Spain has 46 million people. It encompasses an area of 505,990 km2. Spain is a country on the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern Europe with some territory in the Mediterranean Sea, offshore in the Atlantic Ocean and across the Strait of Gibraltar. From 16th to early 19th century, Spain ruled one of the largest empires in history. It is among the first global empires; its immense cultural and linguistic legacy includes over 570 million people who speak Spanish, making Spanish the world’s second-most spoken native language (Mandarin is first, English is third, and Hindi is fourth). The expansion of the empire caused immense upheaval in the Americas as the collapse of societies and empires, and new diseases from Europe devastated American indigenous populations. Many indigenous languages throughout the empire were often lost either as indigenous populations were decimated by war and disease, or as indigenous people mixed with colonists, and the Spanish language was taught and spread over time. Spain’s 16th-century maritime supremacy was demonstrated by the victory over the Ottomans in 1571, and then in a series of victories against England and in the Anglo-Spanish War of 1585-1604. However, during the middle decades of the 17th century Spain’s maritime power went into a long decline. By the1660s, Spain was struggling grimly to defend its overseas possessions from pirates and privateers. The Roman Catholic religion was introduced by Spain to their many colonies; as a result, the religion is currently widely practised. Spain today is a highly developed country and a high-income country, with the world’s 14th largest economy by GDP.

  1. In about 2,000 words, I will describe major events that affected Spain from 1900 to the present.
  2. 1900 – Having lost the two-year Spanish-American War which ended in late 1898, Spain ceded their colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to USA. Prior to that, all of Spain’s Latin American colonies, such as Mexico and Peru, had already won their independence from Spain.
  3. 1914 (to 1918) – World War One. Spain was neutral in the war. Following the war, wide swathes of Spanish society, including the armed forces, attempted to unify in the hopes of removing the corrupt central Spanish government, but they were unsuccessful.
  4. 1921 (to 1926) – The Rif War. During the early 20th century, Morocco in Africa was divided into protectorates ruled by France and Spain. The Rif region had been assigned to Spain. Given that the Sultans of Morocco had been unable to exert control over the region, Spanish sovereignty over the Rif was strictly theoretical. In 1909 Spanish workers, who were constructing a rail-bridge providing access to iron mines near Melilla in Morocco, were attacked by Rifian tribesmen. The Riffian population, who had strongly resisted the Spanish, unleashed a conflict that would last several years. The Rif even created an entire independent state: the Republic of the Rif. France intervened, sided with the Spanish, and fought against the Rifs until the Rifs surrendered.
  5. 1923 – A military coup brought General Miguel Primo de Rivera to power. As a result, Spain transitioned to government by military dictatorship.
  6. 1931 – The Second Spanish Republic was established. After the military dictatorship of General Miguel Primo de Rivera (in power since 1923) was overthrown, the various republican factions from a wide variety of backgrounds (including old conservatives, socialists and Catalan nationalists) joined forces. A republic is declared, and a new constitution came into force, which established freedom of speech, freedom of association, and extended suffrage to women. It also disestablished the Roman Catholic Church. The legislative branch was changed to a single chamber. Niceto Alcala-Zamora becomes president and head of state. The radical policies however deepen the political divide.
  7. 1936 – After two years of right-wing government, a Popular Front coalition of left-wing and liberal parties narrowly wins parliamentary elections and seeks to reintroduce the radical policies of 1931. Republican Manuel Azana replaces Niceto Alcala-Zamora as president.
