History of Catalonia

History of Catalonia

The territory that now constitutes the autonomous community of Catalonia in Spain, and the adjoining Catalan region of France, was first settled during the Middle Palaeolithic. Like the rest of the Mediterranean coast of the Iberian Peninsula, it was colonized by Ancient Greeks and Carthaginians and participated in the pre-Roman Iberian culture. With the rest of Hispania, it was part of the Roman Empire, then came under Visigothic rule after Rome's collapse. The northernmost part of Catalonia was briefly occupied by the Moorish (Muslim-ruled) al-Andalus in the VIII century, but after the defeat of Emir Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqiwas's troops at Tours in 732 local Visigoths regained autonomy, though they voluntarily made themselves tributary to the emerging Frankish kingdom, which gave the grouping of these local powers the generic name Marca Hispanica or Spanish March.

Identifiably Catalan culture developed in the Middle Ages under the hegemony of the Counts of Barcelona. As part of the Crown of Aragon — most historians would say the dominant part — the Catalans became a maritime power, expanding by trade and conquest into Valencia, the Balearic Islands, and even Sardinia and Sicily.

The marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon (1469) unified Christian Spain; in 1492, the kingdom of Granada, the last political entity of al-Andalus in the peninsula, was conquered and the Spanish discovery and conquest of the Americas began. Political power began to shift away from the Crown of Aragon towards Castile.

For some time, Catalonia retained some its own laws, but these gradually eroded (albeit with occasional periods of regeneration) as did those of other parts of the country. Like other previously independent parts of the country, Catalonia experienced a loss of control over its own affairs over the centuries; this is especially so after the enthronement of the centralising Bourbon Dynasty in Madrid since under the Habsburgs the region was ruled as part of the independent Kingdom of Aragon.

The most significant conflict regarding this loss of control was the War of the Spanish Succession, which began when Carlos II died without an heir in 1700 and he appointed his grandnephew, Philip of Anjou, a grandson of Louis XIV and of his sister, the Infanta Maria Teresa of Austria, as King of Spain, something the Habsburgs in Vienna were not in agreement with.

Catalonia supported the claim of a member of the Austrian branch of the Habsburg dynasty (after breaking an oath of loyalty to Philip V from 1702), while the rest of Spain generally supported the French Bourbon claimant, Felipe V. Following the final surrender of Catalan troops on September 11, 1714, Felipe V's Nueva Planta decrees banned all the main Catalan political institutions and imposed military-based rule over the region. However, the Crown allowed for the region's Civil Law to be maintained.

As Philip V of Spain, Philip of Anjou abolished the ancient privileges of all of Spain's medieval kingdoms, including Aragon and, invariably, Catalonia, and, following the model of France, tried to impose a unifying legislation in the whole country, as well as inaugurating the Sallic Law and founding in 1714, Spains Royal Language Academy, or the Real Academia Española.

In the latter half of the 19th century, Catalonia became a center of Spain's industrialization; to this day it remains the most industrialized part of Spain, rivaled only by the Basque Country and the region of Madrid.

In the first third of the 20th century, Catalonia enjoyed and lost several times varying degrees of autonomy, but like the rest of Spain, Catalan autonomy and culture were crushed to an unprecedented degree after the defeat of the Second Spanish Republic (founded 1931) in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39) brought General Francisco Franco to power. Even though public use of the Catalan language was banned some people continued to speak the language privately.

After Franco's death (1975), the Spanish transition to democracy, and the adoption of a democratic Spanish constitution (1978), Catalonia recovered cultural autonomy and political autonomy.


Prehistory in Catalonia

The Proto-Celtic Urnfield Culture appeared in Catalonia during the late Bronze Age.

The first known human settlements in what is now Catalonia were at the beginning of the Middle Palaeolithic. The oldest known trace of human occupation is a mandible found in Banyoles, described by some sources as pre-Neanderthal some 200,000 years old; other sources suggest it to be only about one third that old.[1] Some of the most important prehistoric remains were found in the caves of Mollet (Serinyà, Pla de l'Estany), the Cau del Duc in the Montgrí mountain ("cau" meaning "cave" or "lair"), the remains at Forn d'en Sugranyes (Reus) and the shelters Romaní and Agut (Capellades), while those of the Upper Paleolithic are found at Reclau Viver, the cave of Arbreda and la Bora Gran d'en Carreres, in Serinyà, or the Cau de les Goges, in Sant Julià de Ramis. From the next prehistoric era, the Epipaleolithic or Mesolithic, important remains survive, the greater part dated between 8000 BC and 5000 BC, such as those of Sant Gregori (Falset) and el Filador (Margalef de Montsant).

