Prehistory to Roman

Cave-dwellers of France and Spain: from 30000 years ago

The area to the north and south of the Pyrenees, in modern France and Spain, is occupied from about 30,000 years ago by palaeolithic hunter-gatherers who make good use of the many caves in the area. They leave astonishing signs of their presence, and of their sophistication, in the paintings with which they decorate the walls.

There are many surviving examples, of which the best known are Lascaux in France and Altamira in Spain. But almost twice as old are the paintings recently discovered in the Chauvet Cave in France.

Neolithic villages and architecture: from 5th millennium BC

In the regions bordering the Atlantic coast, the transition from palaeolithic hunter-gatherers to Neolithic villagers begins in about 4500 BC. These villagers later develop a striking tradition of prehistoric architecture.

In most of Europe Neolithic communities live in villages of timber houses, often with a communal longhouse. But along the entire Atlantic coast, from Spain through France to the British isles and Denmark, the central feature of each village is a great tomb, around which simple huts are clustered. The tomb chambers of these regions introduce the tradition of stonework which includes passage graves and megaliths.

The massive Neolithic architecture of western Europe begins, in the late 5th millennium BC, with passage graves. The name reflects the design. A stone passage leads into the centre of a great mound of turf, where a tomb chamber - first of wood but later of stone - contains the dead of the surrounding community.

A famous early example of a stone passage grave, from about 4000 BC on the Île Longue off the southern coast of Brittany, has a magnificent dome formed by corbelling (each ring of stone juts slightly inwards from the one below). It is the same principle as the beehive tombs of Mycenae, but they are more than 2000 years later.

Over the centuries increasingly large slabs of stone, or megaliths (from Greek megas huge and lithos stone), are used for the passage graves. And an astronomical theme is added. The graves begin to be aligned in relation to the annual cycle of the sun.

An outstanding example is the passage grave at Newgrange in Ireland, dating from about 2500 BC. Huge slabs of stone, carved in intricate spiral patterns, form the walls of the chamber. At sunrise on the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year, when the sun itself seems in danger of dying) the rays penetrate the length of the passage to illuminate the innermost recess.

One of the best-known examples in Spain is the walled settlement of Los Millares. Dating from about 2000 BC, the village has a nearby cemetery of about 100 beehive tombs. The dome of each is constructed on the corbel principle, pioneered on the Atlantic coast some two millennia earlier on the Île Longue, in Brittany.

In a later stage of this deeply mysterious Neolithic tradition the megaliths, previously hidden beneath the mounds of the tombs, emerge in their own right as great standing stones, often arranged in circles. The ritual purpose of such circles is not known. They too, in many cases, have a solar alignment, usually now relating to sunrise at the summer solstice.

The most striking of these circles is Stonehenge, in England. The site is in ritual use over a very long period, from about 3000 to 1100 BC. The largest stones, with their enormous lintels, are now thought to have been erected in about 2500 BC. By this time stone architecture is being used also at a domestic level in parts of the British isles, as in the famous Stone Age village of Skara Brae.

The arrival of the Celts: from the 6th century BC

During the last centuries of their Colonies, France and northern Spain are infiltrated by energetic tribes originating in central Europe. They speak an Indo-European language, and they know how to work iron. Their arrival inaugurates the Iron Age in these regions. They are the Celts, known to the Romans as the Gauls.

Meanwhile civilization has been brought to the coasts of both France and Spain by colonists from further east in the Mediterrean. The most important Colonies are Massilia (Marseilles), settled by Greeks in about 600, and Cadiz, established by the Phoenicians at about the same time (though tradition gives it a much earlier date).

Spain and the Roman empire: 3rd c. BC - 5th c. AD

Spain is a rich prize for any empire-builder. It has mines of gold, silver and copper, and a plentiful supply of Celts, tough warriors and useful recruits for an army. The Iberian peninsula is therefore hotly contested, from the 3rd century BC, between the two imperial powers of the western Mediterranean - the Romans and the Carthaginians (successors of the Phoenicians).

After the Second punic war the eastern part of the peninsula falls into Roman hands. It is turned into two new Roman provinces, Hispania Citerior and Ulterior (Nearer and Farther Spain). Celtic tribes in the west, the Lusitani, hold out against Rome. When they are finally overwhelmed, their region (approximately modern Portugal) becomes in 138 BC the province of Lusitania.

Spain becomes, like Gaul to the north, a fully Romanized and prosperous part of the empire. Magnificent evidence of the Roman presence can be seen in such structures as the great aqueduct at Segovia. Built probably in the time of Trajan (born in Spain, and the first provincial to become emperor), it is at one point 30 metres above the ground. 1900 years later it still carries water across the valley to the city.

Spain suffers in the 5th century, like the rest of the empire, from Rome's military weakness. The Vandals cut a swathe through the peninsula in 409-429 until they are pushed out into Africa by Roman forces heavily dependent on Visigothic support. It is the Visigoths, subsequently, who benefit.

Christians and Muslims

Visigothic kingdoms: 5th - 8th century AD

During the 5th century the Visigoths rule a large kingdom in southern France and frequently campaign south of the Pyrenees into Spain. In both contexts they are acting as allies of Rome. But in 475 a Visigothic king, Euric, declares his independence and energetically extends his own territory on his own account.

Spain is at first of secondary importance to the Visigoths, compared to France. But in 507 Euric's son is defeated by Clovis, king of the Franks, north of Poitiers. The French territory of the Visigoths is reduced to a coastal strip from the Pyrenees to the Rhône.

During the 6th century the Visigothic territory in Spain is steadily extended. There is a temporary setback in the south from 554, when an army of the Byzantine emperor Justinian captures a region from Cadiz in the west to Cartagena in the east. But within seventy years all the territory has been recovered. During the 7th century the whole of Spain is in the hands of the Visigoths (with their capital at Toledo), though hostilities between rival Visigothic clans, between Visigoths and the indigenous population, and between Arians and Catholics make it a turbulent time.

In 711 one faction, in an internal squabble of this kind, invites an Arab commander to lend support. An Arab army crosses from Africa.

Arabs in Spain and France: AD 711-732

The short journey across the water from Africa, bringing an army into Spain in 711, begins the final thrust of Arab expansionism in the west. In a frequently repeated pattern of history the invaders, invited to assist one side in a quarrel, rapidly take control and suppress both squabbling parties. Within a few months the Arabs drive the Visigoths from their capital at Toledo.

Soon governors appointed by the caliph in Damascus are ruling much of Spain. The Arabs press on northwards. Their armies move into Gaul, and here at last they are halted - near Poitiers in 732.

Umayyad dynasty in Spain: AD 756-1031

The defeat of the Arabs in 732 by Charles Martel in Gaul is followed by Berber rebellions in north Africa and in Spain. The effect is to limit Arab territorial ambitions in Europe to the Iberian peninsula. Even this proves hard to hold because of hostilities between Rival arab groups.

Stability in Spain is restored by an Umayyad prince, Abd-al-Rahman, who escapes the Abbasid massacre of his family in Syria. He establishes himself in 756 at Cordoba. Here he founds the first great Muslim civilization of Spain.

Abd-al-Rahman begins the process of making Cordoba one of the outstanding cities of the medieval world. On the site of a Roman temple and Visigothic church he builds the famous mosque, with schools and hospitals attached, which survives today as a place of great beauty - even though its vistas of columns and striped arches are brutally interrupted by alterations made for its later use as the city's cathedral.

Cordoba continues to grow in size and wealth and reputation, known equally for its skilled craftsmen and its scholars. Under Abd-al-Rahman III, in the 10th century, it has probably half a million inhabitants. He is the first amir of Cordoba to accord himself the resounding title of Caliph.

During the three centuries of Umayyad rule in Spain the Arabs are for the most part in control of almost the entire peninsula. The Christian reconquest makes several tentative beginnings during the period, but northern territories are often then regained by Arab rulers - relying heavily on the wild Berber mercenaries who form the bulk of their armies.

The Berbers eventually prove too hard to control. Concessions to their demands lead in 1031 to the collapse of the Umayyad caliphate and the effective end of Arab rule in Spain. There follows a period of steady Christian advance southwards. It is halted, in 1086, by a tribal leader from north Africa. He is head of a Berber dynasty, the Almoravids.

The Reconquest: AD 711-1492

The reconquest of Spain has been a dream of the Christians ever since the Muslim conquest in the early 8th century, when the Christian Visigoths are rapidly confined to the tiny kingdom of Asturias in the extreme north. The Reconquista becomes an ideal of medieval Spanish chivalry.

It will take more than seven centuries to complete, until the Fall of granada in 1492, and it is complicated by the high degree of integration which develops in many parts of Spain between Muslims and Christians. The intermingling of the communities reduces tension in the early centuries, but in a later more bigoted age provides rich opportunities for Persecution.

There is a corresponding change in the notion of reconquest. At the start the ideal is to restore a united Spain under the kings of the Visigoths. This is a territorial ambition, and in these early centuries the two religions (or three, with the many Jews living in Spain) prosper regardless of whether the ruler of the region is Muslim or Christian.

