In this careful examination of the consulado of Lima and Peruvian trade from the expansion of comercio libre in 1778 to independence, Carmen Parrón Salas convincingly argues that successful implementation of the crown’s policy of eliminating foreign competition and establishing state control of trade would have broken the Cádiz merchants’ dominance in the Peruvian market and destroyed Peruvian merchants as well. Facing intense competition, however, first from the Five Major Guilds of Madrid and then from the state-supported Royal Philippine Company, merchants of Cádiz and Lima worked together under the new regime of comercio libre, maintained dominance in the area from Guayaquil to Chile, and continued extensive trade with Upper Peru. Thus the new policy stimulated rather than destroyed traditional trading interests, albeit in the context of an overall decline in the value of Peruvian trade with Spain. The wars of independence, of course, disrupted trade, diverted merchant capital to the royalist cause, and left the viceroyalty financially prostrate, despite the reannexation of Upper Peru.

De las reformas borbónicas a la república is divided into two parts. The first, comprising three chapters, examines the consulados organization, responsibilities, finances, contributions to royal financial needs, and attitudes toward commercial policy. The second, chapters 4 to 7, considers regional and interprovincial commerce, trade with Spain, trade with Asia, and neutral and foreign trade. Although both parts focus on the years 1778 to 1821, Parrón Salas also provides both earlier and later material. A final chapter reiterates the major conclusions, while numerous graphs, tables, and appendixes provide a wealth of information related to trade.

Solidly based on materials in the Archivo General de la Nación, Lima, and the Archivo General de Indias, Seville, the book makes available extensive information related to Peruvian merchants and trade in the last decades of Spanish rule. While John Fisher’s examinations of silver mining and trade have already documented that contemporaries’ dire predictions of collapse were exaggerated, Parrón Salas’s massive volume fills an important gap concerning the activities of the long-powerful merchant guild of Lima from the onset of comercio libre to independence. Its discussion of crown trade policy, divisions among Spanish merchants in Lima, the role of the Philippine Company in Peruvian trade, neutral trade, and trade during the closing years of Spanish rule is particularly valuable. Despite a distracting number of typographical errors, this work is essential reading for all students of late colonial trade and commercial policy.