- New Countries: Capitalism, Revolutions, and Nations in the Americas, 1750–1870 by John Tutino
This collection of ten essays seeks to explain how eight different nations emerged during the Age of Revolutions and yet diverged, even while experiencing in common the global economic transformations caused by the collapse of "silver capitalism" in Mexico and the rise of industrialization in Great Britain and later the United States. Designed to be comprehensive in its regional approach, New Countries is based on carefully-selected analysis of economic and political dynamics. Focusing on case studies of the United States, Haiti, Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia, the volume's contributors attempt to explain why some of those countries prospered while others struggled to adjust to a new global economy defined by industrial capitalism and the survival of racial slavery. New Countries makes a compelling case for comparative analyses that combine global, regional, and local factors when examining the transformations that took place as colonies became nation-states in the Americas.
New Countries problematizes divergence by making it both a natural outcome of colonialism's gradual ending in the Americas and a contingent factor in nationalism's birth and development there. As it is used in this volume, divergence connotes originality, inventiveness, and adaptation rather than institutional, political, or cultural deficiency. The volume's contributors all reject the notion that the new nations of Latin America failed due to the persistence of backward social institutions, illiberal cultures, or economic dependencies tied to the colonial period. The book begs the question: Was the United States really the liberal nation-state's paragon in the Americas? The point is not whether some countries were unable to replicate a superior nineteenth-century United States model. Rather, their idiosyncrasies reveal how the United States is often an inadequate measure when one seeks to understand how the new American countries experienced the trials of national reinvention during the global shift to industrial capitalism. Exceptionalisms abound.
Editor John Tutino's excellent introduction and ambitious opening chapter gives interpretative heft to New Countries' important re-conceptualization of comparative history in the Americas. Tutino argues that the rise and fall of silver capitalism in Peru and New Spain was globally transformative, causing the economic and political tumults that destroyed nearly every European empire in the New World and marginalized most of Spanish America economically for [End Page 936] decades after 1800. Divergence occurred thereafter in three notable ways. Firstly, some new countries became independent nation-states while others were left in refashioned liberal empires that no longer functioned the way they had previously. Secondly, the new countries experienced an outbreak of inner turmoil and social conflict that left some fragmented while others struggled for consolidation. Lastly, despite its radical abolition in Haiti, racial slavery's survival and growth together with silver capitalism's collapse in Mexico contributed to the erosion of Chinese global primacy and the development of industrial capitalism in the North Atlantic. By sustaining slavery, some of the new countries enjoyed increasing integration into the global economy while others, including Haiti and most of Spanish America, experienced dislocations. Nevertheless, the new countries of Spanish America were all reshaped by some variant of a dynamic Hispanic liberalism and a republicanism that was a product of cultural tradition and local circumstance. As Roberto Breno highlights in his overview in Part I, the new liberal politics and republican polities of Spanish America were neither derivative from a single succession of Atlantic revolutions nor defective or perverse imitations of superior Anglo-American or French models.
Instead, dissimilitude is redefined as inversion in New Countries. One of the most significant factors causing divergence in the new nations of the Americas was the survival or destruction of plantation-based racial slavery with its accompanying economic and political consequences. In Part II, slavery is linked to periods of national economic prosperity and political stability in those countries where it was perpetuated beyond 1850. Perceptive and pioneering essays by Carolyn Fick on Haiti and David Sartorius...