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COMMENTARY: HISTORY FROM ANCIENT TO MODERN

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Race-mixing and Decline

A website has described miscegenation as the cause of Spain's decline as a great power in the 1600s. Those claiming that Spain declined because of race are, of course, suggesting that Spain rose in power because of racial characteristics that should have kept Spain great had it not been lost through race mixing.

Spain was a mix of peoples from ancient times. There were the Neanderthals, various megalith cultures, nomads, Celts, Phoenician and Greek colonization, Vandals, Visigoths, Jews, Arabs, Berbers, and others. Geography rather than race is one factor in Spain's rise as a maritime power with a vast empire in the Americas in the 16th and 17th centuries. Its economic power was a product of its contact across the Atlantic to the Americas, and it was done with a lot of crudity and primitivity that does not suggest greatness in the sense of highly developed mentalities.

Why the decline? Was there a mixing of Spanish blood with African blood or native American blood? This mixing took place in Latin America, indeed. But the race theory of decline doesn't connect well with Spain's history. Spain did not develop a merchant class with values of frugality and investment to the extent of the Dutch, British and French. In Spain the values of the aristocracy prevailed. Wealth was squandered on luxuries for the sake of prestige. And Spain's Habsburg rulers squandered wealth fighting wars, for both prestige and the preservation of the Catholic faith. Spain hurt itself by driving away skilled Jews and Arabs, leaving itself unable to maintain the intricate irrigation systems and other features of what had been a highly productive Moorish agriculture. Spain's agriculture came under the control not of business-minded peasants but of huge estates owned by the aristocracy and the Church. These were absentee landlords, who were more interested in prestige than agricultural production. Their intermediaries lent the land in small parcels to sharecroppers or tenants on short leases, leaving those who worked the soil without incentive to advance production. It was the influence the Spanish aristocracy values more than it was an invasion of new genetic material into biology that contributed to Spain's decline.

Spain lost most of its empire in the early 1800s, not long after Britain lost much of its empire in the Americas, when transporting troops across the Atlantic was still slow. And it lost its empire in Latin America largely to a mixed race – contrary to the claim that mixed race meant reduced power.

If Spain weakened itself by race-mixing, that race-mixing should still be handicapping Spain today. But Spain has been growing economically as fast as the Danes and the Dutch.

Copyright © 1999-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.