Spain Guide


Spanish History

Influences on Spanish history by the ancient Roman culture can still be found in Spain, remnants of their legacy which flourished around 200BC after the vanquishing of the resident Carthaginians.

In the 8th century AD Moorish warriors crossed into Spain from Morocco and overtook the nation a conquest which would last for eight centuries. The Moors called their new home al Andalus these days the modern Spanish region of Andalusia. Under their influence Spain became a sophisticated European centre of.

In the 1500s Christian Spaniards made a concerted effort to rid the country of the Moors. Spain's Catholic monarchies gained strength in the north, and united to form one dominant kingdom when Ferdinand of Aragon married Isabella of the Castile kingdom in 1469. United, the Catholic kings launched the final attack on the Moors and recaptured their desired lands.

When the Spanish Catholic kingdoms retook dominance of the country, the time was right for an explorer by the name of Christopher Columbus to request funding for his mission from the King and Queen. His goal was to sail to the Far East where Marco Polo had found such fame.


With royal sponsorship granted, Genoa born Columbus set sail from Spain with a fleet of three ships, and landed in what is now the islands of Haiti and the Dominican Republic in 1492. Columbus ' landing in the Americas was the start of centuries of Spanish colonialism within the continent. The countries of Central and South America provided the Spanish with plenty of fertile territory and wealth in the forms of mined gold and silver.

In the first half of the 16th century Spanish explorers controlled the areas we now know as Mexico, Florida, Cuba, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela. They later claimed Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Puerto Rico, Panama, Paraguay and Uruguay for the Spanish Crown. In the 19th century Venezuelan General Simon Bolivar fought the Spaniards and liberated Bolivia, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela from Spanish rule. Bolivia was named in his honour.

Spain became a constitutional monarchy in 1876, but this was not to last long. In 1931 the military declared a Spanish republic and the royal family were forced to flee into exile. The army tried to seize power and ignited the Spanish Civil War. Three years of fighting cost one million Spanish lives and at the end the country was under the dictatorship of military General Francisco Franco.

Franco ruled Spain with an iron fist until the ascension of a new King, Juan Carlos, in 1977. A new constitution established a Spanish democracy once again, which guaranteed civil rights and limited independence to Catalonia and the Basque country both of which still fight for autonomy.

Domestic terrorism has always been at the forefront of Spanish politics with the work of ETA, a militant group crusading for Basque separatism. During 30 years of bombing and terrorist activity ETA has killed over 800 people.

Spain joined the European Union in 1986, and through the 1990s Spain entered a social and cultural rebirth, hosting both the summer Olympics in Barcelona and the World Expo 92 in Seville.

In 2004 Spain suffered its worst ever terrorist attacks when four commuter trains were bombed during the morning rush hour in Madrid. The attacks left 191 people dead, 1,800 injured, and after initial suspicion of ETA were revealed to be the work of Islamic extremists.

On April 21 2005 Spain became the first country in the world to give full marriage and adoption rights to homosexual couples, a liberal move in this largely Roman Catholic country.