A fairly interesting occasion in European history is the loss of the Spanish Empire.

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When Philip II passed away in 1598, the tendrils of Spain reached across almost the entirety of main and south America, north and also south Italy, and the Benelux area. Gold and silver from her substantial American empire fueled Spanish dreams to wrest manage of Italy and also the Netherlands indigenous France, and to spread Catholicism all throughout the world.

Philip II

And yet, 300 year later, the treaty of Paris finished the Spanish-American War, and also with it, the Spanish colonial empire died. Cuba to be lost, together was the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam. In an effort to rescue whatever could be saved, Spain sold her remaining Pacific nests to the newest europe power, Germany.

To quote Regina Grafe: “Contemporaries and historians alike considered Spanish shipping sources basically poor from at the very least the later sixteenth century onwards. Yet, this just deepens one of the huge puzzles of Spanish royal history. If Spain to be so deficient in the marine arts, exactly how did it host together the largest western realm for 3 centuries?” – The Strange tale of the decrease of Spanish shipping, p. 81

But this, the thin amount that territory spread out throughout the world, was part of Spain’s problem. The easiest way to reach she Italian possessions was via the Mediterranean. The easiest, and by much the least dangerous way to supply her Benelux strongholds was to use the Spanish roadway (a supply route from Barcelona to the Benelux via Lombardy and Burgundy). The only method to reach her American swarms was across the Atlantic Sea, an s that came to be increasingly daunting to navigate safely, together the (then) upstart English, French, and also later netherlands navies also began sailing to the new World, often in straight competition with Spain.

The Spanish Road

The Thirty Years’ War, i m sorry began nearly as an local conflict in the Germanies, shortly spread and also expanded. The netherlands rebellion versus the Spain and the Franco-Austrian skirmishes in north Italy are simply two problems that, when they had actually nothing to do with faith or the Germanies, ended up being intertwined with the basic warfare in between the northern and southern Germanies.

Spain, in particular, was associated in numerous disputes throughout the Thirty Years’ War: she hosted territory in Italy and also the Benelux which came (or currently was) under fire, and also there were trouble impending internally together well. Despite Spain saw early on successes, she was at some point curbed and also began losing an essential positions and battles. In 1637 the Dutch caught the mighty fortress that Breda, in 1638 Bernhard the Weimar took Beisach, properly cutting the Spanish road in half. This loss was exceptionally hurtful, as it now compelled Spain to sail all gives to the Netherlands via the English Channel, fairly than dividing up the supply chain between the Channel and the Spanish Road. This, of course, relied top top England being friendly and permitting Spain to move through the Channel. In 1639, a large Spanish fleet manned through Antonio de Oquendo was destroyed by the dutch at the Battle of the Downs, a fleet which was partially tasked to relax the situation in the Netherlands.

The fight of the Downs

Jackson J. Spielvogel to write “Philip II walk bankrupt in 1596 from excessive expenditures on war, and also his successor, Philip III, did the very same in 1607 by safety a happiness on his court. The equipped forces to be out-of-date, the government was inefficient…” and later he writes that during the power of Philip III “many of Spain’s weaknesses came to be apparent. Interested just in court high-end or miracle-working relics, Philip III allowed his an initial minister, the greedy battle each other of Lerma, to operation the country”. – west Civilization, p. 516

It strikes one as odd that a country that could practically bathe in precious steels from her abroad colonies, regulated to go bankrupt double within 11 years. However what happened to all the wealth?One theory argues that – since the Spanish had actually so much gold, they could easily buy assets from other countries without developing them itself. Because consumer goods might easily be bought, over there was tiny incentive to create goods and also undertake the essential investment and also develop the an innovation to produce goods. Therefore, that is said this ‘easy wealth’ to be a factor in limiting economic development.

In macro terms, we might see 16th century Spain as a country with a very large trade deficit – sponsor by capital inflows (gold, silver, and also other precious metals). But, this is an unbalanced economic climate – consumption allows high present living standards, yet when the gold dried up, Spanish business and also industry had actually been left behind various other European nations. Countries without a windfall of gold had actually a much higher drive to produce wealth rather than simply consume it.

Great Britain, through contrast, arguably, gained just around the appropriate amount of gold. Good Britain never ever gained sufficient of the Latin American yellow to come to be just a nation of consumers. The prospect of yellow actually encouraged a rapid expansion in navy technology. That was approximately this time, the Britain’s navy and ship building capacity boosted rapidly. This sowed the seed of Britain’s future Empire. But, that was realm which to be at least partly based upon industry and also production. The English may have exploited natural resources in nations like India, but they also had the motivation to manufacture items – and this an ideas contributed to the industrial revolution.

But allow us turn our attention earlier to Philip II, and let united state look in ~ the magnificent job-related of J. H Elliot (one of, if the not the many respected historian in the field of Spanish history). He found that the 1590s was one of the worst decades for Spain, however I’ll let the tell the tale:

“During the 1590s over there were countless signs the the Castilian economy was beginning to crack under the relentless strain of Philip II’s royal adventures. The apparently inexhaustible currently of silver from the Indies had actually tempted the King come embark on huge enterprises which swallowed up his revenues and included to his hill of debts: the Invincible Armada alone is stated to have price him 10,000,000 ducats, and also in the mid-1590s he was more than likely spending end 12,000,000 ducats a year. Exactly how long the could continue to invest on this range would at some point be figured out by the revenue yielding capacity of his dominions both in ~ home and overseas, and there is good reason to believe that by the 1590s this capacity was getting to its limits. Less than a 4 minutes 1 of the King’s yearly revenues come from remittances the American silver; the rest was borrowed, or was paid because that by count raised mostly by Castile.” – royal Spain: 1469–1716, p. 190

