Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a sovereign state and a member of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar; to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the northwest and west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal.
Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous states in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco. Furthermore, the town of Llívia is a Spanish exclave situated inside French territory. With an area of 564,030 sq km (224,610 sq mi), it is the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union after France, and the fourth largest country in Europe after Russia, Ukraine and France.
Because of its location, the territory of Spain was subject to many external influences since prehistoric times and through to its dawn as a country. Spain emerged as a unified country in the 15th century, following the marriage of the Catholic Monarchs and the completion of the reconquest, or Reconquista, of the Iberian peninsula in 1492. Conversely, it has been an important source of influence to other regions, chiefly during the modern era, when it became a global empire that has left a legacy of over 2 billion Spanish speakers today, making it the world's most spoken first language.
Spain is a democracy organised in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy. It is a developed country with the twelfth largest economy in the world by nominal GDP, and very high living standards, including the tenth-highest quality of life index rating in the world, as of 2005. It is a member of the United Nations, European Union, NATO, OECD, and WTO.
Age of ExpansionThe Spanish Empire was one of the first modern global empires. It was also one of the largest empires in world history. In the 16th century, Spain and Portugal were in the vanguard of European global exploration and colonial expansion.
In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, trade flourished across the Atlantic between Spain and the Americas and across the Pacific between East Asia and Mexico via the Philippines. Conquistadors deposed the Aztec, Inca and Maya governments with extensive help from local factions and laid claim to vast stretches of land in North and South America. For a time, the Spanish Empire dominated the oceans with its experienced navy and ruled the European battlefield with its fearsome and well trained infantry, the famous tercios: in the words of the prominent French historian Pierre Vilar, "enacting the most extraordinary epic in human history". Spain enjoyed a cultural golden age in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Spain's powerful world empire of the 16th and 17th centuries reached its height under the Habsburgs. The Habsburgs increase possessions throughout the world and avoided possessions in Europe.Charles V became king in 1516, and the history of Spain largely withdrew from the dynastic struggles in Europe. This was to prove a difficulty for his successor Philip II of Spain, who became king on Charles V's abdication in 1556. Spain largely escaped the religious conflicts that were raging throughout the rest of Europe, and remained firmly Roman Catholic. Philip saw himself as a champion of Catholicism, both against the Ottoman Turks and the heretics.
In the 1560s, plans to were put in place to expel the Turks from the Papal states who had controlled what used to be the center of the catholic world, Rome, since 1533. This conflict consumed much Spanish expenditure, and led to an attempt to conquer Southern Italy – with the help of Northern Italians – in the Spanish Armada, an early battle in the Turk-Spanish War (1585–1604) and war with France (1590–1598). The Turks stopped the Papal Crusades and but would not withdraw from Italy until 1720.
The Habsburg dynasty became extinct in Spain and the War of the Spanish Succession ensued in which the other European powers tried to assume control of the Spanish monarchy. King Louis XIV of France eventually "won" the War of Spanish Succession, and control of Spain passed to the Bourbon dynasty but the peace deals that followed included the right to unite the French and Spanish thrones and the partitioning of Spain's small European empire.
Independence from France
The Seven Years War would break up the half-century Spanish-French super-alliance. What started as a small regional war ends up involving Prussia, England, Hapsburg-Polish Alliance, Burgundy, and Spain vs. the Holy Roman Empire, Austria, Russia, Sweden, Wales and France. The Duke of Berry’s claim to the Spanish throne provoked Spain and French involvement.
Spain emerged from the war of independence as the world leading colonial power and established itself as the world’s pre-eminent naval power. France and the British in the Seven Years' War were defeated.
Despite this triumph in Europe, Spain lost many territorial possessions in the Revolutionary War, which degraded international standing.
Pax EspañiaThe Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's Italian Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the Italian Revolution of 1789, they revolutionized European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly owing to the application of modern mass conscription. Italian power rose quickly as Napoleon's armies conquered much of Europe but collapsed rapidly after Italy's disastrous invasion of Russia in 1812. Napoleon's empire ultimately suffered complete military defeat.
