History of Spain

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The history of Spain is part of the history of Europe and of the present-day nations and states.

It is traditional (at least, since the 19th century) to start the history of modern Spain with the Visigoth kingdom. Although it is debatable whether there is continuity between it and the Kingdom of Castilla and Aragon after the 15th century, a discussion of modern Spain would be incomplete without a mention of the Visigoth Kingdom. Accordingly, both it and Al Andalus have their own sections in this article, but should have full-blown articles of their own.

History of Spain series
Prehistoric Spain
Roman Spain
Medieval Spain
- Visigoths
- Al-Andalus
- Age of Reconquest
Age of Expansion
Age of Enlightenment
Reaction and Revolution
First Spanish Republic
The Restoration
Second Spanish Republic
Spanish Civil War
The Dictatorship
Modern Spain
Economic History
Military History
Social History


Early history

Main article: Prehistoric Spain

The earliest history of the Iberian peninsula is discussed as part of prehistoric Europe. Before the Roman Empire, the Iberian Peninsula was never politically unified, see Preroman Iberia for a discussion of the indigenous Celtiberian groups and the trading ports established by the Greek, Tyrian (Phoenician), and later Carthaginian along the Mediterranean coast.

Roman Iberia is discussed under Hispania and in entries keyed to the Roman provinces into which it was divided: Hispania Ulterior and Hispania Citerior during the late Roman Republic; and, during the Roman Empire, Hispania Taraconensis in the northeast, Hispania Baetica in the south (roughly corresponding to Andalucia), and Lusitania in the southwest (corresponding to modern Portugal).

Visigothic Hispania (5th-8th centuries)

Main article: Visigoth

After the fall 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, treated in some detail at its own entry.

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 Visigoth 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.

Al-Andalus (8th-15th centuries)

Main article: Al Andalus

In 711, Arabs and Berbers had converted to Islam, a religion founded in the 7th century by prophet Muhammad and which by the 8th century dominated all the north of Africa. A raiding party led by Tariq ibn-Ziyad was sent to intervene in a civil war in the Visigothic kingdoms in Iberia. Crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, it won a decisive victory in the summer of 711 when the Visigoth king Roderic was defeated and killed on July 19th at the Battle of Guadalete. Tariq's commander, Musa bin Nusair quickly crossed with substantial reinforcements, and by 718 the Muslims dominated most of the peninsula. The advance into Europe was stopped by the Franks under Charles Martel at the Battle of Tours in 732.

The rulers of Al-Andalus were granted the rank of Emir by the Umayyad Caliph in Damascus. After the Umayyad were overthrown by the Abbasids, Abd-ar-rahman I declared Cordoba an independent emirate. Al-Andalus was rife with internal conflict between the Arab Umayyad rulers, the Berber (North African) commoners and the Visigoth-Roman Christian population. Many of the Berbers, who had been given poor land in the northern parts of the peninsula, soon abandoned their estates and returned to Africa after a number of years with failed harvests. The lands were left unclaimed through disinterest, and this created a power vacuum where Christian kingdoms later would rise.

In the 10th century Abd-ar-rahman III declared the Caliphate of Cordoba, effectively breaking all ties with the Egyptian and Syrian Caliphs. The Caliphate was mostly concerned with maintaining its power base in North Africa, but these possessions eventually dwindled to the Ceuta province. Meanwhile, a slow but steady migration of Christian subjects to the northern kingdoms was slowly increasing the power of the northern kingdoms. Even so, Al-Andalus remained vastly superior to all the northern kingdoms combined in population, economy, culture and military might, and internal conflict between the Christian kingdoms contributed to keep them relatively harmless.

