Rise, fall and interconnectedness of global economies explained by history professor


Yamel Thompson

John Tutino gave a lecture entitled “The Fall of the First Global Economy: Hairi and the Bajio 1790-1820” on campus Thursday

Mark Carrion

A lecture Thursday explained the collapse of an entire global economy at the beginning of the 19th century — all because of just two colonial revolutions in the Americas.

John Tutino, a history professor at Georgetown University, gave a talk over what he called the three primary areas of global economic interactions and how they were influenced by the Americas. 

“Broadly described [history] has become increasingly global and decreasingly Eurocentric,” Tutino said. “We as a field have been enormously influenced by a turn toward Atlantic history.”

The first era of history discussed in Tutino’s talk, the Era of Global Trade, began in the 16th century and was initiated by the colonization of the Americas and the linking of global trade routes, Tutino said.

“European empires paid for Asian goods with American bullion,” Tutino said. “The new world was not a side player, but in fact American bullion was a pivotal center.”

Tutino said the importance of silver as a currency in the 18th century caused European empires like the British, French and Spanish to clash over resources in the Americas. 

“War is as important as markets in understanding the evolution of global economic history,” Tutino said. “Revolutions can be as important as wars among nations. They provoke fundamental change along the way.” 

The American Revolution inspired similar revolutions in both Haiti and the Bajio, a resource-rich basin in Central Mexico. The pair of revolutions cut off the Spanish and French empires from important colonial resources, contributing to their declines and the eventual collapse of the first global economy, Tutino said.

“The locations of these revolutions had been the growth poles of the global economy in the late 18th century,” UT history professor Jonathan Brown said.  

Brown, a close friend of Tutino’s, helped organize the lecture on Thursday. Brown and Tutino attended UT’s graduate school together and both received their doctorates from UT in 1976. Brown said the lecture was a way to celebrate Tutino’s successes on a recent book he published, titled “Making a New World: Founding Capitalism in the Bajio and Spanish North America.” 

History graduate student Susan Zakaib said she attended the lecture because her studies focus on 18th-century Mexican history. Zakaib said history is more than just chronicling what has happened, but is about understanding why people do what they do and the results of their actions. 

“The very idea that local rebellion could be fueling massive global economic changes is amazing,” Zakaib said. 

Brown said the importance of studying Latin American culture comes from the United States’ historic ties to the region. 

“We inhabit the same hemisphere as Latin Americans,” Brown said. “It’s becoming our own history.”

Published on March 8, 2013 as "Global economy talk lends historical view".