Best Economic options for Spanish Empire?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by DominusNovus, Jul 11, 2018.

  1. DominusNovus Humbled by Fate

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    Once Spain had its mountain of gold in their newly conquered territories, what would their best course of action be? Their actual policies left much to be desired, obviously.

    Ideally, we should look at this from the point of view of what was within the economic worldviews of 16th century people, though there are quite a few options within that range.
     
  2. Dunning Kruger Often Wrong But Never in Doubt

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    Best options within the realm of what was realistically feasible? Or best option handwaving away all the barriers to change that were inherent to Spain?
     
  3. AussieHawker Blackfyre Minion

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    Not be involved in expensive foreign policy adventures. Spain as a nation doesn't have a real interest in the Netherlands. So keep a native Iberian dynasty, or maybe one closer to Spain's interests like Italy. That is a real big thing.
     
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  4. IamtheEmps Well-Known Member

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    Invest in Spain, and don't piss away all your cash on Irrelevant Stuff like Swamp Germans and being Holy Roman Emperor
     
  5. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    it became a trope, but at some point people decided that proofs weren't that needed. We know that american metal didn't made it to european coinage until the XVIIIth (most of metal carried in Europe was thesaurized by bankers in exchange of financing the cost of habsburgs' wars).
    Not that this gold and silver didn't provoked, indirectly, a price inflation but it was already going on by the early XVIth, and the spanish and central european mines were already going trough an important exploitation.

    The answer is maybe less economical, than geopolitical.
    Most the the cost of the aformentioned wars wasn't as much against Protestants and the Empire, but against England, France and Turks. You need to have Spain either NOT part of the habsburg hegemony, IMO, to spare Spain significant expense, and possibly butterflying away Ottoman rise. France and Ottomans playing a little game called "Let's dry Habsburg's treasury white" or as Francis I said himself.

    I cannot deny that I wish to see the Turk all-powerful and ready for war, not for himself – for he is an infidel and we are all Christians – but to weaken the power of the emperor, to compel him to make major expenses, and to reassure all the other governments who are opposed to such a formidable enemy.

    You mean like the harbour of Antwerp whom revenues were approximatly the same per year than the mines of Potosi?
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2018
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  6. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Most of that gold had been immediately spent on paying part of the existing state debts and the rest was spent on buying the necessities produced elsewhere and expenditures related to the "global policies" of Charles V and Phillip II (who was forced to declare numerous bankruptcies) .

    From the "Spanish" perspective (aka, perspective of Charles V and Phillip II) there was no need to do anything because they also owned the Netherlands (and later added Milan), the most developed and prosperous region in Europe and there was no problem in spending American gold and silver there. Spain was supplying the military cadres and the schema was working. More or less and for a while. The problem was that the Hapsburg government in the Netherlands was not free to raise taxes and when it tried, the provinces rebelled with a religious issue being added to the picture.

    Probably, with MUCH more flexible rulers the Spanish Hapsburgs could try to do what the Spanish Bourbons did: import foreign specialists (regardless religion), minimize international involvement and try to build up Spanish own production of the goods.
     
  7. AussieHawker Blackfyre Minion

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    Doesn't really matter what the revenue is, if you have to spend more to hold on to it. And all that existing revenue reduces the need for internal development, leaving Spain economical backwards.
     
  8. Draeger Well-Known Member

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    LSCastilina still dropping in with those savage knowledge bombs as per always.

    The actual impact of the influx of silver into the European economy, as was said above, wasn't felt until China starting spending the silver it had traded for from the Spanish on European finished goods in the late 18th/early 19th century. Europe had silver for millennia before Spain started mining it en masse, and the inflation from that didn't topple the empires du jour. What toppled Spain (and pretty much every empire before it) was a combination of massively expensive wars, corruption/waste, and enough hungry poor people saying "no mas".

    The quote of Francis I above is as telling as it is accurate---the power and wealth of the Habsburgs in the 16th and 17th centuries really cannot be understated. Philip II's state went bankrupt FIVE separate times, and that was on TOP of a debt of 36 million ducats and an annual deficit of 1 million that he inherited from his dad, and yet they just kept on spending. For these mythically imperious men and their successors, money, or the means of procuring it, may as well have been as the leaves on all the trees populating their globe-spanning empire.

    It can be said that the economic decline of the Spanish Empire was a self-fulfilling prophecy; that the proportions it reached would have been impossible without all that expense, and yet it was that expense that doomed it. What parts of it that didn't declare independence, some of whom out of sheer necessity, became carrion to be picked apart by their less-wealthy, yet more fiscally-sound neighbors; only to be lost again once those neighbors trod down the same path themselves (see: France).

    You want Spain to 'live long and prosper'? Butterfly away the Habsburgs. It won't be as great or big of an empire, but it might last longer.
     
