It has now been 40 years since David Brading famously labeled the Bourbon Reforms a “revolution in government.” This pliable framework has undergirded much subsequent scholarship, being used variously to reify notions of the Bourbon state as a despotic centralizing force that ultimately drove creole independence fervor, to analyze the variable impact of Enlightenment rationality across the empire, and, increasingly, as an incomplete process often challenged by local elites and subalterns.

Edda O. Samudio and David J. Robinson’s study, which forms part of a series on colonial Venezuelan history published by the Academia Nacional de Historia, represents a new addition to this corpus generally emphasizing the first two frameworks. The book focuses on orders designed to regulate public behavior and manage the urban economy in the Venezuelan city of Mérida during the last third of the eighteenth century. While most studies of this...

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