Spain 1759-1788 Spain 1808-1814

Spain 1789-1808

A.) Spanish Foreign Policy

The Spanish government was hesitant in her response to the French Revolution; the spread of the ideas of the French Revolution was supposedly banned by censorship. After the execution of King Louis XVI., war erupted and a force of 20,000 Spanish men was ordered to march to the French border. However, disorganization on the Spanish side and military discipline on the French side resulted in the Basque Provinces and much of Navarra quickly being occupied by the French, while Spanish troops invaded French Languedoc. In 1795 the Treaty of Basel was concluded in which Spain ceded Santo Domingo, today's Dominican Republic, to France; both sides withdrew to their own territory.
In 1796 France and Spain became allies (Treaty of San Ildefonso); France agreed to leave Parma (where a Spanish Bourbon sideline ruled) unharmed. In her decision to conclude this alliance, Spain was guided by her mistrust of Britain. The result was a British blockade of the Spanisg commerce; an interruption of her connections with her colonial empire. In 1797 the Spanish navy was defeated by the British, who seized Trinidad that year and Menorca in 1798.
In 1800-1801, Spain fought a brief border war with Portugal; the Spanish occupied and annexed the Portuguese border town of Olivenza. In 1800 Spain ceded Louisiana back to France. In 1802 the Treaty of Amiens was concluded, which restored Menorca to Spain, at the price of the cession of Trinidad to Britain.
In 1804, the British captured the Spanish Treasure Fleet off Cadiz, and Spain declared war. Again Spain was a French ally. In 1805, the combined Franco-Spanish fleet was defeated by the British (Lord Nelson) in the Battle of Trafalgar. Spain formed part of the Continental System. In 1807 Spain and France agreed on the conquest and partition of Portugal, for the purpose of which French troops were permitted to enter Spanish soil. Temporarily, Portugal was overrun, but British forces landed, and the war continued.

B.) The Impact of the French Revolution

The ideas of the French Revolution found less of an echo in Spain than in Germany, Italy and Poland. In Spain, the Catholic church was more deeply rooted, and continued to control what was published in Spain (censorship). Also, many French clergymen and some French nobles had fled to Spain; the reports of the terreur spread fear.
In Spain, among intellectuals and politicians, the necessity of reform was recognized. Men such as Floridablanca and Aranda, however, believed in a controlled reform from above. While Spain and France were allies from 1796 to 1808, their domestic policies and constitutions were in sharp contrast to each other.

C.) The Domestic Policy

While the administrations under Ferdinand VI. and Carlos III. were long-lasting, guarantors of stability which permitted the economic recovery of the later 18th century, administrations around the turn of the century were of short duration, not the least because of intrigues and cronyism. The wars had been costly, so was the British blockade. Taxes already had been raised; under minister Jovellanos, a land reform was implemented - the crown acquired land from the church and sold it off in small plots to individual farmers (the church was by far the largest landowner in Spain).
King Carlos IV. abdicated March 19th 1808, succeeded by his son Ferdinand VII., 24 years of age.

Spain : the Army, from Histofig
Brief History of Olivenza, from International Dispute of Olivenza
War of the Oranges, 1801, from ACED
Treaty of Amiens, from Wikipedia
El Reinado de Carlos IV, from Info Goya, in Spanish
Los Borbones - Carlos IV, from La Monarquia Hispanica
Carlos IV af Spanien, from Historiske Slag, in Danish
Manuel de Godoy, from ArteHistoria, in Spanish; from Napoleon Guide
Conde de Aranda, from ArteHistoria, in Spanish
Gaspar Melchior de Jovellanos, from ArteHistoria, in Spanish
1805-1814 Historia Militar posyed by Jose A. Aded
DOCUMENTS Treaty of Friendship, Limits, and Navigation Between Spain and the U.S. - 1795, 12 documents 1792-1803, from Avalon Project
Convention for Indemnification of 1802 Between Spain and The United States, from Avalon Project
Hunter Miller's Notes on the 1802 Treaty, from Avalon Project
Documents regarding Olivenza, from International Dispute of Olivenza
Tratado de San Ildefonso, 1796, from 1805-1814, Historia Militar
Tratado secreto entre el Rey de Espana y el Emperador de los franceses relativo a la suerte futura del Portugal., from 1805-1814, Historia Militar
Excerpts from Treaty of San Ildefonso 1796, from Treaty of Badajoz 1801, from Treaty of Fontainebleu 1807, in Engl. trsl., posted by Rui A.M. da Silva
Espagne - Familie Royal, from Annuaire 1789-1815, in French
Historical Shares : Real Minas de Cazalla y Guadalcanal, 1795, posted by Auktionshaus Reinhild Tschöpe, comment in German; scroll down
Data on Spanish State Revenue, 1520-1807, posted by ESFDB
Reference Peter Pierson, The History of Spain, Greenwood, 1999, 248 pp.; KMLA Lib.Sign. 946 P624t

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted in 2000, last revised on November 9th 2004

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