Between 1729–87 several trading companies were established on the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish Empire was in decline, compared to the thriving Portuguese Empire. The French Bourbon royal family, who were asserting their claim to the Spanish throne, were determined to revive Spain’s flagging economy by setting up trading companies to stimulate trade links between Spain and its colonies in Cuba and Venezuela. The Guipúzcoa Company was the only successful Spanish enterprise in this region. It built ships for the Spanish government and traded in Havana and Caracas. It was closed down in 1784 after a revolt against its ‘high-handed methods’. Spain’s ‘Havana Company’ attempted to exploit the market in slave-trading by importing slaves to the expanding sugar plantations in Cuba. This was not a particularly lucrative venture; in contrast, the Portuguese public-private companies – Maranhão and Pernambuco and Paraíba – were prospering from the North Atlantic slave trade and the trade in Brazilian gold and diamonds, first mined in the early 1700s.
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