The biggest economic decline of the 17th Century

Since starting my RPC course on Western Civilization history, I have learned about things in European history that I didn’t even know happened and events that were incredibly devastating.  The French Wars of Religion and Oliver Cromwell’s tyrannical rule are just a few examples.  However, one event stands out and that is the economic decline of Spain in the 1600’s.

There were many contributing factors to the decline. Some things happened by coincidence, for example, Spain was struggling with famine and bubonic plague, for a couple of years already.  The famine had arisen from a sequence of poor harvests during the 1590’s, while the bubonic plague, more commonly known as Black Plague, struck in 1600 and lingered for a couple years, killing roughly 10% of the population after running its course.  This got the ball rolling down the path of decline, stressing the economy and all those who depended on its state of stability.  Other elements that were instrumental in the decline of Spain were poor and foolish choices made by those in power.  Philip III was King of Spain then, but he wasn’t the best leader.  He was the figure-head for the Spanish Government and nothing else.  He was not a dominant character, which, as a king, he should have been.  This made it easy for his dukes and advisors to sway and influence his decisions, which were not good.  For example, Philip, with the influence of corrupt men, decided to expel a people known as Moriscos out of Spain simply because of religious and cultural prejudices.  This expulsion was a major factor in the economic collapse and was the most catastrophic mistake that the economy suffered for.  This was one component that made the decline so catastrophic because Philip and the men that served for him were weakening the already economically stressed state of Spain.

While the plague and famine were very unfortunate, they weren’t as economically crushing as the expulsion of the Moriscos.  King Philip III, along with the bad influence of some advisors, decided that it would be worthwhile to expel 275,000+ Moriscos out of Spain.  The Moriscos were Christians whose Muslim ancestors had converted from Islam to Christianity.   Even though the Moriscos followed the state religion, their old customs and culture made them unpopular.  With these religious prejudices and unproven claims that the Moriscos were planning to band with pirates and invade the peninsula, the King and his lords, dukes and advisors all voted to get rid of them.  This was the biggest mistake those in power could have made.  This was the final blow to completing the obliteration of the Spanish economy because the Moriscos were a critical element of Spain’s agriculture-based economy.  The Moriscos helped with harvesting crops and were good workers.  Now, with them gone, many people were struggling to harvest the whole crop and were losing food.  Less farm-hands meant less harvest.  Some farmers even had to be stop growing certain labor-intensive crops and replace them with those that were easier to grow and harvest.  However, these new crops were less nutritious and not good staple foods.

This expulsion of the Moriscos was completely unnecessary and unfair to them because they didn’t have anywhere to go.  I believe that were completely innocent and were persecuted because of their religion and custom.

These events tipped the scales on decline.  The state of Spain had just lost 275,000 productive citizens, voters and workers.  These incidents forced Spanish government to take a couple of steps back and gain control of their economy and focus on the citizens’ needs.  This inauspicious episode in Spanish history and it’s decline during the 17th Century shows me just how susceptible an economy can be to power-motivated individuals and groups in a corrupt government.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student


Glorious Revolution: Why is it Glorious?

This week’s post is about the Glorious Revolution during the 17th Century.  But what is it that makes it so glorious?  What was being revolutionized?

The Glorious Revolution started in 1688  and is famous, and named ‘Glorious’ for the fact that the throne was shifted from a legitimate ruler to an illegitimate one without civil war breaking out.  James II was King of England at the time.  Many people didn’t like James as their King because he was a Catholic.  After James’ father, Charles I, ruled as a Protestant and his older brother, Charles II, not having  a set religion when he was King, it now seemed, to the people, that James was wanting to re-establish Catholicism.  The people seemed to have good reason for believing this, too! James was consistently appointing Catholic priests and judges to assist him as King.  Even though James liked the idea of religious toleration, people did not trust him because he was Catholic.  They believed that he adopted religious toleration just so that Catholicism could be practiced again.  This fear of James re-introducing Catholicism and the fear of an absolutist rule scared the people, and seven Protestant nobles into asking William of Orange, the husband of James II’s eldest daughter, Mary II, for help with removing James from the throne.  James, not willing to fight William, just gathered his family and fled to France.

