Gold and silver from the colonies financed the military capability of Habsburg Spain in its long series of African and European wars. Between the incorporation of the Portuguese empire in 1580 (lost in 1640) and the loss of its American colonies in the 19th century, Spain maintained the largest empire in the world even though it suffered fluctuating military and economic fortunes from the 1640s. Confronted by the new experiences, difficulties and suffering created by empire-building Spanish thinkers formulated some of the first modern thoughts on natural law, sovereignty, international law, war, and economics — and were to even question the legitimacy of imperialism — in related schools of thought referred to collectively as the School of Salamanca.
[[Image:Spanish Empire.png|thumb|450px|An anachronous map showing areas pertaining to the Spanish Empire at various times over a period exceeding 400 years. For detailed key click on map. legend |#f00| The Spanish colonial empire at its territorial height in 1790. legend |#f07| Regions of influence (explored/claimed but never controlled or vice versa) or short-lived / disputed colonies. legend |#660066| Portuguese possessionsruled jointly under the Spanish sovereign, 1580–1640. legend |#f0f| Territories lost at, or prior to, the 1714Peace of legend |#734A12| Spanish Morocco and Spanish West Africa, 1884– Constant contention with rival powers caused territorial, commercial, and religious conflict that contributed to the slow decline of Spanish power from the mid-17th century. In the Mediterranean, Spain warred constantly with the Ottoman Empire; on the European continent, France became comparably strong. Overseas, Spain was initially rivalled by Portugal, and later by the English and Dutch. In addition, English-, French-, and Dutch-sponsored piracy, overextension of Spanish military commitments in its territories, increasing government corruption, and economic stagnation caused by military expenditures and an over-reliance on the increasingly-unreliable Spanish treasure fleets bringing precious metals and profits, all ultimately contributed to the Empire's decline.
Spain's European empire was finally undone by the Peace of Utrecht (1713), which stripped Spain of its remaining territories in Italy and the Low Countries. Spain's fortunes improved thereafter, but it remained a second rate power in Continental European politics.
The term "Spanish Empire" generally refers to Spain's overseas colonies in the Americas, the Pacific, and elsewhere. However, no consensus exists among historians as to what is to be counted as part of the Spanish Empire, making it difficult to determine some of its territories in Europe. For instance, traditionally, territiories such as the Low Countries were included as they were part of the possessions of the King of Spain, governed by Spanish officials, and defended by Spanish troops. However, authors like Henry Kamen contend that these territories were never integrated into a "Spanish" state and instead formed part of the wider Habsburg estate. Because of this, many historians use "Habsburg" and "Spanish" almost interchangeably when referring to the dynastic inheritance of Charles V or Philip II. Similarly, it seems to be a matter of preference whether one counts as "Spanish" the BourbonKingdom of Naples in the 18th century, which, while dynastically and military aligned with Spain, remained a constitutionally separate state. The problem is compounded by the evolving definition of "Spain" itself, which, though unified by the crown, was still in some sense a collection of separate kingdoms, namely Castile, Aragon, and Navarre and, for a while, Portugal.
The Catholic Monarchs decided to support the Aragonese house of Naples against Charles VIII of France in the Italian Wars from 1494. As king of Aragon, Ferdinand had been involved in the struggle against France and Venice for control of Italy; these conflicts became the center of Ferdinand's foreign policy as king. In these battles, which established the supremacy of the Spanish infantry against French knights, Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba would forge the nearly invincible Spanish army of the 16th and early 17th centuries. In 1492, Spain drove out the last Moorish king of Granada.
The claims of Spain to these lands was solidified by the Inter caeterapapal bull of 1493, and by the immediately following Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, in which the globe was divided into two hemispheres between Spanish and Portuguese claims. These actions gave Spain exclusive rights to establish colonies in all of the New World from Alaska to Cape Horn (except Brazil), as well as the westernmost parts of Asia.
After the death of Queen Isabella, Ferdinand as Spain's sole monarch adopted a more aggressive policy than he had as Isabella's husband, enlarging Spain's sphere of influence in Italy and against France. Ferdinand's first investment of Spanish forces came in the War of the League of Cambrai against Venice, where the Spanish soldiers distinguished themselves on the field alongside their French allies at the Battle of Agnadello (1509). Only a year later, Ferdinand became part of the Holy League against France, seeing a chance at taking both Milan — to which he held a dynastic claim — and Navarre. The war was less of a success than that against Venice, and in 1516, France agreed to a truce that left Milan in her control and recognized Spanish control of Upper Navarre.