Muslim interest in the peninsula returned in force around the year 1000. Under Al-Mansur (a.k.a. Almanzor), who sacked Barcelona (985), and subsequently his son, Christian cities were subjected to numerous raids. After his son's death, the Caliphate plunged into a civil war and splintered into the so-called "Taifa Kingdoms". The Taifa kings competed against each other not only in war, but also in the protection of the arts, and culture enjoyed a brief upswing. The Taifa kingdoms lost ground to the Christian realms in the north and, after the loss of Toledo in 1085, the Muslim rulers reluctantly invited the Almoravides, who invaded Al-Andalus from North Africa and established an empire. In the 12th century the Almoravide empire broke up again, only to be taken over by the Almohad invasion, who were defeated in the decisive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. By the mid-13th century Granada was the only independent Muslim realm in Spain, which would last until 1492.

Córdoba became one of the most beautiful and advanced cities of Europe, and an important scholarly center. (See also Abbadides, Almohades).

Reconquista (8th-15th centuries)

Main article: Reconquista

The expulsion of the Muslims was reputedly started by the first King of Asturias, named Pelayo (718-737), who started his fight against the Moors in the mountains of Covadonga (722). Later, his sons and descendants continued with his work until all of the Muslims were expelled. See Pelayo for more information.

Meanwhile, in the east of the peninsula the Frankish emperors established the Marca Hispanica across the Pyrenees in part of what today is Catalonia, reconquering Girona in 785 and Barcelona in 801. It was a buffer zone against Islam.

The idea of the Reconquista as a single process spanning eight centuries is historically inaccurate. The Christian realms in northern Spain warred against each other as much as against the Muslims. The ancient Kingdom of Asturias clung to the loose mountains of northwestern Spain, with its capital at Oviedo, while the Basques in Navarre retained sovereignty through the period of Muslim rule. The military decline of the Ummayads in Spain led to the creation in 913 of the Kingdom of León. Sancho III of Navarre - a man of considerable military skill - placed his son Fernando on the throne of the County of Castilla in 1028, propelling Christian Spain yet further into the south. Ferdinand was a prudent and pious monarch, unifying Navarre, Galicia, Asturias, and León under his leadership. Because the tradition of primogeniture did not yet exist in Spain, upon Fernando's death in 1065 his lands were divided among his sons, Alfonso VI of Castilla, Sancho II of Castilla, and García of Galicia. Alfonso attempted to take Sancho's land, although the latter apparently inherited more of his father's tact and strategy, and after defeating him sent Alfonso into exile. García never ruled, and was imprisoned for the duration of his short life.

Sancho's death in 1072 meant that Alfonso VI had the superior claim, and he returned to power, once again in command of all of Fernando I's domains. Alfonso was an impressive leader as well, and did much to improve his realm to become one of Christian Europe's foremost monarchies, tolerating Muslims to an extent remarkable for his time. During his reign, El Cid, the 11th century hero of Spain's epic poem was banished and found refuge with the Muslim king of Zaragoza. With the collapse of the Caliphate of Córdoba, Al-Andalus had broken apart into a number of small, warring domains, which contributed to the success of Alfonso's southward expansionist drive of the Christian kingdoms, culminating with the conquest of Toledo in 1085. After the invasion of the Almoravides, his progress was checked.

On the death of Alfonso VII, León and Castilla were again divided, although the division was not permanent: Alfonso IX's son Fernando by Berenguela of Castilla, united the two realms on his accession to Leon in 1230. Called the Saint, Fernando fought for most of his reign against the Moors in the south. The reconquest of Spain had been declared a crusade at the turn of the 13th century, but when all lands but Granada had been conquered, most of its energy was spent. Fernando's reign was the beginning of Spain's prominence in European affairs, ending the diplomatic isolation brought on by his father's clashes with the Pope over his marriages. The University of Salamanca - one of Europe's oldest - was built during his reign and spawned an early Christian school of thought in economics. Ferdanado's successor, Alfonso X the Learned, helped to reintroduce classical thought to Europe from the Moorish libraries and universities. Succeeding monarchs, allied to the Kingdom of Aragón, succeeded in driving the Muslims further south, capturing Gibraltar in 1309. The despotic and bloody rule of Pedro el Cruel caused him to be ousted in 1366 briefly. Pedro's wars with Aragón caused Castilla's power to weaken briefly.