Here is what made the revolution so glorious.  The throne was taken without any civil war or fighting!   William and Mary then took back the throne, which people were very happy about because both William and Mary were Protestant.

William and Mary then created the Bill of Rights which sets the King’s power apart from Parliament’s power.  It stated that the King would no longer have as much power as before.  You can read the entire Bill of Rights here

Never before in history had such an illegitimate transfer of power gone so smoothly!  James was the legitimate ruler and William was not, but he was trying still to take the throne. This illegitimate claim to the throne alone would have been enough to start a war, but the whole revolution went without any bloodshed or violence.

Some may feel that James was a coward for giving up his throne without a fight.  I actually feel that James was wise.  He likely knew that staying and fighting would probably be the worst thing that could happen to his people.  I believe that he would rather save his people and sacrifice his reign instead of  putting them through a war.  He knew he would probably lose anyway. Not even his own subjects, liked him so why would they support him?  I also feel that people were so caught up in their own fear and so afraid of the past that they completely overlooked giving  James a chance to prove himself.   James was the rightful king, but his power had been usurped anyway!  All because he was accused of possibly introducing Catholicism back into England.

Whether he would have reinstated Catholicism as the state religion or not, I feel he still should’ve been given a chance.

Quinn Palmer

John Locke: Owning property to keep government in it’s place

Government has no other end, but the preservation of property. — John Locke

I think this quote means that government has no other purpose but to help it’s citizens acquire property and to protect them from anybody that might try to take it from them.

Wow.  If you’ve ever followed politics, this is definitely not the focus of our government today!  Imagine someone advocating this on Fox News or radio talk show.  They’d cut him right off.  Who is this Locke dude?  Before learning about him this week I did not know anything about him.  I want to share with you why I instantly admired his views and his life’s work.  In particular, I am intrigued by his thoughts on private property

Continue reading “John Locke: Owning property to keep government in it’s place”


Oliver Cromwell’s Rule: Unpleasant for Everyone

While I was learning about Oliver Cromwell this week, I not only thought about what it was that he did, but I also thought about what it was like for all the people under his rule.  What was life like for them?

Continue reading “Oliver Cromwell’s Rule: Unpleasant for Everyone”


The First Libertarians

This week in my Western Civilization course on the Ron Paul Curriculum, I learned about the Levellers, the first organized Libertarian society.  Now, I will answer this question from my instructor: Dr. Tom Woods.

Who were the Levellers, and what did they believe in?”

(Just a quick note, all words or sentences in “” are from a quote I will be sharing with you later.)

The Levellers, a political movement during the 17th Century, were one of the first libertarian societies to exist.  I am sure others in the past had considered these ideas but not with the same intent of creating a party.  Please do not confuse this group with another group called the Diggers.  The Diggers and Levellers couldn’t be more different.  While the Levellers believed in private property, the Diggers believed in common property.  They were the exact opposite from each other.

Levellers were libertarian but who are they and what do they believe in?  Their leaders and founders were these three men:

  • Richard Overton
  • John Lilburne
  • William Walwyn

These men, together, were able to create a whole system of how things should be run from a libertarian perspective.  This included certain rights like, private property, self-ownership and religious freedom.

Now, if what I said didn’t make any sense, just read this quote by Murray Rothbard,  he was an economist, libertarian and professor at Mises Institute.  This is what he said about the 17th Century libertarians:

the world’s first self-consciously libertarian movement. … In a series of notable debates within the Republican Army — notably between the Cromwellians and the Levellers — the Levellers led by John Lilburne, Richard Overton and William Walwyn, worked out a remarkably consistent libertarian doctrine, upholding the rights of self-ownership, private property, religious freedom for the individual, and minimal government interference in society. The rights of each individual to his person and property, furthermore, were natural, that is, they were derived from the nature of man. … And therefore were not dependent on, nor could they be abrogated by government. And while the economy was scarcely a primary focus of the Levellers, their adherence to a free market economy was a simple derivation from their stress on liberty and the rights of private property.”

