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The Spanish Empire (Spanish: Imperio Español) comprised territories and colonies administered by the Spanish Crown in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was one of the first global empires. Under the Spanish Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its political and economic power when its empire became the foremost global power. In conjunction with the Portuguese Empire, the Spanish Empire's establishment in the 15th century ushered in the modern global era and the rise of European dominance in global affairs. Spain's territorial reach beyond Europe spanned five centuries, from the first voyages to the Americas in 1492 until the loss of its last African colonies in 1975.
The land of the Iberian peninsula was commonly called Hispania since Roman times and during the Visigothic Kingdom. The process of the Reconquista produced the emergence of four Christian realms: Castile, the Crown of Aragon, Navarre and Portugal.
The dynastic union between the Crown of Castile (which will include the kingdom of Navarre since 1515) and the Crown of Aragon, initiated a political authoritarian system in force until the beginning of the eighteenth century labelled as Hispanic monarchy: the Spanish sovereign acted as monarch in a unitary manner over all his territories through a polisynodial system of Councils, but his power as king or lord varied from one territory to another one, since each territory retained its own particular administration and juridical configuration. The unity did not mean uniformity.
According to this political configuration, independently of the denominations given to the "dynastic union" between 1580 and 1640, the scholars argue that the Portuguese Empire kept its own administration and jurisdiction over its territory as the other kingdoms and realms ruled by the Spanish Habsburgs. Nevertheless, some historians assert that Portugal was a kingdom which formed part of the Spanish Monarchy at that time; while others draw a clear distinction between the Portuguese and the Spanish Empires.
The Spanish Empire included the dominions of the Spanish monarch in the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Africa, but some disputes exist as to which European territories are to be counted. For instance, normally the Habsburg Netherlands are included, as they were part of the possessions of the King of Spain, were governed by Spanish officials, and were defended by Spanish troops. However, authors like the British historian Henry Kamen contend that these territories were not fully integrated into a Spanish state and instead formed part of the wider Habsburg possessions. Some historians use "Habsburg" and "Spanish" almost interchangeably when referring to the dynastic inheritance of Charles V or Philip II.
During the 15th century, Castile and Portugal became territorial and commercial rivals in the Atlantic western zone. Portugal obtained several Papal bulls which acknowledged Portuguese control over the discovered territories, but Castile also obtained from the Pope the safeguard of its rights to the Canary Islands with the bulls Romani Pontifex dated 6 November 1436 and Dominatur Dominus dated 30 April 1437. The Conquest of the Canary Islands, inhabited by Guanche people, began in 1402 under the reign of Henry III of Castile, authorizing under feudal agreement to Norman noblemen Jean de Béthencourt. The conquest only finished when the armies of the Crown of Castille won, after long and bloody wars, the islands of Gran Canaria (1478–1483), La Palma (1492–1493) and Tenerife (1494–1496).
The proclamation of Isabella I of Castile jointly with her husband Ferdinand of Aragon, at that time king of Sicily, as sovereigns of Castile led to a war with Portugal which ended with the Treaty of Alcáçovas (4 September 1479). The Portuguese gave up their claims to the Canary Islands but were secured in their sovereignty over Madeira, the Azores and the Cape Verde islands, and over the trade of Guinea, from the south of the Cape Bojador, and the right to conquer the Kingdom of Fez. This treaty was confirmed in 1481 by the Pope Sixtus IV, in the papal bull Æterni regis (dated on 21 June 1481).
Seven months before the treaty of Alcaçovas, King John II of Aragon died, and his son Ferdinand II of Aragon inherited the thrones of the Crown of Aragon; therefore, a personal union was created between the Crown of Aragon and Castile, each with their own administrations, but ruled by a common monarchy.
After a war of 10 years, the Granada War, in 1492, the Reyes Católicos drove out the last Moorish king of Granada. After their victory, the Catholic monarchs negotiated with Christopher Columbus, a Genoese sailor attempting to reach Cipangu by sailing west. Castile was already engaged in a race of exploration with Portugal to reach the Far East by sea when Columbus made his bold proposal to Isabella. In the Capitulations of Santa Fe, dated on April 17, 1492, Christopher Columbus obtained from the Catholic Monarchs his appointment as viceroy and governor in the lands already discovered and that of he might discover thenceforth; thereby, it was the first document to establish an administrative organization in the Indies. Columbus' discoveries inaugurated the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Spain's claim to these lands was solidified by the Inter caetera papal bull dated 4 May 1493, and Dudum siquidem on 26 September 1493, which vested the sovereignty of the territories discovered and to be discovered.
Since the Portuguese wanted to keep the line of demarcation of Alcaçovas running east and west along a latitude south of Cape Bojador, a compromise was worked out which was incorporated in the Treaty of Tordesillas dated on 7 June 1494, in which the globe was split into two hemispheres dividing Spanish and Portuguese claims. These actions gave Spain exclusive rights to establish colonies in all of the New World (except where the Portuguese had already set up, in Brazil and eastern Canada), as well as the easternmost parts of Asia. The treaty of Tordesillas was confirmed by Pope Julius II in the bull Ea quae pro bono pacis on 24 January 1506. Spain's expansion and colonization was driven by economic influences, a yearning to improve national prestige, and a desire to spread Catholicism into the New World.
On the other hand, the treaty of Tordesillas and the treaty of Cintra (18 September 1509) established the limits of the Kingdom of Fez for Portugal, and outside of these limits the Castilian expansion was allowed, beginning with the conquest of Melilla in 1497.
Struggles for Italy
The Catholic Monarchs had developed a strategy of marriages for their children in order to isolate their long-time enemy: France. The Spanish princes married the heirs of Portugal, England and the House of Habsburg. Following the same strategy, the Catholic Monarchs decided to support the Catalan-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 centre of Ferdinand's foreign policy as king. In these battles, which established the supremacy of the Spanish Tercios in European battlefields, the forces of the kings of Spain acquired a reputation for invincibility that would last until the mid-17th century.
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 deployment 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. This war was less of a success than the war against Venice, and in 1516, France agreed to a truce that left Milan in its control and recognized Spanish control of Upper Navarre.
The Indias, Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea
The Papal Bull Inter caetera of 1493 vested government and jurisdiction of newly found lands in the kings of Castile and León and their successors, not in the kings of Spain. According to the Concord of Segovia of 1475, Ferdinand was mentioned in the bulls as king of Castile and at the moment of his death the title of the Indies was to be incorporated into the Crown of Castile. The territories were incorporated by the Catholic monarchs as jointly held assets.
In the 1506 Treaty of Villafáfila king Ferdinand the Catholic renounced not only the government of Castile in favour of his son-in-law Philip I of Castile but also the lordship of the Indies, withholding a half of the income of the kingdoms of the Indies. Joanna of Castile and Philip immediately added to their titles the kingdoms of Indies, Islands and Mainland of the Ocean Sea. But the Treaty of Villafáfila did not hold for long because of the death of Philip; Ferdinand returned as regent of Castile and as "lord the Indies".
