Expansion of the textile industry in Spain between 1750 and 1800 was an important part of a general program of economic reform undertaken by the Bourbon monarchs in eighteenth-century Spain to stimulate economic growth throughout the nation. Production of cottons and silks and, to a lesser degree, woolens and linens expanded in cities and villages of Catalonia and Valencia. This dynamic expansion was less evident elsewhere in Spain, and many textile centers in Castile and Leon experienced stagnation or even decline.

It was in these latter provinces, however, that the government made its greatest effort to establish royal factories which served as models for other establishments and were staffed by imported artisans who assisted in the dissemination of technology. Most of the joint-stock companies established by the Bourbons were also implanted in Castile and Leon to promote the development of textile mills and expand domestic and foreign trade. The government also instituted tax and tariff reforms to remove obstacles to production and distribution. Antiguild legislation attempted to increase economic freedom of both laborers and producers. The French enlightenment, currency reforms, and population expansion all favorably affected the expansion of cloth production.

Despite government interest in reform and favorable outside influences, the bonds inhibiting Castilian industry were only partially removed. Royal economic policy, often naive and based on erroneous economic notions, frequently neglected such important factors as supply and demand when it created new mills. Physical problems of climate, transportation, and communication made the effort in Castile a marginal one from the beginning. The increased emphasis on luxury goods in the face of an increasing demand of common cloth was a major error in economic policy, for the products of luxury cloth industries met with little public acceptance. Advancement then took place in areas such as Catalonia, where only a minimum of government activity was evident, and the main effort in Castile failed.

Pertinent material concerning the activities of foreign artisans, recruitment practices, and industrial espionage in foreign cities might have contributed additional perspective to La Force’s work, which is drawn primarily from Spanish archival material. Repetition evident in the introductions and summaries to each chapter mars the flow of the narrative. Otherwise this study makes a valuable contribution to the knowledge of industrial conditions, economic policy, and activity in eighteenth-century Spain.