In 1513, Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama, and led the first European expedition to see the Pacific Ocean from the west coast of the New World. In an action with enduring historical import, Balboa claimed the Pacific Ocean and all the lands adjoining it for the Spanish Crown.
This Castilian Empire abroad became the source of Spanish wealth and power in Europe, and initially stimulated trade and industry and a rapid growth of Spain's few large cities, but ultimately contributed to inflation in the last decades of the 16th century as imports of silver grew rapidly, which undermined local industry. Instead of fueling the Spanish economy, the silver ultimately made Spain dependent on foreign sources of raw materials and manufactured goods. The wealthy preferred to invest their fortunes in public debt (juros) rather than production. Aristocratic prejudice made manual work dishonorable. The silver and gold whose circulation helped facilitate the economic and social revolutions taking place in France and England and other parts of Europe helped stifle them in Spain. The problems caused by inflation were discussed by scholars at the School of Salamanca and arbitristas but they had no impact on government policy.
The Golden Age of Spain: The Sun Never Sets (1521–1643)
The 16th and 17th centuries are sometimes called "the Golden Age of Spain" (in Spanish, lang|es|Siglo de ). During the sixteenth century, Spain held the equivalent of US$1.5 trillion (1990 terms) in gold and silver received from New Spain. It was often said during this time that it was the empire on which the sun never set. The unwieldy empire of this Golden Age was controlled, not from distant inland Madrid, but from Seville. The Habsburg dynasty squandered the American and Castilian riches in wars across Europe for Habsburg interests, defaulted on their debt several times, and left Spain bankrupt (with the tensions between the Empire and the people of Castile exploding in the popular rebellion of the Castilian War of the Communities (1520–22). The Habsburg political goals were several:
As a result of the marriage politics of the lang|es|Reyes , their grandson Charles inherited the Castilian empire in America, the Aragonese Empire in the Mediterranean (including a large portion of modern Italy), as well as the crown of the Holy Roman Empire and of the Low Countries and Franche-Comté. Thus this Empire was constituted from the inheritance of territories, and not through conquest. After his defeat of the Castilian rebels in the Castilian War of the Communities, Charles became the most powerful man in Europe, his rule stretching over an empire in Europe unrivalled in extent until the Napoleonic era. Charles attempted to quell the Protestant Reformation at the Diet of Worms but Luther refused to recant his "heresy." However, Charles's piety could not stop his mutinying troops from plundering the Holy See in the Sacco di Roma.
After Columbus, the colonization of the New World was led by a series of warrior-explorers called the Conquistadors. The Spanish forces exploited the rivalries between competing local peoples and states, some of which were only too willing to form alliances with the Spanish in order to defeat their more-powerful enemies, such as the Aztecs or Incas - a tactic that would be extensively used by later European colonial powers. The Spanish conquest was also greatly facilitated by the spread of diseases (e.g. smallpox) common in Europe but unknown in the New World, which decimated the native American populations. This caused a labour shortage and so the colonists initiated the Atlantic slave trade where slaves were shipped directly from Africa to the Americas by Portuguese slave traders; very few ever saw Spain; see Population history of American indigenous peoples.
Perhaps the most successful conquistador leader was Hernán Cortés, who with a relatively small Spanish force but also crucially the support of around two hundred thousand Amerindian allies, overran the mighty Aztec empire in the campaigns of 1519–21 to bring Mexico into the Spanish empire as the basis for the colony of New Spain. Of comparable importance was the conquest of the Inca empire by Francisco Pizarro, which would become the Viceroyalty of Peru. After the conquest of Mexico, rumours of golden cities (Quivira and Cíbola in North America, El Dorado in South America) caused several more expeditions to be sent out, but many of those returned without having found their goal, or having found it, finding it much less valuable than was hoped. Indeed, the American colonies only began to yield a substantial part of the crown's revenues with the establishment of mines such as that of Potosi (1546).
In 1521, Francis I of France, who found himself surrounded by Habsburg territories, invaded the Spanish possessions in Italy and inaugurated a second round of Franco-Spanish conflict. The war was a disaster for France, which suffered defeat at Biccoca (1522), Pavia (1525, at which Francis was captured), and Landriano (1529) before Francis relented and abandoned Milan to Spain once more.
