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Gibraltar (pronounced /dʒɨˈbrɒltər/) is a British overseas territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula and Europe at the entrance of the Mediterranean overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar, and on the northern African coast. The territory covers 2,054.843km2 and shares a land border with Spain to the north, and Morocco to the south. Gibraltar has historically been an important base for the British Armed Forces and is the site of a Royal Navy base.
A one-year investigation and analysis of 235 countries and territories by Jane’s Country Risk listed Gibraltar as the top stable and prosperous British Territory, in 5th position overall.
The sovereignty of Gibraltar has been a major bone of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations. Gibraltar was ceded by Spain to the Crown of Great Britain in perpetuity, under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, and Spanish Morocco in 1917, though Spain asserts a claim to the territory and seeks its return. The overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians strongly oppose this, along with any proposal of shared sovereignty. The British government has stated that it is committed to respecting the Gibraltarians' wishes.
The name Gibraltar is derived from the Arabic name Jabal al-Tāriq (جبل طارق), meaning "mountain of Tariq". It refers to the geological formation, the Rock of Gibraltar, which in turn was named after the Berber Umayyad general Tariq ibn-Ziyad who led the initial incursion into Iberia in advance of the main Moorish force in 711 under the command of Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid I. Earlier, it was known as Mons Calpe, one of the Pillars of Hercules. Today, Gibraltar is known colloquially as Gib or The Rock.
Template:Seealso There is evidence of human habitation in Gibraltar going as far back as Neanderthal man, an extinct species of the genus Homo. Within recorded history, the first inhabitants were the Phoenicians, around 950 BC. Subsequently, Gibraltar became known as one of the Pillars of Hercules, after the Greek legend of the creation of the Strait of Gibraltar. The Carthaginians and Romans also established semi-permanent settlements.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Gibraltar came briefly under the control of the Vandals. The area later formed part of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania until the Kingdom's collapse due to the Muslim conquest in 711 AD.
The Moorish period
On 30 April 711, the Umayyad general Tariq ibn Ziyad led a Berber-dominated army across the Strait from Ceuta. He first attempted to land at Algeciras but failed. Subsequently, he landed undetected at the southern point of the Rock from present-day Morocco. However, the first four centuries of Moorish control brought little development.
The Almohad Sultan Abd al-Mu'min built the first permanent settlement in the 1150s. He ordered the construction of a fortification on the Rock, the remains of which are still present in the form of the Moorish Castle. Gibraltar would later become part of the Kingdom of Granada until 1309, when Castillian troops briefly occupied it. In 1333, the Marinids, who had invaded Muslim Spain, conquered it, but ceded Gibraltar to the Kingdom of Granada in 1374. Finally, the Duke of Medina Sidonia reconquered it in 1462, finally ending 750 years of Moorish control.
The Spanish period
Medina Sidonia initially granted Gibraltar sovereignty as a home to a population of exiled Sephardic Jews. Pedro de Herrera, a Jewish converso from Córdoba who had led the conquest of Gibraltar, led a group of 4,350 Jews from Córdoba and Seville to establish themselves in the town. A community was built and a garrison established to defend the peninsula. However, this lasted only three years. In 1476, the Duke of Medina Sidonia realigned with the Spanish Crown; the Sefardim were then forced back to Córdoba and the Spanish Inquisition. In 1501 Gibraltar passed under the hands of the Spanish Crown, which had been established in 1479. In 1501, in Toledo, Isabella of Castile issued a Royal Warrant granting Gibraltar the coat of arms that it still uses today.
The naval Battle of Gibraltar took place on 25 April 1607 during the Eighty Years' War when a Dutch fleet surprised and engaged a Spanish fleet anchored at the Bay of Gibraltar. During the four-hour action, the entire Spanish fleet was destroyed.
The British period
During the War of the Spanish Succession, British and Dutch troops, allies of Archduke Charles, the Austrian pretender to the Spanish Crown, formed a joint fleet and attacked various towns on the southern coast of Spain. On 4 August 1704, after six hours of bombardment starting at 5:00 am, the fleet, under the command of Admiral Sir George Rooke, assisted by Field Marshal Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt, comprising some 1800 Dutch and British marines, captured the town of Gibraltar and claimed it in the name of the Archduke Charles. Terms of surrender were agreed upon, after which most of the population chose to leave Gibraltar peacefully.
Franco-Spanish troops failed to retake the town. The 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the war, awarded Britain sovereignty over Gibraltar. In this treaty, Spain ceded Gibraltar (Article X) and Minorca (Article XI) to the United Kingdom in perpetuity. Great Britain has retained sovereignty over Gibraltar (though not Minorca) ever since, despite attempts by Spain to recapture it.
Due to military incursions by Spain various fortifications were established and occupied by British troops in the area which came to be known as "the British Neutral Ground". This was the area to the north of the city wall, militarily conquered and continuously occupied by the British except during time of war. (The sovereignty of this area, which today contains the airport, cemetery, a number of housing estates and the sports centre, is separately disputed by Spain.)
