A History of Spain and Portugal
Volume 1
Stanley G. Payne

Chapter Fifteen
The Seventeenth-Century Decline

[290] Spain's seventeenth-century decline has received less study than any other major period of Spanish history. In part, this is because it is more remote than the modern phase that began in the eighteenth century, but it must also be explained by the painful reactions that comparisons with the glories of the late-fifteenth and sixteenth centuries evoke. By the end of the first quarter of the seventeenth century, perceptive Spaniards were clearly aware that they were living in an age of marked decline, and the sense of frustration and of waning accomplishment became steadily more conscious and general as the decades advanced. Subsequently, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, historiographic opinion viewed the period as decadent, a description still commonly used. More recently, twentieth-century nationalist historiography has questioned the judgment of decadence, suggesting that the time was merely one of stagnation in which the country was unable to develop at a rate equal to more expansive powers, because of the weight of imperial responsibilities. While it is true that Spain would have had to run faster than she had in the sixteenth century in order not to lose ground in the seventeenth century--a period of greater competition and development among west European powers--she was unable to maintain even the pace of 1600. The seventeenth century was, in fact, more than a time of stagnation; it was a period of general decline. Moreover, the society [291] and culture showed signs of decadence in the strict sense of the term.
An actual decline was reflected, first of all, in population. At the end of the sixteenth century, the Spanish homeland (excluding Portugal) had nearly 8,500,000 people, but in 1700 only about 7,000,000. Epidemic disease was the major cause for this decline, especially the bubonic plague but also typhus, smallpox, and other maladies. They were particularly lethal because the growth of towns in the sixteenth century had crowded many tens of thousands of the poor together in filthy conditions, and because economic decline brought a drop in food production, higher prices, lower purchasing power, reduced imports, and widespread malnutrition, particularly after years of poor harvests. The great plague of 1596-1602 attacked widespread areas of Castile and claimed 600,000 to 700,000 lives, or about 10 percent of the population, a figure almost equal to the gain of the preceding century. A second plague of great magnitude struck the eastern and southern parts of the peninsula in 1647-1652, and other devastating outbreaks occurred during the trough of the economic decline, between 1676 and 1685. Lesser epidemics raged intermittently throughout the century. It appears that altogether more than 1,250,000 deaths resulted from the extreme incidence of plague in seventeenth-century Spain. the worst era of epidemics in recorded peninsular history save for the period of the Black Death.
The other principal causes of population loss were emigration to America, deaths from warfare, and the expulsion of the Moriscos. The official emigration statistics indicate little more than 40,000 "legal" emigrants, but most were not licensed and the true figure was probably several times that. Military campaigns in the seventeenth century became increasingly costly in lives, especially during the middle years when there was widespread fighting and destruction in Catalonia. Deaths from disease and malnutrition far outnumbered combat fatalities, and the number of lives lost from war during the heaviest period of fighting from 1635 to 1659 may have reached a quarter million. The expulsion of the Moriscos early in the century lost the peninsula approximately 275,000 people.
Castile was affected more severely than the eastern principalities. The population of Catalonia, Navarre, and the Basque provinces was about the same at the end of the century as in the beginning. That of Aragón declined slightly, but proportionately not as much as Castile's. By 1700 Valencia was able to make good only half the losses suffered by the expulsion of the Moriscos, and showed a net loss of about 50,000 to 75,000 people. Castile, which bore the main financial and military weight of empire and provided most of the emigrants, suffered a net loss of some 1,250,000. Its population, excluding the [292] Basque country, dropped from around 6,750,000 in 1600 to 5,500,000 in 1700.

The Economic Decline

Jaime Vicens Vives has suggested seven prime causes of the seventeenth-century economic decline: 1) continued increase in the size of entailed domains held by the aristocracy and the church, which had the effect of withdrawing land from use and of lowering production; 2) increasing social disruption and vagrancy; 3) deforestation; 4) an overabundance of clerics; 5) the status orientation of society; 6) the negative, charity-oriented religious attitudes toward poverty that precluded serious thought of reform and new enterprise; and most important of all, 7) government policy, which maintained prohibitive taxes in Castile, produced capricious waves of alternating inflation and deflation that led to monetary chaos, over-regulated some aspects of the economy, and was incompetent in planning and execution.
The tax burden on Castile, already destructive during the reign of Felipe II, became unbearable during the course of the seventeenth century. The constitutional systems of the eastern principalities continued to protect them from all special levies save sporadic grants made grudgingly by their Cortes, which averaged out to a per capita annual rate considerably less than that paid by Castilians. The only institution in the east that paid anything approaching a proportionate share of taxes was the church. In fact, the eastern principalities paid much less than did the Italian territories of the crown--Sicily, Naples and Milan--which in some years by the end of the sixteenth century were paying over five million ducats and carrying much of the cost of imperial defense in the Mediterranean and in south-central Europe. But the main responsibility still fell on Castile, which from the 1590s on was called upon to pay two-thirds of the cost of government out of its ordinary taxes. The nominal tax rates were not in themselves exorbitant, but the power of the aristocracy to shove the weight of them onto the middle classes and the peasantry, together with the exactions of tax farmers and agents who raked off much of the proceeds, led to crushing imposts on production that drove tens of thousands of peasant families off the land and into emigration or poverty in the crowded cities.
This situation was aggravated by a capricious, irresponsible royal monetary policy. During the sixteenth century the Spanish monarchy had maintained a sound currency based on a fairly steady silver value, but by 1599, with the bulk of royal income already going for [293] debt service, it was decided to debase the coinage by issuing copper money. This led to a two-year bout of inflation, and after a temporary end to monetary debasement, a slight price decline from 1601 to 1610. During the next decade prices were generally stable, but further debasement led to serious inflation in the 1620s and sporadic inflation from 1636 to 1638 and in the 1640s. Altogether, prices rose nearly 40 percent in the quarter-century 1625-1650. This in itself would not have been so serious had it not been for the pendular swings from inflation to deflation that discouraged production and commerce even further.
Capital and credit were increasingly scarce from the latter part of the sixteenth century. The bankruptcy of 1596 was the final blow that completed the ruin of Medina and the other financial centers of northern Castile. The problem was not the absence of capital, for it existed among the aristocracy; it was a problem of values and priorities. The upper classes and the church had already established a pattern of preferring the moderately high rate of interest from state bonds and short-term loans to long-term investments involving greater risk. In view of these preferences, the existence of more capital would not in itself have guaranteed more productive undertakings. At any rate, even the favored "safe" investments proved less and less lucrative with the eventual near collapse of the state financial system and the decline of agriculture, the source of income from many short-term loans. In turn, the crown came to rely almost exclusively on foreign sources of credit.
The most serious domestic aspect of the seventeenth-century economic decline was in the most fundamental area -- food production. Agriculture declined fairly steadily, with brief moments of recovery due mainly to better weather, until it reached a secular trough in the 1680s. The principal factor was probably the enormous weight of taxation on peasant agriculture in Castile. In some regions, the peasant paid five or six different kinds of duties -- a tithe to the church that in certain districts amounted to nearer a fifth than a tenth of his production, seigneurial dues to his lord, rent to the landlord who held immediate economic jurisdiction (usually a different and lesser personage than the former), taxes to the crown, and in many instances, interests and payments on short-term loans without which he could not have stayed in production. In parts of Castile these amounted to more than half of an income which was often only marginal at best, and thus made it impossible to maintain a family on the land. The pressure of sheep-herding interests was lessening, for wool exports were also declining in a more competitive international market, and market price restrictions on the food producer could often be evaded, [294] but in general, nonagrarian prices rose more rapidly than did those for food produced, trapping the peasantry in a price scissors. All the while, land rents increased with the general inflation of the period. There was no escape from taxation and dues, and even the weather grew worse during the second half of the century. The result was drastic rural depopulation in large areas, particularly in the Duero valley of León and Old Castile, and in the Toledo and Guadalajara districts of New Castile.
Domestic manufactures, which had begun to decline in the late sixteenth century, continued their decline during the seventeenth century. The chief textile-producing towns of New Castile suffered a disastrous drop in population. During the course of the century, Toledo fell from 50,000 to 20,000 inhabitants, Segovia from 25,000 to 8,000, and Cuenca from 15,000 to 5,000. Much of the Spanish clothing market was lost to foreign competition, especially to durable, light-weight English woolens. Again, the chief reasons were the absence of enterprise, the failure to adapt to new demands and possibilities, the lack of technological improvement in production, and the loss of skilled labor. Relative inefficiency coupled with comparatively high wages resulted in high production costs that priced many Spanish manufactures out of the market.
The other two domestic industries that had been important were Basque iron production and shipbuilding along the northern coasts. These also declined rather precipitously, for the same factors were at work. After the general volume of shipping and commerce started to contract in the 1620s, demand for new vessels naturally lessened, but even the boats that were bought and chartered were increasingly apt to be foreign, because of superior design and construction. The cost of naval stores had been disproportionately high in the peninsula for a long time. This, plus the failure to improve techniques or design, left the north Spanish shipbuilding industry in the doldrums throughout the century. Similarly, Basque iron production, which at times had exceeded 3,000 tons annually in the sixteenth century, dropped off markedly and was unable to supply the domestic market or sustain the needs of the Spanish military. There was, however, some revival in the last two decades of the century.
Regional light industries and local crafts were affected much less by the general downturn than were the three major industries that had been directed toward national and international markets. Simple household goods were still supplied by local artisans, and this relationship was in most instances little disturbed by the rise of imported manufactures.
The decline in food and textile production was met by a corresponding rise in imports from abroad. Spain was largely dependent [295] on northern Europe for naval stores, and relied increasingly on countries in that region and on France for textiles, hardware, paper, and enough grain to try to make up food deficits. Such increasing need, coupled with the military failures of the second half of the reign of Felipe IV, led to a series of commercial treaties between 1648 and 1667 with Holland, France, and England, granting these powers broad commercial privileges and comparatively low tariff rates on their exports to Spain. Spanish exports steadily declined. Wool remained the staple export, and Spanish wool continued to be of comparatively high quality. However, the size of the Mesta's herds had been dwindling since the late sixteenth century as a result of soil erosion, lack of credit, high export taxes, and legal pressure against the Mesta that was finally reducing its grazing privileges. The volume of wool export remained respectably high through the first half of the seventeenth century, but then sagged irretrievably. The other basic exports--wine, olive oil, Basque iron, and American cochineal--also declined as a result of the depression in agriculture and domestic manufacture and the slump in the American trade. The only general exception to this pattern was the trade of Bilbao, which remained fairly constant as a belated increase in iron exports helped to make good much of the loss suffered in the decline of the wool trade. Overall, however, the balance of Spanish foreign trade during the second half of the century was overwhelmingly unfavorable, and was sustained only by the re-export of American bullion. Yet the decline in bullion production reduced the possibilities of importing enough to compensate for the failure of domestic production and resulted in poverty and hunger for much of Spanish society.
The foreign share in Spanish commerce grew throughout the century until, by the second half, it was dominant. Not only was the volume of imports extremely high, but foreign capital established its control of the intra-Hispanic trade from the Andalusian ports, while east coast shipping, at least during the middle years of the century, was dominated largely by French and Genoese financiers and merchants.

