The decline of the Spanish Empire in the late 16th and early 17th centuries was directly related to a series of bad economic policies made by Charles V and Philip II. By overstretching their resources, the monarchs mired Spain in tremendous debt as they attempted to crush Protestant uprisings and Ottoman incursions into the Mediterranean. This economic crisis was compounded by the inflation caused by the massive influx of New World silver and gold. Ultimately, Spain saw few positive, long-term gains as a result of their global domination—Spain's standard of living remained one of the lowest in Western Europe both during and after the height of the empire. Acting from the perspective of a financial blogger, students examine the factors that influenced the Spanish economic downturn and compare them to the recession faced by the United States in recent years.
Acting as financial bloggers, students will write a short series of blog posts that
- Identify and explain the important economic factors that impacted Spain's long-term financial solvency.
- Connect two of the factors to a modern issue in the United States and predict if the current issue could potentially affect its world standing.
- Provide students with the following scenario:
You are a blogger for a local business news website, and you have been asked to investigate a comment someone recently posted on another article: "Watch out! If our economy keeps going in this direction, we're going to end up like the Spanish Empire."
- Using the provided resources, students should first research the main economic issues facing the Spanish Empire. (Note: This lesson is intended to provide a broad overview, not a detailed look at each factor.)
- Once they have identified the main issues, research current news sources to identify a similar scenario in the modern-day United States.
- Have students plan their 3 to 4 blog posts by outlining the content they wish to convey in each post. Make sure they explain Spain's circumstances and connect these issues to the current situation in the United States.
- Write and publish their blog posts using a blogging platform (Wordpress.com, Edublogs.org, Blogger.com, etc.).
- Follow the blogging assignment with a class discussion about the state of the United States' economy and whether there are lessons to be learned from the collapse of the Spanish Empire.