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SPAIN AFTER 1492 The Catholic Monarchs, (Fernando II of Aragón and Isabel of Castilla), unified Spain geographically, and expanded its territories. They conquered the Kingdom of Granada, the Canary Islands, and territories in North Africa. They also financed Christopher Columbus´expedition, which led to the discovery of a new continent, America. Columbus believed that the Earth was round and he could reach India by travelling west. In August 1492, the Niña, the Pinta and the Santa Maria sailed west crossing the Atlantic Ocean. Two months later, they reached the island of San Salvador. They believed that they were in Asia. However, Columbus had discovered America. Ships brought back products that were new to Europeans such as potatoes, corn, tomatoes and cocoa.

During the sixteen, thanks to the gold and silver that came from South America, Spain became the most powerfull country in Europe.

THE SPANISH EMPIRE IN THE 16th CENTURY In 1516, Carlos I (Charles I), Isabel´s grandson, became king of Spain. Charles I faced serious problems during his rign. There were revolts in Spain, and wars in Europe for political, social and religious reasons. In 1556, Carlos I abdicated and his son Felipe II became king. His enormous empire included the Iberian Peninsula, the Netherlands and territories in southern Italy, America, Asia and Africa.

Felipe II was involved in many wars. His army won victories against France in 1557, and the Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571. The wars were very expensive. The population of Spain became poorer because prices increased. In addition, less gold and silver was sent from America. During this time a new culture started, the Renaissance.






In the 17th century Spain was in decline. The population started to decrease due to plagues. People died in wars, migrated to America, and because of the expulsion of about 250.000 Moors (Muslims who became Catholics).

Three Habsburg kings reigned in the 17th century: Felipe III (1598 – 1621), Felipe IV (1621 – 1665) and Carlos II (1665 – 1700) . It was a period of political and military decline. There were also religious wars, such as the Thirty Years´ War. Spain lost the Netherlands and also lost Portugal. People were hungry in many parts of the country.

THE GOLDEN AGE The Spanish Golden Age was a period of great artistic activity, (1560 –1680). Literature: 

Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote.

Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina and Calderón de la Barca wrote famous plays.

Luis de Gongora wrote poetry.

Architecture: 

The Monastery of El Escorial, The Cathedral of Seville and some important squares such as the Plaza Mayor in Madrid and the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca .

Painting: 

Velázquez, Ribera, Murillo and Zurbarán .

THE 18th CENTURY : THE WAR OF SUCESSION Carlos II died in 1700 without descendants. There was a dispute over the Spanish throne, this fight was called the War of Spanish Sucession. Two royal families wanted the Spanish throne: 

The French Bourbons (Felipe V)

The Austrian Habsburg ( Carlos of Austria)

Spain was divided about the sucession, and fell into a civil war. The war ended with the Treaty of Utrecht. Felipe V became king of Spain. He established an absolute monarchy, (the monarch has all the power ) . During the reigns of Felipe V, Carlos III and Carlos IV, the first Bourbon kings, many reforms were introduced. Secretaries of state helped the king with government activities, such as the administration of the American territories, organization of armies. Science and culture became prominent:

The Royal Academy of Language was founded.

Daily newspapers appeared.

Many museums and botanical gardens were created.


Great changes began in Spain during the first part of the 19th century, thanks to the Industrial Revolution. Cities changed completely, invented the electric light and built wider street, markets, hospitals and school. The population grew thanks to better medical care and hygiene. These advances made some people much richer and others much poorer. There were three social classes: Factory owners and bankers – the upper class (they had money and Were capitalists) Doctors and lawyers – the middle class Workers and farmers – the lower class, were often poor.

There were two different political ideologies:  Conservatives had the idea of absolutism.  Liberals believed in democracy and freedom.

The first Spanish king in the 19th century was Carlos IV. He reigned until 1808. That year, Napoleon Bonaparte, the Emperor of France, invaded Spain. The Spanish fought against the French army in the War of Independence (1808-1814).

The war ended with a Spanish victory. In 1812, the Spanish parliament approved the first modern constitution, the Constitution of Cadiz. This document limited the king´s power, and recognized the rights of citizens.

A PERIOD OF CHANGE Fernando VII (Carlos IV´ son) was forced to abdicate the throne, when the French left after the war, he returned to the throne. He was an absolutist monarch and he did not accept the 1812 Constitution. After a liberal revolt in 1820, Fernando was forced to accept the Constitution. In 1833, Isabel II (Fernando´s daughter), came to the throne. During her reign there were conflicts between conservatives and liberals. In 1868 she was exiled. After civil wars and military rebellions in 1873, the First Spanish Republic was proclaimed. The First Republic only lasted one year. In 1874, the monarchy was restored by Alfonso XII (Isabel´ son).