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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Notably on the frontier of Castile and Aragon proper


Attempts

were made to encourage agriculture, but the spirit of legislative interference and the superior importance accorded the grazing industry were not conducive to progress. The menace of the _Mesta_ was responsible for the almost complete destruction of forestry and agriculture in many regions which were suitable to development in those respects, while the irrigation ditches of Andalusia and other former Moslem lands were too often allowed to decay.

[Sidenote: Vicissitudes of commerce.]

The same royal solicitude appeared, to assist and to retard commerce. Interior customs lines were to some extent done away with, notably on the frontier of Castile and Aragon proper. Shipbuilding was encouraged, but favors were shown to owners of large ships, wherefore the smaller ship traffic was damaged, at the same time that the larger boats were too big for the needs of the trade. A flourishing foreign commerce developed, nevertheless, but it was in the hands of the Jews and, after their expulsion, of foreigners of Italian, Germanic, and French extraction. Many laws were passed subjecting foreigners to annoyances, lest they export precious metal or in other ways act contrary to the economic interests of the peninsula as they were then understood. It was in this period that the commerce of the Mediterranean cities of the kingdom of Aragon sank into a hopeless decline. Other factors than those of the false economic principles of

the day were primarily responsible, such as the conquests of the Turks, which ended the eastern Mediterranean trade, and the Portuguese discovery of the sea-route to India, along with the Castilian voyages to America, which made the Atlantic Ocean the chief centre of sea-going traffic and closed the era of Mediterranean supremacy.

[Sidenote: Advance in wealth.]

Nevertheless, the net result of the period was a marked advance in material wealth,--in part, perhaps, because the false economic ideas of the Catholic Kings were shared by them with the other rulers of Europe, wherefore they did not prove so great a handicap to Spain, and, in part, because some of their measures were well calculated to prove beneficial. At this time, too, the wealth of the Americas began to pour in, although the future was to hold far more in store.

[Sidenote: Extension of intellectual culture and the triumph of Humanism.]

Brief as was the span of years embraced by the reign of the Catholic Kings it was as notable a period in intellectual progress as in other respects, bringing Spain into the current of modern life. This was due primarily to the rapid extension of printing, which had appeared in the peninsula in the closing years of the preceding period, and which now came into such general use that the works of Spanish and classical writers became available to all. Through private initiative many schools were founded which later became universities, although this activity was limited to


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