In the 11th century religious fervour enters both camps. A new Muslim dynasty, that of the Almoravids, is more dogmatic than the Umayyads. A more aggressive Christianity, characteristic of the whole of Europe at this time, affects the northern kingdoms. On the wider stage this is the time of the Crusades, and the Christians of Spain have their own local Muslims to confront.

During the many centuries of the Reconquest, the Christian rulers of northern Spain control a frequently squabbling group of small kingdoms. In spite of their mutual antipathies, they gradually coalesce into larger units capable of confronting the Muslims.

The process begins on the north coast, in the 8th century, with the tiny kingdom of Asturias.

Asturias and Galicia: AD 718-910

Visigothic nobles, retreating from the first advance of the Muslims, stop when they can go no further. Reaching the Bay of Biscay, on Spain's northern coast, they withdraw into the region of Asturias - protected by mountain ranges to east, south and west and by the sea to the north. Here they elect a Visigothic prince, by the name of Pelayo, as their king - and dream of reconquering Spain.

The first step in that direction is achieved in the 740s. While the Arabs are distracted by a Berber uprising, in 741, the Asturians annexe Galicia - the coastal region to their west.

In the early 9th century Galicia makes an unexpected but powerful contribution to Christian Spain. Human remains are unearthed and are said to belong to the apostle St James, martyred in Jerusalem but miraculously floated to Spain in a stone coffin. A church built over the spot rapidly becomes a popular place of pilgrimage and the focal point of Christian Spain. The town which grows up around the church is known by the name of St James, Santiago in Spanish. It is Santiago de Compostela.

By the early 10th century the rulers of Asturias control sufficient territory to feel secure in moving their capital from Oviedo to Leon. They call themselves, from 910, the kings of Leon and Asturias.

Catalonia: AD 785-1150

A small step in the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims is achieved by Charlemagne and the Franks. Gerona is captured in 785 and Barcelona in 801. The region becomes known as the Marcia Hispánica (Spanish march), ruled on behalf of the Franks by a count of Barcelona. The counts continue the reconquest, expanding their territory. By the end of the 10th century they are an independent dynasty ruling Catalonia.

In 1150 the count of Barcelona marries the heiress of Aragon, uniting the regions and ending the identity of a Separate catalonia. But the Catalans, in the northeast extremity of the peninsula, retain a strong sense of independence which has often, in history, resulted in separatist movements.

Leon and Castile: AD 910-1035

Leon, established from 910 as the centre of a Christian kingdom including Asturias and Galicia, has to its south the high central region of Spain known as Castile. Possibly deriving its name from its profusion of castles, the region is shared by several warring rulers.

From about 950 Castile becomes united under a single count, who makes his capital at Burgos. At first the counts of Castile accept the suzerainty of the kings of Leon, but from 1035 Castile insists on an independent status. Subsequently the two kingdoms are often linked, with Castile increasingly the more powerful. In the dance of the Spanish kingdoms these are established partners, confronting Navarre and aragon to the east.

Castile and Aragon: AD 1139-1179

By the 12th century the Christian effort against the Muslims is in the hands of three kingdoms which control the northern half of Spain. Portugal, traditionally dating its independent existence from a victory over the Muslims at Ourique in 1139, is on the attack down the west coast. Responsibility for the reconquest of the rest of the peninsula is shared by Castile and Aragon, whose kings sign a treaty at Cazorla in 1179 establishing zones of operation (Aragon is to concentrate on Valencia, on the east coast).

By now the enemy is no longer the Umayyad caliphate of Cordoba. Muslim Spain has been ruled for the past century by more fundamentalist Berber dynasties from the Sahara.

Berber dynasties in Spain: AD 1086-1248

The end of the Umayyad caliphate in 1031 is followed by a period of anarchy among the Muslims of southern Spain. This gives the Christian kingdoms in the north a welcome opportunity.

In 1085 Alfonso VI of Castile captures Toledo. He follows the Arab example, maintaining the multi-cultural flavour of this civilized city of Muslims, Christians and Jews. He even for a while calls himself 'emperor of the two religions'. But his military successes prompt Muslim rulers further south to enlist the help of the new Almoravid dynasty of Morocco.

The Almoravids - with armies of their own Berber tribesmen - arrive in Spain in 1086 and rapidly overrun the territories recently gained by the Christians. Only on the east coast do they meet their match in the buccaneering El Cid, who captures Valencia in 1094.

Though stricter in religion than the Umayyads, the Almoravid sultans continue the traditions of Muslim Spain; indeed they introduce its architecture to the other half of their empire, in north Africa. But they soon begin to lose control in both regions. The Christian reconquest in Spain begins anew with the capture of Saragossa in 1118. Meanwhile Marrakech, the Almoravid capital in Africa, falls in 1147 to a more puritanical dynasty of Berbers, the Almohads.

The Almohads move rapidly into southern Spain after their defeat of the Almoravids in Morocco. Seville falls to them in 1147, the same year as Marrakech. They make it their Spanish capital, building the Alcázar Palace and the lower part of the Giralda, now the famous belfry of Seville cathedral; in origin it is the minaret of the main Almohad mosque.

The decline of Almohad power, and the decisive phase of the Christian reconquest, begins with the defeat of the Muslims at Las Navas de Tolosa, in 1212, by the combined armies of Castile, Aragon, Navarre and Portugal. Cordoba falls to the Christians in 1236 and Seville in 1248. Meanwhile, in 1238, Aragon recovers Valencia (held by the Muslims since the death of El cid).

Granada: AD 1232-1492

After the Christian thrust to the south, between 1212 and 1248, only the southern tip of the peninsula, sheltering among the high mountains of the Sierra Nevada, remains in Muslim hands. It becomes the kingdom of Granada, which lasts for more than two centuries and sees the final flowering of the Muslim culture of Spain.

A Berber noble, linked by descent with the Almoravids, establishes himself in 1232 as the first king of Granada, Muhammad I. In 1246, by which time his kingdom is surrounded by Castilian territory, he makes a treaty of coexistence. He becomes a vassal of the king of Castile and agrees to pay a large annual tribute.

The mountainous territory of Granada is difficult to invade, and the annual tribute (when collected) is of value to the Castilian budget, so Muhammad and his descendants are left relatively free to enjoy a civilized existence. The result is seen in the Alhambra, their palace fortress built between 1238 and 1358; its restful courtyards of Moorish arches and playful fountains now seem the epitome of the Muslim civilization of Spain.

Nevertheless this enclave at the tip of Christian Spain is an affront to the conscience of neighbouring Castile. In the early 15th century the ideal of the reconquista is revived. By the end of the century Castile, united with Aragon, has the strength to undertake it.

Ferdinand and Isabella

The Catholic Monarchs: AD 1469-1481

A wedding of 1469 proves of profound significance in the history of Spain. Isabella, aged eighteen, marries Ferdinand, a year younger than herself. Five years later, in 1474, she inherits the throne of Castile. Her husband argues (on the grounds of masculinity rather than seniority) that the crown should be his, but the nobles of Castile support Isabella. It is agreed that the young couple shall rule jointly.

After another five years, in 1479, Ferdinand inherits the throne of Aragon. At first he keeps it to himself, but the habit of partnership has become engrained. In 1481 he shares this crown too with Isabella. They become known as Los Reyes Católicos, the Catholic Monarchs.

Castile and aragon remain for the moment separate kingdoms, with their own laws and governments. But the shared rule of the Catholic Monarchs means that most of Spain is now finally reunited (Navarre will not be formally annexed to Castile until 1515). The Iberian peninsula is not quite a single kingdom - the old Visigothic concept of the reconquista - for Portugal has long been independent. But the later ideal of reconquest, for Christianity, is almost complete.

Only the Moorish kingdom of Granada stands in the way - together with what is perceived to be an internal threat to the purity of the Christian religion.

The Spanish Inquisition: AD 1478-1834

In 1478 the pope, Sixtus IV, allows Ferdinand and Isabella to establish a special branch of the Inquisition in Spain. There is believed to be a danger to the church from Jews masquerading as Christians.

Such Jews are referred to as marranos ('swine'). Their conversion is the result of anti-Semitic violence during the previous century. To escape the likelihood of death at the hands of Christian mobs, many Jews (probably about 100,000) accept baptism. But a considerable number continue to practise their Jewish faith in secret. The concept of secret groups of heretics particularly alarms the church; and the remarkable tenacity of the Jews of Belmonte, in maintaining their faith behind a Catholic facade, proves that there is good cause for the inquisitors' suspicions.

The first Grand Inquisitor is appointed in 1480. He is Tomas de Torquemada, who himself comes from a family of converted Jews. His dedication to his task will become legendary. And the public much appreciates the great ceremonies which he stage-manages - the famous auto-da-fés.

The auto-da-fé (Spanish for 'act-of-faith') is a solemn religious ceremony in a tradition going back to the inquisition against the Cathars. The inquisitor and those accused of heresy process into a public place, such as the main square of a town. After the holding of a mass, the verdicts on the accused and the sentences on the guilty are announced.

