By Enrique Tandeter
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Extra info for Coercion and market: silver mining in colonial Potosí, 1692-1826
My objective simply was to gather information on the minting of coins that circulated in the Rio de la Plata. When I returned to Buenos Aires, I patiently elaborated a mintage series, which remains unpublished. However, this research led me to see a clear discrepancy in the historiography that I had consulted. While the works I read asserted that Potosí's silver production languished in the century prior to independence, the value of coins minted annually in Potosí doubled between the middle and the end of the eighteenth century.
12 However, complete abandonment of mining activity was not the norm because, among other reasons, it could result in the loss of mita workers through state sanctions against idle operations. 13 Alternatively, a mine operator could accept cash payment from some of his mita laborers while continuing to exploit the labor power of the rest of his mita quota. European Demand The option of using the mita as a labor pool or a source of cash, coupled with the large quantity of tailings from previous mining activity in the Cerro Rico, provided an opportunity to increase production in the short term without major capital investment.
I soon learned that Argentine historiography had accepted uncritically the arguments suggested by Ricardo Levene in his Investigaciones acerca de la historia económica del virreinato del Plata in the 1920s. However, more surprising, and much Page xii more instructive, was discovering the source used by Levene, and the manner in which he reached his conclusions. Based on his interest in Mariano Moreno and the wars of independence, Levene was led to the work of Victorián de Villava, fiscal of the royal high court of Charcas.