Spain Guide


Barcelona History

Archaeological evidence suggests there were Iberian settlements as far back as 230 BC in the area which spawned Spain's second biggest city. In the first century AD the Romans established a colony known as Barcino, later to become Barcelona.

The original Roman settlement was encircled by a wall and even as the town developed it continued to be walled, though the defences were continuously expanded, right up until the 19th century.

Barcelona's History Catalans Defiant Struggle

At the beginning of the 9th century the Moors were driven from the area and the local Catalans began to build their own empire with BarcelonaBarcelona as its capital. By the 14th century this empire included the islands of Sicily, MaltaMalta, Sardinia, the Balearics, Valencia, the French regions of Rousillon and Cerdagne and even parts of Greece.

A flourishing maritime trade enabled the town to strengthen its position as an important political and commercial centre.

In the 15th century the town's fortunes changed dramatically with a devastating plague and the annexation of the kingdom by the Castilian state which refused to allow its people to share in the huge wealth pouring in from the Americas.

The disaffected Catalans took to arms on several occasions until Barcelona finally fell in 1714 at the end of the 13 year War of the Spanish Succession. The Catalans were duly punished for having sided with Britain and Austria against Felipe V, the French contender for the Spanish throne. Felipe banned the Catalan language and built a huge fortress, the Ciutadella, for his soldiers who were charged with keeping order in the town.

After the military occupation, the town's economy began to revive. Military spending, the opening of new cotton and calico mills and authorisation to trade with America brought a new capitalist era. The traditional rural way of life started to give way to the demands of a thriving industrial centre.

More Recent History of Barcelona

Barcelona was the launch pad for Spain's industrial revolution in the late 18th and early nineteenth centuries. Cotton, cork, wine and iron industries were among those which brought new riches to the city.

In the mid 19th century, poets and writers led a crusade to revive the Catalan culture and language which by that time were in danger of extinction. People of all political persuasions took up the cause and a fervent nationalist movement was born. Subsequent attempts to subdue the Catalans added fuel to this nationalist fervour which is still very much in evidence in Catalonia today.

Between 1800 and 1900 the city's population exploded from 115,000 to more than half a million. By the troubled days of the 1930s that figure had reached more than a million.

For nearly one year in 1936, anarchists and the Workers Marxist Unification Party ran the city until political infighting erupted into three days of bloody street battles which left 1,500 dead.

Barcelona was the last stronghold of the republicans until the city fell to Franco's forces in 1939, signaling the end of the three year civil war. The fascist dictator banned the Catalan language and even the emblematic public dance of Catalonia, the Sardana.

Both the language and Catalan culture saw a major resurgence following Franco's death in 1975. Catalan is now spoken and understood by the majority of the population of the region and it's the official language of Catalonia along with Castilian.

The success of the 1992 Olympics brought world attention and acclaim to Barcelona which earned a reputation not only as Spain's most exciting city but also as one of the most happening places to be on the entire planet.