Before independence, directives from the patron counties Britain and Spain drove the economic and political directions taken by the colonies in USA and Spanish America. However, for a variety of reasons, independence movements developed in USA and Spanish America. This lead a declaration of independence for 13 states in USA in 1776, and in a more gradual process independence for Central and South America viceroyalties from Spain by the 1830’s. Henceforth the USA and Spanish America colonies could decide their own fates, free as they were from the political dictates of their former mother countries.
The outcomes have been spectacularly different. USA is now a country of 50 states, and is characterised by wealth, power, and political stability. By contrast, Spanish America is a disunited collection of countries characterised by relative poverty, underdevelopment, and political instability. What has lead to such disparate outcomes? And in particular, to what extent can these differences be explained by the historical legacy left by colonialism?
Before independence Spanish America was well developed compared to USA. By the time the first colonists arrived in USA in 1607 the Spanish Crown had already established some dozen major cities, a number of universities, hundreds of churches, and set up a profitable commerce system based on gold, silver, and agricultural goods1. These achievements, combined with the natural advantages of abundant land and labour, placed Spanish America in an enviable position regarding future development. Subsequently, Spanish America did produce great wealth, mainly because of its exports of silver and agricultural goods. However, the Spanish Cro...
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...e early colonial states, and those that were added latter. Spanish America, despite piecemeal attempts, has never been unified since independence, which has limited its political power. Attempts at unification have failed in part because of political instability, in turn a consequence of a lack of a democratic tradition.
Alba, V. The Latin Americans, New York, 1969.
Bulmer-Thomas, V. The Economic History of Latin America since Independence, Cambridge, 1994.
Andrea, A. and Overfield, J. The Human Record. Sources of Global History. Volume II: since 1500, 2nd Edition, Boston, 1994.
Fukuyama, F. The End of History and the Last Man, New York, 1992.
Microsoft Encarta, 1998.
Skidmore, T. and Smith, P. Modern Latin America, 3rd Edition, New York, 1992.
Strayer, R. The Making of the Modern World, 2nd Edition, New York, 1995.
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