Spanish America and the Colonial Trade

The greatest single achievement of the Spanish economy during the sixteenth century had been the development of a prosperous colonial trade with the American empire. This had provided an outlet for Spanish textiles and food products and had brought a return in bullion that served to balance Spanish commerce with Europe. Indeed, the development of the Spanish American colonial economy in [296] that period was by far the greatest overseas economic accomplishment of any European power. The height of the Hispanic colonial trade was reached during the last third of the sixteenth century, though the high for a single year came in 1608; colonial trade in general remained rather static during the thirty-year period from 1593 to 1622. From there it fell into serious decline, dropping to a low by mid-century. Between 1606-1610 and 1646-1650 the volume of the colonial trade declined by 60 percent, as indicated in table 6, and remained in that trough for nearly one hundred years, until the middle of the eighteenth century.

Table 6. Annual Averages of the Trade with Spanish
America in the Seventeenth Century
Period Departures Arrivals
Ships Toneladas (1) of goods Ships Toneladas of goods
1600-1604 55 19,800 56 21,600
1640-1650 25 8,500 29 9,850
1670-1680 17 4,650 19 5,600
1701-1710 8 2,640 7 2,310
Source: J. Larraz, La época del mercantilismo en Castilla, 1500-1700 (Madrid, 1944).

This brought a steady decline in the wealth and population of Seville, the second city of Spain, after the 1620s. Seville was plagued not only by the falling off of trade in general, however, but also by the silting of the Guadalquivir, which made its harbor increasingly difficult to use. Thus the great Andalusian city could not maintain its place of leadership even within a diminished commerce. More and more traffic moved to Cádiz, which grew from 2,000 to 40,000 inhabitants between 1600 and 1700, and in the eighteenth century replaced Seville altogether as the main entrepôt of the American trade.
Imports of American treasure followed a roughly similar pattern. They averaged approximately 7,000,000 pesos per year in the 1590s, then dropped to between 5,000,000 and 6,000,000 annually between 1600 and 1625. From that point they fell rapidly, dropping to little more than 2,000,000 annually between 1646 and 1650 and only 500,000 in the years 1656-1660. The crown's share of the American treasure began to fall both earlier and more rapidly. Royal treasure receipts of American bullion averaged somewhat more than 1,500,000 pesos from 1595 to 1615, dropped to less than 1,000,000 annually [297] from 1616 to 1645, dwindled to less than 400,000 during the ten years after that, and averaged little more than 100,000 annually between 1656 and 1660. Other income from American taxes fell at approximately the same rate. The general decline in colonial trade not only crippled one of the two main sources of crown income but deepened the general depression of production in metropolitan Spain.
Colonial trade declined for a variety of reasons. By the seventeenth century, Spanish America had begun to develop its own domestic production, at least in food and simple goods, and no longer needed the products of Spanish agriculture that had formed the staples of Spanish trade in the sixteenth century. Its economy now required finished industrial goods which the Spanish homeland was increasingly ill-prepared to supply. This led the colonies to turn more and more to foreign producers, and contraband trade increased greatly. In turn, merchants engaged in the American trade tended more and more to invest in American commerce and production rather than return their capital to Spain. Coupled with these factors was the progressive exhaustion of the largest silver mines in northern Mexico and the southern Andes, while no technique was being developed that would have made working the marginal deposits profitable. Discovery of several new but smaller sources of silver did not offset these limitations. Yet another factor was the drastic depopulation of central Mexico in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries as a result of epidemics of European diseases and of the social and economic exploitation of the Indians. To this was added the growing weight of competition from other imperial powers, competition which had been nearly nonexistent through most of the sixteenth century. An increasing proportion of the taxes of Spanish America remained there to build defenses against English, Dutch, and French intruders. In general, the resistance of Spanish America was quite effective, reflecting the stability and rooted-ness of the Hispanic society being formed there, but it used up funds that the Spanish crown would otherwise have had available for its expenses in Europe. Finally, the pressure of Spanish taxation and the decline in Spanish shipping further handicapped the colonial trade. As volume diminished, taxes and fees on shipping were proportionately increased to pay for mounting costs of insurance and defense. This led to widespread fraud in the registration of commerce and gave further encouragement to contraband.
The shift in the internal economic relations of the Hispanic world during the seventeenth century thus resulted from the decline of the peninsular economy coupled with the growth of the Spanish American economy. It revealed the beginning of what would be an increasingly separate and eventually independent Spanish America.

[298] Spanish Society in the Seventeenth Century

The pattern of society during the seventeenth century merely accentuated the trend toward aristocratic dominance established long before. During this period the traditional Spanish nobility reached its apogee. Altogether, nearly l0 percent of the people of Spain were nobles, but wealth was concentrated in the upper strata--the grandes, and just below them, the títulos. With the economy stagnating, Spanish society remained desperately upwardly mobile. Concern was directed almost exclusively toward winning aristocratic status and, if that were already achieved, toward rising into the elite, whose ranks were thus steadily expanded. There had been twenty-five families of grandes when the rank was legally defined in 1520, but ten more were raised to that category in the year 1640 alone. In addition to the grandes there had been thirty-five títulos in Spain in 1520. Table 7 shows the number of titles created in the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Table 7.
Creation of New Titles in Spain. 1556-1700
Ruler Number of Titles
Dukes Marquises  Counts Viscounts
Felipe II, 1556-98 18 38 43
Felipe III, 1598-1621 20 25
Felipe IV, 1621-65 67 25
Carlos II, 1665-1700 209 78 5
Source: Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, La sociedad española en el siglo XVII, 2 vols. (Madrid,1963), 1:209-22.

Basically, what separated the grandes and títulos from the rest of the nobility was wealth, mainly in landed domains under seigneurial jurisdiction and protected by right of entail. The proportion of land held in seigneuries continued to grow in the seventeenth century for the same reason that it had in the sixteenth. Though the holders of great seigneuries did not expand their real income from land at the rate that prices were rising, their preferment at court increased, and many special honors, posts, and gifts were bestowed on them from a swollen royal treasury. More than ever before they were living parastically off not only the land but the royal income as well. Thus, as the overall production of wealth from towns and commerce declined, the proportionate share of the national wealth held by the great landholding aristocracy actually increased.
[299] The nobles of middle rank, the caballeros, did not normally hold seigneuries of importance, but controlled many positions in municipal government and dominated much of local administration. This provided them with lucrative posts as well as the control of local taxes and government finance.
The hidalgos continued to be numerically the great bulk of the nominal nobility. Though many were indeed poor and lacked land or other possessions of note, their status was nevertheless of great advantage. It freed them from payment of most taxes and provided legal privileges in criminal and civil suits, and for some it was the status derived from not having to pay taxes, more than the money involved, that was important. If there were those even worse off than their classic prototype, Don Quijote de la Mancha, others were well enough to do, and at the very least, the hidalgos were a stable upper-middle-class elite, between the nobility and the ordinary middle classes.

A government minister remarked that every Spaniard:

