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Spain managed to start up the Manila galleon system in the 1560s, linking the Philippines with Mexico. The Spanish crown used its control of non-free labor in New Spain to extract precious metals. On the other side of the arduous journey, Chinese middlemen took these precious metals in exchange for luxury Chinese goods such as porcelain and silks.

While certainly Spanish elites and the Casa de Contratación benefited, the general effects of this trade breakthrough might not have been so obvious to outsiders. Why would those involved in uninsured imports of luxury Chinese goods publicize their valuable shipments? After all, several galleons were indeed raided. But doubtless the other imperial powers of Europe had great interest in Spain's success at breaking up the Portuguese monopoly on China goods.

Did the Spanish Crown initially seek to keep the galleon system hush-hush? How much time elapsed before the other European states learned about it?

  • Biggest problem for the English and French was the lack of Pacific ports / colonies. Francis Drake had to round the Horn before the Golden Hind (originally Pelican) could raid those galleons in 1577-80. – Pieter Geerkens Aug 2 '19 at 19:37
  • Judging by the answer to your other question, the Santa Anna was sacked by Thomas Cavendish in 1589, so it didn't stay a secret for very long if it was a secret to begin with. – Denis de Bernardy Aug 3 '19 at 6:36
  • @DenisdeBernardy that's 24 years from when the regular galleon operation began. The answer to this question is definitely less. – Aaron Brick Aug 3 '19 at 6:54

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