This volume focuses on Latin America, since it was mainly there that Europeans (or their colonial descendants) actually engaged in mining in the 16th-19th centuries; elsewhere they traded metals mined by others. The principal metals produced, and in prodigious quantities, were silver, in the Spanish colonies, and gold, mainly in Brazil in the 18th century. These articles analyse the volume and pattern of production and the forms of labour found in mining. Particular attention is given to the technologies of extraction and refining, notably the adoption of the mercury amalgamation process: this had a major impact, driving down silver production costs; because the mercury mines were a royal monopoly, it also handed control to the Spanish crown.

Contents: Introduction; Wangara, Akan and Portuguese in the 15th and 16th centuries, Ivor Wilks; Aboriginal metallurgy and metalworking in Spanish America: a brief overview, Robert C. West; Early silver mining in New Spain, 1531-1555, Robert C. West; Technological change in Potosí: the silver boom of the 1570s, Peter Bakewell; Bartolomé de Medina: the patio process and the 16th-century silver crisis, Alan Probert; Forced and free labour in late colonial Potosí, Enrique Tandeter; Notes on the Mexican silver mining industry in the 1590’s, Peter Bakewell; Wages, ore sharing, and peasant agriculture: labour in Oruro’s silver mines, 1607-1720, Ann Zulawski; Long-term silver mining trends in Spanish America: a comparative analysis of Peru and Mexico, Richard L. Garner; The Mexican mining industry in the 18th century, John H. Coatsworth; Silver production in the viceroyalty of Peru, 1776-1824, John Fisher; Mexican silver mining in the 18th century: the revival of Zacatecas, D. A. Brading; Colonial Brazil: the gold cycle, c. 1690-1750, A.J.R. Russell-Wood; Index.