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The Spanish Empire (Spanish: Imperio Español; Latin: Imperium Hispanicum), historically known as the Hispanic Monarchy (Spanish: Monarquía Hispánica) and as the Catholic Monarchy (Spanish: Monarquía Católica), was one of the largest empires in history. From the late 15th century to the early 19th century, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory in the New World, the Southeast Asian archipelago of the Philippines, what they called "The Indies" (Spanish: Las Indias) and territories in Europe (centering on the so-called Spanish Road), Africa and Oceania. It was one of the most powerful empires of the 16th and 17th centuries. The Spanish Empire became known as "the empire on which the sun never sets" and reached its maximum extent in the 18th century.
Castile became the dominant kingdom in Iberia because of its jurisdiction over the overseas empire in the Americas and the Philippines. The structure of empire was established under the Spanish Habsburgs (1516–1700), and under the Spanish Bourbon monarchs the empire was brought under greater crown control and increased its revenues from the Indies. The crown's authority in The Indies was enlarged by the papal grant of powers of patronage, giving it power in the religious sphere. An important element in the formation of Spain's empire was the dynastic union between Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, known as the Catholic Monarchs, which initiated political, religious and social cohesion but not political unification. Iberian kingdoms retained their political identities, with particular administration and juridical configurations.
Although the power of the Spanish sovereign as monarch varied from one territory to another, the monarch acted as such in a unitary manner over all the ruler's territories through a system of councils: the unity did not mean uniformity. In 1580, when Philip II of Spain succeeded to the throne of Portugal (as Philip I), he established the Council of Portugal, which oversaw Portugal and its empire and "preserv[ed] its own laws, institutions, and monetary system, and united only in sharing a common sovereign." The Iberian Union remained in place until in 1640, when Portugal re-established its independence under the House of Braganza.
The Spanish empire in the Americas was formed after conquering indigenous empires and claiming large stretches of land, beginning with Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean Islands. In the early 16th century, it conquered and incorporated the Aztec and Inca empires, retaining indigenous elites loyal to the Spanish crown and converts to Christianity as intermediaries between their communities and royal government. After a short period of delegation of authority by the crown in the Americas, the crown asserted control over those territories and established the Council of the Indies to oversee rule there. The crown then established viceroyalties in the two main areas of settlement, Mexico and Peru, both regions of dense indigenous populations and mineral wealth. The Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation—the first circumnavigation of the Earth—laid the foundation for the Pacific oceanic empire of Spain and began the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.
The structure of governance of its overseas empire was significantly reformed in the late 18th century by the Bourbon monarchs. Although the crown attempted to keep its empire a closed economic system under Habsburg rule, Spain was unable to supply the Indies with sufficient consumer goods to meet demand, so that foreign merchants from Genoa, France, England, Germany, and the Netherlands dominated the trade, with silver from the mines of Peru and Mexico flowing to other parts of Europe. The merchant guild of Seville (later Cadiz) served as middlemen in the trade. The crown's trade monopoly was broken early in the 17th century, with the crown colluding with the merchant guild for fiscal reasons in circumventing the supposedly closed system. Spain was largely able to defend its territories in the Americas, with the Dutch, the English, and the French only taking small Caribbean islands and outposts, using them to engage in contraband trade with the Spanish populace in the Indies. In the 17th century, the diversion of silver revenue to pay for European consumer goods and the rising costs of defense of its empire meant that "tangible benefits of America to Spain were dwindling...at a moment when the costs of empire were climbing sharply." The Bourbon monarchy attempted to expand trade within the empire, by allowing commerce between all ports in the empire, and took other measures to revive economic activity to the benefit of Spain. The Bourbons had inherited "an empire invaded by rivals, an economy shorn of manufactures, a crown deprived of revenue... [and tried to reverse the situation by] taxing colonists, tightening control, and fighting off foreigners. In the process, they gained a revenue and lost an empire."
Spain experienced its greatest territorial losses during the early 19th century, when its colonies in the Americas began fighting for independence. By the year 1900 Spain had also lost its colonies in the Caribbean and Pacific, and it was left with only its African possessions.
In Spanish America among the legacies of its relationship with Iberia, Spanish is the dominant language, Catholicism the main religion, and political traditions of representative government can be traced to the Spanish Constitution of 1812. 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.
Catholic Monarchs and origins of the empire
With the marriage of the heirs apparent to their respective thrones Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile created a personal union that most scholars view as the foundation of the Spanish monarchy. The union of Castile and Aragon united the economic and military power of Iberia under one dynasty. Their dynastic alliance was important for a number of reasons, ruling jointly over a large aggregation of territories although not in a unitary fashion. They successfully pursued expansion in Iberia in the Christian conquest of the Muslim Kingdom of Granada, completed in 1492, for which Valencia-born Pope Alexander VI gave them the title of the Catholic Monarchs. Ferdinand of Aragon was particularly concerned with expansion in France and Italy, as well as conquests in North Africa.
With the Ottoman Turks controlling the choke points of the overland trade from Asia and the Middle East, both Spain and Portugal sought alternative routes. The Kingdom of Portugal had an advantage over the Crown of Castile, having earlier retaken territory from the Muslims. Following Portugal's earlier completion of the reconquest and its establishment of settled boundaries, it began to seek overseas expansion, first to the port of Ceuta (1415) and then by colonizing the Atlantic islands of Madeira (1418) and the Azores (1427–1452); it also began voyages down the west coast of Africa in the fifteenth century. Its rival Castile laid claim to the Canary Islands (1402) and retook territory from the Moors in 1462. The Christian rivals, Castile and Portugal, came to formal agreements over the division of new territories in the Treaty of Alcaçovas (1479), as well as securing the crown of Castile for Isabella, whose accession was challenged militarily by Portugal.
Following the voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492 and first major settlement in the New World in 1493, Portugal and Castile divided the world by the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), which gave Portugal Africa and Asia and the Western Hemisphere to Spain. The voyage of Christopher Columbus, a Genoese mariner married to a Portuguese woman in Lisbon, obtained the support of Isabella of Castile, sailing west in 1492, seeking a route to the Indies. Columbus unexpectedly encountered the western hemisphere, populated by peoples he named "Indians." Subsequent voyages and full-scale settlements of Spaniards followed, with gold beginning to flow into Castile's coffers. Managing the expanding empire became an administrative issue. The reign of Ferdinand and Isabella began the professionalization of the apparatus of government in Spain, which led to a demand for men of letters (letrados) who were university graduates (licenciados), of Salamanca, Valladolid, Complutense and Alcalá. These lawyer-bureaucrats staffed the various councils of state, eventually including the Council of the Indies and Casa de Contratación, the two highest bodies in metropolitan Spain for the government of the empire in the New World, as well as royal government in The Indies.
Fall of Granada
During the last 250 years of the Reconquista era, the Castilian monarchy tolerated the small Moorish taifa client-kingdom of Granada in the south-east by exacting tributes of gold—the parias. In so doing, they ensured that gold from the Niger region of Africa entered Europe.