The Neolithic era began in Catalonia around 4500 BC, although the population was slower to develop fixed settlements than in other places, thanks to the abundance of woods, which allowed the continuation of a fundamentally hunter-gatherer culture. The most important Neolithic remains in Catalonia are the Cave of Fontmajor (l'Espluga de Francolí), The Cave of Toll (Morà), the caves Gran and Freda (Montserrat) and the shelters of Cogul and Ulldecona.

The Calcolithic or Eneolithic period developed in Catalonia between 2500 and 1800 BC, with the beginning of the construction of copper objects. The Bronze Age occurred between 1800 and 700 BC. There are few remnants of this era, but there were some known settlements in the low Segre zone. The Bronze Age coincided with the arrival of the Indo-Europeans through the Urnfield Culture, whose successive waves of migration began around 1200 BC, and they were responsible for the creation of the first proto-urban settlements. Around the middle of the 7th century BC, the Iron Age arrived in Catalonia.

The rise of Iberian culture

During the period of Iberian civilization, the Catalan territory was home to several distinct tribes: The Indiketes in Empordà, the Ceretans in Cerdanya and the Airenosins in the Val d'Aran. The influx of Celtic peoples led to a characteristic blend of cultures known as Celtiberian, which was affected by the first arrival of colonists from Ancient Greece and Carthage; like the rest of the Iberian Peninsula, Catalonia participated in what became the Iberian culture. At this time Empúries (originally Greek Emporion market, then Emporiae), on the coast of what is now the Catalan province of Girona, a commercial enclave, founded from the Greek city of Phocaea in the 6th century BC.

From the 8th century BC to the 7th century BC the indigenous peoples came into contact with the colonizers, and the first iron objects are found in the area. From the 7th century BC to the middle of the 5th century BC, the process of Iberianization was consolidated. A period of plenty lasted from the middle of the 5th century BC until the 3rd century BC. Finally, after the 218 BC arrival of the Romans, the Iberian culture was absorbed into that of Rome.

Roman times

Romanization brought a second, distinct stage in the ancient history of Catalonia. Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus arrived in Empúries, with the objective of cutting off the sources of provisions of Hannibal's Carthaginian army during the Second Punic War. After the Carthaginian defeat, and the defeat of various Iberian tribes who rose up against Roman rule, 195 BC saw the effective completion of the Roman conquest of the territory that later became Catalonia and Romanization began in earnest. The various tribes were absorbed into a common Roman culture and lost their distinct characteristics, including differences of language.

Most of what is now Catalonia first became part of the Roman province of Hispania Citerior; after 27 BC, they became part of Tarraconensis, whose capital was Tarraco (now Tarragona). The arrival of Roman administrative and institutional structures led to the development of a network of cities and roads, the adoption of agriculture based on cereals, grapes, and olives, the introduction of irrigation, the development of Roman law, and the adoption of the Latin language.

From late antiquity to feudalism

Visigothic and Muslim rule

The Crisis of the Third Century affected the whole Roman Empire, and gravely affected the Catalan territory, where there is evidence of significant levels of destruction and abandonment of Roman villas. This is also the period of the first documentary evidence of the arrival of Christianity. While archaeological evidence shows the recovery of some urban nuclei, such as Barcino (later Barcelona), Tarraco (later Tarragona), and Gerunda (later Girona), the previous situation was not restored: the cities became smaller, and constructed defensive walls.

In the 5th century, as part of the invasion of the Roman Empire by Germanic tribes, the Visigoths led by Athaulf, installed themselves in Tarraconensis (410) and when in 475 the Visigothic king Euric formed the kingdom of Tolosa (modern Toulouse, France), he incorporated the territory equivalent to present-day Catalonia. The Visigoths dominated the territory until the beginning of the 8th century, first from Toulouse and later from Toledo. In 718, the Muslim conquest of Spain reached the northeastern part of the peninsula and made incursions into Septimania, a process that took place with few major battles in this region, one of the most notable being at Tarragona.

