Spain

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Posted by kaori 02/25/2009 @ 20:16

Tags : spain, europe, world

News headlines
World Health Organisation wins top honour in Spain - AFP
MADRID (AFP) — The World Health Organisation was Wednesday awarded one of Spain's top honours, the Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation, for 2009, the jury announced. The Geneva-based UN health agency was one of 26 nominees from 12...
Spanish price fall deeper than forecast - guardian.co.uk
Spain's European Union harmonised CPI fell 0.8 percent year-on-year in May compared with a 0.2 percent decline in April and a Reuters forecast for a 0.7 percent fall , according to preliminary data from the National Statistics Institute on Thursday....
Spain euphoric about Barcelona's triple - Monsters and Critics.com
By Duncan Shaw May 28, 2009, 7:48 GMT Madrid - The whole of Spain on on Thursday celebrated Barcelona's historic title treble of league, cup and Champions League. Barca became only the fifth team in Europe to achieve the treble by beating defending...
Investor Koplowitz cuts stake in Spain's Colonial - Reuters
MADRID, May 27 (Reuters) - Spanish investor Alicia Koplowitz has reduced her stake in Barcelona-based property firm Colonial (COL.MC) to 2.9 percent from 4.9 percent, according to data from stock market regulator CNMV. Colonial's shares closed down 3.3...
A/H1N1 flu cases rise to 135 in Spain - Xinhua
Of the 135 confirmed cases in Spain, 21 are militaries from the Engineers Academy of Hoyo de Manzanarez in Madrid, the Health Ministry said. The ministry said that 78 militaries continue being isolated in Hoyo de Manzanares and 91 at El Ferral base in...
Motorcycle hits skateboarder on West Spain - Sonoma Valley Sun
A motorcycle nearing the Plaza on West Spain Street crossed the dividing line early this morning, striking a skateboarder and sending both men to the hospital with major injuries. The motorcyclist, Michael Kelley, 59, of Sonoma, was flown by CHP...
Green Jobs: President Clinton and Spain's Clean-Energy Bill - Wall Street Journal Blogs
By Keith Johnson Wow, did former US President Bill Clinton really acknowledge that Spain's clean-energy push has cost the country a lot of jobs? That's what the conservative Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported over the weekend after Mr. Clinton spoke...
Spanish inflation rate negative for third month - Forbes
AP , 05.28.09, 04:28 AM EDT Spain posted a negative inflation rate for the third consecutive month in May, mostly due to lower oil prices compared with last year, the National Statistics Institute reported Thursday. The institute said consumer prices...
Italian police arrest 64 mafia suspects in crackdown - AFP
The suspects were wanted for offences including smuggling cocaine from Spain and taking protection money, or pizzo, from businesses. A private security firm run by the Sarno clan was shut down in Wednesday's crackdown, ANSA news agency reported....
Jews of Spain, Portugal come out to support Israel - Jerusalem Post
By DAN IZENBERG Prompted by the recent rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment across Europe, particularly in Spain, dozens of descendants of Bnei Anusim (whom historians refer to by the derogatory term "Marranos") gathered at Barcelona's...

Spain

Flag of Spain

Spain /ˈspeɪn/ (help·info) (Spanish: España?·i, Spanish pronunciation: ) or the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: Reino de España), is a country located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco. With an area of 504,030 km², Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe after France.

Because of its location, the territory of Spain was subject to many external influences, often simultaneously, since prehistoric times and through the dawn of Spain as a country. On the other side, the country itself has been an important source of influence to other regions, chiefly during the Modern Era, when it became a global empire that has left a legacy of over 400 million Spanish speakers today.

Spain is a democracy organised in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy. It is a developed country with the eighth largest economy in the world based on nominal GDP. It is a member of the European Union and NATO.

The name Spain was derived from the ancient Roman name for Iberia, Hispania.

At 195,884 mi² (504,782 km²), Spain is the world's 51st-largest country. It is some 47,000 km² smaller than France and 81,000 km² larger than the U.S. state of California.

On the west, Spain borders Portugal, on the south, it borders Gibraltar (a British overseas territory) and Morocco, through its cities in North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla). On the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra. Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, known as Plazas de soberanía, such as the Chafarine islands, the isle of Alborán, the "rocks" (peñones) of Vélez and Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil. Along the Pyrenees in Catalonia, a small exclave town called Llívia is surrounded by France. The little Pheasant Island in the River Bidasoa is a Spanish-French condominium.

Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges, such as the Sierra Nevada. Running from these heights are several major rivers such as the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.

After a long and hard conquest, the Iberian Peninsula became a region of the Roman Empire known as Hispania. During the early Middle Ages it came under Germanic rule. Later it was conquered by Muslim invaders. Through a very long and fitful process, the Christian kingdoms in the north gradually rolled back Muslim rule, finally extinguishing its last remnant in Granada in 1492, the same year Columbus reached the Americas. A global empire began. Spain became the strongest kingdom in Europe and the leading world power during the 16th century and first half of the 17th century; but continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. The French invasion of Spain in the early 19th century led to chaos; triggering independence movements that tore apart most of the empire and left the country politically unstable. In the 20th century it suffered a devastating civil war and came under the rule of an authoritarian government, leading to years of stagnation, but finishing in an impressive economic surge. Democracy was restored in 1978 in the form of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. In 1986, Spain joined the European Union; experiencing a cultural renaissance and steady economic growth.

Archaeological research at Atapuerca indicates the Iberian Peninsula was peopled 1.2 million years ago. Modern humans in the form of Cro-Magnons began arriving in the Iberian Peninsula through the Pyrenees some 35,000 years ago. The best known artifacts of these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in the Altamira cave of Cantabria in northern Spain, which were created about 15,000 BCE.

Archaeological and genetic evidence strongly suggests that the Iberian Peninsula acted as one of three major refugia from which northern Europe was repopulated following the end of the last ice age.

The two main historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians and the Celts, the former inhabiting the Mediterranean side from the northeast to the southwest, the latter inhabiting the Atlantic side, in the north and northwest part of the peninsula. In the inner part of the peninsula, where both groups were in contact, a mixed, distinctive culture—known as Celtiberian—was present. In addition, Basques occupied the western area of the Pyrenees mountains. Other ethnic groups existed along the southern coastal areas of present day Andalusia. Among these southern groups there grew the earliest urban culture in the Iberian Peninsula, that of the semi-mythical southern city of Tartessos (perhaps pre-1100 BC) near the location of present-day Cádiz. The flourishing trade in gold and silver between the people of Tartessos and Phoenicians and Greeks is documented in the history of Strabo and in the biblical book of king Solomon. Between about 500 BC and 300 BC, the seafaring Phoenicians and Greeks founded trading colonies all along the Spanish Mediterranean coast. Carthaginians briefly took control of much of the Mediterranean coast in the course of the Punic Wars, until they were eventually defeated and replaced by the Romans.

During the Second Punic War, an expanding Roman Empire captured Carthaginian trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast from roughly 210 BC to 205 BC, leading to eventual Roman control of nearly the entire Iberian Peninsula; this lasted over 500 years, bound together by law, language, and the Roman road.

The base Celt and Iberian population remained in various stages of Romanisation, and local leaders were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class. Hispania served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbors exported gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use. Emperors Trajan, Theodosius I, and the philosopher Seneca were born in Hispania. Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the 1st century CE and it became popular in the cities in the 2nd century CE. Most of Spain's present languages and religion, and the basis of its laws, originate from this period. Rome's loss of jurisdiction in Hispania began in 409, when the Germanic Suevi and Vandals, together with the Sarmatian Alans crossed the Rhine and ravaged Gaul until the Visigoths drove them into Iberia that same year. The Suevi established a kingdom in what is today modern Galicia and northern Portugal. The Alans' allies, the Hasdingi Vandals, established a kingdom in Gallaecia, too, occupying largely the same region but extending further south to the Duero river. The Silingi Vandals occupied the region that still bears a form of their name - Vandalusia, modern Andalusia, in Spain. The Byzantines established an enclave, Spania, in the south, with the intention of reviving the Roman empire throughout Iberia. Eventually, however, Hispania was reunited under Visigothic rule.

In the 8th century, nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered (711-718) by Muslim armies (see Moors) from North Africa. These conquests were part of the expansion of the Umayyad Islamic Empire. Only a number of areas in the north of the Iberian Peninsula managed to resist the initial invasion and they were the starters of the Reconquista. These areas roughly corresponding to modern Asturias, Cantabria, Navarre and northern Aragon.

Under Islam, Christians and Jews were recognised as "peoples of the book", and were free to practice their religion, but faced a number of mandatory discriminations and penalties as dhimmis. Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace. Following the mass conversions in the 10th and 11th centuries it is believed that Muslims came to outnumber Christians in the remaining Muslim controlled areas. The muladies (Muslims of ethnic Iberian origin) comprised the majority of the population of Al-Andalus by the end of the 10th century.

The Muslim community in the Iberian peninsula was itself diverse and beset by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa, who had provided the bulk of the invading armies, clashed with the Arab leadership from the Middle East. Over time, large Moorish populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous region of Granada.

Córdoba, the capital of the caliphate, was the largest, richest and most sophisticated city of medieval western Europe. Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played an important part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe. The Romanized cultures of the Iberian peninsula interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures in complex ways, thus giving the region a distinctive culture. Outside the cities, where the vast majority lived, the land ownership system from Roman times remained largely intact as Muslim leaders rarely dispossessed landowners, and the introduction of new crops and techniques led to a remarkable expansion of agriculture.

However, by the 11th century, Muslim holdings had fractured into rival Taifa kingdoms, allowing the small Christian states the opportunity to greatly enlarge their territories and consolidate their positions. The arrival of the North African Muslim ruling sects of the Almoravids and the Almohads restored unity upon Muslim holdings, with a stricter, less tolerant application of Islam, but ultimately, after some successes in invading the north, proved unable to resist the increasing military strength of the Christian states.

The Reconquista ("Reconquest") is the centuries-long period of expansion of Spain's Christian kingdoms; Reconquista is viewed as beginning with the battle of Covadonga in 722 and being concurrent with the period of Muslim rule on the Iberian peninsula. The Christian army's victory over the Muslim forces led to the creation of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias along the northern coastal mountains. Muslim armies had also moved north of the Pyrenees, but they were defeated at the Battle of Poitiers in France. Subsequently, they retreated to more secure positions south of the Pyrenees with a frontier marked by the Ebro and Duero rivers in Spain. As early as 739 Muslim forces were driven from Galicia, which was to host one of medieval Europe's holiest sites, Santiago de Compostela. A little later Frankish forces established Christian counties south of the Pyrenees; these areas were to grow into kingdoms, in the north-east and the western part of the Pyrenees. These territories included Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia.

The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing Taifa kingdoms helped the expanding Christian kingdoms. The capture of Toledo in 1085 was soon followed by the completion of the Christian powers reconquest of Spain's northern half. After a Muslim resurgence in the 12th century, the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian Spain in the 13th century—Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south. Marinid invasions from north Africa in the 13th and 14th centuries failed to re-establish Muslim rule. Also in the 13th century, the kingdom of Aragon, formed by Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia expanded its reach across the Mediterranean to Sicily. Around this time the universities of Palencia (1212/1263) and Salamanca (1218/1254) were established; among the earliest in Europe. The Black Death of 1348 and 1349 devastated Spain.

In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. In 1478 began the final stage of the conquest of Canary Islands and in 1492, these united kingdoms captured Granada, ending the last remnant of a 781-year presence of Islamic rule in Iberia. The Treaty of Granada guaranteed religious tolerance toward Muslims. The year 1492 also marked the arrival in the New World of Christopher Columbus, during a voyage funded by Isabella. That same year, Spain's Jews were ordered to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion from Spanish territories during the Spanish Inquisition. Not long after, Muslims were also expelled under the same conditions.

As Renaissance New Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand centralized royal power at the expense of local nobility, and the word España - whose root is the ancient name Hispania - began to be commonly used to designate the whole of the two kingdoms. With their wide-ranging political, legal, religious and military reforms, Spain emerged as the first world power.