When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella I captured Granada in 1492, they implemented policies to maintain control of the territory. To do so, the monarchy implemented a system of encomienda. Encomienda was a method of land control and distribution based upon vassalic ties. Land would be granted to a noble family, who were then responsible for farming and defending it. This eventually led to a large land based aristocracy, a separate ruling class that the crown later tried to eliminate in its overseas colonies. By implementing this method of political organization, the crown was able to implement new forms of private property without completely replacing already existing systems, such as the communal use of resources. After the military and political conquest, there was an emphasis on religious conquest as well, leading to the creation of the Spanish Inquisition.Although the Inquisition was technically a part of the Catholic church, Ferdinand and Isabella formed a separate Spanish Inquisition, which led to mass expulsion of Muslims and Jews from the peninsula. This religious court system was later adopted and transported to the Americas, though they took a less effective role there due to limited jurisdiction and large territories.
Campaigns in North Africa
With the Christian reconquest completed in the Iberian peninsula, Spain began trying to take territory in Muslim North Africa. It had conquered Melilla in 1497, and further expansionism policy in North Africa was developed during the regency of Ferdinand the Catholic in Castile, stimulated by the Cardinal Cisneros. 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), Bougie and Tripoli (1510). On the Atlantic coast, Spain took possession of the outpost of Santa Cruz de la 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 Catholic Monarchs had developed a strategy of marriages for their children in order to isolate their long-time enemy: France. The Spanish princesses married the heirs of Portugal, England and the House of Habsburg. Following the same strategy, the Catholic Monarchs decided to support the Aragonese house of Naples against Charles VIII of France in the Italian Wars beginning in 1494. Ferdinand's general Gonzalo Fernández de Córdoba took over Naples after defeating the French at the Battle of Cerignola and the Battle of Garigliano in 1503. 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 in 1504, and her exclusion of Ferdinand from a further role in Castile, Ferdinand married Germaine de Foix in 1505, cementing an alliance with France. Had that couple had a surviving heir, likely the Crown of Aragon would have been split from Castile, which was inherited by Charles, Ferdinand and Isabella's grandson. Ferdinand joined the League of Cambrai against Venice in 1508. In 1511, he became part of the Holy League against France, seeing a chance at taking both Milan—to which he held a dynastic claim—and Navarre. In 1516, France agreed to a truce that left Milan in its control and recognized Spanish control of Upper Navarre, which had effectively been a Spanish protectorate following a series of treaties in 1488, 1491, 1493, and 1495.
Portugal obtained several Papal bulls that 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 during the reign of Henry III of Castile, by Norman nobleman Jean de Béthencourt under a feudal agreement with the crown. The conquest was completed with the campaigns of the armies of the Crown of Castile between 1478 and 1496, when the islands of Gran Canaria (1478–1483), La Palma (1492–1493), and Tenerife (1494–1496) were subjugated.
Rivalry with Portugal
The Portuguese tried in vain to keep secret their discovery of the Gold Coast (1471) in the Gulf of Guinea, but the news quickly caused a huge gold rush. Chronicler Pulgar wrote that the fame of the treasures of Guinea "spread around the ports of Andalusia in such way that everybody tried to go there". Worthless trinkets, Moorish textiles, and above all, shells from the Canary and Cape Verde islands were exchanged for gold, slaves, ivory and Guinea pepper.
The War of the Castilian Succession (1475–79) provided the Catholic Monarchs with the opportunity not only to attack the main source of the Portuguese power, but also to take possession of this lucrative commerce. The Crown officially organized this trade with Guinea: every caravel had to secure a government license and to pay a tax on one-fifth of their profits (a receiver of the customs of Guinea was established in Seville in 1475—the ancestor of the future and famous Casa de Contratación).
Castilian fleets fought in the Atlantic Ocean, temporarily occupying the Cape Verde islands (1476), conquering the city of Ceuta in the Tingitan Peninsula in 1476 (but retaken by the Portuguese),[c][d] and even attacked the Azores islands, being defeated at Praia.[e][f] The turning point of the war came in 1478, however, when a Castilian fleet sent by King Ferdinand to conquer Gran Canaria lost men and ships to the Portuguese who expelled the attack, and a large Castilian armada—full of gold—was entirely captured in the decisive Battle of Guinea.[g]
The Treaty of Alcáçovas (4 September 1479), while assuring the Castilian throne to the Catholic Monarchs, reflected the Castilian naval and colonial defeat: "War with Castile broke out waged savagely in the Gulf [of Guinea] until the Castilian fleet of thirty-five sail was defeated there in 1478. As a result of this naval victory, at the Treaty of Alcáçovas in 1479 Castile, while retaining her rights in the Canaries, recognized the Portuguese monopoly of fishing and navigation along the whole west African coast and Portugal's rights over the Madeira, Azores and Cape Verde islands [plus the right to conquer the Kingdom of Fez ]." The treaty delimited the spheres of influence of the two countries, establishing the principle of the Mare clausum. It was confirmed in 1481 by the Pope Sixtus IV, in the papal bull Æterni regis (dated on 21 June 1481).
However, this experience would prove to be profitable for future Spanish overseas expansion, because as the Spaniards were excluded from the lands discovered or to be discovered from the Canaries southward—and consequently from the road to India around Africa—they sponsored the voyage of Columbus towards the west (1492) in search of Asia to trade in its spices, encountering the Americas instead. Thus, the limitations imposed by the Alcáçovas treaty were overcome and a new and more balanced division of the world would be reached in the Treaty of Tordesillas between both emerging maritime powers.
New World Voyages and the Treaty of Tordesillas
Seven months before the treaty of Alcaçovas, King John II of Aragon died, and his son Ferdinand II of Aragon, married to Isabella I of Castile, inherited the thrones of the Crown of Aragon. The two became known as the Catholic Monarchs, with their marriage a personal union that created a relationship between the Crown of Aragon and Castile, each with their own administrations, but ruled jointly by the two monarchs.
Ferdinand and Isabella defeated the last Muslim king out of Granada in 1492 after a ten-year war. The Catholic Monarchs then negotiated with Christopher Columbus, a Genoese sailor attempting to reach Cipangu (Japan) 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 17 April 1492, Christopher Columbus obtained from the Catholic Monarchs his appointment as viceroy and governor in the lands already discovered and that 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 and 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 from north to south (later with the exception of Brazil, which Portuguese commander Pedro Alvares Cabral encountered in 1500), 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, for national prestige, and a desire to spread Catholicism to the New World.
The treaty of Tordesillas and the treaty of Cintra (18 September 1509) established the limits of the Kingdom of Fez for Portugal, and the Castilian expansion was allowed outside these limits, beginning with the conquest of Melilla in 1497.
Other European powers did not see the treaty between Castile and Portugal as binding on themselves. Francis I of France observed "The sun shines for me as for others and I should very much like to see the clause in Adam's will that excludes me from a share of the world."
Papal Bulls and the Americas
Unlike the crown of Portugal, Spain had not sought papal authorization for its explorations, but with Christopher Columbus's voyage in 1492, the crown sought papal confirmation of their title to the new lands. Since the defense of Catholicism and propagation of the faith was the papacy's primary responsibility, there were a number of papal bulls promulgated that affected the powers of the crowns of Spain and Portugal in the religious sphere. Converting the inhabitants of in the newly discovered lands was entrusted by the papacy to the rulers of Portugal and Spain, through a series of papal actions. The Patronato real, or power of royal patronage for ecclesiastical positions had precedents in Iberia during the reconquest. In 1493 Pope Alexander, from the Iberian Kingdom of Valencia, issued a series of bulls. The papal bull of Inter caetera vested the government and jurisdiction of newly found lands in the kings of Castile and León and their successors. Eximiae devotionis sinceritas granted the Catholic monarchs and their successors the same rights that the papacy had granted Portugal, in particular the right of presentation of candidates for ecclesiastical positions in the newly discovered territories.
