History of Barcelona

Barcelona History: Before Recent Times


Barcelona has been battling against big powers for most of its life, be that the Romans, Napolean or Madrid.

The story goes that ‘Barcino’ was founded by the Carthaginians at around 230 BC. They named the city after Hamil Barca, the father of Hannibal who led his elephants to war from Catalonia over the Pyrenees and Alps to sack Rome. Since then, the city has been ransacked and taken over by characters like the Visigoths and the Moors. By around AD 800, the city became predominantly Christian and some would say this was the beginning of its true Catalan identity.

Guifré el Pelós- A Hairy History
During Spain´s Moorish period, the Muslims established their Iberian civilization and their capital in Córdoba while the Visigoth nobles hid in the Pyrenees, resorting to guerilla warfare. They were supported by Charlemagne who created the Hispanic Marc- a barrier along the Pyrenees which was administered by local warlords. The most powerful of these nobles, and some say the father of Catalonia, was Guifré le Pelós (Wilfred the Hairy). Guifré died in battle against the Moors, but his legacy and royal court lasted another half a millenium.

Jaume I
Catalunya, through Barcelona, had its own Mediterranean empire in the 13th and 14th centuries under the rule of Jaume I the Conqueror: an area that covered Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Valencia, the Balearic Islands, the Rousillon and Cerdagne in South- East France and parts of Greece. Indeed, Catalan still survives in some areas of Sicily. The Maritime museum is on the site of the old vast Drassanes shipyards where the Catalans constructed their fleet. Famous admirals include Roger de Llúria (a street is named after him in Eixample) who won a victory over the French and Roger de Flor.

This all came to an end in the 15th Century after the plague swept through Europe, decimating the population. This was when the Catalans began their first alliance with Aragon and Castille.

Unfortunately, things didn´t go entirely to plan and in the 15th Century Barcelona was pretty much swallowed up into the Castilian state, which was becoming more and more powerful thanks to the riches from the Spanish Empire. This culminated in the War of the Spanish Succession, in which Catalunya teamed up with Britain and Austria against Felipe V. Barcelona and its allies lost this particular war in 1714 after which Felip banned the Catalan language, and constructed a huge fort, the Ciutadella, to keep an eye on his Catalan subjects.

Catalunya turned the corner in the late 1700s, as it spearheaded the Industrial revolution on the Iberian Peninsular. Cotton, wine, cork and iron industries were all built up. In the 1800s, there was a rich flowering of the Catalan culture and language, known as the Catalan Renaixença, or Renaissance, accompanied by a fierce nationalist movement that is highly active to this day.

The 20th and 21st Centuries

Barcelona’s population recorded big increases at the turn of the century as migrants form other parts of Spain came in to fill the job vacancies fueled by the Industrial Revolution.

Recent History

Barcelona regained its confidence at the 1992 Olympics. Thanks to a big program of infrastructure, the city has retaken its rightful place as a cultural mecca and is now the most popular short break destination in Europe. And it is easy to see why. Barcelona has transformed itself: the city used to have its back to the sea, but now the waterfront has morphed into a Mediterranean paradise with great walk, clean beaches, marinas, restaurants, and smart flats. Gone are the days when Barcelona needed to tout itself to tourists: these days word travels fast about the delights of the city.

And battling the Big Powers? Yep- they´re still doing that, and these days you can watch it live on the telly every time the National football team Barça take on arch rivals Real Madrid in the big match known around these parts as "el derby" or "el superclasico".

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