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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Even in the era of greatest industrial expansion


scale, and many other articles,

such as hats, gloves, soap, leathers, arms, and furniture were also made. Grazing and fishing were notably productive industries. When Philip II ascended the Spanish throne in 1556, it is said that the corporation of the _Mesta_ possessed seven million sheep. Part of the wool which they produced was supplied to Spanish manufacturers, though other sources were also drawn upon by the makers of woollen goods, but vast quantities of wool were sent abroad. In 1512 about 50,000 quintals were exported; in 1557 some 150,000; and in 1610 the amount had reached 180,000 quintals. The whale-fisheries off the northern and northwestern coasts of Spain, at that time a rich field for this occupation, and the catching of tunny-fish in the Mediterranean furnished profitable employment to the people of the coasts, who also made voyages to distant waters, even to Newfoundland, on fishing ventures. The wars of the reign of Philip II and the scarcity of boats soon tended to check this phase of economic expansion. Mining produced but little, in part because the possessors of _latifundia_--nobles and churchmen--did not care to develop their estates in this respect and in part because private individuals generally could not be certain that they would be allowed to enjoy any profit they might make. Philip II, desirous of remedying this situation, incorporated all mines into the crown, and encouraged prospecting for mineral wealth, though exacting certain tributes from those who should discover and work
mines, but even under these circumstances little was done.

[Sidenote: Relative character of Spanish industrial prosperity.]

[Sidenote: Its duration in time.]

There has been a tendency to exaggerate the state of prosperity to which Spain attained and to treat it as if it suddenly collapsed. In fact Spain's industrial wealth was only great by comparison with what it once had been and with what it was presently to be in the period of decline. The manufacture of cloth in the entire kingdom in the most flourishing epoch did not equal the output of the single city of Bruges. That the growth of manufacturing was only ephemeral and did not take root in the peninsula is attested by the fact that it was usually necessary, even in the era of greatest industrial expansion, to depend upon imports to supply Spain's needs, while the considerable exports of raw materials, especially wool, show that the domestic demand could not have been great. Undoubtedly a good industrial beginning was made, which might have resulted in the economic independence of Spain. It did not continue, however, and the question arises: How long did the era of relative industrial prosperity endure? A precise answer is impossible, because some industries flourished longer than others, or the same industry prospered in one place after it had ceased to do so in another. Conflicting accounts began to appear about the middle of the reign of Charles I, and even in the first half of the seventeenth century there were documents which testified to instances of prosperity. Speaking generally, the decline may be said to have made itself felt in the reign of Philip II and to have become clearly apparent by the middle of the reign of Philip IV.


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