After the Neapolitan Revolt
of 1647-1648, the Spanish administration of Naples, headed by a viceroy, was
careful not to provoke a repetition by overtaxing her subjects. The Spanish
administration diverted from her traditional policy of leaning on the church and
the landowners, attempting to take a more balanced approach. The kingdom's
revenues were stagnant, they were used to finance the administration, the
Spanish military and for debt service, and the state debts were huge. In 1656
the plague struck, killing almost half of the population of the capital.
The Revolt of Messina
since 1674 dominated by the Messinian patricians, dissatisfied with Spanish rule, in
neighbouring, equally Spanish Sicily served as an example to demonstrate to the
Neapolitan administration, how precarious the position of Spanish rule over Naples w
as, once the impression arose, that the administration diverted from the ideal of
In 1701 the War of Spanish Succession
broke out. In 1702, King Philip V. of Spain
(Bourbon Dynasty) visited Naples. In 1706 an Austrian army achieved a decisive victory
in the Italian theatre of war; in 1707 Austrian troops occupied Naples without
encountering resistance. Spanish rule over Naples was terminated.
According to Historian Paolo Mattia Doria (1667-1749; member of the
Neapolitan Academy of 1698), the Kingdom of Naples, in the latter phase of
Spanish rule, was characterized by social discontent, ignorance (cultivated
by the clergy), misery, corruption, high taxation. Toward the end of Spanish
rule, the tax burden on the capital of Naples was reduced - at the expense of
other parts of the kingdom. The jurisdiction was forced to serve the interests
of the state; the consequence increased corruption and misery in the provinces.
The noble elite was uneducated and supersillious, differences in the standard of
living, the morals varied greatly within the kingdom; the government failed to
use legislation in order to improve the state of education, economy and culture.
Those in government failed to act as role models
. (quoted after Pesendorfer
p.55). The countryside effectively was controlled and exploited by a class of
barons; taxation was farmed out, with the result that only a fraction of the
revenue reached the administration, which regarded it her priorities to ensure
the capital adequately being supplied, the Spanish navy and garrisons to be
paid. The abolition of tax farming had repeatedly been demanded, in vain. The
city of Naples experienced an influx of lazzi
, of paupers who neither
owned land nor had an occupation. The anti-Spanish Macchia Conspiracy of 1701,
which intended to place the Kingdom under Austrian administration, was
suppressed, not without worsening the economic situation of the capital. The
papal administration, the Duke of
owned large estates in the Kingdom, the revenues of which left the country
without benefitting it; actually Spain
to subsidize the administration of the Kingdom of Naples. The parallel existence
of a secular and an ecclesiastic jurisdiction was not without conflict.
The bad situation of the kingdom's economy, a host of problems the Spanish
administration failed to address, resulted in harsh judgments by contemporary
historians and observers, which are again reflected in historiography. Yet,
Spanish rule over southern Italy had provided her with two centuries of protection
from foreign invasions. The Spanish administration, notably in the later half of
the 17th century, promoted the sciences. In 1698 Viceroy Luis Francisco de la
Cerda, Duque de Medinacell, founded the (first) Neapolitan Academy. Naples'
most famous scholar of the era was scientist Giambattista Vico (1668-1744).