Carolingian conquest

Within a century, the Catalan regions were conquered by the Franks as part of the Carolingian reaction against the Moorish advances. In the last quarter of the 8th century, the Franks pacified Septimania and conquered the Pyrenean portion of Catalonia extending their power as far as Girona. Charlemagne's son Louis took Barcelona from the Moorish emir in 801, ultimately forming a frontier zone at the rivers Llobregat, Cardener, and the middle branch of the river Segre. This borderland between the Franks and the Moors became known as the Marca Hispanica (Spanish Marches), a buffer zone ruled by the Count of Barcelona, with outlying small separate territories, each ruled by a lesser miles with armed retainers, who theoretically owed allegiance through the Count to the Emperor, or (with less fealty) to his Carolingian and Ottonian successors.

This new Frankish territory was first organized politically into different counties (in the narrow sense of the word: the ruler of each took the title of count). At the end of the 9th century, the Carolingian monarch Charles the Bald designated Wilfred the Hairy — a noble descendant of a family from Conflent and son of the earlier Count of Barcelona Sunifred I — as count of Cerdanya and Urgell (870); after Charles's death (877), Wilfred became count of Barcelona and Girona (878) as well, which brought together the greater part of what was to become the Catalan territory, and although on his death the counties were divided again among his sons, except for one brief period Barcelona, Girona, and Osona continued to be unified under one count.

The rise and fall of the aloers

During the 10th century the Catalan counts became increasingly independent of the Carolingian power, which the count Borrell II made official in 987 when he failed to swear fealty to Hugh Capet, the first Capetian monarch. In those years of the formation of the Catalan counties, the population of the territory began to increase for the first time since the Muslim invasion. During the 9th and 10th centuries, Catalonia increasingly became a society of aloers, peasant proprietors of small, family-based farms, producing little more than subsistence, and owing no formal feudal allegiance.

The 11th century was characterized by the development of feudal society, as the miles formed links of vassalage over this previously independent peasantry. The middle years of the century were characterized by virulent class warfare. Seigniorial violence was unleashed against the peasants, utilizing new military tactics, based on contracting well armed mercenary soldiers mounted on horses. By the end of the century, most of the aloers had been converted into vassals.

This coincided with a weakening of the power of the counts and the division of the Spanish Marches into more numerous counties, which gradually became a feudal state based on complex fealties and dependencies. From the time of the triumph of Ramon Berenguer I over the other Catalan counts, the counts of Barcelona stood firmly at the peak of a web of fealty, tying all the Catalan counts to their crown.

First references to the name Catalonia

In this new feudal state, each miles was the castlà ("castellan" or lord of the castle) in an area largely defined by a day's ride, the region dotted with strongholds becoming known by them, in an etymology parallel to Castile at a later date, as "Catalunya" or "Catalonia".

The term "Catalonia" is first documented in an early 12th-century Latin chronicle called the Liber maiolichinus, where Ramon Berenguer III, Count of Barcelona is referred to as catalanicus heroes, rector catalanicus, and dux catalanensis. The name Catalania (Catalonia) is also found and catalanenses (Catalans) appears opposite goti ("Goths"), referring to the people of the Languedoc.

Catalonia, Aragon and Castile

Union with Aragon

Until the middle of the 12th century, the successive counts of Barcelona tried to expand their domain in multiple directions. They incorporated the county of Besalú, part of the county of Empúries, all of the county of Cerdanya, and, briefly, even the county of Provence. The Catalan church, for its part, became independent of the bishopric of Narbonne, recovering an episcopal see at Tarragona (1118).

During the reign of Ramon Berenguer IV (reigned 1131–1162), several events occurred that would be crucial for the future of Catalonia. His marriage to Petronilla of Aragon implied the union of the County of Barcelona and the Kingdom of Aragon in a new state, this union later being confirmed in the 14th century by Peter IV of Aragon ("Peter the Ceremonious"). Ramon Berenguer IV used "Aragon" as his primary title and name of his ruling house, which absorbed the House of Barcelona, abolished in 1150 for reasons of mutual convenience and by the will of the Count himself, as he relinquished his own lineage to benefit from a higher one. Thus, he took the simple title Princeps ("prince") beside his wife with her title of Regina ("queen"); and their son, now that Barcelona was incorporated into the Crown, took the title Rex ("king") of Aragon, and not Catalonia. Catalonia and Aragon, however, retained their distinct traditional rights, and Catalonia its own personality with one of the first parliaments in Europe, the Corts catalanes.

