Can You Tell if This Fact Is About the Spanish Empire or the British Empire?


By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: Francisco de Zurbarán

About This Quiz

These days, the United States, Russia and China all dominate their spheres of influence and have a grip on territories all over the world. But long before these superpowers came along, there were the Spanish and British Empires. With their fearsome militaries, aggressive explorers and opportunistic business leaders, these empires captured and exploited lands (and peoples) all over Earth. In this imperialistic quiz, do you think you can match these facts to the correct European empire?

Centuries ago, both Britain and Spain were ruled exclusively by monarchs, the kings and queens who made and enforced the laws of the lands. When one country’s monarchs decided to strike out for the New World, so too did other European leaders, who didn’t want to miss out on a chance to exploit new trade routes and resources. A race to conquer the New World began. What do you know about the military forces and political factors that propelled European empires?

The Age of Discovery began in the early 15th century and gave rise to the legends of Christopher Columbus and the Conquistadors. As navies from Europe extended their journeys, so too did the reach of empires. In fact, naval powers were a primary force in imperialism, giving kings and queens immense spheres of influence around the globe. Do you know how empires expanded their reach in every hemisphere?

Don your tiara and smash your scepter on the questions in this empire quiz! We’ll see if you really know the difference between the Spanish and British Empires now!

In the 15th century, it became one of the first to establish an empire as part of the Age of Discovery.

Spain, along with Portugal, was a pioneer of sorts in exploring the seas during the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Spanish created a massive overseas empire that added greatly to the country's wealth.


Jealously of an empire sparked this empire to begin building its own imperialism strategies.

The British witnessed the Spanish unfolding an immense empire and they were envious … so they began sending ships of their own all over the world. These efforts gave rise to the first British Empire.


In the late 18th century, this empire lost control of the Thirteen Colonies in the New World.

In the New World, British colonists settled the East Coast of what eventually became known as America. But in the late 1700s, the colonist revolted against the crown in the American Revolution, and Britain's Empire lost some of its most populous areas.


It was also called the Catholic Monarchy.

With its strong ties to Catholicism, the Spanish Empire was also called the Catholic Monarchy. Its leaders performed many of its feats in the name of religion.


In the 1700s, it became the most powerful political entity in the Indian subcontinent.

The British famously conquered much of the Indian subcontinent in the late 1700s. Today, the area is filled with cultural and social reminders of British domination and influence.


In the early 1800s, this empire controlled the area of the Philippines.

The Spanish used their mighty navy to sprawl around the world, including the area of the Philippines. Later, the Philippines became a setting for major armed conflicts.


Following the American Revolution, it built what's called a second major empire.

The Revolution was a bump in the road for the British Empire, but it was by no means the end of British domination. The Brits picked up their feet and established what's called the second British Empire following America's break from the motherland.


This empire came to dominate vast swaths of South America.

In the 15th and 16th centuries, the Spanish sent many ships loaded with sailors and soldiers to South America. There, they conquered and colonized many parts of the continent, typically to the detriment of the locals.


Jamestown was a critical first settlement for this empire.

North America was a vital conquest for the British. And it all started in 1607 when settlers landed in the area of Virginia, where they established the first permanent British settlement, Jamestown.


The Treaty of Tordesillas gave this empire free rein to establish colonies in huge areas of the New World.

When Portugal and Spain signed the Treaty of Tordesillas, they essentially divvied up many areas of the New World for colonization. The Spanish took full advantage, creating colonies from Alaska to Cape Horn.


At its peak, it was the biggest empire in human history.

From the 16th to the 18th centuries, Britain built an empire for the ages. Their empire, at its peak, is still considered the biggest in the history of the world.


In the early 1800s, it had the most powerful navy in the world.

After the fall of Napoleon in the early 1800s, the British were left standing the biggest and most powerful navy in the world. Its navy helped the empire spread its power all over the globe.


Ferdinand II aggressively added to the land of this empire.

Spanish monarch Ferdinand II was no isolationist. He did everything in his power to expand the empire and to confront Spain's enemies, too.


