Causes of Spanish Empire Decline
The reign of Spanish Empire was considered a growth of political power and a sign of prestige especially in the 16th century. However, during the 17th century, many writers and political experts considered it a period of decline for the empire because of a number of factors including
Signing of a twelve year truce with the Dutch by Spain in 1609- This was a humiliating agreement for the Spanish as it acknowledged Dutch independence.
Spanish infantry also affected in 1643 leading to a major defeat for the Spanish as they were decimated at the battle of Rocroi, in Northern France by the French forces. This is an event that damaged the reputation of Spain and contributed to the decline of the empire.
In 1659, the Spanish had to cede territories of Roussillon and Cerdagne to France
The Franche-Comte in 1674 was also invaded by France and Spain had to officially recognize its loss in 1678.
There was also internal separatist Spanish in Aragon in 1648 and in Andalusia as well as a separatist rebellion in Naples between 1647 and 1648. These events played a role in the decline of Spanish empire and its reign.
In 1640, a major event that played a crucial role in the decline of the empire occurred. The Catalans in Portugal and Catalonia rebelled because they were tired of Castilians and demanded to fight the French. They also rebelled because they feared the loss of their local laws of fueros which their strong man, Castile had proposed in 1624.
Catalonia was therefore annexed by the French as Castile’s efforts to crush it failed. As a result, the Castilians and Castilian forces were fought allowing the Catalans to regain their independence in 1668. This was one of the major events during the Spanish reign as it marked the end of Castilian dominance over the Portuguese for the past 88 years.
Similarly, things overseas got worse and did not favor the Spanish empire. Spanish treasure fleets were constantly harassed by the Dutch and Spanish territories faced constant threats. In 1628, the Dutch captured an entire Spanish fleet as it prepared to cross the transatlantic. In 1656 and 1657, the English also laid a lot of waste to the fleet.
Additionally, trading posts in Brazil and Dutch forts in the country and in India and Indonesia threated Portuguese interests. This led to the decline of the empire as it forced the unity between Spanish and the Portuguese.
The other reason that contributed to the decline of the Spanish empire is that Spain lost its precious land overseas. The English seized Jamaica and as a result, Spain was forced to recognize English occupation of the Island between 1667 and 1670. Later on in 1697, France took over the Island of Hispaniola, today popularly known as Haiti and Dominican Republic.
Therefore, the 17th century marked the decline of the Spanish empire and Spanish hegemony. The trend continued through the 18th and 19th centuries as England and France planned for more imperial adventures. The empire disintegrated and by the end of the 17th century, Spain shifted powers to France.