situation could be changed, resulting in new problems, instability and authority challenges.
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In general, the analysis of the chapter written by Maxwell about the changes in Latin America between the 18th and 19th centuries helped to understand better the peculiarities of colonial affairs. The role of the Spanish Empire in the development of Latin America was integral as it served as the main motivator to rebel and prove personal rights and freedoms. Although economical, trade and political reforms developed by the Bourbons improved the position of Spain in colonies, the concept of nationalism was strong enough to destroy all the attempts. Latin America gained its independence and opened a new page in its history in the 19th century.
Maxwell, Kenneth R. “Hegemonies Old and New: The Ibero-Atlantic in the Long Eighteenth Century.” Colonial Legacies: The Problem of Persistence in Latin American History, edited by Jeremy Adelman, Routledge, 1999, pp. 69-90.