The Journal of San Diego History
Summer 1984, Volume 30, Number 3
Thomas L. Scharf, Editor

Book Review

Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor

Madrid and the Spanish Economy, 1560-1850. By David R. Ringrose. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983. Bibliography. Charts and graphs. Index. Maps. 405 pages. $36.50. Reviewed by William D. Phillips, Jr., Professor of History at San Diego State University, author of Enrique IV and the Crisis of Fifteenth-Century Castile, 1425-1480 (1978) and Slavery from Roman Times to the Early Transatlantic Trade (forthcoming).

In the three centuries after its designation as the Spanish capital in 1561, Madrid wrought fundamental changes in Spain’s internal economy, and David Ringrose has charted those changes in this impressive monograph, the result of archival research and of careful interpretations of secondary sources. Not a typical urban history, the book instead concentrates on the nature of Madrid’s growth and on the consequences of that growth for Spain’s economy.

Madrid grew rapidly as the capital of Spain’s worldwide empire, par­ticularly in the early seventeenth century, and the city’s population of 200,000 by 1630 was quite unusual for a city without water transportation, often seen as a necessity for large preindustrial cities. The demands of this population placed great strains on the agrarian economy of Castile’s in­terior, and consequently Madrid captured the market for agricultural goods over a wide area. Unable to compete effectively, the older centers of Castile’s urban network stagnated and declined in the face of Madrid’s de­mand for provisions. The most striking example of the process is Toledo, Madrid’s close neighbor. As late as 1597 Toledo had an estimated popula­tion of 70,000 to Madrid’s 65,000, but by 1630 Madrid’s population had reached 175,000 and Toledo’s had fallen to 20,000. As Madrid grew, it came to dominate the interior of the peninsula just as its political class dominated the empire.

Ringrose has an elegant and clear prose style, but his organization and argumentation are complex and demanding. He bases his conclusions on a variety of data from a wide range of sources. The raw population figures are only the beginning of his analysis, and Ringrose examines each sector of the population in order to show how differing structures of demand for the elite and the masses caused different patterns of importations into the capital. He shows how foodstuffs, wine, and other commodities were ac­quired, transported to the city, and distributed there. The major strength of the book derives from the author’s ability to show the dynamic interrela­tions between Madrid and the components of Spain’s economy.

The subject of this handsomely produced book may seem remote from the concerns of the Journal of San Diego History, but there are local resonances for those interested in San Diego. The author is a professor of history at UCSD and served as a guest editor of the winter 1978 issue of this journal. More important, the discerning and imaginative reader can find in­teresting points of comparison between the relations of Madrid and Toledo and those of Los Angeles and San Diego.