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Brief History Of Barcelona


Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain, with a population of over 1,5 Million. It is an open,

cosmopolitan and tolerant city that owes much of its current character to its long history. The

founding of Barcelona as a city began with the Romans. Towards the end of the 1st century B.C. the

so-called Barcino was established around what was then the Táber Mountain, located exactly where

we find the busy Plaza Sant Jaume today, Nowadays, the home of the city hall and the Generalitat de


After the Roman occupation, between the 5th and 8th centuries, Barcelona's rule was transferred

from the Visigoths to Muslim control, and reconquered in 801 by Charlemagne's troops. After that,

the Counts of Barcelona became increasingly independent and expanded through Catalonian

territory. Starting the 12th century, during the Middle Ages, Barcelona experienced an era in which

it flourished in all aspects of city life. It is considered the hearth of the Crown of Aragon territories,

which included the kingdom of Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and settlements in Naples, Sicily,

Sardinia and Athens in the thirteenth century.

This flourishing period came to an end during the 15th century, since the marriage of Ferdinand II of

Aragon and Isabella of Castile in 1469 united the two main kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula and

moved the center of political power to Madrid. Catalan discontent increased in the course of time due

to facts like wars between France and Spain as part of the Thirty Year’s War, because local peasants

were forced to quarter Castilian troops. It caused the Pau Claris’ ephemeral proclamation of Catalan

Republic and the well known “Guerra dels Segadors” (Reapers’s war), between 1640 and 1659.

Later, Catalan nobilty sided with the Habsburgs against the Bourbon Philip V, during the Succession

War in Spain (1701-1714). This war ended in the city’s conquest by Franco-Castilian troops, Philip’s

coronation, the abolition of Catalan Autonomy and an enormous degree of repression. The Fosar de

les Moreres, located next to the Santa Maria del Mar church, recalls this defeat and a lit flame

represents the remembrance of all Catalonians who fell during the Succession War.

The first half of the 19th century was marked by uprisings and upheaval. Furthermore, the Ildefons

Cerdá plan was approved in 1859. This plan laid forth the idea for Barcelona's Eixample as we know

and enjoy it today: a classic grid structure built around public spaces. Starting in the late 19th and

early 20th century, Barcelona became the centre of a cultural avant-garde that concerned itself with

all forms of advances made in the scientific, technological and artistic fields. While a new generation

of industrialists and politicians, rooted in the bourgeoisie, concerned themselves with the urban

advancements that would convert Barcelona into a modern city, the intellectual world moved in a

different direction. An example is modernism, which spirit touched all of the city's artistic spheres,

including architecture. The ultimate exponent of this architecture was, of course, Antoni Gaudí with

universal creations such as the Sagrada Familia, Casa Milà or La Pedrera, Casa Batlló and Parc Güell.

The 20th century also brought dark times to the city. In 1909 Barcelona lived through its sadly

famous Tragic Week marked by several altercations, barricades and the burning of convents. A few

years later Primo de Rivera installed himself as a dictator. However, Barcelona managed to organise

the International Fair of 1929. A period under republican rule in 1931 returned hope to the city but

more difficult times lay ahead. In 1936 the Spanish Civil War broke out, during which Barcelona

would suffer through one of its hardest periods. Thousands of people were forced into exile abroad

while the bombings devastated the city. In 1939, when the Civil War ended and Franco's dictatorship

began, Barcelona lost many of its freedoms, including the self-government it had achieved in the

past and the unrestricted use of the Catalonian language, which was once again prohibited.

The post-war period unfolded in this environment until the 1960's, when a surge in economic and

industrial growth attracted a wave of migration from different parts of Spain. Urban and housing

infrastructure increased at an incredible rate and often without any defined criteria, which led to the

growth of "dormitory neighbourhoods" in the city's outskirts. Franco's death in 1975 finally brought

democracy to Spain. Barcelona reinstated the Generalitat and regained its place as the capital of an

autonomous Catalonia. Just as it had in previous years, Barcelona continued its growth on an

industrial and cultural level.

*Information Taken from

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