PDF Rivers of Gold: The Rise of the Spanish Empire, from Columbus to Magellan

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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. 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 In , the Spanish defeated an Ottoman landing on the strategic island of Malta , defended by the Knights of St.

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 , 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.

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The time for rejoicing in Madrid was short-lived. In , Calvinist -led riots in the Netherlands prompted the Duke of Alba to march into the country to restore order. In , 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. In , 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 , faced with the bills from his 80,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 In response, the Netherlands created the Union of Utrecht , as an alliance between the northern provinces, later that month.

Ferdinand Magellan - First Circumnavigation of the Earth

They officially deposed Philip in when they enacted the Act of Abjuration. In , 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.


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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 , 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.

Portugal required an extensive occupation force to keep it under control, and Spain was still reeling from the bankruptcy. In , 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 , 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.

However the failure of the Drake—Norris Expedition to Portugal and the Azores in checked English expansion in the — Anglo—Spanish War , and though its ships were increasingly outgunned the Spanish fleet remained the largest in Europe, and retained much of its prestige until in the Dutch inflicted another defeat at the Battle of the Downs , when an exhausted Spain began visibly to weaken. Committed to stopping Henry of Navarre from becoming King of France, the Spanish divided their army in the Netherlands and invaded France in 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 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, , 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.

In , the great majority of the Morisco population of Spain was expelled. 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 her energies on restoring her rule to the Dutch provinces.

The Dutch, led by Maurice of Nassau , the son of William the Silent and perhaps the greatest strategist of his time, had succeeded in taking a number of border cities since , 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 At last, Spain was at peace - the Pax Hispanica.

Spain made a fair recovery during the truce, putting her finances in order and doing much to restore her 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. Don Balthasar believed that the key to restraining the resurgent French and eliminating the Dutch was a closer alliance with Habsburg Austria.

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 following year, Don Balthasar was replaced by Gaspar de Guzman, Count-Duke of Olivares , a reasonably honest and able man who believed that the center of all Spain's woes rested in the Netherlands.

The war with the Netherlands was renewed in with Spinola taking the fortress of Breda in The intervention of Christian IV of Denmark in the war worried some Christian was one of Europe's few monarchs who had no worries over his finances , but the victory of the Imperial general Albert of Wallenstein over the Danes at Dessau Bridge and again at Lutter both in , eliminated that threat.

Spanish Empire

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 her own instabilities the famous Siege of La Rochelle began in , and Spain's eminence seemed clear. Olivares was a man out of time: he realized that Spain needed to reform, and to reform it needed peace.

The destruction of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was added to his list of necessities, because at the root of every anti-Habsburg coalition there was Dutch money. Dutch bankers financed the East India merchants of Seville , and everywhere in the world Dutch entrepreneurship and colonists were undermining Spanish and Portuguese hegemony.

While Spinola and the Spanish army were focused on the Netherlands, the war seemed to go in Spain's favor. But saw the collapse of the Castilian economy. The Spanish had been debasing their currency to pay for the war and prices exploded in their domestic economy, just as they had in previous years in Austria. Until , 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 in Germany 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 , managed to strike a great blow against Spanish maritime trade with the capture of the treasure fleet by captain Piet Hein , on which Spain had become dependent after the economic collapse.

Spanish military resources were fully 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. A Dutch takeover of much of Brazil was reversed by Spanish-Portuguese expeditions, beginning with admiral Fradique de Toledo 's expedition in , reversing the tide of the Dutch-Portuguese War there.

Elsewhere the isolated and undermanned Portuguese forts in Africa and the Asia proved particularly vulnerable to Dutch and English raids and takeovers or simply being bypassed as important trading posts. In , 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. The situation for the Catholics improved with Gustavus's death at Lutzen in , and a key victory at Nordlingen was won in From a position of strength, the Emperor approached the war-weary German states with a peace in many accepted, including the two most powerful, Brandenburg and Saxony.

Then France entered the equation, and diplomatic calculations were thrown in to 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 designs 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.

After , 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 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 Spanish, led by Francisco de Melo , were beaten by the French. This battle was not a slaughter by any means, however; it was a closely fought battle but the Spanish were forced to surrender with honorable terms. The high reputation of the Army of Flanders was broken at Rocroi, and with it, the grandeur of Spain. Traditionally, historians mark the Battle of Rocroi 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 s.

War with France continued for eleven more years. Although France suffered from a civil war from —52 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 and Catalonia in , but the war came to an end at the Battle of the Dunes where the French army under Viscount Turenne defeated the remnants of the Spanish army of the Netherlands.

Portugal had rebelled in 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 to When John died in , the Spanish attempted to wrest Portugal from his son Alfonso VI of Portugal but were defeated at Ameixial and Montes Claros , leading to Spain's recognition of Portugal's independence in Spain still had a huge overseas empire, but France was now the superpower in Europe and the United Provinces were in the Atlantic.

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. 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 —68, losing considerable prestige and territory, including the cities of Lille and Charleroi. The war ended with most of the Spanish Netherlands under French occupation, including the important cities of Ghent and Luxembourg. The war revealed to Europe how vulnerable and backward the Spanish defenses and bureaucracy were, but the ineffective Spanish Habsburg government took no action to improve them.

The final decades of the 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.

