Brief history of Spain summarized
A brief and enjoyable review of the long history of Spain.
Starting in 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 exchange for wine and olive oil, as well as jewelry. The people of Spain were highly influenced by the 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 up to be powerful and important. After the Romans defeated them in 241 BC, the Carthaginians increased their influence in Spain. In the year 227 BC they founded New Carthage (modern Cartagena). However, in the year 226 the Carthaginians signed a treaty with Spain. They agreed not to expand north of the Ebro River.
However, in 119 BC the Carthaginians took the city of Saguntum. It was south of the Ebro, but the Romans said that Saguntum was their ally and ordered the Carthaginian general Hannibal to withdraw. He refused and the war continued. The Romans sent an army to Spain in 218 BC and gradually pushed back the Carthaginians.
By 206 BC the Carthaginians had left Spain. In 197 BC the Romans divided the Iberian Peninsula into two zones, Hispania Citerior (east of the Iberius River) and Hispania Ulterior.
However, the Iberians wanted independence and rebelled against the Romans. Rome sent a man named Cato who regained control of most of Spain. However, the Iberians continued to resist and the fight continued for almost 200 years.
Resistance finally ended when the Cantabrians were defeated in 19 BC Spain was subsequently gradually integrated into the Roman Empire. The Romans built a network of roads and founded cities and Spain became very civilized.
Under Roman rule, Spain prospered. Mining was an important industry. Gold and silver were exported. So were olives, grapes, and grains. Roman Spain also exported a fish sauce called garum. However, in 171-173 invaders from North Africa entered Spain.
At the beginning of the third century new attacks took place. In any case, from the middle of the third century, the Roman Empire gradually declined. Meanwhile, the people of Roman Spain gradually converted to Christianity.
At the beginning of the 5th century the Roman Empire was falling apart and the Germanic peoples were invaded. In the year 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 to France. The Vandals then absorbed the remaining Alans, but in 429 they crossed into North Africa leaving Spain to the Sueves.
The Visigothic king Theodoric II (453-466) led an army into Spain and in 456 crushed the Sueves in battle. Most of Spain was under the rule of the Visigoths. After 409, a small part of northeastern Spain came under Roman control. However, in the year 476 the Visigoths took charge of it. In the year 587 King Reccared became a Catholic and in the year 654 King Recceswinth made a single code of law for his kingdom.
In Spain, learning was preserved in the monasteries. In the sixth century, San Isidro de Sevilla lived in Spain. He was a brilliant scholar. He wrote many books, including works on history, theology, grammar, geography, and astronomy. However, the Visigoth kings were never very strong. The Visigoth kingdom in Spain suffered from internal divisions and in the end was easy prey for the Moors.
However, at the beginning of the 8th century the Visigothic kingdom was destroyed by a Muslim invasion. In the year 711 an army of Berbers from North Africa, led by Arabs, invaded Spain and completely defeated the Visigoths at the Barbate River on July 19, 711.
The Muslim army advanced rapidly and by 714 most of Spain was under their control. The Muslims called the country al-Andalus, which became Andalusia. Between the 9th and 11th centuries Christian kingdoms arose in the north of Spain. Aragon, Castile and Navarre. The kingdoms of Aragon and Castile gradually expanded south. (They were greatly helped by the 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 achieved a decisive victory at Las Navas de Tolosa. In 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. The towns prospered.
However, in the 14th century there were wars between Christians and Muslims. 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 decimated the population.
At the end of the 14th century, the Jews in Spain faced a wave of persecution. In 1391 a pogrom began in Seville and spread to other cities. The persecution forced many Jews to convert to Christianity.
Meanwhile, in 1469 Ferdinand, heir to Aragon, married Isabella, heiress to Castile. Isabella 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 Navarra was absorbed and Spain became a united country.
In 1492 the kings 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 ancient religion in secret. Torture is sometimes used to extract confessions. The Spanish Inquisition also persecuted Protestants.
