Bourbon Reforms


The Bourbon reforms were a set of economic and political laws promulgated by the Spanish Crown and under the orders of various kings of the House of Bourbon , mainly in the 18th century. The strengthening of the power of the crown with clear lines of authority for officials contrasted with the complex system of government that developed under the Habsburg monarchs . In particular, the crown pursued the supremacy of the state over the ChurchCatholic, which resulted in the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1767, as well as the attempt to abolish ecclesiastical privilege.

  • When was it:  During the 18th century
  • Where was it: Viceroyalty of New Spain

What were the Bourbon reforms?

They were a series of changes in the administration applied by the members of the Bourbon monarchy and that sought to change the internal situation of the peninsula and its relations with the overseas provinces to create a new conception of the State assuming the direction of Spanish power.


What did they consist of?

The Bourbon reforms consisted of a series of changes that were introduced by the monarchs of the Bourbon dynasty  of the Spanish Crown during the 18th century, and that focused on economic , political and administrative matters , which were applied in the peninsular territory and in its overseas possessions both for the metropolis and for all its colonies . The reforms began with Felipe V, continued with Fernando VI and were developed by Carlos III.


What were the main Bourbon reforms

The main Bourbon reforms that emerged were the following:

At the military level, it was planned to create a strong navy so as not to depend on other powers. The war expenses were high and the army had a higher hierarchy .

Renewal of the bureaucracy to achieve a professional bureaucracy appointing military and civilians , who were evaluated periodically. A fixed salary was established instead of bonuses .

The figure of the Mayor was a key piece to represent the new order and the municipalities were applied throughout Spain and America to improve control of tax collection . The mayors had the responsibility of collecting taxes and directing the army and the economy of the region.

Increased tax collection of the treasury through a professional and salaried bureaucracy , which allowed increasing tax revenues by raising the economy of the crown. The mining industry and exports were improved .

The reactivation of silver mining that managed to overcome the depression through new discoveries, tax incentives and credits.

The power of the church was greater and complete obedience was required. The ecclesiastical affairs were under the orders of the king and some were clerical were eliminated, reinforcing the control of the tithe .

The expulsion of the Jesuits by order of Carlos III which demonstrated the strong imposition of the crown within the church.


The main characteristics of the Bourbon reforms wereThey sought to have control over the American colonies .

  • The crown obtained resources through exploitation .
  • The prohibitions for the Creoles were accentuated and they could not participate in political or ecclesiastical commands.
  • The army was professionalized .
  • New Spain was divided into municipalities.
  • The political power of the viceroy was diminished .


The Bourbon reforms emerged as a need to free trade and open new ports to improve foreign trade . It seeks to promote the extraction and processing of silver by establishing the mining college and the court of mines. Another cause was the expulsion of the Jesuits from the territories of the Spanish empire since they were considered disobedient to the empire.

Objectives of the Bourbon reforms

The objectives of the Bourbon reforms were as follows:

  • Recover Spain’s hegemony worldwide.
  • Optimize all the profits that the colonies had.
  • Consolidate the absolute power of the king to subdue the Creole groups.
  • Make improvements in the administration of the colonies to increase the collection of taxes.
  • Neutralize and eliminate the power that the Creoles had .
  • Impose the power of the Catholic Church .
  • End the power of the corregidores and reduce the power of the viceroy of Peru.
  • Encourage Spanish industry and commerce .


Bourbon economic reforms succeeded in increasing production , trade, and royal income , while undermining the sense of loyalty and fidelity of the elite and Creole subordinates to the Crown. It was possible to increase production in mining and agriculture in general , with the creation of more onerous regimes of production and work for settlers and slaves.

An administrative reform was created in the 1760s by creating a new bureaucracy called the intendancy, which was a kind of regional government in charge of controlling tax collection, directing troops, and boosting the regional economy.

The number of soldiers and the number of officers in charge, who were career professionals and peninsular Spaniards, were increased. The military reforms failed to strengthen the ties between Spain and the American colonies, as the Creoles ended up playing a significant role in the independence revolution in Spanish America .


Among the advantages that were obtained with the reforms are:

  • Trade was liberated and new trading ports were opened .
  • The extraction and processing of silver was promoted .
  • Yes they expelled the Jesuits .
  • Spain became the world’s leading silver producer and exporter .
  • The economy of the crown was increased.


Among the main disadvantages we mention:

  • The ability to accumulate gold and silver was lost .
  • The cabildos lost their power and were replaced by Spanish.
  • New taxes were created for the American population.
  • There was discontent among the Spanish Americans and they demonstrated it with wars and rebellions against Spain.

Protagonists of the Bourbon reforms

The main protagonists of the inclusion of the Bourbon reforms were the Bourbon monarchs of the Spanish Crown, Felipe V , Fernando V I and, mainly Carlos III .


Their importance lies in the fact that they affected the economy , politics and administration in the Latin American regions, but they increased the economy of the Spanish crown. They sought to increase the income of the crown through taxes , regain the power of the crown over America and implement the viceroyalty.

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