Battle of Pavia to the Peace of Augsburg (1525–1555)
Charles's victory at the Battle of Pavia, 1525, surprised many Italians and Germans and elicited concerns that Charles would endeavor to gain ever greater power. Pope Clement VII switched sides and now joined forces with France and prominent Italian states against the Habsburg Emperor, in the War of the League of Cognac. In 1527, Charles grew exhausted with the pope's meddling in what he viewed as purely secular affairs, and sacked Rome itself, embarrassing the papacy sufficiently enough that Clement, and succeeding popes, were considerably more circumspect in their dealings with secular authorities. In 1533, Clement's refusal to annul Henry VIII of England's marriage was a direct consequence of his unwillingness to offend the emperor and have his capital sacked for perhaps a second time. The Peace of Barcelona, signed between Charles and the Pope in 1529, established a more cordial relationship between the two leaders. Spain was effectively named the protector of the Catholic cause and Charles was crowned as King of Italy (Lombardy) in return for Spanish intervention in overthrowing the rebellious Florentine Republic.
In 1528, the great admiral Andrea Doria allied with the Emperor to oust the French and restore Genoa's independence, opening the prospect for financial renewal: 1528 marks the first loan from Genoese banks to Charles (Braudel 1984).
Spain did pass some laws for the protection of the indigenous peoples of its American colonies, the first such in 1542; the legal thought behind them was the basis of modern international law. Taking advantage of their extreme remoteness, the European colonists revolted when they saw their power being reduced, forcing a partial revoking of these New Laws. Later, weaker laws were introduced to protect the indigenous peoples but records show they had little effect. The restored lang|es| exploited the Indians rather than taking care of them.
In 1543, the king of France Francis I announced his unprecedented alliance with the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, by occupying the Spanish-controlled city of Nice in concert with Ottoman forces. Henry VIII of England, who bore a greater grudge against France than he held against the Emperor for standing in the way of his divorce, joined Charles in his invasion of France. Although the Spanish army was soundly defeated at the Battle of Ceresole in Savoy the French were unable to seriously threaten Spanish controlled Milan, whilst suffering defeat in the north at the hands of Henry, thereby being forced to accept unfavourable terms. The Austrians, led by Charles's younger brother Ferdinand, continued to fight the Ottomans in the east. Charles went to take care of an older problem: the Schmalkaldic League.
The League had allied itself to the French, and efforts in Germany to undermine the League had been rebuffed. Francis's defeat in 1544 led to the annulment of the alliance with the Protestants, and Charles took advantage of the opportunity. He first tried the path of negotiation at the Council of Trent in 1545, but the Protestant leadership, feeling betrayed by the stance taken by the Catholics at the council, went to war, led by the SaxonelectorMaurice. In response, Charles invaded Germany at the head of a mixed Dutch–Spanish army, hoping to restore the Imperial authority. The emperor personally inflicted a decisive defeat on the Protestants at the historic Battle of Mühlberg in 1547. In 1555, Charles signed the Peace of Augsburg with the Protestant states and restored stability in Germany on his principle of lang|la|cuius regio, eius , a position unpopular with Spanish and Italian clergymen. Charles's involvement in Germany would establish a role for Spain as protector of the Catholic, Habsburg cause in the Holy Roman Empire; the precedent would lead, seven decades later, to involvement in the war that would decisively end Spain as Europe's leading power.
Charles had preferred to suppress the Ottomans through a considerably more maritime strategy, hampering Ottoman landings on the Venetian territories in the Eastern Mediterranean. Only in response to raids on the eastern coast of Spain did Charles personally lead attacks against the African mainland (1545).
St. Quentin to Lepanto (1556–1571)
Charles V's only legitimate son, Philip II of Spain (r. 1556–98) parted the Austrian possessions with his uncle Ferdinand. Philip treated Castile as the foundation of his empire, but the population of Castile (that was about a third of France's) was never great enough to provide the soldiers needed to support the Empire. When he married Mary Tudor, England was allied to Spain.
Spain was not yet at peace, as the aggressive Henry II of France came to the throne in 1547 and immediately renewed conflict with Spain. Charles's successor, Philip II, aggressively prosecuted the war against France, crushing a French army at the Battle of St. Quentin in Picardy in 1558 and defeating Henry again at the Battle of Gravelines. The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, signed in 1559, permanently recognized Spanish claims in Italy. In the celebrations that followed the treaty, Henry was killed by a stray splinter from a lance. France was stricken for the next thirty years by chronic civil war and unrest (see French Wars of Religion) and removed from effectively competing with Spain and the Habsburg family in European power games. Freed from effective French opposition, Spain saw the apogee of its might and territorial reach in the period 1559–1643.
