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History Of Spain

From about 900 BC a seafaring people called the Phoenicians who came
from what is now Lebanon traded with what is now Spain. They founded a
chain of trading settlements along the coast on islands and peninsulas. The
Iberians gave the Phoenicians silver in return for wine and olive oil as well
as jewelry. The people of Spain were heavily influenced by Phoenician
culture. The Greeks also traded with Spain the Iberians were also
influenced by Greek culture.
A Phoenician colony in North Africa called Carthage rose to be powerful
and important. After the Romans defeated them in 241 BC the
Carthaginians increased their influence in Spain. In 227 BC they founded
New Carthage (modern Cartagena). However in 226 the Carthaginians
made a treaty with Spain. They agreed not to expand north of the River
Yet in 119 BC the Carthaginians took the town of Sarguntum. It was south
of the Ebro but the Romans claimed Sarguntum was their ally and they
ordered the Carthaginian general, Hannibal to withdraw. He refused and
war ensued. The Romans sent an army to Spain in 218 BC and they
gradually pushed back the Carthaginians. By 206 BC the Carthaginians
were gone from Spain.
In 197 BC the Romans divided the Iberian peninsula into 2 areas, Hispania
Citerior (east of the River Iberius) and Hispania Ulterior.
However the Iberians wanted independence and they rebelled against the
Romans. Rome sent a man named Cato who regained control of most of
Spain. Nevertheless the Iberians continued to resist and fighting continued
for nearly 200 years. Resistance finally ended when the Cantabrians were
defeated in 19 BC.
Afterwards Spain was gradually integrated into the Roman Empire. The
Romans built a network of roads and founded towns and at least parts of
Spain became Romanized.
Under Roman rule Spain became prosperous. Mining was an important
industry. Gold and silver were exported. So were olives, grapes and grain.
Roman Spain also exported a fish sauce called garum.

However in 171-173 raiders from North Africa swept into Spain. There were
further attacks at the beginning of the 3rd century. In any case from the
mid-3rd century the Roman Empire gradually declined. Meanwhile the
people of Roman Spain were gradually converted to Christianity.
Visigoth Spain
By the beginning of the 5th century the Roman Empire was crumbling and
Germanic peoples invaded. In 409 AD Alans, Sueves and Vandals crossed
the Pyrenees and occupied most of Spain.
However another Germanic people, the Visigoths became allies of the
Romans. In 416-418 they invaded Spain. They defeated the Alans but then
withdrew into France. The Vandals then absorbed the remaining Alans but
in 429 they crossed to North Africa leaving Spain to the Sueves.
The Visigoth king Theoderic II (453-466) led an army into Spain and in 456
he crushed the Sueves in battle. Most of Spain came under the rule of the
Visigoths. After 409 one small part of Northeast Spain was left under
Roman control. However in 476 the Visigoths took it over.
Under the Visigoths the old Roman towns continued to decline and their
populations fell. On the other hand in 587 King Reccared became a
Catholic and in 654 King Recceswinth made a single code of law for his
Nevertheless the Visigoth kings were never very strong. The Visigoth
kingdom in Spain suffered from internal divisions and in the end it was easy
prey for the Moors.
In the 7th century the Visigoths also persecuted Jews. (There were many
Jews in Spain from the time of the Romans onward).
More about barbarians
However at the beginning of the 8th century the Visigoth realm was
destroyed by a Muslim invasion. In 711 an army of Berbers from North
Africa, led by Arabs crossed to Spain and they utterly defeated the
Visigoths at the Barbate River on 19 July 711.
The Muslim army quickly advanced and by 714 most of Spain was under
their control. The Muslims called the country al-Andalus, which became

Under Arab rule Spain was prosperous. Town life revived and new plants
were introduced into into Spain.
Between the 9th and 11th centuries Christian kingdoms emerged in
northern Spain. Aragon, Castile and Navarre. The kingdoms of Aragon and
Castile gradually expanded south. (They were greatly helped by disunity
among the Muslims).
The Castilians captured Toledo in 1085 and in the 12th century they
continued to advance. In 1212 the combined armies of Aragon, Castile and
Navarre won a decisive victory at Las Navas de Tolosa. By 1250 only
Granada, the southernmost part of Spain remained in Muslim hands.
Medieval Spain was a cosmopolitan society with a mixed population of
Christians, Muslims and Jews. Furthermore the 13th century was a
prosperous time for Spain. Trade and commerce flourished. Towns
However in the 14th century wars between Christians and Muslims
continued. The Christians won a decisive victory at the Battle of Salado in
1340. The Aragonese captured the Balearic Islands in 1343.
Then in 1348 the Black Death reached Spain and it decimated the
In the late 14th century Jews in Spain faced a wave of persecution. In 1391
a pogrom began in Seville and it spread to other cities. Persecution forced
many Jews to convert to Christianity.
Meanwhile in 1469 Ferdinand, heir of Aragon married Isabel, heir of
Castile. Isabel became Queen of Castile in 1474 and Ferdinand became
king of Aragon in 1479. In 1482 they began a war against Granada, the last
Muslim stronghold in Spain. Granada surrendered in 1492. Then in 1512
Navarre was absorbed and Spain became a united country.
In 1492 the king and queen ordered all Jews to convert to Christianity or
leave Spain. Many chose to leave.
The Spanish Inquisition was formed in 1480. In Spain at that time there
were Jews who had converted to Christianity and Moriscos (Muslims who
had converted to Christianity). Both groups were suspected of practicing
their old religion in secret. Torture was sometimes used to obtain
confessions. The Spanish Inquisition also persecuted Protestants.