1492 was also a significant year because Ferdinand and Isabella decided to finance an expedition by Christopher Columbus. He believed that he could reach Asia by sailing across the Atlantic. However, Columbus underestimated the size of the earth and landed in the Antilles. 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 it was rich and ruled a great empire. Trade and commerce flourished and agriculture expanded. However, not everything went smoothly. When Ferdinand died in 1516, his grandson became Charles I (1516-1556).
He was already ruler of Belgium and the Netherlands and heir to the kingdoms of Austria and South Germany. In 1519 Charles became Holy Roman Emperor under the name Charles V. (At that time there was not a 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.
However, abroad, Spain has gone from strength to strength. In 1521 Hernando Cortés conquered the Aztecs of Mexico. The same year, 1521, Magellan discovered the Philippines. Then, in 1533, Francisco Pizarro conquered the Incas of Peru. Also, in 1580 Spain annexed Portugal.
The New World provided Spain with enormous amounts of treasure. In the 16th century, 150,000 kilograms of gold and 7.4 million kilograms of silver were sent to Spain. However, the size of the Spanish Empire and the long lines of communication made it difficult to control. However, even though gold and silver were flowing into Spain, the Spanish kings faced financial problems largely due to the cost of wars.
During the 16th century the Spanish fought against the Turks and the French. Beginning in 1568, the Netherlands, ruled by Spain, rose in revolt and began a long war of independence. Additionally, from 1587 to 1604, Spain also fought against the English. The 16th century was a great time for literature in Spain.
The great 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 time for architecture in Spain.
In the early 17th century Philip 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, Spain’s power declined sharply and parts of its great empire broke away. The Dutch won a major naval victory at the Battle of the Falls in 1639. Spain finally recognized Dutch independence in 1648. In 1640 Portugal rebelled against Spanish rule. Spain formally recognized Portugal ‘s independence in 1668.
Meanwhile, in 1635 a war began between France and Spain. In 1643 a Spanish army attempted to invade France but was completely defeated. Then, in 1655, England joined France against Spain. Finally, by the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 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 she had ceased to be a great power. At home, Spain suffered from plague outbreaks in 1598-1602 and in 1647-1652.
In 1700 King Charles II died and in his will he left the kingdom of Spain to a Frenchman named Philip of Anjou. However, other European powers would not accept this, as it would mean a powerful alliance between France and Spain.
In 1701 the War of the Spanish Succession began between Austria and France. Great Britain and the Netherlands joined Austria against France in 1702. The British captured Gibraltar in 1704 and Minorca in 1709. In the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, Spain ceded both territories to Great Britain. By the Treaty of Rastatt and Baden in 1714, Austria took Belgium from Spain. Despite the war, King Felipe V strengthened the Spanish monarchy. The different regions of Spain were integrated into a single state.
Spain suffered bad harvests in 1708-1711 and in 1763-1766. However, during the 18th century Spanish agriculture expanded and became more productive. The population of Spain increased during the century. Also trade and business.
The ideas of the Enlightenment reached Spain. In 1767 the Jesuits were expelled from Spain and between 1766 and 1776 a politician named Don Pablo de Olavide introduced a series of reforms in Spanish society. However, there was a backlash 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 1779-1783 Spain fought against Great Britain on the side of the American colonies that were fighting for independence. Later in the century the French Revolution horrified 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 its war with Great Britain.
In 1808 Napoleon forced the king of Spain to abdicate and made his brother José king of Spain. However, the Spanish refused to accept it. So in November 1808 Napoleon led an army into Spain and in December he captured Madrid. However, the Spanish waged a guerrilla war against the French. This time the British were his allies.
In 1812, the Cortes, the Spanish Parliament, published a constitution. He declared that the king was to be a constitutional monarch. Then, in 1813, the French were expelled from Spain. Ferdinand became king in December 1813, but in 1814 he declared the 1812 constitution null and void and made it clear that he intended to rule as an absolute monarch.
However, in 1820 there was an uprising in Spain and a general, Rafael de Riego, forced Fernando to accept the Constitution. However, in 1823 the French king sent an army to restore Ferdinand to absolute power.