Europe in 1470.
Europe in 1470.

A revived movement for the Christian unification of Spain was capitalized on by the "Catholic monarchs" (Reyes Católicos in Spanish) Isabel I of Castilla and Fernando II of Aragón in order to justify their invasion of Granada, the expulsion of the Jews and the forceful conversion of the Moors. In the 15th century, the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon were temporaly united under Isabel and Fernando marriage. These two able rulers ruled jointly and worked to consolidate the power of the monarchy at the expense of the nobility. During their reign, the castles of many nobles (symbols of aristocratic independence from the monarchy) were demolished, and a system of regular taxation was established. Fernando and Isabel established the basis for the unification of Spain religiously as well as politically and economically. Under their watch, Muslim rule on the Iberian Peninsula came to an end, and the Muslims who did not convert to Christianity (thenceforth called moriscos) were banished from the land. The catalan-aragonese empire was at that time already an important maritime power in the Mediterranean, and Castile was in competition with Portugal for domination of the Atlantic Ocean. After the final conquest of the last Moorish stronghold at Granada in 1492, Spain started financing voyages of exploration. Those of Genoa-born Cristoforo Columbo brought a New World to Europe's attention, and were followed by the Conquistadores who brought the native empires of Mesoamerica and the Inca under Spanish control. At the same time, the Jews of Spain were ordered on March 30, 1492 to convert to Christianity or be exiled from the country.

In 1499, about 50,000 Moors in Granada were coerced by Cardinal Cisneros into mass baptisms and conversion. During the uprising that followed (known as the First Rebellion of the Alpujarras), people who refused the choices of baptism or deportation to Africa, were systematically eliminated. What followed was a mass flee of Moors, Jews and Gitanos from Granada city and the villages to the mountain regions (and their hills) and the rural country, however by 1500 Cisneros reported that "There is now no one in the city who is not a Christian, and all the mosques are churches".

Through a policy of alliances with other European nobility and the conquest of most of South America and the West Indies, Spain began to establish itself as an empire. The Treaty of Tordesillas, negotiated by Pope Alexander VI between Portugal and Spain, effectively divided up the non-European world between these two budding empires. Massive amounts of gold and silver were imported from the New World into Spain's coffers. However, in the long run this hurt the Spanish economy much more than it helped it. The bullion caused high inflation rates, which undermined the value of Spain's currency, damaging Spanish industry, with its effects being discussed at the School of Salamanca. Additionally, Spain became dependent on her colonies for income, and when the United Provinces began to capture Spanish vessels on the way to and from the New World, Spain suffered massive economic losses. These effects, combined with the expulsion of Spain's most economically vital classes in the late 15th century (the Jews and the Moors), caused Spain's economy to collapse several times in the 16th century, bringing the Golden Age of Spain to a close.

Spain under the Habsburgs (16th-17th centuries)

Main article: Habsburg Spain

Spain's powerful world empire of the great 16th and 17th centuries reached its height and declined under the Habsburgs, sometimes referred to incorrectly as the "Hapsburgs." The Spanish empire reached its maximum extent under Carlos I of Spain, who was also (as Carlos V) emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

Carlos became king in 1516, and the history of Spain became even more firmly enmeshed with the dynastic struggles in Europe. During his reign, the Spanish economy was drastically reoriented by the beginnings of the influx of precious metals from America. The king was not often in Spain, and as he approached the end of his life he made provision for the division of the Habsburg inheritance into two parts: on the one hand Spain, and its possessions in the Mediterranean and overseas, and the Holy Roman Empire itself on the other. The Habsburg possessions in The Netherlands also remained with the Spanish crown.