1492 was also a significant year because Ferdinand and Isabel decided to
finance an expedition by Christopher Columbus. He believed he could
reach Asia by sailing across the Atlantic. However Columbus
underestimated the size of the earth and landed in the West Indies.
Columbus made 4 voyages across the Atlantic and Spain began to build an
empire in North and South America.
The 16th century was a golden age for Spain when she was rich and ruled
a great empire. Trade and commerce flourished and agriculture expanded.
However all did not go smoothly. When Ferdinand died in 1516 his
grandson became Charles I (1516-1556). He was already ruler of Belgium
and the Netherlands and he was heir to realms in Austria and Southern
Germany. In 1519 Charles became Holy Roman Emperor as Charles V. (At
that time there was no single German state. Instead many small German
states and Austria formed a unit called the Holy Roman Empire). So the
king of Spain was very powerful.
However in 1520 there was a rebellion in Castile. However the rebels were
defeated at Vaillalar in April 1521.
Yet abroad Spain went from strength to strength. In 1521 Hernando Cortes
conquered the Aztecs of Mexico. The same year, 1521, Magellan
discovered the Philippines. Then in 1533 Francisco Pizzaro conquered the
Incas of Peru. Furthermore in 1580 Spain annexed Portugal.
The New World provided Spain with huge amounts of treasure. In the 16th
century 150,000 kilograms of gold and 7.4 million kilograms of silver were
shipped to Spain. However the sheer size of the Spanish Empire and the
very long lines of communication made it difficult to control.
Yet even though gold and silver were flowing into Spain the Spanish kings
faced financial problems largely because of the cost of fighting wars.
During the 16th century the Spaniards fought the Turks and the French.
From 1568 The Netherlands, which were ruled by Spain, rebelled and
began a long war of independence. Furthermore from 1587 to 1604 Spain
also fought the English.
On the other hand the 16th century was a great age for literature in Spain.
The greatest writers were Miguel Cervantes (1547-1616) who wrote Don
Quixote (published in 1605) and Lope de Vega (1562-1635). The 16th
century was also a great age for architecture in Spain.


At the beginning of the 17th century Phillip III (1598-1621) decided that the
Moriscos (Muslims who had converted to Christianity) could never be
assimilated into Spanish society. Therefore in 1609 he expelled the
Moriscos from Spain.
During the 17th century the power of Spain declined sharply and parts of its
great empire broke away. The Dutch won a great naval victory at the Battle
of the Downs in 1639. Spain finally recognized Dutch independence in
In 1640 Portugal rebelled against Spanish rule. Spain formally recognized
Portuguese independence in 1668.
Meanwhile in 1635 a war began between France and Spain. In 1643 a
Spanish army tried to invade France but was utterly defeated. Then in 1655
England joined France against Spain. Eventually by the Treaty of the
Pyrenees in 1659 Spain was forced to cede territory to France.
In the late 17th century Spanish power continued to decline. At the
beginning of the century Spain was able to dominate Europe. By the end of
the century it had ceased to be a great power.
At home Spain suffered outbreaks of plague in 1598-1602 and in 16471652.
In 1700 King Carlos II died and in his will he left the kingdom of Spain to a
Frenchman named Phillip of Anjou. However other European powers would
not accept this as it would mean a powerful alliance between France and
In 1701 the War of the Spanish Succession began between Austria and
France. Britain and the Netherlands joined Austria against France in 1702.
The British captured Gibraltar in 1704 and Minorca in 1709. The Treaty of
Utrecht, 1713, ceded both by Spain to Britain. By the Treaty of Rastatt and
Baden in 1714 Austria took Belgium from Spain.
Despite the war King Phillip of Felipe strengthened the Spanish monarchy.
The various regions of Spain were integrated into a single state.
Spain suffered poor harvests in 1708-1711 and in 1763-1766. Nevertheless
during the 18th century Spanish agriculture expanded and became more

