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During the sixteenth century, Spain became the most powerful country in both Europe and the Americas. Explain how Spain rose to this position of power, including both victories and failures.

Spain rose to a position of power in the sixteenth century due to the consolidation of the two largest Spanish kingdoms, Aragon and Castile, in 1492, along with the conquest of Granada that same year. More importantly, however, Spain's great victory was to discover and claim much of the North and South American continents. Vast wealth from the Americas poured into Spain. A failure was the squandering of much of that wealth on consumption by a tiny elite.

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Two factors facilitated Spain's rise to power in the sixteenth century. The first was the consolidation of the largest two Spanish kingdoms under Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1492 and the subsequent conquest of Granada that same year. The second was Christopher Columbus's 1492 discovery of the Americas, making 1492 a watershed year for Spain.

It is an axiom of international studies that a larger land mass positions a nation for power, but what was most important to sixteenth-century Spain was the discovery of the Americas. Spain claimed and began to colonize huge expanses of the Americas, and vast numbers of natural resources began to flood into Spain from those continents. Spain had uncontested military superiority over the Native peoples, engaged in mass slaughter (aided by the spread of diseases that the natives had no immunity to), and was able to easily gain wealth. Gold was especially important in the sixteenth century, as during that period, a nation's wealth...

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