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History of Spain

This is the history of Spain. See also the history of Europe and history of present-day nations and states.

It is traditional to start the history of modern Spain with the Visigoth kingdom. Although it is debatable whether there is continuity between it and the Kingdom of Castilla and Aragon after the 15th century, a discussion of modern Spain would be incomplete without a mention of the Visigoth Kingdom[?]. Accordingly, Both it and Al Andalus[?] have their own sections in this article, but should have full-blown articles of their own. The history of Spain just before the Visigoths belongs in the Roman Empire article. Before the Roman Empire, the Iberian Peninsula was never politically unified, see Preroman Iberia[?] for a discussion of the indigenous groups and the colonies established by Eastern Mediterranean civilizations. Discussion of earlier periods probably belongs under prehistoric Europe[?].

Table of contents

Visigothic Spain After the fall of the Roman Empire, Germanic tribes invaded the former empire, several turned sedentary and created successor-kingdoms to the Romans in various parts of Europe. Iberia was taken over by the Visigoths after 410.

Al-Andalus In 711 the expanding forces of Islam, founded in the 7th century by prophet Muhammad, after dominating all the north of Africa, took advantage of a civil war in the Visigothic kingdoms in Iberia, jumped the Strait of Gibraltar, and by 718 dominated most of the peninsula. (See also Almohades.) The Moorish advance into Europe was stopped at Poitiers (France) in 732.

The rulers of Al-Andalus were granted the rank of Emir by the Omeya Calif in Damascus. After the Omeya were overthrown by the Abbasides Abd-Al-Rahman I declared Cordoba an independent emirate. Al-Andalus was rife with internal conflict between the Arab Omeya rulers, the Berbers (North African) commoners and the Visigoth Christian population.

In the 10th century Abd-Al-Rahman III declared the Caliphate of Cordoba, effectively breaking all ties with the Egyptian and Syrian Caliphs. The Caliphate reached its peak around the year 1000, under Al-Mansur (a.k.a. Almanzor), who sacked Barcelona (985) and other Christian cities. After Almanzor's death the Caliphate plunged into a civil war and collapsed into the so-called "Taifa Kingdoms". The Taifa kingdoms lost ground to the Christian realms in the north and, after the loss of Toledo in 1085, the Almoravides invaded Al-Andalus from North Africa and established an empire. In the 12th century the Almoravide empire broke up again, only to be taken over by the Almohade invasion. After the decisive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, only the kingdom of Granada remained, until 1492.

Córdoba became one of the most beautiful and advanced cities of Europe, and an important scholarly center. (See also Abbadides, Almoravides).

Reconquista: 8th-15th centuries The expulsion of the Muslims was started by the first King of Asturias, named Pelayo (718-737), who started his fight against the Moors in the mountains of Covadonga. Later, his sons and descendants continued with his work until all of the Muslims were expelled. See Pelayo for more information.

While in the east of the peninsula, the Frankish emperors established the Marca Hispanica across the Pyrenees in part of what today is Catalonia, reconquering Girona in 785, Barcelona in 801.

The idea of the Reconquista as a single process spanning 8 centuries is historically inaccurate. The Christian realms in northern Spain warred against each other as much as against the Muslims. El Cid, the 11th-century hero of Spain's epic poem was banished by king Alfonso VI and found refuge with the Muslim king of Zaragoza. With the collapse of the Caliphate of Córdoba Al-Andalus broke apart into a number of small, warring domains, which contributed to the success of the southward expansionist drive of the Christian kingdoms. In the 11th century the Muslim realms asked for help from the North African Almoravides, who then took control of all of Al-Andalus and some Christian land. The Almohades were defeated in the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. By the mid-13th century Granada was the only independent Muslim realm in Spain, and the 13th and the 15th centuries were spent in internal strife among the Christian kingdoms. The reconquest of Spain was declared a crusade at the turn of the 13th century. With this declaration came the urge for religious purity in Spain, which was capitalized on by the "Catholic monarchs" (Reyes Católicos in Spanish) Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon in order to justify their invasion of Granada, the expulsion of the Jews and the forceful conversion of the Moors.

In the 15th century, the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon united and the Muslims were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. Aragon was at that time already an important maritime power in the Mediterranean, and Castile was in competition with Portugal for domination of the Atlantic Ocean. After the final conquest of the last Moorish stronghold at Granada in 1492, Spain started financing voyages of exploration. Those of Christopher Columbus brought a New World to Europe's attention, and were followed by the Conquistadores who brought the native empires of Mesoamerica and the Inca under Spanish Control. At the same time, the Jews of Spain were ordered on March 30, 1492 to convert to Christianity or be exiled from the country.

