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Spain (Listeni/ˈspeɪn/ SPAYN; Spanish: España, pronounced: [esˈpaɲa] ( listen)), officially the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: Reino de España),[c][7] 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 which Spain lays claim; to the north and north east 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 cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco plus Alborán island, the Chafarinas islands (Islas Chafarinas), Alhucemas island and Perejil (Parsley island). Furthermore, the town of Llívia is a Spanish exclave situated inside French territory. With an area of 505,992 square kilometres (195,365 sq mi), it is the fourth largest country in Europe.

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 500 million Spanish speakers today, making it the world's second 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, NATO, OECD, and WTO.


The true origins of the name España and its cognates "Spain" and "Spanish" are disputed. The ancient Roman name for Iberia, Hispania, may derive from poetic use of the term Hesperia to refer to Spain, reflecting the Greek perception of Italy as a "western land" or "land of the setting sun" (Hesperia, Ἑσπερία in Greek) and Spain, being still further west, as Hesperia ultima.[8]

It may also be a derivation of the Punic Ispanihad, meaning "land of rabbits" or "edge", a reference to Spain's location at the end of the Mediterranean; Roman coins struck in the region from the reign of Hadrian show a female figure with a coney at her feet.[9] There are also claims that España derives from the Basque word Ezpanna meaning "edge" or "border", another reference to the fact that the Iberian peninsula constitutes the southwest of the European continent.[8]

The humanist Antonio de Nebrija proposed that the word Hispania evolved from the Iberian word Hispalis, meaning "city of the western world". Jesús Luis Cunchillos argues that the root of the term span is the Phoenecian word spy, meaning "to forge metals". Therefore i-spn-ya would mean "the land where metals are forged".[10]
Main article: History of Spain

The Iberian peninsula enters written records as a land populated largely by the Iberians, Basques and Celts. After an arduous conquest, the peninsula came under the rule of Rome. During the early Middle Ages it came under Germanic rule but later, it was conquered by Moorish 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 Moorish kingdom fell in the same year Columbus reached the Americas. A global empire began which saw Spain become the strongest kingdom in Europe and the leading world power for a century and a half and the largest overseas empire for three centuries.

Continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. The Napoleonic invasions of Spain led to chaos, triggering independence movements that tore apart most of the empire and left the country politically unstable. Prior to the Second World War, Spain suffered a devastating civil war and came under the rule of an authoritarian government, whose rule oversaw a period of stagnation but that finished with a powerful economic surge. Eventually democracy was peacefully restored in the form of a parliamentary constitutional monarchy. In 1986, Spain joined the European Union, experiencing a cultural renaissance and steady economic growth.
Prehistory and pre-Roman peoples
Main article: Prehistoric Iberia
Altamira Cave paintings,[11] in Cantabria.

Archaeological research at Atapuerca indicates the Iberian Peninsula was populated by hominids 1.2 million years ago.[12] Modern humans first arrived in Iberia, from the north on foot, about 32,000 years ago.[13] The best known artifacts of these prehistoric human settlements are the famous paintings in the Altamira cave of Cantabria in northern Iberia, which were created about 15,000 BCE by cro-magnons.[11]

Archaeological and genetic evidence strongly suggests that the Iberian Peninsula acted as one of several major refugia from which northern Europe was repopulated following the end of the last ice age.

The two main historical peoples of the peninsula were the Iberians and the Celts. The Iberians inhabited the Mediterranean side from the northeast to the southeast. The Celts inhabited the Atlantic side, in the north, center (Celtiberian), northwest and southwest part of the peninsula. Basques occupied the western area of the Pyrenees mountain range and adjacent areas.

In the south of the peninsula appeared the semi-mythical city of Tartessos (c.1100 BC), whose flourishing trade in items made of gold and silver with the Phoenicians and Greeks is documented by Strabo and the Book of Solomon. Between about 800 BC and 300 BC, the seafaring Phoenicians and Greeks founded trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast. The Carthaginians briefly exerted control over much of the Mediterranean side of the peninsula, until defeated in the Punic Wars by the Romans.[14]
Roman Empire and the Gothic Kingdom
Main article: Hispania
Roman Aqueduct of Segovia.

