Doing Things with Money in Early Modern Spain

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Early Modern Spanish society lived in a world saturated with all kinds of business and concerns about money. Everyone adopted habits of thought associated trade. Profit and loss became the language for assessing material, social, private, and spiritual matters. Mercantile culture merged business and cultural registers to the extent than adopting and reshaping the discourse of commerce became the concern of literature.







Elvira L Vilches

Associate Professor of Romance Studies

My teaching and research interests include early modern Spanish and Colonial Latin American cultural history and literature. My scholarship explores early Iberian capitalism in a new way. It studies the interface of practitioner knowledge, economic thought and ideologies, and cultural associations. 

Most recent undergrad and graduate courses include Cervantes and Money, The Baroque, Don Quixote for Beginners, Fictitious Truths, Cervantes and the Ethics of Migration, and Global Humanities.  

 I study how economics, science, and culture share a universe in the writing practices of Spanish Renaissance scholars and authors that shaped broader secular registers grappling with the new economic experiences of colonial wealth and global capitalism. I analyze how mercantile technologies, business writing, and various segments of print culture naturalized capitalism by informing the production of economic knowledge as social practice.

This inquiry into economic and intellectual history through the lenses of critical political economy and literary criticism also expands to the understanding the ways in which economic activities are influenced by moral-political norms and sentiments

Recent publications explore shifting value systems in the Iberian Atlantic; money and public trust; the experiences of financial crisis past and present; as well as monetary practices and the spread of numeracy. My book New World Gold: Monetary Disorders and Cultural Anxiety in Early Modern Spain (Chicago University Press, 2010; was the winner  of Choice List of Outstanding Books 2011).

My research has been supported by the The National Endowment for Humanities, the American Council of Learned Societies, The John Carter Brown Library, The Kluge Center, and the Folger Research Institute.

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