The late eighteenth century brought deep changes to the Atlantic World. Imperial competition, warfare, revolutions and a general increase in transatlantic commerce changed the balance of power among European empires and their overseas territories. The Spanish empire in particular faced multiple challenges, especially intermittent warfare and economic crises, which many historians regard as having paved the way for the Spanish American independence movements after 1808. Warfare in Europe and in the Atlantic weakened Spain's economy and its control over trade and administration in its American territories. Military conflicts in the 1790s and 1800s disrupted the commercial routes connecting the Peninsula and the colonies, forcing the opening of the colonial economies to foreign agents. Because of the perils faced by Spanish vessels crossing the Atlantic, the Castilian crown allowed colonial merchants to trade directly with foreign neutral nations. Apart from legal commerce, contraband trade also flourished.