During the Second Punic War, an expanding Roman Empire captured Carthaginian trading colonies along the Mediterranean coast from roughly 210 BC to 205 BC. It took the Romans nearly two centuries to complete the conquest of the Iberian peninsula, though they had control of it for over six centuries.
A votive crown of Recceswinth (653–672)

Roman rule was bound together by law, language, and the Roman road.[15]

The cultures of the Celtic and Iberian populations were gradually romanised (Latinised) at differing rates in different parts of Hispania. Local leaders were admitted into the Roman aristocratic class[d][14] Hispania served as a granary for the Roman market, and its harbours exported gold, wool, olive oil, and wine. Agricultural production increased with the introduction of irrigation projects, some of which remain in use. Emperors Hadrian, Trajan, Theodosius I, and the philosopher Seneca were born in Hispania.[e] Christianity was introduced into Hispania in the 1st century AD and it became popular in the cities in the 2nd century AD.[14] Most of Spain's present languages and religion, and the basis of its laws, originate from this period.[15]

The weakening of the Western Roman Empire's jurisdiction in Hispania began in 409, when the Germanic Suevi and Vandals, together with the Sarmatian Alans crossed the Rhine and ravaged Gaul until the Visigoths drove them into Iberia that same year. The Suevi established a kingdom in what is today modern Galicia and northern Portugal. As the western empire disintegrated, the social and economic base became greatly simplified: but even in modified form, the successor regimes maintained many of the institutions and laws of the late empire, including Christianity.

The Alans' allies, the Hasdingi Vandals, established a kingdom in Gallaecia, too, occupying largely the same region but extending farther south to the Duero river. The Silingi Vandals occupied the region that still bears a form of their name –Vandalusia, modern Andalusia, in Spain. The Byzantines established an enclave, Spania, in the south, with the intention of reviving the Roman empire throughout Iberia. Eventually, however, Hispania was reunited under Visigothic rule.
Muslim Iberia
Main article: Al-Andalus
The Alhambra, Granada.

In the 8th century, nearly all of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered (711–718) by largely Moorish Muslim armies from North Africa. These conquests were part of the expansion of the Umayyad Caliphate. Only a small area in the mountainous north-west of the peninsula managed to resist the initial invasion.

Under Islamic law, Christians and Jews were given the subordinate status of dhimmi. This status permitted Christians and Jews to practice their religions as people of the book but they were required to pay a special tax and to be subject to certain discriminations.[16][17]

Conversion to Islam proceeded at a steadily increasing pace. The muladies (Muslims of ethnic Iberian origin) are believed to have comprised the majority of the population of Al-Andalus by the end of the 10th century.[18][19]
Hypostyle hall inside of Great Mosque of Córdoba.

The Muslim community in the Iberian peninsula was itself diverse and beset by social tensions. The Berber people of North Africa, who had provided the bulk of the invading armies, clashed with the Arab leadership from the Middle East.[f] Over time, large Moorish populations became established, especially in the Guadalquivir River valley, the coastal plain of Valencia, the Ebro River valley and (towards the end of this period) in the mountainous region of Granada.[19]

Córdoba, the capital of the caliphate, was the largest, richest and most sophisticated city in western Europe. Mediterranean trade and cultural exchange flourished. Muslims imported a rich intellectual tradition from the Middle East and North Africa. Muslim and Jewish scholars played an important part in reviving and expanding classical Greek learning in Western Europe. The Romanised cultures of the Iberian peninsula interacted with Muslim and Jewish cultures in complex ways, thus giving the region a distinctive culture.[19] Outside the cities, where the vast majority lived, the land ownership system from Roman times remained largely intact as Muslim leaders rarely dispossessed landowners, and the introduction of new crops and techniques led to an expansion of agriculture.[citation needed]

In the 11th century, the Muslim holdings fractured into rival Taifa kingdoms, allowing the small Christian states the opportunity to greatly enlarge their territories.[19] The arrival from North Africa of the Islamic ruling sects of the Almoravids and the Almohads restored unity upon the Muslim holdings, with a stricter, less tolerant application of Islam, and saw a revival in Muslim fortunes. This re-united Islamic state, experienced more than a century of successes that partially reversed Christian gains.
Fall of Muslim rule and unification
Main article: Reconquista
Alcázar of Toledo, the city hosted the Royal Court during the fifteenth century.