According to the domain granted by Papal bulls and the wills of queen Isabella of Castile in 1504 and at the moment of the death of king Ferdinand of Aragon in 1516, such property became, again, a property of the Crown of Castile. This arrangement was ratified by successive monarchs, beginning with Charles I in 1519 in a decree that spelt out the juridical status of the new overseas territories.
The lordship of the discovery territories conveyed by papal bulls was private as public to kings of Castile and León. The political condition of the Indias were to transform from "Lordship" of the Catholic monarchs to "Kingdoms" for the heirs of Castile. Isabel and Ferdinand enjoyed unlimited power, because the bulls gave full, free and omnipotent power, authority and jurisdiction. But when those territories were incorporated into the Crown of Castile as Kingdoms for the heirs, the absolute power was subject to the laws of Castile.
First settlements in America
The Capitulations of Santa Fe granted excessive power to Columbus, and the Catholic Monarchs reacted when Colon discovered the mainland in 1498. They learned of his discovery in May 1499, and, taking advantage of a revolt against Columbus in La Española, they appointed Francisco de Bobadilla as governor of the Indies with civil and criminal jurisdiction over the lands discovered by Columbus. He, however, was soon replaced by Nicolás de Ovando in September 1501. Thenceforth the Crown could authorize to individuals voyages to discover territories in the Indies with previous license, and since 1503, the monopoly of the Crown was assured by the Casa de Contratación at Sevile. But the successors of Columbus litigated against the Crown until 1536 for the fulfillment of the Capitulations of Santa Fe in the pleitos colombinos.
In metropolitan Spain, the direction of the issues of the Indies was taken over by the Bishop Fonseca between 1493 and 1516, and again between 1518 and 1524, after a brief period of Jean le Sauvage. Since 1504 the figure of the secretary was added, so then between 1504 and 1507 Gaspar de Gricio took charge, between 1508 and 1518 Lope de Conchillos followed him, and since 1519, Francisco de los Cobos. In 1511, the Junta of The Indies was constituted as a standing committee belonging to the Council of Castile to address issues of the Indies, and this junta constituted the origin of the Council of the Indies in 1524.
Following the settlement of Hispaniola which was successful towards the end of the 15th century, the colonists began searching elsewhere to begin new settlements. Those from the less prosperous Hispaniola were eager to search for new success in a new settlement. From there Juan Ponce de León conquered Puerto Rico and Diego Velázquez took Cuba.
In 1508, the Board of Navigators met in Burgos concurred the need to colonize the mainland, that which was entrusted to Alonso de Ojeda and Diego de Nicuesa as governors subordinated to the governor of Hispaniola, who was the newly appointed Diego Columbus, with the same legal authority that Ovando. The first settlement on the mainland was Santa María la Antigua del Darién in Castilla de Oro (now Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia), settled by Vasco Núñez de Balboa in 1510. 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 Crown of Castile.
The judgment of Seville of May 1511 recognized the viceregal title to Diego Columbus but limited to Hispaniola and to the islands discovered by his father, Christopher Columbus, nevertheless his power was limited by royal officers and magistrates constituting a dual regime of government. Therefore, the king Ferdinand II of Aragon as regent of his daughter the queen Joanna separated the territories of mainland, designated as Castilla de Oro, from the viceroy of Hispaniola, establishing as General Lieutenant to Pedrarias Dávila in 1513 with functions similar to those of a viceroy, remaining Balboa subordinated as governing of Panama and Coiba on the Pacific Coast, and that after his death returned to Castilla de Oro. The territory of Castilla de Oro did not include either Veragua (which was comprised approximately between the river Chagres and cape Gracias a Dios), due to this territory was subject to a lawsuit between the Crown and Diego Columbus, or the region farther north, towards the Yucatán, explored by Yáñez Pinzón and Solís in 1508-1509, due to its remoteness. The conflicts of the viceroy Columbus with the royal officers and with the Audiencia, created in 1511, caused his return to the Peninsula in 1515.
Campaigns in Africa
After the conquest of Melilla in 1497, the Spanish expansionist policy in North Africa was developed during the regency of Ferdinand the Catholic in Castile, stimulated by the Cardinal Cisneros, once the Reconquista in the Iberian Peninsula was finished. That way, several towns and outposts in the North African coast were conquered and occupied by Castile: Mazalquivir (1505), Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera (1508), Oran (1509), Algiers (1510), Bugia (1510), and Tripoli (1511). In the Atlantic coast, Spain took possession of the outpost of Santa Cruz de Mar Pequeña (1476) with support from the Canary Islands, and it was retained until 1525 with the consent of the treaty of Cintra (1509).
The Spanish Habsburgs: The Sun Never Sets (1516–1700)
The 16th and 17th centuries are sometimes called "the Golden Age of Spain" (in Spanish, Siglo de Oro). As a result of the marriage politics of the Reyes Católicos, their Habsburg grandson Charles inherited the Castilian empire in America, the Possessions of the Crown of Aragon in the Mediterranean (including a large portion of modern Italy), lands in Germany, the Low Countries, Franche-Comté, and Austria (this one, along with the rest of hereditary Habsburg domains was almost immediately transferred to Ferdinand, the Emperor's brother).
While not directly an inheritance, Charles was elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire after the death of his grandfather Emperor Maximilian thanks to prodigious bribes paid the prince-electors. Charles became the most powerful man in Europe, his rule stretching over an empire in Europe unrivalled in extent until the Napoleonic era. It was often said during this time that it was the empire on which the sun never set. This sprawling overseas empire of the Spanish Golden Age was controlled, not from inland Valladolid, but from Seville.
The Castilian Empire abroad was initially a disappointment. It did stimulate some trade and industry, but the trading opportunities encountered were limited. Matters began to change in the 1520s with the large-scale extraction of silver from the rich deposits of Mexico's Guanajuato region, but it was the opening of the silver mines in Mexico's Zacatecas and Potosí in Upper Peru (modern-day Bolivia) in 1546 that became legendary. During the 16th century, Spain held the equivalent of US$1.5 trillion (1990 terms) in gold and silver received from New Spain. Ultimately, however, these imports diverted investment away from other forms of industry and contributed to inflation in Spain in the last decades of the 16th century: "I learnt a proverb here", said a French traveler in 1603: "Everything is dear in Spain except silver". This situation was aggravated by the loss of much of the commercial and artisan classes with the expulsions of the Jews (1492) and Moriscos (1609). The vast imports of silver ultimately made Spain overly dependent on foreign sources of raw materials and manufactured goods.
The wealthy preferred to invest their fortunes in public debt (juros), which were backed by these silver imports, rather than in production of manufactures and the improvement of agriculture. This helped perpetuate the medieval aristocratic prejudice that saw manual work as dishonorable long after this attitude had started to decline in other west European countries. The silver and gold whose circulation helped facilitate the economic and social revolutions in the Low Countries, 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 the Habsburg government.
The Habsburg dynasty spent the Castilian and American riches in wars across Europe on behalf of Habsburg interests, defaulted on their debt several times, and left Spain bankrupt several times. These problems led to a number of revolts across his empire, notably that of Castilian rebels in the Revolt of the Comuneros, but these rebellions were put down.
