History, Language & Culture Spain
Iberia enters written records as a land populated largely by the Iberians, Basques and Celts. Early on its coastal areas were settled by Phoenicians who founded Western Europe's most ancient cities Phoenician influence expanded as much of the Peninsula was eventually incorporated into the Carthaginian Empire, becoming a major theatre of the Punic Wars against the expanding Roman Empire. After an arduous conquest, the peninsula came fully under Roman rule. During the early Middle Ages it came under Visigothic rule, and then much of it was conquered by Muslim invaders from North Africa. In a process that took centuries, the small Christian kingdoms in the north gradually regained control of the peninsula. The last Muslim state fell in 1492, the same year Columbus reached the Americas. A global empire began which saw Spain become the strongest kingdom in Europe, the leading world power for one and a half centuries, and the largest overseas empire for three centuries.
Continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. The Napoleonic conflict in Spain led to chaos, triggering independence movements that tore apart most of the empire and left the country politically unstable. Spain suffered a devastating civil war in the 1930s and then came under the rule of an authoritarian government, which oversaw a period of stagnation that was followed by a surge in the growth of the economy. Eventually, democracy was restored in the form of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. Spain joined the European Union, experiencing a cultural renaissance and steady economic growth until the beginning of the 21st century, that started a new globalised world with economic and ecological challenges.
Official language Spanish