Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Spain, a country which includes the greater part of the south-western peninsula of Continental Europe, the little kingdom of Portugal occupying rather less than one-seventh of the whole peninsula. The lofty ridges of the Pyrenees divide Spain from France, its other boundaries being the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Portuguese frontier. The area of the country is 191,360 square miles, not quite four times that of England. The population is about 17-1/2 millions.

The highest summits in Spain are in the Pyrenees (over 10,000 feet) and in the Sierra Nevada in the extreme south (over 11,000 feet). The whole central portion of the country is a plateau averaging about 2,500 feet above the sea, this tableland being divided into wide valleys by the mountain ranges or "sierras" (sierrra, "a saw," "a broken ridge of mountains or rocks"). Each valley is drained by a river the course of which is generally broken by rapids, bars of rock and gravel and other obstructions, so that even where there is a considerable volume of water the fivers are of little use for internal navigntion. In some places they have been partly canalised and thus made avaihble for traffic. The Ebro and the Jucar are the only considerable rivers flowing into the Mediterranean, all the rest having a westerly or south-westerly course to the Atlantic. The climate of Spain varies considerably. In the north, along the Biscay coast it is often cold and rainy; in the south it is tropical during a great part of the year.

It has been said that "Europe ends at the Pyrenees." The saying is of course an exaggeration, but it is quite true that Spain forms in many ways a kind of borderland of Northern Africa, The mountain system of the Atlas is a continuation of that of the Spanish peninsula. The vegetation of Andalusia and of Morocco is much the same; the little monkeys of the Rock of Gibraltar are the only animals of their kind living wild outside of Africa; and, finally, there is some oommunity of blood between the races on both sides of the Straits. The history of Spain is closely connected with that of Northern Africa. The question of the primitive population of the Peninsula is still a much-disputed one, the only certain point being that there was a Celtic and a pre-Celtic race in the country, the Basques of Northern Spain perhaps representing a still earlier element in its population. The first historical references to Spain tell of the trade, chiefly in metals, carried on by its southern districts with Phoenicia, Egypt, and Greece. All these three countries sent their ships to trading ports on what is now the coast of Andalusia to bring back silver, copper, and lead in exchange for their own commodities. In this connection Spain is mentioned in the Old Testanient under the name of Tarshish or Tharsis. In the 3rd century B.C. the Carthaginians attempted to regularly conquer and colonise the Peninsula, and this brought them into conflict with Rome, and in the end the latter obtained dominion over the whole of Spain. The country remained a part of the Roman Empire till the barbarian inroads, and in the person of Trajan gave Rome one of its most famous soldier emperors. Latin became the language of the country. The Castilian or Spanish of to-day is a modernised form of Latin. Among classical Latin writers not a few were natives of Spain, the list including the names of Martial, Quintilian, and the Christian poet Prudentius.

The first wave of barbarian invasion, that of the Sueves and Vandals, came over the Pyrenees in A.D. 409. Five years later they were followed by the still more formidable invasion of the Visigoths or West Goths. Before the middle of the century they had driven the Vandals into Africa and cooped up the Sueves in the hills of Galicia and Asturias, and Spain formed a part of a Gothic kingdom extending from the Loire to the Straits of Gibraltar. After the death of King Euric (484) the Gothic power north of the Pyrenees fell before the Franks, and henceforth the West Gothic kings ruled over Spain only. Teutons by race, Arians in religion, they and their nobles were at first a foreign ruling caste, separated in many ways from sympathy with the Latinised Spaniards. But the fusion of the two races was rapidly accomplished. One great cause of dissension was removed when King Recared (586-601) abjured Arianism and gave the Catholic bishops a place at his councils. Under King Suinthila (620-631) the last garrisons of the Greek Empire were driven from the coast and under Chindasuintha (642-652) the laws of the two races, the Teutonic and the Latin, were fused into one code.

The end of the 7th century witnessed the first raids of the Saracen fleets upon the coast, the ports of North Africa, which they had conquered, being their base of operations. A rebellious nobleman, Count Julian, invited them to invade Spain in force in 711, factions among the nobles and the fierce hostility of the Jews, whom the Goths had persecuted, giving them good prospect of finding adherents in their enterprise. They landed near Gibraltar, and met and defeated Roderic, the last Gothic king of Spain, in the great battle of Guadelete, near Cadiz, which lasted a whole week (July 19-26, 711), beginning and ending on a Sunday. Roderic was seen no more after the fight, and his disappearance is the subject of many Spanish legends. Within ten years after the battle of Guadelete the Saracens or Moors had overrun the whole conntry except some of the mountainous districts of the north.

