Spanish Empire—Bourbon Spain
1712 to 1931
Peace of Utrecht to Spanish Civil War
Era Summary—Bourbon Spain
Spanish Crown descends to the Bourbons—On the death ofthere widespread concern that the Spanish crown would fall to the descendants of Louis XIV, the powerful monarch of France, upsetting the balance of power in Europe. As a result, most of western Europe was drawn into the (1700-1714), between France and an Austrian-British alliance. The war failed to prevent a Bourbon monarchy in Spain, but did limit the expansion French influence. The Bourbon Kings were granted rule of much of the Iberian Peninsula, and maintained the Spanish Empire overseas, but they lost control of formerly Hapsburg territories in Italy and Northern Europe. It was finally agreed that the Spanish crown would descend to , a grandson of Louis XIV, but that the two thrones of France and Spain should never be united.
The Catholic Church held great tracts of land in Spain and was a prime target for modernist reformers. Confiscation of church property, so that it could be put to "better use" was a primary objective for progressive administrators andwas an "enlightened despot" whose administration was full of such schemers. As a result of much intrigue, both within the state houses of Europe and the church itself, the Spanish government under Charles III broke faith with the Jesuits, who had done so much to Christianize Spain's American colonies, and helped suppress the order (1773). All Jesuits were forced out of the dominions of Spain and their properties were split between local governments and religious orders in better favor with the Spanish court.
The Peninsular War in Spain— At about the same time the rumblings of the French Revolution were felt in France, the Spanish government fell into the hands ofand her deplorable minister , who cravenly submitted to the demands of Napoleon. The Spanish people, however, objected with great vigor to the tyrant and rose against him when he invaded Spain and put his brother on the throne. At the Battle of Bailen an inexperienced and ill-equipped Spanish force surrounded and defeated a French army, to the suprise of all of Europe. Napoleon responded by attempting to crush the insolent Spaniards, but the whole country rose againt him. In the which followed, the Britain joined forces with Spain to oppose Napoleon. Unfortunately, the British supported the liberal rather than the traditional faction in Spain, so many Spaniards fought as guerillas rather than serve under British command. For four years Spain was ravaged by war and during this time the Spanish colonies of Latin America took the opportunity to declare their independence.
As Napoleon's empire began to collapse, the Peninsular war was brought to a close andwas restored to the throne. Unfortunately this brought little peace. Spain was still so divided between traditionalists and modernists that it was nearly ungovernable. While traditionalists had most of the population on their side, money and foreign influence was on the side of the modernists, so the liberals gradually gained strength. In 1820 there was a liberal coup d'etat in Spain, and shortly afterward conservative and modernist factions in Mexico united to declare independence. The alliance broke down quickly, however, and Mexico suffered a century of civil war. The liberal reign in Spain was short lived and in 1823 Ferdinand was restored to the throne. He remained in power until his death in 1833, but in the meantime managed to displease everyone so that he was distrusted by all sides.
The Carlist Wars—A Divided Country—Before 1830, Ferdinand had no heir so the throne was set to pass to his brother, Don Carlo, a traditionalist. In order to prevent this, the liberals passed a law allowing the crown to pass to Ferdinand's infant daughter,. This led to a long-running conflict which came to be known as the . The First Carlist War lasted from Ferdinand's death in 1833 until Don Carlos went into exile in 1843, and it was during this period that the regents for Isabel's government allowed the confiscations of a great deal of Church property. This was a strike against the Church, which supported the Carlists in the dispute, but it also served to enrich and empower a new generation of landowners and administrators who benefited from the confiscations.
About the time the first Carlist War ended Isabella was declared sovereign, but for most of her reign the government remained in the hands of ministers who attempted to maintain order by appeasing both conservatives and progressives. Isabella governed poorly, sometimes favoring traditionalist causes, but tending toward decadence in her personal life. Her court was filled with intrigue and corruption, and she was deposed by another liberal coup in 1868.
Constitutional Monarchy——For the following fourty-five years, Spain was ruled as a constitutional monarchy under Alfonso XII, and later under his son Alfonso XIII. The strife between modernists and conservatives continued unabated, but the popularity of both Alfonsos helped to unify the country somewhat. For most of this period the government was run by ministers who systematically rigged elections and alternated power between two political parties. This helped suppress the creation of a genuinely populist political movement, and also avoided accountabililty for unpopular measures.
Weakened by nearly a century of civil wars, a corrupt government, and widespread resistence to modernization, the country was in no condition to defend itself when the United States declared war on Spain in 1898. The justification for thewas that Spain had cruelly repressed peasant rebellions in Cuba and the Philippines. Both rebellions, however, were orchestrated by American-backed secret societies with the express purpose of overthrowing Spanish rule, and making her colonies protectorates of the United States. Predictably, Spain suffered a humiliating defeat, but the disaster had a silver lining. The fact that Spain had a weak navy, was financially exhausted, and was no longer an imperial power helped her remain neutral during World War I. This improved her condition somewhat, especially relative to those portions of Europe devasted by the Great War.