Later, the speaks around the bankruptcy that 1596, which seemed to be the answer come the inquiry “For exactly how long can Spain be afflicted with the economical price of imperial delusions?”, and also says, that “as in all operations the this sort, over there were inevitable casualties, and the most essential victims of the bankruptcy proved to be the fairs that Medina del Campo. The fairs, which had actually recovered indigenous the imperial bankruptcy of 1575, and had functioned with substantial regularity due to the fact that reforms in 1578 and also 1583, were currently once much more interrupted; and when they began operations again in 1598 that soon became clear the their good days were past. The financial capital of Spain to be to shift definitively in the beforehand seventeenth century from Medina to Madrid, and also such payments as were do in Medina del Campo throughout the course of that century were no more than sad reminders that a departed age. The communities of phibìc Castile were fading into history, their highways still go by the ghosts the Simón Ruiz and also his girlfriend – figures from a time as soon as Spain basked in the largueza that came from abundance of silver, and also when Castile can still carry out financiers that its own.” – royal Spain: 1469–1716, p. 191

Castile, maybe the most important component of Spain, take it the key hit that the financial demands that the battles Spain waged in the 16th and 17th centuries. By the time the Thirty Years’ War and also the Franco-Spanish Wars started to escalate, Castile was increasingly weary and tired, so denuded of males that the levies to be a pitiful affair, effectively making it an ext and an ext impossible to store the militaries up come strength. The economic position by currently was likewise exceptionally grave, Spain’s last source of economic strength was the commerce system in between Seville and also the America, and it was failing.

The circulation of silver

Effectively, the merchants shed confidence, as the Sevillian shipping was in decay, and also by 1640, Spain’s supply of silver abruptly finished when there to be no silver- fleets. The whole system the credit and also confidence whereby Seville had actually for long shored up the Spanish Monarchy was progressively crumbling. This might not sound huge, until one considers the Seville was effectively Spain’s center of silver- trade, together it was called the “Sevillian advertising System”, and noted Spain with its silver and credits. Therefore, when it started to crumble as result of the result of the decaying trade with America and the interference that Spanish officials, the autumn of the Sevillian silver trade intended a wrong of the Spanish economy which was developed upon it. Nothing was made far better by the fact that Spain remained in a state of endlessly war and abuse prior to the 1640s, and also so countless wars ultimately pay a toy fee on even realm as cool as the Spanish Empire.

By 1640, the Spanish army was spent and also tired, the resources of the war effort was fairly poor, and also the continuous defeats in its recent wars intended Spain was losing method of capital its wars. The loss of the connectivity the the Spanish Road an especially secluded its europe possessions in Italy and the Netherlands, enhancing the prices needed come supply and support them, all the if making that harder because that them to send earlier their wide range to Spain. Spains acute absence of good leaders in the 17th century compounded its troubles further.

Therefore, through Spain slowly yet surely losing its wars through France, and its economy slowly crumbling, the Spanish did one last thing to okay the public. The Spanish chose that there was still a possibility of victory through a prolonged stalemate with France, wherein an induced exhaustion of France would carry her come terms. This would call for unrelenting pressure on the French, which would require all of Spain to assist and contribute towards, together Castile to be worn out and mostly a invested force. This meant for example, the Catalonia would need to be ready to dedicate troops come Italy and also a fix up offensive throughout the Flanders border.

Throughout February and also March the 1640, troops clashed with the civilians, and also the counts and also dukes confirmed unable to retain order. In the occurring rebellions, the Catalans were repetitively alienated through Castile, due to the fact that they expected to use Catalonia to fund the wars and bear the load of Spain’s problems at the time.

One could virtually compare the decline of Spain through the decline of (Western) Rome. The enormous wealth procured from America enabled the Spanish monarchs and also minister to litter money in ~ every trouble that arose, yet it provided the nation no catalyst to evolve the own inner economy.

In the situation of Rome, Rome’s greatness had come from occupations that detailed the Romans through the method to increase still further, until there to be not sufficient Romans come conquer and also govern any much more peoples and territory. Once pressure from outsiders grew, the Romans lacked the resources to breakthrough and defeat the adversary as in the past. Still, the tenacity and also success of their resistance were remarkable. Without brand-new conquests to provide the immense wealth required to defend and maintain inner prosperity, the Romans finally yielded to unmatched onslaughts by fierce and also numerous attackers. Rome prospered due to the fact that of her conquests, since of the minerals she might mine in France and Spain and also when they showed insufficient and there to be no longer any type of chance the pushing forward to conquer brand-new mines, the Roman economic climate faltered. Rome would have needed an economic revolution similar in toughness to the industrialization in order to survive and that to be impossible.

And this appears very similar to what occurred to Spain. While the various other European powers, who might not survive just on gold and also silver, began expanding your economy and also eventually undergo substantial industrialization, Spain was left behind.

Further, France, because that example, concentrated on strengthening her borders, and sow chaos and also dissent among her neighbors. England consolidated she command of the brother Isles and made her navy a priority of utmost importance, together did the Dutch. The French territory was all connected with every other, and also the English nests were easily protected by her massive, solid navy. Spain simply had too countless fronts, all requiring focus at the exact same time.

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The Spanish Empire

When the other European powers caught up come Spain, they had modernized and many of them were self-sustaining and also what they might not make themselves they had the way to procure one of two people via economic or armed forces means, abilities the Spain lacked.