4379 - Making Money in Black & White: Mint Conditions in 17th-Century Potosi

Drawing from criminal cases and other archival materials, this paper examines the lives and work of enslaved mint laborers in Potosi, Bolivia, during a period of high high productivity and deep crisis. Founded by Peru's viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1575, by the first decades of the 17th Century the Potosi mint was churning out nearly a million pesos a year, all produced by coerced workers, most of them enslaved, African-born men. The mint was also the site of constant scandals involving corruption, fraud, and counterfeiting so serious they nearly bankrupted the Spanish crown and permanently eroded global confidence in Potosi's coins. Like mining, making the world's money was desperately hard work in this era before mechanization, which came to Potosi only in 1773. This paper traces the evolution of this arduous art of coin-making in the Villa Rica in a way that departs from traditional numismatics or monetary history. It focuses on the site of production as much as its product.

Palavras-chaves: mint, slavery, colonial, Potosi

Autores: Kris, Lane (Tulane University, Ud States of Am / USA)


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