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In what ways and to what extent does the concept of Spain's 'Golden Age' apply more specifically to the reign of Philip II than to the whole of the period 1474-1598?

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Introduction

Andrea Newton January 2003 History A Level Coursework PART B In what ways and to what extent does the concept of Spain's 'Golden Age' apply more specifically to the reign of Philip II than to the whole of the period 1474-1598? Justify your answer by reference to the similarities and differences between the periods before and after the accession of Philip II in 1556. The phrase 'Golden Age' is used to describe the period of rule in Spain in 1474-1598. During this time, there were four monarch's ruling; Ferdinand and Isabella both sat on the throne in 1479-1516, Charles between the years 1516-56, and Philip, his successor between 1556-98. According to Jill Kilsby, the phrase 'Golden Age' "is bound to be instigated and enjoyed by the rich elite classes alone". I agree with Kilsby to some extent, however, monarchs cannot rule without support and advice from government, who therefore, play a vital part in producing a 'Golden Age'. Also, the giving of royal patronage due to a monarch's success can involve the gentry and normal folk. I believe a 'Golden Age' is how successful a monarch rules with the following factors. Their government should be stable and supportive with little disagreements to the decisions the monarch makes. The monarchs should be financially and economically stable throughout their reign. Military success to gain territorial expansion is of importance, however, internal peace, order and national/international unity in my opinion is more important. Confidence in a monarch regarding their nation and identity is of vital importance to contribute to the overall perception of a nation. Religion is likely to be the most contributing factor in causing riots and wars. The success of a monarch and how they deal with differences in religion is vital in portraying a successful 'Golden Age'. Philip II ruled from 1556-98, and his form of governing was far from the same as his father's. ...read more.

Middle

However, this does not mean that his policies were unsuccessful as there was little rebellion against them. Ferdinand and Isabella inherited war at the beginning of their reign, putting a strain on their finances from the beginning. The only option was to increase their income, but Spain was a poor country and had civil wars to fund. "The wars fought against France in Italy and in Roussillon cost an exorbitant amount." Ferdinand and Isabella spent very little on themselves, as they needed funding for the court, the army and the ambassadors. The Church held a significant position in ensuring financial support, usually to fund wars. The Pope "allowed them to collect the taxes on the clergy usually given for crusades", and also gave grants. Financial policies such as customs duties had to be increased to meet with the financial demands. Like Ferdinand and Isabella, Philip inherited war at the beginning of his reign. Both reigns suffered financially, however, Philip did not have financial support from the Church, as did Ferdinand and Isabella. He had to strive on his financial policies, which were successful, but unpopular. The funding of wars dented these monarch's finances heavily. Military success and territorial expansion highlighted both reigns, Ferdinand and Isabella encountering more success. The main most important war was fought throughout most of Ferdinand and Isabella's reign - The Inquisition. This was not a physical battle, but a battle to remove Jews from Spain if they refused to convert to Christianity. The Inquisition proved costly and damaged the economy. As Jews left, the monarchs feared that Muslims would ally with the enemies of Spain, and Isabella pressed for harsher policies to be put upon them, making many convert out of fear. Heavy taxes were placed upon them, encouraging a revolt. "A force was sent into Granada, and the revolt was put down in three months of bitter fighting." After putting faith in Christopher Columbus in his voyage to the new world, where the discovery of American islands was made, Ferdinand and Isabella feared other countries might put a claim on their discovery. ...read more.

Conclusion

This protected the Catholic faith, however, it could be argued that this resulted in a loss of culture. He had the same problem "that the converted Jews and Muslims were only nominal Christians", as did Ferdinand and Isabella and Philip. Religion was the most important factor to Philip during his reign, and may have overlooked other more important aspects at certain times. Charles on the other hand, dealt with religious issues as they arose and did not try to enforce religion on to other countries. He was content with running his Empire and concentrated more on the needs of the Spanish rather than his own gain. Overall, I believe Charles' reign was much more successful than Philip's in almost every aspect. There were strong and weak points about all three reigns, financial difficulties the main problem, as they all inherited weak financial positions. There were elements of success to Phillip II's reign to each of the points I defined as what a 'Golden Age' really is, but still many unsuccessful. Ferdinand and Isabella on the other hand had quite a lot of success, and understandably why historians believe this to be the beginning of the 'Golden Age'. Reformations were carried out regarding religion, and things changed for the better without offending many people. Charles seemed to be quite similar as he was successful with many of his policies, with little resentment. The mistakes at the beginning of his reign could be as a result of him being a young King and a stranger to the country. However, he worked hard to overcome this problem, by listening to what the Spanish wanted, eventually leading to a successful reign, continuing the 'Golden Age'. Philip's reign, however, was in my opinion, not part of the 'Golden Age'. He did actually increase his Empire, but the combination of what a 'Golden Age' is does not particularly apply to him. The successes of the previous monarchies outnumbered the failures, but this is not the case with Philip, which is why I believe the 'Golden Age' spanned across the years 1479-1556 only. ...read more.

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