Bourbon Spain is the period approximating to the the eighteenth century from the end of Habsburg rule and the ensuing War of the Spanish Succession (1700–1715) until the Napoleonic Wars of 1808–1813 in which Spain would become a bloody battleground.
The War of the Spanish Succession was settled by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 which recognised Louis XIV’s grandson Philip, Duke of Anjou, as King of Spain (as Philip V), thus confirming the succession stipulated in the will of the Charles II of Spain who had died in 1700. In exchange Philip was renounced for himself and his descendants any claim on the French throne and other French Princes of the Blood similarly renounced any future claims on the Spanish throne ensuring that the two kingdoms would never be united.
After nearly a century of decay under the Habsburgs, the Bourbons are credited with bringing the Enlightenment to Spain, and in the mid-eighteenth-century, under Charles III, inaugurating a period of ‘enlightened despotism’, reforming the Spanish government, infrastructure, and institutions. But Jonathan Israel argues that King Charles III cared little for the Enlightenment and with ‘only a few ministers and officials were seriously committed to enlightened aims’ so that by the 1770s the conservatives were able to launch a counter-attack, using censorship and the Inquisition to suppress Enlightenment ideas. Whatever, the process came to a shuddering halt with the death of Charles III in 1788 and the storming of the Bastille a few months later: under Charles IV many of the reforms were reversed.
After the French Revolution Spain vacillated between support for the French and the British – the Spanish fleet fought alongside the French at Trafalgar – until Napoleon lost confidence in his dubious ally and installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte as King. This led to the overlapping wars of 1807–1814 known as the Peninsular War and the Guerra de la Independencia Española. These resulted in the re-establishment of an absolute Bourbon monarchy under King Ferdinand VII and a nineteenth-century Spain dominated by civil wars.