Though this observation was somewhat exaggerated, throughout the seventeenth century, as in the preceding one, there was a movement of urban middle-class people into the ranks of hidalguía. The quarter century 1625-1650--the period of major economic decline--seems to have featured the elevation of an unusually large number. The crown's need for money spurred sale of titles, but such patents actually drew comparatively few buyers, for the purchase of admission to the nobility, rather than the mere arrogation of status, was logically held to admit that one was not by nature inherently noble.
The mania for endonamiento, or being made an aristocrat, was a counterpart of declining interest in work or achievement. In an interesting study of the number of achievement images per thousand words in Spanish literature over a five-hundred-year period, Juan B. Cortés, S.J., has found that in samples from the years 1200-1492 the mean was 10.74, declining for the years 1492-1610 to 6.07, and for 1610-1730 to only 2.67.
This obsession with honor and status had little to do with individualism [300] as understood in the English-speaking world. Spanish society was not interested in individual opportunities or rights but in the assertion of personal status and subjective privilege. Julio Caro Baroja has put it well:
The Spanish are not individualists, but personalists, which is quite different. The individualist in effect believes that society is constituted by individuals who have or ought to have more or less the same rights and duties. He asks that his be respected and agrees to respect those of others. The personalist sees each person as isolated (beginning with himself), with a series of distinct characteristics, and has no scruples about abusing some and favoring others, since he sees them all as inherently different, some of them sympathetic and attractive to him and others not. The personalist starts from a boundless, instinctive, and capricious ego to judge his neighbor and determine what he does or does not deserve. (3)
Hence the period of decline was a time of great pomp and display of luxury as aristocrats vied with one another for positions of splendor, particularly during the first four decades of the seventeenth century. As a result, most of the nobility were financially pressed, because despite their incomes, expenses always ran ahead. Aristocratic lands were usually mismanaged and produced only a portion of what they might have, but the landed nobles considered such concerns beneath them. On the one occasion during the century when a sector of the aristocracy was dealt a severe economic blow--the loss of income suffered by the Aragonese and Valencian nobility after expulsion of the Moriscos-they tried to recoup by raising already onerous seigneurial exactions on Christian peasants who remained or were brought in.
The seventeenth century was a time of economic, and to some extent social, decline for the Spanish middle classes, but it is not so clear that their numbers actually diminished proportionately. Rather, the middle classes retreated from enterprise and clung more and more to whatever status they had or could find, especially in government employment or holy orders. The result was an increasingly bureaucratized middle class in the larger towns, for whom fairly broad educational opportunities were a means not of training for creative new skills but of preparing for a static bureaucratic post. There were of course exceptions, but they stood in contrast to the norm. It was this overriding social emphasis on status and honor, rejecting the risks and pressures of productive enterprise, that led the arbitrista (reform writer) González de Cellorigo to remark that "it seems as if one had [301] wished to reduce these kingdoms to a republic of bewitched beings, living outside the natural order of things." (4)
The middle classes had largely lost control of municipal government to the caballeros and hidalgos. Though many Castilian towns practiced the system of mitad de oficios by which offices were divided between nobles and commoners, nearly all the important and lucrative positions were held by the nobles. In the south they were all-powerful, though in the towns of central Castile and in the north, the middle classes made some effort to contest their leadership. These local government offices were not service positions filled by a patriotic gentry, but money-making posts through which the local nobility diverted the income of local government, and particularly its tax collection, to benefit their own purses. Thus the nobility not only shifted the taxes onto the middle and lower classes but actually made a profit from collecting them.
The hypertrophy of the aristocracy and the failure of the middle classes left the entrepreneurial role to elements entirely outside Spanish society. Italian merchants and financiers had already been active in the sixteenth century, and their numbers were increased by new aliens from Portugal, France, and Holland. The movement toward a closed Counter-Reformation society had never been complete, and in practice there was considerable toleration for foreigners who limited themselves to clearly defined activities that Spaniards themselves were ill-prepared to carry on. By 1650 there were approximately 150,000 foreigners in Spain--nearly 2 percent of the population, the main segment of the country's entrepreneurial middle class.
The social stagnation of seventeenth-century Spain was not unique in Europe during that epoch, for the first half of the century was a time of economic depression and expansion of aristocratic status within a relatively immobile society for much of western Europe. The social pathology of Spain was nonetheless more pronounced and enduring. One of its most destructive consequences was the absence of leadership. whether for intellectual affairs, religion, the economy, government administration, or the military. Without the leavening of new leadership by a creative elite, a change in attitudes, values, or policies was not to be expected. There were many critics and arbitristas who wrote numerous essays on the problems afflicting the country and offered a great many recipes for their remedy, but active example and direction by a capable elite were no longer to be found in any major branch of activity. The privileged in society had withdrawn [302] and turned inward on their status, and their orientation was shared by the common people as well.
Spanish people no longer identified themselves with the struggle of the empire in Europe. Once it had been thought something of an honor to serve in the army, and the ranks were filled by volunteers, save in emergencies. By the beginning of the reign of Felipe IV, however, the crown lacked the money to fill its units with professional soldiers and resorted more and more to forced drafts among the Castilian peasantry. Ordinary people had little sense of the meaning of seemingly endless campaigns of the crown, and religious motivation had dwindled as the division of western Christendom became an accepted fact. To be condemned to the miseries of military life in units that were unpaid and ill cared for was considered among the greatest of misfortunes. Since funds were saved by quartering units on the civilian population, the army in some regions became almost an object of hatred. Exemption from service was yet another reason to aspire to or cling to hidalgo rank.
The misery of the lower classes deepened, with no relief in sight. There may have been a rise in real income that accompanied the increase in wages for town workers during the first decades of the century, but that was wiped out by the depression, devaluation, and inflation of the 1620s, after which real wages declined. Throughout the first half of the century, the size of some of the larger cities increased as they filled with ruined peasants and unemployed workers. Madrid swelled to over 300,000. The towns were not centers of economic activity but parasites on a strained countryside. Since the masses of poor in Madrid, Seville, and other cities could not hope to live well, many turned to a psychology of pure lackeyism, winning some security and a measure of status as servants in the employ of conspicuous noblemen. Crime and the underworld flourished in the cities, and hordes of vagabonds plagued areas of the countryside. For the totally indigent, the only relief was the charity of the church, which gave handouts without much effort at rehabilitation.
Only rarely did the lower classes lash out in their misery. There were occasional acts of violence by the peasantry against their oppressors, and a few spectacular bread riots in times of famine in the big cities. The biggest of these--the Pendón verde turmoil at Seville in 1652--kept a lower-class district in a state of riot for twenty-one days. Such explosions were spontaneous, without stable leadership, organization, or goals, a boiling over of misery and hunger by the poor in times of scarcity.
One reason the lower classes accepted their lot, by and large, was that they lacked any alternative ideals or models in society. Even they [303] accepted. to some extent, the aristocratic norm, once as an attainable goal, and then in the seventeenth-century as a mirage in whose shimmering reflection the wretched might take heart. Despite the desperate status-seeking, or partly because of it, lines between classes tended to blur at the extremes to a degree untrue of some other countries of the period. The poor participated more conspicuously in royal festivals at Madrid than they did at Versailles. The Castilian lower classes remained free, legally more free than in parts of France. Though many peasants were ruined by aristocratic inroads and by taxes, some of their traditional rights and accompanying security were retained. Above all, Castilian society retained a unity of ideals, sustained by the church, and growing impoverishment and strain did not lead to ideological cleavage in Spanish society as a whole.
Religion and Culture

Flight from reality and unwillingness to face new challenge were also evident in the church. It kept its enormous influence and wealth, nearly 20 percent of the land in the kingdom, and copious tithes and dues that gave it a huge share, perhaps nearly one-third, of the Spanish income, but it lost much of the spiritual and missionary zeal. intellectual achievement, and reformist drive of an earlier time. During the seventeenth century, the Spanish Catholic church became the institution of middle class bureaucracy. The great income of the church, contrasted with the general shrinking of the economy, made holy orders attractive as the chief opportunity for an "honorable" career for those with some education but few opportunities. A cadastre of 1656 revealed that the Castilian clergy held nine times the wealth of the ordinary Castilian population, and this was a powerful lure. The clergy as a whole were probably never more than 3 percent of the population, but they were as much as 10 percent of adult males. In Catalonia, where local church endowments were more common and the middle strata of society more developed, the clergy temporarily swelled to about 6 percent of the population. This padding of the ranks of clergy diluted its spiritual zeal and moral and intellectual quality. There remained a saving remnant of truly devout and dedicated priests, and impressive overseas missionary work was still done by several church orders, but nothing to compare with the preceding century.
The decadence of some of the clergy was simply one aspect of a change in the spirit of Spanish religiosity, which showed an increasing obsession with asceticism and the avoidance of sexual sin. The atmosphere [304] was one of growing gloom and fixation on death and punishment. Mounting hostility to the world and to religious expression through normal, outgoing human affairs was probably a not unnatural spiritual-psychological counterpart to the general sense of failure and decline. Gross superstition, already common in the sixteenth century, increased, and was accompanied by further exaggeration of formalism and ritualism.
Religious sensibility was heightened by the expansion of the "missionö movement, particularly in the two Castiles and Andalusia. This was almost exclusively the work of some of the orders, and consisted of local evangelistic campaigns in villages and small cities by small groups of monks. They preached an intense and graphic brand of hellfire-and-damnation revivalism, illustrated by vivid paintings and sketches of the nether regions. The effect of these visits on the lower classes was often extreme, if rather temporary, and brought many people into formal confrontation with religion who otherwise paid relatively little attention to it.
All the while, moral irregularity abounded in the larger towns, and the stress on external orthodoxy often resulted in a heavy overlay of hypocrisy. As far as behavior patterns were concerned, the extreme "religiosity" of Spanish society was belied by the life styles of the highest and lowest in the social order, high aristocrats living in self-indulgence, a large lower-class underworld in the towns battening off crime and vice. A singular aspect of moral degeneration was the perverse fascination with the image of the nun in the romantic imagination of upper-class men. The galán de monjas (wooer of nuns) became a stock figure in the erotic typology of the period.
Ecclesiastically, the Spanish church became increasingly divided. Factional disputes within the clergy were pushed to the point of fanaticism. There were intense quarrels between orders and among various prelates, as well as disputes over control of parishes, descending even to vendettas over the style of clerical clothing.
As had been the rule before, the overweening formal piety of the crown did not prevent it from asserting a degree of authority over the church. It retained the regium exequator, dating from the fourteenth century, that enabled it to control all papal communications. The majority of church spokesmen in Spain sided with the authority of the crown, and during the first half of the seventeenth century, a considerable number of regalist treatises were written by both lay and clerical Spanish jurists. In 1617, Felipe III protested the fact that the papacy had placed several of these on the Index. There were lengthy conflicts between leading Spanish prelates and papal nuncios, though at the same time there was also an ultramontane party within the church. During the reign of Felipe IV some efforts, largely unsuccessful, [305] were made to reform the clergy and limit the increase of entailed church estates.
After the first quarter of the seventeenth century, little was seen of the kind of theological, philosophical, and scientific study that had flourished among the intellectuals of the sixteenth-century church. Not only did this work decline, but the Hieronymites, Reformed Carmelites, and other orders which had stressed serious work and systematic spiritual meditation did not prosper. Their program was not attractive to most of those being drawn into religious orders.
The church did spend a significant amount of its great income on education and on charity for the poor, for whom it was the only source of relief, usually of the sopa boba, simple soup kitchen, variety. In addition, orphan asylums and homes for the wayward young were maintained.
By any comparison with other countries, basic educational facilities were extensive in Spain at the beginning of the seventeenth century, though in the years following they declined. According to one survey, there were 32 institutions of higher learning and at least 4,000 grammar schools, many of them founded in the sixteenth century and largely supported by the church. In 1590 there were 7,000 students attending the universities and 20,000 in higher education as a whole, proportionately the largest student body in Europe. The dynamics of seventeenth-century Spanish education, however, belie the notion that extensive nominal education is the main precondition to societal progress. The Spanish system was increasingly oriented toward the mere attainment and maintenance of status. The colegios mayores, originally endowed to finance education of students from the middle classes, were taken over as status symbols for aristocratic youth. Despite these and other limitations, there remained significant school opportunities for the middle classes, and the number of degrees or certificates earned was not inconsiderable. Yet such diplomas were basically licenses in formal letters that served as entrees to the bureaucracy whose ranks in church and state were swelled with diplomates. Such an educational system did not encourage a more critical or inquiring attitude or a more productive, efficient elite. Curricula sank into a routine that was backward even by contemporary European standards, but leading universities maintained a placement service for clerical and bureaucratic posts that, in terms of sustained pressure on behalf of graduates, might be judged to have outdone the efforts of twentieth-century American institutions. The educated were largely unconcerned with practical problems or with creative service. On their professional level, they aped the nonproductive status-security fixation of the nobility. The involution of Spanish society, general resistance to the analytic dimension, stress on the medieval intellectual [306] disciplines in opposition to change, and prizing of personalism rather than objectivism and achievement, converged to block intellectual development.
The exception in this general trend of decline was the continued flowering of Hispanic esthetic culture during the first half of the seventeenth century, when Spain led Europe in the development of baroque art. The painting of Velázquez, the dramas of Calderón, and the extravagant poetry of Góngora were achievements of the highest level in the European culture of the period. Through the years of midcentury, the prestige of Spanish culture remained high, as attested by the use of Spanish art motifs and the vogue of certain writers, such as the Jesuit Baltasar de Gracián, in France and other countries. Hispanic literature reached its height in the writing of Miguel de Cervantes. His Don Quijote was on one level a satire of extravagant and unrealistic ambitions held by Spanish society of the imperial period and was the most profound expression of the mood of disillusionment that was setting in. On another, it was the most eloquent expression of those ideals, a universal work, and the first modern novel.
Church patronage was largely responsible for this paradox of brilliant literary achievement in an age of social and economic decline. Another important factor was the great wealth of the high aristocracy, whose elaborate tastes led them to patronize art at a time when society lacked resources for more mundane accomplishment. Yet the Spanish elite were unable to sustain even these values, leading more and more to what has been termed the paradox of the Spanish baroque: growing contrast between extravagant style and increasingly poor materials used to express it in architecture and art. During the second half of the century, the effects of depression, depopulation, disillusion, and flagging energy made it impossible to continue the level of esthetic activity, which also began to fall into decadence.