The Habsburgs' political goals were several:
- Access to the resources of the Americas (gold, silver, sugar) and products of Asia ( porcelain, spices, silk)
- Undermining the power of France and containing it in its eastern borders.
- Maintaining Catholic Habsburg hegemony in Germany, defending Catholicism against the Protestant Reformation. Charles attempted to quell the Reformation at the Diet of Worms but Martin 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.
- To spread religion to the unconverted souls of the new world. With conflict between Catholics and Protestants raging in Europe, the new world was an ideal place for more Catholics to be recruited.
Spanish intervention in Europe
Struggles of Charles V for Italy
With the ascent of the king Charles I in 1516 and his election as sovereign of the Holy Roman Empire in 1519, Francis I of France found himself surrounded by Habsburg territories, invaded the Spanish possessions in Italy in 1521, and inaugurated the second war of Franco-Spanish conflict. The war was a disaster for France, which suffered defeat at the Battle of Biccoca (1522), the Battle of Pavia (1525, at which Francis was captured), and the Battle of Landriano (1529) before Francis relented and abandoned Milan to Spain once more.
King Charles I (Charles V (Holy Roman Emperor)) achieved victory at the Battle of Pavia in 1525 and 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 the first marriage of King Henry VIII of England 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 V 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.
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 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.
Religious conflicts in the Holy Empire
The Schmalkaldic 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 Saxon elector Maurice.
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 cuius regio, eius religio, 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.
Defeat of France
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 ? 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.
European conflicts at the time of Philip II
The time for rejoicing in Madrid was short-lived. In 1566, Calvinist-led riots in the Netherlands prompted the Duke of Alba to march into the country to restore order. In 1568, William of Orange, better known as 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. According to Luc-Normand Tellier, "It is estimated that the port of Antwerp was earning the Spanish crown seven times more revenues than the Americas." 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 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 to negotiate, and pacified most of the southern provinces again with the Union of Arras in 1579. In response, the Netherlands created the Union of Utrecht, as an alliance between the northern provinces, later that month. They officially deposed Philip in 1581 when they enacted the Act of Abjuration.
Under the Arras agreement the southern states of the Spanish Netherlands, today in Wallonia and the Nord-Pas-de-Calais (and Picardy) régions in France, expressed their loyalty to the Spanish king Philip II and recognized his Governor-General, Don Juan of Austria. 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."
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 intervention, Philip sent the Spanish Armada to attack England. Favourable weather, more heavily armed and manœuvrable English ships, and the fact that the English had been warned by their spies in the Netherlands and were ready for the attack resulted in defeat for the Armada. However the failure of the Drake–Norris Expedition to Portugal and the Azores in 1589 marked a turning point in the on-off 1585–1604 Anglo–Spanish War. The Spanish fleets became more effective in transporting greatly increased quantities of silver and gold from the Americas, while English attacks suffered costly failures.
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.
The pacification at the time of Philip III
Faced with wars against England, France and the Netherlands, each led by capable leaders, the bankrupted empire found itself competing against strong adversaries. Continuing piracy against its shipping in the Atlantic and the costly colonial enterprises forced Spain to renegotiate its debts in 1596. The crown attempted to reduce its exposure to the different conflicts, 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. The Kingdom of England, suffering from a series of repulses at sea and from an endless guerrilla war by Catholics in Ireland, who were supported by Spain, agreed to the Treaty of London, 1604, following the accession of the more tractable Stuart King James I.
Castile provided the Spanish crown with most of its revenues and its best troops. The plague devastated Castilian lands between 1596 and 1602, causing the deaths of some 600,000 people. A great number of Castilians went to America or died in battle. In 1609, the great majority of the Morisco population of Spain was expelled. It is estimated that Castile lost about 25% of its population between 1600 and 1623. Such a dramatic drop in the population meant the basis for the Crown's revenues was dangerously weakened in a time when it was engaged in continuous conflict in Europe.
Peace with England and France gave Spain an opportunity to focus its energies on restoring its 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 Ambrogio Spinola, a general with the ability to match Maurice, pressed hard against the Dutch and was prevented from conquering the Netherlands only by Spain's latest bankruptcy in 1607. In 1609, the Twelve Years' Truce was signed between Spain and the United Provinces. At last, Spain was at peace — the Pax Hispanica.
Spain made a fair recovery during the truce, putting its finances in order and doing much to restore its prestige and stability in the run-up to the last truly great war in which she would play a leading part. Philip II's successor, Philip III, was a man of limited ability, uninterested in politics and preferring to delegate management of the empire to others. 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 1618, the king replaced him with Don Balthasar de Zúñiga, a veteran ambassador to Vienna. Don Balthasar believed that the key to restraining the resurgent French and eliminating the Dutch was a closer alliance with Habsburg Austria. In 1618, beginning with the Defenestration of Prague, Austria and the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II, embarked on a campaign against the Protestant Union and Bohemia. Don Balthasar encouraged Philip to join the Austrian Habsburgs in the war, and Spinola, the rising star of the Spanish army in the Netherlands, was sent at the head of the Army of Flanders to intervene. Thus, Spain entered into the Thirty Years' War.
The road to Rocroi
In 1621, Philip III was succeeded by the considerably more religious Philip IV. The following year, Don Balthasar was replaced by Gaspar de Guzmán, Count-Duke of Olivares, a reasonably honest and able man. 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 threatened the Spanish position, 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. France was once again involved in its own instabilities (the famous Siege of La Rochelle began in 1627), and Spain's eminence seemed clear. The Count-Duke Olivares stridently affirmed, "God is Spanish and fights for our nation these days".
Olivares realized that Spain needed to reform, and to reform it needed peace, first and foremost with the United Provinces. However, Olivares aimed for "peace with honour" which meant in practice a peace settlement which would have restored to Spain something of its predominant position in the Netherlands. This was unacceptable to the United Provinces and the inevitable consequence of that was the constant hope that one more victory would after all lead to "peace with honour" - perpetuating the ruinous war which Olivare had wanted to avoid to begin with.
To illustrate the precarious economic situation of Spain at the time, it is sufficient to recall that it was actually Dutch bankers who financed the East India merchants of Seville (during the truce, presumably). At the same time, everywhere in the world Dutch entrepreneurship and colonists were undermining Spanish and Portuguese hegemony. Spain badly needed time and peace to repair its finances and to rebuild its economy.
While Spinola and the Spanish army were focused on the Netherlands, the war seemed to go in Spain's favour. But 1627 saw the collapse of the Castilian economy. The Habsburgs had been debasing their currency to pay for the war and prices exploded, just as they had in previous years in Austria. Until 1631, parts of Castile operated on a barter economy owing to the currency crisis, and the government was unable to collect any meaningful taxes from the peasantry and had to depend on revenue from its colonies. The Spanish armies, like others in German territories, resorted to "paying themselves" on the land.
Olivares had backed certain taxation reforms in Spain pending the end of the war, but was blamed for another embarrassing and fruitless war in Italy. The Dutch, who during the Twelve Years' Truce had made increasing their navy a priority, (which showed its maturing potency at the Battle of Gibraltar 1607), managed to strike a great blow against Spanish maritime trade with the capture by captain Piet Hein of the Spanish treasure fleet on which Spain had become dependent after the economic collapse.
