Spain spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain

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Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: España, Reino de España), is a country located in Southern Europe, with two small exclaves in North Africa (both bordering Morocco). The mainland of Spain is bounded on the south and east by Mediterranean Sea (containing the Balearic Islands), on the north by the Bay of Biscay and on the west by the Atlantic Ocean (containing the Canary Islands off the African coast). Spain shares land borders with Portugal, France, Andorra, Gibraltar, and Morocco. It is the largest of three sovereign states that make up the Iberian Peninsula — the others being Portugal and Andorra.

There are a number of hypotheses as to the origin of the Roman name "Hispania", the root of the Spanish name España and the English name Spain.

Spain is a democracy which is organized as a parliamentary monarchy. It is a developed country with the ninth-largest economy in the world.[3]


Different cultures have settled in the area of modern Spain, such as the Celts, Iberians, Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. For just over five centuries, during the Middle Ages, large areas were under the control of Islamic rulers, a fragment of which survived as late as 1492, when the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragón completed the 770 years long process of driving the Moors out. That same year, Christopher Columbus reached the New World, leading to the creation of the world-wide Spanish Empire. Spain became the most powerful country in Europe, but continued wars and other problems gradually reduced Spain to a diminished status. The 20th century was dominated in the middle years by the Franco dictatorship; with the dawn of a stable democracy in 1978, and having joined what is now known as the European Union in 1986, Spain has enjoyed an economic and cultural renaissance.

Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples in the Iberian Peninsula

Modern humans in the form of Cro-Magnons began arriving in the Iberian Peninsula from north of the Pyrenees some 35,000 years ago. The best known artifacts of these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in the Altamira cave of Cantabria in northern Spain, which were created about 15,000 BCE.

The historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians and the Celts, the former inhabiting the Mediterranean side from the northeast to the southwest, the latter inhabiting the Atlantic side, in the north and northwest part of the peninsula. In the inner part of the peninsula, where both groups were in contact, a mixed, distinctive, culture was present, known as Celtiberian.

The earliest urban culture is believed to be that of the semi-mythical southern city of Tartessos (perhaps pre-1100 BCE). Between about 500 BCE and 300 BCE, the seafaring Phoenicians, and Greeks founded trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast. The Carthaginians briefly took control of much of the Mediterranean coast in the course of the Punic Wars until they were eventually defeated and replaced by the Romans.[4]

Roman Empire

During the Second Punic War, an expanding Roman Empire captured Carthaginian trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast (from roughly 210 BCE to 205 BCE), leading to eventual Roman control of nearly the entire Iberian Peninsula – a control which lasted over 500 years, bound together by law, language, and the Roman road.[5] The base Celt and Iberian population remained in various stages of romanization,[6] and local leaders were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class.[4]

The Romans improved existing cities, such as Lisbon (Olissipo) and Tarragona (Tarraco), and established Zaragoza (Caesaraugusta), Mérida (Augusta Emerita), and Valencia (Valentia).[7] The peninsula's economy expanded under Roman tutelage. Hispania served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbors exported gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use. Emperors Trajan, Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius and Theodosius I, and the philosopher Seneca were born in Hispania.[8] Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the first century CE and it became popular in the cities in the second century CE.[4] Most of Spain's present languages and religion, and the basis of its laws, originate from this period.[5]

Visigothic Hispania –Germanic invasions(5th–8th centuries)

After the decline 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.

In the Iberian peninsula, as elsewhere, the Empire fell not with a bang but with a whimper. Rather than there being any convenient date for the "fall of the Roman Empire" there was a progressive "de-Romanization" of the Western Roman Empire in Hispania and a weakening of central authority, throughout the 3rd, 4th and 5th centuries. At the same time, there was a process of "Romanization" of the Germanic and Hunnic tribes settled on both sides of the limes (the fortified frontier of the Empire along the Rhine and Danube rivers). The Visigoths, for example, were converted to Arian Christianity around 360, even before they were pushed into imperial territory by the expansion of the Huns. In the winter of 406, taking advantage of the frozen Rhine, the (Germanic) Vandals and Sueves, and the (Sarmatian) Alans invaded the empire in force. Three years later they crossed the Pyrenees into Iberia and divided the Western parts, roughly corresponding to modern Portugal and western Spain as far as Madrid, between them. The Visigoths meanwhile, having sacked Rome two years earlier, arrived in the region in 412 founding the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse (in the south of modern France) and gradually expanded their influence into the Iberian peninsula at the expense of the Vandals and Alans, who moved on into North Africa without leaving much permanent mark on Hispanic culture. The Visigothic Kingdom shifted its capital to Toledo and reached a high point during the reign of Leovigild.

