|Spain in the Seventeenth Century|
1600 - 8.1 million (9.2 including Portugal)
1700 - 7.5 million
The Spanish crown ruled an empire that included modern Portugal (to 1640) and Belgium, much of the Italian peninsula, Mexico, and large portions of South America and the Caribbean. During the seventeenth century Spain was dogged by economic problems, as were her Mediterranean possessions, Milan and Naples. Slow communications and a ponderous bureaucracy made it hard for a Spanish monarch effectively to harness the resources of his far-flung empire. Much of the duty which the Spanish kings levied on the silver mined in South America (their most ready source of hard cash) had been spent in an unsuccessful attempt to end the Dutch Revolt.
The Spanish crown finally acknowledged Dutch independence in 1648, but silver imports had already begun to decline from the 1620s. During the seventeenth century, Spanish power declined relative to that of France and England. Portugal revolted in 1640, and Spain was forced to recognize its independence in 1668. Spain was weakened further under the ineffective government of the inbred, physically feeble, mentally-defective Charles II. Despite all its social problems, art and literature flourished in seventeenth-century Spain. The art of Velasquez and Murillo, the prose of Miguel de Cervantes and the dramas of Pedro Calderón de la Barca have few equals.