This quote just summed up everything that I was talking about!  Rothbard explains who the Libertarians were and who they were led by.  He also explained what their beliefs were.   I don’t think there is much more for me to explain.  Here is where I got the quote, if you are interested in learning more about the Levellers.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student




This week in my Western Civilization class for the Ron Paul Curriculum, I was taught about the Eutopians and their ideas.  I now have been asked by my instructor, Dr. Tom Woods, to answer this question:

“What kinds of ideas were the “eutopians” promoting? Why is it perhaps not a coincidence that this desire to rethink the organization of society emerged in the sixteenth century in particular?”

In 16th Century Europe, there were a group of people that believed in the idea of a “eutopian” society.  No, I did not spell eutopia incorrectly and you can read what utopia/eutopia really means here and what the ‘eu’ in eutopia means here.  the end result is that the word utopia, which means ‘no place’ can now mean ‘good place’ because of the ‘eu’ placed in front of it.  People believed that a ‘utopia’ could not exist, but that a ‘eutopia’ could because it meant a ‘good place.’

These people believed that we needed to create a eutopia, a place where all the problems that the world has don’t exist.  It was a perfect society, but not a society that allowed you your agency and your freedom.  You couldn’t have private property, you had to follow government rule without complaining and you probably wouldn’t have trade with any other countries.  These are just a few of the concepts, theories and ideas that many eutopian followers believed in.    Here are some others:

  • A money free society and economy
  • Belief that marriage and alcohol were reasons why we didn’t have a eutopia
  • They believed everyone needed to work
  • They wanted a self-sufficient economy

But, what made these ideas so intriguing in the 16th Century?  Why were these ideas all of sudden just now being talked and heard of?   The answer is, in fact, the timing.  During the 16th Century, Europe was expanding it’s horizons.  New things were being explored, and studied.  New countries, continents, sciences and philosophies.  Europe was finally beginning to understand that people on the other side of the world had a way, a system, on how things were run and they flourished.  They began to realize that they didn’t have to do the same as they always had.

Even though this eutopian philosophy was not very successful and may not ever be used, the new way the people in Europe now looked at things was a step in the right direction to becoming a new country as a whole.




Anonymous Journal Found in France! Sheds New Light On French Wars of Religion

An amazing new insight into French history!  Just a few weeks ago, in an Estate sale in France, a man opened up an old wooden trunk in the attic, and inside was a very old journal from an anonymous writer.  The entries were dated back to 16th Century France and were based around the French Wars of Religion, and the relationship between Catholics and Huguenots.   (Full Disclosure: There was no real journal…I wrote this as historical fiction and thought this format would be a fun way to answer my Western Civilization instructor’s assignment–“Who were the contenting parties in the French wars of religion? What was the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre? What was the Edict of Nantes?”  Enjoy!)

Continue reading “Anonymous Journal Found in France! Sheds New Light On French Wars of Religion”


The Dutch Revolt

During the 16th Century, when Philip II was King of Spain, he was also governor of the Netherlands.  Unfortunately, he was not very tolerant of any religion other than  Catholicism.  So this made it hard for him to deal peacefully with the Protestants.  While Philip was never actually in the Netherlands, his sister Margaret, Duchess of Parma was living in the Netherlands as regent.   And what she saw was that the Protestants were very tolerant towards all and that nobody was forced to do anything against their will.  However, because Philip didn’t believe in religious toleration, he tried to stem the protestant growth in the Netherlands by instating the Inquisition.  There were many different times in Europe when the Inquisition was used, but this was a time when the Protestants were not allowed any religious freedom and were persecuted.  It was religious prejudice.