The opening for the Genoese banking consortium was the state bankruptcy of Philip II in 1557, which threw the German banking houses into chaos and ended the reign of the Fuggers as Spanish financiers. The Genoese bankers provided the unwieldy Habsburg system with fluid credit and a dependably regular income. In return the less dependable shipments of American silver were rapidly transferred from Seville to Genoa, to provide capital for further ventures.
After Spain's victory over France and the beginning of France's religious wars, Philip II's ambitions grew. In 1565, the Spanish defeated an Ottoman landing on the strategic island of Malta, defended by the Knights of St. John. Suleiman the Magnificent's death the following year and his succession by his less capable son Selim the Sot emboldened Philip, and he resolved to carry the war to the sultan himself. In 1571, Spanish and Venetianwarships, joined by volunteers across Europe, led by Charles's illegitimate son Don John of Austria annihilated the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto, in one of the most decisive battles in naval history. The battle ended the threat of Ottoman naval hegemony in the Mediterranean. This mission marked the height of the respectability of Spain and its sovereign abroad as Philip bore the burden of leading the Counter-Reformation.
The troubled kingdom (1571–1598)
The time for rejoicing in Madrid was short-lived. In 1566, Calvinist-led riots in the Netherlands prompted the Duke of Alva to march into the country and restore order. In 1568, William the Silent led a failed attempt to drive Alva from the Netherlands. These battles are generally considered to signal the start of the Eighty Years' War that ended with the independence of the United Provinces. The Spanish, who derived a great deal of wealth from the Netherlands and particularly from the vital port of Antwerp, were committed to restoring order and maintaining their hold on the provinces. In 1572, a band of rebel Dutch privateers known as the watergeuzen ("Sea Beggars") seized a number of Dutch coastal towns, proclaimed their support for William and denounced the Spanish leadership.
For Spain, the war became an endless quagmire, sometimes literally. In 1574, the Spanish army under Luis de Requeséns was repulsed from the Siege of Leiden after the Dutch broke the dykes, thus causing extensive flooding. In 1576, faced with the bills from his 80,000-man army of occupation in the Netherlands, the cost of his massive fleet that had won at Lepanto, together with the growing threat of piracy in the open seas reducing his income from his American colonies Philip was forced to accept bankruptcy. The army in the Netherlands mutinied not long after, seizing Antwerp and looting the southern Netherlands, prompting several cities in the previously peaceful southern provinces to join the rebellion. The Spanish chose the route of negotiation, and pacified most of the southern provinces again with the Union of Arras in 1579.
The Arras agreement required all Spanish troops to leave these lands. In 1580, this gave King Philip the opportunity to strengthen his position when the last member of the Portuguese royal family, Cardinal Henry of Portugal, died. Philip asserted his claim to the Portuguese throne and in June sent the Duke of Alba with an army to Lisbon to assure his succession. Though the Duke of Alba and the Spanish occupation, however, was little more popular in Lisbon than in Rotterdam, the combined Spanish and Portuguese empires placed into Philip's hands almost the entirety of the explored New World along with a vast trading empire in Africa and Asia. In 1582, when Philip II moved his court back to Madrid from the Atlantic port of Lisbon where he had temporarily settled to pacify his new Portuguese kingdom, the pattern was sealed, in spite of what every observant commentator privately noted: "Sea power is more important to the ruler of Spain than any other prince" wrote a commentator, "for it is only by sea power that a single community can be created out of so many so far apart." A writer on tactics in 1638 observed, "The might most suited to the arms of Spain is that which is placed on the seas, but this matter of state is so well known that I should not discuss it, even if I thought it opportune to do so." (quoted by Braudel 1984)
Portugal required an extensive occupation force to keep it under control, and Spain was still reeling from the 1576 bankruptcy. In 1584, William the Silent was assassinated by a half-deranged Catholic, and the death of the popular Dutch resistance leader was hoped to bring an end to the war. It did not. In 1586, Queen Elizabeth I of England, sent support to the Protestant causes in the Netherlands and France, and Sir Francis Drake launched attacks against Spanish merchants in the Caribbean and the Pacific, along with a particularly aggressive attack on the port of Cadiz. In 1588, hoping to put a stop to Elizabeth’s meddling, Philip sent the Spanish Armada to attack England. Favorable weather, smaller more manœuverable English ships, and the fact that England had been warned by their spies in Netherland and were ready for the attack resulted in defeat for the outnumbered but more heavily armoured Armada of Spain. Nevertheless the defeat of the massive military attack, The Drake–Norris Expedition, 1589 marked a turning point in the 1585–1604Anglo–Spanish War in Spain's favour, and few can doubt that the Spanish fleet was the strongest in Europe until the Dutch fleet inflicted the defeat of the Battle of the Downs in 1639, when an increasingly exhausted Spain began to visibly weaken.