  8. 1936 (to 1939) – Spanish Civil War. A coup by right-wing military leaders captures only part of the country, leading to 3 years of civil war. Republicans loyal to the left-leaning government of the Second Spanish Republic (in alliance with the communist) fought against an insurrection by the Nationalists (an alliance of monarchists and conservatives) led by a military group, in which General Francisco Franco soon assumed a greater role. The Nationalists won the war, which ended in early 1939, and ruled Spain until General Francisco Franco’s death in 1975 (for 36 years). The Nationalist forces received munitions, soldiers, and air support from Italy and Germany, while the Republican side received support from the Soviet Union. Other countries, such as the United Kingdom, France, and USA continued to recognise the Republican government, but followed an official policy of non-intervention. The Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio de Oliveira Salazar played an important role in supplying General Francisco Franco’s forces with ammunition and logistical help. Following internal conflict between Republican factions in Madrid, General Francisco Franco entered the capital and declared victory in 1939. General Francisco Franco established a dictatorship in which all right-wing parties were fused into the structure of the Franco regime. More than 350,000 Spaniards died in the fighting, and General Francisco Franco purged all remaining Republicans. Just a few days before the end of the Spanish Civil War, on 17 March 1939, Portugal and Spain signed the Iberian Pact, a non-aggression treaty that marked the beginning of a new phase in Iberian relations. Meetings between General Francisco Franco and Prime Minister Antonio de Oliveira Salazar of Portugal played a fundamental role in this new political arrangement. The pact proved to be a decisive instrument in keeping the Iberian Peninsula out of Germany’s Adolf Hitler’s continental system. On the Nationalist side, the biggest losses came after the Spanish Civil War, when they had to allow Germany exploit the country’s mining resources. So, until the beginning of World War Two, they barely had the chance to make any profit.
  9. 1939 (to 1945) – World War Two. Spain remains neutral throughout the war, although the government’s sympathies clearly lie with the Axis (German) powers.
  10. 1946 (to 1950) – General or Caudillo Francisco Franco’s Spain is ostracised by United Nations and many countries sever diplomatic relations.
  11. 1950s – As the Cold War deepens, USA gradually improves relations with Spain, extending loans in return for military bases. Spain is admitted to the UN in 1955 and the World Bank in 1958, and other European countries open up to Caudillo Francisco Franco’s government.
  12. 1959 (to 1974) – The Spanish Miracle. This was a period of 15 years of exceptionally rapid and broadly-based economic development in Spain. Manufacturing and tourism industries took off through liberalisation of state controls. It was brought to an end by the 1970s international oil crises.
  13. 1959 – The ‘ETA armed separatist group’ is founded with the aim of fighting for an independent homeland in the Basque region of Spain and France. Its violent campaign begins with an attempt to derail a train carrying politicians in 1961.
  14. 1968 – Spain’s West African colony of ‘Spanish Guinea’ gains independence as Equatorial Guinea.
  15. 1973 – The ‘ETA armed separatist group’ kills Prime Minister Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco in retaliation for the government’s execution of Basque fighters.
  16. 1975 – Spain hands over its last remaining colonial possession ‘Spanish Sahara’ to Morocco.
  17. 1975 – Caudillo Francisco Franco dies, and the monarchy is restored to Juan Carlos I.
  18. 1976 – Spain transitions to democracy. Spain moved from the Francoist dictatorship to the consolidation of a parliamentary system, in the form of a monarchy under Juan Carlos I.
  19. 1977 – First free elections in four decades. Ex-Francoist Adolfo Suárez’s ‘Union of the Democratic Centre’ manages a relatively smooth transition to a stable democracy.
  20. 1978 – The Spanish Constitution of 1978 was issued, being a culmination of the Spanish transition to democracy.
  21. 1980 – 118 people are killed in the ETA armed separatist group’s bloodiest year so far.
  22. 1981 – A coup attempt to take Spain back to the Francoist dictatorship fails, after King Juan Carlos I makes a televised address demanding that the plotters surrender.
  23. 1982 – Socialists under Felipe González win elections and govern until 1996. Free education, an expanded welfare state and liberalisation of abortion laws are key policies. Spain joins the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
  24. 1986 – Spain joins the European Economic Community, later to become the European Union.
  25. 1992 – The Summer Olympic Games were held in Barcelona, Spain.
  26. 1997 – The ‘ETA armed separatist group’ kills Basque councillor Miguel Angel Blanco, sparking national outrage and bringing an estimated 6 million people onto the streets in protest.
  27. 1997 – 23 leaders of ETA armed separatist group’s political wing ‘Herri Batasuna’ are jailed for 7 years – the first time any members of the party are jailed.
  28. 1998 – Judge Baltasar Garzon in Spain issued an international arrest warrant for former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet (Spanish language is the main language in Chile). Augusto Pinochet was in England and was sick. Instead of allowing him to be taken to Spain, he was allowed to return to Chile. In Chile, Augusto Pinochet faced many court actions including for killing opponents and money laundering. Augusto Pinochet eventually died from a heart complication at age 91 (in 2006), before he was convicted of any of the crimes he was accused of.
