A Phoenician ship being unloaded in the harbour of Tyre, one of the great trading cities of the ancient world. | ©Giovanni Caselli

Phoenician in Iberia

900 BCE Jan 1
, Cádiz

The Phoenicians of the Levant, Greeks of Europe, and Carthaginians of Africa all colonized parts of Iberia to facilitate trade. In the 10th century BC, the first contacts between Phoenicians and Iberia (along the Mediterranean coast) were made. This century also saw the emergence of towns and cities in the southern littoral areas of eastern Iberia.

The Phoenicians founded colony of Gadir (now Cádiz) near Tartessos. The foundation of Cádiz, the oldest continuously inhabited city in western Europe, is traditionally dated to 1104 BC, though, as of 2004, no archaeological discoveries date back further than the 9th century BC. The Phoenicians continued to use Cádiz as a trading post for several centuries leaving a variety of artifacts, most notably a pair of sarcophaguses from around the 4th or 3rd century BC. Contrary to myth, there is no record of Phoenician colonies west of Algarve (namely Tavira), though there might have been some voyages of discovery. Phoenician influence in what is now Portugal was essentially through cultural and commercial exchange with Tartessos.

In the 9th century BC, the Phoenicians, from the city-state of Tyre founded the colony of Malaka (now Málaga) and Carthage (in North Africa). During this century, Phoenicians also had great influence on Iberia with the introduction the use of Iron, of the Potter's wheel, the production of olive oil and wine. They were also responsible for the first forms of Iberian writing, had great religious influence and accelerated urban development. However, there is no real evidence to support the myth of a Phoenician foundation of the city of Lisbon as far back as 1300 BC, under the name Alis Ubbo ("Safe Harbour"), even if in this period there are organized settlements in Olissipona (modern Lisbon, in Portuguese Estremadura) with Mediterranean influences.

There was strong Phoenician influence and settlement in the city of Balsa (modern Tavira, Algarve), in the 8th century BC. Phoenician-influenced Tavira was destroyed by violence in the 6th century BC. With the decadence of Phoenician colonization of the Mediterranean coast of Iberia in the 6th century BC many of the colonies are deserted. The 6th century BC also saw the rise of the colonial might of Carthage, which slowly replaced the Phoenicians in their former areas of dominion.

Greeks in Iberia

Greeks in Iberia

575 BCE Jan 1
, Alt Empordà

Archaic Greeks arrived to the Peninsula by the late 7th century BC. They founded Greek colonies such as Empúries (570 BC). Empúries was founded on a small island at the mouth of the river Fluvià, in a region inhabited by the Indigetes (at the present time, the mouth of the Fluvià is about 6 km to the north). After the conquest of Phocaea by the Persian king Cyrus II in 530 BC, the new city's population increased considerably through the influx of refugees. Established by Greek fisherman, merchants, and settlers from Phocaea in c. 575 BCE, Empúries was the most westerly ancient Greek colony documented in the Mediterranean and retained a distinct cultural identity for nearly a thousand years.

The Greeks are responsible for the name Iberia, apparently after the river Iber (Ebro).

Celtiberians | ©Angus McBride


500 BCE Jan 1
, Cádiz

Strabo cites Ephorus's belief that there were Celts in the Iberian peninsula as far as Cadiz. The material culture of the north-western regions of the Iberian Peninsula showed continuity from the end of the Bronze Age (c. 9th century BC) until it was subsumed by Roman culture (c. 1st century BC). It is associated with the Celtic tribal groups the Gallaecians and the Astures. The population predominantly practiced transhumant cattle-herding, protected by a warrior elite, similar to those in other areas of Atlantic Europe, centered in the hill-forts, locally termed castros, that controlled small grazing territories.Settlements of circular huts survived until Roman times across the north of Iberia, from Northern Portugal, Asturias and Galicia through Cantabria and northern Leon to the Ebro River.

Celtic presence in Iberia likely dates to as early as the 6th century BC, when the castros evinced a new permanence with stone walls and protective ditches. Archaeologists Martín Almagro Gorbea and Alvarado Lorrio recognize the distinguishing iron tools and extended family social structure of developed Celtiberian culture as evolving from the archaic castro culture which they consider "proto-Celtic".

Archaeological finds identify the culture as continuous with the culture reported by Classical writers from the late 3rd century onwards (Almagro-Gorbea and Lorrio). The ethnic map of Celtiberia was highly localized however, composed of different tribes and nations from the 3rd century centered upon fortified oppida and representing a wide-ranging degree of local assimilation with the autochthonous cultures in a mixed Celtic and Iberian stock.

Hispanic warriors, 2nd Century BCE | ©Angus McBride

Carthaginian Iberia

237 BCE Jan 1 - 218 BCE
, Saguntum

After the defeat of Carthage in the First Punic War, the Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca crushed a mercenary revolt in Africa and trained a new army consisting of Numidians along with mercenaries and other infantry. In 236 BC, he led an expedition to Iberia where he hoped to gain a new empire for Carthage to compensate for the territories that had been lost in the recent conflicts with Rome and to serve as a base for vengeance against the Romans.

In eight years, by force of arms and diplomacy, Hamilcar secured an extensive territory, covering around half of the Iberian Peninsula, and Iberian soldiers later came to make up a large part of the army that his son Hannibal led into the Italian Peninsula to fight the Romans, but Hamilcar's premature death in battle (228 BC) prevented him from completing the conquest of the Iberian Peninsula and was soon followed by the collapse of the short lived empire he had established.

Second Punic War

Second Punic War

218 BCE Jan 1 - 204 BCE
, Spain

The Second Punic War (218 to 201 BC) was the second of three wars fought between Carthage and Rome, the two main powers of the western Mediterranean in the 3rd century BC. For 17 years the two states struggled for supremacy, primarily in Italy and Iberia, but also on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia and, towards the end of the war, in North Africa. After immense material and human losses on both sides the Carthaginians were defeated. Macedonia, Syracuse and several Numidian kingdoms were drawn into the fighting; and Iberian and Gallic forces fought on both sides. There were three main military theatres during the war: Italy, where Hannibal defeated the Roman legions repeatedly, with occasional subsidiary campaigns in Sicily, Sardinia and Greece; Iberia, where Hasdrubal, a younger brother of Hannibal, defended the Carthaginian colonial cities with mixed success before moving into Italy; and Africa, where Rome finally won the war.

Augustan fortress | ©Brian Delf


218 BCE Jan 2 - 472
, Spain

Hispania was the Roman name for the Iberian Peninsula and its provinces. Under the Roman Republic, Hispania was divided into two provinces: Hispania Citerior and Hispania Ulterior. During the Principate, Hispania Ulterior was divided into two new provinces, Baetica and Lusitania, while Hispania Citerior was renamed Hispania Tarraconensis. Subsequently, the western part of Tarraconensis was split off, first as Hispania Nova, later renamed "Callaecia" (or Gallaecia, whence modern Galicia). From Diocletian's Tetrarchy (AD 284) onwards, the south of the remainder of Tarraconensis was again split off as Carthaginensis, and all of the mainland Hispanic provinces, along with the Balearic Islands and the North African province of Mauretania Tingitana, were later grouped into a civil diocese headed by a vicarius. The name Hispania was also used in the period of Visigothic rule. The modern place names Spain and Hispaniola are both derived from Hispania.