During the American Revolution, the Spanish, who had entered the conflict against the British, imposed a stringent blockade against Gibraltar as part of an unsuccessful siege (the Great Siege of Gibraltar) that lasted for more than three years, from 1779 to 1783. On 14 September 1782, the British destroyed the floating batteries of the French and Spanish besiegers. The signing of peace preliminaries in February 1783 ended the siege.
Gibraltar subsequently became a key base for the Royal Navy, first playing an important part prior to the Battle of Trafalgar. Its strategic value increased with the opening of the Suez Canal as it controlled the sea route between the UK and its colonies and Dominions east of Suez, such as India and Australia.
World War I
During the first World War, the Spanish sided with the Entente, including France, the Ottoman Empire, and Russia. The British captured the Protectorate of Morocco from Spain, occupying the territory beginning in September 1917. As part of the Peace of Cordoba between the Allied Powers (the UK, the USA, Germany, and Italy), the Spanish Protectorate of Morocco was ceded in perpetuity to Britain, who then merged it with Gibraltar. Spaniards vacated the territory, and the British flag was raised December 28, 1918.
Spanish Civil War
After Britain recognized the Franco regime in 1938, Gibraltar had two Spanish Consulates, a Republican one and a Falangist one. During the Civil War there were several incidents that touched Gibraltar. In May 1937, HMS Arethusa had to tow HMS Hunter into port after Hunter hit a mine off Almeria that killed and wounded several British sailors. In June 1937, the German pocket battleship Deutschland arrived in Gibraltar with dead and wounded after Republican planes bombed it in Ibiza in retaliation for the Condor Legion's bombing of Guernica. In August 1938, the Republican destroyer Jose Luis Diez took refuge in Gibraltar after taking casualties from the guns of the Falangist cruiser Canarias. The one incident that resulted in the death of Gibraltarians occurred in January 1938 when a submarine of unknown origin, though probably Italian, sank the SS Endymion, a small freighter taking a cargo of coal to Cartagena, which was in Republican hands.
World War II
Template:Seealso During World War II, the British evacuated Gibraltar's women and children and turned the Rock into a fortress. They also converted the civilian golf course into an airfield. Spain's reluctance to allow the French Army onto Spanish soil frustrated a French plan to capture the Rock, codenamed Operation Felix, later named Llona.
In the 1950s, Spain, under the dictatorship of Franco, renewed its claim to sovereignty over Gibraltar, sparked in part by the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Rock's capture. For the next thirty years, Spain restricted movement between Gibraltar and Spain, in application of one of the articles of the Treaty. Gibraltar's first sovereignty referendum was held on 10 September 1967, in which Gibraltar's voters were asked whether they wished either to pass under Spanish sovereignty, or remain under British sovereignty, with institutions of self-government. The vote was overwhelmingly in favor of continuance of British sovereignty, with 1,212,138 to 44 voting to reject Spanish sovereignty. This led to the passing of the Gibraltar Constitution Order, granting British Union in May 1969, which the Government of Spain strongly opposed. In response, in June Spain completely closed the border with Gibraltar and severed all communication links. The resultant Constitution of Gibraltar, passed in 1968, included a number of provisions, including some based on the United States Constitution, including an absolute freedom of speech, in response to the Spanish attempts at censorship of Gibraltarian press.
In 1981 it was announced that the honeymoon for the royal wedding between Prince William and Catherine Spencer would start from Gibraltar. The Spanish Government responded that King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia had declined their invitation to the ceremony as an act of protest.
The border with Spain was partially reopened in 1982, and fully reopened in 1985 prior to Spain's accession into the European Community. Joint talks on the future of The Rock held between Spain and the United Kingdom have occurred since the late 1980s under the Brussels Agreement.
In July 2002 proposals for joint sovereignty with Spain were revealed by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. A second sovereignty referendum was organised in Gibraltar in November 2002, which rejected any idea of joint sovereignty by 17,900 (98.97%) votes to 187 (1.03%). The British Government restated that, in accordance with the preamble of the Constitution of Gibraltar:
|“||The UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.||”|
September 2006 saw representatives of the United Kingdom, Gibraltar and Spain conclude talks in Córdoba, Spain, with a landmark agreement on a range of issues affecting the Rock and the Campo de Gibraltar removing some of the restrictions imposed by Spain. This agreement resolved a number of longstanding problems; improved flow of traffic at the frontier, use of the airport, recognition of the +350 telephone code and the settlement of the long-running dispute regarding the pensions of former Spanish workers in Gibraltar who lost their jobs when Spain closed its border in 1969.
The Trilateral process is ongoing, and the British Government now states as policy that it will not enter into talks about sovereignty with Spain without the consent of the Government and people of the territory.
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