Spanish History

Spanish History
  • Prehistory and Protohistory
  • Ancient History
  • From Carthage to Roman Hispania
  • Visigothic Spain
  • Muslim Spain and the Reconquest
  • Lower Middle Ages
  • Imperial Spain
  • Discovery of the Americas
  • 18th Century Spain
  • Effects of the French Revolution
  • The Second Republic and Civil War
  • Restoration to Democratic Rule

18th Century Spain

The War of Succession to the Spanish Crown (1701-1714) marked the end of the Habsburg dynasty, when the Bourbons took over. Phillip of Borbon, newphew to French King Louis XVI succeeded to the Spanish throne upon Charles II's (the last heirless Habsburg) death.

Phillip began his reign in Spain and began notable internal development. The last traces of medieval feudalism were all brought under strong, centralized control as the King began organizing his empire based on Louis XVI's absolutism. The government became more effective as privileges for the nobility and the church were greatly reduced. This was a time of cultural and economic growth, and the population in Spain also increased considerably.

In regards to foreign relations, Spain tended to side with France against their long-standing rival, Great Britain. In 1713 the Treaty of Utrecht had formalized the British occupation of the Rock of Gibraltar, giving rise to an anachronistic colonial situation which still persists today and constitutes the only dispute between Spain and the United Kingdom. Spain sided with France against Austria in the Wars of Polish and Austrian Succession in the mid 18th Century, and later in 1762, Spain participated in the Seven Years' War in alliance with France against Great Britain.

Under the reign of Charles III, Spain flourished and regained some of its former greatness. A thorough reorganization of Spain was undertaken, with changes in agriculture and city planning. Madrid was turned into a modern city boasting agriculture that was on a par with cities such as Paris, Naples and Milan. Other innovations included running water, a sewage system, street lighting and a splendid court. The Enlightenment was sweeping through Europe and Spain 's intellectuals were well caught up in the movement. Democratic ideas sown by the French Revolution gradually began to take hold and fear that too much revolutionary ideology would take over the country resulted in repressive policies.

After briefly siding with France , and alliance which ended with the British defeat of a Franco-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar, Napoleon's troops invaded Spain. In the bloody six-year war which followed - the Peninsular War, known in Spain as the War of Independence - guerrilla tactics and a scorched-earth policy were applied. Spain's economy soon lay in ruins as ties with North America diminished, In 1799 Napoleon began to effectively control Spain which by that time was little more than a mere French puppet.