History Of The Spanish Empire From Beginning To End

History of the rise and fall of the Spanish Empire widely impacted European history, as well as world history.

Before Christopher Columbus made his famous voyage to the Americas in 1492, Spain's only notable possession outside the borders of Europe was the Canary Islands. However, by the middle of the sixteenth century, Spain had gained control over large segments of the Caribbean, the Americas and parts of Africa. The rapid territorial expansion that followed was the foundation of the Spanish Empire and The Habsburgs' power in Spain, which began with Charles V. In just a few short years, Charles was able to bring together the world's most diverse empire since the Roman Empire.

Charles V was heir to the Hapsburg throne, and inherited titles to the Spanish throne as well as Germany. Instead of instigating battles to disseminate their power and influence, the inexhaustible Habsburgs chose to use the union of marriage to tie their household to others. This was intended to ensure that the amount of threats to Habsburg possessions in Europe would be limited, and that the Spaniards would be free to conquer overseas territory. The primary goal was to extend the outer layer of Spanish unity without really having to develop a central structure. The swift conquering of overseas lands that followed was fueled by the introduction and solidification of supremacy in Europe that resulted from this string of political marriages.

Throughout the years that Charles V ruled the Spanish Empire, the Spanish dominion became virtually omnipotent. Even England appeared likely to crumble under Spain's powerful hand when Philip's marriage, along with Charles's own marriage with Isabella of Portugal, brought the Portuguese crown to Philip in 1580. Despite his overwhelming power, Charles did not succeed in his mission to return the Protestants to the Roman Catholic Church.

Spain dominated its large empire politically, socially, and economically; not like the Portuguese, who were restricted to coastal regions and remotely held outposts. The Spaniards were able to infiltrate inland and establish much more permanent settlements. Subsequently, monarchy, along with the expansion of the overseas Spanish empire, went on to transcend national boundaries. These events had a notably strong impact on Central Europe at the beginning of the 16th century.

Sailing and commercial enterprises were also inhibited during this time. In fact for centuries, sailing to or trading with the New World was prohibited. All traffic had to go through specific ports in southern Spain. This helped to establish Spain as the foremost European power. Spain was deeply involved in European affairs from the sixteenth century all the way up until the eighteenth century. The Spanish Empire was global, and the influence of Spanish culture was so pervasive, that Spanish is still the native tongue of more than 200 million people outside Spain.

The seventeenth century was a time of incessant political, military, economic, and social decline. In fact, by the middle of the seventeenth century, the widespread effects of the plague, as well as vast emigration, had reduced Spain's population from eight million to seven million. Before that, however, many more lives were lost in war. Philip V's receiving of the Spanish crown against opposing forces that supported the Archduke Charles of Austria and Prince Joseph Ferdinand of Bavaria was the probable cause of the War of the Spanish Succession, which lasted from 1702-1714. This was actually the first "world war" fought by European powers. The war officially began the moment Austria invaded Italy.

Unending political turmoil, military interference in politics, repeated breakdowns of civil order, and periods of repressive government all contributed to the rise and fall of the Spanish Empire. It wasn't until the nineteenth century that Spain finally had a constitutional framework for parliamentary government like Britain and France. The social, economic, and ideological stresses that pervaded Spanish society made at least some form of chaos inevitable.

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