By Kenneth M. Setton
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Additional info for Athens in the Middle Ages (Variorum reprints; CS41)
But it also seemingly closes down the range of possible interpretations of the role played by military supply in Spanish development. A good example of the perils of a one-size-fits-a ll approach can be found in the picture of the Spanish case painted by Jan Glete. Although Glete was writing in an era when historians had begun to shrug off a coercion-based interpretation of the relationship between state and warfare, working towards a more fruitful idea of cooperation and coordination, his interpretation of the military supply policy and the construction of the Spanish state was negative, precisely because he considered that Spain strayed away from the supposed path of greater state control.
51 If the Bourbon state had serious difficulties in finding out the price of supplies, there do not seem to be any well-founded grounds for the accusations of overpricing often levelled at the contractors. For example, when Gabriel Arrieta wrote his popular Alphabeto y Cartilla Militar he openly criticized the military entrepreneurs’ supply methods for the ‘gains and profit creamed off’ by them, but he offered no precise figures on what gain or profit might accrue from administration. 52 In all likelihood many criticisms of the contractors, most coming from state administrators, were not based on hard figures of any type, and they argued only on the general conviction that the money paid by the state was a waste for the Royal Exchequer.
In these parallel negotiations between state and military entrepreneurs there was a surprising limit: public opinion. For the whole eighteenth century, but especially in the second half, the state strived to ensure that military supply-contract prices did not increase on previous contracts. Institutional memory acted as the main price regulator, and whenever any new negotiation started, reports were requested on the previous prices. The aim of these backward looks was to justify the mainten ance, reduction, or, in the worst of cases, slight rise in the new price, mindful as they were that the price would finally become public knowledge.