Spain had invested itself in the religious warfare in France after Henry II’s death. In 1589, Henry III, the last of the Valois lineage, died at the walls of Paris. His successor, Henry IV of Navarre, the first Bourbon king of France, was a man of great ability, winning key victories against the Catholic League at Arques (1589) and Ivry (1590). Committed to stopping Henry of Navarre from becoming King of France, the Spanish divided their army in the Netherlands and invaded France in 1590.
"God is Spanish" (1596–1626)
Faced with wars against England, France and the Netherlands, each led by extraordinarily capable leaders, already-bankrupted Spain was outmatched. Faced with continuing piracy against its shipping in the Atlantic and the disruption of its vital gold shipments from the New World, Spain was forced to admit bankruptcy again in 1596. The Spanish attempted to extricate themselves from the several conflicts they were involved in, first signing the Treaty of Vervins with France in 1598, recognizing Henry IV (since 1593 a Catholic) as king of France, and restoring many of the stipulations of the previous Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. With a series of defeats at sea and an endless guerrilla war against Catholics in Ireland supported by Spain, an exhausted England agreed to the Treaty of London, 1604, following the accession of the more tractable Stuart King James I.
Peace with England and France implied that Spain could focus her energies on restoring her rule to the Dutch provinces. The Dutch, led by Maurice of Nassau, the son of William the Silent and perhaps the greatest strategist of his time, had succeeded in taking a number of border cities since 1590, including the fortress of Breda. Following the peace with England, the new Spanish commander Ambrosio Spinola pressed hard against the Dutch. Spinola, a general of abilities to match Maurice, was prevented from conquering the Netherlands only by Spain's renewed bankruptcy in 1607. Faced with ruined finances, in 1609, the Twelve Years' Truce was signed between Spain and the United Provinces. Spain was at peace, the lang|la|Pax .
Spain made a fair recovery during the truce, ordering her finances and doing much to restore her prestige and stability in the run-up to the last truly great war in which she would play as a leading power. Philip II's successor, Philip III, was a man of limited ability uninterested in politics, preferring to allow others to take care of the details. His chief minister was the capable Duke of Lerma. The Duke of Lerma (and to a large extent Philip II) had been uninterested in the affairs of their ally, Austria.
In 1621, the inoffensive and ineffective Philip III was replaced by the considerably more religious Philip IV. The following year, Zúñiga was replaced by Gaspar de Guzman, Count-Duke of Olivares, a reasonably honest and able man who believed that the center of all Spain's woes rested in Holland. After certain initial setbacks, the Bohemians were defeated at White Mountain in 1621, and again at Stadtlohn in 1623. The war with the Netherlands was renewed in 1621 with Spinola taking the fortress of Breda in 1625. The intervention of Christian IV of Denmark in the war worried some (Christian was one of Europe's few monarchs who had no worries over his finances) but the victory of the Imperial general Albert of Wallenstein over the Danes at Dessau Bridge and again at Lutter, both in 1626, eliminated that threat. There was hope in Madrid that the Netherlands might finally be reincorporated into the Empire, and after the defeat of Denmark the Protestants in Germany seemed crushed. Perfidious France was once again involved in her own instabilities (the famous Siege of La Rochelle began in 1627), and Spain's eminence seemed irrefutable. The Count-Duke Olivares stridently affirmed "God is Spanish and fights for our nation these days" (Brown and Elliott, 1980, p. 190) and many of Spain's opponents may have grudgingly agreed.
The road to Rocroi (1626–1643)
Olivares was a man sadly out of time; he realized that Spain needed to reform, and to reform it needed peace. The destruction of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was added to his list of necessities because behind every anti-Habsburg coalition there was Dutch money: Dutch bankers stood behind the East India merchants of Seville, and everywhere in the world Dutch entrepreneurship and colonists undermined Spanish and Portuguese hegemony. Spinola and the Spanish army were focused on the Netherlands, and the war seemed to be going in Spain's favor.
