A brief history of Spain

The history of Spain dates back over 32,000 years ago when the first modern humans arrived on the Iberian Peninsula. For thousands of years the land was occupied by various tribal societies such as the Celts and was settled by the seafaring peoples of the Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians. The Greeks founded their first colony on the peninsula in the 9th century BCE and traded with the tribes and other lands across the sea including the Cornish in the British Isles. In the 6th century BCE the Carthaginians arrived on the scene and after several conflicts with the Greeks ended up dominating much of Iberia. Not long after the armies of the Roman republic arrived and after a series of brutal conflicts known as the Punic wars came to take control of all of the Carthaginian lands.

It would take the Romans a further 300 years to fully conquer Iberia bringing it into the Roman Empire. The Romans brought their civilisation to the land and several important trading cities were established the most famous of which were Zaragoza, Leon and Valencia. Rome ruled the peninsula until the 5th century AD. Germanic tribes and barbarian hordes invaded as the empire collapsed, the Vandals, Alans and Visigoths all arrived onto the peninsula and established their own kingdoms.

In 640A.D the Muslim armies of Tariq ibn-Ziyad invaded from Africa and within a few decades virtually the entire peninsula had been conquered. A decisive victory for the Christian kingdoms in 722 saw the beginning of the Reconquista and as the centuries passed Christian armies steadily pushed the Muslims back.

Medieval Spain was the scene of almost constant warfare between Christian and Muslim. In this period the kingdoms of Leon, Castile, Navarre and Aragon were the prominent kingdoms. It wasn’t until the 15th century that the Reconquista came to an end and the kingdom of Spain came into existence. The marriage of Queen Isabelle of Castile and King Ferdinand 2nd of Aragon united the two crowns and the kingdom of Spain was born. The monarchs oversaw the final stages of the Reconquista with the conquest of Granada and the Canary Islands.

In the 16th century Spain looked across the oceans to discover new trade routes with the Far East. In doing so it came into contact with the Americas and quickly began a campaign of conquest against the Aztecs, Inca and Maya of the region. The Spanish Empire was one of the first global empires and one of the largest in world history. A succession of European wars and competition from rival empires such as the Frenc, British and Dutch saw the Spanish empire weaken until NApolean Bonaparte conquered the country in the 1800’s. A war of independence was eventually won with the help of the British but Spain would suffer from revolutions and unrest throughout the rest of the century.

Spain’s neutrality in World War I allowed it to become a supplier of material for both sides to its great advantage, prompting an economic boom in Spain. The outbreak of Spanish influenza in Spain and elsewhere, along with a major economic slowdown in the post-war period, hit Spain particularly hard, and the country went into debt.

Spain became a republic in 1931 but quickly fell into the grip of a vicious civil war that resulted in the rise of the fascist leader Francisco Franco. Spain remained neutral in World War 2 and remained largely economically and culturally isolated from the outside world. Under a right-wing military dictatorship, Spain saw its political parties banned, except for the official party Labour unions were banned and all political activity using violence or intimidation to achieve its goals was forbidden.

With the death of Franco in 1975 control of the nation was given to King Juan Carlos and became a democracy. The Spain we know today really only came about in the 1980’s as the country’s economy got back on its feet and became a member of the EU, adopting the Euro single currency in 1999.

At present Spain is a constitutional monarchy and is made up of 17 autonomous regions and two autonomous cities. Despite the troubles it is going through economically, Spain remains one of the most popular destinations for Expats.