According to the Concord of Segovia of 1475, Ferdinand was mentioned in the bulls as king of Castile, and upon 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 Treaty of Villafáfila of 1506, Ferdinand renounced not only the government of Castile in favor 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 king Ferdinand of Aragon in 1516, such property became held by the Crown of Castile. This arrangement was ratified by successive monarchs, beginning with Charles I in 1519 in a decree that spelled out the juridical status of the new overseas territories.
The lordship of the discovered territories conveyed by papal bulls was private to the kings of Castile and León. The political condition of the Indies were to transform from "Lordship" of the Catholic Monarchs to "Kingdoms" for the heirs of Castile. Although the Alexandrine Bulls gave full, free and omnipotent power to the Catholic Monarchs, they did not rule them as a private property but as a public property through the public bodies and authorities from Castile, and when those territories were incorporated into the Crown of Castile the royal power was subject to the laws of Castile.
The crown was the guardian of levies for the support of the Catholic Church, in particular the tithe, which was levied on the products of agriculture and ranching. In general, Indians were exempt from the tithe. Although the crown received these revenues, they were to be used for the direct support of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and pious establishments, so that the crown itself did not benefit financially from this income. The crown's obligation to support the Church sometimes resulted in funds from the royal treasury being transferred to the Church when the tithes fell short of paying ecclesiastical expenses.
In New Spain, the Franciscan Bishop of Mexico Juan de Zumárraga and the first viceroy Don Antonio de Mendoza established an institution in 1536 to train natives for ordination to the priesthood, the Colegio de Santa Cruz de Tlatelolco. The experiment was deemed a failure, with the natives considered too new in the faith to be ordained. Pope Paul III did issue a bull, Sublimis Deus (1537), declaring that natives were capable of becoming Christians, but Mexican (1555) and Peruvian (1567–68) provincial councils banned natives from ordination.
First settlements in the Americas
With the Capitulations of Santa Fe, the Crown of Castile granted expansive power to Christopher Columbus, including exploration, settlement, political power, and revenues, with sovereignty reserved to the Crown. The first voyage established sovereignty for the crown, and the crown acted on the assumption that Columbus's grandiose assessment of what he found was true, so Spain negotiated the Treaty of Tordesillas with Portugal to protect their territory on the Spanish side of the line. The crown fairly quickly reassessed its relationship with Columbus and moved to assert more direct crown control over the territory and extinguish his privileges. With that lesson learned, the crown was far more prudent in the specifying the terms of exploration, conquest, and settlement in new areas.
The pattern in the Caribbean that played out over the larger Spanish Indies was exploration of an unknown area and claim of sovereignty for the crown; conquest of indigenous peoples or assumption of control without direct violence; settlement by Spaniards who were awarded the labour of indigenous people via the encomienda; and the existing settlements becoming the launch point for further exploration, conquest, and settlement, followed by the establishment institutions with officials appointed by the crown. The patterns set in the Caribbean were replicated throughout the expanding Spanish sphere, so although the importance of the Caribbean quickly faded after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire and the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, many of those participating in those conquests had started their exploits in the Caribbean.
The first permanent European settlements in the New World were established in the Caribbean, initially on the island of Hispaniola, later Cuba and Puerto Rico. As a Genoese with the connections to Portugal, Columbus considered settlement to be on the pattern of trading forts and factories, with salaried employees to trade with locals and to identify exploitable resources. However, Spanish settlement in the New World was based on a pattern of a large, permanent settlements with the entire complex of institutions and material life to replicate Castilian life in a different venue. Columbus's second voyage in 1493 had a large contingent of settlers and goods to accomplish that. On Hispaniola, the city of Santo Domingo was founded in 1496 by Christopher Columbus's brother Bartholomew Columbus and became a stone-built, permanent city.
Assertion of Crown control in the Americas
Although Columbus staunchly asserted and believed that the lands he encountered were in Asia, the paucity of material wealth and the relative lack of complexity of indigenous society meant that the Crown of Castile initially was not concerned with the extensive powers granted Columbus. As the Caribbean became a draw for Spanish settlement and as Columbus and his extended Genoese family failed to be recognized as officials worthy of the titles they held, there was unrest among Spanish settlers. The crown began to curtail the expansive powers that they had granted Columbus, first by appointment of royal governors and then a high court or Audiencia in 1511.
Columbus encountered the mainland in 1498, and the Catholic Monarchs learned of his discovery in May 1499. Taking advantage of a revolt against Columbus in Hispaniola, they appointed Francisco de Bobadilla as governor of the Indies with civil and criminal jurisdiction over the lands discovered by Columbus. Bobadilla, however, was soon replaced by Frey Nicolás de Ovando in September 1501. Henceforth, the Crown would authorize to individuals voyages to discover territories in the Indies only with previous royal license, and after 1503 the monopoly of the Crown was assured by the establishment of the Casa de Contratación (House of Trade) at Seville. The successors of Columbus, however, 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 Americas was taken over by the Bishop Fonseca between 1493 and 1516, and again between 1518 and 1524, after a brief period of rule by Jean le Sauvage. After 1504 the figure of the secretary was added, so between 1504 and 1507 Gaspar de Gricio took charge, between 1508 and 1518 Lope de Conchillos followed him, and from 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, established in 1524. That same year, the crown established a permanent high court, or audiencia, in the most important city at the time, Santo Domingo, on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Now oversight of the Indies was based both in Castile and with officials of the new royal court in the colony. As new areas were conquered and significant Spanish settlements were established, likewise other audiencias were established.
Following the settlement of Hispaniola, Europeans began searching elsewhere to begin new settlements, since there was little apparent wealth and the numbers of indigenous were declining. 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 (1508) and Diego Velázquez took Cuba.
In 1508, the Board of Navigators met in Burgos and concurred on the need to establish settlements on the mainland, a project entrusted to Alonso de Ojeda and Diego de Nicuesa as governors. They were subordinated to the governor of Hispaniola, the newly appointed Diego Columbus, with the same legal authority as 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 Spanish Crown.
The judgment of Seville of May 1511 recognized the viceregal title to Diego Columbus, but limited it to Hispaniola and to the islands discovered by his father, Christopher Columbus; his power was nevertheless limited by royal officers and magistrates constituting a dual regime of government. The crown separated the territories of the mainland, designated as Castilla de Oro, from the viceroy of Hispaniola, establishing Pedrarias Dávila as General Lieutenant in 1513 with functions similar to those of a viceroy, while Balboa remained but was subordinated as governor of Panama and Coiba on the Pacific Coast; after his death, they returned to Castilla de Oro. The territory of Castilla de Oro did not include Veragua (which was comprised approximately between the Chagres River and cape Gracias a Dios), as it was subject to a lawsuit between the Crown and Diego Columbus, or the region farther north, towards the Yucatán peninsula, 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 Santo Domingo in 1511, caused his return to the Peninsula in 1515.
