Atlantic History Elites
by
François-Joseph Ruggiu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 11 December 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 January 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0132

Introduction

“Elites” is a sociological concept born at the beginning of the 20th century and defined especially by Vilfredo Pareto. The concept has been employed and specified by the most prestigious sociologists, such as Raymond Aron, Robert Dahl, Talcott Parsons, and Charles Wright Mills. It designates either the groups situated at the top of the social ladder of a society, and who generally rule it, or the persons who dominate a social group whatever its place in the social ladder of this society. In this last meaning (often called “pluralist”), it is possible to identify the elite of a subaltern social group like the workers or the peasantry or, in the colonial context, natives; the stress is not on power but on the capacity of each individual to shape his or her place in the society. “Elites” is particularly in favor with social historians of the early modern period because it allowed escaping the unproductive debate “order” versus “class” and not being misled by the specificities of different kinds of upper groups (administrative, commercial, religious). It is particularly convenient to describe the colonial societies, where the Old World hierarchies were often blurred and where upward and downward social mobilities were high. As in Europe, these elites exercised their authority on dependents and subalterns through political power, cultural superiority, and wealth. But the specificities of the colonial situation in the Americas and the Caribbean explained the fact that they developed harsher forms of subordination especially aimed against white indentured servants or Amerindian and African slaves.

General Overviews

There is no general synthesis on elites in the Americas or in the Atlantic world during the early modern period despite some calls for it, such as Langue 2005 and Laux, et al. 2009. Bowen 1996, which encompasses the whole British Empire, and Roper and van Ruymbeke 2007, which focuses on a specific kind of elite all around the Atlantic world, are partial exceptions. It is true that the number of particular works concerning the Atlantic or imperial elites is amazing—see Ponce Leiva and Amadori 2006—and these works can be approached through different perspectives, especially politically, economically, or culturally. The various bibliographies consist mainly of case studies, and the similarities between the elites of different European empires, for example, in terms of their composition or their relations to power, tend to disappear under local variations. There are also differences between historiographies. Historians of the Spanish and Portuguese Empires are particularly keen to study administrative or municipal elites, while specialists of the English Atlantic, or of the British Empire, tend to focus on merchants’ networks or on masters of plantations. Using the notions of social reproduction and social mobility, some historians are keen to explore the social frontiers inside the upper classes and between the upper class and the various forms of middle classes (Büschges and Langue 2005).

  • Bowen, H. V. Elites, Enterprise and the Making of the British Overseas Empire, 1688–1775. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 1996.

    DOI: 10.1057/9780230390195Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    An example of a general reflection on the involvement of elites in the shaping of an empire. Encompasses the Atlantic colonies as well as East India Company’s territories. Assesses the attention devoted by metropolitan elites (landowners, merchants, and businessmen) to the overseas possessions and considers that they were deeply implicated in imperial growth. Analyzes the emergence of colonial and transoceanic elites and focuses on their political and cultural links with the mother country.

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    • Büschges, Christian, and Frédérique Langue, eds. Excluir para ser: Procesos identitarios y fronteras sociales en América hispánica: Siglos XVII–XVIII. Estudios AHILA de Historia Latinoamericana 1. Madrid: Iberoamericana, 2005.

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      Along with a theoretical introduction, these six case studies try to articulate economic definitions of Spanish American upper classes with cultural definitions, which are based on personal or familial identities (including ethnic identities) and on collective values (nobility, purity of blood, honor). Emphasizes practices of social superiority, exercise of power, insertion in networks, and use of symbols of domination.

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      • Langue, Frédérique. “Las élites en América española, actitudes y mentalidades.” Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos (12 November 2005).

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        Assesses a part of the recent production on elites in Spanish America. Outlines historians’ efforts toward new definitions of elites; focuses on Venezuela; describes new methodologies, especially prosopography and network analysis.

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        • Laux, Claire, Ruggiu François-Joseph, and Pierre Singaravélou, eds. Au sommet de l’Empire: Les élites européennes dans les colonies (XVIe–XXe siècle). Brussels: Peter Lang, 2009.

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          A book collectively encompassing all European empires from the 16th to the 20th century. The first two contributions define the notion of “colonial elites” and identify three different categories: metropolitan elites interested in the empire, administrative elites sent to the colonies, and Creole elites. Three papers address the issue of early modern colonial elites for the Portuguese Empire, the British North American colonies, and Quebec. A call for further comparative and integrated studies.

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          • Ponce Leiva, Pilar, and Arrigo Amadori. “Élites en la América Hispana: Balance bibliográfico (1992–2005).” Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos (31 January 2006).

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            A useful list of 468 books and articles alphabetically classified. An introduction highlights the main trends of research. There is no equivalent for other parts of the Atlantic world.

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            • Roper, Lou H., and Bertrand van Ruymbeke, eds. Constructing Early Modern Empires: Proprietary Ventures in the Atlantic World, 1500–1750. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2007.

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              A collective book that rehabilitates an understudied phase of the colonization: a majority of early modern colonial settlements began as the private property of a commercial company, of a courtier, or of a syndicate of individuals. Makes, for each European empire, a survey of this specific phase of the colonies and its effect on their social structure.

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              Primary Sources

              Besides the local or metropolitan state papers, the most useful sources for writing social history of Atlantic elites are family papers or business archives. A great number of collections are preserved in local and national repositories in Europe as well as in America, but very few of them have been published either entirely or even in excerpts. Personal diaries, such as Byrd 1972 or Wright 2002, and correspondence, such as Baillardel and Prioult 1928, are exceptions, because they are short and their content is often fascinating. The situation is slowly evolving with the development of the Internet. Major libraries and repositories, such as the Archives of Maryland Online, Archives Nationales d’Outre-mer, and Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library, are now able to put online thousands of pages of archives. Even if the attention of the public is focused not on elites but rather on ordinary people or on slaves, a lot of material, such as land records, probate inventories, and correspondence, can now be found in these online resources.

              • Baillardel, A., and A. Prioult. Le chevalier de Pradel: Vie d’un colon français en Louisiane au XVIIIe siècle, d’après sa correspondance et celle de sa famille. Gembloux, Belgium: J. Duculot, 1928.

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                A collection of letters between a French army officer, turned planter in Louisiana, and his family, who stayed in France. Narrates his military career and the development of his plantation during the first half of 18th century. Describes his emotional and economic relations with his family, especially his parents, siblings, and children, who were educated in metropolitan nunneries.

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                • Byrd, William. The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1709–1712. Edited by Louis B. Wright and Marion Tinling. New York: Arno, 1972.

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                  Written in a shorthand style, this diary describes the business activities, the ordinary life, and the sociability of William Byrd, a wealthy planter of Virginia. The daily entries reveal the culture and the personal identity of the writer. He lived torn between a strong consciousness of his colonial way of life and culture and his aspiration to be recognized as an English gentleman. First published in 1941.

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                  • Land Records. Archives of Maryland Online.

