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The rise and fall of Cartagena de Indias: maritime economies, labor, and crisis in a Caribbean port city (1578-1700)

Moreno-Alvarez, Leonardo Guillermo (2022) The rise and fall of Cartagena de Indias: maritime economies, labor, and crisis in a Caribbean port city (1578-1700). Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation examines Cartagena de Indias’s economic and social history from the late-sixteenth to the late-seventeenth centuries, using maritime labor and commerce as lenses to understand broader changes in Spanish Atlantic trade and defense structures. Building on historiographical insights about the role of the Cartagena as a vital hub for the early Iberian Atlantic slave trade, as well as recent studies on critical logistics, this study highlights the importance of transportation and mobility for commercial and state purposes. Using royal treasury logs, ship registries, official correspondence, legal cases, and private accounting books, the dissertation brings to the fore the lives and testimonies of maritime laborers, merchants, and bureaucrats to understand how they lived through a period of constant transformation. By recovering how sailors and laborers in Cartagena reacted to wider changes in the Atlantic economy, this study grounds what is usually an abstract conversation in the perspectives of the mid-ranking bureaucrat, the common sailor, and the maritime laborer. Using case studies from different decades, the dissertation argues that people whose lives depended on the sea were often able to adapt their economic strategies to the changing political and military conditions of the Caribbean.
In the mid-1500s, Cartagena emerged as a crucial transportation node between the Spanish Atlantic and the Andes, as well as one of the Caribbean trade and provisioning centers for the Spanish Atlantic fleets. During the Iberian Union period (1580-1640), Cartagena grew in importance as a fortified defense center and the main hub for the importation of enslaved Africans into the Spanish Americas. This situation changed in the mid-seventeenth century, when political and fiscal challenges to Spanish hegemony in Europe and the independence of Portugal disrupted the slave trade to the city. Over the next few decades, the city’s inhabitants adapted to the new order of things, as the city lost relevance as an economic and mercantile hub and dominance as a defense center. In 1697, the city fell to a French invasion, marking the nadir of Cartagena’s status as a defense center and the symbolic end to an era of Spanish hegemony in the Iberian Atlantic.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Moreno-Alvarez, Leonardo Guillermolgm17@pitt.edulgm170000-0002-0747-3789
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee MemberAndrews, George
Committee MemberWarsh,
Committee MemberWheat,
Committee ChairRediker,
Date: 12 October 2022
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 July 2022
Approval Date: 12 October 2022
Submission Date: 4 August 2022
Access Restriction: 2 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 2 years.
Number of Pages: 346
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > History
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Caribbean, port, economic history, labor history
Date Deposited: 12 Oct 2022 15:21
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2022 15:21


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