In 1492 Torquemada persuades Ferdinand and Isabella to expel from Spain all Jews who are unwilling to convert to Christianity. About 160,000 of them leave the country. Ten years later the same demands are made of the Spanish Muslims. From being one of the most tolerant countries in Europe, in the heyday of Cordoba and Toledo, Spain becomes the most intolerant. The Inquisition extends its sway to Latin America, to Portugal and to the Spanish Netherlands. It is not finally suppressed until 1820 in Portugal and 1834 in Spain.

The expulsion of the Jews in 1492 coincides with the completion of the Reconquest. Muslim power in Spain is at last brought to an end with the fall of Granada.

In 1492 Torquemada persuades Ferdinand and Isabella to expel from Spain all Jews who are unwilling to convert to Christianity. About 160,000 of them leave the country. Ten years later the same demands are made of the Spanish Muslims.

From being one of the most tolerant countries in Europe, in the heyday of Cordoba and Toledo, Spain becomes the most intolerant. The Inquisition extends its sway to Latin America, to Portugal and to the Spanish Netherlands. It is not finally suppressed until 1820 in Portugal and 1834 in Spain.

The fall of Granada: AD 1492

Granada is difficult to subue by military means alone. While steadily capturing outlying strongholds of the Muslim kingdom, the Spanish also meddle in a dispute between members of the ruling family. Their chosen prince, Boabdil, agrees under duress to surrender Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella when he is in a position to do so. In 1491 they call in their pledge. When Boabdil refuses to deliver, they besiege the city of Granada. It falls to them in 1492.

The reconquest of Spain is complete.

The long Spanish tradition of tolerance between Muslim and Christian survives briefly after this final Christian victory. The Moors of Granada are promised religious freedom. The promise is honoured for only a few years.

In 1495 Queen Isabella's strict confessor, Jiménez de Cisneros, becomes archbishop of Toledo. He decrees that Muslims must convert to Christianity. The result is a Moorish uprising in 1499, after which the choice becomes even more stark. From 1502 the Muslims of Granada must convert immediately or leave Spain. This is the dilemma already imposed by the Spanish inquisition in 1492 on the Jews. Identifying fraudulent conversions, whether from Judaism or Islam, will keep the inquisitors busy for years.

Columbus and the Catholic monarchs: AD 1492

In Santa Fe, a royal encampment from which the siege of Granada is conducted, the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and isabella debate whether to accept a proposal put to them by a visionary explorer, Christopher Columbus.

For eight years Columbus has been pestering European courts, particularly those of Portugal and Spain, to sponsor him in an undertaking which obsesses him. The Portuguese explorers have had notable success in their attempts to sail east round Africa towards India and China, but Columbus has become convinced that he can achieve the same more easily by sailing west.

It has long been the accepted view, deriving from Ptolemy, that nothing but sea separates Europe from India and China round the back of a spherical world. During the 15th century the notion has developed that the unseen distance by sea is much less than the known distance between Europe and China by land.

Columbus believes that he has found mathematical proof of this in an apocryphal text of the Old Testament where the prophet Esdras states that the earth is six parts land to one part sea. Columbus argues, first to the king of Portugal in 1484 and then to the Spanish monarchs, that India is therefore within reach of a Caravel sailing west from the Canaries.

The Portuguese court rejects his argument. The Spanish monarchs delay for years while a commission investigates his claims. Finally, in the camp near Granada, they accept his somewhat exorbitant terms regarding the honours which will be heaped upon him if he reaches India or China, and his share of whatever is found.

Once agreement is reached, after so many years, Columbus moves fast. With his partners (brothers from a Spanish ship-owning family named Pinzón) he prepares vessels for the great adventure.

Santa Maria Pinta and Niña: AD 1492-1493

On 3 August 1492 a little fleet of three vessels sets sail from the small Spanish harbour of Palos. Columbus is in command of the largest, the Santa Maria; the captains of the other two, the Pinta and the NiÑa, are the brothers Martin Alonso and Vicente Yañez Pinzón.

Three weeks are spent loading stores in the Canaries until, on September 6, the three ships sail west into the unknown. During the next month there are several sightings of coastlines which turn out to be illusions. At last, on October 12, a look-out on the Pinta spies real land.

San Salvador Cuba and Hispaniola: AD 1492-1493

Columbus and the Pinzón brothers step ashore on 12 October 1492 on an island in the Bahamas. They plant in the ground the royal banner of Spain, claiming the place for Ferdinand and Isabella. They name it San Salvador, after Jesus the Saviour. (It is not known which island they landed on, though one in the Bahamas now bears the name San Salvador.)

These are not the First europeans to reach the American continent, but they are the first to record their achievement. Columbus believes that he has reached the East Indies. Greeted by friendly inhabitants of San Salvador, he therefore describes them as Indians - an inaccurate name which has remained attached to the aboriginal peoples of the whole American continent. By the same token this region becomes known to Europe as the West Indies.

A few days later the explorers sail on. They pass many more islands, giving each a new Spanish name, until they reach during November the most important landfall of their expedition - the large island of Cuba, which Columbus convinces himself to be Cipango. This is a place of marvels described by Marco polo at the eastern extremity of Asia, usually now assumed to be Japan.

Beyond Cuba the next significant landfall is another large island which Columbus names after Spain itself - Española, or Hispaniola. On its shores the Santa Maria runs aground and is wrecked. Columbus decides to leave here a small colony of some forty men, with food and ammunition for a year, while he sails back to Spain with news of his achievement.

Returning with Vicente Yañez Pinzón in the Niña, Columbus reaches Palos on March 15 (amazingly the Pinta arrives in Palos later on that same day, after losing contact with the Niña a month earlier in an Atlantic storm). Columbus makes his way to the court of Ferdinand and isabella in Barcelona, where he is received with every honour. He presents the monarchs with a few captured natives of the Bahamas and some gold treasure.

This is the high point of Columbus's career. Three more voyages to America lie ahead of him, and great achievements. But from now on misfortune, often deriving from his own inadequacy as a colonial administrator, increasingly blights his endeavours.

The explorer departs on his fourth and final voyage in May 1502. It is an almost unmitigated disaster, of storms, mutinies, rotting ships’ timbers. But somehow he limps home, yet again, to reach Spain in November 1504. Since 1492 he has spent half his time in the transatlantic places he so passionately believed in long before he found his way to them.

Even more significantly, he has made the Atlantic crossing seem just an arduous journey rather than a terrifying step into the unknown. Other navigators, sailing for other monarchs, are fishing now in his waters. It is a measure of this change that Columbus himself crosses the Atlantic successfully no fewer than eight times. In a few short years the New World has become linked to Europe in what is unmistakably a new era.

The three last voyages: AD 1493-1504

Columbus sails west again five months after his audience with Ferdinand and Isabella. This time the expedition is on a much larger scale, with the intention of establishing colonies. Seventeen ships, carrying between them almost 1500 people, leave Cadiz. Their first landfalls yield new discoveries - Guadalupe and Puerto Rico - but on arrival in Hispaniola they find that the garrison left there earlier in the year has been massacred by the natives.

News of this disaster, reaching Spain, raises the first doubt about Columbus's judgement. It will not be the last, as discontent grows among the Spanish colonists in the New World.

Columbus returns to Spain in 1496 to confront his critics at the court, which he does with some success. He is able to sail west again in 1498, on a third voyage, with his position of authority confirmed. But further troubles lead to the arrival in 1500 of a governor sent out by Ferdinand and Isabella with authority over Columbus. On Columbus's refusal to accept the situation, the governor arrests him and has him sent back to Spain in chains.

The king and queen receive him with sympathy. They continue to reward him for his achievements, but they will not allow him to return to the valuable colonies which he has discovered for them. They agree, instead, to a new expedition in which he will search for a further sea passage westwards.

The explorer departs on his fourth and final voyage in May 1502. It is an almost unmitigated disaster, of storms, mutinies, rotting ships’ timbers. But somehow he limps home, yet again, to reach Spain in November 1504. Since 1492 he has spent half his time in the transatlantic places he so passionately believed in long before he found his way to them.

Even more significantly, he has made the Atlantic crossing seem just an arduous journey rather than a terrifying step into the unknown. Other navigators, sailing for other monarchs, are fishing now in his waters. It is a measure of this change that Columbus himself crosses the Atlantic successfully no fewer than eight times. In a few short years the New World has become linked to Europe in what is unmistakably a new era.

The Tordesillas Line: AD 1493-1500

When Columbus returns to Spain in 1493, with the first news of the West Indies, Ferdinand and Isabella are determined to ensure that these valuable discoveries belong to them rather than to seafaring Portugal. They secure from the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, a papal bull to the effect that all lands west of a certain line shall belong exclusively to Spain (in return for converting the heathen). All those to the east of the line shall belong on the same basis to Portugal.