In addition, the reign of Ramon Berenguer IV saw the Catalan conquest of Lleida and Tortosa, completing the unification of all of the territory that comprises modern Catalonia. This included a territory to the south of the historic Spanish Marches, which became known as Catalunya Nova ("New Catalonia") and which was repopulated with Catalans by the end of the 12th century.

The Crown of Aragon

Over the next few centuries, Catalonia became one of the most important regions in Europe, dominating a maritime empire that extended across the western Mediterranean after the conquest of Valencia, Balearic Islands, Sardinia, and the accession to Sicily of the kings of Aragon.

At the end of the 12th century, a series of pacts with the kingdom of Castile delimited the zones that the two kingdoms would each attempt to conquer back Muslim-ruled territory (the "Reconquista"); to the east, in 1213, the defeat and death of Peter II of Aragon ("Peter the Catholic") in the Battle of Muret put an end to the project of consolidating Catalan power over Provence. His successor James I of Aragon did not fully consolidate his power until 1227; once he consolidated his inherited realm, he began a series of new conquests. Over the course of the next quarter-century he conquered Majorca and Valencia.

The latter became a new state, the third kingdom associated with the Crown of Aragon (or, as some historians now call it, the Catalan-Aragonese empire), with its own court and a new fuero (code of laws): the Furs de Valencia. In contrast, the Majorcan territory together with that of the counts of Cerdanya and Roussillon and the city of Montpellier were left as a kingdom for his son James II of Majorca as the Kingdom of Majorca. This division began a period of struggle that ended with the annexation of that kingdom by the Crown of Aragon in 1344 by Peter IV "the Ceremonious".

Europe in 1470.

Catalonia saw a prosperous period at the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th. The population increased; Catalan culture expanded into the islands of the Western Mediterranean. The reign of Peter III of Aragon ("the Great") included the conquest of Sicily and the successful defense against a French crusade; his son and successor Alfonso ("the Generous") conquered Minorca; and Peter's second son James II, who first acceded to the throne of Sicily and then succeeded his older brother as king of Aragon, conquered Sardinia; under James II, Catalonia reached the height of its power in the Middle Ages.

Nonetheless, the second quarter of the 14th century saw crucial changes for Catalonia, marked by a succession of natural catastrophes, demographic crises, stagnation and decline in the Catalan economy, and the rise of social tensions. The reign of Peter the Ceremonious was a time of war: the annexation of Majorca, the quelling of a rebellion in Sardinia, a rebellion by Aragonese unionists (that is, a faction who wished to extinguish local privileges in favor of a more centralized kingdom of Aragon), and, above all, war with Castile. These wars created a delicate financial situation, in a framework of demographic and economic crisis, to which was added a generation later a crisis of succession generated by the death in 1410 of Martin I without a descendant or a named successor. A two-year interregnum progressively evolved in favor of a candidate from the Castilian Trastámara dynasty, Ferdinand of Antequera, who after the Compromise of Caspe (1412), was named Ferdinand I of Aragon.

Ferdinand's successor, Alfonso V ("the Magnanimous"), promoted a new stage of expansion, this time over the Kingdom of Naples, over which he finally gained dominion in 1443. At the same time, though, he aggravated the social crisis in Catalonia, both in the countryside and in the cities. The outcome of these conflicts was the 1462 "remença" (serfs') rebellion, a peasant rebellion against seignorial pressures, which led to a ten-year civil war that left the country exhausted. The remença conflict did not reach any definitive conclusion and from 1493 France formally annexed the counties of Roussillon and Cerdanya, which it had occupied during the conflict. Ferdinand II of Aragon ("Ferdinand the Catholic") finally resolved the major grievances of the remences with the Sentencia Arbitral de Guadalupe in 1486, profoundly reformed Catalan institutions, recovered without war the northern Catalan counties, and increased active involvement in Italy.

Crown of Aragon union with Crown of Castile

Ferdinand's 1469 marriage to Isabella I of Castile brought about a dynastic union of the Crown of Aragon with Castile. In 1516 the monarchies were formally united into a single Kingdom of Spain, but each former kingdom conserved its political institutions and maintained its own courts, laws, public administration, and separate coinage of money.

