Barcelona Trading Company

Last updated
Royal Barcelona Trading Company
Public company
Industry Trade
Fate Dissolved
Successor Royal Company of the Philippines
Founded1755 (1755)
Defunct1785 (1785)
Area served
Catalonia, Caribbean
Productscotton, cocoa, indigo, brandy, wine, chintz
Total equity 1 million pesos
Share of the Compania de Comercio de Barcelona, issued 23. July 1758 Real Compania de Comercio 1758.jpg
Share of the Compañía de Comercio de Barcelona, issued 23. July 1758

The Royal Barcelona Trading Company to the Indies (Spanish : Real Compañía de Comercio de Barcelona a Indias; Catalan : Companyia de Comerç de Barcelona) also known as the Barcelona Company was a trading company in the 18th century chartered by the Spanish crown, operating from 1755 to 1785, and which had a monopoly on trade to the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo and Margarita. The Company provided a legal framework and a focus for capital which enabled Catalan merchants to break free from the restrictions of the Cadiz monopoly on trade with the Indies, provided skills and contacts that enabled the development of free trade between Catalonia and the Americas to flourish after the Company's demise, and contributed to the development of the textile industry which later became the basis of industrialisation in Catalonia.

Spanish, or Castilian, is a Romance language that originated in the Iberian Peninsula and today has over 450 million native speakers in Spain, the Americas and a small part of Africa. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Catalan language Romance language

Catalan is a Western Romance language derived from Vulgar Latin and named after the medieval Principality of Catalonia, in northeastern modern Spain. It is the only official language of Andorra, and a co-official language of the Spanish autonomous communities of Catalonia, the Balearic Islands and Valencia. It also has semi-official status in the Italian comune of Alghero. It is also spoken in the eastern strip of Aragon, in some villages of the region of Murcia called Carche and in the Pyrénées-Orientales department of France. These territories are often called Països Catalans or "Catalan Countries".

Caribbean Region to the center-east of America composed of many islands / coastal regions surrounding the Caribbean Sea

The Caribbean is a region of the Americas that consists of the Caribbean Sea, its islands and the surrounding coasts. The region is southeast of the Gulf of Mexico and the North American mainland, east of Central America, and north of South America.


Historical context

Since 1503, under the Habsburg kings, all trade with America had been conducted through the port of Seville (and after 1717, Cádiz) under a monopoly that prevented other cities, including Barcelona, from trade with the Americas, or the Indies as they were known.

Seville Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Seville is a Spanish city, the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. It is situated on the lower reaches of the River Guadalquivir, in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula. Seville has a municipal population of about 690,000 as of 2016, and a metropolitan population of about 1.5 million, making it the largest city in Andalusia, the fourth-largest city in Spain and the 30th most populous municipality in the European Union. Its old town, with an area of 4 square kilometres (2 sq mi), contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies. The Seville harbour, located about 80 kilometres from the Atlantic Ocean, is the only river port in Spain. Seville experiences high temperatures in the Summer, with daily maximums routinely above 35 °C (95 °F) in July and August.

Cádiz Municipality in Andalusia, Spain

Cádiz is a city and port in southwestern Spain. It is the capital of the Province of Cádiz, one of eight which make up the autonomous community of Andalusia.

Barcelona City and municipality in Catalonia

Barcelona is a city in Spain. It is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Catalonia, as well as the second most populous municipality of Spain. With a population of 1.6 million within city limits, its urban area extends to numerous neighbouring municipalities within the Province of Barcelona and is home to around 4.8 million people, making it the sixth most populous urban area in the European Union after Paris, London, Madrid, the Ruhr area and Milan. It is one of the largest metropolises on the Mediterranean Sea, located on the coast between the mouths of the rivers Llobregat and Besòs, and bounded to the west by the Serra de Collserola mountain range, the tallest peak of which is 512 metres high.

Tentatively by the late 17th century Catalan goods had reached the Indies via the Spanish coastal trade to Cádiz and this grew slowly until by the mid 1740s entire ships were beginning to be fitted out in Barcelona for transatlantic commerce. [1] :104

The Barcelona Company was one of a number of chartered companies established by the Bourbon crown in the 18th century, part of the larger Bourbon Reforms, with the intention to reform Spanish commerce with the Americas, [1] :100 [2] to integrate the economies at the peripheries of the American Empire and to reduce English and French piracy and contraband in the Eastern Caribbean. [3]

Chartered company Company created to colonize and trade

A chartered company is an association with investors or shareholders and incorporated and granted rights by royal charter for the purpose of trade, exploration, and colonization, many times the companies were illegal.