The Romans improved existing cities, such as Tarragona (Tarraco), and established others like Zaragoza (Caesaraugusta), Mérida (Augusta Emerita), Valencia (Valentia), León ("Legio Septima"), Badajoz ("Pax Augusta"), and Palencia. The peninsula's economy expanded under Roman tutelage. Hispania supplied Rome with food, olive oil, wine and metal. The emperors Trajan, Hadrian, and Theodosius I, the philosopher Seneca, and the poets Martial, Quintilian, and Lucan were born in Hispania. Hispanic bishops held the Council of Elvira around 306.

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, parts of Hispania came under the control of the Germanic tribes of Vandals, Suebi, and Visigoths.

Numantia (1881) In 133 B.C., the last defenders of Numantia burnt their city and killed themselves to avoid being captured alive by the Romans | ©Alejo Vera

Celtiberian Wars

181 BCE Jan 1 - 133 BCE
, Spain

The First Celtiberian War (181–179 BC) and Second Celtiberian War (154–151 BC) were two of the three major rebellions by the Celtiberians (a loose alliance of Celtic tribes living in east central Hispania, among which we can name the Pellendones, the Arevaci, the Lusones, the Titti and the Belli) against the presence of the Romans in Hispania.

When the Second Punic War ended, the Carthaginians relinquished the control of its Hispanic territories to Rome. The Celtiberians shared a border with this new Roman province. They started to confront the Roman army acting in the areas around Celtiberia and this led to the First Celtiberian War. The Roman victory in this war and the peace treaties established by the Roman praetor Gracchus with several tribes led to 24 years of relative peace.

In 154 BC, the Roman Senate objected to the Belli town of Segeda building a circuit of walls, and declared war. Thus, the Second Celtiberian War (154–152 BC) started. At least three tribes of Celtiberians were involved in the war: the Titti, the Belli (towns of Segeda and Nertobriga) and the Arevaci (towns of Numantia, Axinum and Ocilis). After some initial Celtiberian victories, the consul Marcus Claudius Marcellus inflicted some defeats and made peace with the Celtiberians. The next consul, Lucius Licinius Lucullus, attacked the Vaccaei, a tribe living in the central Duero valley which was not at war with Rome. He did so without the authorisation of the Senate, with the excuse that the Vaccaei had mistreated the Carpetani. The Second Celtiberian War overlapped with the Lusitanian War of (154–150 BC).

The third major rebellion following the Celtiberian Wars was the Numantine War (143–133 BC), sometimes considered as the Third Celtiberian War.

Visigothic Spain

Visigothic Spain

418 Jan 1 - 721
, Spain

The first Germanic tribes to invade Hispania arrived in the 5th century, as the Roman Empire decayed. The Visigoths, Suebi, Vandals and Alans arrived in Hispania by crossing the Pyrenees mountain range, leading to the establishment of the Suebi Kingdom in Gallaecia, in the northwest, the Vandal Kingdom of Vandalusia (Andalusia), and finally the Visigothic Kingdom in Toledo. The Romanized Visigoths entered Hispania in 415. After the conversion of their monarchy to Roman Catholicism and after conquering the disordered Suebic territories in the northwest and Byzantine territories in the southeast, the Visigothic Kingdom eventually encompassed a great part of the Iberian Peninsula.

As the Roman Empire declined, Germanic tribes invaded the former empire. Some were foederati, tribes enlisted to serve in Roman armies, and given land within the empire as payment, while others, such as the Vandals, took advantage of the empire's weakening defenses to seek plunder within its borders. Those tribes that survived took over existing Roman institutions, and created successor-kingdoms to the Romans in various parts of Europe Hispania was taken over by the Visigoths after 410.

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, refugees from (Germanic) Vandals and Sueves, and the (Sarmatian) Alans, fleeing the advancing Huns, invaded the empire in force.

The Visigoths, having sacked Rome two years earlier, arrived in Gaul in 412, founding the Visigothic kingdom of Toulouse (in the south of modern France) and gradually expanded their influence into Hispania after the battle of Vouillé (507) 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.

Conversion of Reccared to Catholicism | ©Antonio Muñoz Degrain

Visigothic King Reccared becomes a Catholic

587 Jan 1
, Toledo

Reccared was the younger son of King Leovigild by his first wife. Like his father, Reccared had his capital at Toledo. The Visigothic kings and nobles were traditionally Arian Christians, while the Hispano-Roman population were Roman Catholics. The Catholic bishop Leander of Seville was instrumental in converting the elder son and heir of Leovigild, Hermenegild, to Catholicism. Leander supported his rebellion and was exiled for his role.

In January 587, Reccared renounced Arianism for Catholicism, the single great event of his reign and the turning point for Visigothic Hispania. Most Arian nobles and ecclesiastics followed his example, certainly those around him at Toledo, but there were Arian uprisings, notably in Septimania, his northernmost province, beyond the Pyrenees, where the leader of opposition was the Arian bishop Athaloc, who had the reputation among his Catholic enemies of being virtually a second Arius. Among the secular leaders of the Septimanian insurrection, the counts Granista and Wildigern appealed to Guntram of Burgundy, who saw his opportunity and sent his dux Desiderius. Reccared's army defeated the Arian insurgents and their Catholic allies with great slaughter, Desiderius himself being slain.

El Rey Don Rodrigo arengando a sus tropas en la batalla de Guadalete by Bernardo Blanco y Pérez

Umayyad conquest of Hispania

711 Jan 1 - 718
, Iberian Peninsula

The Umayyad conquest of Hispania, also known as the Umayyad conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom, was the initial expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate over Hispania (in the Iberian Peninsula) from 711 to 718. The conquest resulted in the destruction of the Visigothic Kingdom and the establishment of the Umayyad Wilayah of Al-Andalus. During the caliphate of the sixth Umayyad caliph al-Walid I (r. 705–715), forces led by Tariq ibn Ziyad disembarked in early 711 in Gibraltar at the head of an army consisting of Berbers from north Africa. After defeating the Visigothic king Roderic at the decisive Battle of Guadalete, Tariq was reinforced by an Arab force led by his superior wali Musa ibn Nusayr and continued northward. By 717, the combined Arab-Berber force had crossed the Pyrenees into Septimania. They occupied further territory in Gaul until 759.

The Surrender of Granada by Francisco Pradilla Ortiz


711 Jan 2 - 1492
, Spain

The Reconquista is a historiographical construction of the 781-year period in the history of the Iberian Peninsula between the Umayyad conquest of Hispania in 711 and the fall of the Nasrid kingdom of Granada in 1492, in which the Christian kingdoms expanded through war and conquered al-Andalus, or the territories of Iberia ruled by Muslims.

The beginning of the Reconquista is traditionally marked with the Battle of Covadonga (718 or 722), the first known victory by Christian military forces in Hispania since the 711 military invasion which was undertaken by combined Arab-Berber forces. The rebels who were led by Pelagius defeated a Muslim army in the mountains of northern Hispania and established the independent Christian Kingdom of Asturias.

In the late 10th century, the Umayyad vizier Almanzor waged military campaigns for 30 years to subjugate the northern Christian kingdoms. His armies ravaged the north, even sacking the great Santiago de Compostela Cathedral. When the government of Córdoba disintegrated in the early 11th century, a series of petty successor states known as taifas emerged. The northern kingdoms took advantage of this situation and struck deep into al-Andalus; they fostered civil war, intimidated the weakened taifas, and made them pay large tributes (parias) for "protection".

After a Muslim resurgence under the Almohads in the 12th century, the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian forces in the 13th century after the decisive battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (1212)—Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south. After the surrender of Granada in January 1492, the entire Iberian peninsula was controlled by Christian rulers. On 30 July 1492, as a result of the Alhambra Decree, all the Jewish community—some 200,000 people—were forcibly expelled. The conquest was followed by a series of edicts (1499–1526) which forced the conversions of Muslims in Spain, who were later expelled from the Iberian peninsula by the decrees of King Philip III in 1609.

