The Breaking of Spain's Monopoly

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BREAKING THE SPANISH MONOPOLY IN THE CARIBBEAN SPAIN’S CLAIM TO CONTROL THE CARIBBEAN At the beginning of the 16th Century, Spain and Portugal led Europe in exploration. With regard to the Caribbean, after the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, Spain adopted a policy of mare clausum (sea closed to others). All foreign ships were banned from the entire Caribbean and from trade with the Spanish colonies. The Spanish had not settled in nearly all the Lesser Antilles, the Bahamas and the Guianas, and in these areas the Spanish monopoly began to be challenged. NATIONALISM AND RELIGION IN EUROPE Before 1517, all of Europe acknowledged the authority of the Pope, and allowed the Papacy to act as an international court. As the Reformation spread throughout Europe and there was a definite break with Rome by Martin Luther in 1517, Europe became divided into Catholic and Protestant countries. The universal authority of the Pope was restricted to Catholic countries. Protestants felt free to explore and found colonies in parts of the world hitherto held to belong to Portugal or Spain. The Catholic Church launched a Counter-Reformation to win back lost souls. Many sea captains, especially English and Dutch, were Protestant and they looked on piracy against the Spaniards as a religious crusade. Even before the Reformation, countries trespassed on Spain and Portugal’s monopoly, and France, which was always Catholic, defied the Pope’s ruling of 1493. England and France thought that is they kept to the north of Spanish lands they could not be doing anything wrong. Sebastian and John Cabot (brothers) made two voyages of exploration for England in 1497 and 1516, to the shores of Canada and Newfoundland, but no colonies were founded. There was a voyage by John Rut in 1527 when he tried to establish peaceful trade with the Spanish empire. It was not until Elizabeth’s reign
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