Through a policy of alliances with other European nobility and the conquest of most of South America and the West Indies, Spain began to establish itself as an empire. The empire reached its maximum extent under Charles I, who was also (as Charles V) emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

See also: Treaty of Tordesillas

Spain under the Habsburgs: 16th-17th centuries Spain's powerful world empire of the 16th and 17th centuries ultimately yielded command of the seas to England. The Habsburg dynasty became extinct in Spain and the War of Spanish Succession ensued in which the other European powers tried to assume control of the Spanish monarchy.

Spain under the Bourbons Philip V, the first Bourbon king, of French origin, signed the Decreto de Nueva Planta in 1715, a new law that revoked most of the historical rights and privileges of the different kingdoms that conformed Spanish Crown. Spain became culturally and politically a follower of France.

Spain an the Enlightenment: 18th century Subsequent failure to embrace the mercantile and industrial revolutions caused the country to fall behind Britain, France, and Germany in economic and political power.

Napoleonic Wars: Spanish Independence War 1808-1812

The Napoleonic invasion gave the opportunity to the American colonies to claim their independence. In 1812 the Cortes refugeed at Cadiz created the first modern Spanish constitution, informally named as La Pepa. This constitution was revoked by the returning king Ferdinand VII.

1820-1823 [Trienio Liberal] - After the pronunciamento (coup d'etat) by Riego, the king was forced to accept the liberal Constitution.

1823-1833 [Decada ominosa] - Another coup d'etat revoked the Constitution, executed Riego, and restored Ferdinand VII as absolute monarch.

Regency by Maria Cristina

Carlist Wars

see also Thomas Zumalacarregui

Isabella II

Amadeus I of Savoy

1st Spanish Republic[?]

[The Restoration]

Alfonso XII -

Don Manuel Ruiz Zorilla

The "disaster" of 1898

By 1898, Spain had lost most of its colonial possessions. Then Cuba and the Philippines were lost to the United States. (See also: Spanish-American War) Spain's colonial possessions were reduced to Morocco, Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea.

Alfonso XIII -

The "disaster" of Anual (1921)

Mistreatment of the Moorish population in Morocco led to an uprising and the loss of all North African possessions except for the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in 1921. Abd el-Krim[?], Annual. In order to avoid accountability, the king Alfonso XIII decided to support the dictatorship of general Miguel Primo de Rivera[?].

The dictatorship of Primo de Rivera 1921-1930 The dictatorship of Primo de Rivera collapsed in 1930. Disgusted with the king's involvement in it, the people voted for republican parties in the municipal elections of April 1931. The king was forced to resign and a republic was established.

Second Spanish Republic (1931-1939) First time women are allowed to vote in general elections. Autonomy devolved to the Basque country and to Catalonia.

Spanish Civil War 1936-1939 A right wing coup d'etat by Francisco Franco and other generals starts the Spanish Civil War against the Republic.

The dictatorship of Franco 1936-1975 Spain remained neutral in World Wars I and II, but suffered through a devastating Civil War (1936-39). During Franco's rule, Spain remained largely economically and culturally isolated from the outside world, but slowly began to catch up economically with its European neighbors. The latter years of Franco's rule saw some economic and political liberalisation, including the birth of a tourism industry. Francisco Franco ruled until his death on November 20th 1975 when control was given to King Juan Carlos.

In the last few months before Franco's death, the Spanish state went into a paralysis. This was capitalized upon by the King of Morocco, who seized Western Sahara, and by Equatorial Guinea, which achieved its independence. Thus Spain lost its last colonial possessions.

The transition to democracy 1975-1978

At present, Spain is a constitutional monarchy, and is comprised of 17 autonomous communities (Andalucía, Aragón, Asturias, Illes Balears, Islas Canarias, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Catalunya, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, País Vasco, Comunitat Valenciana, Navarra, Ceuta and Melilla). One of the most important problems facing Spain today is the Basque separatist movement, especially the terrorist group ETA.

[Spain 1978-1982] The Union del Centro Democrático governments. 1981 The 23-F coup d'etat attempt. On February 23 Antonio Tejero[?], with members of the Guardia Civil[?] entered the Spanish Congress of Deputies, and stoped the session, where Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo[?] was going to be named president of the government. The coup d'etat failed thanks to King Juan Carlos.

[Spain 1982-1996] The Socialist governments. 1986 Spains enters the European Union. 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

[Spain 1996-2002] The Partido Popular governments. 1999 Spains abandons the peseta and adopts the new euro currency.

See also: List of Spanish monarchs



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