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  9. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    Netherlands wasn't that much of a financial drain until the late XVIth century, though : Philipp II's policies (and the cost of the first operation against rebels) were a game-changer (altough less due to the political decisions, than how they were enacted).

    @Janprimus certainly could precise more things, but I don't see Philipp II giving Netherlands due to both revenues that he took from it (when Spain was desesperate for sweet cash, to the point reopening old mines in the peninsula) and also due to Philipp conviction of his own legitimacy as sovereign of Netherlands, which was as much as Spain the symbolic core of his sovereignity.
     
  10. alexmilman Well-Known Member

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    Someone with "fewer" principles than Phillip perhaps could be able to handle situation better. IIRC, his half-sister Margaret of Parma, governor of the Netherlands, was advocating a more flexible course but Phillip would have nothing of it. Sending the Duke of Alba, a great general but a person absolutely inflexible in carrying what he considered to be his duty, was a recipe for coming disaster.

    Anyway, the Hapsburg rulers had not been absolute monarchs in the Netherlands even if Charles V moved toward centralization of their administration. But while administration in general may not be a critical problem and even the religious issue could be taken under control, the enforced taxation definitely was a trigger. As an idle thought, nowadays citizens of the independent Netherlands are paying up to 51.95% of income tax, up to 21% in VAT on non-foods and luxuries and up to 9% on food and essentials, plus municipal property tax, plus 30% of "wealth tax" so perhaps they were too rush to rebel against the 10% sales tax. :winkytongue:
     
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  11. Gloss Well-Known Member

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    Talking about Spain itself, how would one improve urbanization? Now I'm not fully sure of the credibility of the estimations, but it seems like for most of this time period the Spanish cities were individually smaller than cities like Seville, Cordoba and Granada under Muslim rule, what was the reason behind that, especially considering Portugal, the Netherlands and even England all grew during this period?
     
  12. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    @Gloss

    Well, plague and late medieval crises are good reason : some cities only recovered and outgrew medieval apogee in Western Europe from the XVIIth onwards.
    But for Andalusia, another obvious reason was the loss of their political and cultural role at the benefit of Mediterranean coast and Toledo which itself declined after Madrid replaced it as political center.

    Seville, on the other hand, didn't declined before the XVIIth century and had tens of thousands of inhabitants until then. The development of Cadix, while the city itself existed during Arabo-Andalusian times, owes much to Castillan period.
    And of course, you had an important urban development in Levante coast.
    So, really, I would put it in perspective, rather than some general urban decline, mostly a political and economical regional perspective.
     
  13. Gloss Well-Known Member

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    What do you mean by late medieval crisis?

    I mean I get Cadiz partially replacing the smaller size of Christian Seville or Madrid replacing Toledo, but what is replacing Granada or even pre-Tifna Cordoba?
     
  14. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    Plague, wars, climatic changes, etc. The kind of stuff which hardly improve demographics, and particularily in Spain the antijudaic and antiislamic policies following troubles or revolts for the later.

    Sevilla was one of the main cities of Castille, both demographically and economically. I'm not sure what you mean by "smaller size" giving it was on par with Italian most dynamic cities in Late medieval and Renaissance period. Andalusia didn't became some sort of dark pit of humanity after the reconquista because it was the reconquista.

    Granada owed much of its importance to its political role (court, but also centre for Arabo-Andalusian refugees). It's a bit like asking what replaced Nancy after Lorraine was swalloed up by France : it's unanswerable.
    When Granada was conquered, it already lost its importance as middle-man hub with Maghrib and Africa since decades.

    Again, let's compare what's comparable : Cordoba was both a political and economical center (and quickly, really quickly declined after the fall of the Caliphate due to the first part) of the first order. Christian Spain in Middle-Ages never really went on the same level, compared to other places in Europe. That being said, centers as Lisbon or Valencia (I said Barcelona by mistake above, sorry) weren't exactly backwater dumps (the first going from several ten of thousands to more than 100,000 inhabitants in the XVth/XVIth centuries, the second being one of the main Mediterranean cities before the discovery of Americas).µ

    I'm under the impression that you think the fall of Islamic Spain was the fall of a develloped and urbanised southern Spain. It was not.
     
  15. Gloss Well-Known Member

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    I know Seville was still the biggest city, but from Chandler's "3000 years of urban growth" it says that it was smaller than Muslim Seville during the reconquista(1020-1250) outside half a century between 1600 and 1650.
    I'm not saying it became a desolated area, but if the numbers are true it leaves me confused; I get that between 1300-1500 there were plagues, famines and the black death, but later on I would have imagined the urban population of such coastal settlement to surpass high medieval numbers like they did elsewhere.

