Coins and Empire in Sixteenth-Century Mexico

Author(s): Enrique Rodriguez

Year: 2018


Scholars have asked how empires solidify power when colonizers, the agents of empire-building, often have diverse goals and backgrounds and their actions do not necessarily support the goals of the empire. Two answers to this question have received much attention: that empires promote ideologies that support cohesion among colonizers, and that coercion and violence can promote the expansion of empires. I propose a third answer, in which colonizers create varied material forms that may challenge the goals of empire, but later appeal to the king for regulation and control over the material world. To study this proposition, I use the example of coins among Spanish colonizers in Mexico City. Colonizers invented and used a variety of coins, in part by diluting gold into different alloys to make up for the scarcity of gold that they found in the colonies. Thus, they challenged imperial authority by creating new ways of measuring value and wealth (in this case, by creating more wealth with diluted gold). But when they found that their new coins created problems of conversion and exchange, they appealed to the crown requesting regulations over the minting, value, and use of different coins, thereby strengthening imperial authority.

Cite this Record

Coins and Empire in Sixteenth-Century Mexico. Enrique Rodriguez. Presented at The 82nd Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Washington, DC. 2018 ( tDAR id: 444175)

This Resource is Part of the Following Collections

Spatial Coverage

min long: -107.271; min lat: 18.48 ; max long: -94.087; max lat: 23.161 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 20949