The silver-rich city of Potosí grabbed the imaginations of treasure seekers across the colonial world, but Jane Mangan’s study of its developing economy reveals that it held prospects for those who strove for more quotidian needs as well. Potosí’s economy, after the discovery of the Cerro Rico in 1545, was dominated by the silver trade and its effects: in particular, the provisioning of the tens of thousands of Andean men and women who came to work in the mines. Mangan evocatively describes its many raucous marketplaces and the permanent or precarious housing that sprang up to meet rapidly growing needs in the sixteenth century. She immediately brings the cacophony of market negotiations, the smell of fresh bread, and the colors of hand-woven cloth to the reader, making it clear that hers will not be a dry quantitative economic history but the story of...

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