The Manila Galleon and the impact of long-distance trade: a Comparative Approach

Lead Research Organisation: London School of Economics & Pol Sci
Department Name: Economic History


My project is an explicit attempt to link the research on the Manila Galleon trade with broader historical questions by comparatively analysing two parallel trade routes that emerged during the Early Modern period and that helped to - arguably - kickstart an era of soft globalization. The purpose of this research is therefore to establish the necessary connections between the organization involved in the Galleon trade between Manila and Acapulco, and its simultaneous counterparts, the EIC and the VOC, so as to throw some light on the broader debates on how institutions, business organizational strategies, and long-distance trade affected economic growth in Europe.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000622/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
1930783 Studentship ES/P000622/1 21/09/2017 30/09/2021 Juan Rivenas Moreno
Description The most important key finding is the possibility to reconstruct on a personal level the ways the local inhabitants of Manila contracted for credit among themselves, as well as the ways in which legacy funds invested in the Manila trade during the long-Eighteenth century.

Although still preliminary, it shows that the participants were capable of devising institutions and strategies that reallocated risk among those members of the community with a higher risk tolerance, while offering opportunities to participate in the profits of intercontinental long-distance trade to virtually the whole city of Manila. This provides a deeper understanding of how the citizens of Manila managed to organise long-distance trade between East Asia and Spanish America for over 250 years (1565-1828) without the need to adopt a joint-stock corporate organisation.
Exploitation Route It is still too early to say with certainty. Some of my databases are still to be completed, while I intend to start others. I must also undertake much more archival research before a full picture of the capital markets of Spanish Manila emerge. However (and provisionally), this research has the potential to unearth a complex network of financial institutions that financed long-distance trade between Spanish America and East Asia for over 250 years, presenting an alternative institutional approach to long-distance trade financing in the Early Modern period.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Other

Title Account Books of Legacy Funds from the VOT of Saint Dominic, 1735-1847 
Description This database contains, for the first time, the account books of 23 legacy funds that invested in sea loans in the Manila trade for the period 1735-1841. The Manila trade was financed through a complex network of legacy funds that invested in sea loans, being credit originators. One of the fundamental problems of the historiography of the Manila trade and of Spanish financing of trade in Asia is that account books of funds have never been found before. These 23 funds were opened by various donors throughout the long-Eighteenth century and were left to the management of the Tertiary Order of Saint Dominic in Manila, a lay confraternity. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The database is not finished yet, but it shows relevant information on how funds invested, including diversification, risk management strategies, rates of return and rates of default. They also record all the transactions entered by the funds. This is the first time we have such micro-level data of how the institutions of Manila invested in the trade. They reveal changes through time and how external and internal factors affected the financial markets of Manila during the period. 
Title Sea Loans in Manila 1671-1800 
Description This database is the first of its kind. It is composed of 505 sea loan contracts gathered from surviving Notarial Protocols of the city of Manila. Sea loans were the main instrument used to finance the Manila trade during the Early Modern period, but never before has an attempt to collect them been realised by researchers. The surviving notarial books include scattered years from 1671 to 1800. Sea loans contain information regarding the value of loans, the creditors, debtors, and joint-guarantors, as well as destination and interest rates. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact This is the first time that a systematic collection of sea loans has been made. Its most obvious impact for the Manila trade is twofold: -It can show changes in the way the trade was conducted during the long-Eighteenth century. -It shows how the locals contracted with one another, and can reveal the networks that enabled credit to flow across the city. Overall, this has the potential to advance our understanding of Spanish trade in Asia, as well as an alternative way of financing long-distance trade during the Early Modern period. 
Description Participation in the 6th International Conference in Accounting History "Tra storia, economia e finanza" in Naples 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact This was the 6th International Congress in Accounting History, which this year was held in Naples, Italy, from the 6th until the 9th of November, 2019. The conference enjoyed the sponsorship of AECA (Spanish Association of Accounting and Business Management), the Corte dei Conti, and the Pio Monte della Misericordia of Naples among many other institutions. The purpose of the event was to gather academics from all over Europe engaged in the study of Accounting History. I presented a paper on the accounting and monitoring techniques of 23 legacy funds in Manila that I had recently discovered. It led many academics present to ask many questions about the trade in Spanish Manila and my topic, as well as very welcomed feedback on my research and my paper. It provided me with contacts from many academics interested in the novelty of my topic, and allowed me to gather information and recommendations from many experienced professors.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
Description Participation in the Economic History Society Residential Training Course, Manchester, 27th-30th November 2019. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The Economic History Society's Residential Training Course is a training course for PhD students held annually. This year it was held in Manchester, from the 27th to the 30th of November, 2019. The course was planned so that a group (less than 20) of PhD students could present their PhD theses to a group of their peers and 6 faculty members from across the UK. I presented my thesis topic, my research so far, my preliminary findings, and my provisional conclusion. I received extremely useful feedback on all topics from both students and professors, which led me to improve some sections of my thesis, to edit other parts, or to address problematic issues. In general, my thesis topic and its implications were received well and with surprise because of its novelty, and it sparked interest in how Spanish merchants in the Philippines financed their trade during the Early Modern period, and its implications for the literature that deals with trade organisation and institutions during this period.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019