Beginning in the 19th century, traditional historiography has used the term Reconquista for what was earlier thought of as a restoration of the Visigothic Kingdom over conquered territories. The concept of Reconquista, consolidated in Spanish historiography in the second half of the 19th century, was associated with the development of a Spanish national identity, emphasizing nationalistic and romantic aspects.

Emirate of Córdoba

Emirate of Córdoba

756 Jan 1 - 929
, Córdoba

The Emirate of Córdoba was a medieval Islamic kingdom in the Iberian Peninsula. Its founding in the mid-eighth century would mark the beginning of seven hundred years of Muslim rule in what is now Spain and Portugal.

The territories of the Emirate, located in what the Arabs called Al-Andalus, had formed part of the Umayyad Caliphate since the early eighth century. After the caliphate was overthrown by the Abbasids in 750, the Umayyad prince Abd ar-Rahman I fled the former capital of Damascus and established an independent emirate in Iberia in 756. The provincial capital of Córdoba was made the capital, and within decades grew into one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the world. After initially recognizing the legitimacy of the Abbasid Caliphate of Baghdad, in 929 Emir Abd al-Rahman III declared the caliphate of Córdoba, with himself as caliph.

Kingdom of Portugal

Kingdom of Portugal

1139 Jan 1 - 1910
, Lisbon

In 1139, after an overwhelming victory in the Battle of Ourique against the Almoravids, Afonso Henriques was proclaimed the first King of Portugal by his troops. According to the legend, Christ announced from heaven Afonso's great deeds, whereby he would establish the first Portuguese Cortes at Lamego and be crowned by the Primate Archbishop of Braga. In 1142 a group of Anglo-Norman crusaders on their way to the Holy Land helped King Afonso Henriques in a failed Siege of Lisbon (1142). In the Treaty of Zamora in 1143, Alfonso VII of Leon and Castile recognized Portuguese independence from the Kingdom of León.

Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa | ©Francisco de Paula Van Halen

Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa

1212 Jul 16
, Santa Elena

The Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa was an important turning point in the Reconquista and the medieval history of Spain. The Christian forces of King Alfonso VIII of Castile were joined by the armies of his rivals, Sancho VII of Navarre and Peter II of Aragon, in battle against the Almohad Muslim rulers of the southern half of the Iberian Peninsula. The caliph al-Nasir (Miramamolín in the Spanish chronicles) led the Almohad army, made up of people from all over the Almohad Caliphate.

The crushing defeat of the Almohads significantly hastened their decline both in the Iberian Peninsula and in the Maghreb a decade later. That gave further impulse to the Christian Reconquest and sharply reduced the already declining power of the Moors in Iberia.

The Inquisition Tribunal as illustrated by Francisco de Goya

Spanish Inquisition

1478 Jan 1 - 1809
, Spain

The Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition began toward the end of the Reconquista and was intended to maintain Catholic orthodoxy in their kingdoms and to replace the Medieval Inquisition, which was under Papal control. It became the most substantive of the three different manifestations of the wider Catholic Inquisition along with the Roman Inquisition and Portuguese Inquisition. The "Spanish Inquisition" may be defined broadly as operating in Spain and in all Spanish colonies and territories, which included the Canary Islands, the Kingdom of Naples, and all Spanish possessions in North, Central, and South America. According to modern estimates, around 150,000 people were prosecuted for various offences during the three-century duration of the Spanish Inquisition, of whom between 3,000 and 5,000 were executed.

The Inquisition was originally intended primarily to identify heretics among those who converted from Judaism and Islam to Catholicism. The regulation of the faith of newly converted Catholics was intensified after the royal decrees issued in 1492 and 1502 ordering Jews and Muslims to convert to Catholicism or leave Castile, resulting in hundreds of thousands of forced conversions, the persecution of conversos and moriscos, and the mass expulsions of Jews and of Muslims from Spain. The Inquisition was abolished in 1834, during the reign of Isabella II, after a period of declining influence in the preceding century.

The Surrender of Granada | ©Francisco Pradilla Ortiz

End of Muslim Rule

1492 Jan 2
, Granada

Ferdinand and Isabella completed the Reconquista with a war against the Emirate of Granada that started in 1482 and ended with Granada's surrender on 2 January 1492. The Moors in Castile previously numbered "half a million within the realm". By 1492 some 100,000 had died or been enslaved, 200,000 had emigrated, and 200,000 remained in Castile. Many of the Muslim elite, including Granada's former Emir Muhammad XII, who had been given the area of the Alpujarras mountains as a principality, found life under Christian rule intolerable and emigrated to Tlemcen in North Africa.

A depiction of Columbus claiming possession of the land in caravels, the Niña and the Pinta

Voyages of Christopher Columbus

1492 Aug 3
, Bahamas

Between 1492 and 1504, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus led four Spanish transatlantic maritime expeditions of discovery to the Americas. These voyages led to the widespread knowledge of the New World. This breakthrough inaugurated the period known as the Age of Discovery, which saw the colonization of the Americas, a related biological exchange, and trans-Atlantic trade. These events, the effects and consequences of which persist to the present, are often cited as the beginning of the modern era.

Treaty of Tordesillas

Spain and Portugal divide the New World

1494 Jun 7
, America

The Treaty of Tordesillas, signed in Tordesillas, Spain on 7 June 1494, and authenticated in Setúbal, Portugal, divided the newly discovered lands outside Europe between the Portuguese Empire and the Spanish Empire (Crown of Castile), along a meridian 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands, off the west coast of Africa. That line of demarcation was about halfway between the Cape Verde islands (already Portuguese) and the islands entered by Christopher Columbus on his first voyage (claimed for Castile and León), named in the treaty as Cipangu and Antillia (Cuba and Hispaniola).

The lands to the east would belong to Portugal and the lands to the west to Castile, modifying an earlier division proposed by Pope Alexander VI. The treaty was signed by Spain, 2 July 1494, and by Portugal, 5 September 1494. The other side of the world was divided a few decades later by the Treaty of Zaragoza, signed on 22 April 1529, which specified the antimeridian to the line of demarcation specified in the Treaty of Tordesillas. Originals of both treaties are kept at the General Archive of the Indies in Spain and at the Torre do Tombo National Archive in Portugal.

Despite considerable lack of information regarding the geography of the New World, Portugal and Spain largely respected the treaty. The other European powers however did not sign the treaty and generally ignored it, particularly those that became Protestant after the Reformation.

King Philip III of Spain (r. 1598–1621)

Habsburg Spain

1517 Jan 1 - 1700
, Spain

Habsburg Spain is a contemporary historiographical term referred to the Spain of the 16th and 17th centuries (1516–1700) when it was ruled by kings from the House of Habsburg (also associated with its role in the history of Central and Eastern Europe). The Habsburg Hispanic Monarchs (chiefly Charles I and Philip II) reached the zenith of their influence and power ruling the Spanish Empire. They controlled territories over the five continents including the Americas, the East Indies, the Low Countries, Belgium, Luxembourg and territories now in Italy, France and Germany in Europe, the Portuguese Empire from 1580 to 1640, and various other territories such as small enclaves like Ceuta and Oran in North Africa. This period of Spanish history has also been referred to as the "Age of Expansion".

