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Distant Tyranny:
Markets, Power, and Backwardness in Spain, 1650-1800
Regina Grafe

Winner of the 2013 Gyorgy Ranki Biennial Prize, Economic History Association

Hardcover | 2012 | $47.95 | £39.95 | ISBN: 9780691144849
320 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 18 line illus. 16 tables. 4 maps.
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Spain's development from a premodern society into a modern unified nation-state with an integrated economy was painfully slow and varied widely by region. Economic historians have long argued that high internal transportation costs limited domestic market integration, while at the same time the Castilian capital city of Madrid drew resources from surrounding Spanish regions as it pursued its quest for centralization. According to this view, powerful Madrid thwarted trade over large geographic distances by destroying an integrated network of manufacturing towns in the Spanish interior.

Challenging this long-held view, Regina Grafe argues that decentralization, not a strong and powerful Madrid, is to blame for Spain's slow march to modernity. Through a groundbreaking analysis of the market for bacalao--dried and salted codfish that was a transatlantic commodity and staple food during this period--Grafe shows how peripheral historic territories and powerful interior towns obstructed Spain's economic development through jurisdictional obstacles to trade, which exacerbated already high transport costs. She reveals how the early phases of globalization made these regions much more externally focused, and how coastal elites that were engaged in trade outside Spain sought to sustain their positions of power in relation to Madrid.

Distant Tyranny offers a needed reassessment of the haphazard and regionally diverse process of state formation and market integration in early modern Spain, showing how local and regional agency paradoxically led to legitimate governance but economic backwardness.


"An economic historian of early modern Spain and its empire, Grafe examines Spain from 1650 to 1800 through a multidisciplinary lens to explore the limited extent to which it was emerging as a nation-state with integrated domestic markets. . . . Distant Tyranny is a revisionist work that will become mandatory reading for historians of early modern Spain. . . . [A] stimulating, thoughtful book."--Choice

"There is little to quibble with in Grafe's work. The early chapters build a solid foundation, based on detailed archival research and a meticulous tracing of market behavior. . . . [O]ne cannot help but admire the combination of a detailed, erudite analysis with a coherent macro-historical logic. . . . In a rare feat for an economic history book, Distant Tyranny may yet shed as much light on current events as it does on the past."--Mauricio Drelichman,

"Grafe's book, with its comparative approach and thorough documentation on Spain's economic and political fluctuations between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries constitutes a major contribution to this reinterpretation of early modern Europe and Spain's role in its economic history."--Jesus Cruz, Human Figurations

"[A] spirited and engaging study built around a strong, step-by-step argument. . . . Distant Tyranny offers a consistently intelligent and probing exercise in both economic and political history."--James S. Amelang, Sixteenth Century Journal

"Grafe's excellent book joins the growing stack of studies that aim to strike down, once and for all, the tyranny of the shoddy teleology of Spanish historical development that miraculously has survived centuries of contrary evidence."--Ruth Mackay, American Historical Review

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Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments vii
Preface ix
Chapter 1: M arkets and States 1
Chapter 2: Tracing the Market: The Empirical Challenge 38
Chapter 3: Bacalao: A New Consumer Good Takes on the Peninsula 52
Chapter 4: The Tyranny of Distance: Transport and Markets in Spain 80
Chapter 5: D istant Tyranny: The Historic Territories 116
Chapter 6: D istant Tyranny: The Power of Urban Republics 165
Chapter 7: M arket Growth and Governance in Early Modern Spain 190
Chapter 8: C enter and Peripheries 213
Conclusions 241
A Note on the Sources 247
Bibliography 251
Index 281



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