Economic History and Development in Latin America Lecture Series 3 | Independence and Instability in Post-Independence Latin America (1800-1870)

On March 8, 2022, the Institute for International and Area Studies of Tsinghua University (IIAS) hosted the third lecture entitled “Independence and Instability in Post-Independence Latin America (1800-1870)” of Economic History and Development in Latin America lecture series. The lecture was delivered by Professor Lucas Llach from the Department of History and Social Studies at the University of Ditra, Argentina and presided over by Yuan Mengqi, a postdoctoral researcher at the IIAS.

At the beginning of the lecture, Professor Llach led the audience to review the basics of the colonial economy, and then have deeper thinking of it. Firstly, he talked about how Europe profited from its colonization of Latin America. Taking Spain as an example, the overseas colonies with rich resources allowed it to directly own gold and silver mines that it did not have at home, and become a wealthy colonial overlord. But the colonial economy contributed more to Europe than that. The colonial trade, especially the slave trade, laid a financial foundation for industrial revolution in Europe; raw materials that Latin America produced, e.g. cotton, became key inputs to Europe’s industrial revolution.

Professor Llach went on to dissect how Europe secured its colonial empire in Latin America. In fact, European colonial powers were not interested in expanding their territories; due to distance limitation and the diversity of native American cultural and geographical environment, conflicts in colonies were often confined to local areas rather than with distant colonial masters. Even a delicate balance between Royal officials and the colonial elite in Europe was broken in the early 19th century. In addition, he analyzed the performance of the colonial economy and the reasons behind it. On the one hand, the colonial economy brought endless benefits. On the other hand, the colonial system of land tenure, caste system and judicial system full of contradictions and discrimination also caused many restrictions and negative effects to the European metropolitan powers.

Then, Professor Llach analyzed the colonial heritage still retained after the independence movement of Latin American countries at the theoretical level, including institutionalism, dependency theory and factor endowment theory. From the perspective of institutionalism, the colonial system trapped the Latin American economy in a long-term depression, and the conflicts between different political groups led to the change of political system. From the perspective of dependency theory, the world economy can be divided into the dominant central states and the exploited and controlled peripheral states. The latter are dependent on the former under unequal international circumstances. Latin America is on the periphery of the periphery. From the perspective of factor endowment theory, countries with different factor endowment have different relative advantages, resulting in the formation of different central-oriented economies.
During the Q&A session, Professor Llach had heated and interesting interactions with the audience. He patiently and meticulously responded all questions they eagerly raised, including the potential of Latin American countries to become industrial powers, the economic performance of Brazil after independence from the perspective of institutionalism, and the economic and trade conditions of Latin American countries in the early stage of independence. The greatly benefited audience expressed their appreciation to the knowledgeable contents and inspiration of research thoughts during the discussion.

Professor Lucas Llach teaches in the Department of History and Social Studies at the University of Ditra, Argentina and holds a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University. He received his B.S. in economics from the University of Ditra, and his M.S. in history from Harvard University and economics from the University of Ditra. He served as Vice Governor of the Banco Central de La República Argentina from 2016-2018, and Vice Governor of the Banco de la Nación Argentina in 2019, where he was responsible for policy formulation and implementation of financial electronization and informatization across Argentina. His main research areas include economic history, Latin American present and contemporary history, and medieval history. He is the author of a number of books, including Como Sapiens: correr, comer, amar y descansar a la manera de los humanos (Debate, 2020), Macroeconomía argentina (Alfaomeaga, 2006), Entre la equidad y el crecimiento (Siglo XXI, 2004), El ciclo de la ilusión y el desencanto (Ariel, 1998), etc.

Edited by: Xu Shuai
Typeset by: Cheng Yao
Proofread by: Yuan Mengqi