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                    Among other resources, the Archives of Maryland Online has digitized the records of the provincial court from 1676 to 1774, featuring deeds, bonds, mortgages, or wills related to real estate.

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                    • Personnel colonial ancien (XVIIe–XVIIIe). Archives Nationales d’Outre-mer.

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                      This collection includes the personal files of a great number of civil servants or military men who served in all parts of the French Empire during the early modern period. The content is disparate but sometimes of great value to study their careers.

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                      • Wright, Philip, ed. Lady Nugent’s Journal of Her Residence in Jamaica from 1801 to 1805. Kingston, Jamaica: University of the West Indies, 2002.

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                        Maria Skinner was the wife of Sir George Nugent, a British soldier who held different positions in the administration of the Empire. He was appointed governor of Jamaica and served from 1801 to 1806. Lady Nugent’s diary evokes in a vivid style the ordinary life of the family of a colonial administrator. Describes the social events that animated the life of the colony and gives a lively picture of a planter society.

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                        • York County Probate Inventories. Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library.

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                          Among other resources (like the Virginia Gazette, published weekly in Williamsburg, 1736–1780, or some correspondence), Colonial Williamsburg Digital Library puts online hundreds of probate inventories of people who died in York County (Virginia) during the colonial period. Each probate lists the personal estate of the deceased, i.e., his or her material possessions and cash money. A request by wealth group allows selecting the members of the upper class.

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                          Landowners and Planters

                          Throughout the Americas, land was a commodity widely available for the settlers who came from Europe. The majority of settlers who met success established themselves as landowners, but they experienced a great variety of situations: the modest seigneuries of New France, studied in Grenier 2007; the tobacco plantations and farms of the Chesapeake Bay, whose owners’ mentality has been analyzed in Breen 1985 and Burnard 2002; and the rich sugar cane plantations of the Caribbean and Brazil (Goncalvès 2008, Dunn 1972). In Spanish America, the first encomenderos, studied in Himmerich y Valencia 1991 and Presta 2000, were endowed with the work of Amerindians, not with land, at least until the rise of the hacienda system, described by Ferry 1989. An endless flow of books, rooted in social and economic history, has tried to draw general portraits of these different groups of landowners, who often were, at the same time, manufacturers, judges or administrators, and traders.

                          • Breen, Timothy Hall. Tobacco Culture: The Mentality of the Great Tidewater Planter on the Eve of Revolution. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985.

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                            A study in the wake of the French “histoire des mentalités,” whose methods are applied to the anxious world of the great Virginian planters. Timothy Breen focuses on the agrarian circumstances and the commercial environment that shaped the production of tobacco. He highlights the issue of the indebtedness of planters and linked it to the political discourses developed in Virginia during the 1760s and 1770s.

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                            • Burnard, Trevor. Creole Gentlemen: The Maryland Elite, 1691–1776. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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                              Based on a prosopographical analysis of 461 Marylanders selected through a level of fortune (a personal estate at death of at least £650). Examines in turn their economic behaviors, especially their dependency on credit; their familial and social relationships; and their involvement in the political life of the colony. Concludes with a call for a history of elites in the 18th-century British Empire.

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                              • Dunn, Richard S. Sugar and Slaves: The Rise of the Planter Class in the English West Indies, 1624–1713. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1972.

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                                Traces the first steps of the plantation system in the West Indies. Shows, based on unpublished material (such as estate inventories, tax lists, censuses and militia lists, parish records, land deeds, and plantation records), how a planter class rose from the heterogeneous population of English migrants. Outlines their conversion to the sugar cane economy and stresses on how they resorted to a slave workforce to increase production sustain. A classic study of colonial social history.

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                                • Ferry, Robert. The Colonial Elite of Early Caracas: Formation and Crisis, 1567–1767. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989.

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                                  Reconstructs the trajectories of the lineages of mantuanos, who formed the elite of the town of Caracas. Traces their involvement in the wheat trade and then in cacao production. Combines a strong demographic dimension, which shows how close-knitted these families were, with a political analysis of the tumultuous relations between this local elite and its mother country.

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                                  • Goncalvès, Dominique. Le planteur et le roi: L’aristocratie havanaise et la Couronne d’Espagne. Madrid: Bibliothèque de la Casa de Velázquez, 2008.

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                                    Based on prosopographical analysis of the elite of Havana (Cuba) from the end of the Seven Years’ War (1763) to 1838. This group of around forty families held positions in the municipal corporation of Havana, or in the Consulado Real; bore Spanish nobility titles; and possessed sugar plantations. Goncalvès studies the political relations of this Creole “saccharocracy” with the Spanish crown.

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                                    • Grenier, Benoît. Seigneurs campagnards de la Nouvelle-France: Présence seigneuriale et sociabilité rurale dans la vallée du Saint-Laurent à l’époque préindustrielle. Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2007.

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                                      The manorial system implemented on the St. Lawrence Valley lasted long after the cession of New France to Great Britain. The role of seigneurs, either nobles or commoners, and of seigneuries in the development of New France has sparked interminable debates among historians. To go beyond these debates, Grenier studies the group of seigneurs as a whole from the 17th century to the 19th century and assesses the main social and economic differences among its members.

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                                      • Himmerich y Valencia, Robert. The Encomenderos of New Spain, 1521–1555. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.

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                                        The system of encomienda in New Spain was designed by the first generation of Spanish conquerors in order to exploit the native workforce. It provided Indians with religious instruction and protection in exchange for their labor. The book describes this tool of subjugation until the Spanish crown began to reform it at the end of the 1540s. It also studies the social profile of 506 encomenderos.

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                                        • Presta, Anna-Maria. Encomienda, familia y negocios en Charcas Colonial: Los encomenderos de La Plata, 1550–1600. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos-Banco Central de Reserva del Perú, 2000.

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                                          The encomienda system spread through all Spanish America. Presta examines its setting up around Villa de Plata, a city founded at the end of the 1530s in colonial Peru and shows how the control of the workforce allowed the señores de indios to dominate the economy of a region, which included the silver mines of Potosi. A study influenced by the new methodologies of social history, such as network analysis of familial links.

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                                          Estate Management

                                          Given the importance of staple products (tobacco, sugar, coffee, chocolate, indigo, cotton) in the colonial economy, it is normal that the plantation system has attracted a great deal of attention from researchers. They work at different scales: Sheridan 2000 is a good example of a synthesis on the Caribbean, whereas Schwartz 1985 focuses on a particular region. Janssens and Yun-Casalilla 2005 constitutes an interesting attempt at comparing estate management in Europe and that in colonies. Abundant sources are available, such as wills of planters; plantation records, especially inventories after the decease of planters; administrative and private correspondence; and even diaries, such as Burnard 2004. Several major debates have stirred this field of research. One of the most enduring has been to appreciate whether the mentality of planters was precapitalist and uninterested in the maximization of profits, or entrepreneurial and market orientated. In some cases, it could be both, as in the case of the mine owners studied in Langue 1992, but most of the books presented here, such as Edelson 2006 or Walsh 2010, argue for the second kind of mentality, an explanation that has been winning out since the 1990s. Studying estate management also has allowed historians to measure the violence of the enforcement of social order, especially in the Caribbean and the Carolinas.

