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Barcelona Spain Guide

The History of Barcelona

A little research will show that Barcelona’s history is as colorful as its market places, paellas, and Picasso masterpieces. As early as the fourth century BCE, Barcelona’s cycle of invasions began. And with each new conqueror came visible influence on the city’s culture, politics, and architecture.

Around the year 250 BCE, the Carthaginians were the first to settle in the north-astern corner of the Iberian Peninsula. It was one Carthaginian, Amilcar Barca, who founded the city and is credited for its original name, Barcino. Romans took over the Peninsula, along with Barcino, by the first century BCE, bringing with them architecture that is still visible within the city today. Next, around 400 CE, the Visigoths invaded Spain, moving its capitol south to Madrid, and renaming Barcino, Barcinona. The city went through a few more invasions (Muslims from the North of Africa, and Franks), but they had little lasting influence.

Because of its great location, bordered by France to the North and the Mediterranean to the East, Barcelona eventually rose to become one of the most powerful trade cities on the Mediterranean. Not only did its port grow in influence during the Middle Ages, but the city itself grew and expanded. It was during this time that many of the beautiful buildings of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter were constructed.

In 1492, with the discovery of the Americas, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella shifted their attention away from Barcelona and the Mediterranean seaboard to the new opportunities rising on the Atlantic. Barcelona was no longer the seat of the monarchy, and Madrid once again became the capital of the new Spanish Empire.

Barcelona´s situation worsened in the 17th and 18th centuries with a Catalonian revolt against Spain, which originated in Barcelona, and lead to over a decade of decline in wealth and population. Then in 1702, during a struggle for succession to the Spanish throne, Catalonia favored the Archduke of Austria, while the rest of Spain supported the Frenchman, Felipe of Anjou. When Felipe won out in 1714, all of Catalonia, including Barcelona was suppressed culturally and politically.

The end of the 18th century marked the beginning of a period of growth in Barcelona’s history. The city’s population tripled, expanding its walls even further, and with an industrial boom, its economic status improved. There was resurgence in interest in Catalan traditions and culture, and Barcelona, once again, was an important center in Spain. Though the city continued to blossom with the 1888 Universal Exhibition, and the International Exhibition of 1929, Barcelona, as well as the rest of Spain, saw great social and political unrest through the 19th and 20th centuries.

Following the dictatorship of Primo de Ribera, Catalonia again experienced great blows culturally and politically. Throughout Spain there was an economic recession and a feeling of powerlessness, which brought out a rebellion, led by Francisco Franco, and eventually resulted in the Civil War. Catalonia stood by the legally established republic, and in 1939, when Barcelona, along with Madrid, fell, the war ended. Thus began a long period of even greater repression of Catalonian identity, as well as a stunt in economic, social, and cultural growth for Barcelona.

With the death of Franco in 1975, and the establishment of the first democratic elections in 1977, Spain was finally on its way toward reestablishing itself. At the same time, there was a surge of nationalist and autonomous ideas in Catalan, resulting in the administrative status of Catalonia as an Autonomous Community in 1979. During this time, Barcelona continued recovering and developing. The city proved itself to be a leading presence in the world as an artistic, cultural, and industrial city when it was chosen to host the 1992 Olympic Games. This event, in itself, produced many extensive changes to the city, including parks, museums, roads, and urban development.

The history of Barcelona has had many ups and downs, however, it demonstrates just how culturally independent, colorful, and spirited this city’s inhabitants are.



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