I thank the staffs of the Archivo General de la Nación in Mexico City and the Rare Books Room of the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin.
BUILDING A COLONIAL RESOURCE MONOPOLY: THE EXPANSION OF SULPHUR MINING IN NEW SPAIN, 1600–1820*
Article first published online: 5 JUN 2012
© 2012 by the American Geographical Society of New York
Volume 102, Issue 2, pages 202–224, April 2012
How to Cite
LaFEVOR, M. C. (2012), BUILDING A COLONIAL RESOURCE MONOPOLY: THE EXPANSION OF SULPHUR MINING IN NEW SPAIN, 1600–1820. Geographical Review, 102: 202–224. doi: 10.1111/j.1931-0846.2012.00143.x
- Issue published online: 5 JUN 2012
- Article first published online: 5 JUN 2012
- Bourbon Reforms;
- natural resources;
- New Spain;
The discovery, extraction, and monopolistic control of key natural resources was a priority of New Spain's colonial administration. Managing the region's abundant resources, however, often proved difficult for the Spanish Crown. Human and environmental challenges impeded protoindustrial growth and development, and monopolistic control of resources often met resistance. In this article I examine these processes in the context of New Spain's little-known monopoly on sulphur—a yellow, powdery mineral the Crown jealously guarded as its own. Sulphur was critical for gunpowder and explosives production, yet the Crown often failed to produce enough of it to meet the growing demand by its military and the silver blast-mining industry. Colonial documents reveal administrators’ attempts to improve sulphur production through reform measures, which included advising sulphur miners on how to discover sulphur deposits and, eventually, how to develop their mines. Efforts to improve sulphur production were moderately successful, although the process was messy and inefficient.