The pope draws this line down through the Atlantic 100 leagues (300 miles) west of the Cape verde islands, Portugal's most westerly possession.

The king of Portugal, John II, protests that this trims him too tight. The line cramps the route which Portuguese sailors must take through the Atlantic before turning east round Africa.

Spanish and Portuguese ambassadors, meeting in 1494 at Tordesillas in northwest Spain, resolve the dispute. They accept the principle of the line but agree to move it to a point 370 leagues west of the Cape verde islands. The new line has a profound significance which no one as yet appreciates. It slices through the entire eastern part of south America from the mouth of the Amazon to São Paulo.

The east coast of south America is first reached by Spanish and Portuguese navigators in the same year, 1500. The agreement at Tordesillas gives the territory to Portugal.

Thus the vast area of Brazil, the largest territory of south America, becomes an exception in the subcontinent - the only part not to be in the Spanish empire, and the only modern country in Latin america with Portuguese rather than Spanish as its national language.

Spaniards in a new world: 16th century AD

The half century after Columbus's voyage sees a frenzy of activity in the new world (part exploration, part conquest, part colonization) as the Spanish scramble and struggle to make the most of their unexpected new opportunities.

By 1506 the entire continental shore of the Caribbean Sea has been explored from Honduras to the mouth of the Orinoco. Known at first as Tierra Firme (a phrase applied to the isthmus of Panama), it is believed to be part of the coast of Asia - until Vespucci's furthest journey south gives him a different impression, which becomes gradually accepted.

During the first decade of the century the only secure Spanish settlement in the new world is Santo Domingo, on the island of Hispaniola, established in 1496 by Diego Columbus, brother of the explorer. An equivalently stable settlement is not achieved in continental America until 1510, when Balboa founds Santa María la Antigua del Darién (the site from which, in 1513, he makes his expedition to the Pacific).

Thereafter the speed of Spanish expansion and consolidation over a vast region is astonishing. By 1515, with the conquest of Cuba and the founding of Havana, the islands of the Caribbean are under Spanish control. They become the launch pad for further adventures.

The Aztec kingdom in Mexico is conquered in 1521, followed by a campaign against the Maya in Yucatan. Central America, from Guatemala to Nicaragua, is brought under Spanish control between 1524 and 1526. In the southern part of the continent the coast of Venezuela (where the rich pearl fisheries are a powerful lure) is the first region to attract Spanish settlers, from 1523. Down the west coast, the Inca kingdom in Peru is overwhelmed in 1533; Ecuador and Colombia are subdued later in the 1530s; and most of Chile is gradually brought under control during the 1540s.

On the east coast of the continent Argentina, around the river Plate, is colonized from the 1540s. Brazil, meanwhile, is developing in Portuguese hands.

This half-century of activity by a single nation, Spain, on the other side of a vast ocean, in an age of relatively primitive Sailing vessels, is perhaps unparalleled in history. It involves numerous incidents and adventures which demonstrate the courage, greed, cruelty and wanton destructiveness of the Spanish conquistadors ('conquerors').

Two adventures in particular catch the imagination of their own time and of every age since. They are the victories won against the greatest odds and for the richest gains - the toppling by a handful of Spaniards of the great empires of the Aztecs and the Incas. But the first important development in contintental America is the establishment of Panama.

The legacy of Ferdinand: AD 1516

Ferdinand II dies in 1516. During his reign (and that of Isabella until her death in 1504) a new Spain has emerged.

The reconquest has been completed with the capture of Granada. A religious severity has been introduced (seen first in the persecution of Jews and muslims), which later will make Spain the secular spearhead of the Counter-reformation. New wealth and territory has been found overseas, in the Americas, shifting the entire centre of gravity of Europe from the Mediterranean to the coast of the Atlantic.

The balance within Europe is also drastically affected by a marriage into the Habsburg dynasty which Ferdinand arranges in 1494 for his daughter Joan. This alliance has major but unintended consequences.

Against all probabilities, Joan becomes her father's heir. As a result Spain, after Ferdinand's death, is the jewel in the Habsburg crown. Ferdinand is succeeded in 1516 by his 16-year-old Habsburg grandson, Charles, who becomes Charles I of Spain (later, from 1519, he is also the Holy Roman emperor Charles V). Charles has a 13-year-old brother, named Ferdinand after their Spanish grandfather. He gives Ferdinand responsibilty for the German-speaking Habsburg territories.

Charles V

Habsburg brothers: AD 1516-1564

For half a century the Habsburg brothers Charles and Ferdinand are the dominant figures of southern and central Europe, from Spain to Austria. Both are much involved in the upheavals resulting from the Reformation, which severely strains already fragile loyalties in the German lands of the empire.

Outside this shared central issue, the attention of the brothers is separately focussed. Each has on his hands one of the great territorial conflicts of the 16th century.

Charles makes western Europe his priority, regarding Spain as the centre of his realm. Here the conflict is with France.

There are frequent clashes between Habsburg and Valois interests in two rich and hotly disputed regions - northern Italy and the Netherlands. There is even a direct personal clash between Charles and his French rival Francis I. The two men first compete, at vast expense, in the 1519 election of the next Holy roman emperor.

The conflict which requires Ferdinand's almost permanent attention is on the eastern frontier of Roman Catholic Europe. From 1522 his brother delegates to him responsiblity for the family's hereditary lands in Austria and in other German-speaking regions.

In this area danger derives from the expanding Ottoman empire - though ironically, in 1526, the resounding Turkish victory at Mohacs brings Ferdinand great benefits.

The death of the young king of Hungary and Bohemia at Mohacs, without an heir, gives Ferdinand the legitimate opportunity to claim these two crowns.

Without too much difficulty Bohemia becomes part of the Habsburg dominions. Hungary, on Christendom's immediate frontier with the Turks, is harder to secure. A treaty of 1547 with the Turkish sultan leaves Ferdinand with only the western strip of the old Hungarian kingdom. Nevertheless he has significantly extended the Habsburg lands adjacent to Austria by the time he succeeds his brother in 1558 as Holy roman emperor.

There is perhaps little chance of a French king being elected to rule an empire which in its origin included France but which has not done so for centuries. But Charles is taking no risks. He clinches the election by dispensing vast sums in bribes (borrowing the money from the Mohacs, to their great advantage and his lasting inconvenience). He is elected in June 1519 and crowned as Fuggers at Aachen in 1520.

This is the first encounter in a rivalry between Charles and Francis which comes to dominate the politics of western Europe. It involves a large measure of personal animosity.

Charles versus Francis: AD 1520-1529

Francis, preparing to make war on his rival after Charles's election as emperor, attempts first to secure an important ally on his western flank - England's Henry viii, the third in this trio of autocratic young rulers born within a few years of each other. If Francis is to march safely against Charles, he cannot in his absence risk Henry pressing his family's ancient claim to the throne of France, or even extending the territory round England's last remaining French possession, the pale of Calais.

Francis therefore invites Henry in 1520 to the spectacularly lavish meeting which becomes known as the Field of Cloth of Gold.

The conviviality of the Field of Cloth of Gold fails to deliver an English alliance (Henry immediately moves on to a less sumptuous but more fruitful meeting with Charles V in Kent, where each agrees to make no pact with Francis for at least two years). In 1521 Francis moves against Spanish land in the Pyrenees, beginning years of intermittent warfare.

In 1522 an imperial army drives the French out of Milan. Three years later Francis marches into Italy to reclaim his territory, with disastrous consequences. The French are heavily defeated at Pavia, in 1525, and Francis himself is taken prisoner. Soon he is in a fortress in Madrid, negotiating with Charles under duress.

After six months Francis secures his release from Madrid by giving up his claims to Flanders, Artois and Tournai in the Netherlands, to Milan, Genoa and Naples in Italy, and to the duchy of Burgundy. But he has little intention of keeping his word. Within two months of his return to France, in 1526, he has put in place a pact, the League of Cognac, allying himself with Venice and a new pope, Clement VII.

This time it is the pope who soon finds himself a prisoner. An imperial army, campaigning in Italy and containing large numbers of unpaid German mercenaries, marches in 1527 on the holy city of Rome.

Rome is sacked, looted and ravaged with the violence customary on such occasions. Rich citizens are seized for ransom; there are stories of nuns offered for sale on the streets. The pope manages to reach the security of the Castel Sant'Angelo where he shelters, a prisoner in all but name, until the imperial army is at last withdrawn from the city.

These violent events prompt the treaty of Cambrai, signed in 1529 and known as the 'ladies' peace' because its terms are negotiated between Francis's mother and one of Charles's aunts. It confirms the concessions made by Francis in Madrid, except that now Charles renounces his claim to the original Duchy of burgundy (only a small part of his Burgundian inheritance).

Charles versus Francis: AD 1529-1547

While coping with French hostility, Charles has other major concerns not shared by his rival - aggression from the Turks (on the empire's eastern frontier, and in the Mediterranean), and the Protestant unrest which is creating turmoil in Germany.