A bit fearfully, Margaret wrote to Philip pleading with him to stop the Inquisition because in the Netherlands was very happy.  So Philip did the right thing and gave the Protestants some space.  But what worried him next was that the Protestants were now having large gatherings, and they were all showing up armed.  This made Philip start to think that maybe he had been too nice to them.  Had he?  Philip began receiving reports about more large gatherings and how Catholic churches and houses were being vandalized by Protestants now as well.  Now that was it for Philip, he immediately organized a 10,000 strong army, led by the Duke of Alba to get the Protestants under control.  He didn’t reinstate the Inquisition, but it was still just as bad.  The Duke of Alba also issued a 10% tax increase, which added to the mix of the Protestants’ anger and frustration.  No matter what the King did, he could no longer contain the revolting Protestants.

The revolt finally ended in 1648, long after all the people who had started it in 1568 were dead, and when the Treaty of Münster was signed and gave the Protestants religious freedom.  The Netherlands as a whole was also given its own freedom.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student


You can read more about the Dutch Revolt and the Treaty of Münster here:ünster


Elizabeth I Chooses…?

Many people today struggle with finding or staying with a religion.  This isn’t a new problem.  Many people, especially important people,  sometimes struggled with this.  Elizabeth I, Queen of England was one of these.

In the 16th Century, while Elizabeth I, was able to create a system of order and a thriving economy with low taxes in her England.  Being queen for 45 years probably helped too!  I’m sure many people were happy to have Elizabeth as their queen.  However,  she struggled to pick a religion for her country to use.  Did she want Protestantism?  Or would she try something relatively new?  Did she want Catholicism?  If she did,  she would have to share power with the Catholic church which was not what she wanted to do.  She most definitely wanted to be absolutist or the only one in charge of church and state.  But, Catholicism was the religion that was accepted by previous monarchs.  And although, she did like some views of the Catholic church, she was reluctant to share any power.  She abandoned trying to choose between Protestantism or Catholicism and chose, instead, the religion of Anglicanism.  She even forced Ireland to abandon Catholicism and have Anglicanism as their religion.  They had no choice.

Unfortunately, this confirms  one of humankind’s major weaknesses: That powerful people will often do anything to keep their  power and have it all.  In Queen  Elizabeth’s case, there’s a good chance that she didn’t believe in or truly want Anglicanism for England — except as a wise political move.  Maybe she just did it to avoid the Catholics and to keep the Protestants ‘Okay’  with her decision.   Looking back, history must ask if she ever picked a national religion for the benefit of her people?  Or just to stay in power?  Maybe she felt it was both.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student



Four Simple Steps to Take Over a Country

What I am about to tell you is the best way to take over a country!   But, in order for you to understand why this strategy works so well, I have to tell you a story:

Charles V lived in the 16th Century and was originally from the Lowlands or Netherlands.  When he inherited the crown and became King of Spain, he was only king for a couple of years  before he was elected to succeed his grandfather as Holy Roman Emperor.  In order to be coronated, he had to leave Spain and go to Germany.  During his absence he left one of the officials in charge — an official he had brought from the Netherlands.  Charles was likely scared that if he left a Spaniard in charge then they would take over and he would lose the crown.  His fears were not made-up because the Spanish people and government did not care much for their foreign king, especially that did not speak Spanish.  In his defense, he was learning! Just not very fast.  But now, they REALLY hated him for leaving a bunch of lowlanders who thought that they were better than the Spanish people in charge of their country.  Like me, you can now understand why my instructor, Tom Woods, points out that “the various provincial assemblies (known as the Cortes) hesitated to accept Charles as their king.”

When Charles got back, having been successfully coronated as H.R.E, Spain was in a mess.  The Spanish people had revolted against the foreign officials and the officials had lost control.  The Spanish aristocrats had sided with the officials though, not to help put down the threat of a revolt, but so that they, the aristocrats, could avoid a ‘class war’ and keep their power and wealth.   Meanwhile, all that the Spanish people wanted was self-government within their own provinces.  Maybe they went about it in the wrong way?  But Spain had been completely spent.  While Charles was not.  So it was really easy for him to take back control and reorganize Spain.

The best way to take control of a country is to make the citizens angry, leave for a while, (hint: take a vacation!), put some friends from another country in charge, come back when both sides are just exhausted from fighting and arguing, and “Voila!”– take back control!  Perfect.

Quinn Palmer

RPC Student