The Spanish Habsburgs (1516–1700)
As a result of the marriage politics of the Catholic Monarchs (in Spanish, Reyes Católicos), their Habsburg grandson Charles inherited the Castilian empire in America and the possessions of the Crown of Aragon in the Mediterranean (including all of south Italy), lands in Germany, the Low Countries, Franche-Comté, and Austria (this, along with the rest of the hereditary Habsburg domains, was almost immediately transferred to Ferdinand, the Emperor's brother).
The Habsburgs pursued several goals:
- Undermining the power of France and containing it in its eastern borders
- Defending Europe against Islam, notably the Ottoman Empire in the Ottoman–Habsburg wars
- Maintaining Habsburg hegemony in the Holy Roman Empire and defending the Roman Catholic Church against the Protestant Reformation
- Spreading (Catholic) Christianity to the unconverted indigenous of the New World and the Philippines
- Exploiting the resources of the Americas (gold, silver, sugar) and trading with Asia (porcelain, spices, silk)
- Excluding other European powers from the possessions it claimed in the New World
Spain came across an imperial reality without finding profits at the beginning. It did stimulate some trade and industry, but the trading opportunities encountered were limited. Therefore, Spain started to invest in America with the creation of cities, because Spain was in America due to religious reasons. 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. These imports contributed to inflation in Spain and Europe from the last decades of the 16th century. The vast imports of silver also made local manufactures uncompetitive and ultimately made Spain overly dependent on foreign sources of raw materials and manufactured goods. "I learnt a proverb here", said a French traveler in 1603: "Everything is dear in Spain except silver". The problems caused by inflation were discussed by scholars at the School of Salamanca and the arbitristas. The natural resource abundance provoked a decline in entrepreneurship as profits from resource extraction are less risky. The wealthy preferred to invest their fortunes in public debt (juros). The Habsburg dynasty spent the Castilian and American riches in wars across Europe on behalf of Habsburg interests, and declared moratoriums (bankruptcies) on their debt payments several times. These burdens led to a number of revolts across the Spanish Habsburg's domains, including their Spanish kingdoms, but the rebellions were put down.
Charles I of Spain/Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor (r. 1516–1558)
With the death of Ferdinand II of Aragon, and the supposed incompetence to rule of his daughter, Queen Juana of Castile and Aragon, Charles of Ghent became Charles I of Castile and Aragon. He was the first Habsburg monarch of Spain and co-ruler of Spain with his mother, Queen Juana. Charles had been raised in Mechelen and his interests remained those of Christian Europe. While not directly an inheritance, Charles was elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire after the death of his grandfather Emperor Maximilian. In 1530, he was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Clement VII in Bologna, the last emperor to receive a papal coronation. Despite holding the imperial throne, Charles' real authority was limited by the German princes. They gained a strong foothold in the Empire's territories, and Charles was determined not to let this happen in the Netherlands. An inquisition was established as early as 1522. In 1550, the death penalty was introduced for all cases of unrepentant heresy. Political dissent was also firmly controlled, most notably in his place of birth, where Charles, assisted by the Duke of Alba, personally suppressed the Revolt of Ghent (1539–1540). Charles abdicated as emperor in 1556 in favor of his brother Ferdinand; however, due to lengthy debate and bureaucratic procedure, the Imperial Diet did not accept the abdication (and thus make it legally valid) until 24 February 1558. Up to that date, Charles continued to use the title of emperor.
The overseas lands claimed by Spain in the New World proved to be a source of wealth and the crown was able to assert greater control over its overseas possessions in the political and religious spheres than was possible on Iberian peninsula or in Europe. The conquests of the Aztec Empire and the Inca Empire brought vast indigenous civilizations into the Spanish Empire and the mineral wealth, particularly silver, were identified and exploited, becoming the economic lifeblood of the crown. Under Charles, Spain and its overseas empire in the Americas became deeply entwined, with the crown enforcing Catholic exclusivity; exercising crown primacy in political rule, unencumbered by claims of an existing aristocracy; and defending its claims against other European powers. In 1558 he abdicated his throne of Spain to his son, Philip, leaving the ongoing conflicts to his heir.
Much of Charles's reign was taken up by conflicts with France, which found itself encircled by Charles's empire while it still maintained ambitions in Italy. The first war with Charles's great nemesis King Francis I of France began in 1521. The war was a disaster for France, which suffered defeat in the Battle of Bicocca (1522), the Battle of Pavia (1525), in which Francis I was captured and imprisoned in Madrid, and in the Battle of Landriano (1529) before Francis relented and abandoned Milan to the Empire. Charles later gave the imperial fief of Milan to his Spanish son Philip. Milan was administered by Castilian governors.
Pope Clement VII joined forces with France and prominent Italian states against the Habsburg Emperor, resulting in the War of the League of Cognac (1526–30). Charles's sack of Rome (1527) and virtual imprisonment of Pope Clement VII in 1527 prevented the Pope from annulling the marriage of Henry VIII of England and Charles's aunt Catherine of Aragon, so Henry eventually broke with Rome, thus leading to the English Reformation. In other respects, the war was inconclusive. A third war erupted in 1535, when, following the death of the last Sforza Duke of Milan, Charles installed his own son, Philip, in the duchy, despite Francis's claims on it. Francis failed to conquer Milan, but succeeded in conquering most of the lands of Charles's ally the Duke of Savoy, including his capital, Turin.
The crowns of Castile and Aragon depended on Genoese bankers for its finances and the Genoese fleet aided the Spanish in fighting the Ottomans in the Mediterranean.
By the 16th century, the Ottomans had become a threat to the states of Western Europe. They had defeated the eastern Christian Byzantine empire and seized its capital, creating it as the Ottoman capital and the Ottomans controlled a rich area of the eastern Mediterranean, with links to Asia, Egypt, and India and in by the mid-sixteenth century, they ruled a third of Europe. The Ottomans had created an impressive land and maritime empire, with port cities and short and long range trade connections. Charles's great rival was Suleiman the Magnificent, whose rule almost exactly coincided with Charles's. A contemporary Spanish writer, Francisco López de Gómara, compared Charles unfavorably with Suleiman in the 1540s, saying that although both were rich and pursued war, "the Turks succeeded better at fulfilling their projects than did the Spanish; they devoted themselves more fully to the order and discipline of war, they were better advised, they used their money more effectively."
The regular Ottoman fleet came to dominate the Eastern Mediterranean after its victory at Preveza in 1538 and the loss of Djerba in 1560 (shortly after Charles' death) which severely decimated the Spanish marine arm. At the same time, Ottoman corsairs regularly devastated the Spanish and Italian coasts, crippling Spanish trade and chipping at the foundations of Habsburg power.
In 1543, Francis I of France announced his unprecedented alliance with the Islamic sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent, by occupying the Spanish-controlled city of Nice in concert with Ottoman Turk forces. Henry VIII of England, who bore a greater grudge against France than he held against Charles for standing in the way of his divorce, joined him in his invasion of France. Although the Spanish were defeated at the Battle of Ceresole in Savoy, the French army was unable to seriously threaten Spanish-controlled Milan, while suffering defeat in the north at the hands of Henry, thereby being forced to accept unfavorable terms. The Austrians, led by Charles's younger brother Ferdinand, continued to fight the Ottomans in the east.
The presence of Spain in North Africa declined during Charles's reign, though Tunis and its port, La Goleta, were taken in 1535. One after another, most of the Spanish possessions were lost: Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera (1522), Santa Cruz de Mar Pequeña (1524), Algiers (1529), Tripoli (1551), and Bougie (1555).