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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. Under the Treaties of Utrecht April 11, , the European powers decided what the fate of Spain would be, in terms of the continental balance of power. The disastrous showing in the War of the Quadruple Alliance , —20, exposed the level of weakness and dependence it had fallen to. 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 p 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 her northern rivals who had gained increasing illicit access to her empire's markets.

Critically, this recovery was not translated into institutional improvement because of the incompetent leadership of the unfortunate last Habsburg.

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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. The poor performance of the demoralised Spanish military is well illustrated by the Battle of Cape Passaro , when a Spanish fleet was captured by the British. The British navy found the captured ships in such a rotten state that their best use was to be broken up.

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. With a Bourbon monarchy came a repertory of Bourbon mercantilist ideas based on a centralized state, put into effect in America slowly at first but with increasing momentum during the century see Enlightenment Spain. The Spanish Bourbons' broadest intentions were to break the power of the entrenched aristocracy of the Criollos 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 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 and created first a Honduras Company , a Caracas company, the Guipuzcoana Company , and — the most successful one — a Havana Company The contraband trade that was the lifeblood of the Habsburg empire declined in proportion to registered shipping a shipping registry having been established in 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 and the rebellion of the comuneros of New Granada , both in part reactions to tighter, more efficient control.

However, its vast empire in the Americas and Asia made it a relevant power on the world stage. 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 an extraordinary British fleet, in the Caribbean port of Cartagena de Indias , one of a number of successful battles, helped it secure Spain's dominance of the Americas until the 19th century.

Rapid shipping growth from the mids until the Seven Years' War —63 , 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 s.

Most notable was the rapidly growing textile industry of Catalonia which by the mids saw the first signs of industrialisation. This saw the emergence of a small, politically-active commercial class in Barcelona. Though the scale of such industry was very small compared to the vast industry in Lancashire , it was growing rapidly and was to become a major center of such industry in the Mediterranean in the mid nineteenth century. Though one must not exaggerate such small, scattered examples of local modernity, especially when seen in the light of the vast developments then taking place to the north, especially Britain, they do disprove the notion of economic stasis.

Most of the improvement was in and around some major coastal cities and the major islands such as Cuba , with its plantations , and a renewed growth of precious metals mining in America. On the other hand most of rural Spain and its empire, where the great bulk of the population lived, lived in backward conditions, that were reinforced by old customs and served by poor roads. Agricultural productivity remained low despite efforts to introduce new techniques to an uninterested, exploited peasant and landless labouring class. Governments were inconsistent in their policies.

Even with the substantial improvements of the 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, leading to rising tensions with its colonial elites.

The Bourbon institutional reforms were to bear some fruit militarily when Spanish forces easily retook Naples and Sicily from the Austrians in War of the Polish Succession and thwarted British campaigns attempting to seize the strategic cities of Cartagena de Indias and Cuba during the War of Jenkins' Ear — Moreover, though Spain lost territories to greatly improved and successful amphibious British forces towards the end of the Seven Years' War —63 , she was to recover these losses and seize the British naval base in the Bahamas during the American Revolutionary War — The Amazon basin and some large adjoining regions had been considered Spanish territory since the Treaty of Torsedillas and explorations such as that by Francisco de Orellana.

The area was occupied by Portuguese colonists in Brazil , as Bandeirantes gradually extended their slaving and prospecting activities throughout much of the basin in the 17th and 18th centuries. Meanwhile the Spanish were barred by their laws from slaving of indigenous people, leaving them without a commercial interest deep in the interior of the basin. One famous attack upon a Spanish mission in resulted in the enslavement of 60 indigenous people.

Spanish ties

Finally the reality of the situation was recognised with the transfer of sovereignty over the much of the basin and surrounding areas to Portugal in the Treaty of Madrid This settlement led to the Guarani War of The California mission planning was begun in The Spanish empire had still not returned to first rate power status, but it had recovered considerably from the dark days at the beginning of the eighteenth century when it was, 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 seventeenth 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.

All was to be swept away by the tumult that was to overtake Europe at the turn of the century with the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The first major territory Spain was to lose in the nineteenth century was the vast and wild Louisiana Territory , which stretched north to Canada and was ceded by France in The destruction of the main Spanish fleet, under French command, at the Battle of Trafalgar undermined Spain's ability to defend and hold on to its empire.

The later intrusion of Napoleonic forces into Spain in see Peninsular War cut off effective connection with the empire. But it was internal tensions that ultimately ended the empire in America. In the Spanish king was tricked and Spain was taken over by Napoleon without firing a shot, but the brutal French provoked a popular 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.

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, as well as Spanish Sahara , parts of Morocco , and Spanish Guinea. The viceroy retreated hastily to the hills when defeated by a small British force. However when the Criollos militias and colonial army defeated the now reinforced British force in , and with the example of the North American revolutionaries very much in their minds, they quickly set about the business of winning their own independence and inspiring independence movements elsewhere in America.

A long period of wars began which led to the independence of Paraguay and Uruguay but subsequently ruled by Brazil until Further north Simon Bolivar led forces that won independence for the area that is currently Venezuela , Colombia included Panama until , Ecuador , and Bolivia by In a free thinking priest, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla , declared Mexican independence, which was won by Central America declared its independence in and was joined to Mexico for a brief time — Santo Domingo likewise declared independence in and began negotiating for inclusion in Bolivar's Republic of Gran Colombia , but was quickly occupied by Haiti , which ruled it until an revolution.

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 s 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.

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