Danubius International Conferences, 3rd International Conference The Danube - Axis of European Identity

The Lower Danube and the Rio de la Plata Region in the Modern Age. Contrasted Perspectives on their Economic and Political Evolution

George Enache
Last modified: 2013-06-13



Ştefan Zeletin’s studies regarding the beginning of capitalism and the emergence of the bourgeoisie in the Romanian area generated ample controversies at the time of their publications, and they were ignored during the Communist times, as few historians had the courage to valorise ideas that did not correspond to the national-communism paradigm related to the development in Romania during the modern period.

One of Zeletin’s stakes was to prove that the economic and political evolution of the Romanian area was the results of being entrained, at the beginning of the 19th century, in the great world trade, who symbol and engine was the British Empire. From this perspective, Zeletin defended a different attitude from other Romanian historians, sociologists or economists, by underlining the major historical role of Great Britain for the Romanian history in the first half of the 19th century and by a positive valuation, from an ampler historical perspective, of the complex socio-economic processes from the Romanian society, processes that, in most cases, are negatively evaluated.

Zeletin’s opinions can be easily understood if one compares the Romanian realities with those from South America, from the area of the La Plata River (Argentine, Uruguay). Both regions had a similar status in the world economy at the beginning and middle of the 19th century, being neutral economic zone, supplied of agricultural products for the great powers, which affirmed on an international plan benefiting from the rivalries between the great powers.

If at the beginning the fact that these backward areas were connected by trade to a capitalist power such as Great Britain was a good one, from the second half of the 19th century this was a burden, out of which they wanted to escape through protectionism and the creation of a national industry. Not accidentally, Mihail Manoilescu’s works were highly successful in Latin America.

In the same time, one of the aims of this paper is to stress the importance of the Romanian ports of Galaţi and Brăila for the Romanian history of the 19th century, taking into account the example of two famous South American ports: Buenos Aires and Montevideo.