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Spain - History

Spanish history dates back tens of thousands of years, with findings dating back to around 50,000 BC. The original inhabitants of the area which now forms Spain and Portugal were referred to by the Greeks as the Iberians, but these were by no means one tribe of people and were thought to have been in the area since 5000 BC. There is speculation about where these people came from originally, with some scientists believing that they originated from the eastern parts of the Mediterranean region and others believing that they were from further north, such as the UK, Ireland and France.

The most advanced tribe were the Tartessos, founders of one of the oldest European cultures. Celtic tribes began to move to the Iberian Peninsula around 1200 BC and began to mingle with the Iberian peoples. The Basque peoples who lived in the north of the country are considered to have their origins in tribes which date back beyond the Iberians.

By 1100 BC the Phoenicians had arrived on the Iberian Peninsula and founded several colonies, notably those at Malaga, Adra and Cadiz. This is in addition to those which had been founded by the Greeks in several places along the southern coast of the country. The Carthaginians managed to conquer large sections of the country including the island of Ibiza and Cartagena. These were swiftly followed by the Romans who managed to take over the whole peninsula and named it Hispania. Roman Emperors Hadrian and Traian were born in Hispania. The Latin spoken by the Romans helped to form the Spanish language that is used today. The Roman Empire began to fall during the 5th century AD and the peninsula was taken over by Gothic tribes.

The Gothic peoples remained in the country until the early part of the 8th century AD when they were defeated by the Moorish armies which arrived from North Africa. The Moors only suffered their first defeat 11 years later. Today, large parts of the southern regions of the country still show the Moorish influence. Many of the areas in the north had remained under Christian control and during the 11th century the Christian kingdoms of the north began to fight back. Isabel of Castilia and Ferdinand of Aragon were married in 1496, uniting two of these kingdoms which gave added strength to the Christian battle. The Moors lost much of their territories and they were expelled from the country in 1492.

The marriage of Isabel and Ferdinand managed to unite the whole of the country but they were responsible for the Spanish Inquisition, which saw the expulsion or murder of many people of the Jewish and Muslim faiths who did not want to convert to Catholicism. Spain overcame this to enter its Golden Age, with the discovery of America and the riches that were found there.

The daughter of Isabel was married to the son of the German Emperor and after Isabel’s death it was Joan who came to power. This led to the country being connected to one of the largest Empires ever but this was divided in 1556 between the Spanish and Austrian rulers. Spain had taken on a great deal and even though it was flourishing economically there were wars with England, France and the Netherlands. The Spanish Armada was famously defeated in 1588.

Spain tried to fight against France after the country became a republic but was defeated by Napoleon who placed his own brother on the Spanish throne, but sparked a war of independence from the Spanish. When Napoleon was defeated at Waterloo the Spanish put their own king back on the throne.

The Spanish Civil War took place between 1936 and 1939. General Franco had a great deal of support from the Nazi regime in Germany and the Italian Fascists. Despite this Spain remained a neutral territory during the Second World War, but the country became increasingly isolated politically. In 1969, Franco declared that his successor would be the heir to the Spanish throne, Juan Carlos de Borbon. Franco died in 1975 and the country became a constitutional monarchy. The country now has a president and an elected government. Spain joined NATO in 1985 and the following year became part of the European Community.

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