Government under Felipe III (1598-1621)

The Spanish system of government changed during the seventeenth century with the distinctly less competent monarchs and the rising magnitude of the problems facing royal administration. The institution of the valido, the favorite and surrogate of the king, became the norm for the weak monarchs of the time. There was a sense in which the valido was understood to be the chief minister for the crown, but he was more than that, becoming the substitute for rulers unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities. He also represented the triumph of the high aristocracy, for their system of personal status [307] relationships and dispensation of patronage then dominated the government as well.
The Duke of Lerma, valido of Felipe III, was above all interested in prestige and fortune. He had no special policy for Spanish affairs, but established his control over patronage to the aristocracy and became the wealthiest man in Spain. The king himself took great satisfaction in depleting royal resources by granting concessions to aristocratic favorites. From this time forward, the ascendancy of the aristocracy in government increased. Membership in the Council of State had always been restricted to the aristocracy, but its work had been to some extent administered and coordinated by professional secretaries drawn from the petty hidalgo class. In the seventeenth century, the Council of State was directed entirely by the high aristocracy.
The counciliar system of state administration was maintained, but there was a growing tendency to appoint subcommittees to deal with special problems and concentrate executive attention. This resulted in further dispersal of leadership and greater division in administrative organization. The numbers in state service continued to increase, but a rational, central bureaucratic system was never worked out. The Council of Castile, which served as a ministry of sorts for the kingdom of Castile, lacked an integrated system of administration which could enforce its laws and regulations. Though corregidores were still appointed for the towns, local areas were often administered as decentralized units by local notables, and what was true in Castile held for the empire as a whole.
The government system tended more and more to get out of control. Social and institutional pressure to hire university diplomates resulted in a fantastic degree of featherbedding. As the government bankrupted itself, every possible device for raising money was snatched at. Sale of offices in all branches of state affairs became a standard device for raising revenues, and in the Indies the practice was extended from fee-earning positions to more important salaried posts as well. Twice, seats on the Council of Indies were sold, and it was ruled that offices bought might in many instances be resold to secondary buyers. The treasury system itself was an enormous rat's nest. Nearly all tax collection was indirect, either farmed out to tax collectors, many of them Portuguese cristâos novos, or recruited secondhand from municipal officials. One estimate has calculated that nearly 150,000 full or part-time agents were involved in Spain and America, and that after so many local notables, tax farmers, and agents had siphoned off funds for themselves, little more than 20 percent of the sum originally collected reached the crown.
[308] Financial stress, favoritism, and maladministration eventually led to protest even among the upper classes. By 1618, Lerma had to appoint a special reform junta to think of ways of remedying the government's ills. Rule by valido normally meant direction of affairs by a personal faction of the favorite. Lemma's greed and selfish use of patronage, which he controlled absolutely between 1612 and 1618, built up strong hostility among the majority of the nobility who were not favored. After twenty years even the indolent Felipe III grew restive, and before the close of 1618 he dismissed his veteran valido. Yet the change was slight. For the remaining three years of the reign a new favorite, Lerma's own son the Duke of Acadia, coordinated government affairs, though he never held the full authority once enjoyed by Lerma.

Felipe IV(1621-1665) and the Leadership of Olivares

Felipe IV succeeded his father in 1621 when only sixteen years old. Though he was more energetic, he was also more frivolous and líttle disposed to devote himself to public affairs. Since he was young, inexperienced, and not well educated, it was inevitable that he devolve direction of government on a favorite of his own. This personage was a thirty-three-year-old Andalusian noble, Gaspar de Guzmán, later known as the Conde-Duque de Olivares. The new head of affairs was altogether different from Lerma. Olivares was well trained and used to responsibility, a man of great vigor and energy as well as overweening ambition. He was not after personal gain, however, but sought power--the direction and vindication of the Spanish empire. The dark, heavy count-duke was by far the most forceful Spanish figure of the century--authoritarian, stubborn, but also hardworking, attentive to detail, persistent, and devoted to government rather than patronage. Unlike Lerma, he had a policy, which was to strengthen the Spanish empire and lead it to victory over its many foes despite the formidable obstacles that were mounting against it.
The predominant policy in the Council of State since the death of Felipe II had been conservative, devoted simply to preserving and defending the empire as it existed. In terms of international law as well as of actual circumstance in most of the empire, this was not unrealistic. The American empire was developing a unique, symbiotic society that was just beginning to achieve its own natural growth. The European possessions of the crown were in general satisfied with Spanish rule, conducted on the confederal Aragonese pattern and respectful of local rights and customs. None of its principalities at [309] that time sought or were capable of surviving independently and no other major power had so good a legal claim to them as the Spanish crown. There were four major difficulties: a) the size and potential wealth of the overseas empire made it an almost irresistible target for European rivals; b) the extent of the empire's European territories placed it in a dominant position that was eventually intolerable to a revitalized France determined to cut Spain down to size; c) the geographic pattern of the European empire was awkward, for the Low Countries and the France Comte were isolated from the southern base and were difficult to defend; and d) the government refused to recognize the independence of the only dissident part of the empire, Holland, which had long since broken away and made its own place in the world. This led to endless, futile, wasteful warfare on land and sea with a new power that was the most modern and efficient in Europe in the early seventeenth century. Such conflict in turn made the defense of the southern Netherlands, which Spain retained, more difficult. During the first half of the seventeenth century, the Spanish crown enjoyed the services of the finest diplomats to be found in the employ of any power, but the skill of Spanish diplomats, great as it was, could not offset the enormous burdens imposed by a policy determined to retain an anachronistic dynastic claim that kept the empire perpetually at war.
When the Thirty Years War began in central Europe in 1618, the Spanish government plunged in to prevent the triumph of hostile Protestant forces that would side with Holland and threaten Spain's remaining position in the southern Netherlands. In addition to subsidizing the Austrian Habsburg cause, the main Spanish field army, stationed in the southern Netherlands under an outstanding general, Ambrosio Spinola, intervened to seize the Lower Palatinate in western Germany and safeguard direct land communications with Spanish Italy.
The ten-year truce with Holland expired in 1621, and hostilities were resumed on a naval and commercial front that was literally worldwide. By 1625, England had come into the struggle against Spain while France moved against the imperial position in northern Italy, but the years 1625-1626 were a time of success for Spanish arms. Dutch invaders were thrown out of Brazil by a large Hispano-Portuguese fleet, the offensive was resumed in the Low Countries where Breda was captured (1625), the French were once more forced out of Italy and peace was signed with them in 1626. To increase the pressure on the French crown, the Spanish government had even been negotiating terms of assistance to French Protestant rebels.
Yet there was a serious drop in American treasure shipments that same year, and the crown was unable to sustain its huge military [310] expenses and was forced to another declaration of partial bankruptcy in 1627. The entire annual treasure fleet from New Spain was captured by a Dutch squadron along the Cuban coast in 1628. The struggle continued against both Holland and England, while income to finance it dropped, and Spain's Catholic allies in central Europe showed no inclination to assist in fighting the Dutch.
Military commitments were increased still further in 1628 when a dispute arose over the succession to the duchy of Mantua in northwest Italy. The strongest legal claimant was a French duke, but Olivares ordered Spanish forces to seize the stronghold of Montferrat to prevent a French succession and secure the Alpine communications to the other Spanish possessions farther north. This led to a disastrous three-year war with France in northwest Italy that Spain was no longer in a position to win. In 1629, the Spanish army lost ground on the border of the southern Netherlands, and in 1630, the Dutch resumed more forcefully their invasion of Brazil. Spain was finally able to reduce the pressure on herself by negotiating peace with England in 1630 and ending the three-year Mantuan War by dropping claims to the duchy, bringing peace with France in 1631.
The quarrel with Holland remained, though it was becoming clear that Spanish resources alone were not sufficient for victory. Thus a major feature of Spanish policy was the effort to win Austrian Habsburg support. Such a policy was counterproductive, for it required major Spanish assistance to the Catholic forces in the Thirty Years' War in Germany, particularly after Sweden entered that struggle and turned the tide in 1631-1632. A mutual assistance treaty was signed between the two Habsburg crowns at the beginning of 1632, and a strong Spanish army was later built up in northern Italy. Its commander was the king's younger brother, the Cardenal Infante D. Fernando, by far the most vigorous of seventeenth-century Spanish Habsburgs, who had been placed in holy orders but found his true calling on the field of battle. In conjunction with Austrian forces, his army reversed the momentum of the conflict in Germany by smashing the main Swedish army at Nordlingen in 1634. This involvement increased the strain on Spanish resources, but the Austrian crown never lent any notable assistance against Holland. Rather, the joint Habsburg alliance and its victories in Germany so alarmed the French government that it officially entered the war on the other side, attacking the Spanish Netherlands. In the main northern theater of operations, Spain's position had become more difficult.
What made prospects more and more discouraging in the l630s was that government receipts were not recovering from the decline of the previous decade, payment of state obligations was now falling years behind, and no relief was in sight. New excise taxes were imposed and old ones were raised further. For the first time, wealthy [311] nobles were required to make direct contributions, but it was difficult to raise more money from a declining economy. Olivares himself had never been oblivious to the need for basic fiscal and administrative reforms. In 1622-1623, soon after he rose to power, he had appointed a reform Junta that tried to promote fundamental changes: the establishment of strict sumptuary laws in Castile, import restrictions, curbs on corruption, and a steep reduction in local government offices. Almost nothing had been accomplished, for the effort met with apathy among the aristocrats who dominated public affairs in Castile. Even before the fifth declaration of partial bankruptcy (1627), it had become increasingly difficult to raise state loans. A new source was found by encouraging the gravitation to Madrid of wealthy Portuguese cristâo novo financiers, but this provided only limited assistance. Olivares also tried to promote formation of a sort of national bank to float the royal debt, but could not muster the resources. The crown could only ask more from the already nearly exhausted Castilian taxpayer.

Final Eclipse of the Castilian Cortes

During the seventeenth century the powers of the Cortes of Castile, already minimal, lapsed completely. There were still occasional assemblies. Cortes were summoned six times during the reign of Felipe III and eight times during that of Felipe IV. Currency devaluation was carried on in both reigns with scarcely any attempt to win the approval of the Cortes, and new taxes were forced through with declining opposition. Though the demands of the crown were greater, there was less resistance than during the sixteenth century. The main reason for this was the structure of Cortes representation. The eighteen towns of Castile that had retained the right of representation were dominated by aristocratic oligarchies, and so was the representation in Cortes. The procuradores were allowed a 1.5 percent commission on new taxes which they voted, and appearance in Cortes also helped to win patronage in the form of appointments, pensions or honors from the government. During the reign of Felipe IV, there were efforts by unrepresented towns to win a voice, and a vote was given to Palencia, as well as single collective votes to Galicia and Extremadura. The main motive here was not to resist taxation or fight for local rights against royal power, but rather to cut the governing aristocracies of these regions into the lucrative business of fiscal votes. The idea of representing any interest other than that of the aristocracy was dead, and in a civic sense the Cortes had become completely nonfunctional. After the Cortes of 1662, no regular assembly was summoned for the remainder of the century.

