History of Gibraltar

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The history of Gibraltar spans over 100,000 years, making the Rock of Gibraltar and the surrounding area one of the longest inhabited places in Europe. It was inhabited during prehistoric times by Neanderthals and may represent one of their last settlements before their extinction some 24,000 years ago. Its recorded history began with the Phoenicians around 950 BC. The Carthaginians and Romans also visited and are said to have built shrines there, though they did not settle.

After a brief period of Visigothic rule following the collapse of the Roman Empire, Gibraltar was conquered by the Moors in 711 AD. The Kingdom of Castile annexed it in 1309, lost it in 1333 and finally regained it in 1462, subsequently incorporating it into the unified Kingdom of Spain. It remained under Spanish rule until 1704, when it was captured by an Anglo-Dutch fleet in the name of the Habsburg ruler Charles VI. Following Charles' death, Gibraltar was ceded by Spain to the British, becoming one of Britain's key colonies in the Mediterranean Sea.

Spain subsequently sought to restore its sovereignty over Gibraltar through military, diplomatic and economic pressure. During the wars of the 18th century between Britain and Spain, Gibraltar was besieged and bombarded for extended periods but the attacks were successfully repulsed. The colony grew rapidly during the 19th century as Gibraltar became a key British naval base and stopping point for vessels en route to India via the Suez Canal.

During the 20th century, Gibraltar played a vital role in the Second World War by enabling the British to control the entrance to the Mediterranean. The Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco revived Spain's claim to the territory after the war, imposing restrictions on travel and severing communications links with Gibraltar. The Spanish claim was pursued through the United Nations under the aegis of decolonization. Spain's position was supported by Latin American countries but was rejected by Britain and the Gibraltarians themselves, who vigorously asserted their right to self-determination. Negotiations over Gibraltar's status have continued between Britain and Spain but have not reached any conclusion.

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