                                          • Burnard, Trevor. Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004.

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                                            An analysis of the life of a plantation’s overseer, Thomas Thistlewood, who became a small planter and slaveholder. He left detailed diaries. In the absence of the planter, the overseer was the true master of the slaves. Burnard reconstructs the brutality Thistlewood used to enforce order on the plantation. The diaries reveal the sociability that united the different groups of whites living on the island.

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                                            • Edelson, S. Max. Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina. Cambridge, MA, and London: Harvard University Press, 2006.

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                                              States that plantations were a form of enterprise and that planters were, in some ways, early modern capitalists. Shows how they tried to shape the natural environment and the landscape of South Carolina in order to develop their activities, especially the rice culture. The last chapter is devoted to the properties and figure of Henry Laurens, a merchant turned wealthy planter and a major supporter of the American Revolution, which nearly ruined him.

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                                              • Janssens, Paul, and Bartolomé Yun-Casalilla, eds. European Aristocracies and Colonial Elites: Patrimonial Management Strategies and Economic Development, 15th–18th Centuries. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2005.

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                                                A collection of juxtaposing papers on aristocratic estate management in northern, southern, central, and eastern Europe and in British North America, Brazil, and Peru. The book articulates a general reflection on the role of ancien régime aristocracies in the evolution of the early modern state and includes socioeconomic studies using a national framework.

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                                                • Langue, Frédérique. Mines, terres et société à Zacatecas (Mexique) de la fin du XVIIe à l’indépendance. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1992.

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                                                  Studies the dynasties of mine owners who lived and worked in Zacatecas, in the north of New Spain (Mexico) during the 18th century. Highlights the double nature of these men, who were at once modern entrepreneurs and feudal lords, who founded great estates and who tried, often successfully, to climb to the ranks of the colonial nobility.

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                                                  • Schwartz, Stuart B. Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian Society: Bahia, 1550–1835. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

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                                                    An imposing economic history of sugar plantations in Bahia. Puts the emphasis on the technological system of the plantation, on its costs and profits, and on the slave populations who toiled on it. A whole chapter is devoted to the sugar mills and plantation owners, the senhores de engenho. Schwartz also underlines the role, specific to Brazil, of the lavradores de cana, farmers who specialized in the production of cane for the sugar mills and who formed a kind of farmer elite.

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                                                    • Sheridan, Richard B. Sugar and Slavery: An Economic History of the British West Indies, 1623–1775. Kingston, Jamaica: Canoe, 2000.

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                                                      An ambitious economic history of the British West Indies, from Barbados to Jamaica through the Leeward Islands. Emphasizes sugar as the main regional product (neglecting other commodities) and devotes considerable attention to the planters, showing how they succeeded to build a profitable economy in this part of the world. Describes the various economic relations that shaped colonial markets throughout British America: the merchant system and the commission system. First published in 1974.

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                                                      • Walsh, Lorena S. Motives of Honor, Pleasure, and Profit: Plantation Management in the Colonial Chesapeake, 1607–1763. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010.

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                                                        A recapitulation of thirty years of research on large plantation managements throughout the Chesapeake Bay. Studies the beginnings of the plantation economy based on tobacco, its spreading through the Bay, and the building of true “plantation empires” during the 18th century. Studies the evolution of tobacco production and trade, the social and cultural world of the planters, and the experience of slaves or the working of the plantation community.

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                                                        Merchants

                                                        In the mercantilist view, which dominated in early modern Europe, colonies existed for the sole advantage of their mother countries’ metropolises. Restrictive commercial laws, such as the French système de l’exclusif or the Navigation Acts in England, organized the colonial trade for the benefit of metropolitan merchants. It is therefore logical that merchants formed an important social group everywhere in the Atlantic world. Brading 1971 even affirms that merchants in New Spain enjoyed a prestige in society equal to that of landowners. This section groups socioeconomic studies of different mercantile communities, seen from the mother country, such as Bosher 1987, Butel 1974, Devine 1990, and Hancock 1995, or seen from the colonies, such as Brading 1971, Papenfuse 1975, and Socolow 1978. They heavily draw on economic statistics, except for Studnicki-Gizbert 2007, which uses network analysis, like many other recent books.

                                                        • Bosher, John Francis. The Canada Merchants: 1713–1763. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987.

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                                                          Based on business papers, reconstructs the activities of around one hundred merchant families involved in the trade between New France and France, especially Atlantic ports such as La Rochelle. This solid and classic study particularly stresses on the role played by the Huguenots due to the connections they were able to mobilize all around the Atlantic world and that were built after their flight from France starting in the 1680s.

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                                                          • Brading, David A. Miners and Merchants in Bourbon Mexico, 1763–1810. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1971.

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                                                            A seminal study on several strata of the New Spain elite at a turning point of the history of the Spanish Empire. States a radical divergence between New Spain’s society and that of Europe but shows that merchants and miners were granted titles of nobility by the crown. Juxtaposes studies of the great merchants of Mexico (the almaceneros), the silver miners of New Spain, and, eventually, the elites of the silver town of Guanajuato.

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                                                            • Butel, Paul. Les négociants bordelais, l’Europe et les îles au XVIIIe siècle. Paris: Aubier, 1974.

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                                                              A classic economic study, which extensively presents the European and colonial trade of the port of Bordeaux, during its golden age, from the 1740s to the 1790s, before examining the merchant community. Studies the composition of the fortunes of the main merchants; their position in urban society, especially in relation to the nobility; and their ways of life, their culture, and their sociability. Emphasizes their role in the expansion of the vineyards domains around Bordeaux.

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                                                              • Devine, Thomas M. The Tobacco Lords: A Study of the Tobacco Merchants of Glasgow and Their Trading Activities, c. 1740–1790. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1990.

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                                                                Sketches the activities of the great merchant families in Glasgow, during the golden age of the tobacco trade with the Chesapeake. Briskly examines their social backgrounds and their lifestyles but delves deeply into their businesses: investments (in land or industry), organization of trade, and trading methods. Finally, scrutinizes the consequences of the American War of Independence and, especially, the problem of the huge debts owed by planters. First published in 1975.

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                                                                • Hancock, David. Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735–1785. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

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                                                                  Based on an array of unpublished sources, focuses on the mercantile community of London through the collective biography of twenty-three merchants. Inspired by the methods of the Annales School and by Atlantic history. Participates to a wider trend focusing on the role played by the actors placed at the centers of the Atlantic systems and who shaped the evolution of the peripheries.

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                                                                  • Papenfuse, Edward C. In Pursuit of Profit: The Annapolis Merchants in the Era of the American Revolution, 1763–1805. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975.

