In the early seventeenth century, Cartagena de Indias was—with Havana and Veracruz— one of the three major hubs of the Spanish Caribbean’s commercial system. Despite this importance, the port city has received surprisingly little in the way of serious and sustained attention by colonialists—until now. Antonino Vidal Ortega’s study of Cartagena de Indias not only provides a thorough reconstitution of the city’s commercial and social life but also handily illustrates how these activities fit into the early economic development of the Caribbean basin. In this last respect, Vidal Ortega’s work can profitably be read alongside studies by Alejandro de la Fuente and Carmen López Yuste on Havana and Veracruz. Together they provide a long-needed, specifically Caribbean counterpoint to the historiography on internal colonial markets pioneered by Carlos Sempat Assadourian and Juan Carlos Caravaglia.

Vidal Ortega’s writing is clear, and he logically divides the...

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