Spanish History

The 16th to 20th Century in Spain

In the late 16th Spain saw a dramatic turn in its fortunes and subsequently the course of Spanish history was changed. The Kingdom of Spain experienced severe inflation and depression as a consequence of the uncontrolled flow of goods and materials from the Spanish colonies in the Americas. Also, Phillip II ordered his Armada to invade England in 1588, which resulted in the utter ruin of the Armada making possible the English colonisation of America. From hereon Spain was involved in a series of wars which cost it dearly.

In 1640 the Spanish state went to war against Portugal and Catalonia, which resulted in Portugal and Catalonia establishing independence from Spain. Between 1701 and 1714, the War of the Spanish Succession (fought for control of the Spanish throne) cost Spain Belgium, Luxembourg, Milan, Sardinia and Naples.

The 18th & 19th Centuries

In 1807 Napoleon invaded the Iberian Peninsula but encountered great resistance from Spain during the Peninsula Wars of 1808-1814. After thes wars there were brutal conflicts between Liberals and supporters of the Spanish feudal system, which lasted throughout the 19th Century. Spain became a republic between 1871 and 1873 but a number of coups reinstated the monarchy. Spain’s once expansive empire became a distant memory during this century as as it lost its colonies in the Caribbean and Asia-Pacific. Finally, after the Spanish-American War ended in 1898 Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Phillipines and Guam were ceded to the United States.

The 20th Century Onwards

In the 20th Century Spain colonised the Western Sahara, the Northern Morocco and Equitorial Guinea. Spain maintained a position of neutrality during the First World War and passed through a period of dictatorship under Gen. Miguel Primo de Rivera between 1923 and 1930. After Primo de Rivera stepped down, the Second Republic was established. The Republic and a new constitution gave political autonomy to the Basque Country and Catalonia, broke up large estates, separated church and state and gave voting rights to women.

Spanish Civil War History

Unfortunately, the political and cultural differences between the left (liberals, communists and anarchists) and right (elites, the Catholic Church and conservatives) led to radicalised views, resulting in a military coup. Thus began the Spanish Civil War in 1936, which ended in 1939 establishing General Francisco Franco as dictator of Spain. It is estimated that up to 1 million people died in the war.

After the Second World War, Spain found itself politically and economically isolated as Franco’s Falalge Party was a fascist in ideology. Franco declared Spain a monarchy again in 1947 but remained head of state. Spain became a member of the United Nations in 1955 when the U.S. President Eisenhour required a military base in southwest Europe.

Spain began to enjoy economic growth in the 1960s, transforming itself into an industrial economy with a booming tourism sector.

Thirty-six years of dictatorial rule came to an end on 20th November 1975 when Franco died. Prince Juan Carlos (Franco’s personal choice for successor) became the king of Spain and head of state on November 22.

After Franco’s death, Spain began of process of democratisation. The 1978 Spanish Constitution granted significant autonomous functions to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Andalusia, which was soon extended to all the regions of spain. Unfortunately, the autonomy granted to the Basque Country did not satisfy the demands of the separatist movement ETA, the members of which have committed hundreds of bombings, assasinations and kidnappings in their name of their cause. ETA’s campaign continues to this day.

Spain joined NATO in 1982 and the European Ecomnomic Community (later becoming the EU) in 1986. It adopted the EURO as a single currency on 28 February 2002.