Fernando died in 1833 and Spain was plunged into a civil war between liberals and conservatives. Ferdinand wanted his daughter Isabel to succeed him, but the Spanish conservatives wanted his brother Carlos to become king. The war continued until 1839 when the Carlists (conservatives) were finally defeated.
In 1835, to raise funds, the Liberals sold land belonging to the Church. In 1851 the Pope accepted the situation. In exchange, the state became responsible for paying the clergy. However, Queen Elizabeth alienated the Liberals and in 1868 a revolution took place. Isabella was forced to abdicate.
In 1870 she was succeeded by Amadeo I, but he too abdicated in February 1873. Spain was briefly a republic, but Alfonso XII became king in 1874. A new constitution was published in 1876. In 1892 all men received the vote.
In the mid-nineteenth century the Industrial Revolution began to change Spain. Spain’s first railway was built in 1848 and by the 1860s railways had spread throughout Spain. Mining and steel industry in Spain grew at the end of the 19th century.
However, in 1900 Spain was still a mainly agricultural country and still poor. Illiteracy was common in Spain and in 1880-1882 there was a famine in the South. Also, in 1898, Spain was defeated in a war with the United States. She lost Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines.
From the end of the 19th century there was a growing labor discontent in Spain. It became the “tragic week” of 1909. At that time working-class Spaniards were being recruited for a war in Morocco, much to their annoyance.
The wealthy could avoid compulsory military service by paying a fee. A week of riots began in Barcelona, which spread to other cities in Catalonia. Many of the workers were also anticlerical and turned their anger against 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 erupted into violence. Finally, in 1923, General Primo de Riviera staged a coup to restore order.
In the mid-1920s, Spain was enjoying a certain prosperity. For many Spaniards, the standard of living increased and industrialization continued. However, de Riviera eventually lost support and resigned in 1930. King Alfonso XIII abdicated in 1931, and Spain became a republic again.
In December 1931 a new constitution was published. Socialists and radicals welcomed the new republic, but conservatives feared and hated it. The Catholic Church strongly opposed 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 increased. Disgruntled workers organized strikes, which often turned violent.
In November 1933 the right wing won the general election and set out to undo the modest reforms of the previous government. The result was an uprising in Asturias, in northwestern Spain. However, the government brought in troops from Morocco to crush the revolt.
In February 1936 the left won an election and Spain was bitterly divided between right and left. Finally, in July 1936, the assassination of opposition leader José Calvo Sotelo gave the army an excuse to try to seize power. The result was a terrible civil war.
The army managed to take control of some parts of Spain, but in others the armed workers fought back. The rebels became known as Nationalists and the left-wing government supporters became known as Republicans. On October 1, 1936, General Franco became head 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 atrocities. 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 succeeded in dividing the Republican domain area in two. In January 1939 they captured Barcelona and on March 27, 1939 they entered Madrid, ending the war.
In September 1939, General Franco was appointed head of state. Under Franco, Spain became a repressive dictatorship. In the first years of the new regime, thousands of people were shot.
After the end of World War II, 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 United States. In 1955 Spain became a member of the UN.
Starting in the early 1960s, the Spanish economy began to grow rapidly. Many Spaniards went abroad to work. Others moved from the Spanish countryside to the cities to work in booming industries. In the 1970s Spain was a prosperous 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 the transition to democracy. Elections were held in 1977 and a new constitution was published in 1978. It was approved by referendum in December 1978. In February 1981 some army officers attempted a coup but failed.
Meanwhile, the Spanish economy continued to grow strongly at the end of the 20th century, although unemployment was high. In 1986 Spain joined the EU.
In 1999 Spain joined the euro. Spain suffered a lot in the recession from 2008 and unemployment rose to a very high level. Unemployment in Spain peaked in 2013. However, it then fell. As of 2014, Spain recovered from the crisis. Today the economy of Spain is growing steadily. Currently, the population of Spain is 48 million inhabitants.
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