Importantly, Spain never saw a decline in interest in classical culture to the degree observable in Britain, Gaul, Lombardy and Germany. The Visigoths tended to maintain more of the old Roman institutions, and they had a unique respect for legal codes that resulted in continuous frameworks and historical records for most of the period between 415, when Visigothic rule in Spain began, and 711, when it is traditionally said to end. The proximity of the Visigothic kingdoms to the Mediterranean and the continuity of western Mediterranean trade, though in reduced quantity, supported Visigothic culture. Arian Visigothic nobility kept apart from the local Catholic population. The Visigothic ruling class looked to Constantinople for style and technology while the rivals of Visigothic power and culture were the Catholic bishops— and a brief incursion of Byzantine power in Cordoba.

The period of Visigothic rule saw the spread of Arianism briefly in Spain. In 587, Reccared, the Visigothic king at Toledo, having been converted to Catholicism put an end to dissension on the question of Arianism and launched a movement in Spain to unify the various religious doctrines that existed in the land. The Council of Lerida in 546 constrained the clergy and extended the power of law over them under the blessings of Rome.

The Visigoths inherited from Late Antiquity a sort of feudal system in Spain, based in the south on the Roman villa system and in the north drawing on their vassals to supply troops in exchange for protection. The bulk of the Visigothic army was composed of slaves, raised from the countryside. The loose council of nobles that advised Spain's Visigothic kings and legitimized their rule was responsible for raising the army, and only upon its consent was the king able to summon soldiers.

The impact of Visigothic rule was not widely felt on society at large, and certainly not compared to the vast bureaucracy of the Roman Empire; they tended to rule as barbarians of a mild sort, uninterested in the events of the nation and economy, working for personal benefit, and little literature remains to us from the period. They did not, until the period of Muslim rule, merge with the Spanish population, preferring to remain separate, and indeed the Visigothic language left only the faintest mark on the modern languages of Iberia. The most visible effect was the depopulation of the cities as they moved to the countryside. Even while the country enjoyed a degree of prosperity when compared to the famines of France and Germany in this period, the Visigoths felt little reason to contribute to the welfare, permanency, and infrastructure of their people and state. This contributed to their downfall, as they could not count on the loyalty of their subjects when the Moors arrived in the 8th century.

Muslim Iberia

In the 8th century, nearly all the Iberian peninsula was quickly conquered (711718) by mainly Berber Muslims (see Moors) from North Africa. These conquests were part of the expansion of the Islamic Umayyad Empire.[10] Only three small areas in the mountains of northern Spain managed to cling to their independence, Asturias, Navarra and Aragon.

Under Islam, Christians and Jews were recognized as "peoples of the book", and were free to practice their religion, but faced some discriminations. Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace, starting with the aristocracy, as it offered an escape from the limitations and humiliations of their dhimmi status. By the 11th century Muslims were believed to have outnumbered Christians in Al-Andalus.[11]

The Muslim community in Spain was itself diverse and beset by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa had provided the bulk of the armies and clashed with the Arab leadership from the Middle East.[12] Over time, large Moorish populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous region of Granada.[11]

Cordoba, Muslim Spain's capital, was viewed as the richest and most sophisticated city of medieval Europe.[13] Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played a major part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe. Spain's romanized cultures interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures in complex ways, giving Spain a distinctive culture.[11] Outside the cities, the land ownership system from Roman times remained largely intact as Muslim leaders rarely dispossessed landowners, and new crops and techniques led to a remarkable expansion of agriculture.

However, by the 11th century, Muslim holdings had fractured into rival Taifa kingdoms.[11] The arrival of the North African Muslim ruling empires of the Almoravids and the Almohads restored unity upon Muslim holdings, with a stricter, less tolerant application of Islam, but ultimately, after some initial successes in invading the north, proved unable to resist the increasing military strength of the Christian states.[4]