Spanish military resources were stretched across Europe and also at sea as they sought to protect maritime trade against the greatly improved Dutch and French fleets, while still occupied with the Ottoman and associated Barbary pirate threat in the Mediterranean. In the meantime the aim of choking Dutch shipping was carried out by the Dunkirkers with considerable success. In 1625 a Spanish-Portuguese fleet, under Admiral Fradique de Toledo, regained the strategically vital Brazilian city of Salvador da Bahia from the Dutch. Elsewhere, the isolated and undermanned Portuguese forts in Africa and the Asia proved vulnerable to Dutch and English raids and takeovers or simply being bypassed as important trading posts.
In 1630, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, one of history's most noted commanders, landed in Germany and relieved the port of Stralsund, the last continental stronghold of German forces belligerent to the Emperor. Gustavus then marched south and won notable victories at Breitenfeld and Lützen, attracting more Protestant support with every step he took. The situation for the Catholics improved with Gustavus's death at Lutzen in 1632, and a key victory at Nordlingen was won 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. But then France entered the war, and diplomatic calculations were once again thrown in confusion.
Cardinal Richelieu of France 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 interests and declared war on the Holy Roman Emperor and Spain within months of the peace being signed. In the war that followed, 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 "année de Corbie", 1636, Spanish forces advanced as far south as Corbie, and such was the threat to Paris that the war came close to a conclusion on Spanish terms.
After 1636, however, Olivares halted the advance, fearful of provoking another crown bankruptcy. The hesitation in pressing home the advantage proved fateful; French forces regrouped and pushed the Spanish back towards the border. 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 supply and reinforce their forces adequately in the Netherlands.
The Army of Flanders, which represented the finest of Spanish soldiery and leadership, faced a French assault led by Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé in northern France at Rocroi in 1643. The Spanish, led by Francisco de Melo, were beaten by the French. After a closely fought battle the Spanish were forced to surrender on honorable terms. As a result, while the slaughter was not great, the high reputation of the Army of Flanders was broken at Rocroi, and with it, the grandeur of Spain.
The defeat at Rocroi also led to the dismissal of the embattled Olivares, who was confined to his estates by the king's order and died two years later, broken and mad.
The Last Spanish Habsburgs
Traditionally, historians mark the Battle of Rocroi (1643) as the end of Spanish dominance in Europe, but the war was not finished. Supported by the French, the Catalans, Neapolitans, and Portuguese rose up in revolt against the Spanish in the 1640s. With the Spanish Netherlands caught between the tightening grip of French and Dutch forces after the Battle of Lens in 1648, the Spanish made peace with the Dutch and recognized the independent United Provinces in the Peace of Westphalia that ended both the Eighty Years' War and the Thirty Years' War.
War with France continued for eleven more years. Although France suffered from a civil war from 1648 to 1652 (see Wars of the Fronde) the Spanish economy was so exhausted that it was unable to effectively cope with war on so many fronts. Yet the decline of Spanish power in this period has often been overstated. Spain retook Naples in 1648 and Catalonia in 1652, but the war came to an end at the Battle of the Dunes (1658) where the French army under Viscount Turenne defeated the remnants of the Spanish army of the Netherlands. Spain agreed to the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659 that ceded to France Roussillon and Artois.
Portugal had rebelled in 1640 under the leadership of John of Braganza, a pretender to the throne. He had received widespread support from the Portuguese people, and Spain—which had to deal with rebellions elsewhere, along with the war against France – was unable to respond adequately. John mounted the throne as King John IV of Portugal and the Spanish and Portuguese co-existed in a de facto state of peace from 1644 to 1656. When John died in 1656, 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 still had a huge overseas empire, but France was now the dominant power in Europe and the United Provinces were in the Atlantic.
The Great Plague of Seville (1647–1652) killed up to 25% of Seville's population. Sevilla, and indeed the economy of Andalucía, would never recover from so complete a devastation. Altogether Spain was thought to have lost 500,000 people, out of a population of slightly fewer than 10,000,000, or nearly 5% of its entire population. Historians reckon the total cost in human lives due to these plagues throughout Spain, throughout the entire 17th century, to be a minimum of nearly 1.25 million.
The regency of the young Spanish king Charles II was 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 Franco-Dutch War of 1672–1678, Spain lost still more territory when it came to the assistance of its former Dutch enemies, most notably Franche-Comté. In the Nine Years' War (1688–1697) 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 the Spanish defenses and bureaucracy were. Also the ineffective Spanish Habsburg government took no action to improve them.
The final decades of the 17th 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 Philip IV contributed to Spain's decay. Charles II was mentally retarded and impotent. He was therefore childless, and in his final will he left his throne to the Bourbon prince Philip of Anjou, rather than to a fellow Habsburg, albeit from Austria. This resulted in the War of the Spanish Succession.
Africa and the Mediterranean
By the 16th century, the Ottomans had become an existential threat to Europe. Ottoman conquests in Europe made significant gains with a decisive victory at Mohács. Charles had preferred to suppress the Ottomans through a considerably more maritime strategy, hampering Ottoman landings on the Venetian territories in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The coastal villages and towns of Spain, Italy and the Mediterranean islands were frequently attacked by Barbary pirates from North Africa; the Formentera was even temporarily left by its population and long stretches of the Spanish and Italian coasts were almost completely abandoned by their inhabitants. The most famous corsair was the Turkish Barbarossa ("Redbeard"). According to Robert C. Davis, between 1 million and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by North African pirates and sold as slaves in North Africa and Ottoman Empire between the 16th and 19th centuries.
The reign of Charles V saw a decline in the presence of Spain in the North of Africa, even if Tunis and its port, La Goleta, were taken in 1535. One after the other, most of the Spanish possessions were lost: Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera (1522), Santa Cruz de Mar Pequeña (1524), Algiers (1529), Tripoli (1551), Bujia (1554), and La Goleta and Tunis (1569).
Only in response to Barbary pirates' raids on the eastern coast of Spain did Charles lead attacks against Tunis (1535) and Algiers (1541).
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 Venetian warships, 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 what is perhaps the most decisive battle in modern 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 Ottomans recovered soon. They reconquered Tunis in 1574, and they helped to restore an ally, Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik I Saadi, in the throne of Morocco, in 1576. The death of the Persian shah, Tahmasp I was an opportunity for the Ottoman sultan to intervene in that country, so, in 1580 was agreed a truce in the Mediterranean with Philip II.
In the first half of the 17th century, Larache and La Mamora, in the Moroccan Atlantic coast, and the island of Alhucemas, in the Mediterranean, were taken, but during the second half of the 17th century, Larache and La Mamora were also lost.
