Appendix D
Eighteenth- Century Economic Indicators:
Mining and Taxed Commerce
Silver Production: Guanajuato and New Spain, 1691–1810
Mining drove the economies of the Bajío, New Spain, the Atlantic, and the
world during the eighteenth century. Mining output, overwhelmingly of sil-
ver and secondarily of gold, is the best-documented economic activity of
eighteenth- century New Spain, thanks to the regime’s interest in promoting
and taxing its primary source of revenue. Figures for all of New Spain are
available for 1691 to 1810. Figures for Guanajuato exist for 1716 to 1800—plus
a few reports for the first decade of the nineteenth century. To follow long-
term trends I calculate five- year means for both sets of indicators to trace the
growth of mining across New Spain after 1690 and the role of Guanajuato in
that growth after 1715.
Most notable is long- term growth across New Spain and at Guanajuato. Gua-
najuato’s expansion began slowly, hovering around 15 percent of New Spain’s
production to 1725. It accelerated to between 25 and 30 percent through the
1740s. Then Guanajuato faced a decline that held for two decades, contribut-
ing to a plateau in production across New Spain. From the 1770s both experi-
enced boom; Guanajuato’s share approached 25 percent of historically high
levels—until the crisis and insurgency of 1810.
There is no sign of an industry on the verge of collapse before 1810. Brad-
ing’s analysis of Valenciana reveals rising costs, mostly labor for ever deeper
excavations and drainage, pressing against thinning profits in the early 1800s.
Such pressures were, however, a standard part of the mining cycle: early ex-
cavations with few profits; if fortunate, a time of boom production and great
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