When Christopher Columbus "discovered" America during a Spanish-sponsored expedition, it shifted Europe's economic centre of gravity (and the focus of Spain's ambitions) from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic Ocean and undermined Catalonia's economic and political importance. Aragonese and Catalan power in the Mediterranean would continue, but efforts to achieve further Spanish conquests in Europe itself generally slackened, and the maritime expansion into the Atlantic and the conquest of Central and South America was not a Catalan enterprise. Castile and Aragon were separate states until 1716, in spite of the dynastic union, and the newly established colonies in the Americas were Castilian, administered as appendages of Castile, until 1778 Seville was the only port authorized to trade in America, and until the dynastic union Catalans, as subjects of the Crown of Aragon, had no right to trade in the Castilian-ruled Americas.

In the 16th century, the Catalan population began a demographic recuperation and some measure of economic recuperation. The reign of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor as Charles I of Spain was a harmonious period, during which Catalonia generally accepted the new structure of Spain, despite its own marginalization. As the focus of Spanish maritime power and of European rivalry shifted to the Atlantic, the Kingdom of Valencia became the most important kingdom of the former Aragonese confederation, eclipsing Barcelona. The reign of Philip II marked the beginning of a gradual process of deterioration of Catalan economy, language, and culture. Among the most negative elements of the period were a rise in piracy along the coasts and banditry in the interior.

The Reapers' War

The Reapers' War (Catalan: Guerra dels Segadors, 1640–52) started as an uprising of peasants in Barcelona. Conflicts had already arisen between Catalonia and the monarchy in the time of Philip II. Having exhausted the economic resources of Castile, Philip wished to avail himself of those of Catalonia; the Catalan governmental institutions and privileges were well protected by the terms of union of the kingdoms, and were jealously guarded by the Catalan oligarchy. After Philip IV acceped to the throne in 1621, the Count-Duke of Olivares attempted to sustain an ambitious foreign policy by taxing the kingdoms of the Iberian Peninsula, which meant laying aside the until-then-prevailing principles of confederation, in favor of centralism (often referred to in a Spanish context as unitarism). Resistance in Catalonia was especially strong, given the lack of any significant apparent regional return for the sacrifices.

When Spanish tercios (military corps) concentrated in Roussillon at the end of the 1630s, because of the Thirty Years' War with France, the local peasants were required to lodge and provision the troops. On June 7, 1640, an uprising known as the Corpus de Sang took the lives of various royal functionaries, not all of them Castilian. Mutinies continued; the Generalitat of Catalonia succeeded in channeling the revolt against the policies of the Count-Duke, transforming a social revolt into a political war against Castilian domination, a war for Catalan independence.

The president of the Generalitat, Pau Claris, declared a Catalan Republic under the protection of Louis XIII of France. This allowed French troops to draw that much closer to the heartland of Spain. By 1652, Catalonia was again occupied by Spanish troops; war with France lasted until 1659, when the Peace of the Pyrenees ceded Roussillon, Conflent, Vallespir, Capcir, and the northern half of Cerdanya to France. These remain French territory to this day.

War of the Spanish Succession

The War of the Spanish Succession (1705–14) resulted in the revocation of Catalonia's traditional autonomy and privileges as apunishment for their sedition. Afterwards, the government attempted to harmonise the Catalans' sense of identity as a nation within Spain. The Catalan language was withdrawn from the administrative area in varying degrees for the next two and a half centuries.

In the last decades of the 17th century, despite the persistence of intermittent violent conflict with France, the Catalan economy began to recover, not only in Barcelona, but also along the Catalan coast and even in some inland areas. However, at the end of the century, after the death of the childless Charles II (1700), the crown of Spain went to Philip V of the House of Bourbon. The Grand Alliance of England, the United Provinces (the antecedent of the Netherlands) and Austria gave military support to a rival claimant to the crown, Archduke Charles. Catalonia initially accepted Philip V following prolonged negotiations between Philip V and the Catalan Cortes between 12.10.1701 and 14.1.1702, which resulted in an agreement where Catalonia retained all its previous privileges and gained a the status of free port (Puerto Franco) for Barcelona as well as the right to commerce with America, but this did not last. In 1705 the Archduke entered Barcelona, which recognized him as king in 1706; thus, this breach of an oath of loyalty had negative repercussions when Philip V eventually won the war.