The New World
Explorers and conquistadors
After Columbus, the Spanish colonization of America was led by a series of warrior-explorers called Conquistadors. The Spanish forces, in addition to significant armament and equestrian advantages, exploited the rivalries between competing Indigenous peoples, tribes, and nations, some of which were 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 facilitated by the spread of diseases (e.g. smallpox), common in Europe but never present in the New World, which reduced the indigenous populations in America. This sometimes caused a labour shortage for plantations and public works and so the colonists informally and gradually, at first, initiated the Atlantic slave trade. (see Population history of American indigenous peoples)
One of the most accomplished conquistadors was Hernán Cortés, who leading a relatively small Spanish force but with local translators and the crucial support of thousands of native allies, achieved the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in the campaigns of 1519–1521. This territory later became the Viceroyalty of New Spain, present day Mexico. Of equal importance was the Spanish 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 and El Dorado in South America) motivated several other expeditions. Many of those returned without having found their goal, or finding it much less valuable than was hoped. Indeed, the New World colonies only began to yield a substantial part of the Crown's revenues with the establishment of mines such as that of Potosí (Bolivia) and Zacatecas (Mexico) both started in 1546. By the late 16th century, silver from the Americas accounted for 1⁄5 of Spain's total budget.
Eventually the world's stock of precious metal was doubled or even tripled by silver from the Americas. Official records indicate that at least 75% of the silver was taken across the Atlantic to Spain and no more than 25% across the Pacific to China. Some modern researchers argue that due to rampant smuggling about 50% went to China. In the 16th century "perhaps 240,000 Europeans" entered American ports.
Further Spanish settlements were progressively established in the New World: New Granada in the 1530s (later in the Viceroyalty of New Granada in 1717 and present day Colombia), Lima in 1535 as the capital of the Viceroyalty of Peru, Buenos Aires in 1536 (later in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776), and Santiago in 1541.
Florida was colonized in 1565 by Pedro Menéndez de Avilés when he founded Saint Augustine and then promptly defeated an attempt led by the French Captain Jean Ribault and 150 of his countrymen to establish a French foothold in Spanish Florida territory. Saint Augustine quickly became a strategic defensive base for the Spanish ships full of gold and silver being sent to Spain from its New World dominions.
The Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan died while in the Philippines commanding a Castilian expedition to circumnavigate the globe in 1522. Juan Sebastián Elcano would lead the expedition to success. Therefore, Spain sought to enforce their rights in the Moluccan islands, which led a conflict with the Portuguese, but the issue was resolved with the Treaty of Zaragoza (1525), settling the location of the antimeridian of Tordesillas, which would divide the world into two equal hemispheres. Thenceforth, maritime expeditions led to the discovery of several archipelagos in the South Pacific as the Pitcairn Islands, the Marquesas, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands or New Guinea.
On April 27, 1565, the first permanent Spanish settlement in the Philippines was founded by Miguel López de Legazpi and the service of Manila Galleons was inaugurated. The Manilla Galleons shipped goods from all over Asia across the Pacific to Acapulco on the coast of Mexico. From there, the goods were transshipped across Mexico to the Spanish treasure fleets, for shipment to Spain. The Spanish trading post of Manila was established to facilitate this trade in 1572. The control of Guam, Mariana Islands, Caroline Islands, and Palau was later, from the end of the 17th century, and remained under Spanish control until 1898.
In 1599, the Spanish Empire suffered one of its greatest setbacks in the Americas when native Mapuches destroyed the Spanish army of Chile and killed the governor Martín García Óñez de Loyola in the Battle of Curalaba. This event led to a generalized rebellion that ended in the Destruction of the Seven Cities, and established the Bío-Bío River as frontier. This led to the prolonged war called the War of Arauco, and southern Chile received the name of Flandés Indiano (Indian Flanders) due to the resistances of the Mapuches. In a case unique for America, the Spanish established a professional army in Chile financed through the Real Situado by the Viceroyalty of Peru.
Organization and administration
From the beginning of the exploration and conquest of the Indies, the Crown assumed the control of the venture turning away the Columbus family. In 1503 the Casa de Contratación was founded to control migration to the New World, which was restricted to old Christians especially families and women. In addition, the Casa de Contratación took charge of the fiscal organization, and of the organization and judicial control of the trade with the Indies.
The system of government in Spain was constituted by a polisynodial system of Councils which advised the monarch and made decisions on his behalf about specific matters of government. In 1524 it was established the Council of The Indies with the assignment of the government of the Indies from the mainland, thus it was responsible for drafting legislation, proposing the appointments to the King and pronouncing judicial sentences; as maximum authority in the ultramarine territories, the Council of The Indies took over both the institutions in the Indies as the defense of the interests of the Crown and of the aborigens.
The Laws of the Indies resulted in the Laws of Burgos, 1512–1513, which were the first codified set of laws governing the behaviour of Spanish settlers in the Americas, particularly with regards to treatment of native Indians. They forbade the maltreatment of natives, and endorsed the Indian Reductions with attempts of conversion to Catholicism. Upon their failure, they were replaced by the New Laws (1542)
Spain passed 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 their effect was limited. The restored Encomenderos increasingly used native Indian workforce.
The politics of implantation of the royal authority opposite to the Colón caused the suppression of the unit of government of the Indies and the appearance of governorates under royal authority. These governorates, also called as provinces, were the basic circumscriptions of the territorial government of the Indies, and arose as the territories were conquered and colonized. To carry out the conquest of the territory, the king, as owner of the Indies, agreed a capitulación with a particular laying down the conditions of the venture of conquest of a territory. The individuals assumed the expenses of the venture and in return received as reward the grant from the government of the conquered territories; and in addition, they received instructions about treating the aborigens.
After the end of the period of conquests, it was necessary to manage extensive and different territories with a strong bureaucracy. In the face of the impossibility of the Castilian institutions to take care of the American affairs, other new institutions were created.
As the basic political entity it was the governorate, the governors exercised judicial ordinary functions of first instance, and prerogatives of government legislating by ordinances. To these political functions of the governor, it could be joined the military ones, according to military requirements, with the rank of Captain general. The office of captain general involved to be the supreme military chief of the whole territory and he was responsible for recruiting and providing troops, the fortification of the territory, the supply and the shipbuilding.
The impossibility of the physical presence of the monarch was replaced by viceroys, the post of viceroy the direct representation of the monarch. The functions of the viceroy were: governor, captain general, president of the Audiencia, superintendent of the Royal Treasury and vicepatronage of the Church. Thus, the territories of the viceroyalties emerged with posteriority to affirm the authority of the king in a specific territory. The territory which comprised the viceroyalty was divided in provinces —also called governorates- headed by the governor. In the 16th century the Spanish overseas territories were divided in two viceroyalties: New Spain (1535) for North America, Antilles, the Philippines and Venezuela, and Peru (1542) for South America, which was divided in the 18th century.
On the other hand, the Audiencias were constituted as a key administrative institution due to receive the confidence of the Crown as depositaries of an impartial authority opposite to conquerors and settlers. Their main function was that of being a court of justice of second instance —court of appeal— in penal and civil matters, but also the Audiencias were courts the first instance in the city where it had its headquarters, and also in the cases involving the Royal Treasury. Besides court of justice, the Audiencias had functions of government as counterweight the authority of the viceroys, since they could communicate with both the Council of the Indies and the king without the requirement of requesting authorization from the viceroy. This direct correspondence of the Audiencia with the Council of The Indies made possible that the Council gave to the Audiencia all kinds of orientations about general aspects of government.
