Fall Of Spanish Empire In The 17th Century

1135 words - 5 pages



24 December 2011



The Spanish Empire of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries has a story of irresponsible, selfish and foolish policies. The major problems revolved around their failure to build their internal economy, the ever increasing unsolved debts, and dependence on colonial silver. These problems were aggravated by other world events that they could not control. The empire best period was called Spain’s Golden Age. This occurred approximately between 1516 and 16591, although ...view middle of the document...

These factors led to heavy losses in population


from disease and migration to the New World colonies. Less population gave the monarchy fewer people to tax.6 The Spanish empire survived in deep debt and thrived on credit. Wars started the problem. The monarchy militantly promoted Catholicism under Philip II.7 Philip II left the empire in debt because of the long war to keep Dutch territories, and then he repeatedly attempted to attack England. At every attempt, he built and lost many expensive warships .8 Instead of seeking to resolve the debt, he spent money on enormous architectural projects.9 Philip III, who started his reign in 1598, led Spain to continue the Dutch Wars and lavish spending.10 Phillip IV built more royal apartments in 1630. He paid to have twelve expensive paintings created to illustrate war victories.11 Multiple wars were almost constant.12 Because of Spain’s large debts, the soldiers began to earn much less than the peasant farmers.13 In 1641, the military was poorly equipped with slings for rocks or muskets with no more than six bullets. Soldiers started rebelling and leaving. Subjects began to view the government as incompetent and untrustworthy. Many citizens would not agree to serve.11 the unanswered question is why the subjects did not revolt against the government. Spain financed the wars with credit and did not implement any practical way to pay for them. They obtained credit only because the silver trade from its colonies gave the impression that they could pay back debt.14 When the silver trade was not enough to impress creditors, Spain suffered several bankruptcies.15 The monarchy chose quick means to regain credit. They sold offices and titles, and pawned royal rights to towns and villages. This created an elite group of creditors that Spain feared to upset.16 “The crown had created a monster that consumed thousands of Indian and African lives, bore heavily on the backs of its European subjects, and from which it could not escape.”16 Despite this, Spain’s tactics appeared to work for them.

“…Spain had built up sufficient political and military momentum by 1621 that its imperial juggernaut carried on for two decades after it had run out of fuel”.17 Philip III increased inflation by issuing debased copper coins instead of full silver ones.18 Then the silver trade failed for many reasons. The monarchy began to steal privately owned silver as it came into port. The private...

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