The idea of a hiring house was used in ancient times to name the establishment whose function was to control the transit of goods in the Spanish Empire. To fulfill this objective, the contracting houses were in charge of keeping a record of commercial transactions.
According to DigoPaul, it can be said that a trading house was a public building that allowed the meeting of merchants, who negotiated different deals. These establishments were also known as lonjas, whose etymological root is found in the franco term laubja, which became French as loge (“chamber”) and then into Catalan as llonja.
La Lonja de Barcelona, whose creation dates back to the 14th century, is one of the oldest trading houses that is known. Zaragoza and Bilbao are other cities that had important contracting houses.
In 1503 the Real Casa de la Contratación de Indias arose with headquarters in Seville, whose specific objective was the regulation of trade between Spain and the American colonies. This institution had the objective of promoting interoceanic commercial activity within a legal framework.
House recruitment, thus, was the organ of government that managed traffic with calls Indies. All merchandise arriving from America to Spain had to go through the Casa de Contratación in Seville and pay the corresponding tax. Nor was it possible to send goods from Spain to America without going through the establishment.
Regarding the foundation and functions of the House of the Indies, we must go back to the year 1493, when Christopher Columbus traveled to the American continent for the second time; since then, all matters related to the “conquest of the New World” had been relegated to Juan Rodríguez Fonseca, archdeacon of the cathedral of Seville (also known by the name of archdeacon, the archdeacon was the most important deacon within a cathedral).
Rodríguez Fonseca was, in turn, chaplain and was part of the group of trusted people of Queen Isabel I of Castile, known as Isabel la Católica. Some time later, he was promoted to the episcopal sees of Burgos, Palencia and Badajoz.
After a decade of having supported this organization for matters related to the New World, it became very evident that all this work could not continue to be in the hands of a single individual, and that is why they decided to give way to the creation of the first house hiring.
According to the historian Clarence H. Haring, although Rodríguez Fonseca lost absolute power over commercial matters between Spain and America, whose position was called superintendent, he remained in court carrying out tasks typical of a Minister, in this case of the colonies., until in the year 1524 the Council of the Indies was created, the most important body of the Indian administration, since it was in charge of advising the King in the executive, legislative and judicial spheres.
The documents that have recorded the process of creating the contracting house date from the year 1502; According to the research work of Ernesto Schaffër, a well-known historian of German origin, at first it is probable that the emergence of this building was promoted by Francisco Pinelo, a Genoese merchant who knew in depth Indian affairs. Precisely, Pinelo signed together with Isabel la Católica a Royal Provision in 1503 that approved a series of Ordinances concerning the hiring house and other related issues.
With the emergence of the consulates, the recruitment houses began to lose importance. Ordinances and regulations began to be directed to these consulates, while merchants created other types of corporations to meet.