The fact that the presidents were not habitually either magistrates or lawyers, but men clad in sword and cape, caused that they did not have any vote in court cases, and the court did not submit to their authority, but in representation that of the king. Thus, the authority of the president, when he was not a magistrate, was void in judicial matter and merely signed the verdicts. The Audiencias chaired by the viceroy were called viceregal Audiencias, and the chaired ones by a governor-captain general were the pretorial Audiencias.
As the pretorial Audiencias were chaired by a governor-captain general, this situation caused to appear the post of president-governor of major districts, with direct rule over a province and superior control of other provinces included inside the territorial district of the Audiencia, so that they exercised functions similar to the viceroys. Thus, another administrative division appeared: while the territories in charge of a governor were the minor provinces, the juridisdiccional scope of the Audiencias constituted the major provinces.
The members (oidores) of the Audiencia met with the president in a committee called royal agreement (real acuerdo), to take measurements for the government concerning the review of bylaws, appointments of commissioners (jueces pesquisidores), or retention of bulls, but the advice did not correspond to the Audiencia as institution but to its members as reputable people. The decisions of the royal agreement were established in the concerted writs (autos acordados), nevertheless, there were matters as dispatching the issues of government, in which the Audiencia could not interfere either with the viceroy or the president-governor. This way, the control of the Audiencias over the viceroys enabled to the Crown to control the functions of government of the viceroys.
While the viceregal and pretorial Audiencias were chaired by men clad in sword and cape, the presidents of the subordinated Audiencias were magistrates, so that, in the juridisdiccional scope of the subordinated Audiencias, the functions of government, Treasury and war belonged to the viceroy. Therefore, in these sections of the viceroyalties there were no governors-captains general but Audiencias, and the presidency gave them the name, for example in Charcas and Quito.
Although there were accumulated in the same person the offices of viceroy, governor, captain general and president of the Audiencia, each of them had different jurisdictional areas. The jurisdiction of the viceregal Audiencia, whose president was the viceroy, ended face up to the jurisdiction of other Audiencias inside the same viceroyalty: as the pretorial Audiencias chaired by a governor-captain general, who had administrative, political and military authority, as the subordinated Audiencias, whose president did not have this administrative, political and military authority. Therefore, as governor, the direct administration of the province where was placed the viceregal capital belonged to the viceroy; nevertheless, with respect to the other governorates of the viceroyalty, his function was mere oversight or general inspection over the management of political affairs. The imprecision in defining the powers of the viceroy and those of the provincial governors allowed the Crown to control their officials.
In the viceroyalty of New Spain, the Audiencia of Mexico, chaired by the viceroy, ended its jurisdiction face up to the jurisdiction of other Audiencias of Guatemala (1543–1563; 1568-), of Manila (1583–1589; 1595-), of Guadalajara (established in Compostela in 1548 and transferred in 1560 to Guadalajara) and that of Santo Domingo (1526-). The viceroy of New Spain as governor only had jurisdiction over a more reduced governorate of New Spain, and as captain general his authority did not comprise either the captaincies of Yucatán or the New Kingdom of León, but it comprised the military command over the governorate of Nueva Galicia, which was a territory under the jurisdiction of the Audiencia of Guadalajara, until in 1708 the captaincy general was attached to the governor of this province of Nueva Galicia.
In the viceroyalty of Peru, the viceroy presided the Audiencia of Lima (1542-), and the jurisdiction of this Audiencia ended face up to the jurisdictions of the pretorial Audiencias of Panama (1538–1543; 1563–1717), of Santa Fe de Bogotá (1547-), of Santiago de Chile (in Concepción between 1565 and 1575, and in Santiago de Chile since 1605), and that of Buenos Aires (1661–1672), whose presidents were also both governors and captains general, and in addition to these Audiencias, the viceroyalty comprised the subordinated Audiencias of Charcas (La Plata; 1559-) and Quito (1563-).
The settlers came from Spain had to settle in towns, where the local government belonged to the Cabildo. The Cabildo was composed by a variable number of aldermen (regidores), around a dozen, depending on the size of the town, also two municipal judges (alcaldes menores), who were judges of first instance, and also other officials as police chief, inspector of supplies, court clerk, and a public herald. They were in charge of distributing land to the neighbors, establishing local taxes, dealing with the public order, inspecting jails and hospitals, preserving the roads and public works such as irrigation ditchs and bridges, supervising the public health, regulating the festive activities, monitoring market prices, or the protection of Indians.
Since the end of the reign of Philip II, the municipal offices, including the aldermen, were auctioned to alleviate the need for money of the Crown, even the offices could also be sold, which became hereditary, so that the government of the cities went on to hands of urban oligarchies. In order to control the municipal life, the Crown ordered the appointment of corregidores and alcaldes mayores to exert greater political control and judicial functions in minor districts. Their functions were governing the respective municipalities, administering of justice and being appellate judges in the alcaldes menores' judgments, but only the corregidor could preside over the cabildo. However, both charges were also put up for sale freely since the late sixteenth century.
The Spanish Empire: reform and recovery (1700–1808)
Under the Treaties of Utrecht (April 11, 1713), the European powers decided what the fate of Spain would be, in terms of the continental balance of power. The new Bourbon king Philip V retained the Spanish overseas empire, but ceded the Spanish Netherlands, Naples, Milan, and Sardinia to Austria; Sicily and parts of Milan to Duchy of Savoy; and Gibraltar and Minorca to the Kingdom of Great Britain. Moreover, Philip V granted the British the exclusive right to slave trading in Spanish America for thirty years, the so-called asiento, as well as licensed voyages to ports in Spanish colonial dominions, openings, as Fernand Braudel remarked, for both licit and illicit smuggling (Brudel 1984 p 418).
Spain's economic and demographic recovery had begun slowly in the last decades of the Habsburg reign, as was evident from the growth of its trading convoys and much more rapid growth of illicit trade during the period, though this growth was slower than in its northern rivals who had gained increasing illicit access to its empire's markets. Critically, this recovery was not translated into institutional improvement because of the incompetent leadership of the unfortunate last Habsburg. This legacy of neglect was reflected in the early years of Bourbon rule in which the military was ill-advisedly pitched into battle against the Quadruple Alliance (1718–1720).
Following the war, the new Bourbon monarchy would take a much more cautious approach to international relations, built upon a family alliance with Bourbon France, and continuing to follow a program of institutional renewal.
At the beginning of the Philip V's reign and due to the War of the Spanish Succession, the Spanish king Philip V initiated organizational reforms headed for a government more executive, giving priority to the direct decision of the monarch, opposite to the deliberative way of the polisynodial system of Councils.
The Spanish Bourbons' broadest intentions were to break the power of the entrenched aristocracy of the Criollos in America (locally born colonials of European descent), and, eventually, loosen the territorial control of the Society of Jesus over the virtually independent theocracies of Guarani Misiones: the Jesuits were expelled from Spanish America in 1767. In addition to the established consulados of Mexico City and Lima, firmly in the control of local landowners, a new rival consulado 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, the Guipuzcoana Company (1728) and—the most successful one—a Havana Company (1740). In 1717–1718, the structures for governing the Indies, the Consejo de Indias and the Casa de Contratación that governed investments in the cumbersome escorted fleets were transferred from Seville to Cádiz, 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 Cádiz and Havana and Puerto Rico, and at longer intervals to the Río 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 comuneros of New Granada, both in part reactions to tighter, more efficient control.
