Spain's history was shaped by many forces. Celts,
Romans, Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Germanic tribes all had a
part in influencing the people of Spain.
After the fall of the Roman Empire in the fifth
century, Spain was held by a barbaric white tribe, the Visigoths.
Though they were Christians, their brand of Christianity was cruel
and unjust. For this reason, Spain's Jews, serfs, and slaves aided
the Islamic conquerors called Moors, that crossed the Straits of
Gibraltar in the early 700's and took over Spain. The Moors ruled
the area of Andalucia for more than seven hundred years and were
perhaps the greatest influence on artistic and intellectual strength
in Spain. Despite periods of instability, Andalucia flourished as
a center of learning, trade and culture characterized a blend between
the Christian and Arab worlds.
After a struggle with Christian forces, the Moors
were finally shut out in 1492. Most of the Reconquests had been
done by the mid-13th century and Spaniards slowly continued to take
back the land. The Spanish church was a unifying factor. The Spanish
were very devout Christians, who believed that they had the duty
to convert others to the faith, by persuasion or force.
The same year that Columbus crossed the Atlantic
under the Spanish flag and revealed the New World to Europe. The
following century saw the culmination of Spain's power and influence
on a world scale. The spanish army was formidable and had a tradition
of victory. For 150 years, no Spanish army was defeated in a pitched
battle. Spanish kings controlled all or parts of what are now Portugal,
the Netherlands, Italy and France and was a great power in Europe
for a long time.
In addition to focusing their attention far abroad,
imperial ambitions brought on excess that eventually slowed the
strength of Spain. By the late 1800s, the country nearly lost all
of its colonial possessions.
The 20th century began with an economic disaster
as its traditional culture clashed with modern political and social
forces. The culminating turmoil snapped in 1936 at the start of
the horrific Spanish Civil war. Fascist dictator, General Francisco
Franco, with the help of Hitler and Mussolini, emerged victorious
from the civil war and ruled until Franco died in 1975. Spain was
taken over by King Juan Carlos I, who soon led Spain toward democracy.
As a fruit of its new freedoms, the country celebrated a cultural
renaissance in the 1980s and 1990s, and in 1992 hosted both the
Summer Olympics in Barcelona and the Expo '92 in Sevilla.