- New Countries: Capitalism, Revolutions, and Nations in the Americas, 1750–1870 ed. by John Tutino
Within the first decades of the nineteenth century, new nations threw off their imperial shackles across the Americas, all facing the intendent obstacles of creating stable political and economic institutions in a modernizing and global world. While the nascent countries faced similar problems, they reacted in unique ways, shaping the futures of their nations. Perhaps because of the variety of paths chosen, including remaining a colony, most historians have examined the era of independence within national, or at least continental frameworks. For the few who take on the entire hemisphere, they have limited their analysis to either a political or social focus.
John Tutino's edited volume, New Countries, works to fill this gap, to show the integration of economics and politics across the Americas. The work is innovative as it embraces a more comprehensive examination of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries than previous scholarship. The essays demonstrate the interconnectedness of the political, social, and economic sectors during the Age of Revolutions in the Atlantic World. The authors here work to show the creation and evolution of diverse yet integrated American nations, and most significantly, their relation to and impact on the concurrent rise of industrial capitalism. [End Page 649]
In order to carry out this extensive study, the volume includes chapters on eight different new countries: the United States, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia. Each chapter examines how a new nation navigated the challenges of independence, from the rights of Indigenous populations to tensions over slavery. Of note here, is the ground-breaking emphasis of the collection on the contributions of Hispano-American nations to the development of republicanism, liberalism, and capitalism, removing Hispanic countries from the shadows of former British and French colonies. Roberto Breña's chapter on the Cádiz Constitution and its contribution to the independence movements across the Hispanic Atlantic is particularly noteworthy for this theme.
While the volume does emphasize connections between and across the Atlantic world, it also demonstrates the diverse paths available to the new nations of the nineteenth century, including eschewing independence. Through the divergences, the volume reveals why the British and US industrial capital systems were able to surpass the more local economies of Mexico, Haiti, or even Brazil. Here Tutino, and the fellow contributors, link the technological innovations of the industrial revolution directly to the collapse of the silver economy, which had supported Spanish America for centuries, and the problems inherent in reliance on the slave-based production of raw materials like sugar, cotton, and coffee. By the end of the nineteenth century, the industrial economies of Britain and the northeastern US had ended the global trade system that linked Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Europe until 1800.
Each chapter is authored by a senior scholar in their field, with each one contributing to the overall themes of the volume. However, some chapters rise above national boundaries better than others. In particular Tutino's opening chapter on the rise of Industrial Capitalism, which covers themes from the Bajío insurgency to the rise of the opium trade in China, is the most successful in revealing the connections between liberalism, revolution, slavery, and industrialization. The chapters on Haiti and Cuba, "From Slave Colony to Black Nation" by Carolyn Fick and "Cuban Counterpoint" by David Sartorius, also offer new perspectives into the changing and complex Atlantic world of the nineteenth century. Fick shows how Haitian emancipated slaves stymied every effort to reinstitute a plantation economy, creating instead "a nation grounded in peasant landholding, household production, and local markets" (Fick, 139), in many ways replicating the African societies from which they recently came. While Fick's focus is on slave agency here, she also highlights the international nature of the Haitian Revolution, which involved not only France and Saint Domingue, but also Spain, Britain, the US, and new South American nations. Sartorius juxtaposes Haiti...