Just before World World I, this empire had control over about one-quarter of the world's population.

Just prior to WWI's start in 1914, the British Empire was on a roll. Hundreds of millions of people -- perhaps one-quarter of all of Earth's inhabitants -- fell under the power of English crown.


Madrid was the capital of this empire.

As the Spanish Empire devoured many lands of the world, Madrid became a dramatic seat of power. It wasn't just the capital of Spain, it was a powerhouse city that guided the affairs of much of the world.


After World War II, this empire went into a period of steep decline.

With its economy overburdened by WWII and its military stressted beyond belief, the British Empire spiraled in the wake of WWII. In its place, the U.S. and USSR began growing in might and influence … and the Cold War began.


In 1513, an explorer named Balboa claimed the Pacific Ocean (and its adjacent lands) for this empire.

When Balboa crossed the Isthmus of Panama in 1513, he gazed upon the Pacific Ocean for the first time … and claimed it for the Spanish Empire. Of course, that claim didn't last long.


It was the first to be called "the empire on which the sun never sets."

Because the Spanish Empire sprawled all over the world, at least one country under its control was in daylight no matter the hour. It was truly "the empire on which the sun never sets."


The Australia Act 1986 signaled yet another death knell to this empire.

Britain's strong link to Australia was officially severed in the Australia Act 1986. This act ended the constitutional connection between Britain and Australia.


It conquered the Aztec Empire.

The Aztecs ruled much of Central America … until the Spanish arrived and conquered them in the 1500s. The Spanish Empire's foothold in South America gave the crown tremendous wealth and political influence in the New World.


From the early 1800s to the early 1900s, this empire was basically the world's police force.

With its huge navy and bases all over the world, the British Empire (like the U.S. today) was essentially the world's police force. No other nation could compete with the empire's military might.


In the early 1800s, wars of independence meant that this empire lost many of its lands.

In the early 1800s, many areas of Spanish America revolted against the Spanish Empire … and the crown couldn't hold on. As a result, Spain lost much of its influence in Central and South America.


Africa was rapidly decolonized as this empire began dwindling in size.

After WWII, British influence in Africa quickly diminished. Rather than fight bloody wars to maintain control of these colonies, the British simply let most of them go before 1970.


The Conquistadors helped add to this empire's territorial holdings.

In the 1500s, Spanish Conquistadors conquered many parts of what became known as Spanish America. The Aztec and Maya people suffered as the Conquistadors violently (and cleverly) stole their lands.


The "Cape to Cairo" railway was a vital part of this empire's strength in Africa.

In the late 1800s, the British began building the "Cape to Cairo" railway meant to connect the northern reaches of Africa to the south. Many sections were built, but the entire span was never completed, in part because of the World Wars.


The Laws of Burgos helped settlers of this empire convert conquered peoples to Catholicism.

In the early 1500s, the Spanish were on a roll, laying waste to many areas of Central and South America. The Laws of Burgos helped to bring a bit of civility to the proceedings, purportedly slowing the mistreatment of natives and helping to convert them to Catholicism.


This empire is now a political force organized under the Commonwealth of Nations.

The British Empire no longer exists in name. But the British wield incredible power thanks to the Commonwealth of Nations, a voluntary collective of dozens of countries that encompass billions of people.


The policy of "splendid isolation" couldn't hold this empire together through two World Wars.

As European affairs crumbled in the World War I era, British politicians fought to maintain "splendid isolation," so as to avoid the complicated entanglements of war. In the end, the empire suffered as it was forced to emerge from isolation to fight.


This empire suffered a terrible blow at the 1805 Battle of Trafalgar.

With its power already dwindling, the Spanish absorbed another terrible blow at the Battle of Trafalgar, in which Napoleon's forces destroyed much of the Spanish naval fleet. The empire couldn't survive the loss of such a vital tool of military power.


In the 1920s, this empire signed an accord with the United States.

In the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty, Britain came to peace with the idea that America's military might was growing. The treaty lessened the empire … but fostered goodwill that carried Britain and its North American ally through the perils of WWII.


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