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Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain, Volume 2

A Critical Edition

Edited and with an Introduction by Vera M. Kutzinski and Ottmar Ette
Volume 2 of this critical edition includes the translation of Volumes 3 and 4 of the second, revised French edition of Alexander von Humboldt’s Essai politique sur le royaume de de Nouvelle Espagne from 1825 to 1827 as well as notes, supplements, indexes, and more.
Alexander von Humboldt was the most celebrated modern chronicler of North and South America and the Caribbean, and this translation of his essay on New Spain—the first modern regional economic and political geography—covers his travels across today’s Mexico in 1803–1804. The work canvases natural-scientific and cultural-scientific objects alike, combining the results of fieldwork with archival research and expert testimony.
To show how people, plants, animals, goods, and ideas moved across the globe, Humboldt wrote in a variety of styles, bending and reshaping familiar writerly conventions to keep readers attentive to new inputs. Above all, he wanted his readers to be open-minded when confronted with cultural and other differences in the Americas. Fueled by his comparative global perspective on politics, economics, and science, he used his writing to support Latin American independence and condemn slavery and other forms of colonial exploitation. It is these voluminous and innovative writings on the New World that made Humboldt the undisputed father of modern geography, early American studies, transatlantic cultural history, and environmental studies.
This two-volume critical edition—the third installment in the Alexander von Humboldt in English series—is based on the full text, including all footnotes, tables, and maps, of the second, revised French edition of Essai politique sur le royaume de de Nouvelle Espagne from 1825 to 1827, which has never been translated into English before. Extensive annotations and full-color atlases are available on the series website.

See a website for the book series, with additional material.

560 pages | 180 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2019

Alexander von Humboldt in English

Earth Sciences: History of Earth Sciences

Geography: Cultural and Historical Geography, Environmental Geography

History: American History

History of Science


"Scholars and students alike owe a debt of gratitude to academics like Kutzinski [and] Ette. . . who draw on research and analytical and linguistic skills to open up access to resources of significant figures in the histories of science and cartography. With full access to the text of the Political History on the Kingdom of New Spain and Humboldt’s manuscript drawings from his American travel diaries, contemporary scholars may voyage as armchair travellers and advance research projects as they rest on the erudition and talents of literary scholars who have studied Alexander von Humboldt and made his oeuvre accessible in form and content to a new generation."

Imago Mundi

"Vera Kutzinski and Ottmar Ette’s Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain: A Critical Edition, a two-volume translation of Humboldt’s Political Essay, corrects what they label as the 'inaccuracies, capricious alterations, and misrepresentations' in John Black’s 1811 English-language edition. Kutzinski and Ette add a new edition translated from the 1825 second revised French edition (1: p. ix). Published seventeen years later, this second edition captures a shifting society bridging colonial concerns to a republican counterpart."


"This superb new critical edition of Humboldt’s seminal work on Mexico is long overdue. It will become the authoritative edition of the Essai politique. The translators have succeeded in fashioning a text that is alert to the stylistic peculiarities of the original while being readable, clear, and in idiomatic English. This is quite a feat, given the complexity of Humboldt’s phrasing and the hybridity of his writing."

Alison E. Martin, Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz/Germersheim

"An avid reader of Humboldt in French, Thomas Jefferson understood that the histories of New Spain (today’s Mexico) and the nascent United States would forever be intertwined. Now, thanks to the extraordinary translating and editing of Kutzinski, Ette, and their team, English-language readers can share Humboldt’s insights in a tour de force translation that is itself Humboldtian in scope."

Neil Safier, the John Carter Brown Library

"This edition of Humboldt’s Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain aims to make the traveler’s works known to an English-speaking public. In their new edition, the translators have created an English text that avoids unnecessary modernizations and maintains Humboldt’s deliberately created structure. Vera Kutzinski and Ottmar Ette’s informative and clear introduction reflects the latest in Humboldt research and will help orient readers interested in Humboldt’s American expedition, particularly in his work on Mexico, which includes the history of the indigenous peoples. This work is an outstanding contribution to current international Humboldt scholarship."

Ingo Schwarz, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

"Here, at last, is the monumental study of Mexican North America on the brink of independence that changed history and made Humboldt famous. The inimitable Humboldt ranges from Chile to Alaska to the future Panama Canal; from cartography and climate to human migration and tropical disease; from indigenous agriculture to slave plantations; from bananas and manioc to cotton and sugar; from whales and sea otters to cigars, coins, and gunpowder; from Aztec floating gardens to Spanish hydraulic engineering; and from Mexican silver mines to their world-shaking impact on global capitalism—until it seems nothing escapes his probing analysis and often scathing critique. This painstaking, definitive translation of Humboldt’s foundational work, a monument of scientific and humanist investigation into structures of power, conquest, empire, and resistance, belongs on the shelf of every serious scholar of the Americas and every student of modernity. That Humboldt’s great vision was corrupted and betrayed makes this work all the more important for our time."