The unification of the kingdoms of Aragon and Castile laid the basis for modern Spain and the Spanish Empire. Spain was Europe's leading power throughout the 16th century and most of the 17th century, a position reinforced by trade and wealth from colonial possessions. Spain reached its apogee during the reigns of the first two Spanish Habsburgs - Charles I (1516–1556) and Philip II (1556–1598). This period also saw the Italian Wars, the revolt of the comuneros, the Dutch revolt, the Morisco revolt, clashes with the Ottomans, the Anglo-Spanish war and wars with France.

The Spanish Empire expanded to include most parts of South and Central America, Mexico, southern and western portions of today's United States, the Philippines, Guam and the Mariana Islands in Eastern Asia, parts of northern Italy, southern Italy, Sicily, cities in Northern Africa, as well as parts of France, modern Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands.

It was the first empire about which it was said that the sun never set. This was an age of discovery, with daring explorations by sea and by land, the opening-up of new trade routes across oceans, conquests and the beginnings of European colonialism. Along with the arrival of precious metals, spices, luxuries, and new agricultural plants, Spanish and other explorers brought back knowledge from the New World, playing a leading part in transforming Europeans understanding of the globe. The cultural efflorescence witnessed is now referred to as the Spanish Golden Age. The rise of humanism, the Protestant Reformation and new geographical discoveries raised issues addressed by the influential intellectual movement now known as the School of Salamanca.

In the late 16th century and first half of the 17th century, Spain was confronted by unrelenting challenges from all sides. Barbary pirates under the aegis of the rapidly growing Ottoman empire, disrupted life in many coastal areas through their slave raids and renewed the threat of an Islamic invasion. This at a time when Spain was often at war with France in Italy and elsewhere. Later the Protestant Reformation schism from the Catholic Church dragged the kingdom ever more deeply into the mire of religiously charged wars. The result was a country forced into ever expanding military efforts across Europe and in the Mediterranean.

By the middle decades of a war and plague ridden 17th century Europe (see Great Plague of Seville), the effects of the strain began to show. The Spanish Habsburgs had enmeshed the country in the continent wide religious-political conflicts. These conflicts drained it of resources and undermined the European economy generally. Spain managed to hold on to most of the scattered Habsburg empire, and help the imperial forces of the Holy Roman Empire reverse a large part of the advances made by Protestant forces, but it was finally forced to recognise the separation of Portugal (with whom it had been united in a personal union of the crowns from 1580 to 1640) and the Netherlands, and eventually suffered some serious military reverses to France in the latter stages of the immensely destructive, Europe-wide Thirty Years War.

In the latter half of the 17th century, Spain went into a gradual relative decline, during which it surrendered a number of small territories to France. However Spain maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire, which remained intact until the beginning of the 19th century.

The decline culminated in a controversy over succession to the throne which consumed the first years of the 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession, a wide ranging international conflict combined with a civil war, cost Spain its European possessions and its position as one of the leading powers on the Continent.

During this war, a new dynasty—the French Bourbons—was installed. Long united only by the Crown, a true Spanish state was established when the first Bourbon king Philip V of Spain united Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the regional privileges (fueros).

The 18th century saw a gradual recovery and an increase in prosperity through much of the empire. The new Bourbon monarchy drew on the French system of modernising the administration and the economy. Enlightenment ideas began to gain ground among some of the kingdom's elite and monarchy. Towards the end of the century trade finally began growing strongly. Military assistance for the rebellious British colonies in the American War of Independence improved Spain's international standing.

In 1793, Spain went to war against the new French Republic, which had overthrown and executed its Bourbon king, Louis XVI. The war polarised the country in an apparent reaction against the gallicised elites. Defeated in the field, Spain made peace with France in 1795 and effectively became a client state of that country; the following year, it declared war against Britain and Portugal. A disastrous economic situation, along with other factors, led to the abdication of the Spanish king in favour of Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte.

This foreign puppet monarch was widely regarded with scorn. On 2 May 1808, the people of Madrid began a nationalist uprising against the French army, one of many across the country, marking the beginning of what is known to the Spanish as the War of Independence, and to the English as the Peninsular War. Napoleon was forced to intervene personally, defeating several badly coordinated Spanish armies and forcing a British Army to retreat to Corunna. However, further military action by Spanish guerrillas and Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese army, combined with Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting of the French from Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand VII.

The French invasion proved disastrous for Spain's economy, and left a deeply divided country that was prone to political instability for more than a century. The power struggles of the early 19th century led to the loss of all of Spain's colonies in Latin America, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Amid the instability and economic crisis that afflicted Spain in the 19th century there arose nationalist movements in the Philippines and Cuba. Wars of independence ensued in those colonies and eventually the United States became involved. Despite the commitment and ability shown by some military units, they were so mismanaged by the highest levels of command that the Spanish–American War, fought in the Spring of 1898, did not last long. "El Desastre" (The Disaster), as the war became known in Spain, helped give impetus to the Generation of 98 who were already conducting much critical analysis concerning the country. It also weakened the stability that had been established during Alfonso XII's reign.

The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a minor part in the scramble for Africa, with the colonisation of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. The heavy losses suffered during the Rif war in Morocco helped to undermine the monarchy. A period of authoritarian rule under General Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923-1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia and gave voting rights to women.

The bitterly fought Spanish Civil War (1936-39) ensued. Three years later the Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republican side was supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico and International Brigades, including the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade, but it was not supported officially by the Western powers due to the British-led policy of Non-Intervention. The Spanish Civil War has been called the first battle of the Second World War; under Franco, Spain was neutral in the Second World War though sympathetic to the Axis. The conflict had claimed the lives of over 500,000 people and had caused the flight of up to one half-million more citizens.

The only legal party under Franco's regime was the Falange española tradicionalista y de las JONS, formed in 1937; the party emphasised anti-Communism, Catholicism and nationalism. Nonetheless, since Franco's anti-democratic ideology was opposed to the idea of political parties, the new party was renamed officially a National Movement (Movimiento Nacional) in 1949.

After World War II, Spain was politically and economically isolated, and was kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when due to the Cold War it became strategically important for the U.S. to create a military presence on the Iberian peninsula, next to the Mediterranean Sea and the Strait of Gibraltar, in order to protect southern Europe. In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedented economic growth in what was called the Spanish miracle, which rapidly resumed the long interrupted transition towards a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector and a high degree of human development.

Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. With the approval of the new Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, the State devolved autonomy to the regions and created an internal organization based on autonomous communities. In the Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism coexisted with a radical nationalism supportive of the separatist group ETA.

On 23 February 1981, rebel elements among the security forces seized the Cortes and tried to impose a military-backed government. However, the great majority of the military forces remained loyal to King Juan Carlos, who used his personal authority and addressed the usurpers via national TV as commander in chief to put down the bloodless coup attempt.

On 30 May 1982, NATO gained a new member when, following a referendum, the newly democratic Spain joined the alliance. Also in 1982, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) came to power, representing the return of a left-wing government after 43 years. In 1986, Spain joined the European Community - what has now become the European Union. The PSOE was replaced in government by the Partido Popular (PP) after the latter won the 1996 General Elections; at that point the PSOE had served almost 14 consecutive years in office.

The Government of Spain has been involved in a long-running campaign against the separatist and terrorist organization ETA ("Basque Homeland and Freedom"), founded in 1959 in opposition to Franco and dedicated to promoting Basque independence through violent means. They consider themselves a guerrilla organization while they are listed as a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States on their respective watchlists. The current nationalist-led Basque Autonomous government does not endorse ETA's nationalist violence, which has caused over 800 deaths in the past 40 years.

On 1 January 2002, Spain terminated its peseta currency and replaced it with the euro, which it shares with 15 other countries in the Eurozone. Spain has also seen strong economic growth, well above the EU average, but concerns are growing that the extraordinary property boom and high foreign trade deficits of recent years may bring this to an end.

A series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid, Spain on 11 March 2004. After a five month trial in 2007 it was concluded the bombings were perpetrated by a local Islamist militant group inspired by al-Qaeda. The bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1800, and the intention of the perpetrators may have been to influence the outcome of the Spanish general election, held three days later. Though initial suspicions focused on the Basque group ETA, evidence soon emerged indicating possible Islamist involvement. Because of the proximity of the election, the issue of responsibility quickly became a political controversy, with the main competing parties PP and PSOE exchanging accusations over the handling of the aftermath. At the 14 March elections, PSOE, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, obtained a large plurality, enough to form a new cabinet with Rodríguez Zapatero as the new Presidente del Gobierno or prime minister of Spain, thus succeeding the former PP administration.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 is the culmination of the Spanish transition to democracy. The constitutional history of Spain dates back to the constitution of 1812. After the death of Francisco Franco in 1975, a general election in 1977 convened the Constituent Cortes (the Spanish Parliament, in its capacity as a constitutional assembly) for the purpose of drafting and approving the constitution of 1978.

As a result, Spain is now composed of 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities with varying degrees of autonomy thanks to its Constitution, which nevertheless explicitly states the indivisible unity of the Spanish nation as well as that Spain has today no official religion but all are free to practice and believe as they wish.

Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.

The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate (Senado) with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.

The Spanish nation is organizationally composed in the form of called Estado de las Autonomías ("State of Autonomies"); it is one of the most decentralized countries in Europe, along with Switzerland, Germany and Belgium; for example, all Autonomous Communities have their own elected parliaments, governments, public administrations, budgets, and resources; therefore, health and education systems among others are managed regionally, besides, the Basque Country and Navarre also manage their own public finances based on foral provisions. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, a full fledged autonomous police corps replaces some of the State police functions (see Mossos d'Esquadra and Ertzaintza).

Spain is politically organized into 17 autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas) and 2 autonomous cities (ciudades autónomas) - Ceuta and Melilla.

Administratively Spain also comprises fifty provinces. Seven autonomous communities are composed of only one province: Asturias, Balearic Islands, Cantabria, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, and Navarre.

Historically, some provinces are also divided into comarcas (roughly equivalent to a US "county" or an English district). The lowest administrative division of Spain is the municipality (municipio).

After the return of democracy following the death of Franco in 1975, Spain's foreign policy priorities were to break out of the diplomatic isolation of the Franco years and expand diplomatic relations, enter the European Community, and define security relations with the West.

As a member of NATO since 1982, Spain has established itself as a major participant in multilateral international security activities. Spain's EU membership represents an important part of its foreign policy. Even on many international issues beyond western Europe, Spain prefers to coordinate its efforts with its EU partners through the European political cooperation mechanisms.

With the normalization of diplomatic relations with North Korea in 2001, Spain completed the process of universalizing its diplomatic relations.

Spain has maintained its special identification with Latin America. Its policy emphasizes the concept of an Iberoamerican community, essentially the renewal of the historically liberal concept of hispanoamericanismo, or hispanism as it is often referred to in English, which has sought to link the Iberian peninsula with Latin America through language, commerce, history and culture. Spain has been an effective example of transition from dictatorship to democracy for formerly non-democratic South American states, as shown in the many trips that Spain's King and Prime Ministers have made to the region.

Spain claims Gibraltar, a 6 square km Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom in the southernmost part of the Iberian Peninsula which was conquered by Britain from Spain in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession, along with the Spanish island of Minorca (which had also been invaded but was reconquered in 1782 and finally ceded back to Spain in 1802 by the Treaty of Amiens).

The legal situation concerning Gibraltar was settled in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, in which Spain ceded the territory in perpetuity to the British Crown stating that, should the British abandon this post, it would return to Spanish sovereignty. Ever since the 1940s Spain has called for the return of Gibraltar. The overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians strongly oppose this, along with any proposal of shared sovereignty. UN resolutions call on the United Kingdom and Spain, both EU members, to reach an agreement over the status of Gibraltar.

Morocco claims the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the plazas de soberanía islets off the northern coast of Africa. Portugal does not recognise Spain's sovereignty over the territory of Olivenza.

