Spain in the 16th and 17th Centuries

By the 16th century Spain had become the largest empire ever known with extensive territories in the newly discovered America and others that included Italy, the Netherlands, Africa and the far East. The extent of the territory led to multiple political problems. Spain was permanently at war. For more information about the wars of the Spanish Empire, click here. Some of Spain's greatests adversaries during the 16th century were those whom the empire saw as religious and political threats: The Ottoman empire, the Native Americans, and the Protestants in the Netherlands. Spain became the paladin of the Roman Catholic religion. After the Reformation occurred, Spain became influenced by the Counter-Reformation.

The Spanish Empire's Territories around 1600

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The Counter Reformation

The Counter-Reformation was a movement within the Catholic Church during the 16th and 17th-century that tried to improve problems within the Church and respond to the Protestant Reformation. There was an intentional attempt to reform and address doctrinal and disciplinary questions raised by the Protestants. An important moment is the Council of Trent (1545-1563) whose formulations dominated the Church's thinking for the next 4 centuries. The Counter-Reformation showed a renewed enthusiasm for evangelization, the establishment of religious schools mostly led by the Jesuits, organization of works of charity and reformation of existing orders. Part of this reform took shape as an interest for contemplation and Mysticism.

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Spain's Biggest Enemies

England The Ottoman Empire


In the following century, England emerged as a dangerous enemy to add to the list of Spain's existing threats.

Information on Queen Elizabeth I

Spanish Kings Between 1556-1700

Click on any of the pictures to learn more about the ruler and view the original image source.

Portrait of Felipe II Portrait of Felipe III Portrait of Felipe IV Portrait of Carlos II

Felipe II


Felipe III


Felipe IV


Carlos II