The imperial state and its agents

(axis 1)


Head: Jean-Philippe Luis
Professor at the University of Clermont-Ferrand

A quantitative approach to the presence of the administrative machinery 

This study proposes an assessment of the number of agents of the State and how these developed in each territory, considering the relative weight of each service. Where possible we shall identify the part comprising permanent employees ("royal appointments" in the Spanish empire) and the part comprising what nowadays we would call contract personnel. The evolution of these relative weights will be tracked by examining key moments—in the case of the Spanish territories stemming from the universal monarchy, at the end of the Ancien Régime, in the 1860s, then on the eve of their independence. The findings will be reworked into a map showing the presence of the administrative machinery in as much detail as possible, something that has never been done before. 
The study will also look at the presence of employees drawn from local social elites. For instance, in the Portuguese Indies, Christian local elites (of the Kshastriya and Brahmin castes) profited from the creation of a secondary school and a medical college by placing themselves at the head of all levels in the administration, finding placements in the administrations of the major capitals of British India, and even making up for the shortages of qualified colonial personnel in the other territories of the crown, particularly Mozambique, Timor and Macao. In the Spanish Antilles, there are numerous indications of a growing proportion of officials of local origin, although these have yet to be confirmed and evaluated. 

A study of overseas ministries 

Until 1863, the Spanish colonies were in the charge of central bodies with ceaselessly-changing titles: Secretaría del Despacho de la Gobernación del Reino para Ultramar, Ministerio Universal de Indias, Secretaría del Despacho de Marina, Comercio y Gobernación de Ultramar, Dirección General de Ultramar reporting to the Prime Minister, not counting brief periods in which the different competences were distributed among the respective metropolitan ministries. In practice, colonial policy was to a large extent left to the Capitanías Generales. 
The purpose of the creation of the Overseas Ministry in Spain in 1863 was to work towards "unity of thought and system" [unidad de pensamiento y sistema] in metropolitan colonial policy, and indirectly to achieve greater control over the island administrations. Although the governors-general continued to enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy, and although certain essential areas of authority (Estado, Guerra and Marina) were not assigned to the Ministry, the structure that was adopted closely mirrored that of the State Administration, on a smaller scale. 
Our study falls into two parts. The first is a prosopographical survey of the Spanish overseas possessions, for which purpose we already have a solid institutional study from which to work. The focus will be on the Ministry's functionaries between the mid-1880s and the mid-1890s. 
The second part deals with the fate of these employees after independence in 1898. The signing of the Treaty of Paris in December 1898 sounded the knell for Spanish sovereignty over Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines. A few months later (Royal Decree of 25 March 1899), the Overseas Ministry was abolished. In terms of personnel, the winding-up of the essential part of the empire actually posed two pressing problems that have never been studied: the repatriation of hundreds of officials posted in the colonies, and the possible relocation of both the latter and the Ministry's employees in metropolitan ministries.
In the case of the Portuguese empire, the Ministerio da marinha e ultramar, created in the late 19th century, became the Ministerio da Marinha e Colonias in 1910. With Brazil's independence in 1822 and Portugal's inability to develop its territories in the Indian Ocean during the 19th century, Portuguese India and Macao were gradually reduced to appendages of the the main British economic poles of the period: namely Bombay and Hong Kong. In Asia, enclaves surviving in an India that had been annexed and then colonised by the British from 1802 on, 19th-century Portuguese India were forced at once to find a place in a British India under construction (roads, mail, shipping lines, industrialisation) and to deal with national shifts in its administrative policy.

Project members :

Jean Philippe Luis
Mimoun Aziza
María Fernanda Bicalho
Ernestine Carreira
Gonzalo Álvarez Chillida
Dominique Goncalves
Luis de Oliveira
Inés Roldán