This map is part of a series of 12 animated maps showing .

View series: The Portuguese and Spanish Empires

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Organization of the Spanish Empire in the 16th century

This map is part of a series of 12 animated maps showing the history of The Portuguese and Spanish Empires.

The Spanish king’s authority in the Empire was delegated to two separate bodies:

 The Council of the Indies was responsible for governing and administrating the Empire, while the Casa de la Contratacion (or the House of Trade), located in Seville, presided over all aspects of maritime trade between Spain and its empire. In particular, the Casa de la Contratacion received customs duties paid by ships entering and leaving Spain. 

 The Empire’s territories on the American continent were divided into two vice-royalties: New Spain, created in 1536 with Mexico City as its capital, and Peru, founded in 1542 with its seat of government in Lima.

 Each was under the authority of a viceroy, usually a member of the Spanish aristocracy, who represented the Spanish sovereign and was responsible for military and administrative matters.

The vice-royalties were then divided into territorial districts controlled by offices or Audiencias.

Apart from Mexico and Lima, the main Audiencias were based in:

Guadalajara, Guatemala, Santo Domingo and Manila, in the vice-royalty of New Spain; and Panama, Santa Fe de Bogota, Charcas, Quito and Santiago, in the vice-royalty of Peru.

 Some of these Audiencias covered a vast area: for example, the Audiencia of Santo Domingo governed all the Spanish islands in the Caribbean, Florida and Venezuela.