Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/555

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mother country. This caused an increased demand for corn in Spain and a rapid rise of prices there, as the colonists were able to pay large sums for the necessaries of life. Charles V, indeed, endeavoured to carry out works of irrigation, and to increase the food-supply by bringing a larger area under cultivation. But tillage could not be developed so as to meet the new demands. The methods of cultivation already in vogue were as high as was generally practicable in the existing state of society; the vine- and olive-growers on the one hand, and the pasture-farmers on the other, resented any encroachments on the land at their disposal, so that it was impossible to bring a larger area under crop. So powerful were the Mesta, a great corporation of sheep-farmers, that they were actually able in 1552 to insist that Crown- and Church-land which had been brought under tillage should revert to pasture. The result was inevitable; food became dearer, and the government was forced to recognise the fact by raising the maximum limit of price; as a consequence, the necessary outlay of all classes increased, while a large part of the population were not compensated by the profit obtained through the new facilities for trade.

Under ordinary circumstances the increase in the price of food would have been merely injurious to industry; it would necessitate a larger outlay in the expenses of production, and would leave less margin for profit, and no opportunity for the formation of capital. Ultimately, this seems to have been the effect on Spanish manufactures, and the high cost of production in the peninsula rendered it possible for other European countries, where the range of prices was lower, to undersell the Spanish producer in the home market. No serious attempt was made by the government to check this tendency, as the policy pursued was in the main that of favouring the consumer, and protective tariffs were not introduced.

The circumstances which prevailed in Spain at the opening of the sixteenth century were, however, quite exceptional, and as a matter of fact there seems to have been a considerable, though short-lived, development of industry. The colonists not only imported their food, but manufactures as well; there was a sudden increase in the demand both for textile goods and for hardware, to meet the American requirements, and of course there was a great rise of prices. The small independent masters, working on the old industrial system, were unable to cope with this new state of affairs; but the foreign capitalists saw their opportunity. Manufacturing of every kind was organised on a large scale at Toledo and other centres; wages rose enormously, and a great influx of population was attracted into the city. This was doubtless drawn to some extent from the rural districts; but the stream must have been considerably augmented by the immigration of French and Italians. Hence it appears that this rapid industrial development was merely an excrescence, which had no very deep attachment to the country; the