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From the late 15th century to the early 19th, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory in the New World , the Asian archipelago of the Philippines , what they called "The Indies" Spanish : Las Indias and territories in Europe , Africa and Oceania. Castile became the dominant kingdom in Iberia because of its jurisdiction over the overseas empire in the Americas and the Philippines.

Although the power of the Spanish sovereign as monarch varied from one territory to another, the monarch acted as such in a unitary manner [14] over all the ruler's territories through a system of councils : the unity did not mean uniformity.

The Spanish empire in the Americas was formed after conquering indigenous empires and claiming large stretches of land , beginning with Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean Islands. In the early 16th century, it conquered and incorporated the Aztec and Inca empires, retaining indigenous elites loyal to the Spanish crown and converts to Christianity as intermediaries between their communities and royal government.

The Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation —the first circumnavigation of the Earth—laid the foundation for the Pacific oceanic empire of Spain and of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. The structure of governance of its overseas empire was significantly reformed in the late 18th century by the Bourbon monarchs.

Although the crown attempted to keep its empire a closed economic system under Hapsburg rule, Spain was unable to supply the Indies with sufficient consumer goods to meet demand, so that foreign merchants from Genoa, France, England, Germany, and The Netherlands dominated the trade, with silver from the mines of Peru and Mexico flowing to other parts of Europe. The merchant guild of Seville later Cadiz served as middlemen in the trade.

The crown's trade monopoly was broken early in the seventeenth century, with the crown colluding with the merchant guild for fiscal reasons in circumventing the supposedly closed system. In the seventeenth century, the diversion of silver revenue to pay for European consumer goods and the rising costs of defense of its empire meant that "tangible benefits of America to Spain were dwindling The Bourbon monarchy attempted to expand the possibilities for trade within the empire, by allowing commerce between all ports in the empire, and took other measures to revive economic activity to the benefit of Spain.

The Bourbons had inherited "an empire invaded by rivals, an economy shorn of manufactures, a crown deprived of revenue In the process, they gained a revenue and lost an empire. With the marriage of the heirs apparent to their respective thrones Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile created a personal union that most scholars view as the foundation of the Spanish monarchy. Their dynastic alliance was important for a number of reasons, ruling jointly over a large aggregation of territories although not in a unitary fashion.

They successfully pursued expansion in Iberia in the Christian Reconquest of the Muslim Kingdom of Granada , completed in This conquest is often called the "Christian Reconquest" due to the different religions of the ruling class of both kingdoms. However, it is important to realize that the Kingdom of Granada and its surrounding kingdoms had been part of Muslim caliphates for over seven centuries.

The term "reconquest" perpetrates a false idea that the peninsula somehow belonged to Catholics. In reality, even though religion may have played a part in the conquest, the fact of the matter was that southern expansion was partially motivated by traditional reasons as well, such as wealth and land.

However, due to the prioritization of the religious aspect, the term "Christian reconquest" is still used to describe the event. Ferdinand of Aragon was particularly concerned with expansion in France and Italy, as well as conquests in North Africa. With the Ottoman Turks controlling the choke points of the overland trade from Asia and the Middle East, both Spain and Portugal sought alternative routes.

The Kingdom of Portugal had an advantage over the Crown of Castile , having earlier retaken territory from the Muslims. Portugal completed Christian reconquest in and settling the kingdom's boundaries. Portugal then began to seek further overseas expansion, first to the port of Ceuta and then by colonizing the Atlantic islands of Madeira and the Azores ; it also began voyages down the west coast of Africa in the fifteenth century.

Following the voyage of Christopher Columbus in and first major settlement in the New World in , Portugal and Castile divided the world by the Treaty of Tordesillas , which gave Portugal Africa and Asia and the Western Hemisphere to Spain.

Columbus unexpectedly encountered the western hemisphere, populated by peoples he named "Indians. Managing the expanding empire became an administrative issue. When King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquered the Iberian peninsula, they had to implement policies to maintain control of the newly gained territory. To do so, the monarchy implemented a system of encomienda. This iteration of the encomienda system was land based, with tributary and land rights given to different noble families.

This eventually led to a large land based aristocracy, a separate ruling class that the crown later tried to eliminate in its overseas colonies. By implementing this method of political organization, the crown was able to implement new forms of private property without completely replacing already existing systems, such as the communal use of resources.

After the military and political conquest, there was an emphasis on religious conquest as well, leading to the creation of the Spanish Inquisition. Although the Inquisition was technically a part of the Catholic church, the Ferdinand and Isabella formed a separate Spanish Inquisition, which led to mass expulsion of Muslims and Jews from the peninsula. This religious court system was later adopted and transported to the Americas, though they took a less effective role there due to limited jurisdiction and large territories.

With the Christian reconquest completed in the Iberian peninsula, Spain began trying to take territory in Muslim North Africa. It had conquered Melilla in , and further expansionism policy in North Africa was developed during the regency of Ferdinand the Catholic in Castile, stimulated by the Cardinal Cisneros.

The Catholic Monarchs had developed a strategy of marriages for their children in order to isolate their long-time enemy: France. As King 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.

