The overseas territories which came under Spanish control from the late 15th century onwards. They included the Canaries, most of the West Indian islands, the whole of central America, large stretches of South America, and the Philippines. Christopher Columbus laid the foundations of the empire with his four voyages (1492–1504) in search of a western route to the Orient. Then the conquistadores followed, colonizing by force in Mexico, Peru, and elsewhere in the New World. As the wealth of these lands became apparent, private enterprise gradually gave way to direct rule by Spain. The gold and silver from the New World made 16th-century Spain the richest country in Europe, under Emperor Charles V. The colonies themselves were eventually divided into viceroyalties: New Spain (1535), Peru (1569), New Granada (1717), and Rio de la Plata (1776). The Spanish empire ended in the first quarter of the 19th century with the Spanish–South American War of Independence.
Subjects: World History.