The Military Revolution Debate: Readings on the Military Transformation of Early Modern Europe

By Clifford J. Rogers | Go to book overview

cepted political authority and of a favourable economic conjuncture. With the collapse of the economy, credit could only be raised by authoritarianism, as Olivares and Philip IV succeeded in doing. When, on the death of Philip IV, royal authority also collapsed, the Spanish financial system collapsed with it.

Spain, therefore, provides another and more fundamental qualification of Brian Downing's thesis that military exigency was incompatible with constitutional principle, that "constitutional countries confronted by a dangerous international situation mandating extensive, domestic resource mobilization suffered the destruction of constitutionalism and the rise of military-bureaucratic absolutism." 74 The Spanish case shows that "authoritarian political outcomes" could be avoided, not only where warfare though continuous was "only moderate in scope and intensity", as in England, or where resources were provided from abroad, as in the United Provinces and Sweden, but also where intense and protracted military pressures overloaded the political and administrative circuitry of central government. Authoritarian solutions were attempted in Spain but they failed in face of the collapse of trade and tax revenues and of the ruralization of the economy that militated against the centralist extraction of resources. The state in Spain, unable to develop a fiscal system capable of maintaining the necessary levels of military spending demanded by its strategic position, was driven to selfdestructive financial expedients involving compromises with local power centers and the devolution and privatization of coercive-extractive and military-administrative functions which left the state with great theoretical authority but limited effective power. 75 Spain was thus incapable of responding to the new leap in the scale and global scope of warfare that occurred in the second half of the seventeenth century, generating revolutionary administrative and financial changes and the creation of national debts of an unprecedented magnitude that were now quite beyond the diminished capacities of the Spanish state.


Notes
1.
For a good summary and full bibliography of these positions, see Frank Tallett, War and Society in Early-Modern Europe, 1495-1715 (Routledge, 1992), 168-72.
2.
Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (Fontana, 1989), 57.
3.
For accounts that reveal the full complexity of the Castilian fiscal system and the sophisticated relationship between asientos and juros, see R. Carande, Carlos Quinto y sus banqueros, 3 vols. ( Madrid, 1943-67); A. Ulloa, real en el reinado de Felipe II , 2nd. ed. ( Madrid, 1977); H. Lapeyre, Simün Ruiz et les asientos de Philippe II ( Paris, 1953); E. Ruiz Martin, Pequeño capitalismo, Gran capitalismo. Simün Ruiz y sus negocios en Florencia ( Madrid, 1990); J. C. Boyajian, Portuguese Bankers at the Court of Spain 1626-1650 ( New Brunswick, NJ, 1983); A. Castillo, "Los juros de Castilla. Apogeo y fin de un instrumento de crédito", Hispania 23 ( 1963), 43-70, and "Dette flottante et dette consolidée en Espagne de 1557 à 1600", Annales E.S.C. 18 ( 1963), 745-59; M. Steele, "International Financial Crises during the Reign of Philip II, 1556-1598", unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of London, 1986.

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