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Was the 'rise of the Netherlands' a symptom or a cause of the 'decline of Spain'?

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Introduction

Was the 'rise of the Netherlands' a symptom or a cause of the 'decline of Spain'? The reputation of the Netherlands as an important country increased in prominence during the 'early modern period' of history, that being 1500-1700. This essay intends to show that their 'rise' can be shown in terms of both a cause and also symptomatic of Spain's decrease in significance over the same period. The Spanish 'decline' largely concerns the period between 1600 and 1650, when Phillip III went from "monarch of the world"i (New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4 (1970), pp. 269) into a position where his country had descended into "poverty and torpor"ii (NCMH, pp. 280). Meanwhile, the Netherlands (in this essay, the term 'Netherlands' refers to the seven United Provinces in northern Europe) "raised themselves from nothing the challenge the massed might of the Spanish monarchy"iii (JH Elliott, 'Richelieu And Olivares' (1989), pp. 72). Spain, even before 1600, had mounting debts and fiscal troubles. In 1595, the Spanish crown owed 100 million ducados to its creditors, and their debt was estimated at 1.6 million ducados per year from 1601 onwardsiv (NCMH, pp. 440). It had such an unreliable reputation that moneylenders were loath to give money at less than 70% interest (note that the Netherlands could borrow at 3%). ...read more.

Middle

472). In 1648 the Treaty of M´┐Żnster was signed, assuring independence for the United Provinces. Thus was the resulting 'decline of Spain'. The Netherlands in the same period saw virtually an opposite situation to the Spanish. The Dutch geographical situation gave it access to three crucial points: The Baltic trade, the North Sea fisheries and the Atlantic Ocean. In "The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800" (1965), CR Boxer noted that "domestic agriculture did not provide the sinews of [Dutch] wealth"xiv (pp. 4), while Simon Schama is explicit in saying that the Netherlands's "Mother Trade"xv was importing of Baltic Grain (The Embarrassment of Riches, (1988) pp.223). He goes on to say that while other European cities were suffering from high prices and risks of low grain stocks, the Dutch had regular suppliesxvi (ibid). The result of this was a freeing of rural population from agriculture and an influx of people to urban centres. The North Sea fisheries provided 37% of the Netherlands population employment. Amsterdam, Leyden, Gr´┐Żningen and Delft were major urban centres. Amsterdam was clearly the greatest city in the area - following Parma's capture of Antwerp in 1585, he allowed a two-year 'grace period' of exodus for Calvinists and dissidents of Spain, which saw all the financial sectors relocate to Amsterdam, thus boosting its status furtherxvii (Boxer, pp. ...read more.

Conclusion

Footnotes i JR Cooper (ed.), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 269 ii JR Cooper (ed.), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 280 iii JH Elliott, Richelieu And Olivares (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 72 iv JR Cooper (ed.), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 440 v Henry Kamen, Golden Age Spain (London, 1988), pp. 7 vi Henry Kamen, Golden Age Spain (London, 1988), pp. 9 vii Henry Kamen, Golden Age Spain (London, 1988), pp. 11 viii JR Cooper (ed.), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 265 ix JH Elliott, Richelieu And Olivares (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 101 x JH Elliott, Richelieu And Olivares (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 70 xi JR Cooper (ed.), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 281 xii JR Cooper (ed.), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 438 xiii JR Cooper (ed.), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 472 xiv CR Boxer, The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800 (London, 1965), pp. 4 xv Simon Schama, The Embarrassment of Riches, (London, 1988) pp.223 xvi ibid xvii CR Boxer, The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800 (London, 1965), pp. 18 xviii Dr. Richard Mackenney, Lecture 17: "A changing culture? The Dutch in the 17th Century" xix CR Boxer, The Dutch Seaborne Empire 1600-1800 (London, 1965), pp. 19 xx JR Cooper (ed.), New Cambridge Modern History Volume 4 (Cambridge, 1970), pp. 280 xxi Henry Kamen, Golden Age Spain (London, 1988), pp. ...read more.

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