Spain's History


Early Spain was made up of a diverse race of people. The first to appear were the Iberians, a Libyan people, who came from the south. Later came the Celts, a typically Aryan people, and from the merging of the two there arose a new race, the Celtiberians, who, divided into several tribes (Cantabrians, Asturians, Lusitanians) gave their name to their respective homelands. The next to arrive, attracted by mining wealth, were the Phoenicians, who founded a number of trading posts along the coast, the most important being that of Cadiz. After this came Greek settlers, who founded several towns, including Rosas, Ampurias and Sagunto. The Phoenicians, in their struggle against the Greeks, called on the Carthaginians, who, under the orders of Hamilcar Barca, took possession of most of Spain. At this time the Romans had raised a border dispute in defense of the areas of Greek influence, and in conclusion it began in the Peninsula the Second Punic War, which decided the fate of the world at the time. When Rome had won a Roman called Publius Cornelius Scipio began the conquest of Spain, hence the rule of Spain under the Roman Empire for six centuries.

Over the six centuries of Rome's ruling they left a big impact on Spain. They left the: Roman law, the Christian religion, and the Latin language.

After the Romans had left Spain many other tribes of people tried to conquer Spain but most of them lost against the Visigoths. The Visigoths had complete control over Spain at the time.

Then during the 8th century Arabs started entering from the South. They had started to conquer most of the country except for one portion in the North (but eventually was conquered eight centuries later). The period of Muslim sway is divided into three periods: The Emirate (711 to 756 A.D.), the Caliphate (756 to 1031 A.D.) and the Reinos de Taifas (1031 to 1492 A.D.)

In 1469, the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs, Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon, prepared the way for the union of the two kingdoms and marked the opening of a period of growing success for Spain, since during their reign, Granada, the last stronghold of the Arabs in Spain, was conquered and, at the same time, in the same historic year of 1492, the caravels sent by the Crown of Castile under the command of Christopher Columbus discovered America. The Canary Islands became part of Spanish territory (1495), the hegemony of Spain in the Mediterranean, to the detriment of France, was affirmed with the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, and Navarre was incorporated into the Kingdom.

The next two centuries, the 16th and the 17th, witnessed the construction and apogee of the Spanish Empire as a result of which the country, under the aegis of the Austrians, became the world's foremost power, and European politics hinged upon it.

The War of Succession to the Spanish Crown (1701-1714) marked the end of the dynasty of the Habsburgs and the coming of the Bourbons. The Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 formalized the British occupation of the Rock of Gibraltar, giving rise to an anachronistic colonial situation which still persists today and constitutes the only dispute between Spain and the United Kingdom.

In 1808 Joseph Bonaparte was installed on the Spanish throne, following the Napoleonic invasion, although the fierce resistance of the Spanish people culminated in the restoration of the Bourbons in the person of Fernando VII.

In 1873, the brief reign of Amadeo of Savoy ended with his abdication, and the First Republic was proclaimed. However, a military pronouncement in 1875, restored the monarchy and Alfonso XII was proclaimed King of Spain. He was succeeded in 1886 by his son Alfonso XIII, although his mother Queen Maria Cristina of Habsburg acted as regent until 1902, when he was crowned king.

Prior to this, a brief war with the United States resulted in the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines, in 1898, thus completing the dissolution of the Spanish overseas empire.

In the municipal elections of April 12th, 1931, it became clear that in all the large towns of Spain the candidates who supported the Monarchy had been heavily defeated. The size of the Republican's vote in cities such as Madrid and Barcelona was enormous. In the country districts the Monarchy gained enough seats to secure for them a majority in the nation as a whole. But it was well known that in the country the 'caciques' were still powerful enough to prevent a fair vote. By the evening of the day following the elections, great crowds were gathering in the streets of Madrid. The king's most trusted friends advised him to leave the capital without delay, to prevent bloodshed. As a result, Alfonso XIII left Spain and the Second Republic was established in April 14th. During its five-year lifetime, it was ridden with all kind of political, economic and social conflicts, which inexorably split opinions into two irreconcilable sides. The climate of growing violence culminated on July 18th 1936 in a military rising which turned into a tragic civil war which did not end until three years later.