This was to prove a difficulty for his successor Felipe II of Spain, who became king on Carlos's abdication in 1556. Spain largely escaped the religious conflicts that were raging throughout the rest of Europe, and remained firmly Roman Catholic. Felipe saw himself as a champion of Catholicism, both against the Turks and the heretics. In the 1560s, plans to consolidate control of the Netherlands led to unrest, which gradually led to the Calvinist leadership of the revolt and the Eighty Years' War. This conflict consumed much Spanish expenditure, and led to an attempt to conquer England – a cautious supporter of the Dutch – in the unsuccessful Spanish Armada.

Despite these problems, the large inflow of American gold, the justified military reputation of the Spanish infantry and even the navy quickly recovering from its Armada disaster, made Spain the leading European power, a novel situation of which its citizens were only just becoming aware. The Iberian Union with Portugal in 1580 not only unified the peninsula, but added that country's worldwide resources to the Spanish crown. However, economic and administrative problems multiplied in Castile, and the weakness of the native economy became evident in the following century: rising inflation, the expulsion of the Jews and Moors from Spain, and the dependency of Spain on the gold and silver imports combined to cause multiple bankruptcies and economic crashes in Spain.

Felipe II died in 1598, and was succeeded by his son Felipe III of Spain, in whose reign a ten year truce with the Dutch was overshadowed in 1618 by Spain's involvement in the European-wide Thirty Years' War. Government policy was dominated by favorites, but it was also the reign in which the geniuses of Cervantes and El Greco flourished.

Felipe III was succeded in 1621 by his son Felipe IV of Spain. Much of the policy was conducted by the minister Gaspar de Guzmán, Conde de Olivares. In 1640, with the war in central Europe having no clear winner except the French, both Portugal and Catalonia rebelled. Portugal was lost to the crown for good, Catalonia was suppressed. In the reign of Felipe's son and successor Carlos II of Spain, Spain was gradually being reduced to a second-rank power.

The Habsburg dynasty became extinct in Spain and the War of the Spanish Succession ensued in which the other European powers tried to assume control of the Spanish monarchy. King Louis XIV of France eventually "won" the War the of Spanish Succession, and control of Spain passed to the Bourbon dynasty.

The Enlightenment: Spain under the Bourbons (18th century)

Main article: Enlightenment Spain

Felipe V, the first Bourbon king, of French origin, signed the Decreto de Nueva Planta in 1715, a new law that revoked most of the historical rights and privileges of the different kingdoms that conformed the Spanish Crown, unifying them under the laws of Castile, where the Cortes had been more receptive to the royal wish. Spain became culturally and politically a follower of France. The rule of the Spanish Bourbons continued under Fernando VI and Carlos III.

Under the rule of Carlos III and his ministers, Leopoldo de Gregorio, Marquis of Esquilache and José Moñino, Count of Floridablanca, Spain embarked on a program of enlightened despotism that brought Spain a new prosperity in the middle of the eighteenth century. After losing alongside France against the United Kingdom in the Seven Years' War, Spain recouped most of her territorial losses in the American Revolutionary War. The reforming spirit of Carlos III was extinguished in the reign of his son, Carlos IV, seen by some as mentally handicapped. Dominated by his wife's lover, Manuel de Godoy, Carlos IV embarked on policies that overturned much of Carlos III's reforms. After briefly opposing Revolutionary France early in the French Revolutionary Wars, Spain soon allied with her northern neighbor, only to be blockaded by the British. The loss of commercial and political ties to her colonies would lead to the independence of most of the Spanish Empire in the New World. Carlos IV's vacillation as a loyal French ally led Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France, to invade Spain in 1808, beginning the Peninsular War.

Under the Bonaparte dynasty, Spain failed to embrace the mercantile and industrial revolutions of the 18th century, and also failed to absorb the ideals of the Enlightenment that were revolutionizing European thought. These missed opportunities, combined with the economic and military failures of the 17th century, caused the country to fall desperately behind Britain, France, and Germany in economic and political power.

Napoleonic Wars: War of Spanish Independence (1808-1814)

For more details on this topic, see Peninsular war.

