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4. GLOBALIZING THE COMANCHE EMPIRE

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ABSTRACT

The Comanche rose by adapting to the technological and trade opportunities brought to New Mexico by the eighteenth-century expansion of New Spain's globally linked silver economy. They built an empire that flourished in the first half of the nineteenth century, dominating vast areas of the high plains and controlling complex trades, just as a social revolution within Mexico's wars of independence undermined the silver economy and ended its northward dynamism. Comanche power flourished between a struggling Mexico and an expanding US, until the military and industrial power of the latter combined with the ecological vulnerabilities of the Comanche economy to enable the Anglo-American triumph in what should be called the War for North America of 1846–1848. The US claimed a continental West from an uncertain Mexican sovereignty and an assertive Comanche empire of war and trade. The expansion and collapse of New Spain, the rise and fall of the Comanche empire, and the rise of the United States all occurred within an evolving globalization. Spanish North America expanded to 1810; Comanche power rose in the eighteenth century and soared after 1810 as Mexico struggled with the challenges of nation-making; then the United States defeated both to claim continental hegemony in the 1840s. These expansions, conflicts, and changes—all tied to larger processes of globalization—reshaped North America between 1700 and 1850.

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