The Spanish Empire ( ) consisted of the territories and colonies administered directly by Spain in Europe, the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania. It originated during the Age of Exploration and was therefore one of the first global empires. At the time of Habsburgs, Spain reached the peak of its world power. It lasted from the 15th century through - in the case of its African holdings - the latter portion of the 20th century.
After the War of the Castilian Succession, Spain had emerged with a personally unified monarchy, by the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs or los Reyes Catolicos: the Queen of Castile and the King of Aragon. Rule was separate but internal and foreign policy was coordinated. In 1492, the Spanish monarchs completed the Reconquista with the incorporation of Granada to the Kingdom of Castile. That same year Christopher Columbus commanded the first Spanish exploratory voyage west across the Atlantic Ocean, leading to the Discovery of America and Europe's eventual colonial engagement in the New World. The Americas thereby became the focus of Spanish exploration and colonization.
In the 16th century, Spain settled the Greater Antilles in the Caribbean, and took over large areas on mainland North and South America overrunning the Aztecs and Incas. The Spanish expedition of world circumnavigation started by Ferdinand Magellan in 1519, and completed by Juan Sebastian Elcano in 1522, achieved what Columbus had longed for, a westward route to Asia and the sought-after Spice Islands. In 1565 navigator Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in Guam and the Philippine Islands establishing the Spanish East Indies. In addition to the overseas empire in America and Oceania, the Spanish Monarchy controlled several European territories (the Low Countries, the greater part of Italy, and some parts of modern France and Germany), and a number of coastal strongholds in Africa. By the 17th century, Spain controlled an empire on a scale and world distribution that had never been approached by its predecessors.
Spain's European possessions were given up at the conclusion of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, but Spain retained its vast overseas empire. In 1741, a massive victory over Britain at the Battle of Cartagena de Indias in modern day Colombia prolonged Spain's hegemony in the Americas until the 19th century. During the late 18th century, Spanish expeditions to the Pacific Northwest reached Canada and Alaska, resulting in a settlement on Vancouver Island and the discovery of several archipelagos and glaciers.
The French occupation of Spain in 1808 under Napoleon cut off its American colonies temporarily, and a number of independence movements between 1810 and 1825 resulted in a chain of newly independent Spanish American republics in South and Central America. The remainder of Spain's then-four hundred year empire, namely Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Spanish East Indies, continued under Spanish control until the end of the 19th century, when most of these territories were annexed by the United States after the Spanish-American War. Spain sold its remaining Pacific islands to Germany in 1899. Therefore, at the turn of the 20th century, Spain only held territories in Africa, namely Spanish Guinea, Spanish Sahara and Spanish Morocco, obtained during the Scramble for Africa, but they were relinquished from the mid 20th century due to the Decolonization of Africa.