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.
When Charles succeeded to the throne of Spain, Spain's overseas possessions in the New World were based in the Caribbean and the Spanish Main and consisted of a rapidly decreasing indigenous population, few resources of value to the crown, and a sparse Spanish settler population. The situation changed dramatically with the expedition of Hernán Cortés, who, with alliances with city-states hostile to the Aztecs and thousands of indigenous Mexican warriors, conquered the Aztec Empire (1519–1521). Following the pattern established in Spain during the Reconquista and in the Caribbean, the first European settlements in the Americas, conquerors divided up the indigenous population in private holdings encomiendas and exploited their labor. Central Mexico and later the Inca Empire of Peru gave Spain vast new indigenous populations to convert to Christianity and rule as vassals of the crown. Charles established the Council of the Indies in 1524 to oversee all of Castile's overseas possessions. Charles appointed a viceroy in Mexico in 1535, capping the royal governance of the high court, Real Audiencia, and treasury officials with the highest royal official. Following the conquest of Peru, in 1542 Charles likewise appointed a viceroy. Both officials were under the jurisdiction of the Council of the Indies. Charles promulgated the New Laws of 1542 to limit the power of the conqueror group to form a hereditary aristocracy that might challenge the power of the crown.
Philip II (r. 1556–1598)
The reign of Philip II of Spain was extremely important, with both major successes and failures. Philip was born in Valladolid on 21 May 1527, and was the only legitimate son of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, by his wife Isabella of Portugal. He did not become Holy Roman Emperor, but divided Habsburg possessions with his uncle Ferdinand. Philip treated Castile as the foundation of his empire, but the population of Castile was never great enough to provide the soldiers needed to defend the Empire or settlers to populate it. His father married him to Queen Mary I of England in 1554 to form an alliance with the English, and both Philip and Mary were Catholics, making them unpopular with the Church of England and the Protestant majority of England. He seized the throne of Portugal in 1580, creating the Iberian Union and bringing the entire Iberian peninsula under his personal rule.
According to one of his biographers, it was entirely due to Philip that the Indies were brought under crown control, remaining Spanish until the wars of independence in the early nineteenth century and Catholic to the present era. His greatest failure was his inability to suppress the Dutch Revolt, which was aided by English and French rivals. His militant Catholicism also played a major role in his actions, as did his inability to understand imperial finances. He inherited his father's debts and incurred his own pursuing religious wars, resulting in recurring state bankruptcies and dependence on Genoese and German bankers. Although there was an enormous expansion of silver production in Peru and Mexico, it did not remain in the Indies or even in Spain itself, but rather much of it went to European merchant houses. Under Philip's rule, learned men, known as arbitristas began writing analyses of this paradox of Spain's impoverishment.
The first years of his reign, "from 1558 to 1566, Philip II was concerned principally with Muslim allies of the Turks, based in Tripoli and Algiers, the bases from which North African [Muslim] forces under the corsair Dragut preyed upon Christian shipping." In 1565, the Spanish defeated an Ottoman landing on the strategic island of Malta, defended by the Knights of St. John. The death of Suleiman the Magnificent the following year and his succession by his less capable son Selim the Sot emboldened Philip, who resolved to carry the war to the sultan himself. In 1571, Spanish and Venetian warships, joined by volunteers from across Europe led by Charles's natural son Don John of Austria, annihilated the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto. The battle ended the threat of Ottoman naval hegemony in the Mediterranean. The victory was aided by the participation of various military leaders and contingents from parts of Italy under Philip's rule. German soldiers took part in the capture of Peñón del Vélez in North Africa in 1564. By 1575, German soldiers were three-quarters of Philip's troops.
The Ottomans recovered soon. They reconquered Tunis in 1574, and they helped to restore an ally, Abu Marwan Abd al-Malik I Saadi, to 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 he agreed to a truce in the Mediterranean with Philip II in 1580. In the western Mediterranean, Philip pursued a defensive policy with the construction of a series of armed garrisons and peace agreements with some of the Muslim rulers of North Africa.
In the first half of the 17th century, Spanish ships attacked the Anatolian coast, defeating larger Ottoman fleets at the Battle of Cape Celidonia and the Battle of Cape Corvo. Larache and La Mamora, on 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.
In 1556, Philip decided to declare war against Pope Paul IV and temporarily gobbled up Papal States territory, perhaps in response to Pope Paul IV's anti-Spanish outlook. On 27 August 1557, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba and Viceroy of Naples, was at the walls of Rome, ready to lead his troops for a final assault. On 13 September 1557, Cardinal Carlo Carafa signed a peace agreement, accepting all of the duke's conditions. Philip led Spain into the final phase of the Italian Wars, crushing a French army at the Battle of St. Quentin in Picardy in 1558 and defeating the French again at the Battle of Gravelines. The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, signed in 1559, permanently recognized Spanish claims in Italy. France was stricken for the next thirty years by chronic civil war and unrest and, during this period, removed it from effectively competing with Spain and the Habsburg family in European power games. Freed from effective French opposition, Spain attained the apogee of its might and territorial reach in the period 1559–1643.
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, a German nobleman, led a failed attempt to drive Alba 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 in 1648. 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."
The war dragged in the English and the French at times and expanded into the Rhineland with the Cologne War. In January 1579, Friesland, Gelderland, Groningen, Holland, Overijssel, Utrecht and Zeeland formed the United Provinces which became the Dutch Netherlands of today. Meanwhile, Spain sent Alessandro Farnese with 20,000 well-trained troops into the Netherlands. Groningen, Breda, Campen, Dunkirk, Antwerp, and Brussels, among others, were put to siege. Farnese eventually secured the Southern provinces for Spain. After the Spanish capture of Maastricht in 1579, the Dutch began to turn on William of Orange. William was assassinated by a French Catholic in 1584. The Queen of England began to aid the Northern provinces and sent troops there in 1585. English forces under the Earl of Leicester and then Lord Willoughby faced the Spanish in the Netherlands under Farnese in a series of largely indecisive actions that tied down significant numbers of Spanish troops and bought time for the Dutch to reorganize their defenses.
In 1588, Pope Sixtus V allowed Philip to collect crusade taxes and granted his men indulgences, giving his blessing for a Catholic invasion of Protestant England. The Spanish Armada reached Lizard Point on 19 July 1588. The English fleet was at Plymouth and followed the Armada up the Channel. The first encounter was off Plymouth, 21 July, the second off Portland Bill, 23 July, the third off the Isle of Wight, 24 July. The fighting culminated in the Battle of Gravelines, off the coast of Flanders. After eight hours of intense fighting, the English ran low on ammunition and pulled back. Since the Spanish were trained to board enemy ships and fight hand-to-hand, their cannons were not designed to be fired repeatedly. While the Spanish fleet had sailed with 2,431 cannons, many were intended for a ground assault after landing and were useless for naval battles. Through a week of fighting the Spanish had expended upwards of 125,000 cannonballs, but no English ship was seriously damaged. However, typhus spread fast aboard the English vessels; large numbers of English sailors died of disease or hunger, and, of the few who did survive, some died even after landing at Margate. As the Channel was blocked off, the Spanish commander Medina Sidonia decided to circle around Scotland and Ireland and retreat back to Spain. By the time the fleet arrived in Ireland, many soldiers were dying of thirst and hunger, as they had run out of supplies. Many of the surviving ships were caught in fierce storms off the west coast of Ireland, and dozens of Spanish ships were wrecked and thousands drowned or were robbed and butchered by Irish locals or English soldiers when they reached the shore. Only the Spanish nobles were spared, kept prisoner for ransom.
