History of Spain

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The history of Spain spans from prehistoric Iberia, through the rise and fall of a global empire, to the recent history of Spain as a member of the European Union.

Modern humans entered the Iberian Peninsula about 32,000 years ago. Different populations and cultures followed over the millennia, including the Iberians, the Tartessians, Celts and Celtiberians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Suebi and Visigoths. In 711, the Moors, a Berber and Arab army, invaded and conquered nearly the entire peninsula. During the next 750 years, independent Muslim states were established, and the entire area of Muslim control became known as Al-Andalus. Meanwhile the Christian kingdoms in the north began the long and slow recovery of the peninsula, a process called the Reconquista, which was concluded in 1492 with the fall of Granada.

The Kingdom of Spain was created in 1492 with the unification of the Kingdom of Castile and the Kingdom of Aragon.[1] In this year also was the first voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World, beginning the development of the Spanish Empire. The Inquisition was established and Jews and Muslims who refused to convert were expelled from the country.

For the next three centuries Spain was the most important colonial power in the world. It was the most powerful state in Europe and the foremost global power during the 16th century and the greater part of the 17th century. Spanish literature and fine arts, scholarship and philosophy flourished during this time. Spain established a vast empire in the Americas, stretching from California to Patagonia, and colonies in the western Pacific. Financed in part by the riches pouring in from its colonies, Spain became embroiled in the religiously charged wars and intrigues of Europe, including, for example, obtaining and losing possessions in today's Netherlands, Italy, France, and Germany, and engaging in wars with France, England, Sweden, and the Ottomans in the Mediterranean Sea and northern Africa. Spain's European wars, however, led to economic damage, and the latter part of the 17th century saw a gradual decline of power under an increasingly neglectful and inept Habsburg regime. The decline culminated in the War of Spanish Succession, which ended with the relegation of Spain from the position of a leading western power, to that of a secondary one, although it remained (with Russia) the leading colonial power.

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