18th century prosperity
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. Spain's crucial victory in the Battle of Cartagena de Indias against a massive British fleet and army in the Caribbean port of Cartagena de Indias, one of a number of successful battles, helped Spain secure its dominance of America until the 19th century.
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. Rapid shipping growth from the mid-1740s until the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), reflecting in part the success of the Bourbons in bringing illicit trade under control. With the loosening of trade controls after the Seven Years' War, shipping trade within the empire once again began to expand, reaching an extraordinary rate of growth in the 1780s.
The ending of Cádiz'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, politically active commercial class in Barcelona. This isolated pocket of advanced economic development stood in stark contrast to the relative backwardness of most of the country. Most of the improvements were 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 America.
On the other hand most of rural Spain and its empire, where the great bulk of the population lived, lived in relatively backward conditions by 18th century West European standards, reinforced old customs and isolation. Agricultural productivity remained low despite efforts to introduce new techniques to what was for the most part an uninterested, exploited peasant and labouring groups. Governments were inconsistent in their policies. Though there were substantial improvements by the late 18th century, Spain was still an economic backwater. Under the mercantile trading arrangements it had difficulty in providing the goods being demanded by the strongly growing markets of its empire, and providing adequate outlets for the return trade.
The Bourbon institutional reforms were to bear fruit militarily when Spanish forces easily retook Naples and Sicily from the Austrians in 1734 during War of the Polish Succession, and during the War of Jenkins' Ear (1739–1742) thwarted British efforts to seize the strategic cities of Cartagena de Indias and Santiago de Cuba by defeating a massive British army and navy led by Edward Vernon, which ended Britain's ambitions in the Spanish Main. Moreover, though Spain lost minor territories to British forces towards the end of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), she was to recover these losses and seize the British naval base in the Bahamas during the American Revolutionary War (1775–83).
The greater part of what is the territory of today's Brazil had been claimed as Spanish when exploration began with the navigation of the length of the Amazon River in 1541–42 by Francisco de Orellana. Many Spanish expeditions explored large parts of this vast region, especially those close to Spanish settlements. During the 16th and 17th centuries, Spanish soldiers, missionaries and adventurers also established pioneering communities, primarily in Paraná, Santa Catarina, and São Paulo, and forts on the northeastern coast threatened by the French and Dutch.
As Portuguese-Brazilian settlement expanded, following in the trail of the Bandeirantes exploits, these isolated Spanish groups were eventually integrated into Brazilian society. Only some Castilians who were displaced from the disputed areas of the Pampas of Rio Grande do Sul have left a significant influence on the formation of the gaucho, when they mixed with Indian groups, Portuguese and blacks who arrived in the region during the 18th century. The Spanish were barred by their laws from slaving of indigenous people, leaving them without a commercial interest deep in the interior of the Amazon basin. The Laws of Burgos (1512) and the New Laws (1542) had been intended to protect the interests of indigenous people. While in spirit they were often abused, as through forced exploitative labour of locals, they did prevent widespread formal enslavement of indigenous people in Spanish territories. The Portuguese-Brazilian slavers, the Bandeirantes, had the advantage of access from the mouth of the Amazon River, which was on the Portuguese side of the line of Tordesillas. One famous attack upon a Spanish mission in 1628 resulted in the enslavement of about 60,000 indigenous people.
In time, there were in effect a self-funding force of occupation. By the 18th century, much of the Spanish territory was under defacto control of Portuguese-Brazil. This reality was recognised with the legal transfer of sovereignty in 1750 of most of the Amazon basin and surrounding areas to Portugal in the Treaty of Madrid. This settlement sowed the seeds of the Guarani War in 1756.
The California mission planning was begun in 1769. The Nootka Crisis (1789–1791) involved a dispute between Spain and Great Britain about the British settlement in Oregon to British Columbia. In 1791, the king of Spain gave Alessandro Malaspina an order to search for a Northwest Passage.
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 18th century when it was, and particularly in continental matters, at the mercy of other powers' political deals. The relatively more 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 17th century had been reversed. It was a 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. All was to be swept away by the tumult that was to overtake Europe at the turn of the 19th century with the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
Twilight of the Global Empire (1800–1899)
The first major territory Spain was to lose in the 19th century was the vast and wild Louisiana Territory, which stretched north to Canada and was ceded by France in 1763 under the terms of the Treaty of Fontainebleau. The French, under Napoleon, took back possession as part of the Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800 and sold it to the United States ( Louisiana Purchase, 1803).
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 British invasions of the Río de la Plata attempt to seize the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1806. The viceroy retreated hastily to the hills when defeated by a small British force. However the Criollos militias and colonial army eventually repulsed the British.
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.
Napoleon's sale in 1803 of the Louisiana Territory to the United States caused border disputes between the United States and Spain that, with rebellions in West Florida (1810) and in the remainder of Louisiana at the mouth of the Mississippi, led to their eventual cession to the United States, along with the sale of all of Florida, in the Adams–Onís Treaty (1819). In 1806 Baron Nikolai Rezanov attempted to negotiate a treaty between the Russian-American Company and Viceroyalty of New Spain but his premature death in 1807 ended any treaty hopes.
In 1808, Napoleon forced the abdication of the Spanish monarchy and placed his brother on the throne, however his unpopularity provoked an uprising from the Spanish people and the grinding guerrilla warfare, which Napoleon dubbed his "ulcer", the Peninsular War, (famously depicted by the painter Goya) ensued, followed by a power vacuum lasting up to a decade and turmoil for several decades, civil wars on succession disputes, a republic, and finally a liberal democracy.
Napoleon forces the Abdications of Bayonne on May 5 and places his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne a month later. Popular uprising against the French and the abdications starts the Peninsular War. Resistance coalesces around juntas, emergency ad-hoc governments. A Supreme Central and Governing Junta of the Kingdom, ruling in the name of Ferdinand VII, is created on September 25 to coordinate efforts among the various juntas.
Spanish American Independence
Juntas emerged in Spanish America as a result of Spain facing a political crisis due to the abdication of Ferdinand VII and Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion. Spanish Americans reacted in much the same way the Peninsular Spanish did, legitimizing their actions through traditional law, which held that there was a retroversion of the sovereignty to the people in the absence of a legitimate king.
The majority of Spanish Americans continued to support the idea of maintaining a monarchy under Ferdinand VII, but did not support retaining Absolute monarchy. Spanish Americans wanted auto-governance. The juntas in the Americas did not accept the governments of the Europeans, neither government set up for Spain by the French nor the various Spanish governments set up in response to the French invasion. The juntas did not accept the Spanish regency, which was under siege in the city of Cadiz. They also rejected the Spanish Constitution of 1812 although the Constitution gave Spanish citizenship to natives of the territories that had belonged to the Spanish monarchy in both hemispheres. Constitution of 1812 include Indigenous peoples of the Americas to Spanish citizenship. But the acquisition of citizenship for any casta of Afro-American peoples of the Americas was trough naturalization excluding slaves.
