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(Text by Duane R. Hurst © 2013)

Click on a link to view its information and pictures.
Significant Event:
    Reconquista 718-1492 AD
    Spanish Armada in 1588 AD

Main Cities: Madrid
Time: 1515-1975 AD
Language: Spanish
Personage: El Cid; Philip II
Religion: Christianity
Related Country: Spain

Map of Spanish Empire
Click Map to Enlarge
Brief History:
      I have included only a few items concerning the history of this empire. A good source for more details can be found on Wikipedia or in history books.

      Previous empires that controlled Hispania were Carthage and Rome. Circa 415 AD, King Wallia established a Visigoth Kingdom that lasted from the 5th to 8th centuries AD. King Liuvigild (569-586 AD) consolidated power over the Iberian peninsula. His son, Reccared I, converted to Catholicism and ruled over the Kingdom of Toledo.

      In 711 AD, Tariq ibn Ziyad landed a 7,000-man army in Spain and triumphed at the Battle of Guadalete. Muslims continued to capture Hispania and Portugal. However, their attempt to seize land from the Franks was stopped at the Battle of Poitiers/Tours in 732 AD.

      Between 718 and 1492 AD, various Christian kingdoms of Hispania waged war against the triumphant forces of Islam. This Reconquista traditionally began with a Visigothic victory at Covadonga. The victor, Pelagius, became the first king of Asturias. The Franks under King Charlemagne helped liberate a portion of the area from Islamic control, although he kept control of Marca Hispanica (Spanish March). In 1431 AD, the forces of Castile defeated troops under the Sultan of Granada at La Higueruela.

      Christian kingdoms in northern Hispania included: Aragon (aka Crown of Aragon); Asturias; Castile; Galicia; León; Navarre; and Portugal. They frequently feuded among themselves. El Cid (1043-1099 AD) was a great champion who helped unite some Muslim kings with the Christian kingdoms against enemy sultans. He seized control of Valencia. In the 9th century AD, Berbers returned to Africa as their subjects in Hispania revolted against harsh rule. A Christian coalition later defeated the Almohad dynasty in battle at Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 AD. The Reconquista ended in 1492 AD after Ferdinand and Isabella defeated the Emirate of Granada.

      Between 1402 and 1496 AD, Spain acquired its first overseas conquest: the Canary Islands from Portugal. Portuguese forces defeated a Castilian fleet at Guinea in 1478 AD and resulted in the Peace of Alcáçovas. The treaty recognized Portugal's right over the Azores, Madeira and trade routes in Africa and the Indian Ocean. Spain maintained the Canaries and could exploit any lands west of the African coast. Isabella and Ferdinand thus sponsored exploration by men such as Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand Magellan. Columbus made four voyages to the "New World" and stimulated Spain's quest for empire. Magellan's ships circumnavigated the earth, although he died in the the Philippines during a battle with Chief Lapu Lapu at Mactan in 1521 AD. By 1515 AD Spanish settlements flourished in the Caribbean.

Conquest of Mexico:
      In 1519 AD, a Spanish expedition under Hernán Cortés originally landed at Cozumel, then proceeded to Campeche. He intended to conquer the wealthy Aztec Empire. A local king gave a slave woman named Malintzin to interpret between Cortés and the Aztecs. Cortés convinced leaders of the Totonacs at Cempoala, and eventually the Tlaxcala, to ally with him. While at Cholula, Cortés ordered a massacre of suspected enemies. The conquistadors entered Tenochtitlan as guests, but fought Aztec soldiers while Cortés made a brief return east. He and a Spanish contingent battled their way into and out of the capital during the battle of La Noche Triste. After their expulsion, 50% of the city population died from smallpox and Cortés returned with an army of 100,000 to complete the conquest by 1521 AD.

Conquest of the Incas:
      In 1532 AD, Spanish conquistadors and native allies under Francisco Pizarro defeated Incans in battle at Cajamarca. They captured Emperor Atahualpa and received a huge ransom in gold, however, Pizarro ordered Atahualpa's execution. He later conquered Cusco and ended the Incan Empire. Conquistadors founded Santiago in 1541 AD.

      In 1588 AD, Philip II determined to end piracy against his treasure ships, which Queen Elizabeth I of England sponsored. He directed a fleet of 130 ships under the command of Alonso Pérez de Guzmán (Duke of Medina) to invade England. Sea captains such as Francis Drake defeated the fleet in battle at Gravelines. Many Spaniards died of disease and their ships later sank in a storm during their return route. Philip abandoned further plans to invade England.

      Spain's "Golden Age" (16th to mid 17th century AD) was during the Habsburg reign. After Isabella's death in 1504 AD, the royal court spurned Ferdinand and selected the daughter, Joanna as queen. She later was declared insane, her husband died suspiciously, and Ferdinand ascended the throne. He waged war against Venice and France prior to his death in 1516 AD. Joanna's son, Charles I, founded the monarchy of Spain and eventually inherited Habsburg territory, becoming the most powerful ruler in Christendom and head of the Holy Roman Empire. This prompted Francis I of France to war unsuccessfully against Spain and fall captive in the Battle of Pavia. A freed Francis in 1543 AD allied with the Ottoman sultan, Suleiman, against Charles I. King Henry VIII of England allied with Spain and made gains to offset a Spanish defeat at Ceresole. In 1631 and 1632 AD, Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus won victories against Spanish troops at Breitenfeld and Lützen. After Gustavus death, Swedish forces decisively defeated a Catholic and Spanish army at Nördlingen in 1634 AD.

      Protestants weary of the Thirty Years' War received support when France, under the direction of Cardinal Richelieu, declared war on the Habsburgs and Holy Roman Empire. Spanish general Olivares launched a lightning campaign that threatened Paris. French troops succeeded in pushing Olivares back to Spain, and the Dutch navy destroyed the Spanish fleet at The Downs in 1639 AD. Between 1647 and 1652 AD, a plague killed 25% of the population in Seville and devastated the economy of Andalucia. Spain stagnated and decayed during the late 17th century AD. This situation improved in the 18th century, including the Spanish seizure of British Pensacola in 1781 AD.

      Spain suffered a major loss of Louisiana Territory to Napoléon Bonaparte in 1800 AD. He also installed his brother on the Spanish throne and conducted a costly campaign throughout the peninsula, which he later abandoned. But the war severed Spain's connections to its overseas colonies. Wars of Independence in the Americas eventually ousted Spanish control during the early 19th century AD. Revolutionaries in Latin America resisted royal control. Key leaders included: José de San Martin and Simón Bolívar.

      San Martin's first victory was at San Lorenzo in modern Argentina. He and others gained its independence from Spain. He led an army across the Andes to free Chile. He won a decisive victory in 1817 AD at Chacabuco and at Maipú in 1818 AD.

      Bolívar won a decisive battle at Boyacá, which gained independence for Colombia. His victory at Carabobo won independence for Venezuela and Ecuador. He and San Martin also helped liberate Perú.

      In 1898 AD, "Yellow Journalists" in the United States fabricated excuses for the nation to launch a Spanish-American War. Vying newspaper publishers, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, stoked war fever by falsely claiming Spanish forces blew up the battleship Maine in Havana. Battles at Manila Bay and San Juan Hill helped America take Spanish overseas possessions such as Cuba, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines.

      In 1911 AD, France and Spain agreed upon demarcation of Morocco. Spain suffered a defeat against Berbers at Annual in 1921 AD, which exposed further weakness of Spanish forces. Between 1936 and 1939 AD, a Spanish Civil War resulted in general Francisco Franco seizing control of Spain.

© Page Publisher: Duane R. Hurst