Throughout its history, Spain has been occupied by people from a number of different countries. This has led to a varied culture with a number of different influences. The architecture in the area alone has Roman, Moorish, and Christian influence.
Spain has claimed varying levels of power throughout its history. At one time it was one of the most powerful countries in the world. Following its heyday, there were wars and political strife, including a dictatorship that dragged its economy down. Modern Spain has experienced a resurgence, but evidence of the dark days are still present throughout the country in various ways.
At one point Spain was ruled by the Roman Empire. Following the fall of the empire, Moorish invaders took hold of Spain until about 1000 AD. At this time Christians tried to drive Islam from the country and a number of wars broke out between the two opposing religious forces.
Ferdinand and Isabella
During the 15th century, Spain was ruled by two Christian kingdoms that were united through marriage. Ferdinand and Isabella represented the
Castilles and the Aragons, and served as a turning point in Spanish history. Political, religious, and economic power all fell under one family and Catholicism became the nation’s official religion. Muslims unwilling to convert were expelled, imprisoned, or put to death.
It was under the rule of Ferdinand and Isabella that America was discovered by Europeans. The royals funded Christopher Columbus’ journey to the New World, hoping to find a direct route to the east for spices. This discovery made Spain stronger than ever before in the country’s history. During this time Spain acquired territories around the globe including the Canary Islands, Naples, and Navarre.
The Hapsburgs and the Bourbons
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Spain was ruled by the Hapsburgs. The Spanish Empire was growing and all of European politics leaned on Spain for strength. The Hapsburgs fell from power following the War of the Succession to the Spanish Crown in the early 1700s. The Hapsburg reign was followed by the Bourbons, who took over during the 18th century. The country was ruled by a monarchy into the 20th century.
Decline and Resurgence
Spain’s Civil War erupted in the 1930s when left and right wing political groups both wanted power. Nationalists won the battle and installed the dictator Francisco Franco. The war had drained the country economically and Spain continued its decline under Franco’s fascist government. It was not until Franco’s death in 1975 that the country began to grow strong again. Prince Juan Carlos was instrumental in moving the country toward democracy following Franco’s death and is often credited with having saved Spain economically and politically. His period of leadership was capped off with the adoption of a new Spanish Constitution on December 6, 1978.
More recently, Spanish voters have elected leaders from the Spanish Socialist Worker Party, which won elections in 1886, 1989, and 1993. Today Spain is one of the most visited countries in Europe and has escaped much of the turmoil that is occurring in other European countries due to the economy.