Origins of the Empire
• Spanish Empire was the overseas territories in North and South
America, Asia, Africa, and Oceania that were colonized and
administered by Spain.
• Spain became the pioneer in a new era of colonization., the
expansion overseas began for a number of reasons:
– The monarchs wanted to secure neighboring areas for defense against
Muslim raids, to protect Castile's shipping activities and trade in the
Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, and to use the neighboring
areas as ports for exports.
– They also supported exploration of distant areas to spread Christianity
and to increase Spain’s potential for trade with the Far East.
• Spain's internal conflicts of centuries was resolved in 1469 with the
union of Castile and Aragon and then the conquest of Granada in
• The voyage of Columbus, sailing west for Spain in 1492, laid the
foundations for the future empires.
• The Spanish Empire was one of the largest empires in world history, and one of
the first global empires. It included territories and colonies in Europe, the
Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania between the 15th and late 19th centuries.
• Spain first began to settle the Caribbean islands and conquered Indian empires
on mainland America.
• Later expeditions established an empire that stretched from present-day
Canada in North America to Tierra del Fuego South America.
• The Spanish expedition of world
circumnavigation, made possible the
establishment of colonies in Guam,
the Philippines and surrounding
• From 1492 to 1659, it comprised the
Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium,
most of Italy, parts of Germany,
parts of France, territories in Africa,
Asia and Oceania.
Colonies in America
• During the Early 16th-Century, Spain followed up on the discoveries of Columbus.
• In 1513, Ponce de Leon discovered Florida and Vasco de Balboa crossed Panama to
the Pacific Ocean.
• Cortés conquered the Aztecs in Mexico, 1519 – 1521.When the Spanish first
appeared in America, the Aztec emperor, Montezuma, thought the Spaniards to be
gods or messengers from Quetzalcoatl. Cortés and the Aztecs interchanged gifts to
befriend one another. Even though the Aztecs out numbered the Spaniards, Cortés
found that conquering the Aztecs was easy.
– Spain had gunpowder, steel, and horses. Plus, the Aztecs were susceptible to European
diseases that they had no immunity to.
• After the Aztec kingdom in Mexico is conquered, the Spanish followed by a
campaign against the Maya in Yucatan. Then Central America, from Guatemala to
Nicaragua, is brought under Spanish control between 1524 and 1526.
• In 1531, Pizarro got permission from Charles V to conquer the South American
coast. In 1532 he arrived at the heart of the Incan Empire, where he met the Inca
ruler, Atahualpa, and took him prisoner. In the ensuing fight, the Spanish had the
advantage because of their technology, and so the Incas were conquered.
• Coronado explored what became the southwest United States from 1540 to 1542,
going as far north as Kansas.
• In the 1520s the large scale • Spain was unable to
extraction of silver from the rich keep much of the silver.
deposits of Mexico's Guanajuato Large amounts were to
began, but it was not until the pay for costly wars,
opening of the silver mines in
Mexico's Zacatecas and Peru's Potosí campaigns against
in 1546 that the large shipments of heresy, luxuries for its
silver became the fabled source of elites, and
wealth. administration of its
– The vast imports of silver ultimately empire.
made Spain overly dependent on
foreign sources of raw materials and
• America's precious metals
revolutionized European economies;
banking prospered, commerce
expanded, and prices soared.
Religion in the Empire
• The Crown of Castile and Aragon were strongly compromised
with the Catholic Church, since the depths of the Middle Ages.
• Also, starting 1556, Philip II of Spain took the crown, he was of
all the monarchs of Europe, the most zealous defender of his
religious faith and his energies in pursuit of this defense
greatly changed the face of Europe.
– Expulsion of Jews and Muslims in 1492. Expulsion of convert Moriscos
– Instauration of a national branch of the Inquisition started in 1478.
– Mass conversion of Pagan natives of America, often by violent means
start as soon as the Indian Empires are conquered. Expansion of
Christianity was seen as an ideological pretext for colonialism.
– At the end of the 16th century, they had a very active role in the wars
of religion against Protestants and the Counter-Reformation,
promoted specially by a newly created Spanish order: the Jesuits.
• The Spanish monarch is the first to be
confronted with the problem of
administering large tracts of conquered
territory on the other side of an ocean.
• In America the king's authority is
exercised by his viceroys, who live in great
magnificence and wield much power.
• In the 16th century there are only two viceroyalties. The viceroy of New
Spain, with his capital in Mexico City, governs the West Indies, the
Philippines, and all the Spanish territories on the mainland from Florida to
California in the north down to Venezuela in the south.
• The viceroy of New Peru, with his capital at Lima, governs all Spanish
colonies in south America except Venezuela.
• In the 18th century these two viceroyalties seem unwieldy. They are split
• These vast regions are successfully controlled from Madrid until the
independence movements of the early 19th century.
Relations with the Natives
• The Spanish Empire in the New World was a disaster for Native
– On the one hand, they believed that they were introducing Native Americans to
Christianity and to the arts of civilization and some believed that Native Americans had a
right to their lands and should not be economically or politically exploited.
– This benign attitude was paternalistic: the Spanish would introduce Native Americans to
salvation and school them in European civilization.
– On the other hand, the Spanish ruthlessly massacred native populations and freely
enslaved them in some of the most cruel slave practices ever seen on the face of the
• The average Native American slave lasted barely a year under his or her Spanish
• The crown declared that Native Americans were their subjects, that
allowing conquistadores to collect tribute and labor, and that they were
to be protected and cared for, physically and spiritually, by the Spanish.
– In reality, the Spanish collected the labor but ignored the protection part. Native
Americans were put to work but were not fed well and were often forced to labor for
impossible stretches of time
• As a result, the Native American slaves of the Spanish died off in droves, some
through Spanish cruelty and the majority through diseases introduced by the
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