1627 saw the collapse of the Castilian economy. The Spanish had been debasing their currency to pay for the war and prices exploded in Spain just as they had in previous years in Austria. Until 1631, parts of Castile operated on a barter economy as a result of the currency crisis and the government was unable to collect any meaningful taxes from the peasantry, depending on its colonies. The Spanish armies in Germany resorted to "paying themselves" on the land. Olivares, who had backed certain tax measures in Spain pending the completion of the war, was further blamed for an embarrassing and fruitless war in Italy The Dutch, who during the Twelve Years' Truce had made their increasingly potent navy (see Battle of Gibraltar, 1607) a priority, devastated Spanish maritime trade, on which Spain was wholly dependent after the economic collapse. Spanish military resources were now fully stretched across Europe and also at sea protecting their maritime trade against the greatly improved Dutch fleet. In 1628 the Dutch captain Piet Hein captured the treasure fleet, badly undermining Spain's economy, while consolidating that of the Netherlands. The Spanish were simply no longer able to cope effectively with the growing naval threats, not only from the Netherlands but from France and England while still maintaining a strong naval presence in the Mediterranean to defend against the threat of the Ottoman navy and Muslim pirates. The Portuguese part of the empire was particularly afflicted by raids upon shipping and assaults upon trading posts and territories.
In 1630, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, one of history's most noted commanders, landed in Germany and relieved the port of Stralsund that was the last stronghold on the continent held by German forces belligerent to the Emperor. Gustavus then marched south winning notable victories at Breitenfeld and Lützen, attracting greater support for the Protestant cause the further he went. The situation for the Catholics improved with Gustavus's death at Lutzen in 1632 and a key victory at Nordlingen in 1634. From a position of strength, the Emperor approached the war-weary German states with a peace in 1635; many accepted, including the two most powerful, Brandenburg and Saxony. Then France entered.
thumb|250px|The 1643), the symbolic end of Spain's grandeur; the decline sets in.">[Battle of Rocroi (1643), the symbolic end of Spain's grandeur; the decline sets in.]
Cardinal Richelieu had been a strong supporter of the Dutch and Protestants since the beginning of the war, sending funds and equipment in an attempt to stem Habsburg strength in Europe. Richelieu decided that the recently-signed Peace of Prague was contrary to French designs and declared war on the Holy Roman Emperor and Spain within months of the peace being signed. The more experienced Spanish forces scored initial successes; Olivares ordered a lightning campaign into northern France from the Spanish Netherlands, hoping to shatter the resolve of King Louis XIII's ministers and topple Richelieu. In the "lang|fr|année de ", 1636, Spanish forces advanced as far south as Corbie, threatening Paris and quite nearly ending the war on their terms. After 1636, however, Olivares stopped the advance, fearful of provoking another disastrous bankruptcy. The hesitation in pressing home the advantage proved fateful. The Spanish army would never again penetrate so far. At the Battle of the Downs in 1639 a Spanish fleet carrying troops was destroyed by the Dutch navy, and the Spanish found themselves unable to adequately supply and reinforce their forces in the Netherlands. The Spanish Army of Flanders, which represented the finest of Spanish soldiery and leadership, faced a French invasion led by Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé in the Spanish Netherlands at Rocroi in 1643. The Spanish, led by Francisco de Melo, were devastated, with most of the Spanish infantry slaughtered or captured by French cavalry. The high reputation of the Army of Flanders was broken at Rocroi, and with it, the grandeur of Spain.
The Empire of the last Spanish Habsburgs (1643–1713)
Portugal had rebelled in 1640 under the leadership of John IV of Portugal, a Braganza pretender to the throne. He had received widespread support from the Portuguese people, and the Spanish — who had to deal with rebellions elsewhere, along with the war against France – were unable to respond, and the Spanish and Portuguese had existed in a de facto state of peace from 1644 to 1657. When John IV died in 1657, the Spanish attempted to wrest Portugal from his son Alfonso VI of Portugal, but were defeated at Ameixial (1663) and Montes Claros (1665), leading to Spain's recognition of Portugal's independence in 1668.
Spain did have a huge overseas empire, but France was now the superpower in Europe, and the United Provinces in the Atlantic.