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                                                                    Describes the constitution, from the last decades of the 17th century, of a local merchant community in Annapolis, the main town of Maryland. The most dynamic elements of this community of around thirty members specialized in tobacco trade and were able to compete with London merchants. Studies their adaptation to the changing political conditions of the second half of the 18th century.

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                                                                    • Socolow, Susan Migden. The Merchants of Buenos Aires, 1778–1810: Family and Commerce. London: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

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                                                                      A classic study of a community—the merchants and especially the wholesale merchants (comerciantes) of Buenos Aires—at a turning point, the late 18th century, when the Bourbon monarchy tried to restructure its empire. Analyzes the merchant population (fewer than two hundred persons), their family and kin networks, their businesses, their lifestyle, their religious commitment, and their participation in local politics.

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                                                                      • Studnicki-Gizbert, Daviken. A Nation upon the Ocean Sea: Portugal’s Atlantic Diaspora and the Crisis of the Spanish Empire, 1492–1640. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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                                                                        Interprets the Portuguese nation involved in the Atlantic trade as a diaspora composed of merchants, shipmasters, mariners, and artisans, with a strong New Christian (conversos or marranos) element. Among this wide mercantile community, Studnicki-Gizbert focuses on merchants and uses the tool of network analysis in order to reconstruct the trade relations and to explore the circulation of information. Studies the links that united the members of these networks, separated by thousands of miles.

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                                                                        Great Men, Famous Families

                                                                        Besides general studies of elite groups, historians have been keen to follow the trajectories of specific families or men (rarely of women). These case studies either present some extraordinary destinies (Noël 2003, Hoffman 2000, Boxer 1952) or try to summarize the behavior of a whole group through one of its members, such as Pares 1950 and Kierner 1992. Some studies of these men or families, such as Isaac 2004 and Greer 1985, focus on periods of troubles when the cogency or the contradictions of their social behavior are fully exposed.

                                                                        • Boxer, Charles Ralph. Salvador de Sá and the Struggle for Brazil and Angola, 1602–1686. London: Athlone, 1952.

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                                                                          The de Sás were one of the most important noble families involved in the colonial expansion of Portugal. Through the life of Salvador de Sá, Boxer studies the imperial struggle between Dutch and Portuguese for the control of Brazil during the first half of the 17th century. He shows how Salvador de Sá strengthened the links between Brazil and Angola. A classic and vibrant military and political biography.

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                                                                          • Greer, Allan. Peasant, Lord, and Merchant: Rural Society in Three Quebec Parishes: 1740–1840. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.

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                                                                            A socioeconomic study of the Lower Richelieu valley in Canada during the last decades of the French regime and the British regime. Analyzes the ordinary life of the local seigneuries, and the fate of their owners, the Saint-Ours family, who flourished, due to its business and military activities, under the French as well as under the British.

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                                                                            • Hoffman, Ronald, and Sally D. Mason. Princes of Ireland, Planters of Maryland: A Carroll Saga, 1500–1782. Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 2000.

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                                                                              Lively narrative of the story of the family of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic to sign the Declaration of Independence. The Carrolls, members of the Irish minor gentry, left Ireland after the Glorious Revolution. They settled in Maryland, the only English colony where Catholicism was openly allowed. Like other successful men, they became rich by combining good marriages and multiple activities of planter, banker, merchant, and administrator.

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                                                                              • Isaac, Rhys. Landon Carter’s Uneasy Kingdom: Revolution and Rebellion on a Virginia Plantation. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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                                                                                Landon Carter was one the wealthiest planters of Virginia. Educated in England, he wrote throughout his existence a diary, published by Jack P. Greene in 1965, which gives a vivid and lively account of his actions. This book is a work of historical anthropology, which reconstructs the cultural and social world of Landon Carter.

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                                                                                • Kierner, Cynthia A. Traders and Gentlefolk: The Livingstons of New York, 1675–1790. Ithaca, NY, and London: Cornell University Press, 1992.

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                                                                                  Through an example, studies the resources, values, and culture of New York’s colonial elites. Descendants of a Scottish emigrant who arrived in 1674, the Livingstons became merchants, lawyers, landowners, and politicians involved in factional struggles. During the 18th century, they adopted the genteel culture from England and they became closer to the elites of other regions of British North America.

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                                                                                  • Noël, Érick. Les Beauharnais: Une fortune antillaise, 1756–1796. Geneva, Switzerland: Droz, 2003.

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                                                                                    A social and economic study of a Creole family famous due to one of its members: Joséphine Tascher de la Pagerie, who married first Alexandre de Beauharnais, and second Napoleon Bonaparte. It shows how the Beauharnais, related to a Secrétaire d’Etat de la Marine, became involved in the colonial administration or overseas military service from the end of the 17th century. Besides their metropolitan property, they acquired extensive sugar plantations at Saint-Domingue and are a good example of absentee and thriftless landlords.

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                                                                                    • Pares, Richard. A West India Fortune. London: Longmans, Green, 1950.

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                                                                                      Remains a celebrated example of an economic history of a colonial business. Describes the foundation of a sugar plantation by Azariah Pinney, a younger son from a dissident family, in the island of Nevis (West Indies) at the end of the 17th century. Narrates the diverse fortunes of his heirs and his operations as sugar factor in England through the 18th century. Follows the family until that they retired from business at the middle of 19th century.

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                                                                                      Planters’ Wives and Merchants’ Daughters

                                                                                      The emergence of gender studies and women’s studies during the last decades, combined with the trend to study less the social structures and more the ordinary experiences of life by individuals, explains the growing interest in the role of women, whether married, single, or widowed, whether rich or pauper, in the colonial context. Few books, however, have been entirely devoted to elite women, who are rather studied along with their masculine relatives. Burns 1999, Martín 1983, and Sturtz 2002 are exceptions. The economic conditions of women, and their place in family networks, are better known, as shown in Burnard 1991, Kierner 1998, and Carr and Walsh 1977. Emphasis is nowadays less on the traditional oppositions between “subordination” against “autonomy” or between “public sphere” against “private sphere.” As in Glover 2000, the very notion of patriarchalism is questioned. Historians are more sensitive to the legal situation of women and to their agency or capacity to act inside their subordinated position (Brown 1996).

                                                                                      • Brown, Kathleen M. Good Wives, Nasty Wenches and Anxious Patriarchs: Gender, Race and Power in Colonial Virginia. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

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                                                                                        Explores social and racial relations in 17th- and 18th-century Virginia from the perspective of gender. Even if does not focus exclusively on elites, devotes a lot of attention to patriarchal culture and to definitions of male and female gentility. Cleverly uses political records, court records, and personal papers, especially correspondence and diaries, in order to reveal the realities and limits of the elite planters’ domination.

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                                                                                        • Burnard, Trevor. “Inheritance and Independence: Women’s Status in Early Colonial Jamaica.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 48.1 (January 1991): 93–114.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2937999Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          In the wake of Carr and Walsh 1977, an analysis of the wills of eighty-three married and propertied men, who died in the parish of St. Andrew in Jamaica in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In contrast to the situation in the Chesapeake, shows the reluctance of Jamaica’s men to transfer property unconditionally and to assign economic authority to their wives.