With the Habsburgs, Spain was one of the greatest political and military powers in Europe and the world for much of the 16th and 17th centuries. During the Habsburg's period, Spain ushered in the Spanish Golden Age of arts and literature producing some of the world's most outstanding writers and painters and influential intellectuals, including Teresa of Ávila, Pedro Calderón de la Barca, Miguel de Cervantes, Francisco de Quevedo, Diego Velázquez, El Greco, Domingo de Soto, Francisco Suárez and Francisco de Vitoria.

Spain as a unified state came into being de jure after the Nueva Planta decrees of 1707 that succeeded the multiple crowns of its former realms. Spain as a unified state came into being de jure after the Nueva Planta decrees of 1707 that succeeded the multiple crowns of its former realms. After the death in 1700 of Spain's last Habsburg king Charles II, the resulting War of the Spanish Succession led to the ascension of Philip V of the Bourbon dynasty and began a new centralizing state formation.

Descubrimiento del estrecho de Magallanes (Discovery of the Strait of Magellan), oil paining by Álvaro Casanova Zenteno.

Magellan expedition

1519 Sep 20 - 1522 Sep 6
, Asia

The Magellan expedition, often called Magellan–Elcano expedition, was a Spanish expedition initially led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan to the Moluccas, which departed from Spain in 1519, and culminated with the first circumnavigation of the world in 1522 by the Spaniard Juan Sebastián Elcano. The expedition accomplished its primary goal — to find a western route to the Moluccas (Spice Islands). The fleet left Spain on 20 September 1519, sailed across the Atlantic and down the eastern coast of South America, eventually discovering the Strait of Magellan, allowing them to pass through to the Pacific Ocean (which Magellan named).

The fleet completed the first Pacific crossing, stopping in the Philippines, and eventually reached the Moluccas after two years. A much-depleted crew led by Juan Sebastián Elcano finally returned to Spain on 6 September 1522, having sailed west, around the Cape of Good Hope, through waters controlled by the Portuguese. The fleet initially consisted of about 270 men and five ships. The expedition faced numerous hardships including Portuguese sabotage attempts, mutinies, starvation, scurvy, storms, and hostile encounters with indigenous people. Only 30 men and one ship (the Victoria) completed the return trip to Spain. Magellan himself died in battle in the Philippines, and was succeeded as captain-general by a series of officers, with Elcano eventually leading the Victoria's return trip. The expedition was funded mostly by King Charles I of Spain, with the hope that it would discover a profitable western route to the Moluccas, as the eastern route was controlled by Portugal under the Treaty of Tordesillas.

"Conquista de México por Cortés". An Unknown artist, second half of the 17th century.

Hernan Cortes conquers the Aztecs Empire

1521 May 26 - Aug 13
, Mexico City

The Fall of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, was a decisive event in the Spanish conquest of the empire. It occurred in 1521 following extensive manipulation of local factions and exploitation of pre-existing political divisions by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés. He was aided by indigenous allies, and his interpreter and companion La Malinche.

Although numerous battles were fought between the Aztec Empire and the Spanish-led coalition, which was composed mainly of Tlaxcaltec men, it was the siege of Tenochtitlan that directly led to the downfall of the Aztec civilization and marked the end of the first phase of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. The Aztec population was devastated at the time by high mortality due to a smallpox epidemic, which killed much of its leadership. Because smallpox had been endemic in Asia and Europe for centuries, the Spanish had developed an acquired immunity and were affected relatively little in the epidemic.

The conquest of the Aztec Empire was a critical stage in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. With this conquest, Spain gained substantial access to the Pacific Ocean. Through that, the Spanish Empire could finally achieve its original oceanic goal of reaching the Asian markets.

The Famous Thirteen by Juan Lepiani

Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire

1532 Jan 1 - 1572
, Peru

The Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, also known as the Conquest of Peru, was one of the most important campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. After years of preliminary exploration and military skirmishes, 168 Spanish soldiers under conquistador Francisco Pizarro, his brothers, and their indigenous allies captured the Sapa Inca Atahualpa in the 1532 Battle of Cajamarca. It was the first step in a long campaign that took decades of fighting but ended in Spanish victory in 1572 and colonization of the region as the Viceroyalty of Peru. The conquest of the Inca Empire, led to spin-off campaigns into present-day Chile and Colombia, as well as expeditions towards the Amazon Basin.

When the Spanish arrived at the borders of the Inca Empire in 1528, it spanned a considerable area and was by far the largest of the four grand pre-Columbian civilizations. Extending southward from the Ancomayo, which is now known as the Patía River, in southern present-day Colombia to the Maule River in what would later be known as Chile, and eastward from the Pacific Ocean to the edge of the Amazonian jungles, it covered some of the most mountainous terrains on Earth.

The Spanish conquistador Pizarro and his men were greatly aided in their enterprise by invading when the Inca Empire was in the midst of a war of succession between the princes Huáscar and Atahualpa. Atahualpa seems to have spent more time with Huayna Capac during the years when he was in the north with the army conquering Ecuador. Atahualpa was thus closer to and had better relations with the army and its leading generals. When both Huayna Capac and his eldest son and designated heir, Ninan Cuyochic, died suddenly in 1528 from what was probably smallpox, a disease introduced by the Spanish into the Americas, the question of who would succeed as emperor was thrown open. Huayna had died before he could nominate the new heir.

Philip II of Spain | ©Sofonisba Anguissola

Iberian Union

1580 Jan 1 - 1640
, Iberian Peninsula

The Iberian Union refers to the dynastic union of the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and the Kingdom of Portugal under the Castilian Crown that existed between 1580 and 1640 and brought the entire Iberian Peninsula, as well as Portuguese overseas possessions, under the Spanish Habsburg Kings Philip II, Philip III and Philip IV. The union began after the Portuguese crisis of succession and the ensuing War of the Portuguese Succession, and lasted until the Portuguese Restoration War during which the House of Braganza was established as Portugal's new ruling dynasty.

The Habsburg king, the only element that connected the multiple kingdoms and territories, ruled by the six separate government councils of Castile, Aragon, Portugal, Italy, Flanders and the Indies. The governments, institutions and legal traditions of each kingdom remained independent of one another. Alien laws (Leyes de extranjería) determined that a national of one kingdom was a foreigner in all other kingdoms.

The Spanish Armada off the English coast

Spanish Armada

1588 Jul 21 - May
, English Channel

The Spanish Armada was a Spanish fleet of 130 ships that sailed from Lisbon in late May 1588 under the command of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, with the purpose of escorting an army from Flanders to invade England. Medina Sidonia was an aristocrat without naval command experience but was made commander by King Philip II. The aim was to overthrow Queen Elizabeth I and her establishment of Protestantism in England, to stop English interference in the Spanish Netherlands, and to stop the harm caused by English and Dutch privateering ships that disrupted Spanish interests in the Americas.

English ships sailed from Plymouth to attack the Armada. They were faster and more manoeuvrable than the larger Spanish galleons, enabling them to fire on the Armada without loss as the Armada sailed east off the south coast of England. The Armada could have anchored in The Solent between the Isle of Wight and the English mainland and occupied the Isle of Wight, but Medina Sidonia was under orders from King Philip II to meet up with Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma's forces in the Netherlands so England could be invaded by Parma's soldiers and other soldiers carried in ships of the Armada. English guns damaged the Armada, and a Spanish ship was captured by Sir Francis Drake in the English Channel.