Charles II and his regency were incompetent in dealing with the War of Devolution that Louis XIV of France prosecuted against the Spanish Netherlands in 1667–68, losing considerable prestige and territory, including the cities of Lille and Charleroi. In the Nine Years' War Louis once again invaded the Spanish Netherlands. French forces led by the Duke of Luxembourg defeated the Spanish at Fleurus (1690), and subsequently defeated Dutch forces under William III of Orange, who fought on Spain's side. The war ended with most of the Spanish Netherlands under French occupation, including the important cities of Ghent and Luxembourg. The war revealed to Europe how vulnerable and backward the Spanish defenses and bureaucracy were, but the ineffective Spanish Habsburg government took no action to improve them.
The final decades of the seventeenth century saw utter decay and stagnation in Spain; while the rest of western Europe went through exciting changes in government and society — the Glorious Revolution in England and the reign of the Sun King in France — Spain remained adrift. The Spanish bureaucracy that had built up around the charismatic, industrious, and intelligent Charles I and Philip II demanded a strong and hardworking monarch; the weakness and lack of interest of Philip III and IV contributed to Spain's decay. Charles II was retarded and impotent. In his final will, the childless king of Spain left his throne to the Bourbon prince Philip of Anjou, rather than to a member of the family that had tormented him throughout his life. This resulted in the War of the Spanish Succession.
The Bourbon Spanish Empire: Reform and Recovery (1713–1806)
With a Bourbon monarchy came a repertory of Bourbon mercantilist ideas based on a centralized state, put into effect in America slowly at first but with increasing momentum during the century (see Enlightenment Spain). The Spanish Bourbons' broadest intentions were to break the power of the entrenched aristocracy of the Criollos (locally born colonials of European descent), and, eventually, loosen the territorial control of the Society of Jesus over the virtually independent theocracies of Guaranilang|es|: the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish America in 1767. In addition to the established lang|es| of Mexico City and Lima, firmly in the control of local landowners, a new rival was set up at Vera Cruz.
Immediately Philip's government set up a ministry of the Navy and the Indies (1714) and created first a Honduras Company (1714), a Caracas Company (1728) and — the only one destined to thrive — a Havana Company (1740). In 1717–18 the structures for governing the Indies, the lang|es|Consejo de and the lang|es|Casa de that governed investments in the cumbersome escorted fleets were transferred from Seville to Cadíz, which became the one port for all Indies trading (see flota system). Individual sailings at regular intervals were slow to displace the old habit of armed convoys, but by the 1760s there were regular packet ships plying the Atlantic between Cadíz and Havana and Puerto Rico, and at longer intervals to the Rio de la Plata, where an additional viceroyalty was created in 1776. The contraband trade that was the lifeblood of the Habsburg empire declined in proportion to registered shipping (a shipping registry having been established in 1735).
Two upheavals registered unease within Spanish America and at the same time demonstrated the renewed resiliency of the reformed system: the Tupac Amaru uprising in Peru in 1780 and the rebellion of the of Venezuela, both in part reactions to tighter, more efficient control.
As a result, in the 18th century Spain was basically a client state of France, and hardly a superpower. Its vast empire in the Americas made it relevant, but it is difficult — even in light of Floridablanca's reforms — to say that it was anywhere near the ranks of Austria or Russia, let alone France or Britain. Spain failed to recover Gibraltar. However the 18th century was a century of prosperity for the overseas Spanish Empire as trade within grew steadily, particularly in the second half of the century, under the Bourbon reforms. Rapid shipping growth from the mid-1740s was disrupted by a rampantly successful British navy during the Seven Years' War (1756–63). A gradual recovery from the wars end in 1763 was again disrupted by British attacks during Spain's involvement in the American Revolutionary War (1779–83). But with the last sailing in 1778, effectively bringing about free trade in the empire, shipping trade once again began growing, but this time at an extraordinary rate, in the 1780s.
The ending of Cadíz's trade monopoly with America brought about a rebirth of Spanish manufactures. Most notable was the rapidly growing textile industry of Catalonia which by the mid-1780s saw the first signs of industrialisation. This saw the emergence of a small polically-active commercial class in Barcelona. Though the scale of such industry was absolutely tiny compared to the vast industry in Lancashire, it was growing rapidly and was to become the biggest center of such industry in the Mediterranean the following century. However one must not exaggerate such scattered examples of local modernity, though they disprove the notion of economic stasis. Most of the improvement was in and around some major coastal cities and the major islands such as Cuba, with its plantations, and a renewed growth of precious metals mining in the Americas. On the other hand most of rural Spain and its empire, where the great bulk of the population lived, many in remote communities served by poor roads over often extremely rugged terrain, lived in backward conditions that were reinforced by intransigent age old customs. Agricultural productivity remained low despite efforts to introduce new techniques to an uninterested, exploited peasant and landless labouring class. Governments were inconsistent in their policies. Nevertheless a quickening tempo of life in the latter part of the century, however patchy, is discernible.