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                                                                                          • Burns, Kathryn. Colonial Habits: Convents and the Spiritual Economy of Cuzco, Peru. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

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                                                                                            Brings to life the economic, social, and cultural world of the nuns of Santa Clara and Santa Catalina in Cuzco. It especially emphasizes their role in the creation of a Creole elite where cohabited, under the veil, mestizas and Spaniards. One of its originalities, besides its lively style, is to encompass the colonial period as well as the republican period until the end of the 19th century.

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                                                                                            • Carr, Lois Green, and Lorena S. Walsh. “The Planter’s Wife: The Experience of White Women in Seventeenth-Century Maryland.” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser., 34.4 (October 1977): 542–571.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2936182Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              A model study based on wills and probate inventories, court records, and parish registers. Describes the demographic and social conditions of women in the earliest decades of Maryland and shows that husbands usually entrusted their estates to their wives. They also made their wives executors of their wills and left their children to their care. Concludes that women in 17th-century Maryland commanded great respect inside their families and shaped their destinies.

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                                                                                              • Glover, Lorri. All Our Relations: Blood Ties and Emotional Bonds among the Early South Carolina Gentry. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

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                                                                                                The book studies the planters’ elite of South Carolina from a familial perspective. It uses personal papers, especially diaries and correspondence, and plays down the patriarchal dimension often linked to the Southern gentry. It emphasizes the bonds between siblings and between cousins and analyzes the values that underpinned them. Focuses on strong feminine characters like Elizabeth Lucas.

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                                                                                                • Kierner, Cynthia A. Beyond the Household: Women’s Place in the Early South, 1700–1835. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                  Using diaries, correspondence, and published material, Kierner explores the life experience of elite women in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, which was inscribed in the genteel culture. Surveys the variations of the access of women to the public sphere and contrasts the late colonial period, when women had a certain public role, with the difficult days of the War of Independence, which experienced a decline of the genteel culture, and the early national period.

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                                                                                                  • Martín, Luis. Daughters of the Conquistadores: Women of the Viceroyalty of Peru. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1983.

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                                                                                                    Does not concentrate on the elite, but shows how the first European women in Peru, who generally were the common-law wives (mujeres de amor) of soldiers, became progressively respected housewives and even, for some of them, wealthy encomenderas. Traces the evolutions of marriage laws and of gender relations in colonial Peru until the end of 18th century. A third of the book is devoted to nunneries.

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                                                                                                    • Sturtz, Linda L. Within Her Power: Propertied Women in Colonial Virginia. New York: Routledge, 2002.

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                                                                                                      A firsthand study of propertied women in Virginia, a group wider than the elite. Sturtz traces their place in the legal system of the colony and carefully reconstructs the rights that the law gave to them, especially in matters of property. Shows that the anglicization of the colony from the 1740s triggered a restriction of these rights.

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                                                                                                      Power and Authority

                                                                                                      Elites were at the heart of the relations between mother countries and colonies. Historians have long interpreted these relations as dominated by the interests of the mother country at the cost of those of the colonies, especially economically but also politically (Frostin 2008). Ruiz Medrano 2006 studies, for example, the political takeover of New Spain by the Hapsburg monarchy and its ambiguities. Several recent books have developed a new approach inscribing the development of colonial or Creole elites in the imperial dynamics. Greene 2002, stating that empire was in some ways negotiated between the metropolitan authorities and the local elites, has been particularly influential. The debate has been particularly vivacious among specialists of the Portuguese Empire, as shown in da Cunha, et al. 2005; Fragoso, et al. 2001; and Souza 2006. Bonomi 1998 and Tyler 1986 are of a different kind, being case studies on political cultures.

                                                                                                      • Bonomi, Patricia. The Lord Cornbury Scandal: The Politics of Reputation in British America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1998.

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                                                                                                        An investigation on the figure of Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, governor of New York and New Jersey from 1702 to 1708. He left the reputation of a corrupt official who indulged in cross-dressing. Stresses the role of reputation, of gossip, and of a newly liberated press in the failure of Lord Cornbury and unveils the American and English political cultures at the beginning of the 18th century.

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                                                                                                        • da Cunha, Mafalda Soares, Nuno Gonçalo Monteiro, and Pedro Cardim, eds. Optima Pars: Elites Ibero-Americanas do Antigo Regime. Lisbon, Portugal: Imprensa das Ciências Sociais, 2005.

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                                                                                                          A collection of papers devoted to various kinds of elite in Spain, in Portugal, and in their colonies during the ancien régime. Three contributions evoke the Portuguese colonial elite, especially a prosopographical study of the higher ranks of the administrative elites of the Portuguese Atlantic during the 17th and 18th centuries. Shows that the empire was an arena where elites struggled to obtain royal graces in order to consolidate their social status.

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                                                                                                          • Fragoso, João, Maria Fernanda Bicalho, and Maria de Fátima Gouvêa, eds. O Antigo Regime nos trópicos: A dinâmica imperial portuguesa (séculos XVI–XVIII). Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Civilização Brasileira, 2001.

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                                                                                                            A collective book, whose twelve contributions are based on innovative assumptions: Brazil must be considered not for itself, but as a part of the overseas Portuguese Empire, whose elites could be compared with those of Portuguese Africa or Asia; the colonial societies were, first of all, ancien régime societies, which must be studied in relation to the evolutions of Iberian societies.

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                                                                                                            • Frostin, Charles. Les révoltes blanches à Saint-Domingue aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Rennes, France: Presses Universitaires de Rennes, 2008.

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                                                                                                              Political study of Saint-Domingue, “the pearl of Antilles,” under colonial rule. Shows the complex game played between the metropolitan authorities, the powerful planters (the habitants propriétaires), who dominated the local institutions, and the petits blancs, whose frequent rebellions against the crown served the interests of planters, to which they were subordinated. The trade laws (the système de l’exclusif) and the massive smuggling that they provoked were the main causes of these outbursts. First published in 1975.

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                                                                                                              • Greene, Jack P. “Transatlantic Colonization and the Redefinition of Empire in the Early Modern Era: The British-American Experience.” In Negotiated Empires: Centers and Peripheries in the Americas, 1500–1820. Edited by Christine Daniels and Michael V. Kennedy, 267–282. New York and London: Routledge, 2002.

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                                                                                                                In this contribution, Greene summarizes his reflections on the relations between metropolitan centers and colonies during the early modern period. Shows how colonial authority was created through negotiations between the new elites who dominated local arenas of power, and European centers, each partner wishing to strengthen its links with the other. A very influential interpretation.

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                                                                                                                • Ruiz Medrano, Ethelia. Reshaping New Spain: Government and Private Interests in the Colonial Bureaucracy, 1531–1550. Boulder: University Press of Colorado, 2006.

