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An Atlantic approach to the history of early American trade challenges traditional British opinions and, indeed, much Anglo-American scholarship regarding the commercial prospects of the new United States. Contemporary Spanish observations, in contrast to the more familiar and widely cited ones in English, correctly predicted the post-Revolutionary War integration of American and Spanish imperial markets. As political, diplomatic, and economic upheavals broke down the old mercantilist system, U.S. merchants quickly succeeded in exploiting their comparative advantage in the expanding Atlantic economy. The debate over the "decline" of the British West Indies is amplified by examining the concurrent "rise" of the Spanish West Indies, particularly Cuba, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

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The President and Fellows of Harvard College

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Business History Review

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