The Spanish Civil War—The conflict between traditionalists and liberals continued for the first decades of the twentieth century. In 1921 a coup broke out and a military dictatorship ruled until 1930. Soon after, Alfonso XIII went into exile and a Second Republic was attempted, but this only worsened the long-running dispute. When liberals were in power they confiscated Church property and attempted to secularize the country, and when conservatives were elected to undo the "reforms" the left responded with strikes and uprisings. Both left and right were composed of various factions with irreconcilable goals so there was little hope of peace or unity no matter who was in power. Eventually, however, a coalition of left and center managed to wrestle power from the conservatives, and shortly afterward a military coup led by Francisco Franco ushered in a bitter civil war.
The(1936-39) was fought between the conservative Nationalist Party and left-wing Republicans, but various international political movements that were active throughout Europe at the time (Communists, fascists, socialists, anarchists, etc.) became involved in the struggle, particularly on the side of the left. The struggle for power among Republicans ended up helping the Nationalists and the conservative party prevailed after years of brutal conflict. The Spanish Civil war ended just as the second world war began and once again Spain benefitted by its neutrality during a conflict that engulfed almost all the rest of Europe.
Franco ruled Spain as a dictator for nearly four decades, but his rule was relatively mild, and Spain transitioned peacefully to a constitutional monarchy in 1974.
|Grandson of Louis XIV who was recognized as the first Bourbon King of Spain after the War of the Spanish Succession.|
|Spanish statesman active during the late reign of Louis XIV and the War of the Spanish Succession.|
|Queen of Philip V who, with Cardinal Alberoni, ruled the Spanish court in the early 18th century.|
|Enlightened' King of Spain who tried to modernize Spain. Attempted financial reforms and suppressed the Jesuit order.|
|Bourbon king of Spain who supported the reforms of his chief minister Ensenada.|
|Spanish secretary of State under Ferdinand VI. Promoted peace, internal reform, and public works.|
|Notorious bourbon Queen of Charles IV, who promoted her incompetent favorite Godoy to prime minister.|
|Bourbon king, restored to the throne of France after the Napoleonic Wars, refused to work with liberal constitution.|
|Decadent minister, favorite of Spanish queen. Blamed for fall of the Bourbon monarchy by acquiescing to Napoleon.|
|Spanish noble from Aragon who courageously defended Saragossa from a French siege during Napoleonic Wars.|
|Heroine of the siege of Saragossa. Behaved heroically under fire. Later joined Wellington's troops as an officer.|
|Courageous and loyal Basque general who commanded the traditionalist troops during the First Carlist War.|
|Brother of Ferdinand VII and rival claimant to the Spanish throne who initiated the Carlist Wars.|
|Queen regent of Spain who championed the cause of her daughter Isabella II against the Carlists.|
|19th century queen of Spain who lived a life of scandal and dissipation and was eventually deposed.|
|Liberal, anti-clerical General who opposed the Carlists, and briefly ruled as regent of Spain before being exiled.|
|Son of Isabell II to took the throne after a coup d'etat overthrew the First Republic. Died suddenly shortly thereafter.|
|1704||Loss of Gibralter to the British|
|1714||brought to a close, retains the throne|
|1718||Spain loses War of Quadruple alliance, surrenders Italian territories|
|1727||Spain fails to retake Gibralter during War with England|
|, Florida lost to Spain.|
|1759||ascends throne and attempts "modern" reforms.|
|1773||Suppression of the Jesuits|
|1778||Spain joinsin order to fight against Britain.|
|1788||Spain falls under control of queenand .|
|1808||over-runs Spain, initiates|
|1810||South American governments declare independence from Spain.|
|1814||is restored to the throne. Refuses liberal constitution.|
|1817||Much of South America lost to Spain after the Battle of Chacabuco|
|Liberal coup d'etat briefly establishes a republican government|
|1821||Mexico declares independence from Spain.|
|1823||Peru and Ecuador win independence from Spain|
|1823||Ferdinand VII, supported by France, is restored to the throne.|
|, Traditionalists seeks to place on the throne|
|1835||Ecclesiastical confiscations—Monastic orders dissovled, property confiscated.|
|1843||ascends to throne of Spain at age 13.|
|1846||Second Carlist War|
|1868||Isabella II deposed, exiled to France|
|1869||Liberal constituional monarchy attempted under Amedeus of Savoy|
|1873||First Spanish Republic attempted, collapsed almost immediately.|
|1874||raised to the throne of Spain|
|1898||, Cuba and Philippines lost to Spain.|
|1931||Second Spanish Republic quickly descends into anarchy.|
|Nationalist victory in the|
Recommended Reading—Bourbon Spain
Read chapters from "core" texts before reviewing study questions.
Core Reading Assignments
|Ober - Spain: A History for Young Readers||The House of Bourbon to The Treaty of Peace (10)|
|Horne - Story of the Greatest Nations: Spain||Spain Under the Bourbons to The New Monarchy (4)|
|Bonner - A Child's History of Spain||Philip the Fifth to Spain in Our Day (12)|
|Abbott - The Romance of Spanish History||The Spanish Bourbons to The Revolution (4)|
|Morris - Historical Tales: Spanish||Elizabeth Farnese to Manila and Santiago (6)|
|Abbott - Joseph Bonaparte||entire book|