The armed forces of Spain are known as the Spanish Armed Forces (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Españolas). Their Commander-in-chief is the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I.

According to the World Bank, Spain's economy is the eighth largest worldwide and the fifth largest in Europe. As of 2007, absolute GDP was valued at $1,439,000 trillion according to the CIA Factbook, (see List of countries by GDP (nominal)). The per capita PPP is estimated at $33,600 (2007), ahead of G7 countries like Italy at $30,900 (2007), France at $32,600 (2007), or Japan at $33,500 (2007). The Spanish economy grew 3.8% in 2007 outpacing all G7 members and all the big EU economies for the 3rd consecutive year. Spain is also the 3rd largest world investor.

The centre-right government of former prime minister José María Aznar worked successfully to gain admission to the group of countries launching the euro in 1999. Unemployment stood at 7.6% in October 2006, a rate that compares favorably to many other European countries, and which is a marked improvement over rates that exceeded 20% in the early 1990s. Perennial weak points of Spain's economy include high inflation, a large underground economy, and an education system which OECD reports place among the poorest for developed countries, together with the United States and UK. Nevertheless, it is expected that the Spanish economy will continue growing above the EU average based on the strengthening of industry, the growth of the global economy and increasing trade with Latin America and Asia.

The Spanish economy is credited for having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU. In fact, the country's economy has created more than half of all the new jobs in the European Union over the five years ending 2005. The Spanish economy has thus been regarded lately as one of the most dynamic within the EU, attracting significant amounts of foreign investment. During the last four decades the Spanish tourism industry has grown to become the second biggest in the world, worth approximately 40 billion Euros, about 5% of GDP, in 2006. More recently, the Spanish economy has benefited greatly from the global real estate boom, with construction representing 16% of GDP and 12% of employment. According to calculations by the German newspaper Die Welt, Spain is on course to overtake countries like Germany in per capita income by 2011. However, the downside of the real estate boom has been a corresponding rise in the levels of personal debt; as prospective homeowners struggle to meet asking prices, the average level of household debt has tripled in less than a decade. Among lower income groups, the median ratio of indebtedness to income was 125% in 2005.

A European Commission forecast predicted Spain would enter a recession by the end of 2008. According to Spain’s Finance Minister, the “Spain faces its deepest recession in half a century”. Spain's government forecast the unemployment rate would rise to 16% in 2009. The ESADE business school predicts 20%.

In 2008 Spain officially reached 46 million people registered at the Padrón municipal, an official record analogous to the British Register office. Spain's population density, at 91/km² (235/sq mi), is lower than that of most Western European countries and its distribution along the country is very unequal. With the exception of the region surrounding the capital, Madrid, the most populated areas lie around the coast.

The population of Spain doubled during the 20th century, due to the spectacular demographic boom in the 1960s and early 1970s. The pattern of growth was extremely uneven due to large-scale internal migration from the rural interior to the industrial cities during this period. No fewer than eleven of Spain's fifty provinces saw an absolute decline in population over the century. Then, after the birth rate plunged in the 80s and Spain's population growth rate dropped, a new population increase started based initially on the return of many Spaniards who had emigrated to other European countries during the 70s. More recently, it has been boosted by a large numbers of immigrants, mostly from Latin America (39%), Eastern Europe (15%), North Africa (16%) and Sub-Saharan Africa (4%). In 2005, Spain instituted a 3-month amnesty program through which certain hitherto undocumented aliens were granted legal residency. Also there are some significant pockets of population that have come from other EU countries - 21% of foreign residents - especially on the Mediterranean costas and Balearic islands, where many Europeans choose to live their retirement or telework. These are mostly English, French, German, and Dutch and, from outside the EU, Norwegian.

According to the Spanish government there were 4.5 million foreign residents in Spain in 2007; independent estimates put the figure at 4.8 million people, or 11% of the total population. According to residence permit data for 2005, about 500,000 were Moroccan, another 500,000 were Ecuadorian, more than 200,000 were Romanian, and 260,000 were Colombian. Other sizeable foreign communities are British (8%), French (8%), Argentine (6%), German (6%) and Bolivian (3%). Since 2000, Spain has experienced high population growth as a result of immigration flows, despite a birth rate that is only half the replacement level. This sudden and ongoing inflow of immigrants, particularly those arriving clandestinely by sea, has caused noticeable social tension.

Within the EU, Spain has the second highest immigration rate in percentage terms after Cyprus, but by a great margin, the highest in actual numbers of immigrants. There are a number of reasons for the high level of immigration, including Spain's cultural ties with Latin America, its geographical position, the porosity of its borders, the large size of its underground economy and the strength of the agricultural and construction sectors which demand more low cost labour than can be offered by the national workforce. Another statistically significant factor is the large number of residents of EU origin typically retiring to Spain's Mediterranean coast. In fact, Spain was Europe's largest absorber of migrants from 2002 to 2007, with its immigrant population more than doubling as 2.5 million people arrived. According to the Financial Times, Spain is the most favoured destination for West Europeans considering a move from their own country and seeking jobs elsewhere in the EU.

The number of immigrants in Spain has grown up from 500,000 people in 1996 to 5.2 million in 2008 out of a total population of 46 million. In 2005 alone, a regularisation programme increased the legal immigrant population by 700,000 people. Unemployment among immigrants has risen 67% in 2007. Spain's new Plan of Voluntary Return encourages immigrants to leave Spain for three years and offers up to €25,000, but so far, only 186 Ecuadorans have signed up to return. In the program's first two months last year, just 1,400 immigrants took up the offer.

Spain has a number of descendants of populations from former colonies (especially Equatorial Guinea) and immigrants from several Sub-Saharan and Caribbean countries have been recently settling in Spain. There are also sizeable numbers of Asian immigrants, most of whom are of Chinese, Filipino, Middle Eastern, Pakistani and Indian origins; the population of Spaniards of Latin American descent is sizeable as well and a fast growing segment. Other growing groups are Britons, 760,000 in 2006, Germans and other immigrants from the rest of Europe. Modern Jewish community in Spain has been formed in three waves: migration from what was formerly Spanish Morocco, the flight of Jews escaping from Nazi repression, and immigration from Argentina. Spanish law allows Sephardi Jews to claim Spanish citizenship. The arrival of the Gitanos, a Roma people, began in the 16th century; estimates of the Spanish Gitano population fluctuate around 700,000.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978, in its second article, recognises historic entities ("nationalities", a carefully chosen word in order to avoid the more politically charged "nations") and regions, within the context of the Spanish nation. For some people, Spain's identity consists more of an overlap of different regional identities than of a sole Spanish identity. Indeed, some of the regional identities may even conflict with the Spanish one. Distinct cultural groups within Spain include the Basques, Catalans, and Galicians.

It is this last feature of "shared identity" between the more local level or Autonomous Community and the Spanish level which makes the identity question in Spain complex and far from univocal.

There are also some other surviving Romance minority languages such as the Astur-Leonese group, which includes two languages in Spain: Asturian (officially called "Bable") is "protected" in Asturias and Leonese Language is protected in Castile and León autonomy. Aragonese is vaguely recognized in Aragon. But unlike Basque, Catalan/Valencian and Galician, they do not have any official status. This might be due to their very small number of speakers, a less significant written tradition in comparison to Catalan or Galician, and lower self-awareness of their speakers which traditionally meant lack of strong popular demand for their recognition in the regions in which they are spoken. In the North African Spanish city of Melilla, Tarifit is spoken by a significant part of the population. In the tourist areas of the Mediterranean coast and the islands, English and German are widely spoken by tourists, foreign residents, and tourism workers.

Although Chapter 2 of the Constitution states that no religion shall have a state character, Roman Catholicism is the main religion in the country. About 76% of Spaniards identify themselves as Catholics, about 2% identify with another religious faith, and about 19% identify themselves as non-religious. A study conducted in October 2006 by the Spanish Centre of Sociological Investigations shows that of the 76% of Spaniards who identify themselves as Catholics or with another religious faith, 54% hardly ever or never go to church, 15% go to church a few times per year, 10% a few times per month and 19% attend church every Sunday or multiple times per week. About 22% of the entire Spanish population attends religious services at least once per month.

Evidence of the secular nature of contemporary Spain can be seen in the widespread support for the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Spain — over 66% of Spaniards support gay marriage according to a 2004 study by the Centre of Sociological Investigations. Indeed, in June 2005 a bill was passed by 187 votes to 147 to allow gay marriage, making Spain the third country in the European Union to allow same-sex couples to marry after Belgium and the Netherlands.

Protestant denominations are also present, all of them with less than 50,000 members. Evangelism has been better received among Gypsies than among the general population; pastors have integrated flamenco music in their liturgy. Taken together, all self-described "Evangelicals" slightly surpass Jehovah's Witnesses (105,000) in number. While not Protestants, about 41,000 residents of Spain are members of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The recent waves of immigration have led to an increasing number of Muslims, who have about 1 million members. Muslims had not lived in Spain for centuries; however, colonial expansion in Northern and Western Africa gave some number of residents in the Spanish Morocco and the Western Sahara full citizenship. Presently, Islam is the second largest religion in Spain, accounting for approximately 2.3% of the total population.

Along with these waves of immigration, a significant number of Latin American people, who tend to be strong Catholic practitioners, have helped the Catholic Church to recover.

Judaism was practically non-existent until the 19th century, when Jews were again permitted to enter the country. Currently there are around 62,000 Jews in Spain, most arrivals in the past century and some descendants of Spanish Jews and accounting for less than 1% of the total number of inhabitants. Approximately 80,000 Jews lived in Spain on the eve of the Spanish Inquisition.

Spain is known for its culturally diverse heritage, having been influenced by many nations and peoples throughout its history. Spanish culture has its origins in the Iberian, Celtiberian, Latin, Visigothic, Roman Catholic, and Islamic cultures. The definition of a national Spanish culture has been characterized by tension between the centralized state, dominated in recent centuries by Castile, and numerous regions and minority peoples. In addition, the history of the nation and its Mediterranean and Atlantic environment have played strong roles in shaping its culture. After Italy, Spain has the second highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, with a total of 40.

State education in Spain is free and compulsory from the age of 6 to 16. The current education system was established by an educational law of 1990, Ley Orgánica de Ordenación General del Sistema Educativo - Law on the General Organization of the Educational System.

The term Spanish literature refers to literature written in the Spanish language, including literature composed in Spanish by writers not necessarily from Spain. For Spanish American literature specifically, see Latin American literature. Due to historic, geographic and generational diversity, Spanish literature has known a great number of influences and it is very diverse. Some major literary movements can be identified within it.

Miguel de Cervantes is probably Spain's most famous author and his Don Quixote is considered the most emblematic work in the canon of Spanish literature and a founding classic of Western literature.

The Real Academia Española (Spanish for "Royal Spanish Academy"; RAE) is the institution responsible for regulating the Spanish language. It is based in Madrid, but is affiliated with national language academies in 21 Spanish-speaking nations through the Association of Spanish Language Academies. Its emblem is a fiery crucible, and its motto is Limpia, fija y da esplendor ("It cleans, sets, and gives splendor").

Spanish art is an important and influential type of art in Europe. Spanish art is the name given to the artistic disciplines and works developed in Spain throughout time, and those by Spanish authors worldwide. Due to historical, geographical and generational diversity, Spanish art has known a great number of influences. The Moorish heritage in Spain, especially in Andalusia, is still evident today in cities like Córdoba, Seville, and Granada. European influences include Italy, Germany and France, especially during the Baroque and Neoclassical periods.

Spanish cinema has achieved major international success including Oscars for recent films such as Pan's Labyrinth and Volver. In the long history of Spanish cinema, the great filmmaker Luis Buñuel was the first to achieve world recognition, followed by Pedro Almodóvar in the 1980s. Spanish cinema has also seen international success over the years with films by directors like Segundo de Chomón, Florián Rey, Luis García Berlanga, Carlos Saura, Julio Medem and Alejandro Amenábar.