In these battles, which established the supremacy of the Spanish Tercios in European battlefields, the forces of the kings of Spain acquired a reputation for invincibility that would last until the midth century. After the death of Queen Isabella in , and her exclusion of Ferdinand from a further role in Castile, Ferdinand married Germaine de Foix in , cementing an alliance with France. Had that couple had a surviving heir, likely the Crown of Aragon would have been split from Castile, which was inherited by Charles, Ferdinand and Isabella's grandson.

Ferdinand's first deployment 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 Only a year later, Ferdinand became part of the Holy League against France, seeing a chance at taking both Milan —to which he held a dynastic claim—and Navarre.

This war was less of a success than the war against Venice, and in , France agreed to a truce that left Milan in its control and recognized Spanish control of Upper Navarre , which had effectively been a Spanish protectorate following a series of treaties in , , , and Portugal obtained several Papal bulls that acknowledged Portuguese control over the discovered territories, but Castile also obtained from the Pope the safeguard of its rights to the Canary Islands with the bulls Romani Pontifex dated 6 November and Dominatur Dominus dated 30 April The conquest was completed with the campaigns of the armies of the Crown of Castile between and , when the islands of Gran Canaria — , La Palma — , and Tenerife — were subjugated.

The Portuguese tried in vain to keep secret their discovery of the Gold Coast in the Gulf of Guinea , but the news quickly caused a huge gold rush. Chronicler Pulgar wrote that the fame of the treasures of Guinea "spread around the ports of Andalusia in such way that everybody tried to go there". The War of the Castilian Succession —79 provided the Catholic Monarchs with the opportunity not only to attack the main source of the Portuguese power, but also to take possession of this lucrative commerce.

Castilian fleets fought in the Atlantic Ocean , temporarily occupying the Cape Verde islands , conquering the city of Ceuta in Tingitana Peninsula in but retaken by the Portuguese , [c] [d] and even attacked the Azores islands, being defeated at Praia. However, this experience would prove to be profitable for future Spanish overseas expansion, because as the Spaniards were excluded from the lands discovered or to be discovered from the Canaries southward [40] —and consequently from the road to India around Africa [41] —they sponsored the voyage of Columbus towards the west in search of Asia to trade in its spices , encountering the Americas instead.

The two became known as the Catholic Monarchs , with their marriage a personal union that created a relationship between the Crown of Aragon and Castile, each with their own administrations, but ruled jointly by the two monarchs.

Ferdinand and Isabella defeated the last Muslim king out of Granada in after a ten-year war. Castile was already engaged in a race of exploration with Portugal to reach the Far East by sea when Columbus made his bold proposal to Isabella. In the Capitulations of Santa Fe , dated on 17 April , Christopher Columbus obtained from the Catholic Monarchs his appointment as viceroy and governor in the lands already discovered [45] and that he might discover thenceforth; [46] [47] thereby, it was the first document to establish an administrative organization in the Indies.

Spain's claim [49] to these lands was solidified by the Inter caetera papal bull dated 4 May , and Dudum siquidem on 26 September , which vested the sovereignty of the territories discovered and to be discovered. These actions gave Spain exclusive rights to establish colonies in all of the New World from north to south later with the exception of Brazil , which Portuguese commander Pedro Alvares Cabral encountered in , as well as the easternmost parts of Asia.

The treaty of Tordesillas [51] and the treaty of Cintra 18 September [52] established the limits of the Kingdom of Fez for Portugal, and the Castilian expansion was allowed outside these limits, beginning with the conquest of Melilla in Other European powers did not see the treaty between Castile and Portugal as binding on themselves.

Francis I of France observed "The sun shines for me as for others and I should very much like to see the clause in Adam's will that excludes me from a share of the world.

Unlike the crown of Portugal, Spain had not sought papal authorization for its explorations, but with Christopher Columbus's voyage in , the crown sought papal confirmation of their title to the new lands. Converting the inhabitants of in the newly discovered lands was entrusted by the papacy to the rulers of Portugal and Spain, through a series of papal actions. The Patronato real , or power of royal patronage for ecclesiastical positions had precedents in Iberia during the reconquest.

Eximiae devotionis sinceritas granted the Catholic monarchs and their successors the same rights that the papacy had granted Portugal, in particular the right of presentation of candidates for ecclesiastical positions in the newly discovered territories. According to the Concord of Segovia of , Ferdinand was mentioned in the bulls as king of Castile, and upon his death the title of the Indies was to be incorporated into the Crown of Castile.

According to the domain granted by Papal bulls and the wills of queen Isabella of Castile in and king Ferdinand of Aragon in , such property became held by the Crown of Castile.

This arrangement was ratified by successive monarchs, beginning with Charles I in [57] in a decree that spelled out the juridical status of the new overseas territories.

The political condition of the Indies were to transform from " Lordship " of the Catholic Monarchs to " Kingdoms " for the heirs of Castile. Although the Alexandrine Bulls gave full, free and omnipotent power to the Catholic Monarchs, [61] they did not rule them as a private property but as a public property through the public bodies and authorities from Castile, [62] and when those territories were incorporated into the Crown of Castile the royal power was subject to the laws of Castile.