In 1529 (the year of the treaty between Charles and Francis) the Turks besiege Vienna and the pirate Barbarossa, working in alliance with the Turkish sultan, secures himself a base in Algiers. In 1530 Charles finds time to have himself formally crowned emperor by the pope in Bologna. Then he hurries north to negotiate with the Protestants at Augsburg. In 1531 Protestant princes form the League of Schmalkalden in opposition to Charles.

In these circumstances there is every reason for the two leading European monarchs, both Roman Catholic, to stand together. But Francis cannot accept the defeat implicit in the treaty of Barbarossa. He now shocks contemporary opinion by negotiating with Protestants and even Muslims for an alliance against the Habsburg empire.

Francis goes to war twice more against Charles, in 1536-8 and 1542-4. The fate of Nice in 1543 suggests very well the bitter and improbable results of this royal rivalry. The Muslim ally of Francis in the siege of Nice (in the duchy of Savoy, which is part of the empire) is Barbarossa. The famous pirate, now a Turkish admiral, carries off 2500 Christians into captivity.

Spain and England: AD 1553-1558

The accession to the throne of England in 1553 of the Catholic queen Mary I offers Spain a second chance to make good the alliance of a previous generation. In 1509 Henry viii marries catherine of Aragon, daughter of the Spanish king; but the likely benefit to Spain is annulled in 1533, along with Henry's marriage. Now, in spite of that Annulment, Catherine's daughter Mary is queen of England. The king of Spain, Charles V, offers Mary the hand of his son and heir, Philip - as enthusiastic a Catholic as Mary herself.

The offer is eagerly accepted by Mary, though far from welcome to most of the English people.

Philip travels to England for the wedding in 1554 and spends a year in the country. The couple are accepted as the king and queen of England, though the marriage treaty excludes Philip from the throne if Mary dies childless.

Philip leaves England after a year, and Mary only sees him on one other visit - when he returns briefly in 1557 to persuade her to join Spain in war against France. The following year Mary dies, without producing the desired Catholic heir. But Philip's efforts to control English policy continue by other means, and not only for religious reasons. He needs friendly English coasts on the sea route to the Netherlands, a province which he rules from 1555.

Abdication of Charles V: AD 1555-1556

After nearly forty years of intense personal rule over an empire of unprecedented size and complexity, Charles V divides his responsibilities between his son and his brother.

In Brussels in October 1555, with much pomp and ceremony, he instals his son Philip as ruler of the Netherlands. Three months later he abdicates, in Philip's favour, as king of Spain and of the Spanish territories in Italy and America. In September 1556 he transfers the title of Holy Roman emperor to his brother Ferdinand, who has already been long acknowledged as ruler of the Habsburg inheritance in German lands.

Early in 1557 Charles retires to a residence close to the monastery of Yuste in Spain. For the emperor, still only in his late 50s, this is an unprecedented period of seclusion, in holy surroundings, at the end of a life of constant travel, turmoil and warfare.

For his son Philip, by contrast, seclusion in a monastery becomes almost a style of government. He returns to Spain from the Netherlands in 1559; in the remaining thirty-nine years of his life he never again leaves the Iberian peninsula. In 1563 he commissions the extraordinary building which is his seat of government when he is not in Madrid - the Escorial.

Philip II

The Escorial: AD 1563-1584

The design of the Escorial perfectly reflects the role of Philip II as the leading monarch of the Catholic reformation. In the 16th century other European rulers construct buildings of great secular splendour. Philip's creation, of no less splendour, is as much monastery as Palace.

At the centre of the complex is a large church surmounted by a dome (like its contemporary, St Peter's in Rome). The buildings to the north of the church are the monastery. A matching range to the south is the king's Palace. Here Philip, when in residence, has his office. Here he ploughs painstakingly through mountains of paperwork, much of it bringing to his notice the seemingly insoluble problem of the Netherlands.

William of Orange and the duke of Alba: AD 1559-1568

Philip II's first regent in the Netherlands is his half sister, Margaret of Parma. There is local unrest under her rule, but also an assumption that compromise may be possible. William of Orange, heir to large estates in the Netherlands and known from his quiet skill in negotiation as William the Silent, emerges as one of the leaders of those demanding change.

Religious toleration and freedom from the attentions of the Inquisition are among the demands most commonly made. But the Protestant cause is not well served by the intemperate behaviour of some of the Calvinists. Iconoclastic mobs go on the rampage in August 1566, smashing the treasures of many churches in the Netherlands.

Hearing of such events, Philip II resolves upon severe measures. He instructs the duke of Alba, a veteran of many campaigns, to march north with an army from Italy. He is to restore order in the Netherlands regardless of what measures may be required.

Alba, arriving in August 1567, introduces a rule of terror but does so at first by stealth. He lulls two of the leading dissident nobles, the counts of Egmont and of Horn, into accepting his hospitality. He then has them arrested, summarily tried and executed. They are merely the most distinguished victims of Alba's tribunal, which becomes known in the Netherlands as the Council of Blood.

Alba's agents act with the quiet efficiency of a modern police state. In 1568, in the early hours of Ash Wednesday (the morning after the pre-Lent carnival, when revellers are likely to be off their guard), fifteen hundred suspects are visited in their homes and taken from their beds. All, according to Alba's note on the incident, are executed.

William of Orange, wisely keeping his distance from Alba, slips into exile - and so remains available to lead the armed resistance to Spanish rule which now begins to develop.

Spanish access to the Netherlands: AD 1568-1588

Unrest in the Netherlands gives urgency to another strand of Philip II's foreign policy. The Duke of alba's journey to take up his appointment in Brussels has been a roundabout one through Philip's continental possessions - by sea from Spain to northern Italy, before marching an army through the Alps and up through Burgundy, Lorraine and Luxemburg.

An easier way to the Netherlands, round the obstacle of hostile France, is the sea route up the Atlantic coast. But this requires at least neutrality on the English side of the Channel, a waterway too narrow to be risked if there are enemies on both shores.

This practical consideration reinforces Philip's pious wish to see the Catholic religion restored to England. From 1580 Spanish support is secretly given to Jesuit missionaries infiltrating English Catholic society.

Equally any Englishman inclined to rebellion on behalf of the Catholic claimant to the throne, Mary queen of scots, can be sure of practical Spanish assistance as soon as there is a realistic chance of success. For these and other reasons, relations between Spain and England deteriorate from the late 1560s and become rapidly worse during the 1580s.

Spain and England: AD 1568-1588

During the years when Philip II plots secretly against Elizabeth, a more public clash of interests is steadily pushing Spain into a position of open hostility. After Elizabeth's appropriation of Spanish gold on its way to the Netherlands in 1568, relations between Spain and England are formally severed for five years. By 1585 Elizabeth is actively supporting the Dutch rebels in the Netherlands. She sends 6000 men to their aid in that year under the earl of Leicester.

Meanwhile English incursions into the rich Spanish territories of Latin America have been escalating since the pioneering efforts of John Hawkins.

The main English voyages of plunder have been carried out by Francis Drake, a relative of Hawkins. Sailing from Plymouth to the Caribbean in May 1572 with just two small ships and seventy-three men, he spends more than a year depriving the Spanish of their precious metals, taking gold and silver from captured ships, from treasure houses on land and even from intercepted mule trains.

During his voyage round the world, in 1577-80, Drake goes one better - surprising the Spanish on the previously safe Pacific coast, where in 1579 he captures a fat, defenceless vessel, the Cacafuego, carrying 26 tons of silver, 80 lb. of gold and 13 chests of money. (The captain of a Spanish ship later provides an interesting glimpse of life on board the Golden Hind.)

So far these adventures have had the quality of piracy. But Drake's departure from Plymouth for the Caribbean in 1585, with a fleet of about thirty ships, looks much more like an expedition of war. He and his men spend several months plundering Spanish settlements, burning houses, sinking ships, destroying whatever they cannot profitably remove.

Coinciding with Elizabeth's despatch of troops to the Netherlands in the same year, this provocation finally persuades Philip that he must invade England. His pious wish to bring his first wife's country back to Roman Catholicism coincides now with the need to protect his territories.

Even so, he has to suffer one more affront. While Philip assembles his fleet in Cadiz in 1587, Drake sails into the crowded harbour and burns or sinks some thirty ships (an impertinence which becomes known in England as 'singeing the king of Spain's beard'). Much of the fleet being assembled consists of Galleys, the standard Spanish warship of the time.

Drake's ability to manoeuvre at Cadiz affects the forthcoming expedition, because it convinces Philip that he must use sailing ships. By May 1588 he has assembled a fleet of galleons.

Spanish Armada: AD 1588

The encounter between the Spanish Armada and the English fleet in the Channel in August 1588 is the first of a new kind of naval battle, and one in which the English tactics suggest the way forward.

The Spanish have been accustomed to fighting at sea with galleys, as at Lepanto only seventeen years previously. A galley imposes a certain pattern on a battle. Guns can only point forward from the bow, where the main weapon, the ram, is also located. Assault consists in rowing straight at the enemy. Once at close quarters the ideal is to sink the enemy ship, with the ram. Next best is to grapple it and swarm aboard for hand-to-hand combat - in a technique going back to the Roman navy and the 'Raven'.

