A kingdom in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula; a former colonial power; Also called: Espana.
Country in SW Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, bounded N by France and W by Portugal.
The 1978 constitution provides for a hereditary monarch as formal head of state. The monarch appoints a prime minister, called president of government, and a council of ministers, all responsible to the national assembly, Las Cortes Generales. The Cortes consists of two chambers, the chamber of deputies, with 350 members, and the senate, with 208. Deputies are elected by universal suffrage through a system of proportional representation; 208 of the senators are directly elected to represent the whole country and 49 to represent the regions. All serve a four-year term.
Spain has developed a regional self-government whereby each of the 50 provinces has its own council (Diputación Provincial) and civil governor. The devolution process was extended 1979 when 17 autonomous communities were approved, each with a parliament elected for a four-year term.
Pre-Roman Spain was inhabited by Iberians, Basques, Celts, and Celtiberians. Greece and Phoenicia established colonies on the coast from the 7th century BC; Carthage dominated from the 5th century, trying to found an empire in the southeast. This was conquered by ancient Rome about 200 BC, and after a long struggle all Spain was absorbed into the Roman Empire. At the invitation of Rome the Visigoths (see Goths) set up a kingdom in Spain from the beginning of the 5th century AD until the invasion by the Moors 711. Christian resistance held out in the north, and by 1250 they had reconquered all Spain except Granada. During this struggle a number of small kingdoms were formed, all of which by the 13th century had been absorbed by Castile and Aragon. The marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon to Isabella of Castile 1469 united their domains on their accession 1479. The conquest of Granada 1492 completed the unification of Spain.
Under Ferdinand and Isabella, Charles I (see Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire), and Philip II, Spain became one of the greatest powers in the world. The discoveries of Columbus, made on behalf of Spain, were followed by the conquest of most of Central and South America.
Naples and Sicily were annexed 1503, Milan 1535, Portugal 1580, and Charles I inherited the Netherlands, but with the revolt in the Netherlands from 1568 and the defeat of the Armada 1588, Spain's power began to decline. The loss of civil and religious freedom, constant wars, inflation, a corrupt bureaucracy, and the expulsion of the Jews and Moors undermined the economy. By the peace of Utrecht that concluded the War of the Spanish Succession 1713, Spain lost Naples, Sicily, Milan, Gibraltar, and its last possessions in the Netherlands.
wars and revolutions
The 18th century saw reforms and economic progress, but Spain became involved in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, first as the ally, then as the opponent of France. France occupied Spain 1808 and was expelled with British assistance 1814. Throughout the 19th century conflict raged between monarchists and liberals; revolutions and civil wars took place 1820–23, 1833–39, and 1868, besides many minor revolts, and a republic was temporarily established 1873–74. Spain lost its American colonies between 1810 and 1830 and after the Spanish-American War 1898 ceded Cuba and the Philippines to the US.
Spanish Civil War
Republicanism, socialism, and anarchism grew after 1900; Primo de Rivera's dictatorship 1923–30 failed to preserve the monarchy under Alfonso XIII, and in 1931 a republic was established.
In 1936 the Popular Front, a center-left alliance, took office and introduced agrarian and other reforms that aroused the opposition of the landlords and the Catholic church. A military rebellion led by General Francisco Franco resulted in the Spanish Civil War 1936–39. Franco, who was supported by the German Nazis and Italian Fascists, won the war, establishing a military dictatorship.
In 1947 Franco allowed the revival of a legislature with limited powers and announced that after his death the monarchy would be restored, naming the grandson of the last monarch, Prince Juan Carlos de Bourbon, as his successor. Franco died 1975, and King Juan Carlos became head of state. There followed a slow but steady progress to democratic government, with the new constitution endorsed by referendum 1978.
regional demands and right-wing threat
Spain faced two main internal problems: the demands for independence by regional extremists and the possibility of a right-wing military coup. The leader of the ruling Democratic Center Party, Adolfo Suárez, suddenly resigned 1981 and was succeeded by his deputy, Leopoldo Calvo Sotelo. He was immediately confronted with an attempted army coup in Madrid, while at the same time the military commander of Valencia declared a state of emergency there and sent tanks out on the streets. Both uprisings failed, and the two leaders were tried and imprisoned.
Sotelo's decision to take Spain into the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was widely criticized, and he was forced to call a general election Oct 1982. The result was a sweeping victory for the Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE), led by Felipe González. The Basque separatist organization, ETA, had stepped up its campaign for independence with widespread terrorist activity, spreading in 1985 to the Mediterranean vacation resorts and threatening Spain's lucrative tourist industry.
The PSOE had fought the 1982 election on a policy of taking Spain out of NATO and carrying out extensive nationalization. Once in office, however, González showed himself to be a pragmatist. His nationalization program was highly selective, and he left the decision on NATO to a referendum. In Jan 1986 Spain became a full member of the European Community, and in March the referendum showed popular support for remaining in NATO. In the 1986 election González returned for another term as prime minister. In 1988 Spain, with Portugal, became a member of the Western European Union. In the 1989 general election the PSOE won only 175 seats in the 350-member national assembly but retained power under González, who formed a “tactical alliance” with the Basque and Catalan parties. Major tax reforms were passed 1991 in an effort to help the nation’s struggling economy.
After an unofficial truce, ETA’s armed struggle resumed Aug 1992. Prime Minister González announced Oct 1992 that he would seek a fourth term of office and contest the next elections. During 1993 the PSOE was plagued by a series of corruption scandals prompting González to call an early general election in June. The PSOE narrowly won, with 38.8% of the vote to the opposition Popular Party’s 34.8%, but lost its parliamentary majority. In Aug, on the king’s request, González formed a new minority government. Further revelations of corruption during early 1994 increased pressure on González to reform his government or step down, and in 1995 the party came under attack for its alleged involvment in a “dirty war” against ETA activists in the 1980s.