Spanish architecture refers to architecture carried out during any era in what is now modern-day Spain, and by Spanish architects worldwide. The term includes buildings within the current geographical limits of Spain before this name was given to those territories, whether they were called Hispania, Al-Andalus, or were formed of several Christian kingdoms.

Due to its historical and geographical diversity, Spanish architecture has drawn from a host of influences. An important provincial city founded by the Romans and with an extensive Roman era infrastructure, Córdoba became the cultural capital, including fine Arabic style architecture, during the time of the Islamic Umayyad dynasty. Later Arab style architecture continued to be developed under successive Islamic dynasties, ending with the Nasrid, which built its famed palace complex in Granada. Simultaneously, the Christian kingdoms gradually emerged and developed their own styles; developing a pre-Romanesque style when for a while isolated from contemporary mainstream European architectural influences during the earlier Middle Ages, they later integrated the Romanesque and Gothic streams. There was then an extraordinary flowering of the gothic style that resulted in numerous instances being built throughout the entire territory. The Mudéjar style, from the 12th to 17th centuries, was developed by introducing Arab style motifs, patterns and elements into European architecture.

The arrival of Modernism in the academic arena produced much of the architecture of the 20th century. An influential style centered in Barcelona, known as modernisme, produced a number of important architects, of which Gaudí is one. The International style was led by groups like GATEPAC. Spain is currently experiencing a revolution in contemporary architecture and Spanish architects like Rafael Moneo, Santiago Calatrava, Ricardo Bofill as well as many others have gained worldwide renown.

Spanish music is often considered abroad to be synonymous with flamenco, an Andalusian musical genre, which, contrary to popular belief, is not widespread outside that region. Various regional styles of folk music abound in Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia, Castile, the Basque Country, Galicia and Asturias. Pop, rock, hip hop and heavy metal are also popular.

In the field of classical music, Spain has produced a number of noted composers such as Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla and Enrique Granados and singers and performers such as José Carreras, Montserrat Caballé, Plácido Domingo, Alicia de Larrocha, Alfredo Kraus, Pau Casals, Ricardo Viñes, José Iturbi, Pablo de Sarasate, Jordi Savall and Teresa Berganza. In Spain there are over forty professional orchestras, including the Orquestra Simfònica de Barcelona, Orquesta Nacional de España and the Orquesta Sinfonica de Madrid. Major opera houses include the Teatro Real,the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Teatro Arriaga and the El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía.

Sport in Spain has been dominated by football since the early 20th century. Basketball, tennis, cycling, handball, motorcycling and, lately, Formula 1 are also important due to presence of Spanish champions in all these disciplines. Today, Spain is a major world sports power, especially since the 1992 Summer Olympics that were hosted in Barcelona and promoted a great variety of sports in the country. The tourism industry has led to an improvement in sports infrastructure, especially for water sports, golf and skiing.

Public holidays celebrated in Spain include a mix of religious (Roman Catholic), national and regional observances. Each municipality is allowed to declare a maximum of 14 public holidays per year; up to nine of these are chosen by the national government and at least two are chosen locally.

1 Has part of its territory outside Europe.  2 Entirely in West Asia but having socio-political connections with Europe.  3 Has dependencies or similar territories outside Europe. 4 Name disputed by Greece; see Macedonia naming dispute. 5 Declared independence from Serbia on February 17, 2008 and is recognised by 55 United Nations member states.

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Philip II of Spain

"Queen Elizabeth I Feeds the Dutch Cow", a satirical Flemish painting, c. 1586. The cow represents the Dutch provinces. King Philip II of Spain is vainly trying to ride the cow, drawing blood with his spurs. Queen Elizabeth is feeding it while William of Orange holds it steady by the horns. The cow is defecating on the Duke of Anjou, who is holding its tail

Philip II (Spanish: Felipe II de España; Portuguese: Filipe I; May 21 1527 - September 13 1598) was King of Spain from 1556 until 1598, King of Naples from 1554 until 1598, king consort of England, as husband of Mary I, from 1554 to 1558, lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories, such as Duke or Count; and King of Portugal and the Algarves as Philip I from 1581. He ruled the largest global empire the world had ever seen which included territories in every continent then known to Europeans. Philip's dominions further included the Kingdom of Sicily, the Duchy of Milan, and Franche Comté, a strategically important territory on the eastern borders of the kingdom of France.

During his reign, Spain was the foremost Western European power. Under his rule, Spain reached the height of its influence and power.

Philip was born in Valladolid, the eldest son of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and his consort Isabella of Portugal.

After basing himself in the Netherlands in the early years of his reign, Philip returned to the peninsula in 1559 and never left it again. Unlike his father, Charles V, Philip was thoroughly Spanish, a native speaker who chose to rule from Spain rather than to travel constantly around his states. Although sometimes described as an absolute monarch, Philip faced many constitutional constraints on his authority.

Spain was not a single monarchy with one legal system but a federation of separate realms, each jealously guarding its own rights against those of the Crown of Castile. In practice, Philip often found his authority overruled by local assemblies, and his word less effective than that of local lords. The Kingdom of Aragon, where Philip was obliged to put down a rebellion in 1591–92, was particularly unruly.

He also grappled with the problem of the large Morisco population in Spain, forcibly converted to Christianity by his predecessors. In 1568, the Morisco Revolt broke out in the southern province of Granada in defiance of attempts to suppress Moorish customs; and Philip ordered the expulsion of the Moriscos from Granada and their dispersal to other provinces.

Despite its immense dominions, Spain itself was a poor country with a sparse population that yielded a limited income to the crown. Philip faced major difficulties in raising taxes, the collection of which was largely farmed out to local lords. He was able to finance his military campaigns only by taxing and exploiting the local resources of his empire. The flow of income from the New World proved vital to his militant foreign policy, but nonetheless his exchequer several times faced bankruptcy.

Nonetheless, Philip's reign saw a flourishing of cultural excellence in Spain, part of what is called the Golden Age, creating a lasting legacy in literature, music, and the visual arts.

Charles V had left Philip with a debt of about 36 million ducats and an annual deficit of 1 million ducats. Aside from reducing state revenues for overseas expeditions, the domestic policies of Philip II further burdened Spain, and would, in the following century, contribute to its decline.

Spain was subject to separate assemblies: the Cortes in Castile along with the assembly in Navarre and three for each of the three regions of Aragon, each of which guarded their traditional rights and laws inherited when they were separate kingdoms. This made Spain and its possessions difficult to rule. However, while France was divided by regional states, it had a single Estates-General. The lack of a viable supreme assembly would lead to power being concentrated in Philip's hands, but this was made necessary by the constant conflict between different authorities that required his direct intervention as the final arbiter. To deal with the difficulties arising from this situation authority was administered by local agents appointed by the crown and viceroys carrying-out crown instructions. Philip felt it necessary to be involved in the detail and presided over specialized councils for state affairs, finance, war, and the Inquisition. He played royal bureaucrats against each other, leading to a system of checks and balances that managed state affairs in an inefficient manner, sometimes damaging state business, such as the Perez affair. Calls to move the capital to Lisbon from the Castilian stronghold of Madrid — the new capital Philip established following the move from Valladolid — could have led to a degree of decentralization, but Philip opposed such efforts. Due to the inefficiencies of the Spanish state, industry was overburdened by government regulations, though this was common to many contemporary countries. The dispersal of the Moriscos from Granada - motivated by the fear they might support a Muslim invasion - had serious negative economic effects, particularly in that region.

Philip's regime neglected arable farming in favor of sheep ranching, thus forcing Spain to import large amounts of grain and other foods by the mid-1560s. Overseeing a divided conservative class structure, the Church and the upper classes were exempt from normal taxation (although the wealthy usually paid tithes to the Church, and the Church and clergy were often taxed, usually following a series of agreements with the Pope) while the tax burden fell disproportionately on the classes engaged in trade, commerce, and industry.

Inflation throughout Europe in the sixteenth century was a broad and complex phenomenon, with the flood of bullion from the Americas arguably being the main cause of it in Spain, along with population growth, and government spending. Under Philip's reign, Spain saw a fivefold increase in prices. Due to inflation and a high tax burden for Spanish manufacturers and merchants, Spanish industry was harmed and much of Spain’s wealth was spent on imported manufactured goods by an opulent, status-oriented aristocracy and wars. Increasingly the country became dependent on the revenues flowing in from the mercantile empire in the Americas, leading to Spain's first bankruptcy (moratorium) in 1557 due to rising military costs. Dependence on sales taxes from Castile and the Netherlands, Spain's tax base, was too narrow to support Philip's plans. Philip became increasingly dependent on loans from foreign bankers, particularly in Genoa and Augsburg. By the end of his reign, interest payments on these loans alone accounted for 40% of state revenue.

Philip's foreign policies were determined by a combination of Catholic fervour and dynastic self-interest. He considered himself by default the chief defender of Catholic Europe, both against the Ottoman Turks and against the forces of the Protestant Reformation. He never relented from his war against what he regarded as heresy, preferring to fight on every front at whatever cost rather than countenance freedom of worship within his territories. These territories included his patrimony in the Netherlands, where Protestantism had taken deep root. Following the Revolt of the Netherlands in 1568, Philip waged a brutal and indecisive war for control of the Netherlands. It dragged in the English and the French and lasted for the rest of his life.

In 1588 the English defeated Philip's Spanish Armada, thwarting his planned invasion of the country. After several setbacks, however, Philip did achieve a decisive victory against the Turks at the Lepanto in 1571, where the fleet of the Holy League was commanded by his illegitimate brother John of Austria. He also successfully secured his succession to the throne of Portugal in 1580.

In the early part of his reign Philip was concerned with the rising power of the Ottoman Empire under Suleiman the Magnificent. Fear of Islamic domination in the Mediterranean caused him to pursue an aggressive foreign policy.

In 1558 Turkish admiral Piyale Pasha captured the Balearic Islands, especially inflicting great damage on Minorca and enslaving many, while raiding the coasts of the Spanish mainland. Philip appealed to the Pope and other powers in Europe to bring an end to the rising Ottoman threat. Since his father's losses against the Ottomans and against Barbarossa Hayreddin Pasha in 1541, the major European sea powers in the Mediterranean, namely Spain and Venice, became hesitant in confronting the Ottomans. The myth of "Turkish invincibility" was becoming a popular story, causing fear and panic among the people.

In 1560 Philip II organized a Holy League between Spain and the Republic of Venice, the Republic of Genoa, the Papal States, the Duchy of Savoy and the Knights of Malta. The joint fleet was assembled at Messina and consisted of 200 ships (60 galleys and 140 other vessels) carrying a total of 30,000 soldiers under the command of Giovanni Andrea Doria, nephew of the famous Genoese admiral Andrea Doria who had lost three major battles against the Turks in 1538, 1541 and 1552.

On March 12, 1560, the Holy League captured the island of Djerba which had a strategic location and could control the sea routes between Algiers and Tripoli. As a response, Suleiman the Magnificent sent an Ottoman fleet of 120 ships under the command of Piyale Pasha, which arrived at Djerba on May 9, 1560. The battle lasted until May 14, 1560, and the forces of Piyale Pasha and Turgut Reis (who joined Piyale Pasha on the third day of the battle) had an overwhelming victory at the Battle of Djerba. The Holy League lost 60 ships (30 galleys) and 20,000 men, and Giovanni Andrea Doria could barely escape with a small vessel. The Ottomans retook the Fortress of Djerba, whose Spanish commander, D. Alvaro de Sande, attempted to escape with a ship but was followed and eventually captured by Turgut Reis. In 1565 the Ottomans sent a large expedition to Malta, which laid siege to several forts on the island, taking some of them. The Spanish sent a small relief force, which drove the Ottoman army, exhausted from a long siege, away from the island.