A long period of wars followed in America from 1811 to 1829. In South America this period of wars led to the freedom and independence of Argentina (1810), Paraguay (1811) and Uruguay (1815), but subsequently ruled by Brazil until 1828. José de San Martín campaigned for independence in Chile (1818) and Peru (1820). Further north Simón Bolívar led forces that won independence between 1811-1825 for the area that is currently Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia (then Alto Perú). In North America, a free thinking priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, declared in 1810 Mexican freedom, which independence was won by Agustín de Iturbide in 1821.
Central America declared its independence in 1821 and was joined to Mexico for a brief time (1822–23). Panama declared independence in 1821 and joined to the Republic of Gran Colombia (from 1821 to 1903). Royalist guerrillas continued the war in several countries, and Spain launched attempts to retake Venezuela in 1827 and Mexico in 1829. Spain finally abandoned all plans of military re-conquest at death of King Ferdinand in 1833.
Santo Domingo likewise declared independence in 1821 and began negotiating for inclusion in Bolivar's Republic of Gran Colombia, but was quickly occupied by Haiti, which ruled it until an 1844 revolution. Then after 17 years of independence, in 1861, Santo Domingo was again made a colony due to Haitian aggressions, yet by 1865 Santo Domingo again declared independence, making it the only territory to be recolonized by Spain. Thus only Cuba and Puerto Rico remained in Spanish hands in the New World after 1865.
Changes and Reaction
Spain lost all the colonial possessions in the first third of the century, except for Cuba, Puerto Rico and, isolated on the far side of the globe, the Philippines, Guam and nearby Pacific islands and some islands that later would be part of the Spanish Guinea.
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, fought primarily 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. On June 2, 1899, the 2nd expeditionary battalion "Cazadores" of Philippines the last Spanish garrison in the Philippines, located in Baler, Aurora, was pulled out, effectively ending around 300 years of Spanish hegemony in this archipelago. Its American and Asian presence ended, Spain then sold its remaining Pacific Ocean possessions to Germany in 1899, retaining only its African territories.
Territories in Africa (1885–1975)
By the end of the 17th century, only Melilla, Alhucemas, Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera (which had been taken again in 1564), Ceuta (part of the Portuguese Empire since 1415, has chosen to retain its links to Spain once the Iberian Union ended; the formal allegiance of Ceuta to Spain was recognized by the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668), Oran and Mazalquivir remained as Spanish territory in Africa. The latter cities were lost in 1708, reconquered in 1732 and sold by Charles IV in 1792.
In 1778, Fernando Poo Island (now Bioko), adjacent islets, and commercial rights to the mainland between the Niger and Ogooué Rivers were ceded to Spain by the Portuguese in exchange for territory in South America ( Treaty of El Pardo). In the 19th century, some Spanish explorers and missionaries would cross this zone, among them Manuel de Iradier.
In 1848, Spanish troops conquered the Islas Chafarinas.
In 1860, after the Tetuan War, Morocco ceded Sidi Ifni to Spain as a part of the Treaty of Tangiers, on the basis of the old outpost of Santa Cruz de la Mar Pequeña, thought to be Sidi Ifni. The following decades of Franco-Spanish collaboration resulted in the establishment and extension of Spanish protectorates south of the city, and Spanish influence obtained international recognition in the Berlin Conference of 1884: Spain administered Sidi Ifni and Western Sahara jointly. Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast of Guinea from Cape Bojador to Cap Blanc, too. Río Muni became a protectorate in 1885 and a colony in 1900. Conflicting claims to the Guinea mainland were settled in 1900 by the Treaty of Paris.
Following a brief war in 1893, Spain expanded its influence south from Melilla.
In 1911, Morocco was divided between the French and Spanish. The Rif Berbers rebelled, led by Abdelkrim, a former officer for the Spanish administration. The Battle 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.
In 1926 Bioko and Rio Muni were united as the colony of Spanish Guinea, a status that would last until 1959. In 1931, following the fall of the monarchy, the African colonies became part of the Second Spanish Republic. Five years later, Francisco Franco, a general of the Army of Africa, rebelled against the republican government and started the Spanish Civil War (1936–39). 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 its 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 1956, when French Morocco became independent, Spain surrendered Spanish Morocco to the new nation, but retained control of Sidi Ifni, the Tarfaya region and Spanish Sahara. Moroccan Sultan (later King) Mohammed V was interested in these territories and invaded Spanish Sahara in 1957 (The Ifni War, or, in Spain, the Forgotten War, la Guerra Olvidada). In 1958, Spain ceded Tarfaya to Mohammed V and joined the previously separate districts of Saguia el-Hamra (in the north) and Río de Oro (in the south) to form the province of Spanish Sahara.
In 1959, the Spanish territory on the Gulf of Guinea was established with a 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 the country independence. At independence, 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 1975 Green March prompted a withdrawal, under Moroccan military presion. The future of this former Spanish colony remains uncertain.
The Canary Islands and Spanish cities in the African mainland are considered an equal part of Spain and the European Union but have a different tax system without Value Added Tax.
Morocco still claims Ceuta, Melilla, and plazas de soberanía even though they are internationally recognized as administrative divisions of Spain (despite Plazas de Soberania which is a territory of Spain). Isla Perejil (Arabic: Leila ("night")) was occupied on July 11, 2002 by Moroccan Gendarmerie and troops, who were evicted peacefully by Spanish naval forces.
The Spanish language (now the second most widely spoken language in the world) and the Roman Catholic faith were brought to America, parts of Africa and the Spanish East Indies, by Spanish colonization which began in the 15th century. It also played a crucial part in sustaining the Catholic Church as the leading Christian denomination in Europe when it was under extreme pressure.
The long colonial period in Spanish America resulted in a mixing of peoples. Most Hispanics in the Americas have mixed indigenous and European ancestry, while a substantial proportion also have African ancestry. The only exceptions are Argentina, Chile and Uruguay which experienced heavy European immigration in the post colonial period.
In concert with the Portuguese Empire, the Spanish Empire laid the foundations of a truly global trade by opening up the great trans-oceanic trade routes. The Spanish Dollar became the world's first global currency.
One of the features of this trade was the exchange of a great array of domesticated plants and animals between the Old World and the New and vice versa. Some that were introduced to America included wheat, barley, apples, cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, donkeys, and many others. The Old World received from America such things as maize, potatoes, chili peppers, tomatoes, tobacco, beans, squash, cacao (chocolate), vanilla, avocados, pineapples, chewing gum, rubber, peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pecans, blueberries, strawberries, quinoa, amaranth, chia, and agave. The result of these exchanges, known generally as the Columbian Exchange, was to significantly improve the agricultural potential of not only in America, but also that of Europe and Asia.
There were also cultural influences, which can be seen in everything from architecture to food, music, art and law, from Southern Argentina and Chile to the Southwest United States. The complex origins and contacts of different peoples resulted in cultural influences coming together in the varied forms so evident today in the former colonial areas.