Spanish Empire

colonial empire governed by Spain between 1492 and 1976

The Spanish Empire, also known as the Hispanic Monarchy or the Catholic Monarchy [1][2][3] was one of the largest empires in history and one of the first global empires in world history.[4]

Spanish Empire
Imperio Español
Flag of Spanish Empire
Cross of Burgundy Flag
CapitalToledo (1492-1561) Madrid (from 1561)
Common languagesSpanish
Roman Catholic
• 1516-1556
Charles I
• 1886-1902
Maria Christina of Austria, Regent during the minority of king Alphonse XIII
House of Habsburg
House of Bourbon
• Conquest of the Aztec Empire
• Conquest of the Inca Empire
• Loss of Puerto Rico
CurrencySpanish real, Spanish escudo
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Catholic Monarchs

Soon after the Reconquista, Spain became the biggest global empire. It led European exploration of the New World, building the large Viceroyalties in the New World. Spain also created the first trade routes across the oceans. The Spanish traded goods across the Atlantic Ocean, between Spain and its viceroyalties in the Americas. They also traded across the Pacific Ocean, between Asian-Pacific countries and Mexico throughout the Spanish treasure fleet and Manila sailing ships.

Spanish Conquistadores conquered the Aztec, Inca, and Maya Empires with the help of other native American tribes. They took large areas of land in North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. Spain made these regions into Viceroyalties. Spain, especially the Kingdom of Castile, became much more powerful. Through royal marriages, the Spanish monarchs created alliances with other European powers. This allowed the Spanish Empire to gain control of many territories in Europe. With all these territories and colonies, the Spanish Empire became one of the greatest and richest empires in the world.

For a time, the Spanish Empire was a great power in the oceans, with its experienced Navy. Its infantry known as Tercios, recruited from many countries under the rule of the Spanish monarchy, was undefeated for a century and a half. Spain enjoyed a cultural golden age in the 16th and 17th centuries. The French, Portuguese, and British tried to weaken the Spanish monarchy. Starting in the second half of the 17th century, the Spanish Empire began to suffer bankruptcies, and its military began to lose battles. In the 19th century, Spain lost its last major territories overseas in the Spanish-American War.

Colonization change

The Spanish Empire was the second global empire in world history[5] and was scattered all over the world. It was constantly fighting with other powers about territories, trade, or religion. The Spanish Empire fought:

The Spanish Empire slowly lost power, as it gradually lost territory to other empires. In 1648, Spain and many other powers signed the Peace of Westphalia, which ended both the Thirty Years' War and the Eighty Years' War. In 1659, the Treaty of the Pyrenees ended fighting between France and Spain. With these treaties, Spain began to lose its status as the most powerful in Europe.

In 1713, Philip V signed the Peace of Utrecht. In this treaty, Spain gave up its territories in Italy and The Netherlands. Spain was no longer Europe's greatest power. However, it still had an important role in European politics and a huge empire in America and the Pacific.

During this time, Spain kept its large overseas empire, and even made it larger. The Spanish Empire fought against Britain, which was trying to take over more of America; France and the United Provinces in the New World. Spain remained a major economic power until it lost its colonies in the Americas.

Decolonization change

Spain kept control of two colonies in its empire in America: Cuba and Puerto Rico. It also held onto the Philippines and some preserved islands in Oceania, including the Caroline Islands (including the Palau Islands) and the Marianas (including Guam). When Spain lost the Spanish-American War of 1898, it lost almost all of these last territories. Spain kept control only of small islands of Oceania (not including Guam). Spain sold these islands to Germany in 1899. Spain still kept territories in Africa. Spain controlled Morocco, Western Sahara, and Equatorial Guinea, until decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s. The last colony to gain independence was the Western Sahara, in 1975.

Definition change

The Spanish Empire generally means Spain's overseas provinces in the Americas, Africa, the Pacific and Europe. Territories such as the Low Countries or Spanish Netherlands were included as they were part of the possessions of the King of Spain, governed by Spanish officials and defended by Spanish troops. Many historians use both "Habsburg" and "Spanish" when they speak of the empire of Charles V or Philip II.

Philip II's realms in 1598, showing its administrative structure during the Iberian Union, 1580-1640.