[312] Spanish Imperial Defense and the Catalan Revolt of 1640-1652

Throughout the reign of Felipe III and the first part of that of Felipe IV, the crown had been unsuccessful in bringing the Aragonese principalities to submit to regular taxation or make systematic contributions to the crown for imperial defense. Only meager, irregular grants were made by the regional Cortes of the eastern principalities. In Catalonia, the urban oligarchs even resisted the payment of the town excises which were owed to the crown; instead, they pocketed the proceeds themselves. Throughout the early seventeenth century, the Catalan countryside continued to be plagued with bandits led by the rural gentry. This banditry, along with contrabandage and counterfeiting, was sheltered by the Catalan constitutional system. To make matters worse, commerce took a downturn after about 1600 and the Catalan elite were determined to resist any kind of change or concession to the crown.
As early as 1625, Olivares had conceived a long-range plan, called the Union of Arms, by which each region of the empire would pay its share toward imperial defense. Aragón and Valencia reluctantly agreed to partial cooperation in 1626, and Spanish America, already heavily taxed, assumed an even greater permanent contribution, fully attending to its own protection. The Catalans, however, were still refractory and made only token contributions. Olivares merely proposed to redistribute the burden of taxation and recruitment more equally; he did not intend to alter the constitutional systems of the eastern regions, though he did plan greater centralization of leadership. He hoped to make heavier contributions more palatable by providing new economic opportunities within the empire for the eastern principalities, though this was difficult in that period of depression. Unfortunately, he also shared a common belief that there were approximately a million Catalans, instead of the four hundred thousand who actually existed.
The financial problem became even more acute after outbreak of war with France in 1635. Taxes in Castile were raised arbitrarily, new loans made, the currency devalued, and offices sold more recklessly than ever, but by 1637, annual expenses were nearly twice the annual state income. The war itself went badly both in Germany and the Netherlands. In 1638, the French invaded the Spanish Basque country, besieging Fuenterrabia. The relief force that drove them out included contingents from all major regions save Catalonia, which refused to help the rest of Spain.
Desperate to get the Catalans to make some contribution to the war effort, Olivares and his advisers decided to route the campaign of [313] 1639 directly through Catalonia. A counteroffensive was planned across the eastern Pyrenees through the Catalan counties of Rosselló and Cerdanya. It was poorly organized and led. The Catalans did participate in sizable numbers, however, and after the border fortress of Celtuce was lost to the French through military incompetence, Catalan forces suffered heavy casualties in trying to retake it. Shortly afterward, disaster struck in northern waters as the last major Spanish fleet to sail against the Dutch was destroyed by Admiral van Tromp at the Battle of the Downs in October 1639. It was clearer than ever that the empire lacked the resources to deal with such manifold military commitments.
Having committed the principal home forces to the Catalan front, Olivares resolved to continue the offensive from that base in 1640. Strong measures were taken to force the Catalans to pay many of the expenses involved, and some 9,000 troops, many of them disorderly and obstreperous, were billeted on the civilian population, causing intense resentment. Hatred of the exactions of a "foreign" soldiery erupted in general revolt in the north Catalan countryside in May 1640, as peasants attacked Spanish troops throughout the district. By June, the rebels had moved into Barcelona, where they mobilized the segadors, or farm laborers, into a revolutionary mob that took over the city and murdered royal officials, including the viceroy. Catalan resistance to the crown had originally been the work of the privileged upper-class oligarchy determined to lose none of its financial or administrative prerogatives, but the revolt of 1640 swelled into something approaching a social revolution. Poor peasants rose against their overlords, the laborers and unemployed in the towns took over the streets, and bandit gangs reasserted themselves in many parts of the countryside. Catalonia was not merely in revolt against the crown but nearly beyond the control of its own oligarchy.
The principality could not defend itself alone against the Spanish state. On the one hand, it was simply too small and on the other, Catalans were no more willing to submit to organized authority for the purpose of self-defense than for any other. The only alternative seemed to be help from Spain's powerful enemy, the crown of France. The Diputació of the Catalan Corts had begun secret negotiations in April 1640, one month before the revolt. In October, an agreement was concluded to supply French military assistance, largely at Catalan expense, and in January 1641, the Catalan leaders officially placed the principality under French protection. Meanwhile, a Spanish force of nearly 20,000 had been laboriously assembled during the summer and fall of 1640. It occupied Tortosa but was stopped outside Barcelona by the joint French and Catalan resistance. Its leadership was [314] incompetent, and the killing of a number of Catalan prisoners only increased the will to resist. For the time being, the crown had to give up any hope of holding a military position in central Catalonia.
The Spanish were thus driven out, but only at the cost of turning Catalonia into a French protectorate. A French viceroy was appointed for Barcelona and his administration was packed with French supporters, while steep payments were exacted for the support of French troops. In 1642, French units occupied the north Catalan regions of Rosselló and Cerdanya and seized the westernmost city of the region, Lérida. Meanwhile, the French exploited Catalonia economically much more than had the Spanish crown. The depressed wartime Catalan economy had little opportunity to sell to France, but French exports poured into Catalonia. Food production declined drastically, taxes skyrocketed, inflation and monetary devaluation wracked the economy, and famine among the poor set the stage for the great plague of 1650-1654, which halved the population of Barcelona and decimated the population in many parts of the principality. As the years passed, many of the rebels began to feel that the yoke of France was heavier than that of Spain.
The forces of Felipe IV rewon Lérida and western Catalonia in 1643-1644 and blocked any further French advance. In 1644, the king took a formal oath to uphold the Catalan constitutional laws. After a slow but steady weakening of the French and Catalan position, a considerable Spanish army moved in to besiege Barcelona in mid 1651, and the city surrendered a year later. The Spanish crown pledged a general amnesty and preservation of the laws of Catalonia, ending the revolt on the terms of the pre-war status quo. Catalonia gained nothing from the revolt but years of misery and death. Conversely, the Catalan uprising further weakened the Spanish crown at a time when it was struggling desperately against great odds, and the Pyrenean districts of Rosselló and Cerdanya were never regained.

The Secession of Portugal

The Catalan revolt was paralleled by the secession of Portugal from the Spanish crown in the same year, 1640. Portuguese separation was a response to the crisis of the Spanish empire, the frustration of its leadership, the burden of its defense, and above all, the decline of its economy. The Spanish crown could no longer offer Portugal either the protection or the opportunities of a generation or two earlier. Rather, it would involve Portugal further in the suffering of its wars and their heavy cost. The Catalan revolt provided Portuguese leaders with a model which they were able to imitate more successfully. [315] Unlike the Spanish trade in the Atlantic, that of the Portuguese was in a phase of moderate expansion and helped to provide Portugal with an economic base for independence. After 1640, the Spanish crown was in no position to build a new army for the subjugation of Portugal.

The Resignation of Olivares and the Balance of the Reign of Felipe IV, 1643-1665

The ambitious policy of Olivares broke down completely after 1640. The American trade had taken yet another drastic downturn and showed no prospects of recovery, leaving the crown even more desperate financially. The withdrawal of the Castilian population from involvement had become marked. Even the military aristocracy tried to avoid volunteering, and new levies could scarcely be assembled. Failure of leadership was profound, and those forces that were organized failed through incompetent command. Even the Castilian grandes withdrew from the crown. The powerful and wealthy duke of Medina Sidonia, a cousin of Olivares and brother-in-law of the new king of Portugal, headed a short-lived conspiracy to oust the count-duke and turn Andalusia into an independent kingdom. The high aristocracy were bitterly opposed to Olivares and determined to break his power. They abandoned the court en masse and pressed the king for his dismissal.
Olivares recognized the failure of state policy and resigned at the beginning of 1643, leaving Felipe IV resolved to serve as his own chief minister, encouraged by his correspondence with the noted mystic Sor María de Agreda. He had a quick enough mind but was simply too self-indulgent and undisciplined, given to a lechery remarkable even among seventeenth-century kings, and by mid-1643, Olivares had been replaced with a new valido, his own nephew (and enemy), the Conde de Haro. Haro was more discreet and prudent than Olivares and never enjoyed the same overarching authority, for Felipe IV devoted more personal attention to state affairs in the second half of his reign than during the rule of Olivares. After the death of Haro in 1661, the king directed the government himself for the remaining four years of his life.
The resignation of Olivares brought no real change in policy or problems. The financial burden continued to mount. By 1644, the crown's income was pledged four years in advance, bringing further exactions on the shriveled Castilian economy. Still, there was no compromise in the objectives of royal policy. In 1643, an underequipped Spanish army was destroyed with great loss at Rocroi near the northern French border, the first disastrous field defeat suffered by [316] Spanish infantry since the union of the crowns. Though the southern Netherlands held fast, Dunkirk was lost in 1646. In 1647-1648, there was a major revolt in Naples and Sicily, where taxes had recently been raised, that was somewhat like the Catalan rebellion. This led to yet another suspension of payments and a new forced debt conversion by the crown. When the Thirty Years' War was finally brought to an end in Germany in 1648, the Spanish crown was forced after enormous expense and losses to recognize the obvious. It signed a separate peace conceding the independence of Holland, bringing seventy years of warfare against that power to an end.
Yet the war with France remained. The French crown was itself seriously weakened by the outbreak of a major civil war (the Fronde), but Spain lacked the strength to exploit this opportunity beyond regaining Dunkirk and ending the Catalan revolt. A new round of devaluation and attendant inflation was resorted to which, together with a major crop failure, resulted in some of the worst suffering of the century, and it was at this time that the Pendón verde riot broke out in Seville. Another partial bankruptcy was declared in 1652. The only fiscal reform of the 1650's was the extension of taxation to pensions and honors that had been granted to the upper classes by the crown, but before long it was common practice to evade this impost.
With the Franco-Spanish conflict stalemated, England entered the struggle aggressively in 1654 by seizing Jamaica and preparing a fullscale naval offensive against Spain. In 1656 and 1657, major portions of the American treasure fleets were seized by the English, who put the peninsula under a partial blockade for nearly two years. Nevertheless, in 1656 Spanish troops won an important victory at Valenciennes--the last they would ever win in northern Europe--and Felipe IV had an opportunity to make a compromise peace with a France that was also weary of the long contest. This he spurned, still hoping for a decisive victory, though his advisers urged him to accept a graceful withdrawal from the war.
By this time Spanish resources, both financial and human, were almost exhausted. In June 1658, the combined French and English forces defeated the Spanish army on the northern French front, recapturing Dunkirk. The Portuguese, emboldened by Spanish weakness, seized the offensive, invaded Extremadura, and besieged Badajoz. Bled white by a quarter-century of warfare, Spain possessed scarcely enough men to defend her own frontiers. Galicia, the most heavily populated region of Castile, had already been heavily recruited. The Portuguese front was left largely to the amateur militia of the Extremaduran towns, who were untrained, ineffective, and reported in increasingly short numbers. The siege of Badajoz was finally [317] lifted in October by a force of 15,000 sent from Madrid. This army then pursued the retreating Portuguese across the border and itself laid siege to the Portuguese town of Elvas. About 20 percent of its effectives promptly deserted, and a new Portuguese army routed the Spanish, who left 4,000 casualties behind. In the Spanish Netherlands, the enemy front had advanced almost to the gates of Brussels. There were no reinforcements to send, and not enough naval strength to transport them had they existed. Even within Spain, new military units were filled mainly with recruits from Spanish Italy and with German and Irish mercenaries. The militarily skilled, valiant, and patriotic elements of the aristocracy had themselves been thinnned by casualties. They no longer provided leadership, and most of the nobility simply dodged the call of duty.
Felipe IV had no real alternative to signing the compromise Peace of the Pyrenees with France in 1659. Its terms were lenient. France retained Rosselló and Cerdanya, now a center of diehard anti-Habsburg Catalan emigres, and picked up the Artois district on its northeastern frontier, as well as minor border concessions in the Spanish Netherlands. The main consideration for the French crown was winning the hand of Felipe IV's daughter, Maria Teresa, for the heir to the French throne, Louis XIV. a valued match in view of the fact that the Spanish king had no male heir at that time.
In his last years Felipe IV was extremely depressed and full of remorse, certain as he was that God had punished his economically ruined kingdom for its monarch's sins. Indeed, Felipe IV had never held any concept of Spanish interests, but had relentlessly subordinated other considerations to regaining the dynastic territories of the Habsburg crown, an enterprise in which he failed completely. In the north, the crown retained the France Comte and the southern Netherlands, which remained staunchly loyal to their Habsburg sovereign largely because he allowed them almost complete autonomy. These territories remained with the crown, however, not because of the strength of imperial defense, which was now negligible, but because other European powers were also eager to thwart French expansion. The crown's original goals--complete control over the Low Countries and Habsburg hegemony in the Germanies, along with secure land communications from Spanish Italy to the north--were all frustrated. Felipe IV's last consolation had been that peace with France and England would leave him free to reconquer Portugal, but even that was not to be. The border district of Extremadura was being depopulated by the war, and Portugal gained new assistance from England. The king's last years were a time of unrelieved defeat, and three years after his death the independence of Portugal had to be officially recognized.