The Armada anchored off Calais. While awaiting communications from the Duke of Parma, the Armada was scattered by an English fireship night attack and abandoned its rendezvous with Parma's army, that was blockaded in harbour by Dutch flyboats. In the ensuing Battle of Gravelines, the Spanish fleet was further damaged and was in risk of running aground on the Dutch coast when the wind changed. The Armada, driven by southwest winds, withdrew north, with the English fleet harrying it up the east coast of England. As the Armada returned to Spain around Scotland and Ireland, it was disrupted further by storms. Many ships were wrecked on the coasts of Scotland and Ireland, and more than a third of the initial 130 ships failed to return to Spain. As historians Martin and Parker explain, "Philip II attempted to invade England, but his plans miscarried. This was due to his own mismanagement, including the appointment of an aristocrat without naval experience as commander of the Armada, but also to unfortunate weather, and the opposition of the English and their Dutch allies, which included the use of fireships sailed into the anchored Armada."

The expedition was the largest engagement of the undeclared Anglo-Spanish War. The following year, England organised a similar large-scale campaign against Spain, the English Armada, sometimes called the "counter-Armada of 1589", which was also unsuccessful.

The Battle of Rocroi (1643) is often seen as the end of the battlefield supremacy of the tercios.

Franco-Spanish War

1635 May 19 - 1659 Nov 7
, Spain

The Franco-Spanish War (1635–1659) was fought between France and Spain, with the participation of a changing list of allies through the war. The first phase, beginning in May 1635 and ending with the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, is considered a related conflict of the Thirty Years' War. The second phase continued until 1659 when France and Spain agreed to peace terms in the Treaty of the Pyrenees.

Major areas of conflict included northern Italy, the Spanish Netherlands, and the German Rhineland. In addition, France supported revolts against Spanish rule in Portugal (1640–1668), Catalonia (1640–1653) and Naples (1647), while from 1647 to 1653 Spain backed French rebels in the civil war known as the Fronde. Both also backed opposing sides in the 1639 to 1642 Piedmontese Civil War.

France avoided direct participation in the Thirty Years' War until May 1635 when it declared war on Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, entering the conflict as an ally of the Dutch Republic and Sweden. After Westphalia in 1648, the war continued between Spain and France, with neither side able to achieve decisive victory. Despite minor French gains in Flanders and along the north-eastern end of the Pyrenees, by 1658 both sides were financially exhausted and made peace in November 1659.

French territorial gains were relatively minor in extent but significantly strengthened its borders in the north and south, while Louis XIV of France married Maria Theresa of Spain, eldest daughter of Philip IV of Spain. Although Spain retained a vast global empire until the early 19th century, the Treaty of the Pyrenees has traditionally been seen as marking the end of its status as the dominant European state and the beginning of the rise of France during the 17th century.

Philip II & III of Portugal and Spain.

Portuguese Restoration War

1640 Dec 1 - 1668 Feb 11
, Portugal

The Portuguese Restoration War was the war between Portugal and Spain that began with the Portuguese revolution of 1640 and ended with the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668, bringing a formal end to the Iberian Union. The period from 1640 to 1668 was marked by periodic skirmishes between Portugal and Spain, as well as short episodes of more serious warfare, much of it occasioned by Spanish and Portuguese entanglements with non-Iberian powers. Spain was involved in the Thirty Years' War until 1648 and the Franco-Spanish War until 1659, while Portugal was involved in the Dutch–Portuguese War until 1663.

In the seventeenth century and afterwards, this period of sporadic conflict was simply known, in Portugal and elsewhere, as the Acclamation War. The war established the House of Braganza as Portugal's new ruling dynasty, replacing the House of Habsburg who had been united with the Portuguese crown since the 1581 succession crisis.

Battle of Malplaquet 1709: an Allied victory, the losses shocked Europe and increased the desire for peace.

War of Spanish Succession

1701 Jul 1 - 1715 Feb 6
, Central Europe

The War of the Spanish Succession, fought from July 1701 to September 1714, and triggered by the death in November 1700 of Charles II of Spain, was the struggle for control of the Spanish Empire between his heirs, Philip of Anjou and Archduke Charles of Austria. The conflict drew in many European powers, including Spain, Austria, France, the Dutch Republic, Savoy and Great Britain. Related conflicts include the 1700–1721 Great Northern War, Rákóczi's War of Independence in Hungary, the Camisards revolt in southern France, Queen Anne's War in North America and minor trade wars in India and South America.

Although weakened by over a century of continuous conflict, Spain remained a global power whose territories included the Spanish Netherlands, large parts of Italy, the Philippines, and much of the Americas, which meant its acquisition by either France or Austria potentially threatened the European balance of power. Attempts by Louis XIV of France and William III of England to resolve the issue through diplomacy were rejected by the Spanish and Charles II named Louis' grandson, Philip of Anjou, as his heir. His proclamation as king of an undivided Spanish Empire on 16 November 1700 led to war, with France and Spain on one side and the Grand Alliance on the other.

The French held the advantage in the early stages, but were forced onto the defensive after 1706; however, by 1710 the Allies had failed to make any significant progress, while Bourbon victories in Spain had secured Philip's position as king. When Emperor Joseph I died in 1711, Archduke Charles succeeded his brother as emperor, and the new British government initiated peace talks. Since only British subsidies kept their allies in the war, this resulted in the 1713–15 Peace of Utrecht treaties, followed by the 1714 Treaties of Rastatt and Baden.

Philip was confirmed as king of Spain in return for renouncing the right of himself or his descendants to inherit the French throne; the Spanish Empire remained largely intact, but ceded territories in Italy and the Low Countries to Austria and Savoy. Britain retained Gibraltar and Menorca which it captured during the war, acquired significant trade concessions in the Spanish Americas, and replaced the Dutch as the leading maritime and commercial European power. The Dutch gained a strengthened defence line in what was now the Austrian Netherlands; although they remained a major commercial power, the cost of the war permanently damaged their economy.

France withdrew backing for the exiled Jacobites and recognised the Hanoverians as heirs to the British throne; ensuring a friendly Spain was a major achievement, but left them financially exhausted. The decentralisation of the Holy Roman Empire continued, with Prussia, Bavaria and Saxony increasingly acting as independent states. Combined with victories over the Ottomans, this meant Austria increasingly switched focus to southern Europe.

Enlightenment in Spain

Enlightenment in Spain

1750 Jan 1
, Spain

The ideas of the Age of Enlightenment came to Spain in the 18th century with the new Bourbon dynasty, following the death of the last Habsburg monarch, Charles II, in 1700. The period of reform and 'enlightened despotism' under the eightenteenth-century Bourbons focused on centralizing and modernizing the Spanish government, and improvement of infrastructure, beginning with the rule of King Charles III and the work of his minister, José Moñino, count of Floridablanca. In the political and economic sphere, the crown implemented a series of changes, collectively known as the Bourbon reforms, which were aimed at making the overseas empire more prosperous to the benefit of Spain.

The Enlightenment in Spain sought the expansion of scientific knowledge, which had been urged by Benedictine monk Benito Feijóo. From 1777 to 1816, the Spanish crown funded scientific expeditions to gather information about the potential botanical wealth of the empire. When Prussian scientist Alexander von Humboldt proposed a self-funded scientific expedition to Spanish America, the Spanish crown accorded him not only permission, but the instructions to crown officials to aid him. Spanish scholars sought to understand the decline of the Spanish empire from its earlier glory days, with the aim of reclaiming its former prestige. In Spanish America, the Enlightenment also had an impact in the intellectual and scientific sphere, with elite American-born Spanish men involved in these projects. The Napoleonic invasion of the Iberian peninsula was enormously destabilizing for Spain and the Spanish overseas empire. The ideas of the Hispanic Enlightenment have been seen as a major contributor to the Spanish American wars of independence, although the situation is more complex.

