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A History of Spain by Charles E. Chapman

Sidenote Causes assigned by later writers


Contemporary opinions as to the causes of Spain's economic decline.]

The fact of Spain's economic decline has perhaps been pointed out with sufficient clearness. It is now pertinent to sum up the causes which had produced it. According to Altamira there was "a great variety of causes, accumulated upon a country which entered the modern age with weak and incipient economic energies, a country whose governments let themselves be dragged into an imperialistic policy (in great part forced upon them by problems traceable to Ferdinand the Catholic and the fatal inheritance of Charles I), neglecting, more for lack of means than intentionally, those measures which could best contribute to better the productive power and well-being of the country." This is an epitome not only of the causes for Spain's economic decline in this period but also of modern Spanish history. It places the fault where it belongs, on Spanish imperialism with its train of costly wars, a policy which Spain might have followed so far as the Americas were concerned, but which proved an impossible strain on her resources when carried beyond the Spanish peninsula into Europe. This was one of the principal causes assigned at the tune. Some others may also be enumerated. The increase in the _alcabala_ and in other taxes was often mentioned as a principal cause, although it is easy to see how this might have been a result of the warfare. In like manner another group of causes set forth

at that time might well have been results of the economic decline, such as the following: emigration to the colonies; the lack of government aid to industries; the invasion of foreign goods and foreigners into Spain; and the decline in population. Other causes alleged by contemporaries and deserving of prominent mention, though less important than that of the European wars, were these: the repugnance of Spaniards for manual labor; bad financial administration by the government; the prodigality of the kings in granting favors and exemptions; the governmental practice of fixing the prices of agricultural products; the evil of absentee landlordism, especially in the case of the _latifundia_, which were not developed to the extent of their resources; waste of the means of production in luxury; the great number of convents and monasteries; and the exemptions enjoyed by a vast number of individuals.

[Sidenote: Causes assigned by later writers.]

Later writers have put emphasis on other matters. Some present-day historians assign the expulsion of the Moriscos as the principal cause of the economic decline. It did leave many trades without hands, and temporarily depopulated whole districts, but it seems hardly accurate to regard it as anything more than one of many contributory causes. Writers of the seventeenth century were impressed by its religious and political advantages, and do not seem to have regarded it as of serious economic import. The economic effects of the conquest of the Americas have also

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