The painting above: The Spanish treasure fleets departs the Florida coast for Spain, by Timothy Thompson
Conquests in the New World brought wealth to Phillip II and his country and led to the growth of Spanish power. By 1600, 339,000 pounds of gold, and 16,000 tons of silver bullion had been shipped to Spain. It amounted to 32 million pesos in that year (1600).
Huge quantities of treasure had to be shipped back to Spain by sea, and the vulnerabilities of lumbering treasure galleons to pirates required that they employ a convoy system, where the Spanish Navy would sail with them and protect the hulls that were filled to the gunnels with precious metal, and jewels.
Fleets of up to 100 ships were frequently to be seen gathering the Florida coast, preparing for passage to Spain. Sometimes they sailed too late and treasure ships went to the bottom.
In other instances, “pirates”, often ships commissioned by other nations with letters of marque, authorizing them to make war on the Spanish and retrieve the treasure cut one or two out of the herd.
The Spanish Price Revolution occurred between the second half of the 15th century and the first half of the 17th century, and was most specifically linked to the high rate of inflation that occurred during this period across Western Europe. Prices rose on average roughly sixfold over 150 years. Specie flowed through Spain, increasing Spanish prices and spread across Europe. Combined with this influx of gold and silver, population growth and urbanization perpetuated the price revolution. According to this theory, too many people with too much money chased too few goods, and instead of rising dominant over Western Europe and the known world, it destroyed Spain – some would say, forever.