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Spanish Forest Reconnaissance and the Search for Shipbuilding Timber in an Era of Naval Resurgence, 1737-1739

In: Journal of Early Modern History
Author: John T. Wing1
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  • 1 College of Staten Island, The City University of New York
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Between 1737 and 1739, Spanish naval officers conducted reconnaissance missions in nearly all forests within accessible range of naval shipyards to determine their suitability for shipbuilding. Spain’s top naval minister, the Marqués de la Ensenada, oversaw the collection of these reports, which were meant to aid broader state-enhancement reforms. While the practice of Spanish naval forest reconnaissance was not new in this period, the scale and urgency was unprecedented and set in motion a new era of territorialization within Spain, strengthening the crown’s control of natural resources. Crown management of forests, based on more reliable knowledge of their quality, locations, and accessibility, was integral during a period of naval resurgence in the mid-eighteenth century, but remains poorly studied. The article analyzes the motivations, strategies, methods, and findings of numerous forest reconnaissance missions from across Spain during this period.

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