The Portuguese colonial empire joined Spain and was ruled by the same monarch in "personal union", but Portugal remained a separate state. The Portuguese empire continued to be ruled from Lisbon during this period. There was a joint Spanish-Portuguese rule for some time, sometimes called the Spanish-Portuguese Empire.

Historically incorrect map of the Aragonese Crown
Surrender of Granada's king in the presence of the Catholic Kings.

In 1492, Spain finished a 781 years period of Reconquest with the fall of the last Moorish kingdom of Granada. That same year the Catholic monarchs paid for Christopher Columbus voyage to reach India by sailing westwards. Columbus instead found America. That was the start of the Spanish colonization of the continent.

Christopher Columbus taking possession of La Española.

By the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494, the globe was divided into two hemispheres between Spain and Portugal. Therefore, Spain had the right to start colonies in all of the New World from Alaska to Cape Horn (except Brazil), as well as Asia. The Castilian Empire was the result of a period of rapid colonial expansion into the New World, as well as the Philippines and colonies in Africa: Melilla was captured by Castile in 1497 and Oran in 1509.

Results until today change

The Spanish language and the Roman Catholic Church were brought to the Americas and to the Spanish East Indies (Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, Marianas, Palau and the Philippines) by the Spanish colonization which began in the 15th century. Together with the Portuguese empire, the Spanish empire laid the foundations of a globalized trade and culture by opening up the great trans-oceanic trade routes. The laws of the Indies regulated social, political and economic life in the Americas over centuries to protect the indigenous native people of the Americas which started a miscegenation process that other "so called" "Empires" never reached. The mix between Spaniards, Native Americans and Black people can be seen in most of the countries that became part of the Spanish Empire.

The Spanish Empire left a huge cultural, urban and architectural legacy in the Western Hemisphere. Hundreds of towns and cities in the Americas were founded during the Spanish rule. The tangible heritage includes universities, forts, cities, cathedrals, schools, hospitals, missions, government buildings and colonial residences, many of which still stand today. Many present-day roads, canals, ports or bridges sit where Spanish engineers built them centuries ago. The oldest universities in the Americas were founded by Spanish scholars and Catholic missionaries. The Spanish Empire also left a vast cultural and linguistic legacy. With over 470 million native speakers today, Spanish is the second most spoken native language in the world.[7] Another cultural legacy of the Spanish empire overseas is the Catholic Church, which remains the main religion in the Spanish Americas. The cultural legacy is also present in the music, architecture, cuisine and fashion of much of Spanish America.

The Spanish Dollar was the world's first global currency.

One of the features of this trade was the exchange of a great array of domesticated plants and animals between the Old World and the New. Some that were introduced to America included wheat, barley, apples, cattle, sheep, pigs, horses, donkeys, and many others. The Old World received from America maize, potatoes, chili peppers, tomatoes, tobacco, beans, squash, cacao (chocolate), vanilla, avocados, pineapples, chewing gum, rubber, peanuts, cashews, Brazil nuts, pecans, blueberries, strawberries, quinoa, amaranth, chia, and agave. The result of these exchanges, known generally as the Columbian Exchange,[8] was to improve the agricultural potential of not only in America, but also that of Europe and Asia.

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References change

  1. Fernández Álvarez, Manuel (1979). España y los españoles en los tiempos modernos (in Spanish). University of Salamanca. p. 128.
  2. Schneider, Reinhold, 'El Rey de Dios', Belacqva (2002)
  3. Hugh Thomas, 'World Without End: The Global Empire of Philip II', Penguin; 1st edition (2015)
  4. Thomas, Hugh (August 11, 2015). World Without End: Spain, Philip II, and the First Global Empire. Random House. pp. 496 pages. ISBN 978-0812998115.
  5. Powell, Philip Wayne (October 16, 2008). Tree of Hate: Propaganda and Prejudices Affecting United States Relations with the Hispanic World. University of New Mexico Press; First Edition, First Printing edition. ISBN 978-0826345769.
  6. "The Role of Spain in the American Revolution" (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center. 2009. Retrieved 2023-11-03.
  7. "World", The World Factbook, Central Intelligence Agency, 2023-11-01, retrieved 2023-11-03
  8. "Columbian Exchange". Bill of Rights Institute. Retrieved 2023-11-03.
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