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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Aragon and Catalonia offered no serious difficulty


CHAPTER XVIII

ERA OF THE CATHOLIC KINGS, 1479-1517

[Sidenote: Transition from medieval to modern Spain.]

The joint reign of Ferdinand (1479-1516) and Isabella (1474-1504), known as "the Catholic Kings," witnessed the substantial fulfilment of the aims of medieval Hispanic royalty, and at the same time began in striking fashion that complexity of life and action which characterizes the modern age. On the one hand the turbulent elements which had for so long stood for decentralization and disorder as opposed to national unity and internal peace were done away with or rendered powerless; on the other, life in its various institutional phases approximated itself in a considerable degree to that of our own times, and Spain stood forth from the domestic bickerings which had formerly absorbed her attention to enter upon the career and status of a world power. The greatest single event in the period was undoubtedly the discovery of America, from which came, directly or indirectly, Spain's principal claims to the recognition of posterity. Important only in less degree were the conquest of Granada, the establishment of the Inquisition and the expulsion from Spain of the non-Catholic elements, and Spain's entry into the maelstrom of European politics on a greater scale than ever before, through the medium of Ferdinand's intervention in Italy. Measured by the success attained in their

own day the Catholic Kings prospered in nearly everything they undertook, but the ultimate result, which could not have been foreseen at the time, was in many respects to prove disastrous to Spain herself, if, indeed, there were counter-balancing advantages and a glorious memory. The wealth and greatness proceeding from the conquest of the Americas were to be sacrificed in a fruitless attempt to gain a predominant place in Europe,--which, indeed, Spain might have had, much as England acquired it, if she had not pursued it so directly and insistently, but had been willing to devote her attention to her colonies. On the other hand, the Americas drained Spain of some of her best resources in manhood, while the Italian wars brought her into the current of the highest European civilization. These consequences, whatever attitude one may take with regard to them, did not become manifest until a much later time, but they had the most pronounced of their impulses, if not in all cases their origins, in the reign of the Catholic Kings.

[Sidenote: Nature of the union of Castile and Aragon.]

Ferdinand's accession to the crown of Aragon and the recognition of Isabella as queen of Castile did not at that time bring about a political union of the two kingdoms, and resulted in no radical change in the separate institutions of either. They did mean the establishment of consistent policies in each (especially in international affairs) which were to bring about a more effectual union at a later day and produce the Spanish nation. The first problem of the Catholic Kings was that of the pacification of their realms. Aragon and Catalonia offered no serious difficulty, but the violence of the Castilian nobility called for repression of a vigorous type. Galicia and Andalusia were the regions where such action was most imperatively needed.


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