The defeat of the Armada saved Protestant England from a Catholic reconquest, and the situation in the Netherlands became increasingly difficult to manage. Maurice of Nassau, William's son, recaptured Deventer, Groningen, Nijmegen and Zutphen. The Spanish were on the defensive, mainly because they had wasted too much resources on the attempted invasion of England and on expeditions in northern France. In 1595, King Henry IV of France declared war on Spain, further reducing Spain's ability to launch offensive warfare on the United Provinces. Faced with wars against France, England and the United Provinces, each led by capable leaders, the bankrupted Spanish empire found itself competing against strong adversaries. Continuing piracy against its shipping in the Atlantic and costly colonial enterprises forced Spain to renegotiate its debts in 1596. Philip had been forced to declare bankruptcy in 1557, 1560, 1575, and 1598. The crown attempted to reduce its exposure to the conflicts, first signing the Treaty of Vervins with France in 1598, restoring many of the stipulations of the previous Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. Philip ceded the Spanish Netherlands to his daughter Isabella.
Under Philip II, royal power over The Indies increased, but the crown knew little about its overseas possessions in the Indies. Although the Council of the Indies was tasked with oversight there, it acted without advice of high officials with direct colonial experience. Another serious problem was that the crown did not know what Spanish laws were in force there. To remedy the situation, Philip appointed Juan de Ovando, who was named President of the council, to give advice. Ovando appointed a "chronicler and cosmographer of the Indies," Juan López de Velasco, to gather information about the crown's holdings, which resulted in the Relaciones geográficas in the 1580s.
The crown sought greater control over encomenderos, who had attempted to establish themselves as a local aristocracy; strengthened the power of the ecclesiastical hierarchy; shored up religious orthodoxy by the establishment of the Inquisition in Lima and Mexico City (1571); and increased revenues from silver mines in Peru and in Mexico, discovered in the 1540s. Particularly important was the crown's appointment of two able viceroys, Don Francisco de Toledo as viceroy of Peru (r. 1569-1581), and in Mexico, Don Martín Enríquez (r. 1568-1580), who was subsequently appointed viceroy to replace Toledo in Peru. In Peru, after decades of political unrest, with ineffective viceroys and encomenderos wielding undue power, weak royal institutions, a renegade Inca state existing in Vilcabamba, and waning revenue from the silver mine of Potosí, Toledo's appointment was a major step forward for royal control. He built on reforms attempted under earlier viceroys, but he is often credited with a major transformation in crown rule in Peru. Toledo formalized the labor draft of Andean commoners, the mita, to guarantee a labor supply for both the silver mine at Potosí and the mercury mine at Huancavelica. He established administrative districts of corregimiento, and resettled native Andeans in reducciones to better rule them. Under Toledo, the last stronghold of the Inca state was destroyed and the last Inca emperor, Tupac Amaru I, was executed. Silver from Potosí flowed to coffers in Spain and paid for Spain's wars in Europe. In Mexico, Viceroy Enríquez organized the defense of the northern frontier against nomadic and bellicose indigenous groups, who attacked the transport lines of silver from the northern mines. In the religious sphere, the crown sought to bring the power of the religious orders under control with the Ordenanza del Patronazgo, ordering friars to give up their Indian parishes and turn them over to the diocesan clergy, who were more closely controlled by the crown.
The crown expanded its global claims and defended existing ones in the Indies. Transpacific explorations had resulted in Spain claiming the Philippines and the establishment of Spanish settlements and trade with Mexico. The viceroyalty of Mexico was given jurisdiction over the Philippines, which became the entrepôt for Asian trade. Philip's succession to the crown of Portugal in 1580 complicated the situation on the ground in the Indies between Spanish and Portuguese settlers, although Brazil and Spanish America were administered through separate councils in Spain. Spain dealt with English encroachment on Spain's maritime control in the Indies, particularly by Sir Francis Drake and his cousin John Hawkins. In 1568, the Spanish defeated Hawkins' fleet at the Battle of San Juan de Ulúa in present-day Mexico. In 1586, Drake defeated the Spanish at the Battle of Santo Domingo and the Battle of Cartagena de Indias. In 1595, the Spanish defeated the fleet of Drake and Hawkins at the Battle of San Juan. Spain regained control in the Isthmus of Panama by relocating the main port there from Nombre de Dios to Portobelo.
With the conquest and settlement of the Philippines, the Spanish Empire reached its greatest extent. In 1564, Miguel López de Legazpi was commissioned by the viceroy of New Spain (Mexico), Don Luís de Velasco, to lead an expedition in the Pacific Ocean to find the Spice Islands, where earlier explorers Ferdinand Magellan and Ruy López de Villalobos had landed in 1521 and 1543, respectively. The westward sailing to reach the sources of spices continued to be a necessity with the Ottomans still controlled major choke points in central Asia. It was unclear how the agreement between Spain and Portugal dividing the Atlantic world affected finds on the other side of the Pacific. Spain had ceded its rights to the "Spice Islands" to Portugal in the Treaty of Saragossa in 1529, but the appellation was vague as was their exact delineation. The Legazpi expedition was ordered by King Philip II, after whom the Philippines had earlier been named by Ruy López de Villalobos, when Philip was heir to the throne. The king stated that "the main purpose of this expediiton is to establish the return route from the western isles, since it is already known that the route to them is fairly short." The viceroy died in July 1564, but the Audiencia and López de Legazpi completed the preparations for the expedition. On embarking on the expedition, Spain lacked maps or information to guide the king's decision to authorize the expedition. That realization subsequently led to the creation of reports from the various regions of the empire, the relaciones geográficas. The Philippines came under the jurisdiction of the viceroyalty of Mexico, and once the Manila Galleon sailings between Manila and Acapulco were established, Mexico became the Philippines' link to the larger Spanish Empire.
Spanish colonization began in earnest when López de Legazpi arrived from Mexico in 1565 and formed the first settlements in Cebu. Beginning with just five ships and five hundred men accompanied by Augustinian friars, and further strengthened in 1567 by two hundred soldiers, he was able to repel the Portuguese and create the foundations for the colonization of the archipelago. In 1571, the Spanish, their Mexican recruits and their Filipino (Visayan) allies attacked and occupied Maynila, a vassal-state of the Sultanate of Brunei, and negotiated the incorporation of the Kingdom of Tondo which was liberated from the Bruneian Sultanate's control and of whom, their princess, Gandarapa, had a tragic romance with the Mexican-born Conquistador and grandson of Miguel Lopez de Legazpi, Juan de Salcedo. The combined Spanish-Mexican-Filipino forces also built a Christian walled city over the burnt ruins of Muslim Maynila and made it as the new capital of the Spanish East Indies and renamed it Manila. Spaniards were few and life was difficult and they were often outnumbered by their Latino recruits and Filipino allies. They attempted to mobilize subordinated populations through the encomienda. Unlike in the Caribbean where the indigenous populations rapidly disappeared, the indigenous populations continued to be robust in the Philippines. One Spaniard described the climate as "cuatro meses de polvo, cuatro meses de lodo, y cuatro meses de todo" (four months of dust, four months of mud, and four months of everything).
