Spain History and Culture

Obviously it is beyond the remit of this website to have a complete history of Spain, but a small introduction will enable the visitor to make more sense of the culture, customs language and architecture.

As with all of Europe, Spain has had a number of major changes since being settled by humans. A number of tribes have wandered through and settled and some have moved on again, some of which were forcibly removed.

The area was eventually settled by the Celts and Iberians, had trading links with the Greeks and was subsequently invaded by the Romans. After the collapse of the Roman empire it became a number of small kingdoms with different characters and customs. The main religion was Christian at this point.

Spain is a country of different regions, some would say countries with different languages and customs. What is normally referred to as Spanish is in fact Castilian, the language of Central Spain and although it is the official language, there are a number of regional languages that are still used everyday. These languages include Catalan (Catala) the language of the region where Barcelona is. Galician in North West Spain and Basque. The nationalism and identities of these regions is very strong and easily comparable to the differences between the Welsh and English.

The other major part of Spain's history is that for a number of centuries, the majority of the peninsula was occupied by the Islamic Moors. The original conquest began in the 8th century and it was not until the 14th century that it was finally over. This has resulted in some interesting architecture that is a unique blend of European and Arab influences. However the struggle that was involved in the Reconquista or Christian Reconquest has left its toll on many of the southern towns and cities and a number of the castles date from that period.

After the Reconquista came the unification and this was followed by a time of success and wealth spurred on by the success of the discovery and colonization of the New World following the voyage of Columbus. Spain had numerous wars with other European nations (not least the British) but its influence waned during the industrial period when it fell behind the other European nations and was not helped by political turmoil.

In the 20th century was the other major event in Spain's history. After the 1920s depression, the rise of Socialism and fascism grew throughout Europe and in Spain it led to a bitter civil war. The fascists under General Franco were supported by Hitler's Germany, while the Republicans were supported by volunteers from other European countries. Franco eventually won the war and luckily for Spain, did not get involved in World War II. However the conflict also deepened some of the regional differences and Barcelona for one being staunchly anti Franco as seen when 3 million people danced in the streets on his eventual death.

Since Francos' death, a constitutional Monarchy and parliamentary democracy has been reinstated and Spain has developed considerably, apart from the recent world wide recession which has affected the Spanish economy , particularly the housing market.

Hopefully this article will help you understand more the context of the architecture, castle or regional rivalries and why the menus might be in 3 languages.