The Rise of the Netherlands and the Decline of Spain

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The Rise of the Netherlands and the Decline of Spain

The reputation of the Netherlands as an important country increased in

prominence during the 'early modern period' of history, that being

1500-1700. This essay intends to show that their 'rise' can be shown

in terms of both a cause and also symptomatic of Spain's decrease in

significance over the same period. The Spanish 'decline' largely

concerns the period between 1600 and 1650, when Phillip III went from

"monarch of the world"[i] (New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4

(1970), pp. 269) into a position where his country had descended into

"poverty and torpor"[ii] (NCMH, pp. 280). Meanwhile, the Netherlands

(in this essay, the term 'Netherlands' refers to the seven United

Provinces in northern Europe) "raised themselves from nothing the

challenge the massed might of the Spanish monarchy"[iii] (JH Elliott,

'Richelieu And Olivares' (1989), pp. 72).

Spain, even before 1600, had mounting debts and fiscal troubles. In

1595, the Spanish crown owed 100 million ducados to its creditors, and

their debt was estimated at 1.6 million ducados per year from 1601

onwards[iv] (NCMH, pp. 440). It had such an unreliable reputation that

moneylenders were loath to give money at less than 70% interest (note

that the Netherlands could borrow at 3%). Such a situation meant that

Spain's actions over the period should have been concentrated on

rebuilding the economy, clearing debts and strengthening the nation.

However, Spain had already amassed a global empire, which she desired

to keep. Kamen notes in 'Golden Age Spain' (1988) that "Spain, with

its small population and weak economy, did not have the res...

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pp. 4

[xv] Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, (London, 1988) pp.223

[xvi] ibid

[xvii] CR Boxer, The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800 (London, 1965),

pp. 18

[xviii] Dr. Richard Mackenney, Lecture 17: "A changing culture? The

Dutch in the 17th Century"

[xix] CR Boxer, The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800 (London, 1965),

pp. 19

[xx] JR Cooper (ed.), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4

(Cambridge, 1970), pp. 280

[xxi] Henry Kamen, Golden Age Spain (London, 1988), pp. 62

Bibliography

Boxer, CR, The Dutch seaborne empire 1600-1800, London, 1965

Cooper, JR (editor), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4, Cambridge,

1970

Elliott, JH, Richelieu And Olivares, Cambridge, 1989

Kamen, H, Golden Age Spain, London, 1988

Schama, S, The Embarrassment of Riches, London, 1988

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