The crown was the guardian of levies for the support of the Catholic Church, in particular the tithe, which was levied on the products of agriculture and ranching. In general, Indians were exempt from the tithe. Although the crown received these revenues, they were to be used for the direct support of the ecclesiastical hierarchy and pious establishments, so that the crown itself did not benefit financially from this income. The crown's obligation to support the Church sometimes resulted in funds from the royal treasury being transferred to the Church when the tithes fell short of paying ecclesiastical expenses.

The experiment was deemed a failure, with the natives considered too new in the faith to be ordained. Pope Paul III did issue a bull, Sublimis Deus , declaring that natives were capable of becoming Christians, but Mexican and Peruvian —68 provincial councils banned natives from ordination.

With the Capitulations of Santa Fe , the Crown of Castile granted expansive power to Christopher Columbus , including exploration, settlement, political power, and revenues, with sovereignty reserved to the Crown. The first voyage established sovereignty for the crown, and the crown acted on the assumption that Columbus's grandiose assessment of what he found was true, so Spain negotiated the Treaty of Tordesillas with Portugal to protect their territory on the Spanish side of the line.

The crown fairly quickly reassessed its relationship with Columbus and moved to assert more direct crown control over the territory and extinguish his privileges. With that lesson learned, the crown was far more prudent in the specifying the terms of exploration, conquest, and settlement in new areas.

The pattern in the Caribbean that played out over the larger Spanish Indies was exploration of an unknown area and claim of sovereignty for the crown; conquest of indigenous peoples or assumption of control without direct violence; settlement by Spaniards who were awarded the labour of indigenous people via the encomienda ; and the existing settlements becoming the launch point for further exploration, conquest, and settlement, followed by the establishment institutions with officials appointed by the crown.

The patterns set in the Caribbean were replicated throughout the expanding Spanish sphere, so although the importance of the Caribbean quickly faded after the Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire and the Spanish conquest of Peru , many of those participating in those conquests had started their exploits in the Caribbean.

The first permanent European settlements in the New World were established in the Caribbean, initially on the island of Hispaniola , later Cuba and Puerto Rico. As a Genoese with the connections to Portugal, Columbus considered settlement to be on the pattern of trading forts and factories, with salaried employees to trade with locals and to identify exploitable resources.

Columbus's second voyage in had a large contingent of settlers and goods to accomplish that. Although Columbus staunchly asserted and believed that the lands he encountered were in Asia, the paucity of material wealth and the relative lack of complexity of indigenous society meant that the Crown of Castile initially was not concerned with the extensive powers granted Columbus.

As the Caribbean became a draw for Spanish settlement and as Columbus and his extended Genoese family failed to be recognized as officials worthy of the titles they held, there was unrest among Spanish settlers. The crown began to curtail the expansive powers that they had granted Columbus, first by appointment of royal governors and then a high court or Audiencia in Columbus encountered the mainland in , [67] and the Catholic Monarchs learned of his discovery in May Taking advantage of a revolt against Columbus in Hispaniola , they appointed Francisco de Bobadilla as governor of the Indies with civil and criminal jurisdiction over the lands discovered by Columbus.

The successors of Columbus, however, litigated against the Crown until [69] for the fulfillment of the Capitulations of Santa Fe in the pleitos colombinos. In metropolitan Spain, the direction of the Americas was taken over by the Bishop Fonseca [70] between and , [71] and again between and , after a brief period of rule by Jean le Sauvage. In , the Junta of The Indies was constituted as a standing committee belonging to the Council of Castile to address issues of the Indies, [76] and this junta constituted the origin of the Council of the Indies , established in Now oversight of the Indies was based both in Castile and with officials of the new royal court in the colony.

As new areas were conquered and significant Spanish settlements were established, likewise other audiencias were established. Following the settlement of Hispaniola, Europeans began searching elsewhere to begin new settlements, since there was little apparent wealth and the numbers of indigenous were declining.

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From the late 15th century to the early 19th, Spain controlled a huge overseas territory in the New World , the Asian archipelago of the Philippines , what they called "The Indies" Spanish : Las Indias and territories in Europe , Africa and Oceania. Castile became the dominant kingdom in Iberia because of its jurisdiction over the overseas empire in the Americas and the Philippines. Although the power of the Spanish sovereign as monarch varied from one territory to another, the monarch acted as such in a unitary manner [14] over all the ruler's territories through a system of councils : the unity did not mean uniformity. The Spanish empire in the Americas was formed after conquering indigenous empires and claiming large stretches of land , beginning with Christopher Columbus in the Caribbean Islands. In the early 16th century, it conquered and incorporated the Aztec and Inca empires, retaining indigenous elites loyal to the Spanish crown and converts to Christianity as intermediaries between their communities and royal government. The Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation —the first circumnavigation of the Earth—laid the foundation for the Pacific oceanic empire of Spain and of the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. The structure of governance of its overseas empire was significantly reformed in the late 18th century by the Bourbon monarchs.

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