Spanish Empire
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The areas of the world that at one time were territories of the Spanish Empire.

     Territories of the Portuguese empire during the Iberian Union (1581–1640).      Territories lost before or due to the Treaties of Utrecht-Baden (1713–1714).      Territories lost before or during the Hispanic American wars of independence (1811–1828).      Territories lost following the Spanish-American War (1898–1899).      Territories granted independence during the Decolonization of Africa (1956–1976).

     Current territories administered by Spain.

The Spanish Empire (Spanish: Imperio Español) was one of the largest empires in world history, and one of the first global empires. It included territories and colonies in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania between the 15th and late 19th centuries. Spain also held colonies in Africa until the mid-to-late 20th century. Spain emerged as a unified monarchy in 1492 following the reconquista of the Iberian peninsula. In the same year, Christopher Columbus commanded the first Spanish exploratory voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, leading to the discovery of America. The New World became the focus of the new Spanish Empire.

During the Age of Discovery, Spain began to settle the Caribbean islands and conquistadors soon toppled native empires such as the Aztecs and Incas on mainland America. Later expeditions established an empire that stretched from present-day Canada in North America to Tierra del Fuego in South America. The Spanish expedition of world circumnavigation started by Ferdinand Magellan in 1519, and completed by Juan Sebastian Elcano in 1522, achieved what Columbus had longed for, a westward route to Asia, and brought the Far East to Spain's attention, where it established colonies in Guam, the Philippines and surrounding islands. During its Siglo de Oro, the Spanish Empire comprised the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Belgium, most of Italy, parts of Germany, parts of France, territories in Africa, Asia and Oceania, as well as large areas in the Americas. By the 17th century Spain controlled an empire on a scale and world distribution that had never been approached by its predecessors[1].

Trade flourished across the Atlantic between Spain and her colonies; all kinds of goods including precious metals from America were brought back to Spain in annual galleon fleets. The Manila Galleon also linked the Philippines to America through regular convoys across the Pacific. Much of the Spanish trade was used to strengthen the Spanish Navy and protect the Spanish realms in Europe and the Mediterranean. Some of Spain's European possessions were given up at the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, but it retained its vast overseas empire.

The French occupation of Spain in 1808 under Napoleon cut off its American colonies temporarily, and a number of independence movements between 1810 and 1825 resulted in a chain of newly independent Latin American republics in South and Central America. The remainder of Spain's then–four hundred year empire, namely Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and the Spanish East Indies, continued under Spanish control until the end of the 19th century, when most of these territories were annexed by the United States after the Spanish-American War. The remaining Pacific islands were sold to Germany in 1899.

By the early 20th century Spain only held territories in Africa, namely Spanish Guinea, Spanish Sahara and Spanish Morocco. Spain withdrew from Morocco in 1956 and granted independence to Equatorial Guinea in 1968. When Spain abandoned Spanish Sahara in 1976, the colony was annexed by Morocco and Mauritania at first, and wholly by Morocco in 1980, though according to the United Nations it is still technically under Spanish administration. Today, the Canary Islands and two enclaves on the North African coast, Ceuta, and Melilla, are administrative divisions of Spain.


The Spanish Empire includes Spain's overseas colonies in the Americas, Asia, Oceania and Africa, but some disputes exist as to which European territories are to be counted. For instance, traditionally the Dutch Republic or Seven United Netherlands were included as they were part of the possessions of the King of Spain, governed by Spanish officials, and defended by Spanish troops. However, authors like the British historian Henry Kamen contend that these territories were not fully integrated into a Spanish state and instead formed part of the wider Habsburg possessions. Some historians use "Habspurg" and "Spanish" almost interchangeably when referring to the dynastic inheritance of Charles V or Philip II.

Similarly, it seems to be a matter of preference whether one counts as "Spanish" the Bourbon Kingdom of Naples in the 18th century, which, while dynastically and military aligned with Spain, remained a constitutionally separate state. The problem is compounded by the evolving definition of "Spain" itself, which, though unified by the crown, was still in some sense a collection of separate kingdoms, namely Castile, Aragon, and Navarre.

Independently of the denominations [2] given to the "dynastic union" [3][4] between 1580-1640, the scholars argue that the Portuguese Empire kept its own administration and jurisdiction over its territory as the other kingdoms and realms ruled by the Spanish Habsburgs.[5] But whereas some historians assert that at that time, Portugal was a kingdom which formed part of the Spanish Monarchy [6][7][8][9][10]; others draw a clear distinction between the Portuguese Empire and the Spanish Empire. [11][12]

The origins of the empire (1402–1521)Edit