The grave threat posed by the increasing Ottoman domination of the Mediterranean was reversed in one of history's most decisive battles, with the destruction of nearly the entire Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, by the Holy League under the command of Philip's half brother, Don Juan of Austria. A fleet sent by Philip, again commanded by Don John, reconquered Tunis from the Ottomans in 1573. However, the Turks soon rebuilt their fleet and in 1574 Uluç Ali Reis managed to recapture Tunis with a force of 250 galleys and a siege which lasted 40 days. However Lepanto marked a permanent reversal in the balance of naval power in the Mediterranean and the end of the threat of complete Ottoman control of that sea.

In 1585 a peace treaty was signed with the Ottomans.

Philip's rule in the seventeen separate provinces known collectively as the Netherlands faced many difficulties, which led to open warfare in 1572. Philip insisted on direct control over events in the Netherlands despite being over a fortnight ride away in Madrid. There was discontent in the Netherlands about Philip's taxation demands. In 1566, Protestant preachers sparked anti-clerical riots known as the Iconoclast Fury; in response to growing heresy, the Duke of Alba's army went offensive, further alienating the local aristocracy. In 1572 a prominent member of Dutch aristocracy, William the Silent invaded the Netherlands, but only succeeded in holding two provinces, Holland and Zeeland. The States-General of the Dutch provinces, united in the 1579 Union of Utrecht, passed an Act of Abjuration, meaning that they no longer recognized Philip as their king. The southern Netherlands (what is now Belgium and Luxembourg) remained under Spanish rule. The rebel leader, Prince of Orange (William the Silent) was assassinated in 1584 by Balthasar Gérard, after Philip had offered a reward of 25,000 crowns to anyone who killed him, calling him a "pest on the whole of Christianity and the enemy of the human race". The Dutch forces continued to fight on under Orange's son Maurice of Nassau, who received help from Queen Elizabeth I in 1585. The Dutch gained an advantage over the Spanish due to their growing economic strength, in contrast to Philip's burgeoning economic troubles.

In 1580 the direct line of the Portuguese royal family ended when Sebastian of Portugal died following a disastrous campaign in Morocco. Philip became King of Portugal in 1581, when he was crowned as Philip I of Portugal and was recognized as such by the Cortes of Tomar. Philip spoke Portuguese mostly until his mother died. He kept the throne as a personal union for sixty years.

Philip famously remarked upon his acquisition of the Portuguese throne, "I inherited, I bought, I conquered", a variation on Julius Caesar's "Veni, Vidi, Vici". Thus, Philip added to his possessions a vast overseas empire in Africa, Brazil, and the East Indies, seeing a flood of new revenues coming to the Habsburg crown; and the success of colonizing all around his empire improved his financial position, enabling him to show greater aggression towards his enemies.

Spanish hegemony and the Counter-Reformation received a clear boost in 1554 when Philip married Mary I of England, a Catholic, the older daughter of Henry VIII, and his father's first cousin. This gave him the titles of King of England and Ireland; King's County and Philipstown were named for him. However, they had no children; Queen Mary I, or "Bloody Mary" as she came to be known in English Protestant lore, died in 1558 before the union could revitalize the Catholic Church in England.

The throne went to Elizabeth I, the Protestant daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn. One of the reasons he went to war with England is that Elizabeth rejected his marriage proposal. This union was deemed illegitimate by English Catholics who did not recognize Henry's divorce and who claimed that Mary, Queen of Scots, the Catholic great granddaughter of Henry VII, was the legitimate heir to the throne.

The execution of Mary in 1587 ended Philip's hopes of placing a Catholic on the English throne. He turned instead to more direct plans to return England to Catholicism—by invasion. His opportunity came when England provided support for the Dutch rebels. In 1588, he sent a fleet, the Spanish Armada, to rendezvous with the Duke of Parma's army and convey it across the English Channel. However, the operation had little chance of success from the beginning, due to lengthy delays, lack of communication between Philip II and his two commanders and the lack of a deep bay for the fleet. There was a tightly fought battle against the English navy; it was by no means a slaughter, but the Spanish were forced into retreat.

Eventually, three more Armadas were assembled; two were sent to England, in 1596 and 1597, but both also failed; the third (1599) was diverted to the Azores and Canary Islands to fend off raids. This Anglo-Spanish War (1585-1604) would be fought to a grinding end, but not until both Philip II (d. 1598) and Elizabeth I (d. 1603) were dead.

It is impiety, and almost blasphemy to presume to know the will of God. It comes from the sin of pride, Even kings, Brother Nicholas, must submit to being used by God's will without knowing what it is. They must never seek to use it.

The Spanish navy was rebuilt, and intelligence networks were improved. A measure of the character of Philip can be gathered by the fact that he personally saw to it that the wounded men of the Armada were treated and received pensions, and that the families of those who died were compensated for their loss, which was highly unusual for the time.

Even though Philip was bankrupt by 1596 (for the fourth time, after France had declared war on Spain), in the last decade of his life, more silver and gold were shipped safely to Spain than ever before. This allowed Spain to continue its military efforts, but led to an increased dependency on the precious metals.

From 1590 to 1598, Philip was also at war against Henry IV of France, joining with the Papacy and the Duke of Guise in the Catholic League during the French Wars of Religion. Philip's interventions in the fighting - sending Alessandro Farnese, to end Henry IV's siege of Paris in 1590 – and the siege of Rouen in 1592 - saving the French Catholic Leagues's cause against a Protestant French monarchy. In 1593, Henry agreed to convert to Catholicism; weary of war, most French Catholics switched to his side against the hardline core of the Catholic League, who were portrayed by Henry's propagandists as puppets of a foreign monarch, Philip. In June 1595 the redoubtable French king defeated the Spanish-supported Catholic League in Fontaine-Française in Burgundy and reconquered Amiens from the overstretched Spanish forces in September 1597. The 1598 Treaty of Vervins was largely a restatement of the 1559 Peace of Câteau-Cambrésis and Spanish forces and subsidies were withdrawn; meanwhile, Henry issued the Edict of Nantes, which offered a high degree of religious toleration for French Protestants. The military interventions in France thus ended in an ironic fashion for Philip: they had failed to oust Henry from the throne or suppress Protestantism in France and yet they had played a decisive part in helping the French Catholic cause gain the conversion of Henry, ensuring that Catholicism would remain France's official and majority faith -matters of paramount importance for the devoutly Catholic Spanish king.

Philip II died in the El Escorial in September 1598.

Under Philip II, Spain reached the peak of its power. Having nearly reconquered the rebellious Netherlands, Philip's unyielding attitude led to their loss, this time permanently, as his wars expanded in scope and complexity. So, in spite of the great and increasing quantities of gold and silver flowing into his coffers from the American mines, the riches of the Portuguese spice trade and the enthusiastic support of the Habsburg dominions for the Counter-Reformation, he would never succeed in suppressing Protestantism or defeating the Dutch rebellion. Early in his reign, the Dutch might have laid down their weapons if he had desisted in trying to suppress Protestantism, but his devotion to Catholicism and the principle of cuius regio, eius religio, as laid down by his father, would not permit him to do so. He was a devout Catholic and exhibited the typical 16th century disdain for religious heterodoxy.

One of the long-term consequences of his striving to enforce Catholic orthodoxy through an intensification of the Inquisition was the gradual smothering of Spain's intellectual life. Students were barred from studying elsewhere and books printed by Spaniards outside the kingdom were banned. Even a highly respected churchman like Archbishop Carranza, was jailed by the Inquisition for seventeen years for publishing ideas that seemed sympathetic in some degree to Protestant reformism. Such strict enforcement of orthodox belief was successful and Spain avoided the religiously inspired strife tearing apart other European dominions, but this came at a heavy price in the long run, as her great academic institutions were reduced to third rate status under Philip's successors.

However, Philip II's reign can hardly be characterized as a failure. He consolidated Spain's overseas empire, succeeded in massively increasing the importation of silver in the face of English, Dutch and French privateers, and ended the major threat posed to Europe by the Ottoman navy (though peripheral clashes would be ongoing). He succeeded in uniting Portugal and Spain through personal union. He dealt successfully with a crisis that could have led to the secession of Aragon. His efforts also contributed substantially to the success of the Catholic Counter-Reformation in checking the religious tide of Protestantism in Northern Europe.

Anglo-American societies have generally held a very low opinion of Philip II. The traditional approach is perhaps epitomized by James Johonnot's Ten Great Events in History, in which he describes Philip II as a "vain, bigoted, and ambitious" monarch who "had no scruples in regard to means... placed freedom of thought under a ban, and put an end to the intellectual progress of the country". Spanish apologists sometimes classify this analysis as part of the Black Legend.

The defence of the Catholic Church and the defeat and destruction of the Protestantism was one of his most important goals. He did not fully accomplish this; England broke with Rome after the death of Mary, the Holy Roman Empire remained partly Protestant and the revolt in Holland continued. Nevertheless, he prevented Protestantism from gaining a grip in Spain and Portugal and the colonies in the New World, and successfully re-established Catholicism in the reconquered southern half of the Low Countries.

Philip was a complex man. He was given to suspicion of members of his court, and was something of a meddlesome micro-manager; but he was not the cruel tyrant painted by his opponents and subsequent anglophile histories. He took great care in administering his dominions, and was known to intervene personally on behalf of the humblest of his subjects.

Philip II died in 1598. His was a painful death which involved a severe attack of gout, fever and dropsy. He died in El Escorial, near Madrid, and was succeeded by his son Philip III. The Philippines, a former Spanish colony, are named in his honor.

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Habsburg Spain

Glory of Spain by Tiepelo.jpg

Habsburg Spain refers to the history of Spain over the 16th and 17th centuries (1506-1700), when Spain was ruled by the major branch of the Habsburg dynasty (also associated to its role in the history of Central Europe). Under Habsburg rule (chiefly under Charles I and Philip II of Spain), Spain reached the zenith of its influence and power, controlling territory ranging from the Americas to the Philippines in Asia, the Low Countries (which included territories now in France and Germany), to most of modern-day Italy in Europe, and from 1580 to 1640 Portugal and and its global empire and various other territories such as Malta in the Mediterranean basin and small enclaves like Ceuta and Oran in North Africa. Altogether, Habsburg Spain was, for well over a century, the world's greatest power. For this reason, this period of Spanish history has also been referred to as the "Age of Expansion".

During the latter Habsburg kings, and mainly in the second half of the 17th century, Spain experienced a gradual political and cultural decline.

Spain's 16th century maritime supremacy was demonstrated by the victory over the Ottomans at Lepanto in 1571 (which was symbolically important to the Spanish and Christians overall), and then after the setback of the Spanish Armada in 1588, in a series of victories against England in the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585–1604. However during the middle decades of the 17th century Habsburg Spain's maritime power went into a long decline with mounting defeats against the United Provinces. On land Habsburg Spain became embroiled in the vast Thirty Years' War, and in the second half of the 17th century the Spanish were defeated by the French, led by King Louis XIV. Habsburg rule came to an end in Spain with the death in 1700 of Charles II which resulted in the War of the Spanish Succession.

The Habsburg years were also a Spanish Golden Age of cultural efflorescence. Some of the outstanding figures of the period were Diego Velázquez, El Greco, Miguel de Cervantes, and Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

Spain as a unified state come into being de jure only after the death of Charles II and with him the extinction of the Spanish Habsburg dynasty, and the ascension of Philip V and the inauguration of the Bourbon dynasty and its reforms. However, the Spanish Habsburg created the first de facto unified state in the Iberian Peninsula; briefly including Portugal.

The political area referred to as Spain was, in fact, a confederacy comprising several ancient, individual kingdoms— Aragon, Castile, León, and Navarre. In some cases, these individual kingdoms themselves were confederations, most notably, the Crown of Aragon (Principality of Catalonia, Kingdom of Aragon, Kingdom of Valencia, and Kingdom of Majorca). The marriage of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in 1469 united two of the greatest of these kingdoms Castile and Aragon, which led to their largely successful campaign against the Moors, peaking at the conquest of Granada in 1492.