Spain initially sided against France in the Napoleonic Wars, but the defeat of her army early in the war led to Charles IV of Spain's pragmatic decision to align with the revolutionary French. The Spanish fleet was annihilated, along with the French, at the decisive Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, prompting the vacillating king of Spain to reconsider his alliance with France. Spain broke off from the Continental System temporarily, and Napoleon - aggravated with the Bourbon kings of Spain - invaded and deposed Charles. The Spanish people vigorously resisted the move and juntas were formed across Spain that pronounced themselves in favor of Charles's son Ferdinand.

Spain was put under a British blockade, and her colonies - for the first time separated from their colonial rulers - began to trade independently with Britain. Initially, the juntas declared their support for Ferdinand, expecting greater autonomy from Madrid under the liberal constitution that the juntas had drafted. In 1812 the Cortes took refuge at Cádiz and created the first modern Spanish constitution, the Constitution of 1812 (informally named La Pepa).

The Allies, led by the Duke of Wellington, fought Napoleon's forces in the Peninsular War, with Joseph Bonaparte ruling as king at Madrid. The brutal war was one of the first guerrilla wars in modern Western history; French supply lines stretching across Spain were mauled repeatedly by Spanish guerrillas. The war in Iberia fluctuated repeatedly, with Wellington spending several years behind his fortresses in Portugal while launching occasional campaigns into Spain. The French were decisively defeated at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813, and the following year, Ferdinand was restored as King of Spain.

Spain in the nineteenth century (1814-1873)

For more details on this topic, see Mid-nineteenth century Spain.

Although the juntas that had forced the French to leave Spain had sworn by the liberal Constitution of 1812, Ferdinand VII openly believed that it was too liberal for the country. On his return to Spain, he refused to swear by it himself, and he continued to rule in the authoritarian fashion of his forebears.

Although Spain accepted the rejection of the Constitution, the policy was not warmly accepted in Spain's empire in the New World. Revolution broke out. Spain - nearly bankrupt from the war with France and the reconstruction of the country - was unable to pay her soldiers, and in 1820, an expedition intended for the colonies revolted in Cadiz. When armies throughout Spain pronounced themselves in sympathy with the revolters, led by Rafael del Riego, Ferdinand relented and was forced to accept the liberal Constitution of 1812. Ferdinand himself was placed under effective house arrest for the duration of the liberal experiment.

The three years of liberal rule that followed coincided with a civil war in Spain that would typify Spanish politics for the next century. The liberal government, which reminded European statesmen entirely too much of the governments of the French Revolution, was looked on with hostility by the Congress of Verona in 1822, and France was authorized to intervene. France crushed the liberal government with massive force, and Ferdinand was restored as absolute monarch. The American colonies, however, were completely lost; in 1824, the last Spanish army on the American mainland was defeated at the Battle of Ayacucho.

A period of uneasy peace followed in Spain for the next decade. Having borne only a female heir presumptive, it appeared that Ferdinand's brother, Infante Carlos of Spain, would become crowned King of Spain on Ferdinand's death. While Ferdinand aligned with the conservatives, fearing another national insurrection, he did not view the reactionary policies of his brother as a viable option. Ferdinand - resisting the wishes of his brother - decreed the Pragmatic Sanction of 1830, enabling his daughter Isabella to become Queen. Carlos, who made known his intent to resist the sanction, fled to Portugal.

Ferdinand's death in 1833 and the accession of Isabella (only three years old at the time) as Queen of Spain sparked the First Carlist War. Carlos invaded Spain and attracted support from reactionaries and conservatives in Spain; Isabella's mother, Maria Cristina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, was named regent until her daughter came of age.

The insurrection seemed to have been crushed by the end of the year; Maria Cristina's armies, called "Cristino" forces, had driven the Carlist armies from most of the Basque country. Carlos then named the Basque general Tomás de Zumalacárregui his commander-in-chief. Zumalacárregui resuscitated the Carlist cause, and by 1835 had driven the Cristino armies to the Ebro River and transformed the Carlist army from a demoralized band into a professional army of 30,000 of quality superior to the government forces.

