History

The first third of the 17th century in the Caribbean was defined by the outbreak of the savage and destructive Thirty Years’ War in Europe (1618–1648) that represented the final showdown between Habsburg Spain and Bourbon France. The war was mostly fought in Germany, where one-third to one-half of the population would eventually be lost to the strains of the conflict, but it had some effect in The New World as well. The Spanish presence in the Caribbean began to decline at a faster rate.

The Spanish military presence in the New World also declined as Madrid shifted more of its resources to the Old World in the Habsburgs’ apocalyptic fight with almost every state in Europe. This need for Spanish resources in Europe accelerated the decay of the Spanish Empire in the Caribbean. The settlements of the Spanish Main and the Spanish West Indies became financially weaker and were garrisoned with a much smaller number of troops as their home countries were more consumed with happenings back in Europe. The Spanish Empire’s economy remained stagnant and the Spanish colonies’ plantations, ranches and mines became totally dependent upon immigrant labor. With Spain no longer able to maintain its military control effectively over the Caribbean, the other Western European states finally began to move in and set up permanent settlements of their own, ending the Spanish monopoly over the control of the New World.

In England, a new round of colonial ventures in the New World was fueled by declining economic opportunities at home and growing religious intolerance for more radical groups who rejected the establish monarchy and religious orders. After the demise of the Saint Lucia and Grenada colonies soon after their establishment, and the near-extinction of the English settlement of Jamestown in Virginia, new and stronger colonies were established by the English in the first half of the 17th century, at Plymouth, Boston, Barbados, the West Indian islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis and Providence Island. These colonies would all persevere to become centers of English civilization in the New World.

For France, now ruled by the Bourbon King Louis XIII (r. 1610–1642) and his able minister Cardinal Richelieu, religious civil war had been reignited between French Catholics and Protestants (called Huguenots). Throughout the 1620s, French Huguenots fled France and founded colonies in the New World much like their English counterparts. Then, in 1636, to decrease the power of the Habsburg dynasty who ruled Spain and the Holy Roman Empire on France’s eastern border, France entered the cataclysm in Germany—against Spain.

Today, the great Spanish towns of the Caribbean have begun to prosper and Spain is also beginning to make a slow, fitful recovery, but remains poorly defended militarily because of Spain’s problems and is sometimes easy prey for pirates and privateers. The English presence continues to expand in the Caribbean as England itself is rising toward great power status in Europe.

Captured from Spain in 1655, the island of Jamaica had been taken over by England and its chief settlement of Port Royal had become a new English buccaneer haven in the midst of the Spanish Empire. The French settlement at Tortuga was similarly wrested from Spanish control and.

History

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