In 1504, Queen Isabella died, and although Ferdinand tried to maintain his position over Castile in the wake of her death, the Castilian Cortes Generales (the royal court of Spain) chose to crown Isabella's daughter Joanna queen. Her husband Philip was the Habsburg son of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and Mary of Burgundy and simultaneously became king-consort Philip I of Castile. Shortly thereafter Joanna began to lapse into insanity, though exactly how mentally ill she actually was has been the topic of some debate. In 1506, Philip assumed the regency on her behalf, but he died later that year under mysterious circumstances, possibly poisoned by his father-in-law. Since their oldest son Charles was only six, the Cortes reluctantly allowed Joanna's father Ferdinand to rule the country as the regent of Joanna and Charles.

Spain was now united under a single ruler, Ferdinand II of Aragon. As sole monarch, Ferdinand adopted a more aggressive policy than he had as Isabella's husband, enlarging Spain's sphere of influence in Italy, strengthening it against France. As ruler of Aragon, Ferdinand had been involved in the struggle against France and Venice for control of Italy; these conflicts became the center of Ferdinand's foreign policy as king. Ferdinand's first investment of Spanish forces came in the War of the League of Cambrai against Venice, where the Spanish soldiers distinguished themselves on the field alongside their French allies at the Battle of Agnadello (1509). Only a year later, Ferdinand joined the Holy League against France, seeing a chance at taking both Naples - to which he held a dynastic claim - and Navarra, which was claimed through his marriage to Germaine of Foix. The war was less of a success than that against Venice, and in 1516, France agreed to a truce that left Milan under French control and recognized Spanish hegemony in northern Navarre. Ferdinand would die later that year.

Ferdinand's death led to the ascension of young Charles to the throne as Charles I of Castile and Aragon, effectively founding the monarchy of Spain. His Spanish inheritance included all the Spanish possessions in the New World and around the Mediterranean. Upon the death of his Habsburg father in 1506, Charles had inherited the Netherlands and Franche-Comté, growing up in Flanders. In 1519, with the death of his paternal grandfather Maximilian I, Charles inherited the Habsburg territories in Germany, and was duly elected Emperor Charles V that year. His mother Joanna remained titular queen of Castile until her death 1555, but due to her mental health and worries of her being proposed as an alternative monarch by opposition (as happened in the Revolt of the Comuneros), Charles kept her imprisoned.

At that point, Emperor and King Charles was the most powerful man in Christendom. The accumulation of so much power to one man and one dynasty greatly concerned the king of France, Francis I, who found himself surrounded by Habsburg territories. In 1521, Francis invaded the Spanish possessions in Italy and Navarre which inaugurated a second round of Franco-Spanish conflict. The war was a disaster for France, which suffered defeats at Biccoca (1522), Pavia (1525, at which Francis was captured), and Landriano (1529) before Francis relented and abandoned Milan to Spain once more.

Charles's victory at the Battle of Pavia, 1525, surprised many Italians and Germans and elicited concerns that Charles would endeavor to gain ever greater power. Pope Clement VII switched sides and now joined forces with France and prominent Italian states against the Habsburg Emperor, in the War of the League of Cognac. In 1527, due to Charles' inability to pay them sufficiently his armies in Northern Italy mutineed and sacked Rome itself for loot, forcing Clement, and succeeding popes, to be considerably more prudent in their dealings with secular authorities: in 1533, Clement's refusal to annul Henry VIII of England's marriage to Catherine of Aragon (Charles' aunt) was a direct consequence of his unwillingness to offend the emperor and have his capital perhaps sacked a second time. The Peace of Barcelona, signed between Charles and the pope in 1529, established a more cordial relationship between the two leaders that effectively named Spain as the protector of the Catholic cause and recognized Charles as king of Lombardy in return for Spanish intervention in overthrowing the rebellious Florentine Republic.

In 1543, Francis I, king of France, announced his unprecedented alliance with the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman the Magnificent, by occupying the Spanish-controlled city of Nice in cooperation with Turkish forces. Henry VIII of England, who bore a greater grudge against France than he held against the Emperor for standing in the way of his divorce, joined Charles in his invasion of France. Although the Spanish army was soundly defeated at the Battle of Ceresole, in Savoy, Henry fared better, and France was forced to accept terms. The Austrians, led by Charles's younger brother Ferdinand, continued to fight the Ottomans in the east. With France defeated, Charles went to take care of an older problem: the Schmalkaldic League.

The Protestant Reformation had begun in Germany in 1517. Charles, through his position as Holy Roman Emperor, his important holdings along Germany's frontiers, and his close relationship with his Habsburg relatives in Austria, had a vested interest in maintaining the stability of the Holy Roman Empire. The Peasants' War had broken out in Germany in 1524 and ravaged the country until it was brutally put down in 1526. Charles, even as far away from Germany as he was, was committed to keeping order. Since the Peasants' War, the Protestants had organized themselves into a defensive league to protect themselves from Emperor Charles. Under the protection of the Schmalkaldic League, the Protestant states had committed a number of outrages in the eyes of the Catholic Church— the confiscation of some ecclesiastical territories, among other things— and had defied the authority of the Emperor.

Perhaps more importantly to the strategy of the Spanish king, the League had allied itself with the French, and efforts in Germany to undermine the League had been rebuffed. Francis’ defeat in 1544 led to the annulment of the alliance with the Protestants, and Charles took advantage of the opportunity. He first tried the path of negotiation at the Council of Trent in 1545, but the Protestant leadership, feeling betrayed by the stance taken by the Catholics at the council, went to war, led by the Saxon elector Maurice. In response, Charles invaded Germany at the head of a mixed Dutch-Spanish army, hoping to restore the Imperial authority. The emperor personally inflicted a decisive defeat on the Protestants at the historic Battle of Mühlberg in 1547. In 1555, Charles signed the Peace of Augsburg with the Protestant states and restored stability in Germany on his principle of cuius regio, eius religio, a position unpopular with the Spanish and Italian clergy. Charles' involvement in Germany would establish a role for Spain as protector of the Catholic Habsburg cause in the Holy Roman Empire; the precedent would seven decades later lead to involvement in the war that would decisively end Spain's status as Europe's leading power.

In 1526, Charles married Infanta Isabella, the sister of John III of Portugal. In 1556, Charles abdicated from his positions, giving his Spanish empire to his only surviving son, Philip II of Spain, and the Holy Roman Empire to his brother, Ferdinand. Charles retired to the monastery of Yuste (Extremadura, Spain), where he is thought to have had a nervous breakdown, and died in 1558.

Spain was not yet at peace, as the aggressive Henry II of France came to the throne in 1547 and immediately renewed the conflict with Spain. Charles' successor, Philip II, aggressively conducted the war against France, crushing a French army at the Battle of St. Quentin in Picardy in 1557 and defeating Henry again at the Battle of Gravelines the following year. The Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis, signed in 1559, permanently recognized Spanish claims in Italy. In the celebrations that followed the treaty, Henry was killed by a stray splinter from a lance. France was stricken for the next thirty years by civil war and unrest (see French Wars of Religion) and was unable to effectively compete with Spain and the Habsburgs in the European power struggle. Freed from any serious French opposition, Spain saw the apogee of its might and territorial reach in the period 1559–1643.

Charles and his successors, while they may have been most comfortable with and fond of Spain, regarded it as just another part of their empire, rather than nurturing and developing it, as France, England, and the Netherlands might have in their countries. Achieving the political goals of the Habsburg dynasty – which primarily meant undermining the power of France, maintaining Catholic Habsburg hegemony in Germany, and suppressing the Ottoman Empire – was more important to the Habsburg rulers than the welfare of Spain. This emphasis would contribute to the decline of Spanish imperial power.

The Spanish Empire had grown substantially since the days of Ferdinand and Isabella. The Aztec and Inca Empires were conquered during Charles' reign, from 1519 to 1521 and 1540 to 1558, respectively. Spanish settlements were established in the New World: Mexico City, the most important colonial city established in 1524 to be the primary center of administration in the New World; Florida, colonized in the 1560s; Buenos Aires, established in 1536; and New Granada (modern Colombia), colonized in the 1530s. Manila was also established in 1572. The Spanish Empire abroad became the source of Spanish wealth and power in Europe. But as precious metal shipments rapidly expanded late in the century it contributed to the general inflation that was affecting the whole of Europe. Instead of fueling the Spanish economy, American silver made the country increasingly dependent on foreign sources of raw materials and manufactured goods.

After Spain's victory over France in 1559 and the beginning of France's religious wars, Philip's ambitions grew. The Ottoman Empire had long menaced the fringes of the Habsburg dominions in Austria and northwest Africa, and in response Ferdinand and Isabella had sent expeditions to North Africa, capturing Melilla in 1497 and Oran in 1509. Charles had preferred to combat the Ottomans through a considerably more maritime strategy, hampering Ottoman landings on the Venetian territories in the Eastern Mediterranean. Only in response to raids on the eastern coast of Spain did Charles personally lead attacks against holdings in North Africa (1545). In 1565, the Spanish defeated an Ottoman landing on the strategically vital island of Malta, defended by the Knights of St. John. The death of Suleiman the Magnificent the following year and his succession by the less capable Selim the Sot emboldened Philip, who resolved to carry the war to the Ottoman homelands. In 1571, a mixed naval expedition led by Charles' illegitimate son Don John of Austria annihilated the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto, in one of the most decisive battles in naval history. The battle ended the growing Ottoman naval hegemony in the Mediterranean.

The time for rejoicing in Madrid was short-lived. In 1566, Calvinist-led riots in the Spanish Netherlands (roughly equal to modern-day Netherlands and Belgium, inherited by Philip from Charles and his Burgundian forebearers) prompted the Duke of Alva to conduct a military expedition to restore order. In 1568, William the Silent led a failed attempt to drive the tyrannical Alva from the Netherlands. This attempt is generally considered to signal the start of the Eighty Years' War that ended with the independence of the United Provinces. The Spanish, who derived a great deal of wealth from the Netherlands and particularly from the vital port of Antwerp, were committed to restoring order and maintaining their hold on the provinces. In 1572, a band of rebel Dutch privateers known as the watergeuzen ("Sea Beggars") seized a number of Dutch coastal towns, proclaimed their support for William and denounced the Spanish leadership.

For Spain, the war was a creeping disaster. In 1574, the Spanish army under Luis de Requeséns was repulsed from the Siege of Leiden after the Dutch destroyed the dykes that held back the North Sea from the low-lying provinces. In 1576, faced with the costs of his 80,000-man army of occupation in the Netherlands and the massive fleet that had won at Lepanto, Philip was forced to accept bankruptcy. The army in the Netherlands mutinied not long after, seizing Antwerp and looting the southern Netherlands, prompting several cities in the previously peaceful southern provinces to join the rebellion. The Spanish chose the route of negotiation, and pacified most of the southern provinces again with the Union of Arras in 1579.

The Arras agreement required all Spanish troops to leave these lands. In 1580, this gave king Philip the opportunity to strengthen his position when the last male member of the Portuguese royal family, Cardinal Henry of Portugal, died. Philip asserted a weak claim to the Portuguese throne and in June sent an army under the leadership of the Duke of Alba to Lisbon to assure his succession. Although the Duke and the dynastic union were controversial in Lisbon, and violently opposed by many, the result was that the combined Spanish and Portuguese empires placed into Philip's hands most of the explored New World along with a vast trading empire in Africa and Asia.

To keep Portugal under control required an extensive occupation force, and Spain was still financially strapped since the 1576 bankruptcy. In 1584, William the Silent was assassinated by a half-deranged Catholic, and the death of the popular Dutch resistance leader was expected to bring an end to the war; it did not. In 1586, Queen Elizabeth I of England, supported the Protestant cause in the Netherlands and France, and Sir Francis Drake launched attacks against Spanish merchants in the Caribbean and the Pacific Ocean, along with a particularly aggressive attack on the port of Cadiz. In 1588, hoping to put a stop to Elizabeth's meddling, Philip sent the Spanish Armada to attack England. Of the 130 ships sent on the mission, only half returned to Spain, with perhaps as many as 16 000 troops and sailors perishing from all causes. Some were victims of English ships, but most were victims of the storm encountered on their return trip around the north of Scotland and Ireland. The disastrous outcome, resulting from a combination of the unfavorable weather and a good deal of luck for the English under Lord Howard of Effingham, resulted in a complete overhaul of the Spanish navy's ships, weapons and tactics. It struck back at English attacks and with the help of a bungled English counter attack (English Armada) quickly recovered its preeminent position which it maintained for another half of a century. Spain also provided support to a gruelling Irish war which drained England of resources and also raided English coastal towns. However, now the Spanish Habsburgs had yet another powerful enemy with which to contend, forcing Spain to maintain an even stronger, more expensive navy, atop of massive expenditures for its armies in its many scattered territories.