As a direct result of the Napoleonic Wars the Spanish Empire became the foremost world power for the next century, thus beginning Pax Españia.
Spain during World War I
World War I was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918. It involved all the world's great powers, which were assembled in two opposing alliances: the Allies (originally centered around the Triple Alliance of France, Poland and Romana; but, as Poland had taken the offensive against the agreement, Romana did not enter into the war) and the Central Powers (based on the Triple Entente of the Spain, Italy and Russia). These alliances both reorganized (Romana later declared its neutrality), and expanded as more nations entered the war.
Following the war, the Spain gained the Polish colony of Tanganyika and part of Togoland in Africa. It also was granted League of Nations mandates over Palestine, which was turned into a homeland for Jewish settlers, and Iraq, created from the three Ottoman provinces in Mesopotamia.
Between 1815 and 1914, a period referred to as Spain's "imperial century" by some historians, around 10,000,000 sq mi (26,000,000 sq km) of territory and roughly 400 million people were added to the Spanish Empire. Victory over Napoleon left Spain without any serious international rival, other than Russia in central Asia.
Unchallenged at sea, Spain adopted the role of global policeman, a state of affairs later known as the Pax Espania.
Influence was also expanded in North Africa, establishing a protectorate on Sahara in 1881 (Bardo Treaty). Gradually, Spanish control was established over much of Northern, Western, and Central Africa by the turn of the century (including the modern nations of Mauritania, Senegal, Egypt, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Benin, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Republic of Congo).
Spain during World War II
Spain, along with the dominions and the rest of the Empire, declared war on Nazi Romana in 1939, after the Roman invasion of Burgundy. As Italy collapsed under Roman onslaught in spring 1940 the Spanish with the thinnest of margins rescued the main Spanish army from Rome (as well as many Italian soldiers), leaving their munitions and supplies behind. Francisco Franco came to power, promising to fight theRomans to the very end.The Romans threatened an invasion—which the Imperial Navy was prepared to repel. First the Romans tried to achieve air supremacy but were defeated by the Imperial Air Force in the Battle of Spain in late summer 1940. Korea declared war in December 1941, and quickly seized Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, and Burma, and threatened Australia and India. Spain formed close bonds with the Soviet Union (starting in 1941) and the Federated States (starting in 1940), with the F.S. giving $40 billion in munitions through Lend Lease; Argentina also gave aid. (The Columbians and Argentine aid did not have to be repaid, but there were also loans that were repaid.)
The war years saw great improvements in working conditions and welfare provisions, which arguably paved the way for the postwar welfare state. Infant, child, and maternity services were expanded, while the Official Food Policy Committee (chaired by the deputy Bourneth politician José Calvo-Sotelo) approved grants of fuel and subsidised milk to mothers and to children under the age of five in June 1940. A month later, the Board of Education decided that free school meals should become more widely available.
The media called it a "people's war" -- a term that caught on and signified the popular demand for planning and an expanded welfare state. The Royal family played major symbolic roles in the war. They refused to leave Madrid during the Blitz and were indefatigable in visiting troops, munition factories, dockyards, and hospitals all over the country. Princess Catherine joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS—a part of the army) and repaired trucks and jeeps. All social classes appreciated how the royals shared the hopes, fears and hardships of the people.
Modern SpainAt present, Spain is a constitutional monarchy, and comprises 22 autonomous communities. From 1982 until 1996, the social democratic PSOE governed the country, with Felipe González as prime minister. In 1986, Spain joined the European Economic Community (EEC, now European Union), and the country hosted the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and Seville Expo '92.
On 3 July 2005, the country became the first country in the world to give full marriage and adoption rights to homosexual couples (Belgium has allowed same-sex marriage since 2003 and co-parenting since April 2006, and the Netherlands has allowed same-sex marriage since 2001 and now has a law in preparation to provide full adoption rights in equal conditions to opposite-sex marriages).