On October 1st, 1936, General Franco took over as Head of State and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The Spanish State embarked on a period of forty years' dictatorship, during which the political life of the country was characterized by the illegality of all the political parties with the exception of the National Movement. Franco died in 1975, bringing to an end a period of Spanish history and opening the way to the restoration of the monarchy with the rise to the Throne of the present King of Spain, Juan Carlos I de Borbon y Borbon.

The young monarch soon established himself as a resolute motor for change to a western-style democracy by means of a cautious process of political reform which took as its starting point the Francoist legal structure. Adolfo Suarez, the prime minister of the second Monarchy Government (July 1976) carried out with determination and skill though helped, certainly, by a broad social consensus- the so-called transition to democracy which, after going through several stages (recognition of basic liberties, political parties, including the communist party, the trade unions, an amnesty for political offenses, etc.), culminated in the first democratic parliamentary elections in 41 years, on June 15th, 1977. The Cortes formed as a result decided to start a constituent process which concluded with the adoption of a new Constitution, ratified by universal suffrage, on December 6th, 1978.

Between 1980 and 1982, the regions of Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia and Andalusia approved statutes for their own self-government and elected their respective parliaments. In January 1981, the prime minister, Adolfo Suarez, resigned and was succeeded by Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo.

On August 27th, 1982, Calvo-Sotelo presented to the King a decree for the dissolution of Parliament and the calling of a general election to be held on October 28th. Victory of the polls went to the Spanish Socialist Worker Party (PSOE) and its secretary general, Felipe Gonzalez. The socialists obtained 202 seats out of the 350 of which the Lower House consists and approximately 48% of the popular vote. Felipe Gonzalez was elected prime minister (December 2nd) after the parliamentary vote of investiture. The major losers were the Union of the Democratic Center -which has split up following the defection of a number of its members- and the Spanish Communist Party (PCE). The Popular Alliance, whose chairman was Manuel Fraga Iribarne, made considerable gains (106 seats and approximately 26% of the

The subsequent general elections of 1986, 1989 and 1993 were also won by the Spanish Socialist Party and consolidated the the position of the Popular Party, led by Jose Maria Aznar, as the second largest political force in the country.

King of Spain right now is just like the Queen of England. He does not have that much power. He gets to have cool guards at the capital.

ROMAN Presence

The Roman presence in the Peninsula followed the route of the Greek commercial bases; however, it commenced with a struggle between this empire and Carthage for the control of the western Mediterranean during the second century B.C. In any case, it was at that time the Peninsula existence, and from then on became a coveted strategic objective due to its singular geographic position between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and to the agricultural and mineral wealth of its southern part.

The penetration and the subsequent Roman conquest of the Peninsula covered
the prolonged period stretching from 218 to 19 B.C.

Visigothic Kingdom

By the 5th century A.D., the Visigoths were already a romanized people who considered themselves the heirs of the defunct imperial power. Around the middle of this century, the threefold pressures of the Suevi, from the west(Galicia), the Cantabrian-Pyrenaic herds men from the north and the Byzantines from the south, the Betica, forced them to establish their capital in Toledo, in the center of the Peninsula. This decision had implications of great significance; in the first place, because, instead of an east-west delineation of the Peninsula, pivoting between Lisbon and Cartagena, a north-south delineation from Cantabria to the Strait of Gibraltar was created.

In the second place, it was significant because it constituted a first attempt at Peninsular unity independent of the rest of the empire, and therefore the Visigoths have been considered, practically to up to the present day, the creators of the first Peninsular kingdom, Moreover the Visigothic kingdom would serve, time and again, as the source of legitimacy for any power which tried to unite Hispania; and thirdly, because the Pyrenees and Gibraltar, no longer considered mere places of passage or points within a larger imperial circuit, became the limits or frontiers of a state to be defended.