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                                                                                                                  Revised and extended English version of a seminal study originally published in Spanish in 1991. Based on judicial and administrative sources, she studies the measures taken by the Spanish Crown for enforcing its political authority in New Spain against the power of the first settlers. Focuses on the action of the first viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza (who served in that office from 1535 to 1550), and demonstrates how he tries to conciliate the interests of the crown and the ones of the powerful encomenderos.

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                                                                                                                  • Souza, Laura de Mello e. O sol e a sombra: Política e administração na América portuguesa do século XVIII. São Paulo, Brazil: Companhia das Letras, 2006.

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                                                                                                                    A reflection on the relations between mother countries and colonial peripheries about Brazil, especially the region of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. Divided into two parts: first, a historiographical and conceptual essay on power relations between mother countries and colonies in the frame of the Portuguese Empire, and second, six examples of governors’ careers in various contexts and circumstances, which focus on political practices.

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                                                                                                                    • Tyler, John W. Smugglers and Patriots: Boston Merchants and the Advent of the American Revolution. Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1986.

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                                                                                                                      A political approach to a merchant community. After highlighting the importance of the illicit trade (or smuggling) in the years that preceded the Revolution, it examines the political actions of the Boston traders against the commercial laws that regulated the colonial trade and traces their involvement in the War of Independence.

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                                                                                                                      The Pen, the Sword, and the Cloth

                                                                                                                      Metropolitans sent to the colonies for serving in the judiciary, in the military, or in religion formed a specific group of people. Like the peninsulares in the Spanish Empire, they monopolized the highest positions in the colonial administration. Historians have long tended to consider that they embodied the control of the center on the colonial peripheries and to oppose them to Creoles. Webb 1979, which remains the only survey on the higher ranks of colonial administration of British America, and Dubé 1984 are representative of this trend. Nowadays, historians such as Michel Bertrand (Bertrand 1999) instead emphasize the various links that united the administrative elites to the local societies. Bureaucrats often belonged to the same social networks, shared the same cultural pursuits, and needed to cooperate in order to maximize their profits from the colonial situation. All these men did not have a high social status: clergymen, as shown by Galland 2012, Nelson 2001, and Taylor 1996, were not rich and were often of modest origins but they were educated and enjoyed a real social prestige.

                                                                                                                      • Bertrand, Michel. Grandeur et misère de l office: Les officiers de finances de Nouvelle-Espagne, 17éme–18éme siècles. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne, 1999.

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                                                                                                                        Based on a remarkable prosopographical study, this book touches the lives of more than two hundred bureaucrats who served in the finance administration of New Spain from the 1660s to the end of the 18th century. Michel Bertrand underlines the role played by families and networks in the careers of these men and gives an analysis of the working of the colonial state, between clientelism, corruption, and administrative reforms.

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                                                                                                                        • Dubé, Jean-Claude. Les intendants de la Nouvelle-France. Montreal: Fides, 1984.

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                                                                                                                          A solid social analysis of a group of civil servants who were situated at the top of the civil administration of the French colonies (as well as in the metropolitan provinces). Shows how they climbed to office through family networks and through the clienteles to which they belonged. Studies their fortunes, their material environment, and their secular and religious culture. This work focuses on New France; there is no equivalent for the other parts of the French empire.

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                                                                                                                          • Galland, Caroline. Pour la gloire de Dieu et du Roi: Les récollets en Nouvelle-France aux XVIIe et XVIIIe siècles. Paris: Cerf, 2012.

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                                                                                                                            The Recollects, a branch of the Franciscan order, formed an important part of the Catholic clergy in Canada. Galland studies a group of around 350 men, highly educated, a quarter of whom were born in the colony. Reminds that the right of a Catholic religious order to settle in a colony was a political question. Describes their main duties: the evangelization of Amerindians, preaching and parochial service, and service as chaplains in the king’s army.

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                                                                                                                            • Nelson, John K. A Blessed Company: Parish, Parsons and Parishioners in Anglican Virginia, 1690–1776. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2001.

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                                                                                                                              Reconstructs the careers and everyday lives of 365 clergymen who served the established Church of England in Virginia, from the Glorious Revolution to the Declaration of Independence. Notes the gradual Americanization of this group. Education made them members of the elite; they often married into gentry families and owned land and slaves. Studies their various religious duties in the specific context of the colony, where parishes were firmly controlled by planters.

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                                                                                                                              • Taylor, William B. Magistrates of the Sacred: Priests and Parishioners in Eighteenth-Century Mexico. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                Focuses on the parochial vicars and curates of two colonial towns and dioceses—Mexico and Guadalajara—under Bourbon rule, stressing that a majority of them were American born. Reconstructs the parochial economy and relations between clergymen and parishioners. Ends on the public roles of the clergy and on the conflicts they maintained with local authorities.

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                                                                                                                                • Webb, Stephen S. The Governors-General: The English Army and the Definition of Empire, 1569–1681. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979.

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                                                                                                                                  Stresses that English colonization was at its first stage a military as much as a commercial enterprise and emphasizes the role of colonial governor-general, of whom nine-tenths were officers of the English Army. Develops the concept of “garrison government,” which can be applied either to England (during the Protectorate), to Ireland, or to the colonies. A useful appendix listing all governors-general.

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                                                                                                                                  Colonial Aristocracies

                                                                                                                                  Early modern societies were organized in degrees, the highest being the nobility. The meaning of this word was different in England, France, Portugal, and Spain but the superiority of a group of persons singled out by a title (duke, marquis, earl) or a quality (écuyer, hidalgo, esquire, gentleman, fidalgo) was recognized in all these countries. They could generally boast a genealogy and receipt of an education, accompanied in many cases by a fortune that qualified them to occupy the higher places in society. Many contemporaries have observed that this hierarchy was transferred to the colonies, but historians have been reluctant to focus on it, preferring to point out the extraordinary social mobility experienced by colonial societies. Historians of the Spanish Empire, such as the authors of Büschges 1996, Frutta 2002, Langue 1999, and Zúñiga 2002, have nevertheless been keener than others to integrate this dimension, as throughout the Spanish Empire many upper-class Creoles were honored by titles of nobility. Gadoury 1992 and Ruggiu 2009 remain exceptional in the context of the French first colonial empire. Smith 2006 outlines the gentility of English provincial families involved in the colonial trade, while Steffen 1993 reminds us how blurred was the social frontier between the gentry and middle classes in the colonial Chesapeake.

                                                                                                                                  • Büschges, Christian. Familie, Ehre und Macht: Konzept und soziale Wirklichkeit des Adels in der Stadt Quito (Ecuador) während der späten Kolonialzeit, 1765–1822. Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1996.

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                                                                                                                                    A social analysis of the noble families of Quito (present-day Equator) during the troubled decades from Charles III’s reforms to independence. A special emphasis on the titled nobility, on its grip on the institution of the colony, and on its economic foundation: the strict settlement (mayorazgo).

