The Unification of Spain
The first step toward Spain's unification came when Isabel, the Princess of Castilla, married Fernando, the Prince of Aragon. Later, when they became the Catholic Monarchs (Reyes Católicos), these 2 largest regions of the north were brought together. All that remianed of the great Moorish empire in Spain was the stronghold in Granada under the last Moorish sultan, Boadil. In 1492, this fell to the Catholic Kings.
Queen Isabel created the Santa Hermandad and charged this organization with the protection of the rural populations and the reorganization of the Inquisituion. The Inquisition was to mantain the religious unity of Spain by dealing with apostasy (non-belief), heresy (false belief) and infidels (non-Christians). In 1492, all Jews and Muslims were expelled from Spain.
Carlos V, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire
Felipe II died in 1598 and his succesors Felipe II and Felipe IV were weak rulers. Under their reigns Spain experienced many military defeats, lost land holdings and experiened economic ruin. Control of the seas fell to England. Many adventurous and talented individuals immigrated to the Spanish colonies in the New World.
As is often the case, a time of decline forces innovations and new or improved infrastructures. This was the case with Carlos III who came to power in 1759. He developed a nationalized system of education and estabished mail service. During his reign industry and commerce began to expaqnd and needed reforms were instituted. Unfortunately, all the advances of Carols II were undone by his son, Carlos IV who was a very weak monarch. During his reign, Napoleaon invaded Spain and made his brother king.
The War of Independence (La Guerra de Independencia)
On May 2, 1808 the citizens of Madrid (madrileños) rebeled against Napoleon's forces and the War for Independence began. This war is also called the "Peninsular War" and is immortalized in Goya's The Second of May, a depiction of the charge of the Mamelukes, the French Imperial Guard in the plaza called the Puerta de Sol. This painting has a companion, The Third of May which depicts the execution of rebels by French troops. The war lasted for 5 years. With England's help, Spain eventually defeated the French. British troops under the duke of Wellington advanced from Portugal and the French were expelled from Spain. May 2 is considered a national holiday in Spain.
(Coming soon ... Part 3, which covers the history of Spain from 1833 to the present.)