The Visigoths defended themselves well against the Suevi in Galicia and subdued them in the 6th century A.D.; however, in the north, the Basques, Cantabrians and Asturians were more successful in resisting the Visigoth onslaught than they had been in resisting the Romans, and were almost as adept as they would be against the Moors. The Betica, from the 6th to the 11th century A.D., constituted an exception within western Europe. Facing a continental Europe which was increasingly closed and fragmented, it would maintain its urban culture and its commercial and cultural connections within the Mediterranean domain; firstly, with the eastern Roman Empire, with Byzantium and later with the Muslim Caliphate.

Muslim Spain

It was one of the noble clans, the Witiza family, that, at the beginning of the 8th century, caused the decline of the Visigoth kingdom, by appealing for aid to Muslim and Berbers warriors from across the Strait of Gibraltar to fight the royal usurper. In fact, the Visigothic state apparatus' disintegration allowed the Muslims to make isolated pacts with an aristocracy that was semi-independent and opposed to the Crown.

By the middle of the 8th century, the Muslims had completed their occupation and the Umayyad prince Abd al-Rahman, who had fled from the Abbasid slaughter of 750 A.D., took refuge among the Berbers. Finally, supported by one of the Peninsular Muslims tribes, the Yemenies, he managed to defeat, in 755, the Abbasid governor of Al-Andalus and have himself proclaimed in Cordoba Emir, independent of Damascus. In the first third of the 10th century, one of the Spanish Umayyads, Abd al- Rahman III, restored and extended the Al-Andalus emirate and became the first Spanish Caliph.

The proclamation of the Caliphate had a double purpose. In the interior, the Umayyads wanted to strengthen the Peninsular kingdom. Outside the country, they wanted to consolidate the commercial routes of the Mediterranean, guarantee an economic relationship with the east-Byzantium, and assure the supply of gold. Melilla was occupied in 927 and, by the middle of the same century, the Umayyad controlled the triangle formed by Algeria, Siyimasa and the Atlantic. The power of the Andalucian Caliphate also extended to western Europe, and by 950, the Germano-Roman empire was exchanging ambassadors with the Cordoban Caliphate. A few years prior, Hugo of Arles appealed to the powerful Spanish Caliphate for safe conduct for his merchant ships in the Mediteranean. The small Christian strongholds in the north of the Peninsula became modest feudal holdings of the Caliphate, recognizing its superiority and arbitrage.

The foundations of Andalucian hegemony rested on a considerable economic capacity based on important trade, a developed craft industry and an agriculture know-how which was much more efficient than anything else in the rest of Europe. The Cordoban caliphate had a currency-based economy, and the injection of coinage played a central role in its financial splendor. The gold Cordobes coin became the principal currency of the period and was probably imitated by the Carolingian empire.

Therefore, the Cordoban caliphate was the first urban and commercial economy that had flourished in Europe since the disappearance of the Roman Empire. The capital and most important city of the Caliphate, Cordoba, had some 100,000 inhabitants, making it Europe's principal urban concentration during
that epoch.

Muslim Spain produced a flourishing culture, above all after the Caliph Al-Hakam II (961-976) came to power. He is credited with founding a library of hundreds of thousands of volumes, which was practically inconceivable in Europe at that time. The most distinctive feature of this capture was the early readoption of classical philosophy by Ibn Masarra, Abentofain, Averroes and the Jew Maimonide. But the Spanish-Muslim thinkers stood out, above all in medicine, mathematics and astronomy.

The fragmentation of the Cordoban Caliphate took place at the end of the first decade of the 11th century; this came about as a result of the enormous war effort deployed by the last Cordoban leaders and the suffocating fiscal pressures. The thirty-nine successors of the united Caliphate became known as the first (1009-1090) Ta'ifas (petty kingdoms), a name which has passed into the Spanish language as a synonym for the ruin generated by the fragmentation and disunity of the Peninsula. This division occurred twice again, thereby creating second and third Ta'ifas and producing a series of new invasions from the north of Africa. The first time the Almoravides (1090), invaded the Peninsula, the second time it was the Almohads (1146) and the third, the Banu Marins (1224). This progressive weakening meant that by the middle of the 13th century, Islamic Spain was reduced to the Nasrid Kingdom in Granada. Located between the Strait of Gibraltar and Cape Gata, this historical relic did not capitulate until 2 January 1492, at the end of the Re-conquest.



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