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The original peoples of the Iberian peninsula (in the sense that they are not known to have come from elsewhere), consisting of a number of separate tribes, are given the generic name of Iberians. This includes the Basque, the only pre-Roman Iberian people surviving to the present day as a separate ethnic group. The most important culture of this period is that of the city of Tartessos. Beginning in the 9th century BC, Celtic tribes entered the Iberian peninsula through the Pyrenees and settled throughout the peninsula, becoming the Celt-Iberians.

The seafaring Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians successively settled along the Mediterranean coast and founded trading colonies there over a period of several centuries.

Around 1,100 BC Phoenician merchants founded the trading colony of Gadir (modern day Cádiz) near Tartessos. In the 8th century BC the first Greek colonies, such as Emporion (modern Emp ries), were founded along the Mediterranean coast on the East, leaving the south coast to the Phoenicians. The Greeks are responsible for the name Iberia, after the river Iber (Ebro in Spanish). In the 6th century BC the Carthaginians arrive in Iberia as while struggling with the Greeks for control of the Western Mediterranean. Their most important colony is Carthago Nova (Latin name of modern day Cartagena).

The Romans arrived in the Iberian peninsula during the second Punic war in the 2nd century BC, and annexed it under Augustus after two centuries of war with the Celtic and Iberian tribes and the Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian colonies becoming the province of Hispania. Some of Spain’s present languages, religion, and laws originate from this Roman period.

As the Roman empire declined, the Suebi, Vandals and Alans each took control of part of Hispania. In the 5th century CE the Visigoths, a Romanized Germanic tribe, conquered all of Hispania and established a relatively stable kingdom lasting until 711, when it fell to an invasion by Islamic North African Moors and became part of the expanding Umayyad empire, under the name of Al-Andalus. When the Umayyad empire gave way to the Abbaside empire, an Umayyad exile established the Califate of Cordoba, effectively making Al-Andalus independent from the empire.

Modern Spain began to take form during the Reconquista, the struggle among the Christian kingdoms that the moors left unconquered in northern peninsula and the kingdoms into which Al-Andalus had split. In 1492, Granada, the last Moorish kingdom was defeated by the Catholic Monarchs Isabella I of Castile (Isabel La Católica) and Ferdinand II of Aragon (Fernando el Católico or Ferran el Cat lic).

The kingdom of the Catholic Monarchs then imposed the Christian religion: in 1492, Isabella and Ferdinand ordered the expulsion of all Jews from their dominions, having imposed physical segregation in 1480 (two years after the establishment of the Inquisition), and in 1502 Muslims were forced to convert to Christianity or be banished.

After the conquest of Granada, Isabella funded Christopher Columbus’ in his attemps to reach Asia through a western route across the Atlantic Ocean what became the arrival of the Spaniards to the “New World”.

By 1512, most of the kingdoms of present-day Spain were politically unified (with the exception of Navarre) although not as a modern centralized state. The grandson of Isabella and Ferdinand, Charles I, extended his crown to other places in Europe and the rest of the world. And the unification of Iberia was complete when Charles I’s son, Philip II, became King of Portugal in 1580, as well as of the other Iberian Kingdoms (collectively know as “Spain”).

In 1640, under Philip IV, the centralist policy of the Count-Duke of Olivares provoked wars in Portugal and Catalonia: Portugal became an independent kingdom again and Catalonia enjoyed some years of French-supported independence, but was quickly returned to the Spanish Crown.

During the 16th century, Spain became the most powerful nation in Europe, due to the immense wealth derived from the Spanish colonization of the Americas. But a series of long, costly wars and revolts began a steady decline of Spanish power in Europe. Controversy over succession to the throne consumed the country during the first years of the 18th century (see War of the Spanish Succession). It was only after this war ended and a new dynasty (the French Bourbons) was installed that a centralized Spanish state was established.

Spain was occupied by Napoleon in the early 1800s, but the Spaniards raised in arms. After the war of Independence (1808-1812), a series of revolts and armed conflicts between Liberals and supporters of the Ancient Regime lasted throughout much of the 19th century, complicated by a dispute over dynastic succession by the Carlists which led to three civil wars. After that, Spain was briefly a Republic, from 1871 to 1873, year in which a series of coups reinstalled the monarchy.

In the meantime, Spain lost most of its colonies in the Americas during the 19th century, a trend which ended with the loss of Cuba and the Philippines after the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The 20th century initially brought little peace; colonization of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea was attempted as a substitute for the loss of the Americas. A period of dictatorial rule (1923-1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. With increasing political polarization and pressure from all sides, coupled with growing and unchecked violence, the Republic ended with the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936. Following the victory of the nationalist forces in 1939, General Francisco Franco ruled a nation exhausted politically and economically until his death in 1975.

After World War II, being one of few surviving fascist regimes in Europe, Spain was politically and economically isolated, and kept out of the United Nations until 1955, when it became strategically important for US president Eisenhower to establish a military presence in the Iberian peninsula. The opening to Spain was aided by Franco’s rabid anticommunism.

In the 1960s, more than a decade later than other western European countries, Spain began to enjoy economic growth and gradually transformed into a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector. Growth continued well into the 1970s, with Franco’s government going to great lengths to shield the Spanish people from the effects of the oil crisis.

Upon the death of the dictator General Franco in November 1975, his personally designated heir Prince Juan Carlos assumed the position of king and head of state. He played a key role in guiding Spain further in its growth into a modern democratic state, notably in opposing an attempted coup d’etat in 1981. Spain joined NATO in 1982 and became a member of the European Union in 1986.

With the approval of the Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, the old historic nationalities ? Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia ? were given far-reaching autonomy, which, in due course, was extended to all Spanish regions.