The history of Spain now runs in a divided channel. It is partly that of the Moorish kingdoms, partly that of the "Reconquest." the Moors ruled over a greater or less extent of Spain for seven centuries. The first four of these were the golden age of the Saracen power in the west. The Caliphs of Cordova were munificent patrons of learning and literature, and, if other arts were in abeyance under Moslem rule, that of architecture flourished: witness the magnificent Mosque of Cordova, erected in the 8th century (now used as the cathedral). From the Moors of Spain, Christian Europe received the Arabic numerals and the Aristotelian philosophy. Averroes, "the great commentator," was a Moor of Cordova. But the conquerors were divided among themselves. It was only for a time that they obeyed a single ruler, and their dissensions opened the way for the "Reconquest." In the highlands of the north, new Christian kingdoms had been organised as the tide of Moorish conquest ebbed before the attacks of a hardier race. The kingdoms of Asturias and Oviedo were thus founded in the 8th century, Leon and Navarre in the 10th, and Aragon and Castile in the first half of the 11th. From this period the Moorish war continued with little interruption; there were occasional truces, never a lasting peace; and though the Moslems could boast of some victories, the fortune of war declared against them in the end. Toledo, once the old Gothic capital, was recaptured in 1085; Cordova, once the seat of the western caliphate, was taken in 1236 by Ferdinand III of Castile; Granada, the last of the Moorish kingdoms, was conquered in 1492, the long siege of its capital being the closing episode of the "Reconquest." During the long war the minor kingdoms had been one by one united into more powerful states. The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon with Isabella of Castile in 1481, the conquest of Granada in 1492, and the expulsion of the French from Navarre in 1512 united all Spain under one central Government. The Moorish war had not yet ended when a new and wider sphere of enterprise was opened to the chivalry of Spain. It was in the camp of Santa Fe, before Granada, that Isabella granted the request of Columbus to be allowed to open a new way to the Indies as a Spanish admiral. It was in 1492, the very year of the conquest of Granada, that he discovered the New World, and the first step was taken to the foundation of the Spanish empire beyond the seas, which soon included the West Indies, Mexico, Central America, Florida and California, and all South America except Brazil. Ferdinand succeeded in making good his claim as King of Aragon to rule over Naples and Sicily, and by the marriage of his daughter to the heir of the Hapsburgs it came to pass that the grandson of Ferdinand and Isabella, Charles V., united the sceptres of Spain and of the German Empire, and thus ruled over the greater part of Europe. The reign of Charles V. saw the power of the Crown in Spain transformed from a limited into an absolute monarchy. The cities were played off against the nobles; the wealth derived from the Indies enabled the crown to support a strong standing army; local privileges were abridged or abolished, and the Cortes became a mere deliberative assembly, which soon was not even asked to give its formal consent to taxation; and the Inquisition was used as a kind of Star Chamber for political purposes. This was the period of the greatest power of Spain. Its decline began in the latter part of the reign of Charles's son, Philip II. (1556-1598). He succeeded in temporarily annexing Portugal to Spain; but he lost the Netherlands, where the harsh rule of Alva had provoked a revolt. The failure of the Armada crippled Spain upon the sea, and English, French, and Dntch adventurers preyed upon her commerce; By the end of the 17th century Spain had become a second-rate power in Europe.

The extinction of the direct line of the royal house on the death of Charles II. in 1700 led to rival claimants for the throne being put forward by France and the German Empire. Hence the war of the Spanish Succession (1701-13), in which all the western powers were involved either as principals or as allies. England in 1704 seized Gibraltar in the name of one of the rivals and kept it for herself. The Spaniards have never given up the hope of reconquering it, and still appoint a titular governor of the fortress, who resides at Algeciras. The war ended with the Treaty of Utrecht, which gave the throne of Spain to Philip V. of the House of Bourbon, it being stipulated that the two crowns of France and Spain should never be united on one head. During the eighteenth century the policy of Spain was in the main modelled on that of France. On several occasions the Spanish fleets and armies as the allies of the French unsuccessfully besieged Gibraltar. On the outbreak of the French Revolution Spain joined the other powers in the coalition against the Republic, but was forced to make peace. An alliance with Napoleon resulted in the Spanish fleets being destroyed by Jarvis and Nelson, and a little later French treachery obtained the abdication of the king and the occupation of the fortresses by French garrisons, and Napoleon's brother Joseph was proclaimed King of Spain. A popular rising against the invaders, and the help of the English army under Wellington, secured after a long struggle (1807-14) the expulsion of the French and the restoration of the Bourbon kings.

