Imperial Spain: 1469-1716
J. H. Elliott
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Since its first publication, J. H. Elliott's classic chronicle has become established as the most comprehensive, balanced, and accessible account of the dramatic rise and fall of imperial Spain. Now with a new preface by the author, this brilliant study unveils how a barren, impoverished, and isolated country became the greatest power on earth—and just as quickly fell into decline.
At its greatest Spain was a master of Europe: its government was respected, its armies were feared, and its conquistadores carved out a vast empire. Yet this splendid power was rapidly to lose its impetus and creative dynamism. How did this happen in such a short space of time? Taking in rebellions, religious conflict and financial disaster, Elliott's masterly social and economic analysis studies the various factors that precipitated the end of an empire.
liable to take the line of least resistance and to abandon his village, seeking shelter and safety with his family in the anonymous world of the town. The exodus to the towns gradually transformed Castile into a land of deserted villages, with tragic consequences for the country's agrarian development. All over the Mediterranean region, the second half of the sixteenth century was a period in which local food production was proving increasingly inadequate for a still growing population. Castile,
my Cambridge lectures. At that time the only available textbook in English on Spanish history of this period was R. Trevor Davies, The Golden Century of Spain, 1501–1621, first published in 1937. The opportunity seemed to me an interesting one, and I decided to accept the challenge. It proved more of a challenge than I had anticipated. Although the study of Spanish literature was flourishing in British and American universities, Spanish history was relatively neglected. Anglo-American historians
himself, Olivares gave the Governor tacit encouragement by sending him supplies; and, almost before he realized what was happening, he found himself engaged in war with the French in Italy. The Mantuan War of 1628–31 seems in retrospect the gravest blunder made by Olivares in the field of foreign policy. It re-aroused all the old European fears of Spanish aggression, and brought French troops across the Alps in support of their candidate's claim. It failed in its object of keeping a Frenchman
open question. The death of Richelieu, two months before the disgrace of Olivares, had been followed by the death of Louis XIII early in 1643. These changes in France held out hopes of a general change for the better in the international situation, but it was doubtful whether Spain now had the strength to exploit the new possibilities offered by the advent of a regency government in Paris. The defeat of the Spanish infantry at Rocroi on 19 May 1643 seemed to symbolize the downfall of the military
period for the population to reconcile itself to a permanent association with its traditional enemies, the Castilians. Moreover, Portugal had in the Duke of Braganza a ready-made king, whereas the Catalans, under the leadership of their Diputació, had a system of government which demanded a high degree of political maturity for effective functioning, and was too republican in character to inspire foreign confidence in an intensely monarchical age. Portugal also had geographical and economic