Zumalacárregui's death in 1835 changed the Carlists' fortunes. The Cristinos found a capable general in Baldomero Espartero. His victory at the Battle of Luchana (1836) turned the tide of the war, and in 1839, the Convention of Vergara put an end to the first Carlist insurrection.

Espartero, operating on his popularity as a war hero and his sobriquet "Pacifier of Spain", demanded liberal reforms from Maria Cristina. The Queen Regent, who resisted any such idea, preferred to resign and let Espartero become regent instead. Espartero's liberal reforms were opposed, then, by moderates; the former general's heavy-handedness caused a series of sporadic uprisings throughout the country from various quarters, all of which were bloodily suppressed. He was overthrown as regent in 1843 by Ramón María Narváez, a moderate, who was in turn perceived as too reactionary. Another Carlist uprising, the Matiners' War, was launched in 1846 in Catalonia, but it was poorly organized and suppressed by 1849.

Isabella took a more active role in government after she came of age, but she was immensely unpopular throughout her reign. She was viewed as beholden to whoever was closest to her at court, and that she cared little for the people of Spain. In 1856, she attempted to form a pan-national coalition, the Union Liberal, under the leadership of Leopoldo O'Donnell who had already marched on Madrid that year and deposed another Espartero ministry. Isabella's plan failed and cost Isabella more prestige and favor with the people. Isabella launched a successful war against Morocco, waged by generals O'Donnell and Juan Prim, in 1860 that stabilized her popularity in Spain. However, a campaign to reconquer Peru and Chile during the Chincha Islands War proved disastrous and Spain suffered defeat before the determined South American powers.

In 1866, a revolt led by Juan Prim was supressed, but it was becoming increasingly clear that the people of Spain were upset with Isabella's approach to governance. In 1868, the Glorious Revolution broke out when the progressista generals Francisco Serrano and Juan Prim revolted against her, and defeated her moderado generals at the Battle of Alcolea. Isabella was driven into exile in Paris.

Revolution and anarchy broke out in Spain in the two years that followed; it was only in 1870 that the Cortes declared that Spain would have a king again. Amadeo I of Savoy was selected, and he was duly crowned King of Spain early the following year.

Amadeo - a liberal who swore by the liberal constitution the Cortes promulgated - was faced immediately with the incredible task of bringing the disparate political ideologies of Spain to one table. He was plagued by internecine strife, not merely between Spaniards but within Spanish parties.

First Spanish Republic (1873-1874)

For more details on this topic, see First Spanish Republic.

Following the Hidalgo affair, King Amadeus famously declared the people of Spain to be ungovernable, and fled the country. In his absence, a government of radicals and Republicans was formed that declared Spain a republic.

The republic was immediately under siege from all quarters - the Carlists were the most immediate threat, launching a violent insurrection after their poor showing in the 1872 elections. There were calls for socialist revolution from the International Workingmen's Association, revolts and unrest in the autonomous regions of Navarre and Catalonia, and pressure from the Roman Catholic Church against the fledgling republic.

The Restoration (1874-1931)

For more details on this topic, see Spain under the Restoration.

Although the former queen, Isabella II was still alive, she recognized that she was too divisive as a leader, and abdicated in 1870 in favor of her son, Alfonso, who was duly crowned Alfonso XII of Spain. After the tumult of the First Spanish Republic, Spaniards were willing to accept a return to stability under Bourbon rule. The Republican armies in Spain - which were resisting a Carlist insurrection - pronounced their allegiance to Alfonso in the winter of 1874-1875, led by Brigadier General Martinez Campos. The Republic was dissolved and Antonio Canovas del Castillo, a trusted advisor to the king, was named Prime Minister on New Year's Eve, 1874. The Carlist insurrection was put down vigorously by the new king, who took an active role in the war and rapidly gained the support of most of his countrymen.

