Leslie Bauzon has gone against the predominant trend in Philippine historiography. For the past two decades the fashion in the writing of the archipelago’s history has been to concentrate on indigenous society, i.e., the history of the native Filipino’s response to colonial rule and world market conditions. This tendency has been encouraged both by the demands of Philippine nationalism and the influence of the social sciences on the writing of history in general. Bauzon reminds us, nevertheless, that the Philippines stood as one of the longest-lasting Spanish colonies and that colonial history persists as a legitimate pursuit.
The title suggests that the study is limited to the subject of the situado, and, indeed, Bauzon does analyze that institution through its evolution from merely the customs duties collected on the sale of Manila Galleon goods at the Acapulco market, to a major subsidy from the Mexican treasury. In addition, however, the author discusses a wide range of fiscal matters, from how Philippine taxes were raised and spent to what efforts were made to end the slavish dependence on the Mexican subsidy. Through these pages one learns much about Spanish imperial finance. In the end we can agree with the author that Spain lasted in the Philippines largely because of the situado.
Bauzon challenges John Phelan’s contention in The Hispanization of the Philippines that the Philippines was for Spain chiefly a missionary endeavor. Drawing heavily upon Mexican archival sources, Bauzon argues that Spain stayed first and foremost for economic and strategic reasons, to maintain an outpost for entrée to China, Japan, and the Spice Islands. This ultimate goal remained unreached, but the intention continued even while the church, bureaucrats, and private merchants drained the Manila treasury. The colonial endeavor resulted in a Catholic Philippines rather than a Spanish Asia.
All in all, this is a good work in spite of some editorial lapses and the questionable nature of some of the figures and totals (see, e.g., pp. 36 and 89). While the archival sources make Bauzon’s case a convincing one, he would have had a stronger argument had he relied with his other materials on the originals rather than outdated translations found in such collections as Blair and Robertson’s The Philippine Islands. Like most dissertations put into print, this is a work that will appeal more to the specialist than to the general reader.