Prussian Leibgarde battalion at Kolín, 1757

Seven Years' War

1756 May 17 - 1763 Feb 12
, Central Europe

The Seven Years' War (1756–1763) was a global conflict between Great Britain and France for global pre-eminence. Britain, France and Spain fought both in Europe and overseas with land-based armies and naval forces, while Prussia sought territorial expansion in Europe and consolidation of its power. Long-standing colonial rivalries pitting Britain against France and Spain in North America and the West Indies were fought on a grand scale with consequential results.

Fearing that Britain's victory over France in the Seven Years' War (1756–63) threatened the European balance of power, Spain allied itself to France and invaded Portugal, a British ally, but suffered a series of military defeats and ended up having to cede Florida to the British at the Treaty of Paris (1763) while gaining Louisiana from France. Spain regained Florida with the Treaty of Paris (1783), which ended the American Revolutionary War (1775–83), and gained an improved international standing.

Spain entered the war in 1761, joining France in the Third Family Compact between the two Bourbon monarchies. The alliance with France was a disaster for Spain, with the loss to Britain of two major ports, Havana in the West Indies and Manila in the Philippines, returned in the 1763 Treaty of Paris between France, Spain and Great Britain.

Painter Nicholas Pocock's conception of the situation at 1700h

Battle of Trafalgar

1805 Oct 21
, Cape Trafalgar

The Battle of Trafalgar was a naval engagement between the British Royal Navy and the combined fleets of the French and Spanish Navies during the War of the Third Coalition (August–December 1805) of the Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815). It resulted in a British victory confirming Britain's naval supremacy and ended Spanish sea power.

88th Regiment, the Connaught Rangers, at the Battle of Salamanca on 22nd July 1812

Peninsular War

1808 May 1 - 1814 Apr 17
, Spain

The Peninsular War (1807–1814) was the military conflict fought in the Iberian Peninsula by Spain, Portugal, and the United Kingdom against the invading and occupying forces of the First French Empire during the Napoleonic Wars. In Spain, it is considered to overlap with the Spanish War of Independence. The war started when the French and Spanish armies invaded and occupied Portugal in 1807 by transiting through Spain, and it escalated in 1808 after Napoleonic France had occupied Spain, which had been its ally. Napoleon Bonaparte forced the abdications of Ferdinand VII and his father Charles IV and then installed his brother Joseph Bonaparte on the Spanish throne and promulgated the Bayonne Constitution. Most Spaniards rejected French rule and fought a bloody war to oust them. The war on the peninsula lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814, and it is regarded as one of the first wars of national liberation and is significant for the emergence of large-scale guerrilla warfare.

The Battle of Rancagua in 1814

Spanish American Wars of Independence

1808 Sep 25 - 1833 Sep 29
, South America

The Spanish American wars of independence were numerous wars in Spanish America with the aim of political independence from Spanish rule during the early 19th century. These began shortly after the start of the French invasion of Spain during the Napoleonic Wars. Thus, the strict period of military campaigns would go from the battle of Chacaltaya (1809), in present-day Bolivia, to the battle of Tampico (1829), in Mexico.

The events in Spanish America were related to the wars of independence in the former French colony of St. Domingue, Haiti, and the transition to independence in Brazil. Brazil's independence, in particular, shared a common starting point with that of Spanish America, since both conflicts were triggered by Napoleon's invasion of the Iberian Peninsula, which forced the Portuguese royal family to flee to Brazil in 1807. The process of Latin American independence took place in the general political and intellectual climate of Popular sovereignty that emerged from the Age of Enlightenment that influenced all of the Atlantic Revolutions, including the earlier revolutions in the United States and France. A more direct cause of the Spanish American wars of independence were the unique developments occurring within the Kingdom of Spain and its monarchy triggered by the Cortes of Cadiz, concluding with the emergence of the new Spanish American republics in the post-Napoleonic world.

Ferdinand VII depicted by Francisco Goya.

Ominous Decade

1823 Oct 1 - 1833 Sep 29
, Spain

The Ominous Decade is a traditional term for the last ten years of the reign of King Ferdinand VII of Spain, dating from the abolition of the Spanish Constitution of 1812, on 1 October 1823, to his death on 29 September 1833.

The decade saw an endless series of riots and attempts of revolutions, such as that of Torrijos, funded by English liberals, on 11 December 1831. Aside from the liberal side, Ferdinand's policies caused discontent also in the conservative party: in 1827 a revolt broke out in Catalonia, and later extended to Valencia, Aragon, the Basque Country and Andalusia, spurred by ultra-reactionaries according to whom Ferdinand's restoration had been too timid, failing in particular to reinstate the Inquisition. In what was called the War of the Agraviados, some 30,000 men controlled most of Catalonia and some of the northern regions, and even established an autonomous government. Ferdinand intervened personally, moving to Tarragona to quench the revolt: he promised an amnesty, but once the rioters had surrendered, he had their leaders executed and others exiled to France.

Further instability came when, on 31 March 1830, Ferdinand issued the Pragmatic Sanction, which had been approved by his father Charles IV as early as 1789, but not published till then. The decree allowed the succession to the Spanish throne also to female heirs, in case a male one was not available. Ferdinand would have only two children, both daughters, the eldest being the future queen Isabella II, who was born in October 1830. The Sanction excluded from the succession Ferdinand's brother, Carlos, Count of Molina.

Carlist Wars

Carlist Wars

1833 Jan 1 - 1876
, Spain

The Carlist Wars were a series of civil wars that took place in Spain during the 19th century. The contenders fought over claims to the throne, although some political differences also existed. Several times during the period from 1833 to 1876 the Carlists — followers of Don Carlos (1788–1855), an infante, and of his descendants — rallied to the cry of "God, Country, and King" and fought for the cause of Spanish tradition (Legitimism and Catholicism) against liberalism, and later the republicanism, of the Spanish governments of the day. The Carlist Wars had a strong regional component (Basque region, Catalonia, etc.), given that the new order called into question region–specific law arrangements and customs kept for centuries.

When King Ferdinand VII of Spain died in 1833, his widow, Queen Maria Cristina, became regent on behalf of their two-year-old daughter Queen Isabella II. The country splintered into two factions known as the Cristinos (or Isabelinos) and the Carlists. The Cristinos supported Queen Maria Cristina and her government, and were the party of the Liberals. The Carlists advocated for Infante Carlos of Spain, Count of Molina, a pretender to the throne and brother of the deceased Ferdinand VII. Carlos denied the validity of the Pragmatic Sanction of 1830 that abolished the semi Salic Law (he was born before 1830). The Carlists wanted a return to autocratic monarchy.

While some historians count three wars, other authors and popular usage refer to the existence of two major engagements, the First and the Second Carlist Wars, treating the 1846–1849 events as a minor episode.

  • The First Carlist War (1833–1840) lasted more than seven years and the fighting spanned most of the country at one time or another, although the main conflict centered on the Carlist homelands of the Basque Country and Aragon, Catalonia and Valencia.
  • The Second Carlist War (1846–1849) was a minor Catalan uprising. The rebels tried to install Carlos, Count of Montemolín on the throne. In Galicia, a smaller-scale uprising was put down by General Ramón María Narváez.
  • The Third Carlist War (1872–1876) began in the aftermath of the deposition of one ruling monarch and the abdication of another. Queen Isabella II was overthrown by a conspiracy of liberal generals in 1868, and left Spain in some disgrace. The Cortes (Parliament) replaced her with Amadeo, the Duke of Aosta (and second son of King Victor Emmanuel of Italy). Then, when the Spanish elections of 1872 resulted in government violence against Carlist candidates and a swing away from Carlism, the Carlist pretender, Carlos VII, decided that only force of arms could win him the throne. Thus the Third Carlist War began; it lasted for four years, until 1876.
The Puerta del Sol on 29 September 1868.

