Messina Revolt, 1672-1678

A.) Prehistory

The Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) marked the end of Habsburg Spain being a great power; during the War of Devolution (1667-1668) it was incapable of defending her territory (the Spanish Netherlands) against France. The Spanish Empire was still very extensive, including much of the Americas, the Philippines, the Spanish Netherlands, a number of territories in Italy - Milan, Naples, Sardinia, Sicily. This vast empire depended on shipping to uphold communication. In the Naval Battle of Lepanto 1571, Spain had established her control of the western Mediterranean; this Spanish control now was challenged, by the Dutch, English and French. Since 1668, Spain, for most of the time, was on good terms with England and the Dutch Republic, while France posed the greatest threat.
Under the Habsburg dynasty, Spain pursued a conservative social and economic policy, supporting the Catholic church in her desire to control society, supporting the nobility, regarded a pillar of Habsburg rule, supporting an economy based on medieval principles, on privileges. State revenue was deficitary; the state relied on borrowing money (and occasional state bankrupcy) and on imposing additional taxation.
The city of Messina (Sicily), counting 120,000 inhabitants at the beginning of the 17th century, like many other contemporary cities, was ruled by an oligarchy of patrician families who excluded others from participation in the city council. Being a fortress city, it controlled the Straits of Messina and guarded the island of Sicily against a possible invasion from the (also Spanish) mainland.

B.) The Messina Revolt, 1672-1678

In 1672, the artisans of Messina revolted against patrician rule and took control of the city, a social revolt which did not question Spanish rule. In July 1674 a patrician force overcame the rebel force; the patricians retook control of the city, expelled the Spanish governor and called for French aid.
France, since 1673 at war with Spain (Dutch War of Louis XIV., 1672-1678), dispatched several expeditions to aid Messina, while the Dutch Republic sent a fleet (1675) under Michiel Adriaenszoon de Ruyter, who temporarily blockaded Messina (April 1676), but then fell in battle against the French, commanded by Du Quesnes (April 22nd 1676, Battle of Sicily/of the Etna; the battle was a Dutch victory). Messina held out until the end of the war; when peace was negotiated in 1678, the French withdrew their support, and the Spanish reestablished control.

1672-1678 Franco-Dutch War, from Seapower 1652-1860 Chronology, scroll down
Dai Normanni alla rivoluzione de 1674, from Notizie storiche su Messina (From the Normans to the Revolution of 1674), in Italian
Fortezze di Messina (Fortresses of Messina), in Italian
Anno 1674, from Cronologia, in Italian
Chronologie, from Stichting Michiel Adriaenszoen de Ruyter, in Dutch
DOCUMENTS The London Gazette, Nov. 9th-12th 1674
REFERENCE Geoffrey Symcox, The political world of the absolutist state in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, pp.104-122 in : John A. Marino (ed.), Early Modern Italy (Short Oxford History of Italy), Oxford : UP 2002

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 11th 2004, last revised on November 19th 2004

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