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                                                                                                                                    • Frutta, Emiliano. “Limpieza de sangre y nobleza en el México colonial: La formación de un saber nobiliario (1571–1700).” Jahrbuch für Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas 39 (2002): 217–235.

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                                                                                                                                      From the 15th to the 17th century, Spanish society was obsessed by the purity of blood (limpieza de sangre), i.e., the fact, attested by the Inquisition, that a given individual did not descend from Jews or Muslims. Spanish nobles were particularly scrutinized. This article examines how this special surveillance was implemented in New Spain and how the local elites used it to control the extension of their privileges to new members.

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                                                                                                                                      • Gadoury, Lorraine. La noblesse de Nouvelle-France: Familles et alliances. LaSalle, Canada: Editions Hurtubise HMH, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                        A classic demographic study of the families of the French noblesse living in New France from the beginnings of the colony to the Cession of 1763. The first part is an attempt to define and delimitate a social group hitherto understudied and misunderstood. The second describes the main characteristics of the demographic behavior of these families. Useful annexes listing the head of noble families who passed through New France.

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                                                                                                                                        • Langue, Frédérique. “Le cercle des alliances: Stratégies d’honneur et de fortune des aristocrates vénézuéliens au XVIIIe siècle.” Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 54.2 (March–April 1999): 453–480.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.3406/ahess.1999.279756Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          Shows the diversity of the 18th-century Venezuelan elites, whose recent enrichment was largely due to the booming cacao production and trade. Through the studies of marriage dispensations, outlines the importance of unions in cementing the different strata of the local aristocracy, called the mantuanos.

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                                                                                                                                          • Ruggiu, François-Joseph. “Une noblesse atlantique? Le second ordre français de l’Ancien au Nouveau Monde.” Outre-Mers 97.362–363 (2009): 39–63.

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                                                                                                                                            A call to take back the notion of noblesse in studies of the social hierarchies in the first French colonial empire. Reminds that ancien régime nobles kept all their privileges when they settled in the French colonies and that many high-profile and rich Creoles successfully tried to be ennobled, invoking the military services they performed in these disputed regions.

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                                                                                                                                            • Smith, Simon D. Slavery, Family and Gentry Capitalism in the British Atlantic: The World of the Lascelles, 1648–1834. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511497308Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              A well-researched and suggestive study of a merchant-planter family, the Lascelles, who made money in the West Indies trade. Dwells on complex commercial sources in order to reconstruct the businesses and the networks of the Lascelles. Develops the notion of “gentry capitalism,” which points out how families who were already landed and respectable increased their wealth through colonial trade.

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                                                                                                                                              • Steffen, Charles G. From Gentlemen to Townsmen: The Gentry of Baltimore County, Maryland, 1660–1776. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1993.

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                                                                                                                                                Studies a group of around 350 persons living in Baltimore County, including the richest 10 percent of the county (selected from the amount of their personal estate at their death) and the merchants of the town of Baltimore. Tries to focus on the second tier of the Chesapeake “gentry,” below the affluent planters of the Tidewater. A definition of the gentry that is perhaps too large and that explains why the author finds that this group was characterized by openness and fluidity.

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                                                                                                                                                • Zúñiga, Jean-Paul. Espagnols d’outre-mer: Emigration, métissage et reproduction sociale à Santiago du Chili, au 17e siècle. Paris: Editions de l’Ecole des Hautes en Sciences Sociales, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                  A key study on the Spanish population of Santiago de Chile. Two chapters demonstrate the depth of the impact of the aristocratic ideology on Spanish migrants as well as on Creoles, addressing the questions of the purity of blood and the symbols of nobility. Another chapter analyzes the composition of the local elite in relation to political power (cabildo) and wealth (mines, encomienda, trade).

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                                                                                                                                                  Urban Oligarchies

                                                                                                                                                  The place of towns in the colonial expansion differed greatly depending on the empire studied. Spanish colonization was based on towns: the formal creation of a city ruled by a council (cabildo) was one of the first acts made by Spanish settlers. Unlike the French or the British Empire, the Spanish Empire was highly urbanized, and it is not surprising that studies of the municipal authority of a town, or of the urban elites of a province, are very numerous. Each book on merchant elites or aristocracies in diverse parts of the empire mentioned previously has a section devoted to the council: Porras Munoz 1982 and Santos Pérez 1999 focus on this question. In Brazil, as shown in Bicalho 1998, the senado da camara was the Portuguese equivalent of the Spanish cabildo. Büschges and Schröter 1999 searches to theorize the formation of urban elites, and Navarro García 2005 is interested in alternative kinds of elites.

                                                                                                                                                  • Bicalho, Maria Fernanda. “As câmaras municipais no Império Português: O exemplo do Rio de Janeiro.” Revista Brasileira de História 18.36 (1998).

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                                                                                                                                                    Situates the role of the municipal corporation of 18th-century Rio de Janeiro in the frame of the Portuguese Empire and in comparison with that of other colonial towns. Stresses on tensions, negotiations, and compromises that arise between the mother country and one of the most important imperial municipalities.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Büschges, Christian, and Bernd Schröter, eds. Beneméritos, aristócratas y empresarios: Identidades y estructuras sociales de las capas altas urbanas en América Hispánica. Frankfurt and Madrid: Vervuet Verlag; Iberoamericana, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                      Fifteen contributions on upper urban classes throughout Spanish colonial America. Büschges and Schröter conclude the volume with a theoretical reflection on the notion of elites, drawn from the different examples that they have collected. Emphasizes the different dimensions of elites (economic conditions, relations to power, systems of values), the different phases they went through (genesis and formation, organization, transformations), and finally the diverse social identities they assumed.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Navarro García, Luis, ed. Élite urbanas en Hispanoamérica (de la conquista a la independencia). Seville, Spain: Secretariado de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Sevilla, 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                        This collective book was issued from a seminar gathering Spanish and Latin American specialists on early modern social history. It puts an emphasis on elites less studied than encomenderos, urban councilmen or merchants, like judges and civil servants, military officers, clergymen and scholars, and native elites. It covers all of Spanish America, from Louisiana to Rio de la Plata, and beyond, to the Philippines.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Porras Munoz, Guillermo. El gobierno de la Ciudad de México en el siglo XVI. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                                          The first part of the book describes the organization and the powers of the municipal council of the town of Mexico and of its members. The second part is a prosopographical dictionary of the alcades ordinarios, i.e., the common councilmen.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Santos Pérez, José Manuel. Élites, poder local y régimen colonial: El cabildo y los regidores de Santiago de Guatemala, 1700–1787. Cádiz, Spain: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Cádiz, 1999.

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                                                                                                                                                            A classic study of an urban oligarchy constituted by the members of the municipal council (cabildo) of Santiago de Guatemala. Uses prosopographical methods in order to reconstructs their careers and their networks. Describes the institution and the channels to enter it. Examines the social origins of the regidores (the councilmen), their matrimonial strategies, their economic activities, and all the means of social reproduction.