Glorious Revolution

1868 Sep 19 - Sep 27
, Spain

The 1866 rebellion led by Juan Prim and the revolt of the sergeants at San Gil sent a signal to Spanish liberals and republicans that there was serious unrest with the state of affairs in Spain that could be harnessed if it were properly led. Liberals and republican exiles abroad made agreements at Ostend in 1866 and Brussels in 1867. These agreements laid the framework for a major uprising, this time not merely to replace the President of the Council of Ministers with a liberal, but to overthrow Isabella herself, whom Spanish liberals and republicans began to see as the source of Spain's ineffectuality.

Her continual vacillation between liberal and conservative quarters had, by 1868, outraged moderados, progresistas, and members of the Unión Liberal and enabled, ironically, a front that crossed party lines. Leopoldo O'Donnell's death in 1867 caused the Unión Liberal to unravel; many of its supporters, who had crossed party lines to create the party initially, joined the growing movement to overthrow Isabella in favor of a more effective regime.

The die was cast in September 1868, when naval forces under admiral Juan Bautista Topete mutinied in Cádiz – the same place that Rafael del Riego had launched his coup against Isabella's father a half-century before. Generals Juan Prim and Francisco Serrano denounced the government and much of the army defected to the revolutionary generals on their arrival in Spain. The queen made a brief show of force at the Battle of Alcolea, where her loyal moderado generals under Manuel Pavía were defeated by General Serrano. Isabella then crossed into France and retired from Spanish politics to Paris, where she would remain until her death in 1904.

Political cartoon criticizing the Sexenio (1874)

Sexenio Democrático

1868 Sep 30 - 1874 Dec 29
, Spain

The Sexenio Democrático or Sexenio Revolucionario (English: The six democratic or revolutionary years) is a period of 6 years between 1868 and 1874 in the history of Spain.

The Sexenio Democrático starts on 30 September 1868 with the overthrow of Queen Isabella II of Spain after the Glorious Revolution, and ends on 29 December 1874 with the Bourbon Restoration, when Isabella's son Alfonso XII became King after a coup d'état by Arsenio Martínez-Campos. The sexenio spawned the most progressive 19th-century Spanish constitution, the 1869 Constitution, the one dedicating the most space to the rights of the Spanish citizens.The Sexenio Democrático was a politically very unstable period.

Three phases can be distinguished in Sexenio Democrático:

  • The Provisional Government (1868–1871) (September 1868 – January 1871)
  • The rule of King Amadeo I of Spain (January 1871 – February 1873)
  • The First Spanish Republic (February 1873 – December 1874)
Portrait of Alfonso XII

Restoration of the Monarcy

1874 Dec 29 - 1931 Apr 14
, Spain

The Restoration is the name given to the period that began on 29 December 1874—after a coup d'état by Martínez Campos ended the First Spanish Republic and restored the monarchy under Alfonso XII—and ended on 14 April 1931 with the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic. After almost a century of political instability and many civil wars, the aim of the Restoration was to create a new political system, which ensured stability by the practice of turnismo. This was the deliberate rotation of the Liberal and Conservative parties in the government, often achieved through electoral fraud. Opposition to the system came from Republicans, Socialists, Anarchists, Basque and Catalan nationalists, and Carlists.

Detail from Charge of the 24th and 25th Colored Infantry and Rescue of Rough Riders at San Juan Hill, July 2, 1898, depicting the Battle of San Juan Hill

Spanish–American War

1898 Apr 21 - Aug 13
, Cuba

The Spanish–American War was a period of armed conflict between Spain and the United States. Hostilities began in the aftermath of the internal explosion of USS Maine in Havana Harbor in Cuba, leading to United States intervention in the Cuban War of Independence. The war led to the United States emerging predominant in the Caribbean region, and resulted in U.S. acquisition of Spain's Pacific possessions. It led to United States involvement in the Philippine Revolution and later to the Philippine–American War.

The main issue was Cuban independence. Revolts had been occurring for some years in Cuba against Spanish colonial rule. The United States backed these revolts upon entering the Spanish–American War. There had been war scares before, as in the Virginius Affair in 1873. But in the late 1890s, American public opinion swayed in support of the rebellion because of reports of concentration camps set up to control the populace. Yellow journalism exaggerated the atrocities to further increase public fervor and to sell more newspapers and magazines.

The 10-week war was fought in both the Caribbean and the Pacific. As United States agitators for war well knew, United States naval power would prove decisive, allowing expeditionary forces to disembark in Cuba against a Spanish garrison already facing nationwide Cuban insurgent attacks and further devastated by yellow fever. The invaders obtained the surrender of Santiago de Cuba and Manila despite the good performance of some Spanish infantry units, and fierce fighting for positions such as San Juan Hill. Madrid sued for peace after two Spanish squadrons were sunk in the battles of Santiago de Cuba and Manila Bay, and a third, more modern fleet was recalled home to protect the Spanish coasts.

The war ended with the 1898 Treaty of Paris, negotiated on terms favorable to the United States. The treaty ceded ownership of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippine islands from Spain to the United States and granted the United States temporary control of Cuba.

The defeat and loss of the Spanish Empire's last remnants was a profound shock to Spain's national psyche and provoked a thorough philosophical and artistic reevaluation of Spanish society known as the Generation of '98. The United States meanwhile not only became a major power, but also gained several island possessions spanning the globe, which provoked rancorous debate over the wisdom of expansionism.

Alfonso XIII visited Paris in 1913, a year before the start of the First World War. Sitting next to him is the President of the French Third Republic Raymond Poincaré.

Spain during World War I

1914 Jul 28 - 1918 Nov 9
, Europe

Spain remained neutral throughout World War I between 28 July 1914 and 11 November 1918, and despite domestic economic difficulties, it was considered "one of the most important neutral countries in Europe by 1915". Spain had enjoyed neutrality during the political difficulties of pre-war Europe, and continued its neutrality after the war until the Spanish Civil War began in 1936. While there was no direct military involvement in the war, German forces were interned in Spanish Guinea in late 1915.

Spanish Army regulars at a machine gun post on the outskirts of Nador during the Rif War, 1911-27

Rif War

1921 Jan 1 - 1926
, Rif

The Rif War was an armed conflict between the occupying colonialists of Spain (assisted by France in 1924) and the Berber tribes of the mountainous Rif region of northern Morocco which was waged from 1921 to 1926.

International Brigadiers volunteered on the side of the Republic. The photo shows members of the XI International Brigade on a T-26 tank during the Battle of Belchite (August–September 1937).

Second Spanish Republic

1931 Jan 1 - 1937
, Spain

The Spanish Republic, commonly known as the Second Spanish Republic, was the form of government in Spain from 1931 to 1939. The Republic was proclaimed on 14 April 1931, after the deposition of King Alfonso XIII, and was dissolved on 1 April 1939 after surrendering in the Spanish Civil War to the Nationalists led by General Francisco Franco.

