How far did the policies of Olivares represent realistic solutions to the problems of Spain?
'The view is rapidly gaining currency that not only did Olivares' policies for Spain and its empire not differ markedly from those of earlier Spanish statesmen, but that by and large the results of his manifold endeavours were both few and modest.'
This understanding of the historiography of Olivares' effectiveness from Israel, makes Olivares look unoriginal and ineffectual. However other historians, such as Elliott have been far more sympathetic.
'...the first and the last ruler of Hapsburg Spain who had the breadth of vision to devise plans on a grand scale for the future of a world-wide monarchy: a statesman whose capacity for conceiving great designs was matched only by his consistent incapacity for carrying them through to a successful conclusion.'
Were Olivares' policies a realistic way out of Spain's difficulties or did they aggravate the situation? To understand this I am going to look at both Olivares' foreign policy and domestic policy. Within foreign policy I propose to see how far Olivares pushed the reputacion of the state before domestic crises forced him to seek peace. Among others the best areas to examine would be Olivares' policies during the Thirty Years War from 1622; the Mantuan War 1628-31 and the great revolts of Catalonia and Portugal in 1640. As for domestic policy I will need to look at Olivares' initial reforms of 1623, why they fell through and the effect this had. Furthermore it is important to look at the areas where domestic policy coincides with foreign policy (in a defensive sense) in the Great Memorial, including the Union of Arms. I will also have to find out if Olivares' policies were consistent, or whether they became more and more drastic during his term of office. Firstly though, to understand if the policies were realistic or not, I will have to look into the real problems of... Continues...