Fall of Muslim rule and unification

The term Reconquista ("Reconquest") is used to describe the centuries-long period of expansion of Spain's Christian kingdoms; the Reconquista is viewed as beginning in 722 with the creation of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias, only eleven years after the Moorish invasion. As early as 739, Muslim forces were driven out of Galicia, which was to host one of medieval Christianity's holiest sites, Santiago de Compostella.[14] The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing Taifa kingdoms helped the expanding Christian kingdoms. The capture of the central city of Toledo in 1085 largely completed the reconquest of the northern half of Spain.[15] After a Muslim resurgence in the 12th century the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian Spain in the 13th centuryCórdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south.[16] Also in the 13th century, the kingdom of Aragón expanded its reach across the Mediterranean to Sicily.[17]

In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragón were united by the marriage of Isabella and Ferdinand. In 1492, these united kingdoms captured Granada, ending the last remnant of a 781 year presence of Islamic rule on the Iberian Peninsula.[18] The year 1492 also marked the arrival in the New World of Christopher Columbus, during a voyage funded by Isabella. That same year, Spain's large Jewish community was expelled[19] during the Spanish Inquisition.[20]

As Renaissance New Monarchs, Isabella and Ferdinand centralized royal power at the expense of local nobility, and the word España began to be used to designate the whole of the two kingdoms.[20] With their wide ranging political, legal, religious and military reforms, Spain emerged as a European great power.

Rise as a world power: From the Renaissance to the 19th century

Main articles: Habsburg Spain and Enlightenment Spain

The unification of the kingdoms of Aragón, Castile, León, and Navarre laid the basis for modern Spain and the Spanish Empire. Spain became Europe's leading power throughout the 16th century and first part of the 17th century, a position reinforced by trade and wealth from colonial possessions. Spain reached its apogee during the reigns of the first two Spanish Habsburgs (Charles I (1516-1556) and Philip II (1556-1598)). Included in this period are the last Italian Wars, the Dutch revolt, clashes with the Ottomans, the Anglo-Spanish war and war with France.[21]

The Spanish Empire expanded to include nearly all of South and Central America, Mexico, southern portions of today's United States, the Philippines in Eastern Asia, the Iberian peninsula (including the Portuguese empire (from 1580)), southern Italy, Sicily, as well as parts of modern Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It was the first empire about which it was said that the sun did not set. This was an age of discovery, with daring explorations by sea and by land, the opening up of new trade routes across oceans, conquests and the beginning of European colonialism. Along with the arrival of precious metals, spices, luxuries, and new agricultural plants, Spanish explorers and others brought back knowledge that transformed the European understanding of the world.[22]

Of note was the cultural efflorescence now known as the Spanish Golden Age and the intellectual movement known as the School of Salamanca.

Spain faced decline from the middle decades of the 17th century. A major factor behind this was the strain of continuing military efforts in Europe as the Spanish Habsburgs enmeshed the country in continent wide religious-political conflicts. These conflicts drained it of resources and undermined the European economy. Spain managed to hold on to the majority of the scattered Habsburg empire, and help Imperial forces of the Holy Roman Empire reverse much of the advance of Protestant forces, but it was finally forced to recognize the independence of Portugal (with its empire) and the Netherlands, and eventually began to surrender territories to France following the Thirty Years War.[23] From the 1640s Spain went into a gradual but seemingly irreversible decline for the rest of the century.

Controversy over succession to the throne consumed the first years of the 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), a wide ranging international conflict combined with a civil war, cost Spain its European possessions and its position as one of the leading powers on the Continent (although it retained its overseas territories).[24]

During this war, a new dynasty—the French Bourbons—was installed. Long united only by the Crown, a true Spanish state was established when the first Bourbon king Philip V of Spain united Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the regional privileges (fueros).[25]

The 18th century saw a gradual recovery and increasing prosperity through much of the empire. The new Bourbon monarchy drew on the French system of modernizing the administration and the economy. Towards the end of the century trade finally began growing strongly. Military assistance for the rebellious British colonies in the American War of Independence improved Spain's international standing.[26]

Napoleonic rule and its consequences

In 1793, Spain went to war against the new French Republic, which had overthrown and executed its Bourbon king, Louis XVI. The war polarized the country in an apparent reaction against the gallicised elites. Defeated in the field, Spain made peace with France in 1795 and effectively became a client state of that country; the following year, it declared war against Britain and Portugal. A disastrous economic situation, along with other factors, led to the abdication of the Spanish king in favour of Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte.

This new foreign monarch was regarded with scorn. On May 2, 1808, the people of Madrid began a nationalist uprising against the French army, known to the Spanish as the War of Independence, and to the English as the Peninsular War. Napoleon was forced to intervene personally, defeating the Spanish army and Anglo-Portuguese forces. However, further military action by Spanish guerrillas and Wellington's Anglo-Portuguese army, combined with Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting of the French from Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand VII.