productive. The population of Spain increased during the century. So did

trade and commerce.
Enlightenment ideas reached Spain. In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled
from Spain and between 1766 and 1776 a politician named Don Pablo de
Olavide introduced a number of reforms to Spanish society. However there
was a reaction against him and in 1776 Olavide was arrested by the
Inquisition. In 1778 he was declared a heretic and sentenced to 8 years in
prison. However he escaped to France.
In 1778-1783 Spain fought against Britain on the side of the American
colonies who were fighting for independence.
Later in the century the French Revolution appalled many Spaniards and in
1793 war with France began. However the French prevailed and in 1795
Spain made peace. Then, in 1796 Spain joined France in her war with
In 1808 Napoleon forced the Spanish king to abdicate and he made his
brother Joseph king of Spain. However the Spanish people refused to
accept him. So in November 1808 Napoleon led an army into Spain and in
December he captured Madrid. Yet the Spaniards fought a guerrilla war
against the French. This time the British were their allies.
In 1812 the Cortes, the Spanish parliament, published a constitution. It
stated that the king was to be a constitutional monarch. Then in 1813 the
French were driven out of Spain.
Ferdinand became king in December 1813 but in 1814 he declared the
1812 constitution null and void and made it clear he intended to rule as an
absolute monarch.
However in 1820 there was an uprising in Spain and a general Rafael de
Riego forced Ferdinand to accept the constitution. Yet in 1823 the French
king sent an army to restore Ferdinand to absolute power.
Meanwhile Spain's colonies in Central and South America rebelled and
between 1818 and 1824 they gained their independence. In 1819 Spain
was forced to cede Florida to the USA.

Ferdinand died in 1833 and Spain was plunged into a civil war between
liberals and conservatives. Ferdinand wanted his daughter Isabella to
succeed him but Spanish conservatives wanted his brother Carlos to
become king. The war went on till 1839 when the Carlists (conservatives)
were finally defeated.
In 1835 to raise money the liberals sold land belonging to the Church. In
1851 the Pope accepted the situation. In return the state became
responsible for paying the clergy.
However Queen Isabella alienated the liberals and in 1868 a revolution
took place. Isabella was forced to abdicate. In 1870 she was replaced by
Amadeo I but he too abdicated in February 1873. For a short time Spain
was a republic but Alfonso XII became king in 1874. A new constitution was
published in 1876. In 1892 all men were given the vote.
In the mid-19th century the Industrial Revolution began to change Spain.
The first railway in Spain was built in 1848 and by the 1860s railways had
spread across Spain.
Mining and the iron and steel industries in Spain grew in the late 19th
century. However in 1900 Spain was still mainly an agricultural country and
it was still poor. Illiteracy was common in Spain and in 1880-1882 there
was a famine in the South.
Furthermore in 1898 Spain was defeated in a war with the USA. She lost
Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines.
From the end of the 19th century there was increasing labor unrest in
Spain. It boiled over into the 'tragic week' of 1909. At that time working
class Spaniards were being conscripted for a war in Morocco, much to their
annoyance. Worse rich people could escape conscription by paying a fee.
A week of rioting began in Barcelona, which spread to other cities in
Catalonia. Many of the workers were also anti-clerical and they turned their
anger on the Church. Several churches and convents were burned.
Socialism and anarchism continued to grow in Spain and labor unrest
spread. In 1917 there was a general strike, which broke into violence.
Finally in 1923 General Primo de Riviera staged a coup to restore order.

In the mid-1920s Spain enjoyed a measure of prosperity. For many

Spaniards living standards rose and industrialization continued. However
de Riviera eventually lost support and he resigned in 1930. King Alfonso
XIII abdicated in 1931 and Spain became a republic again. A new
constitution was published in December 1931
Socialists and radicals welcomed the new republic but conservatives feared
and detested it. The Catholic Church was strongly opposed to it.
However the new regime was slow to carry out reforms and many workers
became disillusioned. Meanwhile Spain was affected by the world
depression and unemployment rose. Disaffected workers held strikes,
which often became violent.
In November 1933 the right won a general election and they set about
undoing the modest reforms of the previous government. The result was an
uprising in Asturias, Northwest Spain. However the government brought in
troops from Morocco to crush the revolt.
In February 1936 the left wing won an election and Spain became bitterly
divided between right and left. Finally in July 1936 the assassination of
Jose Calvo Sotelo, leader of the opposition gave the army an excuse to try
and seize power. The result was a terrible civil war.
The army managed to take control of some parts of Spain but in others
armed workers fought back. The rebels became known as Nationalists and
supporters of the left wing government became known as Republicans. On
1 October 1936 General Franco became leader of the Nationalist army.
Mussolini and Hitler sent aid to the Nationalists while Stalin sent aid to the
Republicans. The war became very bloody and both sides committed
At first the Nationalists tried to capture Madrid but failed. However in 1937
the Nationalists advanced. They captured Bilbao in June and Santander in
August 1937. In April 1938 the Nationalists managed to split the Republican
held area in two. Then in January 1939 they captured Barcelona and on 27
March 1939 they entered Madrid bringing the war to an end.