The Armada (or in full Flota Armada Invencible, Armed Invincible Fleet) is the first Spanish war fleet to consist of sailing vessels, but its composition implies the use of galley tactics. The Spanish galleons are heavy; their guns fire large cannon balls, devastating at close quarters but of limited range; and the sailors on board the warships are more than twice outnumbered by soldiers, valueless in a sea battle unless ships come alongside.

The English fleet, consisting of smaller and swifter vessels, is armed with cannon which fire a lighter ball over a greater range. And the ships are almost entirely manned by trained seamen, with only a handful of soldiers.

The English crews, with commanders such as Hawkins and Drake among them, have learnt their trade in piracy against fat Spanish vessels. Now as they manoeuvre around the Armada, bombarding it from a distance, they demonstrate that the armed man-of-war is no longer just a vessel carrying combatants. It is itself the unit with which sea battles are fought.

During the next two centuries ships become bigger, cannon power more equal, and tactics more rigid in the development of the 'line'. But the basic pattern of warfare at sea is now established until the introduction of metal-plated and steam-powered warships in the mid-19th century.

Compared to later grand battles at sea, the fight with the Armada is strung-out and scrappy. The English, under the command of Lord Howard of Effingham, attack off Plymouth on July 31, off Portland Bill on August 2 and off the isle of Wight on August 4. Their light cannon reach the Spanish ships but do little damage. The fleet safely reaches Calais, where the plan is to pick up an army from the Netherlands and to ferry it across the Channel against England. But the army has not arrived.

During the night of August 7 the English send fire ships in among the anchored fleet, causing the Spanish to cut their cables in disarray. The next day the only real engagement takes place, off Gravelines.

The Spanish run out of cannon shot first, whereupon the English sail in close enough to do serious damage. At least three ships are sunk and a great many more severely battered before the English too run out of shot. The Armada escapes into the North Sea. The Spanish commander, the duke of Medina Sidonia, cannot now return through the Channel. He attempts to take his shattered fleet round the north of Scotland and into the Atlantic.

Ships founder or are wrecked on Scottish and Irish coasts. Of the 130 vessels which sailed from Corunna in June, only 67 limp back to Spain. The English, with a very much easier return voyage to their home ports, lose not a single ship.

Dynasty in decline

Legacy of Philip II: AD 1598

Spain's war with England continues spasmodically, after the defeat of the Armada, for the last ten years of Philip II's life. During this same period the Protestant rebellion in the northern Netherlands remains unresolved. And in the early 1590s Philip intervenes in France's civil war, sending support to the Catholics who are trying to prevent Henry iv from winning the throne.

Henry's acceptance of Catholicism in 1593 removes the ostensible reason for Spanish involvement in France. In 1598 Philip II grudgingly recognizes the new French king in the peace of Vervins.

The instinct of Philip III, succeeding his father Philip II in 1598, is that of a peacemaker. He mends Spain's fances with England in the treaty of London (1604). He even achieves a spell of calm in the northern Netherlands; the Twelve Years' Truce, agreed with the United Provinces in 1609, runs its full course and puts an end to armed hostilities until 1621.

But Philip III's father leaves him one internal Spanish problem, that of the Moriscos. And this he tackles with disastrous resolution.

Moriscos: AD 1502-1609

Morisco is a derogatory Spanish term, deriving from moro - meaning Moorish and used originally of Muslims from Morocco. During the 16th century Morisco becomes applied to Muslim families who have remained in Spain by converting to Christianity.

The choice of expulsion or conversion first confronts the Muslims of Granada in 1502. It is extended by Charles V in 1525 to the rest of the kingdom. Inevitably, under this form of pressure, conversion is often half-hearted. Many Muslims families keep faith with the old religion, carrying out the rituals of Islam in private.

There are also economic, political and social aspects to the problem. Morisco communities, as often with minorities, tend to be hard-working and prosperous - provoking jealousy. In the coastal areas of Granada and Valencia they are also suspected of assisting the Muslim pirates who regularly raid from north Africa.

In addition to this, the Moriscos cause offence by behaving in their traditional fashion. Conversion does not alter a community's customs or costume. The Moriscos continue to live their separate existence, in their own way and with their own robes. To Christian Spanish eyes they still look like Muslims.

In a Spain priding itself on its Catholic fervour, at the peak of the Catholic Reformation, the appearance of the Moriscos seems an affront. In 1567 Philip II introduces a law banning their customs and their clothes. The result is a violent uprising in 1568 by the Moriscos of Granada. After much brutality it is finally suppressed in 1570.

In the aftermath of the rebellion the Moriscos are deported from Granada to other regions of Spain - a measure which makes assimilation even less likely, even though there is in most cases no racial difference between the groups. Most of the Moriscos descend from Christian families converted during the long centuries of Islam in spain.

In 1609 Philip III passes a decree (the most popular of his entire reign) ordering the expulsion from Spain of all Moriscos. It takes five years for the process to be carried out, as families are transported in galleys across the Mediterranean to the coast of north Africa.

It is calculated that 300,000 people are deported. The property which they leave behind seems at first like a welcome bonus. But these are people skilled in crafts and agriculture. Their departure does great damage to Spain's economy, just as their arrival eventually benefits north Africa.

Habsburg Spain in decline: AD 1598-1665

The reigns of Philip III and IV, spanning the first seven decades of the 17th century, constitute a peak in Spanish literature and art. At the start of the period Cervantes produces the western world's first great novel, Don Quixote. Lope de Vega and then Calderón establish the Spanish theatre. Velazquez, painter to the Spanish court, transforms his unglamorous masters into masterpieces. El Greco, Zurbaran and Murillo flesh out in glorious paint the certainties of the Catholic reformation.

Yet in the practical world of economics and international affairs the period presents a very different picture.

Where Philip ii kept the reins of government almost obsessively in his own hands, his son and grandson are much influenced by powerful favourites - known in Spanish history as validos. The favourite of Philip III is the duke of Lerma (1598-1618), while the validos of Philip IV are the duke of Olivares (1621-1643) and his nephew Luis de Haro (1643-1661).

Between them the favourites preside over a steady decline in Spain's prosperity. Economic troubles are compounded by the expulsion of the Moriscos, by inflation and by Spain's costly involvement in the Thirty Years' War. Meanwhile the monarchs create a problem for their royal line by constantly marrying within the Habsburg dynasty.

Habsburg inbreeding and Spanish succession: 17th c. AD

It is a historical truism that the Spanish Habsburgs become dangerously inbred through seeking wives from the Austrian branch of the family, and indeed the facts look startling. Three successive generations of Spanish kings (Philip III, Philip IV and Charles II) have Habsburgs as both parents.

Yet this is not as reckless as it seems. Indeed it is more a strange accident of mortality. The Habsburg mother of Philip III is his father's fourth wife. Three previous brides - successively Portuguese, English and French - bear sons who die as infants, or daughters, or no children at all. The Habsburg mother of Charles II is his father's second wife, after the death of a French princess. Fortunate austria marries: Spain marries unfortunately.

Neverthless, the fact remains that nearly all the immediate ancestors of Charles II (who succeeds to the Spanish throne in 1665) are descendants of the emperor Maximilian. The famous Habsburg jaw, visible in Maximilian and prominent in Velazquez's portraits of Philip IV, is so extreme in Charles II that it amounts to a disability - one of many, for he is sickly from birth.

Charles II marries twice but has no children and is assumed to be impotent. In his thirties he is so often ill that his early death is widely expected. With no immediate heir, but powerful claimants to his great empire, the coming crisis obsesses Europe in the 1690s. The issue will be fought out in the War of the spanish succession.


Bourbon dynasty: from AD 1700

Charles II dies in November 1700, leaving the entire Spanish inheritance to a member of the Bourbon dynasty - Philip, a younger grandson of Louis XIV. The resulting European war takes place largely in the Netherlands, Germany and northern Italy. Within Spain itself, where the 18-year-old king arrives in 1701 as Philip V, there is at first relative calm. Philip wins immediate support in the central regions of the kingdom.

But from 1704 the allies (those fighting for the Habsburgs against the Bourbons in this dynastic war) begin to make inroads on the peripheral areas of Spain.

Gibraltar is captured in 1704. In the following year the regions of the north and east (Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia) declare themselves for the Habsburg cause and are occupied by imperial troops - who even advance far enough to seize Madrid for two months during the summer of 1706.

Thereafter the Bourbon forces steadily regain control, starting with a major victory at Almansa in 1707. A succesful campaign in 1710 leaves Philip V in control of the whole of the Spanish kingdom Except catalonia - a region long inclined to independence and doing its best to seize this opportunity.

The eventual terms of the peace, agreed at Utrecht in 1713, confirm Philip V's tenure of the Spanish throne and his rule also over Spanish America (but the Spanish possessions in the Netherlands and northern Italy go to the Habsburgs).