[318] Government during the Minority of Carlos II, 1665-1675

A male heir, the future Carlos II (1665-1700), was born to the royal family in 1661. When his father died in 1665, Carlos II was only four years old, and, moreover, a sickly, retarded child of less than average intelligence who suffered from rickets. In his will, Felipe IV appointed his Austrian queen to be regent for the minority of the new king, and also created a Junta de Gobierno to serve as executive council for the crown. Doña Mariana, the regent, was herself in a difficult situation as a woman and foreigner, poorly educated, of only mediocre intelligence, and distrusted by the powerful Spanish aristocracy. While at first cooperating with the Junta, composed of nobles, church hierarchs, and leading state officials, she looked for a personal adviser on whom she could rely and found one in the person of her Austrian Jesuit confessor, Johann Nithard. He was made a naturalized Spaniard and appointed to the Junta de Gobierno. Though sincere and pious, Nithard lacked talent or preparation for government. He was strongly opposed by royal officials and the aristocracy, not so much for his inability as for the fact that he was the foreign appointee of a foreign queen.
In 1667, Louis XIV launched the first of his aggressive wars against the Spanish Netherlands, basing his claim to the territory on fictitious inheritance rights of his Spanish wife. The "War of Devolution" lasted only a year, thanks not to the feeble Spanish defenses but to the anti-French alliance formed by England, Holland, and Sweden. In the settlement of 1668, Spain was forced to make more territorial concessions to France in the southern Netherlands. This further weakened the position of Nithard, who lacked any support in Spanish opinion and was considered to be usurping the role of the aristocracy and high royal officials, undercutting the succession arrangements made by Felipe IV.
Nithard's chief rival was Felipe IV's most ambitious bastard, D. Juan José de Austria. This dark, handsome prince was restless and intermittently energetic, popular with the aristocracy and with Madrid opinion. He had fought on many fronts in his father's wars, was indisputably Spanish, and cut the figure of gallant and seducer of women that impressed society. Forced from Madrid, D. Juan José gained a following in Aragón and Catalonia by posing as a defender of regional fueros. Collecting local military forces, he moved on Madrid at the beginning of 1669 and forced the queen regent to send Nithard into exile.
This represented the triumph of the aristocracy in royal government, [319] eliminating the supervision of a royal valido. Don Juan was satisfied with appointment as vicar-general of Aragón and Catalonia. From 1669 to 1673, the government was administered jointly by the queen regent and the Junta de Gobierno. A new favorite emerged in 1673 in the person of Fernando Valenzuela, a petty noble and adventurer, but Valenzuela served mainly as personal confidant and patronage boss. He was not a true valido in the sense of directing the government.
Carlos II was officially declared of age in 1675 when he reached fourteen. By that time, however, it was clearer than ever that this pathetic prince would never rule. The degenerate product of five generations of Spanish Habsburg inbreeding, he remained in a permanent state of decrepitude, sick more often than well, unable to lead a normal life or even to think clearly. His face was so long and his jaw so malformed that he could not even masticate food properly and he suffered continually from digestive disorders. He was neurotic and superstitious in the extreme and dominated by priests. Although later twice married he was unable to father children. The Junta would have to govern for him, and the king would never do more than sign papers, and even that but intermittently. His real adviser was the queen mother, and it was she who arranged the dissolution of the Junta in 1676 and the appointment of Valenzuela as full valido and head of state affairs. Valenzuela was given the tital of primer ministro of government, the first time that such a designation was ever made officially by the Spanish crown.

Final Triumph of the Aristocracy

Within a matter of weeks, the high aristocracy declared their united and unremitting opposition to this new valido. They were determined that royal government would not be exercised by a favorite who failed to reflect the interests of the nobility, and particularly not by an upstart of comparatively modest birth. A joint manifesto was signed by twenty-four high aristocrats, and at the beginning of 1677, D. Juan José crossed into Castilian territory from Aragón at the head of 15,000 troops. Supporters of the befuddled young king stood aside as the aristocratic faction, led by D. Juan José, took over the government. The queen mother was banished to Toledo, and Valenzuela was sent into colonial exile, where he later died.
For the first time in the history of the united Spanish crown, the nobility had taken control of the government from the king. Their leader, D. Juan José de Austria, was hailed by ecclesiastical leaders [320] and by much of common opinion in Madrid, and directed the government for two and a half years. He operated simply as a dispenser of patronage to the victorious aristocracy and persecutor of the former appointees of Valenzuela.
Thus the aristocracy came into almost complete control of affairs during the reign of Carlos II, making a mockery of the strong monarchy of Fernando and Isabel, Carlos I (V), and Felipe II. During the minority of Carlos II and the first years of his formal reign, there was scarcely any attempt at central state regulation, even in Castile. The only major institution that might have matched the influence of the aristocracy, the church, was entirely unable to. Though ecclesiastical income was great, most of it was committed to specific church expenses, and the leaders of the Spanish hierarchy had at their disposal only a fraction of the wealth of the grandes. The wasteful style and attitudes of the high aristocracy made it impossible for most of them to foster, or in many cases even to preserve, the wealth derived from their estates, but new sources were always available from government, which nobles controlled; during the financially prostrate reign of Carlos II, the mercedes and honors taken from the royal treasury reached a new volume, perhaps three million ducats a year, draining from the government the last reserves with which it might have defended a tottering empire. The aristocrats had no pity for the lamentable state of the crown's affairs or the defense of the empire. The fact that their status was based essentially on wealth did not mean that the shrinking economy would bring a decline in their numbers. Instead, a quasi-monopoly of the sources of true wealth enabled more and more of the middle-rank to rise. The 41 families of grandes that were recognized in 1627 had been increased to 113 by 1707.
    The apogee of the aristocracy coincided with the nadir of the kingdom and the empire. While the remains of Spain's government and economy were picked clean by the nobility, the empire suffered repeated assaults from the voracious French monarchy of Louis XIV. This aggressively expansionist state had nearly three times the population and four or five times the wealth of Spain. The only hope of resistance lay in the fact that the naked greed and aggression of Louis XIV roused the opposition of the other major states of western Europe. In 1672, the French king launched an invasion of both Holland and the Spanish Netherlands. Weak Spanish forces were swept aside, while Catalonia was also invaded and French forces intervened in Spanish Sicily, aided by another local rebellion. The northern powers nonetheless fought the French military machine to a standstill, but in the peace of 1678 Spain was forced to cede Franche Comté and a few minor territories on the border of the Netherlands. [321] These losses, humiliating but not actually important, came as the seventeenth-century economic depression in Castile reached its depth. The government of D. Juan José de Austria had neither a foreign nor a domestic policy but existed on the basis of patronage to its supporters among the aristocracy. Amid unrelieved defeat, general dissatisfaction, and political bankruptcy, it ended with D. Juan José's death in September, 1679.

The Trough of thc Depression:
Castile's Disaster Decade, 1677-1687

The depression hit bottom in the disastrous decade of 1677-1687, in which the unhappy people of Castile were struck by every kind of economic misfortune. The basic cause was the catastrophic weather. This was not altogether unusual, for the severity and extremes of the Spanish climate have always retarded agriculture, but the alternation of torrential rainfall and great floods with years of extreme drought during that decade reduced Castilian harvests to their lowest level in many generations. Andalusia was the hardest hit, but famine was widespread in other parts of the kingdom as well. Severe malnutrition encouraged another outbreak of plague, which claimed another quarter million lives in those years.
Economic disaster was intensified by the severest monetary crisis of the century. Inflation had continued, due mainly to the persistent depreciation of currency by the government to lighten its debts. Between 1660 and 1680, the price level in Castile increased nearly 65 percent and almost all the coinage in circulation was copper vellon. Madrid had become the most expensive city in Europe, and public complaints increased. Finally, in 1680, the new royal government imposed drastic revaluation. Prices fell nearly 50 percent in two years, but the new money supply was totally inadequate for commerce and finance, and much of the economy virtually ceased to function. Taxes and bills could not be paid, producers now received minimal prices for their goods, and the commercial economy went into a complete tailspin. Many local districts had to revert temporarily to a barter system, for lack of money. All this further depressed trade and production at a time when new goods, food, and imports were more desperately needed than ever. Particularly in the south, towns filled up with desperate, begging peasants looking for the smallest scrap of relief. It was a time of misery unparalleled even in seventeenth-century Castile.

