In 1490 there was no such country as Spain, yet within a century it had become the most powerful nation in Europe and within another had sunk to the status of a third-rate power. Describe and analyze the major social, economic, and political reasons for Spain's rise and fall.
In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean flying under the flag of Spain. In the next 100 years, the results of that very expedition would lead to the growth and relatively quick fall of Spain. From its incursions into the Americas, several social, economic, and political forces were sprung, some directly, dome indirectly, that would contribute to the power bubble that Spain once had. Economically, the increased wealth from the New World made Spaine one of, if not the richest country in Europe. This, couples with a surge of population, also led to inflation that would both help and hinder the country, Socially, Philip II was able to subjugate the peasantry and keep them docile, providing a stable support for the rearranged nobled that Philip had put in power. As soon as this base began to disappear, however, the structure began to fall along with it. Finally, the true indicator of Spain's rise and fall was its political, and therefore, military power. Spain's rise, for example, was marked by the defeat of the Turks at sea, but its defeat was marked by its defeat by the English.
Spain rose to power directly because of its exploits in the New World. Economically, the wealth coming in from the mining of the new lands put money directly in the hands of the powerful, who were able to use it to their advantage. The inflation from the increase in population allowed the money in the hands of the nobles to gain influence. Politically, Spain's defeat of the Ottoman Turks in the Mediterrannean marked its ability to rule the seas for the next century, as well as gave Spain the right to exploit Africa, the Indies, and America without fear of repercussions. Finally, Philip's successful dealings with the people enabled him to keep the lower nobles content, and the people happy and willing to support the nation.
However, Philip's policies were also the cause of his downfall. His determination to keep Catholicism the main religion of Europe marked the political fall of his empire. Despite his best intentions, the Protestant Reformation was already too deeply entrenched to be fought back, but his insistence led to the loss of the Netherlands and, eventually, his defeat at the hands of the British. This defeat, itself significant in that rule of the seas had shifted to Britain, also led to the other factors in Spain's fall. Economically, the wealth that had been flowing in at such a quick rate in the past had begun to taper off, and Philip defaulting on most of his debts left the country in huge amounts of trouble. Socially, the people that had supported the country in the past had begun to emigrate, and the base had begun to fall out from the politicians. Finally, the politicians, themselves having been influenced by Philip's policies, became more interested in protecting Catholicism than the rest of their country.
The cyclical nature of Spain's rise and fall was based nearly exclusively on its success in the New World and on Philip's policies, both at home and abroad; what built the nation was what eventually broke it down. The wealth that had been coming into Spain in the early 1500s contributed to an inflation rate that could not be competed with once the wealth began to slow. Likewise, Spain's dominance of the seas had been a direct result of its battles for the New World, just as its loss of the seas was a direct result of its battles for future fominance. Finally, Philip's policies at home with his successful reorganization of lesser nobles were less successful abroad with his obsession on keeping Catholicism alive. From its creation in the late 1400s by Ferdinand and Isabella's marriage to its defeat in the late 1500s by Philip's disastrous foreign policy, Spain was a century of glory and success. However, in the end, its problems with its rulers led to a confrontation with the English that they could never rebound from.
- Charles V was the ruler most infatuated with keeping the faith
- Battle of Lepanto (Turks) was 1571, not early 1500s
- Spanish Armada was 1588
- Loss of the Netherlands was around 1609, official in 1648
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Got a 3/6 in Mathletes today. Misread 2 questions... oops. :D