The immediate effect of the change of dynasty in Spain is that the court and government become dominated by French advisers, sent south by Louis XIV to secure his grandson's rule. In many ways this represents an improvement, since French bureaucracy is superior to that of Spain. Moreover the support of outlying regions for the Habsburg cause provides a welcome pretext for centralization, removing the traditional liberties still enjoyed by these medieval Spanish kingdoms.

In other respects the arrival of Philip makes relatively little difference to Spain. Exceptionally religious by nature, he is at ease among the rigours of Spain's Catholicism. During his reign the Inquisition conducts as many as 728 autos-da-fé, imposing on heretics some 14,000 sentences of varying degrees of severity.

In imperial and commercial concerns Philip also follows the policy of his predecessors. Trade with the Spanish colonies is still reserved for Spanish ships, prompting massive smuggling by other maritime powers and frequent skirmishes in the Caribbean - as in the case of Jenkins' ear, which leads to war with Britain.

Family compacts: 18th century AD

From time to time during the 18th century Spain attempts an independent foreign policy (even making an alliance with Britain during the 1750s), but for the most part the Bourbon link with France proves a decisive factor. France persuades Spain to join her in a succession of wars during the century, signing agreements which become known as Family Compacts.

The first Family Compact in 1733 and the second in 1743 involve Spain as France's ally in, successively, the War of the Polish succession and the War of the Austrian succession. However Spain uses these conflicts, and the resulting treaties, mainly to secure her possessions in Italy.

By contrast the third Family Compact, signed in 1761 in the last stages of the Seven Years' War, proves a costly disaster. Its main result, for Spain, is the loss of Florida.

These events suggest that the Spanish kingdom, dominant in Europe during the 16th and much of the 17th century, is by now playing a minor role. However the Spanish empire in Latin America remains important and intact. Charles III, ruling from 1759 to 1788 with the reforming principles of an Enlightened despot, lifts Trade restrictions in Latin American ports and achieves spectacular results. European trade with Spanish America grows during the 1780s by several hundred percent.

In the same period Spain is once more engaged in war against Britain (again as an ally of France, this time in support of the American colonies). On this occasion there are certain clear benefits. Florida is sold is won back from the British in 1782, and Florida in 1783. (Later Florida is sold to the USA in 1819.)

From the 1790s and into the next century the Bourbon alliance involves Spain in yet more wars. But these now prove considerably more dangerous and costly, during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era.

Charles IV and Godoy: AD 1788-1807

Spain is singularly ill-equipped, in the person of its monarch, to cope with the complex problems arising from the French revolution and the emergence of Napoleon. In 1788, the year before the revolution, Charles IV succeeds to the throne.

He does so only because his elder brother is considered unfit to rule, but he is himself somewhat feeble - and singularly unable to stand up to his strong-willed wife, Maria Luisa of Parma. (Theirs is the royal family which stares out, gawky and rosy-cheeked, from the canvases of Goya.)

By the time Charles inherits the throne, his wife has already taken as her lover an impoverished aristocrat, Manuel de Godoy, who is a member of the royal bodyguard. Ambitious and ruthlessly self-serving, Godoy is by 1792 a field marshal, a duke, the first secretary of state and the real power in the land.

In 1793 Spain joins the first alliance of Europe's monarchies against republican France, but with little military success. A French army advances into Spain, and in 1795 Godoy makes peace in the treaty of Basel. For this his grateful king creates him Principe de la Paz (Prince of the Peace). In reality it has been a costly climb down. Santo domingo is ceded to France, though never in fact handed over.

A year later, with the 1796 treaty of San Ildefonso, Spain meekly changes sides and becomes an ally of France. This brings the enmity of Britain and a succession of disasters - the loss of Trinidad (1797) and of Minorca (1798), and defeat for the Spanish navy off Cape St Vincent (1797) and at Trafalgar (1805).

The events of 1797-8 lead to a brief decline in Godoy's prestige, with the result that Spain's feeble ceding of Louisiana to Napoleon in 1800 cannot be laid to his account. But he is back in power by 1801. Six years later, in a deal with Napoleon by which he hopes to secure for himself a large slice of Portugal, the much hated Godoy surpasses himself and brings catastrophe to his country.

Spain and Portugal: AD 1807-1809

In October 1807 Napoleon decides that the only certain method of securing the Continental system is a French occupation of Portugal. He despatches an army for the purpose and summons Spanish envoys to Fontainebleau.

In a treaty signed at Fontainebleau, on October 27, the partition of Portugal is agreed. France is to have the central section, including Lisbon and Oporto. The Algarve in the south will go to Godoy, the Spanish king's unscrupulous chief minister. The north will be granted to the young duke of Parma in return for his valuable kingdom of Etruria (or in plain terms Tuscany), which will be ceded to France.

Even before the treaty is signed a French army has entered Spain on its way to Portugal - where its imminent arrival near Lisbon causes panic. The royal family and court decide to flee for safety to Brazil, taking with them (to Napoleon's fury) the gold and silver of the national treasure. A Portuguese fleet, accompanied by a British squadron, sails from the mouth of the Tagus on 29 November 1807. The vanguard of the French army enters the capital city the next day.

It will be fourteen years before the Return to lisbon of a Portuguese monarch. But the French are to have only a very short tenure. Their intrusion launches the Peninsular war. Before a year is out, the British are in the city.

A British army lands in Portugal on 1 August 1808 under the command of Wellington (at the time plain Sir Arthur Wellesley), who wins a decisive victory over the French at Vimeiro, near Lisbon. Wellington is prevented from pursuing and further damaging the French army on the command of Hew Dalrymple, an officer senior to him who arrives just after the battle to take charge of the campaign.

By an agreement made at Sintra on August 31, Dalrymple allows the French army to withdraw from Portugal. The advantage is that the British can liberate Lisbon without further conflict. But an affronted Wellington returns home to resume a career in British politics.

Meanwhile the French are stirring up further trouble for themselves elsewhere in the Iberian peninsula. Troops move from France into northern Spain, ostensibly to support their colleagues in Portugal but looking alarmingly like an army of occupation. In February 1808 they seize Barcelona. In mid-March a force under Murat moves south towards Madrid.

This news causes Godoy to persuade his king, Charles IV, to follow the Portuguese example and flee to Latin America. But on the way south an outraged patriotic mob corners the royal party at Aranjuez. They escape with their lives only when it is agreed that Charles will abdicate in favour of his son Ferdinand, and that the hated Godoy will be imprisoned and brought to trial.

Meanwhile Spanish forces are engaging the French in northern Spain. In October John Moore, newly in command of the British army in Portugal, marches north to assist them. The French situation in Spain appears so critical that Napoleon himself arrives (on November 6) to take charge of the campaign.

By late December Moore's army, near Burgos, is in danger of being surrounded. Moore beats a hasty retreat of some 250 miles through snowclad mountains to Corunna (or La CoruÑa). A French army arrives there shortly before the British fleet sent to evacuate the troops. Moore himself dies in January 1809 in the rearguard action to cover the embarkation, but his army escapes safely back to England.

The new king immediately spoils his own chances by returning to Madrid, reaching it on March 24 - just one day after Murat has arrived and captured the city.

There follows a typical piece of power play by Napoleon. Both kings of Spain, father and son, are invited to Bayonne - just over the border in France - and are there persuaded, by a combination of trickery and duress, to abdicate in favour of Napoleon's choice for the Spanish throne. He has already selected his brother Joseph, who at present is king of Naples (a dignity now to be transferred to Murat). This is politics at its most cynical. But just a few days earlier a much more significant event has occurred in Madrid.

On May 2 a French platoon is escorting a coach containing the youngest son of Charles IV. A furious mob attacks them. The soldiers disperse the crowd with some rounds of shot, whereupon the whole of Madrid erupts in an explosion of popular rage. More than thirty French officers and hundreds of soldiers and civilians are killed or wounded before order is restored.

Murat reasserts French authority with brutal reprisals, but the event provokes a spirit of passionate resistance (famously captured in Goya's painting of a street execution, entitled 3 May 1808). This spirit spreads rapidly through Spain.

Instead of the docile monarchy of recent years, Napoleon is now confronted on his southern border by a popular uprising. His brother Joseph arrives in Madrid on July 20 to enjoy his new dignity. Two days later a French army is defeated by insurgents in Andalusia, at Bailén, with the loss or capture of some 17,000 men. By the end of the month King Joseph (nominally of Spain and the Indies) has abandoned his new capital city, withdrawing for safety's sake 150 miles northeast beyond the Ebro river.

Spain takes its place, with Portugal, as one of the theatres of the Peninsular war - which will last six years and be a constant drain on Napoleon's resources.

Cadiz and the Liberal constitution: AD 1810-1814

By 1810 French forces establish control over most of north and central Spain. The leaders of the nationalist opposition withdraw to relative safety in the south, in Cadiz, where they set up a newly elected cortes. It is a radical body in that it accomodates for the first time delegates representing the Spanish provinces in Latin America. And it provides the first clash between the two great rival political allegiances of the 19th century, Liberals and Conservatives - though in Spain at this time they are identified as Liberales and Serviles.

