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Many different people, cultures and civilizations have
lived in our country since long time ago: as an
example, the Homo Antecessor, the Iberians, the
Greeks, the Romans, the Visigoths and the Muslims
lived and dominated the Peninsula in different
periods of our history until the Christian kingdoms
came from the North and conquered it along five
centuries X to XV).
Isabella of Castilla and Ferdinand of Aragon were the
founding fathers of the Hispanic Monarchy. They
married in 1469 and carried out the unification of the
Peninsula. The major Austrians (Charles I and Phillip II)
ruled the Empire and took it to the zenith. Afterwards,
with the minor Austrians (Phillip III, Phillip IV and Charles
II), crisis arrived. Eventually, when Charles II died the
War of Succession was fought and was won by the
Borbonic troops, fact that supposed a dynastic change
and Spain was set up as modern state. Let’s see how our
history led us to the genesis of the Spain of nowadays!
To start with, we must say that the most ancient
human remains we have in Spain are those of
Atapuerca site, in the North of Spain. They are dated
800.000b.C., and they mean the rise of a new
species: the Homo Antecessor. This kind of human
was followed by the Homo Heidelbergensis, who
lived in the Peninsula in 350.000b.C. The Homo
Neandertalensis came in 230.000b.C., and finally The
Homo Sapiens came 40.000 years ago.
Skull from an Homo Heildelbergensis individual.
Skull from an Homo Neandertalensis.
Archaeological site of Atapuerca, where
several Homo Antecessor individuals
have been found.
There are many sites where we can admire the artwork
of cave paintings. Among these art the figurative
paintings of Altamira stand out as an example. They are
full of colour and movement sensation. People who
habited Altamira began to paint them more than
30.000 years ago.
Neolitical cultures came to inhabit our country
over 5.000 b.C. Then, the most advanced
cultures sitted in the region of Valencia.
During the third and second millennium
metallurgy was introduced: first, the copper
was produced and it is related to the
development of the megalithic cultures in
Andalucia. Then, in 1700 b.C. people started
to produce bronze tools.
THE GREAT COLONIZATIONS
First, Indo-European people came across the
Pyreneans and around 1.000 b.C. Greeks and
Romans wrote about them and tell us that they
knew how to make iron tools. In addition to this,
they worked the land and developed the cattle
industry. But the presence of the Phoenicians
was more important. They founded their first
colonies in the south, were Gadir stands out.
They were traders and they had small colonies
across the Mediterranean sea.
Phoenician town in Sa Caleta
Another people, the Greeks, landed in the
Peninsula over the VIII century b.C. They
founded Emporion (in Girona) and Mainake
(Málaga), and they established trade and
shared their culture with native cultures,
causing the development of the cities and
But Greeks and Phoenicians were not alone in
the Peninsula: in the East and South of the
Peninsula lived the Iberians, who were in
touch with the settlers. The Iberians based
their economy in growing grapevine, olive
tree, and in the development of the
metallurgy and pottery. They lived in walled
towns, and they know the writing.
Then came the Romans. First, fighting the
Second Punic War against Carthage and
Hannibal, conquering the Mediterranean
coast and the south during the 218-197 b.C.
After these war, there was a second period of
conquest from 197 to 133 b.C. Romans
conquered the inside part of the Peninsula.
Finally, the third period of roman conquest is
finished from 29 to 19 b.C.
Theatre of Mérida
Romanisation was done during these centuries:
its social and economical organisation and its
religion were spread. Latifundia and private
property were created, slavery was
established and the social structure was based
in money. Cities grew and roads connected
our lands with the rest of the Empire.
But these splendour shall not last: the fall of the Roman
Empire of the West produced a deep crisis in
Hispania. The barbarians put pressure on the lands of
the Empire and the Francs and Germans began to
invade our lands. The slaves became settlers
protected by their lords so the economy almost
disappeared. Then Visigoths came to the Peninsula
starting from 409. They founded a kingdom that
integrated the Hispanoromans with the Visigoths and
spread the Roman Law. These kingdom lasted until
the 711, when Muslims came to the Peninsula.
Church of San Juan de los Baños
The Muslims ruled the Peninsula all over seven
centuries, from 711 to 1492. We find four
different periods inside these centuries:
1. Dependent Emirate (714-756).
2. Independent Emirate (756-929).
3. Caliphate of Cordoba (929-1031).
4. Kingdoms of Taifas and others(1031-1238).
5.The Nasrid Kingdom of Granada (1238-1492)
The territories under the Muslims in the Peninsula were
named Al-Andalus, and there were a kind of centralized
kingdom. The Caliph was the centre of these power and
he had power over the economy, armies and warfare,
and politics, even over tribunals. There were three
provinces: inferior, centre and superior, these last with
its capital in Toledo.
