Trading Roles

Gender, Ethnicity, and the Urban Economy in Colonial Potosí

Trading Roles

Latin America Otherwise

More about this series

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 5 b&w photos, 5 tables, 3 maps Published: May 2005

Author: Jane E. Mangan

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Andes

Located in the heart of the Andes, Potosí was arguably the most important urban center in the Western Hemisphere during the colonial era. It was internationally famous for its abundant silver mines and regionally infamous for its labor draft. Set in this context of opulence and oppression associated with the silver trade, Trading Roles emphasizes daily life in the city’s streets, markets, and taverns. As Jane E. Mangan shows, food and drink transactions emerged as the most common site of interaction for Potosinos of different ethnic and class backgrounds. Within two decades of Potosí’s founding in the 1540s, the majority of the city’s inhabitants no longer produced food or alcohol for themselves; they purchased these items. Mangan presents a vibrant social history of colonial Potosí through an investigation of everyday commerce during the city’s economic heyday, between the discovery of silver in 1545 and the waning of production in the late seventeenth century.

Drawing on wills and dowries, judicial cases, town council records, and royal decrees, Mangan brings alive the bustle of trade in Potosí. She examines quotidian economic transactions in light of social custom, ethnicity, and gender, illuminating negotiations over vendor locations, kinship ties that sustained urban trade through the course of silver booms and busts, and credit practices that developed to mitigate the pressures of the market economy. Mangan argues that trade exchanges functioned as sites to negotiate identities within this colonial multiethnic society. Throughout the study, she demonstrates how women and indigenous peoples played essential roles in Potosí’s economy through the commercial transactions she describes so vividly.


“A fascinating and detailed case study based on important and original research. . . . Trading Roles makes a significant and thoughtful contribution to our understanding of specific networks of exchange, credit, and interaction in colonial Peru.” — Caroline Dodds, Sixteenth Century Journal

“[Mangan’s] narrative style and scholarship clearly will set a high standard for years to come.” — Michael D. Gambone, American Historical Review

“A comprehensive history worthy of the place is still to be written. But when the city’s Braudel finally appears, he or she will find a way into the lives of the mass of potosinos clearly opened by Dr. Mangan’s work.” — Peter Bakewell, Journal of Social History

“In the historiography on colonial Potosí, Mangan’s work is distinctive for its concentration on the grassroots of daily market activities and mundane business dealings. . . . The great strength of Mangan’s book is that she brings to life the world of the common vendors, artisans, merchants, and suppliers that made a great colonial city work.”
— Timothy E. Anna, Colonial Latin American Historical Review

“Mangan is always in firm control of her abundant data, no small achievement in this kind of research. This is the best study we have of the lower to middling urban castes and classes. . . . Mangan significantly advances the field of Andean history.” — David Cahill, Ethnohistory

“Mangan makes a unique contribution by telling the local tale. . . . Mangan did the work and brings excitement to the narrative. The data is supported by attractive and effective maps, prints, and appendices. The writing is scholarly, agile, and even fun as Mangan follows the lives of Spanish, Criollo, Indigenous and African men and women in their economic pursuits.” — James J. Harrington, Canadian Journal of History

“Mangan’s look at non-elite participation in Potosí’s economy is a contribution to our understanding of adaptation and negotiation in the face of an expanding colonial economic system.” — Cynthia E. Milton, Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies

“Mangan’s writing is skilful with keen turns of phrases as she evokes the sights and the smells of the Andean market. Firmly ethno-historical, Mangan’s book is accessible to undergraduate and graduate students alike, who can experience the complexity of southern Andean colonial society without the overwhelming barrage of specific terms, names, and cultural concepts.” — Rachel Sarah O'Toole, Itinerario

“This is a highly readable, well-argued study appropriate for courses on the urban economy as well as gender history. . . . It does offer an inclusive and fresh approach to understanding how women and men of all ethnic groups came to create a colonial world in Potosí.” — Karen B. Graubart, Hispanic American Historical Review

"[A] superb work of social and economic history and a major contribution to the field of colonial Latin America. . . . [W]onderful." — Jeremy Baskes, Business History Review

"Jane Mangan's book definitively locates Potosí's indigenous and chola market women at the cutting edge of the seventeenth-century global economy." — Brooke Larson, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Mangan's book . . . demonstrates postmodern sensibility without any postmodern silliness. . . . [It leaves] the reader with a memorable view of the indigenous people of Potosí wrestling their lives from the opportunities they found." — Camilla Townsend, Journal of Colonialism & Colonial History

"This book adds an interesting and necessary historical perspective to many previous works on women in Andean marketplaces." — Clare A. Sammells, Gastronomica

"This intriguing work will be of interest to advanced students and specialists in Latin American trade and commerce, banking and credit, urbanization, and gender and ethnic studies. Recommended." — V.H. Cummins, Choice

Trading Roles is a pioneering study. The mass of research Jane E. Mangan has put into the work is truly amazing. She makes the lives of the vast majority of the population of Potosí come alive.” — Erick D. Langer, author of Economic Change and Rural Resistance in Southern Bolivia, 1880-1930

Trading Roles is an unusually lively, detailed account of ‘the underdogs’ of a colonial Spanish American city. It draws attention not only to relatively invisible historical actors but to the rich texture of the deals and socially patterned expectations that brought them together.” — Kathryn Burns, author of Colonial Habits: Convents and the Spiritual Economy of Cuzco, Peru


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jane E. Mangan is Assistant Professor of History at Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. She is the editor of Natural and Moral History of the Indies, by José de Acosta (also published by Duke University Press).

Table of Contents Back to Top
About the series vii

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

1. “The Largest Population and the Most Commerce”: The Genesis of Potosi’s Urban Economy 21

2. Making Room to Sell: Location, Regulation, and the Properties of Urban Trade 48

3. Light on the Chicha, Heavy on the Bread: The Colonial Market for Brewing and Baking 76

4. The World of Credit in the City of Silver 106

5. Enterprising Women: Female Traders in the Urban Economy 134

6. ?Vale un Potosi? The Urban Marketplace in the Face of Decline, 1650–1700 161

Conclusion 178

Appendix 191

Notes 197

Glosary 251

Bibliography 255

Index 267
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-3470-5 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3458-3
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