Fomenting Development

Latin America’s Economic Experiments in the Post-Independence Era

My ongoing research takes up the question of how newly independent Latin American nations sought to exploit nature in order to promote prosperity and sovereignty. In the wake of independence, politicians and intellectuals sought to revitalize and redirect market flows long held tight by Iberian imperial policies. Their governments constructed narratives of colonial inheritances impeding progress and proposed new institutions and new policies to overcome them. Though stymied by civil wars, politicians and producers alike pushed to innovate. They embraced both industry and environmental endowments as possible avenues for growth, omnivorous in their search for prosperity. Bureaucrats, farmers, diplomats, factory owners, ranchers, and politicians rallied everything from the writings of foreign thinkers like Ricardo and Spenser to the activities of indigenous rubber tappers and local weather enthusiasts. Their policy proposals and economic experiments came to comprise a toolkit of interventions that would not look unfamiliar to modern development economists.