With the Muslims our lands knew a strong economic and
cultural development. Besides, there were ethnical
plurality: Mozarabs and Jews lived all together with
THE FIRST CHRISTIAN KINGDOMS
At the same time, the first Christian kingdoms were
created in North of the Peninsula. Kingdom of León,
Pamplona, Aragón and Catalonia stopped the Muslim
expansion towards the North. These small kingdoms
established by Charlemagne were called The Spanish
Mark. These kingdoms began their expansion
towards the south until 1492, when Muslims were
threw out the Peninsula.
From the XII century, two Christian kingdoms
increased their power, making big conquests
over the Peninsula and Europe: the kingdom
of Castilla and the kingdom of Aragón.
The society of these kingdoms was composed in
first place by a few people who belonged to
the Church and to the aristocracy, and they
owned the land and had privileges. The
peasants formed the main part of the
population. They didn’t owned lands but they
cultivated them. Muslims and Jews were
excluded from the society.
First kingdoms developed the feudal system (IX-XII
centuries), afterwards, each kingdom developed its
own political system. Castilla had the authoritarian
model, in which the king had virtually no limits.
Aragón had a deal model in which the king had to
agree with the nobles because of their power.
These kingdoms continued to develop until 1469, year
in which Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castilla
got married and created the Hispanic Monarchy.
And what did they do?
1. They joined Castilla and Aragón although both kingdoms kept
their own political institutions.
2. They strengthened the central powers of the State.
3. They controlled the Church and standardized the religion.
4. They unified the Peninsula. Defeating the last Muslim kingdom
of Granada and owning the kingdom of Navarre.
5. They expanded their lands across the Mediterranean Sea and
the Atlantic Ocean.
6. They established their diplomacy against the kingdom of France.
This changes supposed the rise of the Monarchy and it shall carry
on with the Hapsburgs.
In 1516 Charles V was proclaimed king of Castilla. In 1519 his
bequest comprised the Peninsula, territories in France, the
sacred Empire, the kingdom of Naples, and all colonies in
His trajectory brought him to accomplish a conciliatory politic,
religious unity and universal monarchy. He faced inside the
Empire the revolt of the Comunidades in Castilla and the
revolt of Germanias in Valencia. The foreign affairs were
conducted against France, defeating it in 1559.
He faced serious religious problems as well, the wars of
Reformation. He defeated the Smalkalda League in 1535
and signed the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, giving religious
freedom the German princes.
His main aim was to defend the Catholicism and
to maintain the hegemony in Europe. He
fought against the rebellion of Flanders with
success and against England, loosing the
Armada in 1588. He fought against the Turkish
piratery as well, defeating the Turkish fleet in
Lepanto in 1571. Finally, he obtained the
union with Portugal in 1580.
PHILIP III AND PHILIP IV
When Philip II died in 1598, it begins the period
of the named Minor Hapsburgs. They
intended to maintain the power of the empire
but little by little the wars and inner conflicts
shall fade it out.
Philip III faced a financial crisis and bankrupt of
1607, and he expelled the Moriscs in 1609.
The foreign affairs were pacified due to the
lack of budget.
Philip IV had an aggressive politics starting wars again
and the 30 Years War was set up (1618-1648). The
Peace of Westphalia caused the independence of
Netherlands and the end of the Spanish hegemony,
signed in the Peace of the Pyreneans in 1659.
On the other hand, through his “valido”, a kind of Prime
Minister, intended to unify all the peninsular kingdoms
with the Union of Arms. Catalonia refused to
accomplish it and in 1640 rebelled against the
Hapsburgs. In 1652 the war was over with the victory
over Catalonia but Portugal achieved its independency.
CULTURE IN THE XVI AND XVII
There were golden centuries for the spanish
culture: authors like Garcilaso, Lope de Vega,
Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Quevedo,
Góngora, Cervantes, etc. Painters like El
Greco, Velázquez, Ribera, Ribalta, Murillo, etc.
and architects like Herrera, thinkers like
Francisco de Vitoria, Mariana, etc.
He is the last Hapsburg king and the last king of
the Hispanic Monarchy (1665-1700). He was ill
and faced a deep economical crisis and lost
many territories due to the wars against Louis
XIV. He died without a heir, and two powers
fought for the bequest: Philip of the Bourbons
and Charles of Austria. These fact caused the
Dynastic War (1700-1714).
THE DYNASTIC WAR: CONSEQUENCES
These was an international conflict that was won by
Philip of France, becoming this way the new king of
Spain. The treaty of Utrech was signed in 1714, and it
1. Spain lost its European possessions.
2. Great Britain became the main sea power in the whole
3. Spain was set up as a modern country, centralized,
uniformed and under the rules of the absolutism. All
kingdoms disappear and the New Decree achieved the
consolidation of Spain as an only country. Since then,
Spain has remained unified.