The Liberales easily prevail in Cadiz, and in 1812 the cortes passes a thoroughly liberal constitution.

The constitution of 1812 combines elements from Britain's constitutional monarchy with a strong dash of the idealism of the American and French revolutions. Suppressing the remnants of Feudalism in Spain and abolishing the Inquisition may be popular measures, but steps beyond this - particularly any designed to reduce the role of the church in Spanish life - are less likely to please the people. The Cadiz constitution is considerably more radical than most in Spain would wish.

When the Events of 1814 permit the return of the king, Ferdinand VII, the condition imposed by the cortes is his acceptance of the constitution of 1812.

Ferdinand VII: AD 1814-1833

Safely back on his throne, Ferdinand VII, supported by the reactionary mood in the country, reneges on his promise to the Cortes. He restores absolute rule and savagely persecutes his liberal opponents. But in doing so he provokes a chain reaction.

His behaviour alienates many royalists in Latin america and thus hastens the liberation movements which are already under way. But when Ferdinand then proposes to send an army across the Atlantic to suppress the rebellious colonists, with enthusiastic support promised by fellow rulers in the Holy alliance, the indignation in Spain is enough to prompt another successful liberal revolution in January 1820.

Ferdinand now finds himself the prisoner of a liberal faction which forces him once again to accept the constitution of 1812. This time his appeal for help to the Holy alliance is on his own behalf. Help duly arrives in 1823, in the form of an army from France. Within weeks Ferdinand is freed (he has been taken to Cadiz as a prisoner of the Cortes). After the affront of these three years, Ferdinand's persecution of the liberals is even more vindictive. It continues until his death in 1833.

The extreme swings of Ferdinand's reign set a violent precedent for Spain in the 19th century. It is a time of ceaseless struggle between rival royal lines, the regions and the centre, liberals and conservatives .

The Carlist cause: AD 1833-1876

The split within the Spanish royal family derives from the fact that Ferdinand VII has only a daughter, Isabella, who is a child of three when he dies in 1833. For most of his reign it has been assumed that he will be succeeded by his brother, Don Carlos. Carlos is even more reactionary in his views than Ferdinand, so the conflict between the two branches of the family becomes associated also with a political division within Spain.

The ancient tradition of Castile is that women can inherit (the First isabella being a notable example), but the Salic law is adopted in an act of 1713 and is then discarded again in a less authoritative Pragmatic sanction of Charles IV in 1789.

Each side can therefore claim some legal justification in the first Carlist war, which breaks out in 1833 and lasts for six years. Descendants of Don Carlos (each called Carlos in succeeding generations) keep their dynastic claim alive through a succession of abortive uprisings in the mid-19th century and another full-scale Civil war in 1872-6.

This second Carlist war takes place after the end of the reign of Isabella II, whose inheritance of the crown at the age of three has sparked the Carlist reaction. Both the regency (the regent being Isabella's mother Maria Cristina) and the reign of the adult Isabella have also seen chaotic clashes between the royal tendency towards absolute rule and the rival demands of liberal and conservative factions.

In a mounting atmostphere of discontent, a naval mutiny in Cadiz in 1868 finally sparks a nation-wide revolution. Isabella II abdicates and withdraws to France with her 10-year-old son Alfonso.

The Cortes, assembling in 1869, votes for a continuation of the monarchy under a different monarch. The Carlists naturally have their own candidate, but the wish of the majority is for a king outside the Bourbon dynasty. The crown is offered first to a Hohenzollern (an action which sparks the Franco-prussian war of 1870) and is eventually accepted by an Italian prince - Amadeo, younger son of Victor emmanuel ii.

Amadeo's arrival in December 1872 prompts the Carlists to take up arms again, with the result that the unwelcome prince abdicates two months later, in February 1873. But the Cortes, disgusted for the moment with all royal pretensions, now declares a republic.

The result is civil war. In the general chaos the republic stands no chance. In 1874 a military coup restores order and the crown is offered to the young son of Isabella II, at this stage a schoolboy in England. He returns to Spain in January 1875, as Alfonso XII. It is another year before the Carlist uprising is suppressed. But the return of a Bourbon king to the throne greatly weakens the Carlist case.

Basques and Catalans: AD 1833-1913

Strong support for the Carlist cause, from 1833 onwards, comes from the northern regions of Spain at either end of the Pyrenees - in Navarre, the homeland of the Basques, to the west, and in Catalonia to the east.

Throughout Spanish history these two regions have been much involved with neighbouring France. Life on the border, linked with each side but identifying with neither, results in a passionate sense of regional independence. Pride in a separate identity is symbolized in the fueros ('local laws'), which descend from the customs of the medieval kingdoms but are treasured now as badges of individuality within the unified nation of Spain.

A shared hostility to the central government of the kingdom makes the Basques and the Catalans support the Carlist cause in the mid-19th century. But when Carlism effectively collapses, after the end of the second Carlist war in 1876, the separatist tendency in northern Spain loses none of its intensity. It becomes, as it has remained, a central feature of Spanish political life.

A Basque Nationalist Party (Partido Nacionalista Vasco) is founded in 1894. In Catalonia there are electoral successes for the Regional League (Liga Regionalista) in 1901 and to a greater extent for Catalan Solidarity (Solidaridad Catalana) in 1907. Catalan aspirations are also reflected in deliberate links between the Catalan language and politics (see Language and nationalism).

Political action is accompanied by a great deal of violence on the streets. There are serious riots in 1902 in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, and in 1909 it takes three days of street fighting before an uprising in the city is suppressed.

In 1912 the central government offers a conciliatory measure of devolution to Catalonia. The four Catalan provinces are to be classed as separate 'commonwealths' (mancomunidades), sharing a certain degree of administrative autonomy. The measure is passed in 1913, but not before the prime minister proposing it, José Canalejas, has been assassinated by an anarchist. Regionalism is only one of Spain's many problems.

Two troubled reigns: from AD 1875

The last two reigns of the 19th century are politically tense. When Alfonso XII comes to the throne in 1875, there is already a vigorous socialist movement in the country (Spain is one of the earliest members of the First international, joining in 1869). The situation is further complicated from 1872, when half the Spanish socialists defect from Marx and adopt the anarchist principles of Bakunin.

The result is increasing violence in Spanish political life. There are attempts on the life of the king in 1878 and again in 1879, an abortive republican uprising in 1883, and an anarchist assassination in 1897 of the Conservative prime minister, Antonio Cánovas del Castillo.

Cánovas is the instigator of the system known as 'made' elections, by which the result is contrived with the king's agreement so that Conservative and Liberal administrations alternative in office. The intention is to achieve stability, but it has the effect of tarnishing political life with an aura of corruption.

The young king enjoys a somewhat higher reputation than his ministers. But he dies in 1885, three days short of his twenty-eighth birthday, leaving two daughters. A son, born six months posthumously, succeeds him as Alfonso XIII. The regency is entrusted to the infant's mother, a second Maria cristina.

Alfonso XIII: AD 1886-1923

The reign of Alfonso XIII is complicated by many long-running internal problems - separatism, continuing anarchy (there is a notorious attempt on the lives of Alfonso and his bride on their wedding day in 1906), and the difficulty of curbing the Spanish church (relations with the Vatican are entirely severed from 1910 to 1912). But even more significant during the reign are difficulties abroad.

The Spanish-american war of 1898 results in total defeat and the loss of the last remnants of Spain's empire. The outbreak of World War in 1914 reveals the dangerous split at the heart of Spain, with the nation's increasingly strong left-wing favouring the allies while the church and army are mainly pro-German.

On this occasion the split brings an advantage to Spain. The government and the Cortes are unanimous, in October 1914, in insisting upon Spanish neutrality. This is successfully maintained througout the war, in spite of the fact that German submarines sink sixty-five Spanish ships in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.

But the longest lasting problem for Alfonso and his frequently changing governments is Morocco. Spain has held territory on the north Moroccan coast around Ceuta since the 16th century, but in the late 19th century there is increasing pressure on this enclave from Berber tribes. A Berber defeat of the resident Spanish forces in 1894 causes a crisis which is only averted by a treaty with the sultan of Morocco.

In 1911 there is a clash with the imperial ambitions of the French, who are pressing westwards from Algeria. A Spanish army lands at Larache and moves east, but direct confrontation is averted by a Franco-spanish agreement in 1912.

Spain remains neutral during World War I, so the next major crisis for the country occurs in 1921 when, with the direct personal encouragement of Alfonso, a Spanish army is sent to Morocco to cope with guerrilla activities by tribesmen. The result is a humiliating defeat in a battle at Annual, to the southwest of Melilla. Heavy losses in men and equipment are followed by the suicide of the Spanish general. The government in Spain falls, but much blame attaches to the king in person. The event contributes to the emergence of Spain's first 20th-century dictatorship.

This History is as yet incomplete.
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