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Law and Colonial Reform in the 18th Century Spanish World: The Life of Francisco Xavier Gamboa, Mexican Lawyer

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Chapter Summary

The career of Francisco Xavier Gamboa, a Mexican jurist of the eighteenth century, tells a story in which law appears at the center of colonial processes. Born in Guadalajara in 1717 to a Basque immigrant family, Gamboa served as a lawyer for Mexico's elite merchants and silver miners. His most important patrons came from within the powerful Basque community in Mexico. Gamboa's three decades on the bench coincided with what historians have called the Bourbon reforms, an ambitious effort by Spain to bolster its authority in America. Gamboa emerged as the judiciary's most determined champion, defending the broad jurisdiction of the ordinary courts, the autonomy of the Audiencia from political control, and the legal pluralism that fostered judicial discretion. Gamboa's fascinating life illustrates both the fluidity of identity in the eighteenth-century Spanish world and the struggle over the power of law in the final decades of colonial rule.

Keywords: colonial reform; eighteenth-century Spanish world; Francisco Xavier Gamboa; Mexican lawyer



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