Trade and Investment

In this page we are providing a short selection of evidence-based information about Trade and Investment in the context of the Hispanic-Anglosphere, mainly in relation to the activities of individuals, networks and communities.


This paper deals with Anglo-Spanish trade and finances for the period circa 1810-1850. It concentrates on the business activities of a London merchant bank [Huth & Co. or Huth, established by Frederick Huth (1777-1864)] with Spain during this period by paying special attention to the support given by Huth to the many bilateral trades between Spain and the British Isles in which the company participated. It also focuses on the support given by Huth to much trade in and out of Spanish ports but which did not go through British ports. This overall support included the provision of credit facilities, exchange rate brokerage, insurance services and commercial intelligence. In addition, the article covers the links between Huth and the Spanish crown, thanks to which the bank became an important conduit of Spanish investments in American securities before 1850. Huth was also the paymaster abroad for the Spanish state. In view of Huth’s close connections to the Spanish economy during this period, it is perhaps surprising that this is the first study of this «Spanish» house in London.

This article is about the commercial and financial activities of a global merchant banker and its impact on Chile during the 1820s-1850s. Huth & Co. of London, a business started in the English capital in 1809 subsequently opened branch houses in Chile and Peru during the mid-1820s (styled Huth, Coit & Co. and later on Huth, Gruning & Co.). The period covered by this article is undoubtedly a crucial era in international business because it witnessed the emergence of a truly global economy. Nonetheless, little has been written about it, and economic historians dealing with international business – including multinational traders and merchant bankers, have been mainly concerned with the post-1870s epoch. Merchant-bankers emerged in London from the mid-1820s onwards, and up to the mid-nineteenth century (the period covered by this paper) they remained a select group of no more than 15 firms. The small number of firms operating in this sector was due to two important barriers to entry: merchant-bankers needed a large capital and a sound international reputation.Within this first-rate group, during the first half of the nineteenth century Huth & Co. ranked immediately below the two leading merchant-bankers of the British market at that time: Baring Brothers and Rothschild & Sons. In turn, no other merchant-banker of the period opened branches in Chile, although it may be argued that the merchant house of Antony Gibbs & Son (also of London), which opened branches in Chile and Peru during the same period, would be an exception. Yet, before the 1840s, Gibbs & Sons would not have been classified as merchant-bankers on account of their limited capital. (…)

Before the southern Spanish-American republics gained their independence in the second decade of the nineteenth century, and despite the restrictions imposed by the Spanish upon their American dominions, many British vessels sailed along the southern coasts of Argentina and Chile. These were mainly whalers, sealers, smugglers and naval vessels charting the coasts. Most of these ships were less than 200 tons. Unsurprisingly, many were wrecked due to weather that was frequently ferocious, particularly the extreme variations in winds and currents when attempting to round Cape Horn or to engage in sealing in the Straits of Magellan. The likelihood of shipwreck south of the Biobío River in the Chilean province of Concepción or south of the Salado River on the eastern flank of the Andes (south of Buenos Aires) was quite high. In addition to the risk of shipwreck in a cold and remote land and the considerable possibility of loss of life, any British seaman shipwrecked in this area before 1810 ran the risk of encountering the indigenous peoples of the independent “Indian” dominions south of the Biobío-Salado line. The Mapuche (or Araucanians) and many other native groups, including the Pehuenche, Puelche, Huilliche, Chonos, Alacalufes and Tehuelche, still controlled a vast area of land and waterways which were never conquered by the Spanish (see figure 1). This territory is often referred to in the historical literature as “Indian territory,” to which could be added the adjective “Independent.” Before 1810, shipwrecked British seamen landing in these independent “Indian” realms were obliged to take their chances. The reasons were clear. First and most important, there were no diplomatic relations between England and the native people of Araucania, Pampas, Patagonia or Tierra del Fuego. Furthermore, the Britons who were shipwrecked were commonly engaged in illegal trade at a time when Spain claimed sovereignty over all of southern South America. The British government could not contact the Mapuche, Chonos, Tehuelche or any other tribal group directly on behalf of these stranded seamen, nor could it ask the Spanish authorities to intercede. In short, this was not an encouraging situation for stranded seamen. This situation began to change after both Chile and the River Plate provinces gained their independence – Britain was allowed to trade legally with the new republics and British subjects were permitted to settle in southern South America. These developments made it possible for Britain to request the intervention of the appropriate authorities to assist a British subject stranded in the independent “Indian” dominions. In 1823, Britain recognized the independence of the South American republics and appointed the first consuls to Chile and Buenos Aires.4 In a related, albeit less familiar development, through their consuls appointed in Chile, from the mid-1820s the British Foreign Office established direct contacts with the Mapuche to try to guarantee the safe return of any British seaman shipwrecked in Mapuche territory. These consular contacts between the Foreign Office and Mapuche caciques have not been the subject of any in-depth study. Thus, this article sheds new light on the history of the Mapuche during the 1820s and 1830s, a much-neglected period for this nation as well as for the consular history of Britain, in particular its relationship with the native peoples of the Americas. (…)