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A Bureaucratic Business

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Chapter Summary

Spain seems to have had no moral objection to African slavery. In Portugal, even though the Crown formally had the monopoly of the trade of slaves with Africa, traditionally the control of trade and the collection of taxes had been farmed out to private individuals. In order to fulfill the contract the asentista had to maintain offices in Lisbon, Seville and Madrid for the sale of licences. Manuel Bautista Pérez purchased 280 slave licences with a permitted excess of 20 percent. Accounts of the slave trade in the eighteenth century suggest that barter goods might account for up to two-thirds of the total costs of outfitting a slave-trading ship, with the cost of the crew being only one third. On top of these costs there were notarial fees and bribes to be paid to smooth and complete the bureaucratic process in Seville that cost another 422 pesos.

Keywords: asentista ; bureaucratic business; Manuel Bautista Pérez; Portuguese Crown; slave trade

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