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This chapter proposes an initial approach to the universe of the so-called “miners” (mineros) of Potosí during the first great boom in silver production (1569–1610). The term “miners” refers to a heterogeneous group of owners and tenants of mines and mills, who were part of the world of colonial mining labor. Mexican historiography offers enriching orientations to renew studies for the Peruvian case: decades of studies have explored the complex networks of actors involved in the novo-Hispanic mining production, composed of large, medium, and small miners. For Peru, and Potosí in particular, studies on these subjects are scarce and have tended to concentrate on biographical analyses of individuals belonging to the select and self-called group of the “azogueros”, large mine owners with interest in several sectors of the colonial economy. This chapter proposes an approach to this hierarchical and unequal world of miners, which also included women and Indians, during a central period for mining in Potosí, America and globally. It seeks to visualize the great lords of mines and mills, who were part of the complex socio-political and labor dynamics that operated in Potosí, a fundamental center of global silver production during the period.

Open Access
In: Potosí in the Global Silver Age (16th—19th Centuries)
In: Potosí in the Global Silver Age (16th—19th Centuries)
Volume Editors: and
The open access publication of this book has been made possible thanks to the International Institute of Social History – Amsterdam.

Potosí (today Bolivia) was the major supplier for the Spanish Empire and for the world and still today boasts the world's single-richest silver deposit. This book explores the political economy of silver production and circulation illuminating a vital chapter in the history of global capitalism. It travels through geology, sacred spaces, and technical knowledge in the first section; environmental history and labor in the second section; silver flows, the heterogeneous world of mining producers, and their agency in the third; and some of the local, regional, and global impacts of Potosí mining in the fourth section.

The main focus is on the establishment of a complex infrastructure at the site, its major changes over time, and the new human and environmental landscape that emerged for the production of one of the world´s major commodities: silver. Eleven authors from different countries present their most recent research based on years of archival research, providing the readers with cutting-edge scholarship.

Contributors are: Julio Aguilar, James Almeida, Rossana Barragán Romano, Mariano A. Bonialian, Thérèse Bouysse-Cassagne, Kris Lane, Tristan Platt, Renée Raphael, Masaki Sato, Heidi V. Scott, and Paula C. Zagalsky.