During the 16th and 17th century, a number of events occurred that had a great effect on the Malaga population. Apart from the expulsion of the Moors from the kingdom of Granada after the War of the Alpujarras, the population was decimated by constant conscription of soldiers, epidemics, floods as the River Guadalmedina burst its banks and, although in a lesser degree, explosions in the gunpowder factories.
From the commencement of the works, the port became the driving force of the productive system, up to the point of consolidating Malaga as an important trade centre, favouring an intense export flow of its sought-after products to the rest of Europe.
The singularity of Malaga's businesses lay in its development of market agriculture; however, the benefits obtained only serve to palliate the 17th century crisis. Wine and sultanas were Malaga's main export products and, therefore, were its main source of income, though in the textile sector, silk manufacture, linked to the Moorish influence, was also quite significant.
Within the social fabric, the aristocracy increased via a "re-feudalisation" process resulting from the sale of feudal estates, whilst at the same time it occupied high offices to form a class of nobles. Peasants and working class people formed the large majority of the population, though there was also a mercantile bourgeoisie clearly in expansion. The most discriminated sectors of the population were to be found in pockets of poverty in the suburbs and the persistence of slavery.
The strategic location of Malaga was to transform the city and its coast into chess pieces on the political checkerboard of the Austrias, who turned the city into an authentic arsenal. The municipality, the basic administrative figure, suffered the consequences of the generalised corruption of the times, with the sale of government posts and, in particular, its submission to the citizen oligarchies, usurpers of local political power.
During this period, the Church had almost completed in Malaga its network of parishes and religious and charity institutions in the dioceses. Brother Alonso de Santo Tomás, a polemical figure, played and unquestionably important role during this century.
The new popular religious fervour can be clearly seen by the increase in the number of Holy Week brotherhoods that sprung up around the main temples. The Jesuits founded a school in Malaga in 1572, with the objective of educating the young. A number of religious charity institutions were created, such as Santa Clara Convent (1505), the Order of St. Augustine School (1575) or the Convent of the Order of the Carmelites (1585).
Outside the city walls, constructions included the Royal Saint Lázaro Hospital (1491), the Convent of the Trinitarians (1491), Santo Domingo Church (1494), etc.
The Committee of the "Supreme and General Inquisition" extended its influence throughout the whole of the territory belonging to the Crown. To do this it employed the dreaded District Tribunals. One of these was set up in Granada with jurisdiction over the Archbishop of Granada and the bishoprics of Almeria, Guadix and Malaga.
The black legend, encouraged by the rest of Europe, gave a sinister vision of the Inquisition that has lasted to the present day. The Inquisition was created to fight against the proselyte activities of Jewish converters, but it soon became an organisation dedicated to protecting religious unity.