Spain had invested itself in the religious warfare in France after Henry II's death. In 1589, Henry III, the last of the Valois lineage, died at the walls of Paris. His successor, Henry IV of Navarre, the first Bourbon king of France, was a man of great ability, winning key victories against the Catholic League at Arques (1589) and Ivry (1590). Committed to stopping Henry from becoming King of France, the Spanish divided their army in the Netherlands and invaded France in 1590.

Faced with wars against England, France, and the Netherlands, each led by capable leaders, already-bankrupted Spain was outmatched. Struggling with continuing piracy against its shipping in the Atlantic and the disruption of its vital gold shipments from the New World, Spain was forced to admit bankruptcy again in 1596. The Spanish attempted to extricate themselves from the several conflicts they were involved in, first signing the Treaty of Vervins with France in 1598, recognizing Henry IV (since 1593 a Catholic) as king of France, and restoring many of the stipulations of the previous Peace of Cateau-Cambrésis. A treaty with England was agreed upon in 1604, following the accession of the more tractable Stuart King James I.

Peace with England and France implied that Spain could focus her energies on restoring her rule to the Dutch provinces. The Dutch, led by Maurice of Nassau, the son of William the Silent and perhaps the greatest strategist of his time, had succeeded in taking a number of border cities since 1590, including the fortress of Breda. Following the peace with England, the new Spanish commander Ambrosio Spinola pressed hard against the Dutch. Spinola, a general of abilities to match Maurice, was prevented from conquering the Netherlands only by Spain's renewed bankruptcy in 1607. Faced with ruined finances, in 1609, the Twelve Years' Truce was signed between Spain and the United Provinces.

Spain made a fair recovery during the truce, ordering her finances and doing much to restore her prestige and stability in the run-up to the last truly great war in which she would play as the leading power. In the Netherlands, the rule of Philip II's daughter, Isabella Clara Eugenia and her husband, Archduke Albert, restored stability to the southern Netherlands and pacified anti-Spanish sentiments in the area. Philip II's successor, Philip III, was a man of limited ability uninterested in politics, preferring to allow others to take care of the details. His chief minister was the Duke of Lerma. Under Lerma, Spain stretched its finances to the limit, and attempted to compensate by devaluing its currency. The Spanish government declared bankruptcy in 1607. Lerma did, however, make himself one of the richest men in Europe with a fortune of some 44 million thalers. Lerma's personal success attracted enemies and well-founded accusations of corruption; in 1618, the king replaced him with Don Balthasar de Zúñiga. While the Duke of Lerma (and to a large extent Philip III) had been disinterested in the affairs of their ally, Austria, Zúñiga was a veteran ambassador to Vienna and believed that the key to restraining the resurgent French and eliminating the Dutch was a closer alliance with Habsburg Austria.

In 1618, beginning with the Defenestration of Prague, Austria and the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand II of Germany, embarked on a campaign against the Protestant Union and Bohemia. Zúñiga encouraged Philip to join the Austrian Habsburgs in the war, and Ambrogio Spinola, the rising star of the Spanish army, was sent at the head of the Army of Flanders to intervene. Thus, Spain entered into the Thirty Years’ War.

In 1621, the inoffensive and ineffective Philip III was replaced by the considerably more active and pious Philip IV. The following year, Zúñiga was replaced by Gaspar de Guzmán y Pimentel, Count-Duke of Olivares, an able man who believed that the center of all Spain's woes rest in Holland. After certain initial setbacks, the Bohemians were defeated at White Mountain in 1621, and again at Stadtlohn in 1623. The war with the Netherlands was renewed in 1621 with Spinola taking the fortress of Breda in 1625. The intervention of the Danish king Christian IV in the war worried some (Christian was one of Europe's few monarchs who had no worries over his finances) but the victory of the Imperial general Albert of Wallenstein over the Danes at Dessau Bridge and again at Lutter, both in 1626, eliminated the threat. There was hope in Madrid that the Netherlands might finally be reincorporated into the empire, and after the defeat of Denmark the Protestants in Germany seemed subdued. France was once again involved in her own instabilities (the famous Siege of La Rochelle began in 1627), and Spain's eminence seemed irrefutable. The Count-Duke Olivares stridently affirmed "God is Spanish and fights for our nation these days," (Brown and Elliott, 1980, p. 190) and many of Spain's opponents may have grudgingly agreed.

Olivares was a man sadly out of time; he realized that Spain needed to reform, and to reform it needed peace. The destruction of the United Provinces of the Netherlands was added to his list of necessities because behind every anti-Habsburg coalition there was Dutch money: Dutch bankers stood behind the East India merchants of Seville, and everywhere in the world Dutch entrepreneurship and colonists undermined Spanish and Portuguese hegemony. Spinola and the Spanish army were focused on the Netherlands, and the war seemed to be going in Spain's favor.

In 1627, the Castilian economy collapsed. The Spanish had been debasing their currency to pay for the war and prices exploded in Spain just as they had in previous years in Austria. Until 1631, parts of Castile operated on a barter economy as a result of the currency crisis, and the government was unable to collect any meaningful taxes from the peasantry, depending instead on its colonies (Spanish treasure fleet). The Spanish armies in Germany resorted to "paying themselves" on the land. Olivares, who had backed certain tax measures in Spain pending the completion of the war, was further blamed for an embarrassing and fruitless war in Italy (see War of the Mantuan Succession). The Dutch, who during the Twelve Years’ Truce had made their navy a priority, devastated Spanish and (especially) Portuguese maritime trade, on which Spain was wholly dependent after the economic collapse. The Spanish, with resources stretched thin, were increasingly unable to cope with the rapidly growing naval threats.

In 1630, Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, one of the most able commanders of the time, landed in Germany and relieved the port of Stralsund that was the last stronghold on the continent held by German forces belligerent to the Emperor. Gustav then marched south winning notable victories at Breitenfeld and Lutzen, attracting greater support for the Protestant cause the further he went. The situation for the Catholics improved with Gustav's death at Lutzen in 1632 and a shocking victory for Imperial forces under Cardinal-Infante Ferdinand and Ferdinand II of Hungary at Nordlingen in 1634. From a position of strength, the Emperor approached the war-weary German states with a peace in 1635; many accepted, including the two most powerful, Brandenburg and Saxony.

Cardinal Richelieu had been a strong supporter of the Dutch and Protestants since the beginning of the war, sending funds and equipment in an attempt to stem Habsburg strength in Europe. Richelieu decided that the recently-signed Peace of Prague was contrary to French interests and declared war on the Holy Roman Emperor and Spain within months of the peace being signed. The more experienced Spanish forces scored initial successes; Olivares ordered a lightning campaign into northern France from the Spanish Netherlands, hoping to shatter the resolve of King Louis XIII's ministers and topple Richelieu before the war exhausted Spanish finances and France's military resources could be fully deployed. In the "année de Corbie", 1636, Spanish forces advanced as far south as Amiens and Corbie, threatening Paris and quite nearly ending the war on their terms.

After 1636, however, Olivares, fearful of provoking another disastrous bankruptcy, stopped the advance. The Spanish army would never again penetrate so far. The French thus gained time to properly mobilise. At the Battle of the Downs in 1639 a Spanish fleet was destroyed by the Dutch navy, and the Spanish found themselves unable to adequately reinforce and supply their forces in the Netherlands. The Spanish Army of Flanders, which represented the finest of Spanish soldiery and leadership, faced a French advance led by Louis II de Bourbon, Prince de Condé in northern France at Rocroi in 1643. The Spanish, led by Francisco de Melo, were devastated. The defeat however by no means disabled Spain; but it was significant as the first occasion since the rise of Spain's empire that one of its armies was totally routed in battle. The supposed invincibility of Spain was shattered.

Supported by the French, the Catalonians, Neapolitans, and Portuguese rose up in revolt against the Spanish in the 1640s. With the Spanish Netherlands now very much on the defensive between French and Dutch forces after the Battle of Lens in 1648, the Spanish made peace with the Dutch and recognized the independent United Provinces in the Peace of Westphalia that ended both the Eighty Years' War and the Thirty Years' War.

War with France continued for eleven more years. Although France suffered from a civil war from 1648–1652 (see Wars of the Fronde) the Spanish economy was so exhausted that they were unable to capitalize on French instability. A last great effort saw Naples retaken in 1648 and most of Catalonia in 1652, but the long since desultory and weary war effectively ended at the Battle of the Dunes (1658) where the French army under Vicomte de Turenne defeated the remnants of the Spanish army of the Netherlands. Spain agreed to the Peace of the Pyrenees in 1659 that ceded to France Roussillon, Foix, Artois, and much of Lorraine.

Portugal had rebelled in 1640 under the leadership of John IV, a Braganza pretender to the throne. He had received widespread support from the Portuguese people, and the Spanish – who had to deal with rebellions elsewhere and the war with France – were unable to respond, and the Spanish and Portuguese had existed in a de facto state of peace from 1644 to 1657. When John IV died in 1657, the Spanish attempted to wrest Portugal from his son Afonso VI, but were defeated at Ameixial (1663) and Montes Claros (1665), leading to Spain's recognition of Portuguese independence in 1668.

Philip IV, who had seen over the course of his life the devastation of Spain's empire, sank slowly into depression after he had to dismiss his favorite courtier, Olivares, in 1643. He was saddened further after the death of his son Baltasar Carlos in 1646 at the young age of seventeen. Philip became increasingly mystical near the end of his life, and ultimately attempted to undo some of the damage he had done to his country. He died in 1665 before anything could be changed, hoping his son might somehow be more fortunate. Charles, his only surviving son, was seriously deformed and mentally retarded, and remained under the influence of his mother all his life. Struggling with his deformities and the expectations and ridicule of his family and the court, Charles led a miserable existence.

Charles and his regency were incompetent in dealing with the War of Devolution that Louis XIV of France prosecuted against the Spanish Netherlands in 1667–1668, losing considerable prestige and territory, including the cities of Lille and Charleroi. In the Nine Years' War Louis once again invaded the Spanish Netherlands. French forces led by the Duke of Luxembourg defeated the Spanish at Fleurus (1690), and subsequently defeated Dutch forces under William III, who fought on Spain's side. The war ended with most of the Spanish Netherlands under French occupation, including the important cities of Ghent and Luxembourg. The war revealed to the world how rundown and backward the Spanish defenses had become, and ineffective the bureaucracy now was, though the ineffective Habsburg government took no action to improve them.

The final decades of the 17th century saw utter decay and stagnation in Spain; while the rest of Europe went through exciting changes in government and society, the Dutch Golden Age, the Glorious Revolution in England and the reign of the "Sun King" Louis XIV in France - Spain remained adrift and inward looking. The Spanish bureaucracy that had been built up around the charismatic, industrious, and intelligent Charles I and Philip II demanded a strong monarch; the weakness of Philip III and IV led it to its becoming bloated and corrupt. As his final wishes, the childless king of Spain desired that the throne pass to the Bourbon prince Philip of Anjou, rather than to a fellow Habsburg, albeit from Austria. Charles II died in 1700, ending the line of Spanish Habsburgs exactly two centuries after Charles I was born.

