The Collapse of the Spanish Monarchy
THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY was a period of conflict pitting the British Monarchy against the Spanish and French monarchies for control of the Atlantic world. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, Carlos II of Spain died without heirs, triggering the War of Spanish Succession (1700–1713). The Treaty of Utrecht that ended that conflict reordered the Western European world when it recognized the grandson of Louis XIV of France, Philippe de Bourbon, as King Felipe V of the Spanish Monarchy. Thereafter formal and informal Bourbon family pacts allied the French and Spanish monarchies against the British. The impact of this realignment was magnified by the momentous transformation of the Atlantic world during the second half of the eighteenth and the early nineteenth centuries. That process included a number of interrelated changes: a demographic expansion; the emergence of the bourgeoisie, or middle class; the growth of the region’s economies; the restructuring of the British, French, and Iberian monarchies; the emergence of Britain as the first great industrial and commercial power; the triumph of a modern system of thought known as the Enlightenment; and the transformation of Western political systems, including the expansion of representative government in Britain, the independence of the United States, the French Revolution, the new French imperialism, and the European wars it engendered. These changes culminated in a profound political revolution in the Spanish world.
During the eighteenth century, Great Britain waged total war against the Spanish Monarchy for control of trade in the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans and to win new territories in America. In the Treaty of Utrecht, which settled the War of Spanish Succession, Britain acquired Gibraltar, the island of Menorca, limited trading rights in Panama, and the asiento (the right to supply African slaves to Spanish America). These concessions did not placate the English, who continued to engage in contraband. Although the Spanish coast guard at-