The resulting war (1705–14) may have benefitted Charles's foreign allies, but was a disaster for the Catalan and Aragonese lands. By 1710 politico-administrative structures of Valencia and Aragon were destroyed and their privileges abolished. The later course of the war and the Treaty of Utrecht (1713–14) ended the possibility of Barcelona's resistance. After the fall of Barcelona (September 11, 1714), the triumphant forces systematically dismantled the Catalan institutions, in a process that culminated in the Nueva Planta decree (1716), which abolished the Catalan constitutions, established a new territorial and administrative structure for the whole of Spain, suppressed the Catalan universities (Barcelona University moved to Cervera) and abolished the administrative use of the Catalan language; half a century later, the Catalan language would also be banned from primary and secondary schools.

Economic recovery

Despite the difficult internal situation, Catalonia recovered significantly in the course of the 18th century. The population and the economy both grew, agricultural production increased, and trade increased (especially thanks to increased commerce with the Americas), transformations all of which (as in France) tended to undermine the Old Regime and lay the ground for the rise of industrialization, the first signs of which appeared in the 18th-century manufacture of cotton goods and other textiles. By the end of the 18th century, the popular classes began to experience the first effects of proletarianization.

The Napoleonic Wars

In the 1790s, new conflicts arose on the French border, due to the French Revolution and the French Revolutionary Wars. In 1808, during the Napoleonic Wars, Catalonia was occupied by the troops of General Guillaume Philibert Duhesme. The official Spanish army had evaporated, but popular resistance against the French occupation occurred in Catalonia as in other parts of Spain, and eventually developed into the Peninsular War. Girona was besieged by the French and defended by its inhabitants under the direction of general and military governor Mariano Alvarez de Castro. The French finally took the city December 10, 1809, after many deaths on both sides from hunger, epidemics, and cold; Álvarez de Castro died in prison one month later.

Between 1812 and 1813, Catalonia was directly annexed to France itself, and organized as four (later two) départements.

French dominion in parts of Catalonia lasted until 1814, when the British General Wellington signed the armistice by which the French left Barcelona and the other strongholds that they had managed to keep until the last.

The Carlist wars

The reign of Ferdinand VII (reigned 1808–33) saw several Catalan uprisings and after his death the conflict over the succession between the absolutist "Carlist" partisans of Infante Carlos and the liberal partisans of Isabella II led to the First Carlist War, which lasted until 1840 and was especially virulent in the Catalan territory. As with the Basques, many of the Catalans fought on the Carlist side, not because they supported absolute monarchy, but because they hoped that restoration of the Old Regime would mean restoration of their fueros and recovery of regional autonomy.

The victory of the liberals over the absolutists led to a "bourgeois revolution" during the reign of Isabella II. The reign of Isabella II was marked by corruption, administrative inefficiency, centralism, and political and social tensions. The liberals soon divided into "moderates" and "progressives", and in Catalonia a republican current began to develop; also, inevitably, Catalans generally favored a more federal Spain.

In September 1868, Spain's continuing economic crisis triggered the September Revolution or La Gloriosa, beginning the so-called Sexenio Revolucionario, the "six revolutionary years" (1868–1873). Among the most notable events of this period were the government of General Joan Prim and his assassination, the federalist revolt of 1869, the rise of Amadeo to the monarchy, the proclamation of the First Spanish Republic, the outbreak of the Third Carlist War and the spread of the ideas of the First International.


The second third of the 19th century saw a Catalan cultural renaissance, a cultural movement to recover Catalan language and culture after a long period of decay. This became politically important to Spain as a whole, because in the latter half of the 19th century, Catalonia became a centre of Spain's industrialization. An increasingly industrial Catalonia had to contend with a grave shortage of energy resources and the weakness of the domestic Spanish market. They were helped out by protectionist policies, which reduced the competition from foreign products. As in so much of Europe, the popular classes were molded into an industrial proletariat, living and working in inhuman conditions.

Catalan nationalism and the workers movement

In 1874, a coup by General Martínez Campos in Sagunto led to a restoration of the Bourbon dynasty in the person of Alfonso XII. A period of political stability, of repression of the workers movement, and of a slow growth in Catalan nationalist identity extended to the early years of the 20th century, when once again political opposition broke to the fore, especially republicanism and Catalan nationalism, but also class-based politics reflecting social tensions.