Bourbon Reforms set of economic and political legislation promulgated by the Spanish Crown under various kings of the House of Bourbon, mainly in the 18th century

The Bourbon Reforms consisted of political legislation promulgated by the Spanish Crown under various kings of the House of Bourbon, mainly in the 18th century. The strengthening of the crown's power with clear lines of authority to officials contrasted to the complex system of government that evolved under the Habsburg monarchs. In particular, the crown pursued state supremacy over the Catholic Church, resulting in the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1767 as well as an attempt to abolish ecclesiastical privilege.

These new companies enjoyed commercial privileges (so sometimes called 'Privileged Companies' in Spanish) and included the Caracas Company, the Honduras Company, the Seville Company and the Havana Company. They strongly resembled the English, Dutch and French trading companies of the 17th century. [4] Trading companies were not the only concerns with royal privileges chartered at this time; a number of royal factories  [ es ] were also established.

Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas company

The Royal Guipuzcoan Company of Caracas was a Spanish Basque trading company in the 18th century, operating from 1728 to 1785, which had a monopoly on Venezuelan trade. It was renamed in 1785 the Royal Philippine Company.


The Barcelona Trading Company was granted a monopoly on trade to the Caribbean islands of Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo and Margarita as well as being allowed ten annual visits to Guatemala and Honduras, trade with Cumaná (north eastern Venezuela) and some limited trading with Havana. [5] [1] :104

Puerto Rico Unincorporated territory of the United States

Puerto Rico, officially the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and briefly called Porto Rico, is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the northeast Caribbean Sea, approximately 1,000 miles (1,600 km) southeast of Miami, Florida.

Hispaniola Caribbean island divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Most populous and second-largest island in the West Indies.

Hispaniola is an island in the Caribbean archipelago known as the Greater Antilles. It is the most populous island in the West Indies and the region's second largest after Cuba.

Margarita Island island in Venezuela

Margarita Island is the largest island in the Venezuelan state of Nueva Esparta, situated off the northeastern coast of the country, in the Caribbean Sea. The capital city of Nueva Esparta, La Asunción, is located on the island. Primary industries are tourism, fishing and construction.

The Company exported principally wine and brandy and increasingly chintz (or printed calico Spanish : indianas) as this industry grew in Barcelona. Imported products included raw cotton, indigo, brazilwood, cocoa, tobacco, sugar amongst others. [1] :105

The raw cotton and dyes assisted in the production of chintz that was then reexported to the Americas as well as the domestic (Spanish peninsula) market. As Ringrose says, [1] :105

Unlike virtually all of the other commercial connections being developed, this one promised the sort of economic interdependence between peninsular industry and colonial markets and raw materials that was the ideal of mercantilist economic reformers.


In 1778, King Charles III signed the 'Decree of Free Trade' between Spain and the Americas effectively removing the company's monopoly. The company was further weakened by losing half its ships through the Spanish involvement in the American Revolutionary War. [1] :105 The company was dissolved between 1784 and 1785 and merged with the Caracas Company to form the Royal Philippine Company. [5]


The Company provided a legal framework and a vehicle for the concentration of capital necessary to break free of the Cadiz monopoly (which had proven difficult to surmount through the action of individual merchants) and created the conditions that would later allow free trade with the colonies to flourish., [1] :104 [6] :13–15

These conditions included the focus of a large part of the economic activity of the principality of Catalonia upon trade with the Americas, the integration of the economy with that of the colonies [1] and the building a base of knowledge, skill and commercial contacts amongst merchants who came to consider an Atlantic voyage as an everyday occurrence. [6] :12

The trade with the Americas also encouraged and fed the already growing industry of calico print production [7] and, much later, spinning and weaving of cotton cloth (the Royal Spinning Company  [ es ] was established in Barcelona in 1772 to spin American raw cotton [8] :51). The textile industry became the basis of industrialisation in Catalonia in the 19th century, [9] although to what extent colonial trade contributed to the industry's growth, there is some debate. [10]

In contrast to the greater part of the American empire which achieved independence from Spain in the first decades of the 19th century, Cuba, Santo Domingo and Puerto Rico were amongst those few possessions that remained within the empire. Consequently, the trading relationships with Catalonia continued to build upon those established by the Barcelona Company (Antilles trade with all Spanish ports rising 300% between 1850 and 1890 [1] :133,145) until these territories were finally lost in the Spanish–American War of 1898.

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  7. Martínez Shaw, Carlos (1974). "Los orígenes de la industria algodonera catalana y el comercio colonial" [The origins of the Catalan cotton industry and trade]. In Nadal, Jordi; Tortella, Gabriel (eds.). Agricultura, comercio colonial y crecimiento económico en la España contemporanea[Agriculture, colonial trade and economic growth in contemporary Spain] (in Spanish). Barcelona. pp. 243–267. ISBN   8434465043.
  8. Nadal i Oller, Jordi (2003). Atlas de la industrialización de España, 1750–2000[Atlas of Spanish industrialisation, 1750–2000] (in Spanish). p. 51. ISBN   848432382X.
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