Legazpi built a fort in Manila and made overtures of friendship to Lakan Dula, Lakan of Tondo, who accepted. Maynila's former ruler, the Muslim rajah, Rajah Sulayman, who was a vassal to the Sultan of Brunei, refused to submit to Legazpi but failed to get the support of Lakan Dula or of the Pampangan and Pangasinan settlements to the north. When Tarik Sulayman and a force of Kapampangan and Tagalog Muslim warriors attacked the Spaniards in the Battle of Bangkusay, he was finally defeated and killed. The Spanish also repelled an attack by Chinese pirate warlord Limahong. Simultaneously, the establishment of a Christianized Philippines attracted Chinese traders who exchanged their silk for Mexican silver, Indian and Malay traders also settled in the Philippines too, to trade their spices and gems for the same Mexican silver. The Philippines then became a center for Christian missionary activity that was also directed to Japan and the Philippines even accepted Christian converts from Japan after the Shogun persecuted them. Most of the soldiers and settlers sent by the Spanish to the Philippines were either from Mexico or Peru and very little people directly came from Spain. At one point, the royal officials in Manila complained that most of the soldiers who were being sent from New Spain were black, mulatto or Native American, with almost no Spaniards among the contingents.
In 1578, the Castilian War erupted between the Christian Spaniards and Muslim Bruneians over control of the Philippine archipelago. The Spanish were joined by the newly Christianized Non-Muslim Visayans of the Kedatuan of Madja-as who were Animists and Rajahnate of Cebu who were Hindus, plus the Rajahnate of Butuan (who were from northern Mindanao and were Hindus with a Buddhist Monarchy), as well as the remnants of the Kedatuan of Dapitan who are also Animists and had previously waged war against the Islamic nations of the Sultanate of Sulu and Kingdom of Maynila. They fought against the Sultanate of Brunei and its allies, the Bruneian puppet-states of Maynila and Sulu, which had dynastic links with Brunei. The Spanish, its Mexican recruits and Filipino allies assaulted Brunei and seized its capital, Kota Batu. This was achieved partly as a result of the assistance of two noblemen, Pengiran Seri Lela and Pengiran Seri Ratna. The former had traveled to Manila to offer Brunei as a tributary of Spain for help to recover the throne usurped by his brother, Saiful Rijal. The Spanish agreed that if they succeeded in conquering Brunei, Pengiran Seri Lela would indeed become the Sultan, while Pengiran Seri Ratna would be the new Bendahara. In March 1578, the Spanish fleet, led by De Sande himself, acting as Capitán General, started its journey towards Brunei. The expedition consisted of 400 Spaniards and Mexicans, 1,500 Filipino natives and 300 Borneans. The campaign was one of many, which also included action in Mindanao and Sulu.
The Spanish succeeded in invading the capital on 16 April 1578, with the help of Pengiran Seri Lela and Pengiran Seri Ratna. Sultan Saiful Rijal and Paduka Seri Begawan Sultan Abdul Kahar were forced to flee to Meragang then to Jerudong. In Jerudong, they made plans to chase the conquering army away from Brunei. The Spanish suffered heavy losses due to a cholera or dysentery outbreak. They were so weakened by the illness that they decided to abandon Brunei to return to Manila on 26 June 1578, after just 72 days. Before doing so, they burned the mosque, a high structure with a five-tier roof.
Pengiran Seri Lela died in August–September 1578, probably from the same illness that had afflicted his Spanish allies, although there was suspicion he could have been poisoned by the ruling Sultan. Seri Lela's daughter, the Bruneian princess, left with the Spanish and went on to marry a Christian Tagalog, named Agustín de Legazpi of Tondo, and had children in the Philippines.
In 1587, Magat Salamat, one of the children of Lakan Dula, along with Lakan Dula's nephew and lords of the neighboring areas of Tondo, Pandacan, Marikina, Candaba, Navotas and Bulacan, were executed when the Tondo Conspiracy of 1587–1588 failed; a planned grand alliance with the Japanese Christian-captain, Gayo, and Brunei's Sultan, would have restored the old aristocracy. Its failure resulted in the hanging of Agustín de Legaspi and the execution of Magat Salamat (the crown-prince of Tondo). Thereafter, some of the conspirators were exiled to Guam or Guerrero, Mexico.
The Spanish then conducted the centuries long Spanish–Moro conflict against the Sultanates of Maguindanao, Lanao and Sulu. War was also waged against the Sultanate of Ternate and Tidore (in response to Ternatean slaving and piracy against Spain's allies: Bohol and Butuan). During the Spanish–Moro conflict, the Moros of Muslim Mindanao conducted piracy and slave-raids against Christian settlements in the Philippines. The Spanish fought back by establishing Christian fort-cities such as Zamboanga City on Muslim Mindanao. The Spanish considered their war with the Muslims in Southeast Asia an extension of the Reconquista, a centuries-long campaign to retake and rechristianize the Spanish homeland which was invaded by the Muslims of the Umayyad Caliphate. The Spanish expeditions into the Philippines were also part of a larger Ibero-Islamic world conflict that included a rivalry with the Ottoman Caliphate, which had a center of operations at its nearby vassal, the Sultanate of Aceh.
In 1593, the governor-general of the Philippines, Luis Pérez Dasmariñas, set out to conquer Cambodia, igniting the Cambodian–Spanish War. Some 120 Spaniards, Japanese, and Filipinos, sailing aboard three junks, launched an expedition to Cambodia. After an altercation between the Spanish expedition members and some Chinese merchants at the port left a few Chinese dead, the Spanish were forced to confront the newly declared king Anacaparan, burning much of his capital while defeating him. In 1599, Malay Muslim merchants defeated and massacred almost the entire contingent of Spanish troops in Cambodia, putting an end to Spanish plans to conquer it. Another expedition, one to conquer Mindanao, was also lacking in success. In 1603, during a Chinese rebellion, Pérez Dasmariñas was beheaded, and his head was mounted in Manila along with those of several other Spanish soldiers.
In 1580, King Philip saw the opportunity to strengthen his position in Iberia 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.
The Duke of Alba's Spanish army defeated the Portuguese at the Battle of Alcântara on 25 August 1580, and Alba conquered the capital of Lisbon two days later. In 1582, Álvaro de Bazán assembled an armada against the Azores and in July sailed from Lisbon. Filippo di Piero Strozzi, a Florentine mercenary, clashed with Bazán at the Battle of Ponta Delgada, off the island of São Miguel, but was defeated and killed. In 1583, Bazán returned with an invasion force and conquered Terceira. Triumphant, he suggested that he invade England with a 500-ship, 94,000-man armada, but Philip shelved the suggestion.
Philip established the Council of Portugal, on the pattern of the royal councils, the Council of Castile, Council of Aragon, and Council of the Indies, that oversaw particular jurisdictions, but all under the same monarch. In Portugal, the Duke of Alba and the Spanish occupation were little more popular in Lisbon than in Rotterdam. The combined Spanish and Portuguese empires placed into Philip's hands included 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 one 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 and her kingdoms, including Brazil and her African colonies, were under the dominion of the Spanish monarch.