The following decades saw the rise of the political Catalanism still prevalent today: the first formulations of the modern Catalan national identity can be seen in Valentí Almirall. In 1901 Enric Prat de la Riba and Francesc Cambó formed the Regionalist League, which led to the electoral coalition Solidaritat Catalana. Catalan nationalism, under the leadership of Prat de la Riba, achieved in 1913 a victory in obtaining partial self-government for the "Commonwealth" (Catalan: Mancomunitat; Spanish: Mancomunidad), a grouping of the four Catalan provinces, presided over first by Prat de la Riba, and later by Josep Puig i Cadafalch; this was later suppressed in March 1925, during the 1923-1930 dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera.

The Catalan workers movement at the turn of the twentieth century consisted of three tendencies: syndicalism, socialism, and anarchism, part of the last openly embracing "propaganda of the deed" as advocated by Alejandro Lerroux. Along with Asturias, Catalonia in general and Barcelona in particular was a center of radical labor agitation, marked by numerous general strikes, assassinations (especially in the late 1910s), and the rise of the anarchist Confederación Nacional del Trabajo (National Confederation of Labour, CNT). The escalating violence between Catalan workers and the Catalan bourgeoisie led the latter to embrace the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera, despite his centralizing tendencies. (See also Anarchism in Spain.)

Republic and civil war

Bank note from the Generalitat de Catalunya, 1936.

After the fall of Primo de Rivera, the Catalan left made great efforts to create a united front under Francesc Macià. The Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya (Republican Left of Catalonia, or ERC) represented a break with the electoral abstentionism that, until then had been characteristic of the Catalan workers. Advocating socialism and Catalan independence, the party achieved a spectacular victory in the municipal elections of April 12, 1931, which preceded the April 14 proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic. The Catalan Generalitat was revived, and a September 1932 statute of autonomy for Catalonia gave a strong, though not absolute, grant of self-government. A similar statute granted automomy to the Basque Country.

Under its two presidents, Francesc Macià (1931–1933) and Lluís Companys (1934–1939), the republican Generalitat carried out a considerable task, despite the serious economic crisis, its social repercussions and the political vicissitudes of the period, including its suspension in 1934, due to an uprising in Barcelona in October that year. As for the workers' movement, there was the CNT crisis with the break-away faction in the 1930s and the formation of the Workers' Party of Marxist Unification (Spanish: Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista, POUM) and Unified Socialist Party of Catalonia (Catalan: Partit Socialista Unificat de Catalunya, PSUC).

After the electoral victory of the left in the Spanish national elections of February 1936 came the July 1936 armed insurrection that led to the Spanish Civil War. The defeat of the initial military rebellion in Catalonia placed Catalonia firmly in the Republican camp. During the war, there were two rival powers in Catalonia: the de jure power of the Generalitat and the de facto power of the armed popular militias. Violent confrontations between the workers' parties culminated in the defeat of the CNT-FAI and POUM, against whom the PSUC unleashed strong repression. The local situation resolved itself progressively in favor of the Generalitat, but at the same time the Generalitat was losing its autonomous power within republican Spain.

The military forces of the Generalitat were concentrated on two fronts: Aragon and Majorca. The latter was an utter disaster. The Aragon front resisted firmly until 1937, when the occupation of Lérida and Balaguer destabilized it. Finally, Franco's troops broke the republican territory in two by occupying Vinaròs, isolating Catalonia from the rest of republican Spain. The defeat of the Republican armies in the Battle of the Ebro led in 1938 and 1939 to the occupation of Catalonia by Franco's forces, who abolished Catalan autonomy and brought in a dictatorial regime, which took strong measures against Catalan nationalism and Catalan culture. Only forty years later, after Franco's death (1975) and the adoption of a democratic constitution in Spain (1978), did Catalonia recover its autonomy and reconstitute the Generalitat (1979).

George Orwell served with the POUM in Catalonia from December 1936 until June 1937. His memoir of that time, Homage to Catalonia, was first published in 1938 and foreshadowed the causes of Second World War. It remains one of the most widely read books on the Spanish Civil War.

Franco's dictatorship

As in the rest of Spain, the Franco era (1939–1975) in Catalonia saw the annulment of democratic liberties, the prohibition and persecution of parties, the rise of thoroughgoing censorship, and the banning of all leftist institutions. In Catalonia, it also meant the annulment of the statute of autonomy, the banning of many specifically Catalan institutions, and the complete suppression of the Catalan-language press, although the publication of Catalan books was allowed from 1941. During the first years, all resistance was energetically suppressed, the prisons filled up with political prisoners, and thousands of Catalans went into exile. In addition, 4000 Catalans were executed between 1938 and 1953, among them the former president of the Generalitat Lluís Companys i Jover.