[322] Recovery in Catalonia

Since the thirteenth century, the social and economic development of Catalonia and that of Castile have moved according to markedly different rhythms. The creative phase of the medieval Catalan economy came at a time when Castile had just begun to build a modest base of urban manufactures and finished production. The fifteenth century, which saw the rise of Castile, was a time of decline in Catalonia, and during the sixteenth-century phase of Castilian expansion, Catalan society remained comparatively static and secluded.
Another reversal came again in the late seventeenth century, when Catalonia became the first region to recover from the great economic decline. After 1652, the eastern principalities had complete autonomy under their regional systems of law during what, as it turned out, was the last period of the Aragonese constitutions. Several factors were responsible for Catalonia's economic regeneration: a) the eastern principalities still enjoyed relative monetary autonomy, and after a currency adjustment in the l650s Catalonia was not affected by the brusque swings of inflation and deflation that wracked the Castilian monetary system; b) nonetheless, during the years 1688-1699 Catalofha experienced a rather mild inflation, unaccompanied by a rise in wages, that permitted a somewhat more rapid capital accummulation; c) the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659 stipulated freedom for French exports into Catalonia and vice versa, opening the Catalan textile market to modern competition that stimulated improvement in the region's own production techniques and the quality of its textiles; and d) population growth and lower taxes in the smaller towns stimulated a more rapid economic development in them and in parts of the countryside than in Barcelona. Wine and brandy exports increased markedly, and textile shops in some of the towns made greater technical advances than did those of Barcelona. The Catalan capital nevertheless remained the great commercial and financial center of the principality. Maritime activity entered an expansive phase beginning about 1675 and grew rapidly in the l680s. During the final years of the century. traffic in the port of Barcelona was almost twice as great as in 1600. Some firms now dealt in extremely large volume, exporting Catalan goods to western Europe and dealing in the American market by way of Cádiz and Lisbon. Their growing interest in the commercial possibilities of a developing Spanish America was a sign of an historic change in Catalan interests and energies. After strong objections, the crown in 1674 removed Catalan merchants dealing through Cádiz from the category of foreigners, allowing them to trade on an [323] equal footing with Castilians. Another sign of change was the significant contribution that a more prosperous and cooperative Catalonia made to the crown during the second half of the century, whereas before 1640 it had contributed very little.

Aragón and Valencia

The situation in the other two eastern principalities was less promising. Throughout the century, Aragón stagnated under its regional fueros. Its population did not increase appreciably, and no significant change occurred in its society. The landed aristocracy retained its overwhelming predominance, though now more embarrassed than before by the responsibilities involved in the derecho de maltratar (the right to punish), and there were no signs of new economic development. As for manufactured goods, the principality became virtually a colony of France in the second half of the century.
Valencia was scarcely any better off, for it did not recover from the expulsion of the Moriscos, either in terms of population or agriculture, until the middle of the eighteenth century. The economy of the city of Valencia did begin to expand in the l660s, but the countryside, under more stern seigneurial control than most of the rest of the peninsula, was slower to respond. Peasants settling on ex-Morisco land were subjected to steep feudalistic exactions. Resentment grew more intense toward the end of the century as population expanded. The aristocratic oligarchy and church leaders of Valencia were intensely jealous of regional rights, yet they refused reform or greater rights to peasants on seigneurial domain. A semi-clandestine peasants' league was founded in the Játiva region south of the city of Valencia, and in 1693 its members refused to pay seigneurial dues. They chose a sindic, or leader, for their syndicate and were assisted by a few village notables. Their crudely organized force of 2,000 was labeled by its chief the Eixércit dels Agermanats, recalling the great revolt of 1520. This rebellion was put down rather easily, but bitter discontent remained and flared once more during the Succession War that followed the turn of the century.

Government Reform, 1680-1691

The depth of the Castilian depression lasted from 1640 to 1685, and during the l660s and l670s the quality of government declined further. The point of reversal may, for convenience's sake, be put at [324] about 1680. After that new efforts were made to improve government and stimulate the economy. Catalonia was already recovering, and though there was no similar revitalization in Castile, modest economic gains were made in the l690s, lifting the Castilian economy out of the trough of the preceding decade.
The restoration of government began early in 1680, when young Carlos II appointed the duke of Medinaceli primer ministro. Medinaceli was one of the wealthiest and most important of the grandes, but he was neither vain nor overweeningly ambitious. Though lacking original ideas, he was genuinely interested in commercial, financial, and colonial reform. His government held fast to the drastic currency revaluation imposed by the finance council, devastating though its short-term consequences were. After this reform, and a corrective devaluation of silver in 1686, the Spanish monetary system held steady for the remainder of the century and beyond. Though there was some slight inflation after the mid-1680s, the general price level stayed comparatively stable for the next fifty years. Medinaceli also appointed a capable general secretary to assist the primer ministro and prepare plans to increase colonial trade and revenue. The government tried to stimulate commerce and discussed the reform of taxes, though nothing was accomplished during Medinaceli's tenure, which coincided with the trough of the Castilian depression.
The Medinaceli government, like its predecessors, was soon impaled on the horns of French imperialism. After reports of the severe want in Castile, Louis XIV deemed the moment propitious for another assault, invading Catalonia and the Spanish Netherlands in 1683-1684. This aggression was soon ended, but only after France received another pound of flesh from the nórthern possessions, in this case the duchy of Luxemburg.
Economic and imperial misfortune forced Medinaceli to share power with a new figure, the Conde de Oropesa, who became president of the Council of Castile in 1684 and replaced Medinaceli altogether as primer ministro in 1685. Like his predecessor, he had won office in large measure through skill in personal intrigue and factional maneuver. Dynamic, able, and innovative, Oropesa became the outstanding reformist head of government in seventeenth-century Spain. Plans for tax reform were pressed. The government reduced expenditures, cut the budget for the royal household, eliminated superfluous offices, canceled some of the mercedes to the aristocracy, and drew up plans to shift more of the fiscal burden from the lower to the upper classes, though these plans were largely blocked. A general effort was made to reduce the bureaucracy and the number of seats in state councils, as well as to control the sale of offices. Oropesa also tried to arrest the parasitical growth of the clergy, and in 1689 the hierarchy was asked to suspend temporarily the ordination of new [325] priests. Oropesa thus met head on the key problems of state finance and taxation and the waste of resources by the three chief institutions of Spain--aristocracy, church, and state bureaucracy. His government also upheld earlier reform measures of 1679 and 1682 that encouraged immigration of skilled foreign craftsmen, reduced taxes for manufacturers, and specifically affirmed that commercial and industrial activity were compatible with aristocratic status. A Junta General de Comercio was later set up to stimulate commerce and finance.
Oropesa made many powerful enemies, but his administration was a domestic success and would not have ended when it did (1691) but for the latest round of French aggression. This stemmed from the anger of Louis XIV over the arrangement of Carlos II's second marriage (after the early death of his first queen, a French princess) to Mariana of Neuburg, a German princess related to the Austrian Habsburgs. The new invasion prompted the usual anti-French coalition in western Europe, and the resulting War of the League of Augsburg lasted from 1689 to 1697. It placed still greater pressure on Spanish finance, and brought a new invasion of Catalonia as well as defeats in the Netherlands and northern Italy.
During the l690s, royal government relapsed into weakness, confusion, and disunity. The new queen dominated appointments, and there was another scramble for lucrative positions as the state suffered through the remainder of the decade without effective leadership. The only bright spot was the peace treaty of 1697 ending the latest French war without territorial loss to the Spanish crown.

The Dynastic Succession

The feeble and degenerate Carlos II survived until the age of thirtynine, which was longer than many had expected. In his last years it became clearer than ever that, second marriage or not, he would never produce an heir to the throne. Since he had no younger brother, the succession would have to pass through his sisters or a collateral line. One of his sisters, Maria Teresa, was queen of France, and another had married Leopold I, the Austrian Habsburg emperor. The issue thus resolved itself into the question of a French Bourbon versus an Austrian Habsburg succession. After 1696, with the king more and more decrepit and likely to die at any time, the contest became acute. Though Louis XIV had invested much of the wealth and energy of his realm in efforts to conquer Spanish domains on the eastern border of France, he realized that any attempt to secure the entire inheritance for a French prince would upset the balance of power and bring forth a powerful international alliance against France. Similarly, he was [326] determined to frustrate the development of a great, new pan-Habsburg empire in western and central Europe, reminiscent of the territorial hegemony of Carlos V, that would result if the two branches of the Habsburg crown were reunited by an Austrian inheritance of the Spanish domains. Consequently, at various times during the reign of Carlos II he negotiated three different partition treaties with other European powers that attempted to provide for a balanced division of the Spanish empire in Europe.
Such proposals infuriated the Spanish crown, for the only clear goal that the miserable Carlos II retained was to transmit the entire inheritance of the Spanish empire undivided to a capable successor. French and Austrian diplomacy employed extreme pressure at the Spanish court, rallying factions to each side, and this pulling and hauling completed the prostration of government administration in the last years of the century. French interests had the better of it for four reasons: a) the prestige of the Bourbon dynasty, ruler of what was now the strongest state in Europe, compared with which the Austrian Habsburgs were distinctly less impressive; b) general distrust among most Spanish opinion, provoked by the intrigues and manipulations of the German queen, Mariana of Neuburg, and of her German-Austrian favorites and appointees at court; c) an increasingly strong desire for some kind of renovation and new leadership, which it was felt that a successor from the powerful new Bourbon state in France would more likely provide; and d) the fact that the prime French candidate, Philippe, duke of Anjou, was a younger grandson of Louis XIV and Maria Teresa, and hence removed from the direct line of French succession. This would enable him to establish himself as a separate and independent Spanish king, whereas the Habsburg candidate, Archduke Karl, was a younger son of the reigning Leopold, and the succession to his elder brother, Josef, was somewhat uncertain, raising the possibility that a Habsburg heir might treat the Spanish domains as a mere appendage to his central European empire. In October 1700, one month before his death, Carlos II made his final will, leaving the Spanish crown and all its empire to Philippe of Anjou on condition that he preserve it undivided under a Spanish Bourbon monarchy.