The Spanish empire had still not returned to first rate power status, but it had recovered considerably from the dark days at the beginning of the eighteenth century when it was totally at the mercy of other powers' political deals. The relatively peaceful century under the new monarchy had allowed it to rebuild and start the long process of modernizing its institutions and economy. The demographic decline of the seventeenth century had been reversed. It was now a strong middle ranking power with great power pretensions that could not be ignored. But time was to be against it. The growth of trade and wealth in the colonies caused increasing political tensions as frustration grew with the improving but still restrictive trade with Spain. Malaspina's recommendation to turn the empire into a looser confederation to help improve governance and trade so as to quell the growing political tensions between the élites of the empire's periphery and centre was suppressed by a monarchy afraid of losing control. It would take just a generation to prove the wisdom of Malaspina's report. All was to be swept away by the tumult that was to overtake Europe at the turn of the century with the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
The destruction of the main Spanish fleet, under French command, at the Battle of Trafalgar (1805) undermined Spain's ability to defend and hold on to its empire. The later intrusion of Napoleonic forces into Spain in 1808 (see Peninsular War) cut off effective connection with the empire. But it was internal tensions that ultimately ended the empire in the Americas.
In devastated Spain the post-Napoleonic era created a political vacuum, broke apart any traditional consensus on sovereignty, fragmented the country politically and regionally and unleashed wars and disputes between progressives, liberals and conservatives. The instability inhibited Spain's development, which had started fitfully gathering pace in the previous century. A brief period of improvement occurred in the 1870s when the capable Alfonso XII of Spain and his thoughtful ministers succeeded in restoring some vigour to Spanish politics and prestige, but this was cut short by Alfonso's early death.
An increasing level of nationalist, anti-colonial uprisings in various colonies culminated with the Spanish–American War of 1898 in which Spain was attacked by the United States over Cuba. Military defeat was followed by the independence of Cuba and the cession, for US$20 million, of Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam to the United States. Her American presence ended, Spain then sold her Pacific Ocean possessions to Germany in 1899, retaining only her African territories.
In 1911, Morocco was divided between the French and Spanish. The RifBerbers rebelled led by Abdelkrim, a former officer for the Spanish administration. The Disaster of Annual (1921) was a sudden, grave, and almost fatal, military defeat suffered by the Spanish army against Moroccan insurgents. A leading Spanish politician emphatically declared: "We are at the most acute period of Spanish decadence". The statement reflected the mood of the country. The rebellion exposed the utter corruption and incompetence of the military and destabilised the Spanish government, leading to dictatorship. A campaign in conjunction with the French suppressed the Rif rebels by 1925 but at a terrible cost to both sides. In 1923, Tangier was declared an international city under French–Spanish–British (and later Italian) joint administration. The African army, led by a veteran of the Moroccan campaign, Francisco Franco, started the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). Between 1926 and 1959, Bioko and Rio Muni were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea. During the Second World War the Vichy French presence in Tangier was overcome by that of Francoist Spain.
Spain lacked the wealth and the interest to develop an extensive economic infrastructure in her African colonies during the first half of the 20th century. However, through a paternalistic system, particularly on Bioko Island, Spain developed large cocoa plantations for which thousands of Nigerian workers were imported as laborers. The Spanish also helped Equatorial Guinea achieve one of the continent's highest literacy rates and developed a good network of health care facilities.
In 1959, the Spanish territory on the Gulf of Guinea was established with status similar to the provinces of metropolitan Spain. As the Spanish Equatorial Region, it was ruled by a governor general exercising military and civilian powers. The first local elections were held in 1959, and the first Equatoguinean representatives were seated in the Spanish parliament. Under the Basic Law of December 1963, limited autonomy was authorized under a joint legislative body for the territory's two provinces. The name of the country was changed to Equatorial Guinea.
In March 1968, under pressure from Equatoguinean nationalists and the United Nations, Spain announced that it would grant independence to Equatorial Guinea. At independence in 1968, Equatorial Guinea had one of the highest per capita incomes in Africa. In 1969, under international pressure, Spain returned Sidi Ifni to Morocco. Spanish control of Spanish Sahara endured until the 1975Green March prompted a withdrawal. The future of this former Spanish colony remains uncertain.
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