After an initial period in which Spain tried to build an autarky, in the 1960s the economy entered a stage of agricultural modernization, increasing industrialization and the start of mass tourism. Catalonia was on the receiving end of migration within Spain, which especially accelerated the growth of Barcelona and its surrounding area. Working-class opposition to Franco began to appear, usually clandestinely, and most notably in the form of the Comisiones Obreras ("Workers Commissions"), a return of trade union organizing, and the revival of the PSUC. In the 1970s democratic forces united under the banner of the Assemblea de Catalunya ("Catalan Assembly").

Democracy restored

Franco's death initiated a period that came to be known as the "democratic transition", during which democratic liberties were restored, culminating in the Spanish Constitution of 1978. This constitution recognized the existence of multiple national communities within the Spanish state, which proposed the division of the country into autonomous communities. The first general elections in 1977 restored a provisional Generalitat, headed by Josep Tarradellas and including representatives of the various leading forces of the time. In 1979, the statute of autonomy was finally approved delegating more automomy in matters of education and culture than the 1932 statute, but less in terms of the systems of justice and public order. In it, Catalonia is defined as a "nationality", Catalan is recognized as Catalonia's own language, and became co-official with Spanish. New elections under this statute gave the Catalan presidency to Jordi Pujol, a position he would hold until 2003. During this time he also led Convergència i Unió (Convergence and Unity, CiU) a center-right Catalan nationalist electoral coalition consisting of his own Convergència Democràtica de Catalunya (Democratic Convergence of Catalonia, CDC) and the smaller and more conservative Unió Democràtica de Catalunya (Democratic Union of Catalonia).

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s the institutions of Catalan autonomy continued to develop, among them an autonomous police force, the creation of the comarcal administrations (roughly equivalent to United States "counties" or United Kingdom "shires" or "counties", but distinct from the historical Catalan counties) and a supreme court in the form of the Tribunal Superior de Justícia de Catalunya.

Catalonia's Law of Linguistic Normalization promoted Catalan-language media. The Catalan government provides subsidies to various means of promoting Catalan culture, including (for example) the making of Catalan-language films or the subtitling of foreign-language films in Catalan.

In 1992 Barcelona hosted the Summer Olympics, which brought international attention to Catalonia. During the 1990s, the absence of absolute majorities in the Spanish parliament made governments reliant on support from the various nationalist parties (Catalan, Basque, Canary Islands, etc.) which was leveraged by CiU, to gain broaden the scope of Catalan autonomy during the last government of Felipe González (1993–1996) and the first of José María Aznar (1996–2000).

In November 2003, elections to the Generalitat gave the plurality, but not the majority of seats to CiU. Three other parties (Socialists' Party of CataloniaSpanish Socialist Workers' Party, PSC-PSOE, Republican Left of Catalonia (ERC) and Initiative for Catalonia Greens (ICV)) united to take the government, making Pasqual Maragall, (PSC-PSOE) the new president.

This government proved unstable, especially on the issue of reforming the Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia, and new elections were held in autumn 2006. The result was again a plurality, but not a majority, for CiU, and PSC-PSOE, ERC and ICV again formed a coalition.

On 16 September 2005, the ICANN officially approved the domain.cat, the first domain for a language community.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Grun, R; et al. (2005), "ESR and U-series analyses of enamel and dentine fragments of the Banyoles mandible", Journal of Human Evolution, http://www.naturalsciences.be/mars/litterature/bibliography/bibtest/Grun2005, retrieved 31 October 2006 .
  • Historia de Cataluña, by V. Balaguer (II vols., Madrid, 1886, &c.)
  • Historia de Cataluña, by A. Bori y Fontesta (Barcelona, 1898)
  • Orígines históricos de Cataluña, by J. Balari y Jovany, Establecimiento Tipográfico de Hijos de Jaime Jesús, (Barcelona, 1899)
  • Colecció de monografies de Catalunya, by J. Reig y Vilardell (Barcelona, 1
  • Mentiras Historicas comunmente creidas by Jose Luis Vila-San-Juan Ed Planeta pp 215–230 1996 ISBN 84-08-01795-0

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