A system of turnos was established in Spain in which the liberals, led by Práxedes Mateo Sagasta and the conservatives, led by Antonio Canovas del Castillo, alternated in control of the government. A modicum of stability and economic progress was restored to Spain during Alfonso XII's rule. His death in 1885 followed by the assassination of Canovas del Castillo in 1897 destabilized the government.

Cuba rebelled against Spain in the Ten Year War beginning in 1868, resulting in the abolition of slavery in Spain's colonies in the New World. American interests in the island, coupled with concerns for the people of Cuba aggravated relations between the two countries. The explosion of the USS Maine launched the Spanish-American War in 1898, in which Spain fared diastrously. Cuba gained its independence, and Spain lost its remaining New World colonies—Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico—to the United States. Spain's colonial possessions were reduced to Spanish Morocco, Western Sahara and Equatorial Guinea.

The "disaster" of 1898 created the "generation" of 1898, a generation of statesmen and intellectuals who demanded change from the new government. Anarchist and fascist movements were on the rise in Spain in the early twentieth century. A revolt in 1909 in Catalonia was bloodily suppressed.

Spain's neutrality in the First World War allowed it to become a supplier of materiel 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 postwar period, hit Spain particularly hard, and the country went into debt. A major worker's strike was suppressed in 1919.

Mistreatment of the Moorish population in Spanish Morocco led to an uprising and the loss of all North African possessions except for the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla in 1921. Abd el-Krim, Annual. In order to avoid accountability, the king Alfonso XIII decided to support the dictatorship of general Miguel Primo de Rivera, ending the period of constitutional monarchy in Spain.

The dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera collapsed in 1930. Disgusted with the king's involvement in it, urban population voted for republican parties in the municipal elections of April 1931. The king was forced to abdicate and a republic was established.

Second Spanish Republic (1931-1939)

For more details on this topic, see Second Spanish Republic.

Under the Second Spanish Republic, women were allowed to vote in general elections for the first time. The Republic devolved substantial autonomy to the Basque Country and to Catalonia.

The first governments of the Republic, were center-left, headed by Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, and Manuel Azaña. Economic turmoil, substantial debt inherited from the Primo de Rivera regime, and fractious, rapidly changing governing coalitions led to serious political unrest. In 1933, the right-wing CEDA won power; an armed rising of workers of October 1934, which reached its greatest intensity in Asturias and Catalonia, was forcefully put down by the CEDA government. Extremist movements emerged in Spain, including a revived anarchist movement and new reactionary and fascist groups, including the Falange and a revived Carlist movement.

Spanish Civil War 1936-1939

ITALIANS LEAVE SPAIN FOR HOME. The Italians marching through the streets of Cadiz on their way to the troopships for home. October 1938
ITALIANS LEAVE SPAIN FOR HOME. The Italians marching through the streets of Cadiz on their way to the troopships for home. October 1938
For more details on this topic, see Spanish Civil War.

In the 1930s, Spanish politics were polarized at the left and right of the political spectrum. The left wing favoured class struggle, land reform, autonomy to the regions and reduction in church and monarchist power. The right-wing groups, the largest of which was CEDA, a right wing Catholic coalition, held opposing views on most issues. In 1936, with the blessing of the Komintern, the left united in the Popular Front and was elected to power and the chaos of previous years began to start again. There were gunfights over strikes, landless labourers began to seize land, church officials were killed and churches burnt. There was even a strike by building workers in Madrid. The right wing of the country saw an unwillingness or inabilty to act and began to plan a coup. When José Calvo-Sotelo was shot, they decided to act.

General Francisco Franco led the colonial army from Morocco to attack the mainland while another force from the north under General Sanjurjo moved south from Navarre. Before long, much of the west was under the control of the Nationalists. The Battle of Toledo early in the war was a turning point, the Nationalists winning after a long siege. The Republicans won battles in Jarama and Guadalajara and managed to hold out in Madrid. Soon, though, the Nationalists began to erode their land, starving Madrid and making inroads into the east. When the International Brigades left the Republican side and Barcelona fell to the Nationalists, it was clear the war was over. Madrid fell in early 1939.