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 but did not. In 1585, 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.
Portugal was brought into Spain's conflicts with rivals. In 1588, hoping to put a stop to Elizabeth's intervention, Philip resurrected Bazán's plan, scaling it down and combining it with an alternative scheme proposed by Alessandro Farnese, Duke of Parma. Parma had suggested transporting 30,000 troops in Flanders across the English Channel to invade England. Unfavorable weather, plus 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 a defeat for the Spanish 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. In 1591, Spain reasserted its naval superiority at the Battle of Flores, when an attempt to capture its treasure fleet was thwarted. The Spanish fleets became more effective in transporting greatly increased quantities of silver and gold from the Americas, while English attacks suffered costly failures.
During the reign of Philip IV (Philip III of Portugal) in 1640, the Portuguese revolted and fought for their independence from the rest of Iberia. The Council of Portugal was subsequently dissolved.
Philip III (r. 1598–1621)
Philip II's successor, Philip III, made chief minister the capable Francisco Goméz de Sandoval y Rojas, Duke of Lerma as a favourite, the first of the validos ('most worthy'). Philip sought to reduce foreign conflicts, since even the vast revenues could not sustain the nearly bankrupted kingdom. The Kingdom of England, suffering from a series of repulses at sea and from a 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. Philip's chief minister, the duke of Lerma, also steered Spain toward peace with the Netherlands in 1609, although the conflict was to emerge again at a later point.
Castile provided the Spanish crown with most of its revenues and its best troops.[h] 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 on Dutch and German battlefields. In 1609, the great majority of the Morisco population of Spain (much more numerous and unassimilated in the kingdoms of Valencia and Aragon, than in the Crown of Castile or the Principality of Catalonia) 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. However, the Genoese nobleman Ambrogio Spinola, commanding an army of mercenary Italian troops, fought in the name of Spain and repeatedly defeated the Dutchmen. He 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. 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 Baltasar 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 Monarchy. 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.
Philip IV (r. 1621–1665)
When Philip IV succeeded his father in 1621, Spain was clearly in economic and political decline, a source of consternation. The learned arbitristas sent the king more analyses of Spain's problems and possible solutions. As an illustration of the precarious economic situation of Spain at the time, it was actually Dutch bankers who financed the East India merchants of Seville. At the same time, everywhere in the world Dutch entrepreneurship and settlements were undermining Spanish and Portuguese hegemony. The Dutch were religiously tolerant and not evangelical, focusing on trade, as opposed to Spain's longstanding defense of Catholicism. A Dutch proverb says, "Christ is good; trade is better!"
Spain badly needed time and peace to repair its finances and to rebuild its economy. In 1622, 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, and Spain's eminence seemed clear. The Count-Duke Olivares asserted, "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 Dutch United Provinces. Olivares aimed for "peace with honor", however, which meant in practice a peace settlement that would have restored to Spain something of its predominant position in the Netherlands. This was unacceptable to the United Provinces, and the inevitable consequence was the constant hope that one more victory would finally lead to "peace with honor", perpetuating the ruinous war that Olivares had wanted to avoid to begin with. In 1625, Olivares proposed the Union of Arms, which aimed at raising revenues from the Indies and other kingdoms of Iberia for imperial defense, which met strong opposition. The Union of Arms was the sparking point for a major revolt in Catalonia in 1640. This turmoil also seemed a propitious moment for the Portuguese to revolt against Habsburg rule, with the Duke of Braganza proclaimed as John IV of Portugal.
While Spinola and the Spanish army were focused on the Netherlands, the war seemed to go in Spain's favor. But in 1627 the Castilian economy collapsed. The Habsburg 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 Fadrique 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 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. By 1633 Spain was deeply involved in saving their Austrian allies from the Swedes who had continued to be wildly successful despite the death of Gustavus at Lützen in 1632. In early September 1634, a Spanish army that had marched from Italy linked with the Imperials at the town of Nördlingen, bringing their total to 33,000 troops. Having severely underestimated the number of experienced Spanish soldiers in the reinforcements, the commanders of the Protestant armies of the Heilbronn League decided to offer battle. The seasoned Spanish infantry — which had not been present at any of the battles that had ended in Swedish victories — was mostly responsible for the complete rout of the enemy army.
Alarmed by the Spanish success at the Battle of Nördlingen and the probable collapse of the Swedish military effort, Cardinal Richelieu, the chief minister of Louis XIII, realized that it would be necessary to turn the existing cold war into a hot one if Spain, in conjunction with the Austrian Habsburgs, was to be stopped from dominating Europe. The French won the Battle of Les Avins in Belgium on 20 May 1635, an early success, but the Spanish defeated a joint Franco-Dutch invasion of the Spanish Netherlands before Spanish and Imperial armies cut through Picardy, Burgundy, and Champagne. However, the Spanish offensive stalled before Paris could be targeted, and the French launched counterattacks that drove the Spanish back into Flanders. In February 1637, Admiral Miguel de Horna, commander of the Armada of Flanders, fought a bloody battle with a Dutch convoy met off the coast of Cornwall, capturing fourteen merchantmen and three warships. In August, Salvador Rodríguez led a raid on the Shetland fishing grounds, which took a toll of thirty-five herring busses. At the Battle of the Downs in 1639, a large Spanish fleet (100 ships; 2,000 guns; 20,000 men) was destroyed off the coast of Kent by the Dutch, and the Spanish found themselves unable to supply and reinforce their forces adequately in the Netherlands.
According to Geoffrey Parker, the Army of Flanders received 8,000 Castilian reinforcements each year during the Eighty Years' War, and 30,000 Castilian soldiers were mobilized between 1631 and 1639. In 1643, the Army of Flanders, commanded by Francisco de Melo, suffered defeat in northern France at the Battle of Rocroi. The battle was one of the few major battlefield defeats of a Spanish army in over a century. The Peace of Westphalia ended the Spanish-Dutch War in 1648, with Spain recognizing the independence of the Seven United Provinces of the Netherlands. The Spanish had to be paid to leave positions they had seized on the Rhine. The Franco-Spanish War continued for eleven more years, in the course of which England joined in on the side of France.
In 1640, Spain had already experienced the loss of Portugal, following its revolt against Spanish rule, and brought to an end the Iberian Union, and the establishment of the House of Braganzaunder king John IV of Portugal. He had received widespread support from the Portuguese people, and Spain was unable to respond, since it was at war with France and Catalonia revolted that year. Spain and Portugal 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 the Battle of Ameixial (1663) and the Battle of Montes Claros (1665), leading to Spain's recognition of Portugal's independence in 1668, during the regency of Philip IV's young heir, Charles II, who was seven at the time.
Although France suffered from a civil war from 1648 to 1652, Spain had been exhausted by the Thirty Years' War and the ongoing revolts. With the war against the United Provinces at an end in 1648, the Spanish drove the French out of Naples and Catalonia in 1652, recaptured Dunkirk, and occupied several northern French forts that they held until peace was made. The war came to an end soon after the Battle of the Dunes (1658), where the French army under Viscount Turenne retook Dunkirk. Spain agreed to the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659 that ceded to France the Spanish Netherlands territory of Artois and the northern Catalan county of Roussillon.
France was now the dominant power on continental Europe, and the United Provinces were dominant 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 such complete 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.