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Assess the Successes of the Catholic Monarchs

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Introduction

Assess the Successes of the Catholic Monarchs The state of the Hispanic kingdoms in 1469 was such that Isabella and Ferdinand would inevitably have a sizeable legacy to contend with. Consequently a number of short-term measures were necessary yet provided problems to the monarchs in the future years of their reigns. In assessing their successes we must therefore consider these and the effect they were to have on their policies. To a certain extent however it suited Isabella to exaggerate the problems she faced in that contemporaries would hold a more favourable opinion of her. The most significant legacy of Henry IV was the issue of succession and his ambivalent statements over who was heir to the Castilian throne. In 1468 Henry acknowledged his half-sister Isabella as heir and accepted her marriage to Ferdinand of Aragon. However only months later Henry swapped allegiance to his daughter Joanna. The issue divided the nobility in its support and civil unrest plagued the country for the next ten years. That in December 1474 Isabella was crowned Queen of Castile and by February had the support of most Castilian cities is testament to her political ability and Ferdinand's military leadership. ...read more.

Middle

The state of agriculture during the reign of the Isabella improved little. The dominance of sheep industry over arable farming, and the privileges it enjoyed, led to severe food shortages after 1504. In an attempt to exploit the thriving mesta, common land used for arable farming was returned to pasture. Consequently in a time of inefficient farming techniques and a rising population grain prices inflated. When price controls were imposed farmers were therefore discouraged from selling. In Aragon, Ferdinand's reluctance to favour the sheep industry and offer privileges like Isabella had done in Castile, maintained a solid agricultural system. The foreign policy of the Catholic Monarchs was largely successful in achieving its aims. Certain foreign acquisitions however brought with them a number of problems. The conquest of Granada can be regarded as one of the greatest successes of both leaders. The War was largely funded as a crusade by the papacy so put little more stress on the struggling economy. The rest was funded through a combination of taxation on towns, Jews and the Hermandad and loans taken from Castilian nobles. ...read more.

Conclusion

Since the pogrom of 1391 there had been sporadic anti-Semitic outbreaks largely born out of a resentment of rich Jewish families. For Isabella however the growing trend of conversos practising Judaism in private was of the greatest concern. Therefore in 1478 an Inquisition into conversos was established in Castile and then one in Aragon in 1481. As a result Jews became confined to ghettos and forced to wear yellow badges. Those suspected of heresy were put on trial and punished. In 1492 conversion was then made compulsory with emigration the only other alternative. Whilst only around 3% of the total population actually emigrated a significant social and economic impact was felt. The commercial welfare of the two Kingdoms was severely damaged and perhaps more crucially the policy disillusioned much of the wider population. The assessment of Isabella and Ferdinand's social, economic, religious and foreign success reveals that the period in Spanish history is not as clear cut as contemporary chroniclers have suggested. They failed to curtail the nobility, failed in implementing economic growth and embarked on unwise foreign conquests. In saying this however they also achieved numerous successes such as securing the throne, conquering Granada and increasing the overseas empire. ...read more.

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