    And it's not even like internally to the Spanish empire the trend was the same, cities like Naples grew throughout the period and in Iberia you have a relatively sizeable Lisbon during this period as well, so I'm left wondering why did so much of Europe grow in its urban settlements(even pre-colonial England/London) while Spain itself, despite taking over the bulk of the 16th century colonial opportunites, ultimately barely rebounded to high medieval numbers throughout the 1500-1700 period.

    Maybe Granada and Cordoba were decades long anomalies with their own specific set of circumstances behind it, but I still don't get why didn't Seville reach enormous sizes either when it was an hub for new world shipments.
     
  16. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    Chandler's estimations aren't reliable datas, to be honest. Not that his work is sloppy, but he had to work with very different stats and ways to account depending of cultures and periods. His work is interesting while we compare, say, Cordoba and Palermo in the XIth century, but using it anachronically is something I wouldn't do myself.
    That being said, Seville's golden age (demographically wise) is generally considered being the Late Middle-Ages and Renaissance.

    it did not elsewhere systematically : Paris reached its medieval apogee in the early XIVth and didn't really recovered similar numbers before the XVIth. Florence possibly didn't catched up numbers of his medieval apogee before the XXth century. Milan didn't before the XIXth.
    Of course there's exceptions as Constantinople/Stamboul, but they beneficied from pretty much good context.

    I think you're holding up late medieval and renaissance Andalusia to quite hard standards, especially when some cities there as Sevilla did met these : we're talking, I must stress it again, of ten of thousands, possibly more than one hundred of thousands, on par with Lisbon.

    Because, again, urban growth isn't just a matter of economical importance before the Industrial Revolution, but also of political matters. Rome is pretty much the clear cut exemple of this.
     
  17. Gloss Well-Known Member

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    Weird, that's in direct contradction with what Chandler presents, I mean it's not like Seville grew way past its Crhstian medieval numbers but he claims they were still a bit higher.

    I'm doubtful that Florence remained smaller until the 20th century, as far as I know its peak population was at around 80k to 120k, which as far as I know it reached during the early 19th century. Milan as well, I would need to compare to other researches or estimations, but it appears that the population rebounded relatively quickly(130k was the peak?).
    For Paris it's a good rebuttal, but at least France has reasons for that, from religious strife and what not; Spain though, despite having its fair share of rebellions, expulsion and so on still wasn't really worse than most of Europe, plus the areas most Affected by explulsions, like Valencia, are those that you classify as being where the main economical centers relocated anyway.

    The cityy wasn't small by any means but I feel like its potential was untapped, be it for economical, social or political reasons.


    You mean papal Rome or ancient Rome? In any case could the revolt of the comuneros and other similar group all throughout Spain play a role in changing the social dynamics?
    I'm not aware of anything in particular that stifled growth, I heard theories that say that "absolutism" stiffled economical development by means of heavy taxation, but it doesn't seem credible or universally applicable, Spain was far from being a centralized state anyway.
     
  18. GauchoBadger Gang Weeder (in a society)

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    How much help could the Jews have provided for Spain if they hadn't been expelled in 1492?
    Sephardi Jews were instrumental in developing trade in the city of Thessalonica on the other side of the Mediterranean, so, perhaps staying in Spain could be beneficial for the country, if they can stomach the social stigma and pressure to convert. This requires some hindsight on the part of Fernando and Isabel, though.
     
  19. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    He didn't presents as much as he tried to estimate populations giving different datas. It's useful for comparison as long interpreted datas are roughly the same (I suspect, without any certainty,, that he used ratio of mosque and other public places for Islamic Sevilla, and fiscal notes for the XVth for exemple). Now, if you need confirmation about Sevilla's population, there's this.

    Indeed, another mistake : still, it doesn't really go in the sense of "others cities quickly recovered".

    Somewhere between 100k and 130k, which was not reached before the XIXth (altough you had an urban growth in the XVIIth that ended before meeting the same population, tough, due to the plagues of the period (which also did a number on Sevilla)

    Except that it recovered its medieval number by the early XVIth, before the wars of religion. Not that the losses due to that aren't notable, but it's probably more refugees than anything, giving the losses are no longer discernable in the XVIIth (less so than for the revolutionary period, in fact.

    Both, actually : Rome's demographical importance was particularily tied to being a political center (if not just that), and Papal Rome couldn't even in its wildest dreams compete with that or even cities in Italy. Economical role before the XVIIth only plays so much part.
     
  20. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    Not that much, altough noticable enough (a temporary regional crisis was considered a fair enough tradeback).
    Jewish communities in Spain didn't really played a major economical role at this point. The expulsion of Moriscos was much more economically detrimential, especially for the cash-crop economy of Aragon.

    Apart from the obviou immorality of such expulsions, wheater Jews, Moriscos or Hugenots, their economical impact tends more often than not to be overestimated. A bit like thinking Ireland would be a superpower because of the impact of the migration, if you will.
     
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