The French invasion proved disastrous for Spain's economy, and left a deeply divided country that was prone to political instability for more than a century. The power struggles of the early 19th century led to the loss of all of Spain's colonies in Latin America, with the exception of Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Further information: Mid-nineteenth century Spain

Spanish-American War

Main article: Spanish–American War

At the end of the 19th century, Spain lost all of its remaining old colonies in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific regions, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Philippines, and Guam to the United States after the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1899, Spain sold its remaining Pacific possessions to Germany.

"The Disaster" of 1898, as the Spanish-American War became known, gave increased impetus to Spain's cultural revival (Generation of '98) in which there was much critical self examination. However, political stability in such a dispersed and variegated land, comprising strongly differentiated regional identities and deeply held divisions over governmental legitimacy, would elude the country for some decades and was ultimately imposed via dictatorship in 1939.

The 20th century

The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a minor part in the scramble for Africa, with the colonization of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. The heavy losses suffered during the Rif war in Morocco helped to undermine the monarchy. A period of dictatorial rule under General Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923–1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia and gave voting rights to women.

The bitterly fought Spanish Civil War (1936-39) ensued. Three years later the Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support of Germany and Italy. The Republican side was supported by the Soviet Union and Mexico, but it was not supported by the Western powers due to the British-led policy of Non-Intervention. The Spanish Civil War has been called the first battle of the Second World War; under Franco, Spain was neutral in the Second World War though sympathetic to the Axis.[27]

The only legal party under Franco's regime was the Falange española tradicionalista y de las JONS, formed in 1937; the party emphasized anti-Communism, Catholicism and nationalism.

After World War II, Spain was politically and economically isolated, and was kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when it became strategically important for the U.S. to establish a military presence on the Iberian peninsula. In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedented economic growth in what was called the Spanish miracle, which gradually transformed it into a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector.

Upon the death of General Franco in November 1975, his personally designated heir Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. With the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, political autonomy were established. In the Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism coexisted with a radical nationalism supportive of the terrorist group ETA.

In 1982, the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE) came to power, which represented the return to power of a leftist party after 43 years. In 1986, Spain joined the European Community (which was to become the European Union). The PSOE was replaced by the PP after the latter won the 1996 General Elections; at that point the PSOE had served almost 14 consecutive years in office.

21st century

On January 1, 2002, Spain terminated its historic peseta currency and replaced it with the euro, which has become its national currency shared with 13 other countries from the Eurozone. This culminated a fast process of economic modernization.

On March 11, 2004, a series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid, Spain. This act of terror killed 191 people and wounded 1,460 more, besides possibly affecting national elections scheduled for March 14, three days after the attack. The Madrid train bombings had an adverse effect on the image of the then-ruling conservative party Partido Popular (PP) which polls had indicated were likely to win the elections, thus helping the election of Zapatero's Partido Socialista Obrero Español (PSOE). There were two nights of incidents around the PP headquarters, with the PSOE and other political parties accusing the PP of hiding the truth by saying that the incidents were caused by ETA even though new evidence that pointed to an Islamic attack started appearing. These incidents are still a cause of discussion, since some factions of the PP suggest that the elections were "stolen" by means of the turmoil which followed the terrorist bombing, which was, according to this point of view, backed by the PSOE.

March 14, 2004, three days after the bombings, saw the PSOE party elected into government, with Rodríguez Zapatero becoming the new Presidente del Gobierno or prime minister of Spain thus replacing the former PP administration.


Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.

The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate or Senado with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.

Spain is, at present, what is called a State of Autonomies, formally unitary but, in fact, functioning as a highly decentralized Federation of Autonomous Communities; it is regarded by many as the most decentralized nation in Europe; for example, all territories manage their own health and education systems, and other territories (the Basque Country and Navarre) manage their own public finances. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, an autonomous police corps widely replaces the State police functions (see Mossos d'Esquadra and Ertzaintza).

The Government of Spain has been involved in a long-running campaign against Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA), a terrorist organization founded in 1959 in opposition to Franco and dedicated to promoting Basque independence through violent means. They consider themselves a guerrilla organization while they are listed as a terrorist organization by both the European Union and the United States on their respective watchlists. The current nationalist-led Basque Autonomous government does not endorse ETA's nationalist violence, which has caused over 800 deaths.

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