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7th Grade Social Studies / Lesson 12 - Extending Spanish Power

  What will we be learning in this unit?

  • How did Spanish power increase under Charles V and Philip II?
  • How did the arts flourish during Spain's golden age?
  • Why did the Spanish economy decline in the 1600s?


Charles V and Hapsburg Empire

  • By the 1500s, Spain had shaken off the feudal past and emerged as the first modern European power. Under Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, Spain had expelled the last Muslim rulers and enforced religious unity. In 1492, Isabella financed Columbus's voyage across the Atlantic, leading to the Spanish conquest of the Americas. 
  • In 1519, Charles V, grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, inherited a huge empire. The new king faced a nearly impossible challenge. He not only inherited the crown of Spain but was also the heir of the Austrian Hapsburgs. The sprawling Hapsburg empire included the Holy Roman Empire and the Netherlands.


  Charles V and Hapsburg Empire

  • Ruling two empires involved Charles in constant warfare. As a devout Catholic, he fought to suppress the Protestant movement in the German states. After years of religious warfare, however, Charles was forced to allow the German princes to choose their own religions. 
  • His greatest foe was the Ottoman empire. Under Suleiman, Ottoman forces advanced across central Europe to the walls of Vienna, Austria. Although Austria held firm, the Ottomans occupied much of Hungary. Ottoman naval forces also challenged Spanish power in the Mediterranean.


Charles V and Hapsburg Empire

  • Perhaps the Hapsburg empire was too scattered and diverse for any one person to rule. Exhausted and disillusioned, Charles V gave up his titles and entered a monastery in 1556. He divided his empire, leaving the Hapsburg lands in central Europe to his brother Ferdinand, who became Holy Roman emperor. He gave Spain, the Netherlands, southern Italy, and Spain's overseas empire to his 29-year-old son Philip.


   Phillip II and Divine Rights

  • Like his father, King Philip II was hard-working, devout, and ambitious. During his 42-year reign, he sought to expand Spanish influence, strengthen the Catholic Church, and make his own power absolute. Thanks in part to silver from the Americas, he made Spain the foremost power in Europe.
  • Unlike many other monarchs, Philip devoted much time to government work. He seldom hunted, never jousted, and lived as sparsely as a monk. His isolated, somber palace outside Madrid reflected the King's character. Known as the Escorial, it served as a church, a residence, and a tomb for members of the royal family.


Phillip II and Divine Rights

  • As did Ferdinand and Isabella, Philip further centralized royal power, making every part of the government responsible to him. He reigned as an absolute monarch, a ruler with complete authority over the government and the lives of the people. Like other European rulers, Philip asserted that he ruled by divine right. That is, he believed that his authority to rule came directly from God.
  • Partly as a result of the concept of divine right, Philip saw himself as the guardian of the Roman Catholic Church. The great undertaking of his life was to defend the Catholic Reformation and turn back the rising Protestant tide in Europe. Within his own lands, Philip enforced religious unity. He turned the Inquisition against Protestants and other people thought to be heretics.


   The Wars of Phillip II

  • During the last half of his reign, Philip battled Protestant rebels in the Netherlands. At the time, the region included 17 provinces that are today Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg. It was the richest part of Philip's empire. Protestants in the Netherlands resisted Philip's efforts to crush their faith. Protestants and Catholics alike opposed high taxes and autocratic Spanish rule, which threatened local traditions of self-government. 
  • In the 1560s, riots against the Inquisition sparked a general uprising in the Netherlands. Savage fighting raged for decades. In 1581, the northern, largely Protestant provinces declared their independence from Spain and became known as the Dutch Netherlands. They did not gain official recognition, however, until 1648. The southern, mostly Catholic provinces of the Netherlands remained part of the Spanish empire.


  The Wars of Phillip II

  • By the 1580s, Philip saw England's Queen Elizabeth I as his chief Protestant enemy. First secretly, then openly, Elizabeth had supported the Dutch against Spain. She even encouraged English captains, known as Sea Dogs, to plunder Spanish treasure ships. Francis Drake, the most daring Sea Dog, looted Spanish cities in the Americas. To Philip's dismay, instead of punishing the pirate, Elizabeth made him a knight. 
  • To end English attacks and subdue the Dutch, Philip prepared a huge armada, or fleet, to carry a Spanish invasion force to England. In 1588, the Armada sailed with more than 130 ships, 20,000 men, and 2,400 pieces of artillery. The Spanish were confident of victory. "When we meet the English," predicted one Spanish commander, "God will surely arrange matters so that we can grapple and board them, either by sending some strange freak of weather or, more likely, just by depriving the English of their wits."


 The Wars of Phillip II

 

  • The "strange freak of weather," however, favored the other side. In the English Channel, lumbering Spanish ships took losses from the lighter, faster English ships. Suddenly, a savage storm blew up, scattering the Armada. After further disasters at sea, the tattered remnants limped home in defeat. 
  • While the defeat of the Spanish Armada ended Philip's plan to invade England, it had little short-term effect on his power. In the long term, however, Spain's naval superiority did dwindle. In the 1600s and 1700s, Dutch, English, and French fleets challenged-and surpassed-Spanish power both in Europe and around the world.


    Spain's Golden Age

 

  • Among the famous painters of this period was El Greco, meaning "the Greek." Born on the Greek island of Crete, El Greco had studied in Renaissance Italy before settling in Spain. He produced haunting religious pictures, dramatic views of the city of Toledo, and striking portraits of Spanish nobles, done in a dramatically elongated style. 
  • El Greco's use of vibrant colors influenced the work of Diego Vel¡zquez, court painter to King Philip IV. Vel¡zquez is perhaps best known for his vivid portraits of Spanish royalty.


Spain's Golden Age

  • Spain's golden century produced outstanding writers like Lope de Vega. A peasant by birth, he wrote more than 1,500 plays, including witty comedies and action-packed romances. In The Sheep Well, Lope de Vega shows King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella saving a village from the hands of a villainous feudal lord. 
  • Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, the first modern novel in Europe. It pokes fun at medieval tales of chivalry. Dressed in rusty armor, the madman Don Quixote rides out on his broken-down plowhorse in search of adventure. He battles a windmill, which he thinks is a giant, and mistakes two flocks of sheep for opposing armies. He is accompanied by Sancho Panza, a practical-minded peasant. 
  • Don Quixote mocked the traditions of Spain's feudal past. Yet Cervantes admired both the unromantic, earthy realism of Sancho Panza and the foolish but heroic idealism of Don Quixote.


 Economic Decline

  • In the 1600s, Spanish power and prosperity slowly declined. Lack of strong leadership was one reason. The successors of Philip II were far less able rulers than he. 
  • Economic problems were also greatly to blame. Costly overseas wars drained wealth out of Spain almost as fast as it came in. Then, too, treasure from the Americas led Spain to neglect farming and commerce. The government heavily taxed the small middle class, weakening a group that in other European nations supported royal power. The expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spain deprived the economy of many skilled artisans and merchants. Finally, American gold and silver led to soaring inflation, with prices rising much higher in Spain than elsewhere in Europe. 
  • Even though Spain continued to rule a huge colonial empire, its strength slipped away. By the late 1600s, France had replaced Spain as the most powerful European nation.