The reign of Ferdinand VII. (from the end of the Peninsular War to 1833) was marked at home by conflicts between the Liberal and Reactionary parties, in the course of which the king in 1823 called in the aid of a French army; and abroad, by the loss of the Spanish colonies in America, all of which except Cuba and Porto Rico drove out their Spanish Governors and declared themselves free republics. The death of Ferdinand in 1833 was followed by the first Carlist War, his brother, Don Carlos, endeavouring to obtain, in virtue of the old Salic law, the crown which Ferdinand had left to his infant daughter, Isabella II. The Regent Queen Christina succeeded in defeating Carlos thanks to English and French assistance. The reign of Isabella was disfigured by palace intrigues and military revolutions. It ended in 1868 by her flight in the presence of a military revolt. After two years of a provisional government, the crown was in 1870 accepted by Amadeus of Savoy. He only ruled for three years, during which he had to contend with the Carlists on the one hand and the Republicans on the other, the grandson of the first Carlos raising a formidable insurrection in the north, and the Republicans openly plotting against the foreign king. On his abdication in 1873 the Republic was proclaimed, but dissensions among its supporters and its failure to suppress the Carlist Insurrection led to the recall of the Bourbons in December, 1874, in the person of Alfonso XII., the son of Isabella. In 1876 Carlos gave up the struggle in the north. Alfonso died suddenly in 1885, and Spain is now ruled by his widow, Queen Christina, acting as Regent for her son, Alfonso XIII., born in May, 1886, some months after his father's death. Under her rule Spain has made considerable progress towards stable government, but the finances are in disorder, and the existence of a strong Republican party and the rival claims of the Carlists make the outlook for the country a very anxious one.

Spain is in the main an agricultural country, but fully one-half of the country is uncultivated, and indeed much of the mountain-land is unfit for cultivation. The north and the uplands of the centre afford grazing-grounds to herds of cattle and goats, flocks of sheep and droves of swine, the rearing of bulls for the bullring being in some districts a very profitable business. In the south especially wine-growing is the most important industry, and the manufacture of corks is carried on in the same districts. In the towns of Catalonia, notably in Barcelona, there is a considerable cotton manufacture. The iron-mines of the north, the great copper-mines in the south (especially those of Rio Tinto), the mines of lead, silver, and quicksilver, and the salt-making industry of the coast districts, also employ a large population. But there is still great room for industrial development in Spain, and even the agriculture of the country might be greatly improved, the old wooden plough of Roman days, little better than a big forked stick, being still used on many farms.

The extensive remains of Moorish architecture give an Oriental aspect to most of the southern cities of Spain, the cathedral of Cordova, the Alcazar of Seville, and the palace of the Alhmnbra at Granada being the most striking examples. Christian architecture in Spain is a very ornate Gothic, of which the splendid cathedral at Burgos is the typical example. In art the most famous name in Spain is that of Velasquez. In literatnre the names of Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, and Calderon, the dramatist, have become world-famous; but these are only two among the many names deservedly held in honour in Spain itself as poets, dramatists, historians, or romancists. Other Spanish names that have won a world-wide reputation are those of Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and Francis Xavier, the great missionary, both of them of the Basque race of the north. Spain has had to expend enormous sums to defray the cost of ruinous civil wars at home, and of the suppression of formidable revolts in Cuba. A number of fortified posts on the coast of Morocco are garrisoned by Spain, which cherishes the hope of succeeding to the control of the whole country when the Moorish power finally goes to pieces. Little wars with the tribes in the neighbourhood of these places are carried on with a vigour which shows that the old spirit of the "War of the Reconquest" is not dead in Spain. It is always easy to obtain eager volunteers in Spain for a new war against the Moors. The mutual jealousy of more formidable claimants for the heritage of the Sultans of Morocco will very likely enable the Spaniards some day to enter upon the possession of this coveted prize. All that is left to Spain of her old empire is the Caroline Islands in the Pacific, the Canaries in the Atlantic, and a few posts in Africa. In 1898 the United States called upon Spain to put an end to the misgovernment in Cuba, or to withdraw from the island. Spain refused to recognise the right of America to intervene, and war ensued. Spain was defeated, and compelled to give up Cuba and the Philippines.