As a first step towards unification, he planned a Union of Arms (1625) which would create a single Spanish army financed by all the regions in proportion to their wealth.
Many of his plans failed (though the ruff fell out of fashion).
Aragon resisted the Union of Arms.
It was hard to reduce the size of the Castilian local bureaucracy as many offices had been bought by the office-holders, and the government could not afford to buy them back.
Olivares’ plans for reform
Despite Olivares’ efforts, people continued to think of clergy and students as having high status, and equated trade with low status.
To finance government, Olivares resorted to debasing the coinage by issuing vellón (base; billon) coins; this annoyed the Cortes and harmed the economy.
But the main reason why Olivares shelved his plans was that Spain went to war again.
Olivares and foreign policy
In 1621 the Twelve Years Truce between the Dutch Republic and Spain expired.
Some Spaniards thought the Truce should be renewed; but Olivares believed (rightly) that Dutch wealth had expanded greatly during the Truce, and he hoped that Spain could extract better terms from the Dutch, even if it could not reconquer them.
Spain had successes early in the war; in 1625 Breda was captured, and Bahia (in Brazil) was recaptured; the Dutch were also defeated at Puerto Rico.
Olivares’ motives: self-defense or world domination?
Turning points: death of the Duke of Mantua (1627) and Mantuan succession crisis (1628-31); Duke of Nevers.
Piet Hein captures the treasure fleet 1628.
1625: Admiral Fadrique Alvárez de Toledo leads a Spanish and Portuguese force which recaptures Bahia from the Dutch.
Olivares: Spain at War
1630s: Olivares tries to get more financial and military resources from outlying parts of Spain and from Portugal.
Unrest in Catalonia, Vizcaya 1632; Portugal 1637; Olivares backs down.
1638 fall of Breisach; 1639 Battle of the Downs – destruction of a Spanish fleet in the English Channel.
1639-40: billeting of troops in Catalonia.
Olivares 1640-3: Crisis and Fall
May 1640: Catalan Revolt begins; later some Catalan nobles invite in the French; the Revolt divides; 1648 peace with the Dutch strengthens Spain, and the Fronde weakens France; plague strikes Catalonia ealry 1650s; Philip IV promises easy terms and Barcelona surrenders 1652.
Portugal: 1630 Dutch capture Pernambuco in Brazil; Spain fails to recapture it 1640.
Portuguese resent exclusion from Spanish America, and high taxation and use of Inquisition against those merchants who do trade there.
Coin of Louis XIII as Count of Barcelona, 1642
Olivares: 1640-3: Crisis and Fall
Portuguese hope that if they split from Spain, Dutch will stop attacking Brazil.
Portuguese resent efforts of Olivares’ to use their resources in Dutch War.