The bombing of Guernica was probably the most famous event of the war and inspired Picasso's picture. It was used as a testing ground for Luftwaffe's Legion Condor.

The dictatorship of Francisco Franco 1936-1975

For more details on this topic, see Spain under Franco.

Spain remained officially neutral in World Wars I and II, but suffered through a devastating Civil War (1936-39). During Franco's rule, Spain remained largely economically and culturally isolated from the outside world, but slowly began to catch up economically with its European neighbors.

Under Franco, Spain actively sought the return of Gibraltar by the UK, and gained some support for its cause at the United Nations. During the 1960s, Spain began imposing restrictions on Gibraltar, culminating in the closure of the border in 1969. It was not fully reopened until 1985.

Spanish rule in Morocco ended in 1956. Though militarily victorious in the 1957-1958 Moroccan invasion of Spanish West Africa, Spain gradually relinquished its remaining African colonies. Spanish Guinea was granted independence as Equatorial Guinea in 1968, while the Moroccan enclave of Ifni had been ceded to Morocco in 1969.

The latter years of Franco's rule saw some economic and political liberalization, the so-called Spanish Miracle, including the birth of a tourism industry. Francisco Franco ruled until his death on November 20th 1975 when control was given to King Juan Carlos.

In the last few months before Franco's death, the Spanish state went into a paralysis. This was capitalized upon by King Hassan II of Morocco, who ordered the 'Green March' into Western Sahara, Spain's last colonial possession.

The transition to democracy 1975-1978

For more details on this topic, see Spanish transition to democracy.

The Spanish transition to democracy or new bourbon restoration was the era when Spain moved from the dictatorship of Francisco Franco to a liberal democratic state. The transition is usually said to have begun with Franco’s death on November 20, 1975, while its completion is marked by the electoral victory of the socialist PSOE on October 28, 1982.

Spain since 1978

For more details on this topic, see Modern Spain.

Spain 1978-1982 The Unión del Centro Democrático governments. 1981 The 23-F coup d'état attempt. On February 23 Antonio Tejero, with members of the Guardia Civil entered the Spanish Congress of Deputies, and stopped the session, where Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo was going to be named president of the government. Officially, the coup d'état failed thanks to King Juan Carlos.

Spain 1982-1996 Felipe González's Socialist governments. Spain joins the NATO. 1986 Spain enters the European Union. 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Expo '92 in Seville.

Spain 1996-2004 The Partido Popular governments of José María Aznar. On January 1, 1999 Spain exchanges the peseta for the new euro currency. On March 11, 2004 a number of terrorist bombs exploded on busy commuter trains in Madrid during the morning rush-hour days before the general election. José María Aznar quickly accuses ETA however soon after it becomes apparent that the bombing was the work of an extremist Islamic group linked to Al-Qaida. Many believe that this attack directly influenced the results of the election. Opinion polls at the time show that the difference between the two main contenders was too close to make an accurate judgement.

[Spain 2004-] José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero's Socialist government.

On April 21, 2005, the country became the first country in the world to give full marriage and adoption rights to homosexual couples. Belgium and the Netherlands allow same-sex marriages, but do not allow homosexuals to adopt.

At present, Spain is a constitutional monarchy, and is comprised of 17 autonomous communities (Andalucía, Aragón, Asturias, Illes Balears, Islas Canarias, Cantabria, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, Catalunya, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Madrid, Murcia, País Vasco, Comunitat Valenciana, Navarra, Ceuta and Melilla). One of the most important problems facing Spain today is ETA's terrorism - this illegal organization defends Basque independence through violent means, which is condemned by both Central and Basque government, although there is tension between these governments since PNV (the party presently governing Basque Country) longs for greater autonomy from Spain, including the possibility of independence, something the Spanish government doesn't accept.

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