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                                                                                                                                                            Native Elites

                                                                                                                                                            The situations of natives were very different in British, French, and Spanish America, and their places in the various historiographies are altogether diverse. Historians of the Spanish Empire have particularly addressed this issue with several collective books on this question, especially for the Andes, where a powerful Amerindian nobility stayed in place after the Conquest (Alaperinne-Bouyer 2007, Cahill and Tovías 2003, Decoster 2002, Garret 2005). Other representative studies, such as Havard 2003, have tended not to distinguish between elites and common people.

                                                                                                                                                            • Alaperrine-Bouyer, Monique. La educación de las elites indígenas en el Perú colonial. Lima, Peru: Instituto Francés de Estudio Andinos, Instituto Riva-Agüero, Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                              Investigates the institutions devoted to the education of the children of native elites in Peru during the colonial period. Focuses especially on the colegios, where the Jesuits, before their expulsion from the territories, taught the sons of caciques; it especially dwells on the selection of alumni, the administration of the colegios, and the pedagogy used. Monique Alaperrine-Bouyer is particularly aware of the tensions that these colegios created in various strata of the colonial society.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Cahill, David, and Blanca Tovías, eds. Élites indígenas en los Andes: Nobles, caciques y cabildantes bajo el yugo colonial. Quito, Ecuador: Ediciones Abya-Yala, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                Groups eleven papers focusing on the administrative charges or social positions held by the Amerindian upper classes in the Andes during the colonial period: caciques, members of cabildos de indio (native municipal governments), members of the lesser clergy, and nobles. Shows how these native authorities, especially the caciques, were a crucial part of the Spanish colonial order, at least until the reforms of the second half of the 18th century.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Decoster, Jean-Jacques, ed. Incas e indios cristianos: Elites indígenas e identidades cristianas en los Andes coloniales. Cuzco and Lima, Peru: Centro de Estudios Regionales Andinos Bartolomé de Las Casas, Asociación Kuraka, Institut Français d’Études Andines, 2002.

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                                                                                                                                                                  This collective book assembles twenty-three papers exploring the relation between the Christian faith and native cultures. Despite the title, just a few of them are directly connected with the question of the formation of native elites, through the perspective of knowledge, power, and education.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Garret, David T. Shadows of Empire: The Indian Nobility of Bourbon Cusco. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511529085Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    Focuses on the role of Cusco’s Indian nobility in the colonial society, from the middle of the 18th century until the collapse of the Spanish Empire in Peru. Shows that Indian nobles were at the frontier between the two “republics,” that of the Indians and that of the Spaniards, created by the colonial authorities. They struggled against the Creole elites trying to shake off Spanish power.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Havard, Gilles. Empire et métissages: Indiens et Français dans le Pays d’en Haut, 1660–1715. Sillery, Canada: Septentrion, 2003.

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                                                                                                                                                                      This book does not focus on native elites but proposes an impressive reinterpretation of the political and social relationships between Amerindians and French in the Great Lakes region. Several chapters evoke the French officers serving in this area and their perceptions of the behavior of the Amerindian chiefs, as they tried to inscribe them in the frame of the French Empire.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Polite Societies

                                                                                                                                                                      The first colonial societies were generally settled in a context of violence and disorders, and the social barriers that were firmly entrenched in the Old World then tended to dissolve. After this phase of implantation, which saw a simplification of the social hierarchy and social behaviors, the growing populations of the colonies, especially in towns, began to adopt, or to replicate, the lifestyle of their mother country, as shown in Bushman 1992. They became polite societies, whose honorable members were painted according to the English fashion (Lovell 2007) and tried to be acknowledged as members of the metropolitan elite (Lockridge 1987). They generally met mixed success, except in the slave colonies, where planters were well off enough to pass long periods in France or England or to acquire the luxury goods conveyed by metropolitan merchants, often at the cost of a growing indebtedness. For them, manners (Rozbicki 1998) and a punctilious praise of honor (Wyatt-Brown 1982) were powerful tools to distinguish themselves in a social environment characterized by the presence of poor whites and of slaves. The emergence of local educational institutions, such as those studied by Chocano Mena 2000, contributed to this tendency toward refinement in the Americas.

                                                                                                                                                                      • Bushman, Richard L. The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities. New York: Knopf, 1992.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Examines the transformations of the material world as well as of the cultural world of the British North American colonies. Puts the emphasis on the efforts of middle and upper parts of the colonial population toward acquiring the accoutrements of a polite society through their beliefs, their values, their reading, or the furniture of their homes. Analyzes then the evolution of the genteel culture during the young republic, when republican values collided with these elitist behaviors. A commanding but divisive book of cultural history.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Chocano Mena, Magdalena. La fortaleza docta: Elite letrada y dominación social en México colonial (siglos XVI–XVII). Barcelona: Ediciones Bellaterra, 2000.

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                                                                                                                                                                          Studies a group of around nine hundred graduates (letrados) who lived in New Spain during the 16th and 17th centuries. Traces their formation, their culture, their religion, and their role in the colonial society. They filled the ranks of the clergy, the judiciary, and the bureaucracy, and more than half of them originated from America. The weight of Creoles in this group justifies the expression of the title, because they used knowledge as a “fortress” to preserve their social positions.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Lockridge, Kenneth A. The Diary and Life of William Byrd II of Virginia, 1674–1744. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1987.

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                                                                                                                                                                            William Byrd II is a wealthy landowner and slave-owner in colonial Virginia, famous for his secret diaries. They give to historians a fascinating hindsight into his actions and thoughts and into the social and cultural life of the 18th-century plantation gentry. Lockridge scrutinizes the complex personal identity of William Byrd, whose life oscillated between Virginia and England, where he did not receive the social position he longed for.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Lovell, Margaretta M. Art in a Season of Revolution: Painters, Artisans, and Patrons in Early America. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Studies the objects (paintings, drawings, pieces of architecture, and mahogany furniture) that composed the cultural landscape of elite families (gentry, merchants, and professional classes) in 18th-century New England. Works on the cultural and social relations between artists or craftsmen and their customers, who collaborated in order to give meanings to these objects. An interesting example of visual studies. First published in 2005.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Rozbicki, Michal J. The Complete Colonial Gentleman: Cultural Legitimacy in Plantation America. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1998.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Defends the idea of a cultural transformation of upper classes of plantation America during 18th century by the importation of the English notions of gentility and of genteel culture. Shows that the plantation gentry was nevertheless an object of ridicule and of contempt for the English aristocracy and that the issue of cultural legitimacy was a source of tensions and anxieties for the planters.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Wyatt-Brown, Bertram. Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  An anthropological, rather than historical, approach of the notion of honor, sustained by a wide range of sources, from literature, the press, and legal archives through correspondence, diaries, and family papers. Studies the honor of the Old South in relation with European conceptions of honor and distinguishes honor, which applied to all white classes, from gentility, in which honor was coupled with high social position.

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