Forced loans in the Spanish Empire: the first requisition of American treasures in 1523

Sergio Sardone
Published Online:
09 May 2018
Volume/Issue No:
Volume 72 Issue 1

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Abstract This article describes the policy of forced loans, employed in Spain by Charles V to solve the principal financial crises of the Royal Treasury and to fund the main military campaigns of the Habsburg Empire. Specifically, this study is focused on the first requisition of private American treasures—the earliest case of this in European history—which were expropriated in 1523 by the Casa de la Contratación (House of Trade) of Seville to finance the campaign of Fuenterrabía against the French army. The analysis of exceptional archival sources provides details of all the forced loans imposed on the holders of remittances (primarily gold) and the conditions for extinguishing the debts without causing harmful consequences to Atlantic traders. The article challenges the widespread view of the confiscations as an attack on property rights and overly simplistic ideas about the supposedly ‘highly absolutistic’ or predatory policies attributed to the Crown of Castile in some of the economic historiography.

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