  29. 2004 – Madrid train bombings. Train bombings in Madrid killed 191 and injured over 2,000. Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar initially blamed the Basque terrorists, the ‘ETA armed separatist group’. But it was actually carried out by an Islamic group with links to al-Qaeda.
  30. 2004 – Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s People’s Party lost an election after the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero becomes prime minister. 
  31. 2005 – Parliament defies the Roman Catholic Church by legalising gay marriage and granting homosexual couples the same adoption and inheritance rights as heterosexual ones.
  32. 2006 – Madrid-Barajas Airport bombing. A van bomb exploded in Terminal 4 parking area of the Madrid-Barajas Airport in Spain, killing 2 and injuring 52. The Basque terrorists ‘ETA armed separatist group’ claimed responsibility for the attack, which damaged the airport terminal and destroyed the entire parking structure. The attackers were later caught and sentenced in 2010.
  33. 2007 – Parliament passes a bill formally denouncing General Francisco Franco’s rule and ordering the removal of all Franco-era statues and symbols from streets and buildings.
  34. 2008 – Moroccan national and Islamic State Jamal Zougam was found guilty of the 2004 train bombings in Madrid. Twenty other North Africans are also found guilty and given long jail sentences.
  35. 2008 – Judge Baltasar Garzon in Spain was charged with criminal conduct in 3 cases, causing an international scandal and protests. Judge Baltasar Garzon served on Spain’s central criminal court, which investigates the most important criminal cases in Spain, including terrorism, organised crime, and money laundering. In 2011, Baltasar Garzon was suspended from judicial activity, and in 2012 he was convicted of illegal wiretapping and disbarred for a period of 11 years. In 2012, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange recruited Baltasar Garzon as head of his legal team.
  36. 2009 – Spanish economy enters recession for the first time since 1993.
  37. 2015 – Artur Mas, who was president of the Government of Catalonia from 2010 to 2015, defies Spain by calling early elections on independence of the region of Catalonia.
  38. 2017 – Barcelona attacks. A 22-year-old Younes Abouyaaqoub drove a van into pedestrians on La Rambla in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain killing 14 people and injuring at least 130 others. Younes Abouyaaqoub then fled the attack on foot, and killed another person to steal the victim’s car and escaped. Nine hours after the Barcelona attack, 5 men thought to be members of the same terrorist cell drove into pedestrians in nearby Cambrils, killing 1 woman and injuring 6 others. All 5 of those attackers were shot and killed by police. Prime minister Mariano Rajoy called the attack in Barcelona a jihadist attack. Eight months later, Younes Abouyaaqoub was killed by the Police.
  39. 2017 – Catalan unilateral declaration of independence was ratified by the Parliament of Catalonia as the results of the referendum were in favour of independence from Spain. Spain considers this action illegal and Article 155 of the constitution was applied.
  40. 2018 – Trial of Catalonia independence leaders. The trial takes place over several months, following the 2017 (illegal) declaration of independence of Catalonia. Nine defendants were sentenced to 9 to 13 years in prison on sedition and misuse of public funds charges; 3 other defendants were fined for disobedience.
  41. 2020 – Pedro Sanchez II Government becomes the first nationwide coalition government to be formed in Spain since the Second Spanish Republic. The parties consist of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party and the left-wing Unidas Podemos Party.
  42. 2020 – (to 2021) COVID-19 pandemic caused more than 86,000 deaths in Spain.
  43. 2021 – Spain has 46 million people.

© Comasters October 2021.

  • Ray Bos
    Posted at 07:16h, 11 October

    A fair summary of the Spanish situation.
    The 2017 attack on the Ramblas by an Arab was troubling.
    The 2020 “coalition” is not genuine democracy. The left-wing UNIDAS would be very keen to get into power. But nothing has been done to improve the life of the average Spanish people, hence the continued drive by the Catalan independence politicians to see total independence.
    Catalogna’s output by itself represents 55% of Spain’s GDP. Spain needs greater Barcelona involvement to pay for all types of socialist expenses.