Signs of Regeneration

The last years of the seventeenth century revealed certain signs of recovery. The reforms of Oropesa, after about 1687, strengthened royal finance and permitted a modest expansion of the fleet and the [327] formation of several new military units to bolster Spanish resistance in the War of the League of Augsburg. The economic resurgence of Catalonia was fully apparent, and Valencian textile production and commerce were also advancing. Levantine agriculture finally began to expand, for the first time since expulsion of the Moriscos. Even in Aragón, a new group of reformers had emerged who were trying to revive industry and commerce. In 1684 they had finally managed to eliminate local toll duties within Aragón. The commerce of the north Castilian ports was increasing slowly, Basque iron production was expanding, and there was also a slight growth in Andalusian wine exports. Some efforts were now being made to encourage Castilian agriculture, and some of the secondary cities that had formerly been productive centers and fallen into decline were now growing once more in population
There were also signs of new intellectual stimulation. The principal foreign influences came from the University of Montpelier just across the French border and from scientists in Italy. The most important intellectual center in Spain by the 1690s was the University of Valencia, which proved receptive to new currents of learning from France and Italy. A new society for the study of modern philosophy had also been formed in Seville, and the basic problems of developing science in Spain were clearly analyzed by Juan de Cabriada's Carta filosófico-médico-chymica, published in 1687.
The overseas empire had held firm despite numerous assaults from a variety of enemies. From among these vast territories, only the island of Jamaica had been lost, while Spanish American society was beginning to develop on the basis of its own strength. The Spanish colonial administration had demonstrated surprising vigor. Despite venality and widespread sale of offices, the Council of the Indies continued to function with a certain amount of efficiency, and the colonial bureaucracy proved more able than might have been expected.
Nevertheless, Castile in the 1690s remained socially and economically depressed. Seville, whose population had declined greatly, was handling only one-tenth the commercial traffic that it had registered at the beginning of the century. Agriculture and manufacture in Castile, in general, remained scarcely at the subsistance level. After further bad harvests in 1698-1699, riots broke out in Madrid and several other cities. At that moment there was promise of renewal and future achievement in Spain, but the country had lost much ground compared to the advanced regions of northwest Europe during the second half of the century, and the Spanish resurgence would not be fully affirmed for half a century more.

[328] Spain in Seventeenth-Century Europe

The seeming paradox in the degeneration from the power and glory of sixteenth-century Spain to the misery of the late seventeenth-century have fascinated historical commentators for more than two hundred years. Since the seventeenth century was the first great age of modernization for the countries of northwestern Europe who became prototypes of modernism and subsequently the leaders of European civilization, the contrast has usually been drawn in terms of differences in economic function and moral values between the societies of those lands and of Spain. Spanish society stood in opposition, both figuratively and literally, to them. As for the reasons for Spain's growing social and economic weakness, these have been understood in their basic lines for more than a century, and recent scholarship has only added details and sharpened comprehension of certain points.
Yet the Spanish experience appears much less anomalous when compared with countries other than Holland, England, France, and Sweden. Only a corner of Europe was actually "modernizing" in the seventeenth century, and it might be argued that this region was out of step with the greater part of Europe rather than vice versa. The Spanish pattern was very close to that of all southern and eastern Europe and much of the center of the continent as well. A refeudalization resulting in the expansion of the numbers and power of the aristocracy, the decline of cities and the middle classes, the deterioration of the situation of the peasantry, severe regional and social revolts, economic stagnation, and the weakening of the state or public power--these were common phenomena throughout half of Europe in the seventeenth century. Even the advanced regions of Germany, among the best developed in Europe in the early sixteenth century, had lapsed into a kind of stagnation by the end of that century, and then were dealt a further serious blow by the Thirty Years' War. The decline of the rural economy of central and southern Italy in the seventeenth century was very much like that of Spain, and the experience of the broad peripheral empires of Poland and Muscovy in the east also reveals some striking similarities.
Poland, like Castile, developed in the Middle Ages as the strongest bastion of Latin Christendom on one of the crucial frontiers of the continent. The eastward expansion of the kingdom of Poland from the fourteenth century paralleled the southward and transoceanic expansion of Castile, and the union of Poland-Lithuania played a dynastic and expansionist function similar to the union of the Castiíjan and Aragonese crowns and the Habsburg succession in Spain. Polish society was also dominated by a militant warrior aristocracy [329] engaged in a broad geographic expansion that during the sixteenth century carried far eastward into the Ukraine. The Polish elite were quite conscious of the historical comparison between Polish expansion and imperial Spain: in the advance on Moscow in 1613 Polish aristocrats likened themselves to the conquerors of Mexico and Peru. This imperial, expansionist experience solidified the power of the aristocracy, which usurped economic dominion in Poland to a degree at least as great as in Spain. Indeed, in Poland, as in most of eastern Europe, the process developed even further, as state and aristocracy imposed a second era of serfdom, beginning in the sixteenth century, that progressively shackled peasants to aristocratic estates and placed them under steep exactions. The opportunities and importance of the towns and middle class correspondingly shrank. In the early seventeenth century, aristocrat-dominated Poland became involved in a series of major imperialist wars that wasted her resources, and was shaken by the great Ukrainian revolt of 1648. With her economy unbalanced and retarded, Poland then relapsed into a deepening stagnation in the second half of the seventeenth century. The power of the nobility only increased, eventually negating the sovereignty of the monarchy itself, destroying national unity, and leading to the dissolution of Poland.
Farther east, the sprawling, backward Muscovite empire also underwent an era of stagnation and decline in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. There, too, the situation of the peasantry greatly deteriorated with the steady development of neo-serfdom. Throughout the eastern 60 percent of the continent, the seventeenth century, in particular, was a time of general social regression.
Seen against this panorama of rural decline and growing caste oppression in most of Europe during the late-sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Spanish decline no longer seems so anomalous. Spanish society was at least spared the disaster of the mass enserfment that retarded east European development. By the end of the seventeenth century it could even display a few minor foci of development on the northwest European pattern. In general, the Spanish experience may be placed in a secondary category of stagnation, but not total regression, that embraced most of southwestern and central Europe.
The great differentiating factor in the case of Spain--and Portugal--was the American empire. This provided a unique source of wealth in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that might be compared with the new imperial domains and serf labor of Poland and Russia in the same period. Though it would be incorrect to say that the Castilian peasantry were spared only because of the empire, it is nonetheless correct that the semiservile Indian society of Spanish [330] and Portuguese America (or, perhaps more correctly in the case of Brazil, the African slaves) constituted to a lesser degree the Hispanic equivalent of the serf economy that provided the economic surplus for the Polish and Muscovite states and their aristocracies during this period. The divergence of Spain and Portugal from the pattern of modernization being developed in northwestern Europe was fully apparent. Compared with Europe as a whole, however, the Hispanic problems of backwardness were not anomalous but to a greater or lesser degree common to most of the continent.

Bibliography for Chapter 15

[348] The best introduction to seventeenth-century Spain is volume 2 of John Lynch's Spain under the Habsburgs, entitled Spain and America 1598-1700 (London, 1969). It should be supplemented with La sociedad española en el siglo XVII, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1964-70), an excellent social history by the chief Spanish specialist in that period, Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, who has also published an important volume of articles, Crisis y decadencia de la España de los Austrias (Barcelona, 1969). The classic studies by the great Spanish statesman, Antonio Cánovas del Castillo, still retain their usefulness. See his Historia de la decadencia española (Madrid, 1854, 1911), and Estudios del reinado de Felipe IV, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1888-89, 1927); and also Martin Hume's The Court of Philip IV (London, 1907). José Deleito y Piñuela has written a series of seven books on Spanish life during the era of Felipe IV. Perhaps the best of these is La vida religiosa española bajo el cuarto Felipe (Madrid, 1952), but see also his El rey se divierte (1928), Sólo Madrid es corte (1942), and El declinar de la monarquía española (1947), all published in Madrid. The best history of court and government affairs under Carlos II is Gabriel Maura y Gamazo's Vida y reinado de Carlos II, 3 vols. (Madrid, [349] 1942); there is a superficial biography by J. Langdon Davies, Charles the Bewitched (London, 1962). J. A. Maravall's La teoría española del Estado en el siglo XVII (Madrid, 1944), helps to explain political attitudes. The only biography of Olivares is Gregorio Marañón's El Conde-Duque de Olivares (Madrid, 1952), primarily a psychological study. There are also useful monographs on the issue of the validos, aristocratic conspiracy, the "Jewish problem," and financial problems: Francisco T. Valiente, Los validos en la monarquía española del siglo XVII (Madrid, 1963); R. Ezquerra Abadía, La conspiración del Duque de Hijar, 1648 (Madrid, 1934); J. Caro Baroja, La sociedad criptojudía en la corte de Felipe IV (Madrid, 1963); Domínguez Ortiz, Política y hacienda de Felipe IV (Madrid, 1960); and J. L. Sureda Camón, La Hacienda castellana y los economistas del siglo XVII (Madrid, n.d.).

The Catalan rebellion is the subject of one of the major studies in seventeenth-century Spain, John Elliott's The Revolt of the Catalans (Cambridge, 1963). See also José Sanabre, La acción de Francia en Cataluña (Barcelona, 1956); and Joan Regla, Els virreis de Catalunya (Barcelona, 1962), and El bandolerisme catalá del barroc (Barcelona, 1966). Social problems in the Valencia region are treated in Regla's Aproxiniació a la história del País Valencia (Valencia, 1968), and F. de P. Momblanch y Gonzálbez, La segunda Germanía del reino de Valencia (Alicante, 1957). S. García Martínez, Els fonaments del País Valencia modern (Valencia, 1968), is a key work that deals with the Valencian resurgence of the late seventeenth century.
Three basic studies in cultural history are Ludwig Pfandl's Spanische Kultur und Sitte des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts (Kempten, 1924); R. Bouvier, L'Espagne de Quevedo (Paris, 1936); and Carl Justi's Diego Velázquez und sein Jahrhundert (Zurich, 1933). For science and the beginning of modern critical philosophy, see J. M. López Piñero, La introducción de la ciencia moderna en España (Barcelona, 1969), and O. V. Quiroz Martínez, La introducción de la filosofia moderna en España (Mexico City, 1949).
The classic comparison between Spain and Poland in this period was J. Lelewel's Parallèle historique entre l'Espagne et la Pologne au XVI, XVII, XVIIIe siècles (Paris, 1836). This thesis is updated by M. Malowist, "Europe de l'Est et les Pays Ibériques: Analogies et Contrastes," in the University of Barcelona's Homenaje a Jaime Vicens Vives, vol. 1 (Barcelona, 1965), pp. 85-93. Janusz Tazmir, Szlachta i konkwistadorzy (Warsaw, 1969), provides interesting examples of the attitude of the Polish elite toward Spain.

Notes for Chapter 15

1. A tonelada was equal to about three cubic meters.

2. Antonio Domínguez Ortiz, La sociedad española en el siglo XVII, 1:47.

3. Los judíos en la España moderna y contemporánea (Madrid, 1961), 3:258-59.

4. Martin González de Cellorigo, Memorial de la Política (Madrid, 1600). This was one of the first and most incisive analyses of Spanish problems by the arbitristas of the period.