The Manila Galleon: Traversing the Spanish Pacific

The Manila Galleon: Traversing the Spanish Pacific


Curated by Samantha Davis

Thematic Collections are assortments of past and recently released articles in HAHR about key issues, events, individuals, or historiographical trends. These collections can be used as gateways into a specific historical subject, demonstrations of methodology, or sources for classroom discussion.

Rising interest in the Pacific Ocean World has prompted a wave of research connecting the far reaches of the world via maritime routes like the Manila Galleon, though the region remains relatively understudied. Connecting New Spain to the Philippines, the Manila Galleon has been frequently studied for its commercial importance though its human impact and ethnohistorical significance has been gaining attention in recent decades. This thematic collection includes articles published by the Hispanic American Historical Review that take multiple approaches to understanding the Spanish Pacific and the Spanish Philippines’ relationship to New Spain in particular, presenting many interesting perspectives as well as questions to prompt further research.

 William Lytle Schurz, “Mexico, Peru, and the Manila Galleon” HAHR 1:4 (1918).

Included in HAHR’s fourth issue published, this article by Schurz explores the connections between the viceroyalty of New Spain and its distant Captaincy General in the Philippines. This economic history of the Manila Galleon traces commodities like silk, examines the role of merchants, and broader regulatory attitudes towards the Manila Galleon trade.

R.G. Taylor, “Early Empire Building Projects in the Pacific Ocean, 1565-1585” HAHR 14:3 (1934).

Taylor’s paper is an early exploration of Spanish imperialism which often focused on economic history, empire building, and Ibero-centric narratives. This is an interesting resource for students and scholars to trace changes in the historiographic conversations surrounding the Pacific, ethnohistory, and Spanish imperialism.

John M. Headley, “Spain’s Asian Presence, 1565-1590: Structures and Aspirations” HAHR 75:4 (1995).

Headley described Spain as the “first oceanic power in world history” (624) as he attempts to understand how Spain moved into the Pacific and the Philippines. His article examines religious, economic, and military history.

William Schell Jr., “Silver Symbiosis: ReOrienting Mexican Economic History” HAHR 81:1 (2001).

Re-examining the economic history of what is now Mexico, Schell presents a complex and multifaceted analysis of the economic relationship between Mexico and Asia, primarily China and the Philippines. His theoretically-grounded approach decenters Europe and traces the evolution of the silver standard and global economic trends in relation to the Mexican and Chinese economies.

Eva María Mehl, “Mexican Recruits and Vagrants in Late Eighteenth-Century Philippines: Empire, Social Order, and Bourbon Reforms in the Spanish Pacific World” HAHR 94:4 (2014).

Following Mexicans sent across the Pacific to labor in the Spanish Philippines, Mehl reveals how authorities in New Spain mediated Spain’s relationship with its most distant colony. Mehl reveals the difficulties of this relationship, including the conscription of “difficult” men who had been sentenced to military service, moving beyond the economic history of this trans-Pacific connection.