In September 1939 General Franco was made head of state. Under Franco
Spain became a repressive dictatorship. In the first years of the new regime
thousands of people were shot.
The 1940s were years of economic hardship for Spain. Officially Spain was
neutral during the Second World War. However 20,000 Spanish volunteers
fought with Germany against the Soviet Union.
After the end of the Second World War Franco was unpopular with the
other nations of Europe but with the onset of the Cold War the West
needed him as an ally. In 1953 Spain signed a treaty with the USA. In 1955
Spain became a member of the UN.
From the early 1960s the Spanish economy began to grow rapidly. Many
Spaniards went to work abroad. Others moved from the Spanish
countryside to the cities to work in booming industries. By the 1970s Spain
was an affluent society. Consumer goods became common. However
Franco remained dictator of Spain until his death in November 1975.
Before his death Franco decreed that after his death Spain would become
a monarchy so he was succeeded as head of state by King Juan Carlos
who oversaw a transition to democracy. Elections were held in 1977 and a
new constitution was published in 1978. It was approved by a referendum
in December 1978.
In February 1981 some army officers attempted a coup but failed.
Meanwhile the Spanish economy continued to grow strongly during the late
20th century, although unemployment was high. In 1986 Spain joined the
In 1999 Spain joined the Euro. Spain suffered badly in the recession from
2008 and unemployment rose to a very high level. Unemployment in Spain
reached a peak in 2013. However it has since fallen. Spain recovered from
the crisis.

900 BC The Phoenicians trade with Spain
227 BC The Carthaginians from North Africa found Cartagena
218 BC The Romans send an army to Spain and they gradually drive out
the Carthaginians
197 BC The Romans divide the Iberian Peninsula into 2 areas, Hispania
Citerior and Hispania Ulterior
171-73 AD People from North Africa raid Spain
409 AD Alans, Sueves and Vandals invade Spain
456 The Visigoths conquer Spain
587 King Reccared becomes a Catholic
654 King Recceswinth makes a code of laws
711 The Moors invade Spain
10th-11th centuries The kingdoms of Aragon, Castile and Navarre emerge
1085 The Castilians capture Toledo
1212 The combined armies of Aragon, Castile and Navarre win a victory at
Las Navas de Tolosa
1250 Only Granada is still in Muslim hands
1340 The Christians win the Battle of Salado
1343 The Aragonese capture the Balearic Islands
1348 The Black Death reaches Spain
1469 Ferdinand heir of Aragon marries Isabel heir of Castile
1492 Ferdinand and Isabel capture Granada. All Jews are ordered to
convert to Christianity or leave.

1516 Charles V becomes king of Spain

1580 Spain annexes Portugal
1587-1604 England fights Spain
1609 Moriscos (Muslims who had converted to Christianity) are expelled
from Spain
1640 The Portuguese rebel against Spanish rule
1659 Spain is forced to cede territory to France
1704 The British capture Gibraltar
1708-11 Spain suffers poor harvests
1763-66 Spain has poor harvests again. Nevertheless agriculture is
expanding so is the population and trade and commerce.
1767 The Jesuits are expelled from Spain
1808 Napoleon forces the Spanish king to abdicate and he makes his own
brother king of Spain. The Spaniards refuse to accept him so the French
send an army. The Spanish begin a guerrilla war.
1813 The French are driven out of Spain
1820 The Spanish rebel
1823 The French army restores Ferdinand to absolute power
1833-39 Civil War in Spain
1834 The Spanish Inquisition is finally abolished
1848 The first railway is built in Spain
1868 A rebellion takes place against Queen Isabella
1876 Spain gets a new constitution
1880-82 Famine in southern Spain
1892 All men are given the vote

1898 Spain loses a war with the USA

1909 Riots take place in Catalonia
1917 A General Strike is held in Spain
1923 General Primo de Riviera stages a coup
1930 de Riviera resigns
1931 Spain gains a new constitution
1933 An uprising takes place in Asturias
1936 In February the left wing wins an election
1936 In July the Spanish Civil War begins. On 1 October General Franco
becomes the leader of the Nationalist army.
1937 The Nationalists capture Bilbao
1939 The Nationalists capture Barcelona and Madrid.
1953 Franco signs a treaty with the USA
1955 Spain joins the UN
1975 Franco dies
1977 Elections are held
1981 Army officers attempt a coup in Spain
1999 Spain unwisely joins the Euro
2009-10 Spain suffers high unemployment during a recession