The Spanish Empire, historically known as the Hispanic Monarchy and the Catholic Monarchy was a colonial empire governed by Spain and its predecessor states between 1492 and 1976. One of the largest empires in history, it was, in conjunction with the Portuguese, the first to usher the European Age of Discovery and achieve a global scale, controlling vast portions of the Americas, the archipelago of Philippines, various islands in the Pacific and territories in Western Europe and Africa. It was one of the world's most powerful empires of the Early modern period, becoming known as "the empire on which the sun never sets", and reached its maximum extent in the 18th century.
An important element in the formation of Spain's empire was the dynastic union between Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, known as the Catholic Monarchs, which initiated political, religious and social cohesion but not political unification. Castile became the dominant kingdom in Iberia because of its jurisdiction over the overseas empire in the Americas and the Philippines.