German officer from the Condor Legion instructing Nationalist infantry soldiers, Ávila

Spanish Civil War

1936 Apr 17 - 1939 Apr 1
, Spain

The Spanish Civil War was a civil war in Spain fought from 1936 to 1939 between the Republicans and the Nationalists. Republicans were loyal to the left-leaning Popular Front government of the Second Spanish Republic. The Popular Front was constituted by the Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), Communist Party of Spain (PCE), and the republicans – Republican Left (IR) (led by Azaña) and Republican Union (UR) (led by Diego Martínez Barrio). This pact was supported by Galician (PG) and Catalan nationalists (ERC), the POUM, socialist union Workers' General Union (UGT), and the anarchist trade union, the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (CNT). Many anarchists who would later fight alongside Popular Front forces during the Spanish Civil War did not support them in the election, urging abstention instead. The Popular Front fought against an insurrection by the Nationalists, an alliance of Falangists, monarchists, conservatives and traditionalists, led by a military junta among whom General Francisco Franco quickly achieved a preponderant role. Due to the international political climate at the time, the war had many facets and was variously viewed as class struggle, a religious struggle, a struggle between dictatorship and republican democracy, between revolution and counterrevolution, and between fascism and communism. According to Claude Bowers, U.S. ambassador to Spain during the war, it was the "dress rehearsal" for World War II. The Nationalists won the war, which ended in early 1939, and ruled Spain until Franco's death in November 1975.

Francisco Franco Bahamonde

Spain during World War II

1939 Jan 1 - 1945
, Europe

During World War II, the Spanish State under Francisco Franco espoused neutrality as its official wartime policy. This neutrality wavered at times and "strict neutrality" gave way to "non-belligerence" after the Fall of France in June 1940. Franco wrote to Adolf Hitler offering to join the war on 19 June 1940 in exchange for help building Spain's colonial empire. Later the same year Franco met with Hitler in Hendaye to discuss Spain's possible accession to the Axis Powers. The meeting went nowhere, but Franco did help the Axis—whose members Italy and Germany had supported him during the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939)—in various ways.

Despite ideological sympathy, Franco even stationed field armies in the Pyrenees to deter Axis occupation of the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish policy frustrated Axis proposals that would have encouraged Franco to take British-controlled Gibraltar. Much of the reason for Spanish reluctance to join the war was due to Spain's reliance on imports from the United States. Spain also was still recovering from its civil war and Franco knew his armed forces would not be able to defend the Canary Islands and Spanish Morocco from a British attack.

In 1941 Franco approved the recruitment of volunteers to Germany on the guarantee that they only fight against the Soviet Union and not against the western Allies. This resulted in the formation of the Blue Division which fought as part of the German army on the Eastern Front between 1941 and 1944.

Spanish policy returned to "strict neutrality" as the tide of war started to turn against the Axis. American pressure in 1944 for Spain to stop tungsten exports to Germany and to withdraw the Blue Division led to an oil embargo which forced Franco to yield. After the war, Spain was not allowed to join the newly created United Nations because of the wartime support for the Axis, and Spain was isolated by many other countries until the mid-1950s.

Franco with Catholic Church dignitaries in 1946

Francoist Spain

1939 Jan 1 - 1975
, Spain

Francoist Spain was the period of Spanish history between 1939 and 1975, when Francisco Franco ruled Spain with the title Caudillo. After his death in 1975, Spain transitioned into a democracy. During this time period, Spain was officially known as the Spanish State.

The nature of the regime evolved and changed during its existence. Months after the start of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936, Franco emerged as the dominant rebel military leader and was proclaimed head of state on 1 April 1939, ruling a dictatorship over the territory controlled by the Nationalist faction. The 1937 Unification Decree, which merged all parties supporting the rebel side, led to Nationalist Spain becoming a single-party regime under the FET y de las JONS. The end of the war in 1939 brought the extension of the Franco rule to the whole country and the exile of Republican institutions. The Francoist dictatorship originally took a form described as "fascistized dictatorship", or "semi-fascist regime", showing clear influence of fascism in fields such as labor relations, the autarkic economic policy, aesthetics, and the single-party system. As time went on, the regime opened up and became closer to developmental dictatorships, although it always preserved residual fascist trappings.

During the Second World War, Spain did not join the Axis powers. Nevertheless, Spain supported them in various ways throughout most of the war while maintaining its neutrality as an official policy of "non-belligerence". Because of this, Spain was isolated by many other countries for nearly a decade after World War II, while its autarkic economy, still trying to recover from the civil war, suffered from chronic depression. The 1947 Law of Succession made Spain a de jure kingdom again, but defined Franco as the head of state for life with the power to choose the person to become King of Spain and his successor.

Reforms were implemented in the 1950s and Spain abandoned autarky, reassigned authority from the Falangist movement, which had been prone to isolationism, to a new breed of economists, the technocrats of Opus Dei. This led to massive economic growth, second only to Japan, that lasted until the mid-1970s, known as the "Spanish miracle". During the 1950s the regime also changed from being openly totalitarian and using severe repression to an authoritarian system with limited pluralism. As a result of these reforms, Spain was allowed to join the United Nations in 1955 and during the Cold War Franco was one of Europe's foremost anti-communist figures: his regime was assisted by the Western powers, particularly the United States. Franco died in 1975 at the age of 82. He restored the monarchy before his death and made his successor King Juan Carlos I, who would lead the Spanish transition to democracy.

A monument in Fuengirola, Spain for the SEAT 600, a symbol of the Spanish miracle

Spanish miracle

1959 Jan 1 - 1974
, Spain

The Spanish miracle (Spanish: el milagro español) refers to a period of exceptionally rapid growth and development across all major areas of economic activity in Spain between 1959 to 1974, during the latter part of the Francoist regime. The economic boom was brought to an end by the 1970s international oil and stagflation crises.

Some scholars have argued that "liabilities accumulated during years of frenzied pursuit of economic development" were in fact to blame for the collapse of Spain's economic growth in the late 1970s.

Juan Carlos I before the Cortes Españolas, during his proclamation as King on 22 November 1975

Spanish transition to democracy

1975 Jan 1 - 1982
, Spain

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 started with Franco's death on 20 November 1975, while its completion is marked by the electoral victory of the socialist PSOE on 28 October 1982.

Under its current (1978) constitution, Spain is a constitutional monarchy. It comprises 17 autonomous communities (Andalusia, Aragon, Asturias, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cantabria, Castile and León, Castile–La Mancha, Catalonia, Extremadura, Galicia, La Rioja, Community of Madrid, Region of Murcia, Basque Country, Valencian Community, and Navarre) and 2 autonomous cities (Ceuta and Melilla).

Spain joins the European Union

Spain within the European Union

1993 Jan 1
, Spain

In 1996, the centre-right Partido Popular government came to power, led by José María Aznar. On 1 January 1999, Spain exchanged the peseta for the new Euro currency. The peseta continued to be used for cash transactions until January 1, 2002.


References for History of Spain.

  • Altman, Ida. Emigrants and Society, Extremadura and America in the Sixteenth Century. U of California Press 1989.
  • Barton, Simon. A History of Spain (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Bertrand, Louis and Charles Petrie. The History of Spain (2nd ed. 1956) online
  • Braudel, Fernand The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (2 vol; 1976) vol 1 free to borrow
  • Carr, Raymond. Spain, 1808–1975 (2nd ed 1982), a standard scholarly survey
  • Carr, Raymond, ed. Spain: A History (2001) excerpt and text search
  • Casey, James. Early Modern Spain: A Social History (1999) excerpt and text search
  • Cortada, James W. Spain in the Twentieth-Century World: Essays on Spanish Diplomacy, 1898-1978 (1980) online
  • Edwards, John. The Spain of the Catholic Monarchs 1474–1520 (2001) excerpt and text search
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