Spanish History

Spanish History
  • Prehistory and Protohistory
  • Ancient History
  • From Carthage to Roman Hispania
  • Visigothic Spain
  • Muslim Spain and the Reconquest
  • Lower Middle Ages
  • Imperial Spain
  • Discovery of the Americas
  • 18th Century Spain
  • Effects of the French Revolution
  • The Second Republic and Civil War
  • Restoration to Democratic Rule

Muslim Spain and the Reconquest

The period of Muslim domination is divided into three periods: the Emirate (711 to 756), the Caliphate (756-1031) and the Reinos de Taifas (small independent kingdoms) (1031 to 1492).

In the early 8 th Century, an army of Berber Muslims from North Africa crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and entered Spain from the South, conquering as they went, and crossed the Pyrenees until they were finally stopped and held back by the Francs in Poitiers . The Moors managed to conquer vast amounts of territory which became a dependency of the Province of North Africa, a division of the caliphate of Damascus . The caliphs in Africa appointed emirs to rule on the peninsula, but years of neglect and lack of discipline eventually led to a struggle between the Umayyad and Abbasid dynasties for control of the caliphate.

In the mid 8 th Century, Umayyad prince Abd al-Rahman fled from the Abbasid slaughter of 750 A.D. and took refuge among the Berbers. He managed to round up the support of one of the Peninsular Muslim tribes, the Yemenies and together with them managed to defeat the Abbasid governor of Al-Andalus. In 755 he proclaimed the Emirate of Cordoba, independent of Damascus . In the 10 th Century, Abd al- Rahman III, a Spanish Umayyad, restored and extended the emirate into the Caliphate of Cordoba, becoming the first Spanish Caliph.

Through the proclamation of the Caliphate, the Moors sought to strengthen their peninsular kingdom internally and with regard to the outer world, they wished to consolidate the trading routes of the Mediterranean and establish economic relations with the East-Byzantium Empire.

The economic and cultural forwardness introduced by the Moors far surpassed anything known in Europe at that time. With extensive agricultural know-how, an important craft industry and prominent trade system, the currency-based economy ensured the kingdom's financial success. Culturally, Muslim Spain also flourished and was well ahead of other civilizations on the continent. Libraries and schools were built, many offering free education to the poor. At the Muslim universities students excelled at medicine, mathematics, philosophy and astronomy.

In the meantime, pockets of Christian resistance had endured, especially in the northern part of the Peninsula . The most important Christian stronghold was the small kingdom of Asturias , founded in 718 by Pelayo, a Visigoth chieftain. His son-in-law, Alonso, set out to recapture the regions known as Galicia and Leon , expanding the small kingdom and being crowned King of Leon and Asturias. His heirs also expanded the kingdom during their reign. Later the Navarre region turned into an independent region, ruled by Sancho I and the kings of Leon continued to increase their territory, taking over a region called Burgos . Due to the many castles built to guard the area, it came to be known as Castilla or Castile . Count Fernán González became king of Castile and made the region independent of Leon.

In the 11th century a considerable part of Aragón was captured from the Muslims by Sancho III, King of Navarre. Moorish power began to wane as the various Arabian noble families began to fall out among one another, leading to the fragmentation of the Cordoban Caliphate into numerous small caliphates. This turn of events favored the expansion of the Christian kingdoms in the north, which then set out to re-conquer Spain . The Castilla kingdom which had absorbed the Leon kingdom, continued advancing towards the south and conquered Sevilla in 1248, while the kingdoms of Aragon and Cataluña, which had been joined together in the 12 th Century, conquered lands from Levante to Valencia (1238).