The Spanish Inquisition was formally launched during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs, continued by their Habsburg successors, and only ended in the 19th century. Under Charles I the inquisition became a formal department in the Spanish government, hurtling out of control as the 16th century progressed. Charles also passed the Limpieza, a law that excluded those not of pure Old Christian, non-Jewish blood from public office. Although torture was common in Europe, the way the Inquisition was practiced encouraged corruption and betrayal, and it became a driving factor in the decay of Spanish power. It became a method for enemies, jealous friends and even quarreling relations to usurp influence and property. An accusation, even if largely unfounded, led to a long and agonizing trial that might take years before coming to a verdict, during which time the accused's reputation and esteem was destroyed. The notorious auto de fe was a combination of public humiliation of the repentant and a gross spectacle of human torture for the "guilty".

Philip II greatly expanded the Inquisition and made church orthodoxy a goal of public policy. In 1559, three years after Philip came to power, students in Spain were forbidden to travel abroad, the leaders of the Inquisition were placed in charge of censorship, and books could no longer be imported. Philip vigorously tried to excise Protestantism out of Spain, holding innumerable campaigns to eliminate Lutheran and Calvinist literature from the country, hoping to avoid the chaos taking place in France.

The church in Spain had been purged of many of its administrative excesses in the 15th century by Cardinal Ximenes, and the Inquisition served to expurgate many of the more radical reformers who sought to change church theology as the Protestant reformers wanted. Instead, Spain became the scion of the Counter-reformation as it emerged from the Reconquista. Spain bred two unique threads of counter-reformationary thought in the persons of Saint Theresa of Avila and the Basque Ignatius Loyola. Theresa advocated strict monasticism and a revival of more ancient traditions of penitence. She experienced a mystical ecstasy that became profoundly influential on Spanish culture and art. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order, was influential across the world in his stress on spiritual and mental excellence and contributed to a resurgence of learning across Europe. In 1625, a peak of Spanish prestige and power, the Count-Duke of Olivares established the Jesuit colegia imperial in Madrid to train Spanish nobles in the humanities and military arts.

The Moriscos of southern Spain had been forcibly converted to Christianity in 1502, but under the rule of Charles I they had been able to obtain a degree of tolerance from their Christian rulers. They were allowed to practice their former custom, dress, and language, and religious laws were laxly enforced. In 1568, however, under Philip, the Moriscos rebelled (see Morisco Revolt) after the old laws were enforced again. The revolt was only put down by Italian troops under Don John of Austria, and even then the Moriscos retreated to the highlands and were not defeated until 1570. The revolt was followed by a massive resettlement program in which 12,000 Christian peasants replaced the Moriscos. In 1609, on the advice of the Duke of Lerma, Philip III expelled the 300,000 Moriscos of Spain.

The Enlightenment chiefly critiqued the Spanish for excessive religious zeal and "laziness". Among the members of the aristocracy, who enjoyed increasing security in their positions of power (unlike their colleagues in France and England who were increasingly competitive) the argument of "Spanish sloth" might apply. The expulsion of the industrious Moriscos and Jews certainly did little to help the Spanish economy and society that had relied on their work and expertise far more than the Christians realized.

The Spanish received a large but short lived influx of gold from the colonies in the New World as plunder when they were conquered, much of which Charles used to prosecute his wars in Europe. In the 1520s silver began to be extracted from the rich deposits at Guanajuato, but it was not until the 1540s, with the opening of the mines at Potosí and Zacatecas, that silver was to become the fabled source of wealth it has assumed in legend. The Spanish left mining to private enterprise but instituted a tax known as the "quinto real" whereby a fifth of the metal was collected by the government. The Spanish were quite successful in enforcing the tax throughout their vast empire in the New World; all bullion had to pass through the House of Trade in Seville, under the direction of the Council of the Indies. The supply of Almadén mercury, vital to extracting silver from the ore, was controlled by the state and contributed to the rigor of Spanish tax policy.

Inflation - both in Spain and in the rest of Europe - was primarily caused by debt, but a level of debt made possible later by the rising silver imports; Charles had conducted most of his wars on credit, and in 1557, a year after he abdicated, Spain was forced into its first debt moratorium, setting a pattern that would be repeated with ever more disruptive economic consequences.

Faced with the growing threat of piracy, in 1564 the Spanish adopted a convoy system far ahead of its time, with treasure fleets leaving the Americas in April and August. The policy proved efficient, and was quite successful. Only two convoys were captured; one in 1628 when it was captured by the Dutch, and another in 1656, captured by the English, but by then the convoys were a shadow of what they had been at their peak at the end of the previous century. Nevertheless even without being completely captured they frequently came under attack, which inevitably took its toll. Not all shipping of the dispersed empire could be protected by large convoys, allowing the Dutch, English and French privateers and pirates the opportunity to attack trade along the American and Spanish coastlines and raid isolated settlements. This became particularly savage from the 1650s, with all sides falling to extraordinary levels of barbarity, even by the harsh standards of the time. Spain also responded with no small amount of privateering, using the recaptured city of Dunkirk as a base for its Dunkirk Raiders to molest Dutch, English and French trade. More seriously, the Portuguese part of the empire, with its chronically undermanned African and Asian forts, proved nearly impossible to defend adequately, and with Spain so fully engaged on so many fronts, it could spare little for their defense. Spain also had to deal with Ottoman backed Barbary piracy in the Mediterranean - a vastly greater menace than Caribbean piracy, as well as Oriental and Dutch piracy in the waters around the Philippines.

The growth of Spain's empire in the New World was accomplished from Seville, without the close direction of the leadership in Madrid. Charles I and Philip II were primarily concerned with their duties in Europe, and thus control of the Americas was handled by viceroys and colonial administrators who operated with virtual autonomy. The Habsburg kings regarded their colonies as feudal associations rather than integral parts of Spain. The Habsburgs, whose family had traditionally ruled over diverse, noncontiguous domains and had been forced to devolve autonomy to local administrators, replicated those feudal policies in Spain, particularly in the Basque country and Aragon.

This meant that taxes, infrastructure improvement, and internal trade policy were defined independently by each region, leading to many internal customs barriers and tolls, and conflicting policies even within the Habsburg domains. Charles I and Philip II had been able to master the various courts through their impressive political energy, but Philip III and IV allowed it to decay, and Charles II was wholly incapable of controlling them. The development of Spain itself was hampered by the fact that Charles I and Philip II spent most of their time abroad; for most of the 16th century, Spain was administrated from Brussels and Antwerp, and it was only during the Dutch Revolt that Philip returned to Spain, where he spent most of his time in the seclusion of the monastic palace of El Escorial. The patchy empire, held together by a determined king keeping the bloated bureaucracy together, unraveled when a weak ruler came to the throne.

Charles, on becoming king, clashed with his nobles during the Castilian War of the Communities when he attempted to fill government positions with effective Dutch and Flemish officials. This was seen as part of an effort to milk Castile to support distant Habsburg interests. Philip II encountered major resistance when he tried to enforce his authority over the Netherlands, contributing to the rebellion in that country. The Count-Duke of Olivares, Philip IV's chief minister, always regarded it as essential to Spain's survival that the bureaucracy be centralized; Olivares even backed the full union of Portugal with Spain, though he never had an opportunity to realize his ideas. Without the firm hand and diligence of Charles I and Philip II, the bureaucracy became increasingly bloated and corrupt that, by Olivares's dismissal in 1643, its deterioration had rendered it largely ineffective.

Like most of Europe, Spain had suffered from famine and plague during the 14th and 15th centuries. By 1500, Europe was beginning to emerge from these demographic disasters, and populations began to explode. Seville, which was home to 60,000 people in 1500 burgeoned to 150,000 by the end of the century. There was a substantial movement to the cities of Spain to capitalize on new opportunities as shipbuilders and merchants to service Spain's impressive and growing empire. The 16th century was a time of development in Spain as both agriculture and trade burgeoned. Throughout the harsh interior of Castile grain and wool production grew. The former fed an expansion of the population. The latter fed both local textile manufacturing and a lucrative trade with the Netherlands. The Castilian cities of Burgos, Segovia, Cuenca and Toledo, flourished with the expansion of the textile and metellurgical industries. Santander, on the northern Atlantic coast, flourished in its traditional roles as a port linking the country's interior with northern Europe and as a ship building centre. Southern cities like Cadiz and Seville flourished from the commerce and shipbuilding spurred on by the demands of the American colonies. Barcelona, already one of Europe's most important and sophisticated trading port cities since the Middle Ages, continued to develop. By 1590, Spain's population was far greater than what it had been in any previous period. It was during this last decade when Castile began to suffer crop failures and was struck by a plague from 1596 that brought about the first serious reversal in population numbers; a cycle that would repeat itself a number of times in different parts of the country through the seventeenth century.

As the sixteenth century had worn on, inflation in Spain (a result of state debt and, more importantly, the importation of silver and gold from the New World) triggered hardship for the peasantry. The average cost of goods quintupled in the 16th century in Spain, led by wool and grain. While reasonable when compared to the 20th century, prices in the 15th century changed very little, and the European economy was shaken by the so-called price revolution. Spain, along with England was Europe's only producer of wool, initially benefited from the rapid growth. However, like in England, there began in Spain an inclosure movement that stifled the growth of food and depopulated whole villages whose residents were forced to move to cities. The higher inflation, the burden of the Habsburg's wars and the many customs duties dividing the country and restricting trade with the Americas, stifled the growth of industry that may have provided an alternative source of income in the towns.

Sheep-farming was practiced extensively in Castile, and grew rapidly with rising wool prices with the backing of the king. Merino sheep were annually moved from the mountains of the north to the warmer south every winter, ignoring state-mandated trails that were intended to prevent the sheep from trampling the farmland. Complaints lodged against the shepherds' guild, the Mesta, were ignored by Philip II who received a great deal of revenue from wool. Eventually, overtaxed Castile became barren, and Spain, particularly Castile, became dependent on large imports of grain to make up for crop shortfalls, that, given the cost of transportation and the risk of piracy, made staples far more expensive in Spain than elsewhere. As a result, Spain's population, and especially Castile's, never dense on the generally very dry, rocky, mountainous peninsula, grew much more slowly than France's; by Louis XIV's time, France had a population greater than that of Spain and England combined.

Credit emerged as a widespread tool of Spanish business in the 17th century. The city of Antwerp, in the Spanish Netherlands, lay at the heart of European commerce and its bankers financed most of Charles V's and Philip II's wars on credit. The use of "notes of exchange" became common as Antwerp banks became increasingly powerful and led to extensive speculation that helped to exaggerate price shifts. Although these trends laid the foundation for the development of capitalism in Spain and Europe as a whole, the total lack of regulation and pervasive corruption meant that small landowners often lost everything with a single stroke of misfortune. Estates in Spain grew progressively larger and the economy became increasingly uncompetitive, particularly during the reigns of Philip III and IV when repeated speculative crises shook Spain.

The Roman Catholic Church had always been important to the Spanish economy, and particularly in the reigns of Philip III and IV, who had bouts of intense personal piety and church philanthropy, large areas of the country were donated to the church. The later Habsburgs did nothing to promote redistribution of land, and by the end of Charles II's reign, most of Castile was in the hands of a select few landowners, the largest of which by far was the Church.

The Spanish Golden Age was a flourishing period of arts and letters in Spain which spanned roughly from 1550–1650. Some of the outstanding figures of the period were El Greco, Diego Velázquez, Miguel de Cervantes, and Pedro Calderón de la Barca.

El Greco and Velázquez were both painters, the former most notably recognized for his religious depictions and the latter—now regarded as one of the most important figures in all of Spanish art—for his precise, realistic portraiture of the contemporary court of Philip IV. Cervantes and de la Barca were both writers; Don Quixote de la Mancha, by Cervantes, is one of the most famous works of the period and probably the best-known piece of Spanish literature of all time. It is a parody of the romantic, chivalric aspects of knighthood and a criticism of contemporary social structures and societal norms. Juana Inés de la Cruz, the last great writer of this golden age, died in New Spain in 1695.

This period also saw a flourishing in intellectual activity, now known as the School of Salamanca, producing thinkers that were studied throughout Europe.

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Source : Wikipedia