This series of three volumes of documents offers a general economic picture of Mexico and its provinces near the end of the colonial period. One volume is devoted to reports on New Spain as a whole; a second treats northern Mexico; and the third covers the center, south and southeastern regions. In each case, the editors selected reports of a general nature. These Bourbon-inspired digests are especially rich in population summaries, descriptions of natural resources, productive activities and capital enterprises, and information on military affairs. They also contain scattered production figures. Many of the documents in this collection have been published before, but in almost every case they have been long out of print. Some of the most important ones appeared only in a scarce series of mimeographed volumes produced by the Secretaría de Hacienda in 1944. The documents published here for the first time are “General noticia de todas la jurisdicciones de esta Nueva España, temperamentos, frutos y obispados, tributos y tributarios;” “Noticia de fábricas, molinos, ingenios, lagunas, ríos y puentes (1794);” “Noticias estadísticas de las misiones y presidios de la Nueva y Antigua California, 1790-1803;” “Descripción de la ciudad y Real de Minas de Guanajuato y noticias estadísticas de su provincia (1788 y 1803);” “Noticia sucinta de la ciudad de Santiago de Querétaro . . . (1791);” and “Estado general de la población de la jurisdicción de Mérida, Capital de la Provincia de Yucatán, año de 1790.”
This series marks the essential first step in the formation of a solid statistical baseline for Mexican economists and economic planners, as well as historians of the modern period. The reports cut a fairly even, if shallow, furrow through little-known ground. Except for Humboldt, little of the economic data from this period has been assembled to date. The next step is to organize and summarize the scattered but truly rich information on regional production, consumption, and trade in the late colony available in Spanish, Mexican, and Guatemalan archives (mostly from census, tax, and tithe records). A start has already been made with the publication of the royal accounts for the Caja de México, 1576-1816, assembled by John TePaske, of volumes on mines in New Spain (1753 and 1774), and projected volumes on foreign trade.