Laura Dassow Walls, The Passage to Cosmos: Alexander von Humboldt and the Shaping of America

"This new translation of Humboldt’s Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain is timely, given the growing interest in one of Europe’s last polymaths. It brings to our attention an indispensable but often overlooked opus, which Humboldt had already conceived during his stay in Mexico in 1803–1804. The Essay offers no less than an embarrassment of riches. Humboldt manages to combine in-depth explorations and statistical analyses of Spain’s most prosperous colonial territory with wide-angle views and surprising comparisons. The man from Prussia demonstrates his sensitivity toward the indigenous traditions of the Americas and the variety of natural and cultural spaces he enters, indefatigably absorbing every bit of information. Connecting the dots—between agriculture, silver mining, and transoceanic trade; between climate and plant growth; between the history of the brutal colonization and demographic developments—is Humboldt’s forte. This capacity and Humboldt’s open-mindedness deserve our recognition today. This beautiful new edition will serve not only as an illustration of how modern-style political geography came into existence but also as guide to the multifaceted thinking of a traveler and scholar who transcended cultural divides and borders set by hegemonic powers."

Andreas W. Daum, State University of New York at Buffalo

Table of Contents


X Plants That Furnish Raw Materials for Manufacturing and for Trade—Raising Livestock—Fishing—Agricultural Yield Estimated According to the Amount of the Tithes.

XI State of the Mining of New Spain—Gold and Steel Production—Average Wealth in Ore—Amount of Mercury Consumed Annually in the Amalgamation Process—Amount of Precious Metals That Have Flowed from the One Continent to the Other Since the Conquest of Mexico.

General Tableau of the Mines of New Spain
I. Intendancy of Guanajuato
II. Intendancy of Zacatecas
III. Intendancy of San Luis Potosí
IV. Intendancy of Mexico City
V. Intendancy of Guadalajara
VI. Intendancy of Durango
VII. Intendancy of Sonora
VIII. Intendancy of Valladolid
IX. Intendancy of Oaxaca
X. Intendancy of Puebla
XI. Intendancy of Veracruz
XII. Old California

Output of the Mining District of Guanajuato
Comparative Tableau of the Mines of the Americas and Europe


BOOK V. The State of Manufacturing and Trade in New Spain

XII The Manufacturing Industry—Cottons—Woolens—Cigars—Soda and Soap—Gunpowder—Coins—The Exchange of Products—Trade in the Interior—Roads—External Trade through Veracruz and Acapulco—Obstacles to This Trade—Yellow Fever.

Tableau I: Veracruz Trade Balances in 1802
A. Spain’s Imports in Mexico, in Agricultural Products and Products of Domestic Industry
B. Spanish Imports in Mexico, in Agricultural Products and Products from Foreign Industry
C. America’s Imports (Spanish Colonies) from Mexico
D. Mexican Exports to Spain
E. Mexican Exports to Other Parts of Spanish America
Results: Veracruz Trade Balance in 1802

Tableau II: Trade Balance of Veracruz in 1803
A. Imports of National Agricultural Products from Spain to Mexico
B. Imports of Products of National Industry from Spain to Mexico
C. Imports of Agricultural Products and Products of Foreign Industries from Spain to Mexico
D. Imports from America (Spanish Colonies) to Mexico
E. Exports from Mexico to Spain
F. Exports from Mexico to Other Parts of Spanish America
Results: Veracruz Trade Balances in 1803

Veracruz Trade in 1804

From the Port of Alvarado

From the Port of Veracruz

Total Trade Balance of Veracruz, from 1796 to 1820

Tableau I: Gross Yield from the National Revenue of New Spain

Tableau II
A. Value of Precious Metals Sent on Behalf of the Crown from Veracruz to Spain
B. Amount of Piasters Sent from Veracruz to Cádiz and to the Antilles on Behalf of the Crown
C. Export of Precious Metals from Veracruz to Havana, Puerto Rico, and Louisiana, as Much on Behalf of the Crown (as Situados) as by Individuals

Tableau III: Amount of Piasters Exported from Veracruz to Spain and the Spanish Colonies, as Much on Behalf of the Crown as by Individuals



Imports and Exports from the Spanish Colonies of the New Continent

Meteorological and Nosographic Table of Veracruz (Latitude 19°11′52″) on the Centigrade Thermometer

The State of Hospitals in Veracruz in 1806

Average Temperature in Veracruz (Centigrade Thermometer)

BOOK VI. State Revenue—Military Defense

XIII The Current Revenue of the Kingdom of New Spain—Its Gradual Increase since the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century—Sources of Public Revenue.

Comparative Tableau of the Revenue of New Spain

XIV Collection Costs—Public Expenses—Situados—The Net Product Deposited in the Royal Treasury in Madrid—The State of the Military—National Defense—Final Summary.

Budget of the Public Revenue of New Spain for 1803

The Finances of the Spanish Monarchy in 1804

Comparative Tableau for 1804
I. General Tableau of the Army in 1804
II. Detailed Tableau Representing the Divisions of the Line Troops
III. Detailed Tableau Representing the Divisions of the Military


Note A


Note B
A. Singuilucan
B. Dolores

Note C

Census of the Population of Mexico City, Compiled in September 1820

Census of the Population of Mexico City in 1790
I. Religious Orders (Male)
II. Religious Orders (Female)
III. Lay Persons
IV. Castes
V. Schools for Men
VI. Schools for Girls
VII. Hospitals
VIII. Prisons
IX. Inhabitants of Mexico City by Occupation
X. Summary

Note D

Note E

Note F

Astronomical Positions
Measurements of Elevation
Mining Output

Excerpt from the Will of Hernán Cortés

Geographical and Physical Atlas of the Kingdom of New Spain

Index of Names
Subject Index
Toponym Index

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