The Reconquista ("Reconquest") was the centuries-long period of expansion of Iberia's Christian kingdoms. The Reconquista is viewed as beginning with the Battle of Covadonga in 722, and was concurrent with the period of Muslim rule on the Iberian peninsula. The Christian army's victory over Muslim forces led to the creation of the Christian Kingdom of Asturias along the northwestern coastal mountains. Shortly after, in 739, Muslim forces were driven from Galicia, which was to eventually host one of medieval Europe's holiest sites, Santiago de Compostela and was incorporated into the new Christian kingdom. Muslim armies had also moved north of the Pyrenees, but they were defeated by Frankish forces at the Battle of Poitiers, Frankia. Later, Frankish forces established Christian counties on the southern side of the Pyrenees. These areas were to grow into the kingdoms of Navarre, Aragon and Catalonia.[20] For several centuries, the fluctuating frontier between the Muslim and Christian controlled areas of Iberia was along the Ebro and Duero valleys.
Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, the Catholic Monarchs.

The breakup of Al-Andalus into the competing taifa kingdoms helped the long embattled Iberian Christian kingdoms gain the initiative. The capture of the strategically central city of Toledo in 1085 marked a significant shift in the balance of power in favour of the Christian kingdoms. Following a great Muslim resurgence in the 12th century, the great Moorish strongholds in the south fell to Christian Spain in the 13th century—Córdoba in 1236 and Seville in 1248—leaving only the Muslim enclave of Granada as a tributary state in the south.[21]

In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Marinids Muslim sect based in North Africa invaded and established some enclaves on the southern coast but failed in their attempt to re-establish Muslim rule in Iberia and were soon driven out. The 13th century also witnessed the Crown of Aragon, centred in Spain's north east, expand its reach across islands in the Mediterranean, to Sicily and even Athens.[22] Around this time the universities of Palencia (1212/1263) and Salamanca (1218/1254) were established. The Black Death of 1348 and 1349 devastated Spain.[23]
Christoper Columbus arrives in America.

In 1469, the crowns of the Christian kingdoms of Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. 1478 commenced the completion of the conquest of the Canary Islands and in 1492, the combined forces of Castile and Aragon captured the Emirate of Granada, ending the last remnant of a 781-year presence of Islamic rule in Iberia. The Treaty of Granada guaranteed religious tolerance toward Muslims.[24] The year 1492 also marked the arrival in the New World of Christopher Columbus, during a voyage funded by Isabel. That same year, Spain's Jews were ordered to convert to Catholicism or face expulsion from Spanish territories during the Spanish Inquisition.[25] A few years later, following social disturbances, Muslims were also expelled under the same conditions.[g][26]

As Renaissance New Monarchs, Isabel (Elizabeth) and Fernando (Ferdinand) centralised royal power at the expense of local nobility, and the word España, whose root is the ancient name Hispania, began to be commonly used to designate the whole of the two kingdoms.[26] With their wide-ranging political, legal, religious and military reforms, Spain emerged as the first world power.
Imperial Spain
Main article: Spanish Empire
The Luso-Hispano Empire at the beginning of the Iberian Union, 1581

The unification of the crowns of Aragon and Castile by the marriage of their sovereigns laid the basis for modern Spain and the Spanish Empire, although each kingdoms of Spain remain as separate countries, in social, political, laws, currency and language. [27] [28] Spain was Europe's leading power throughout the 16th century and most of the 17th century, a position reinforced by trade and wealth from colonial possessions. It reached its apogee during the reigns of the first two Spanish Habsburgs – Charles I (1516–1556) and Philip II (1556–1598). This period saw the Italian Wars, the revolt of the comuneros, the Dutch revolt, the Morisco revolt, clashes with the Ottomans, the Anglo-Spanish war and wars with France.[29]

The Spanish Empire expanded to include great parts of the Americas, islands in the Asia-Pacific area, areas of Italy, cities in Northern Africa, as well as parts of what are now France, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. It was the first empire of which it was said that the sun never set.
A 17th century Spanish galleon

This was an age of discovery, with daring explorations by sea and by land, the opening-up of new trade routes across oceans, conquests and the beginnings of European colonialism. Along with the arrival of precious metals, spices, luxuries, and new agricultural plants, Spanish explorers brought back knowledge from the New World, and played a leading part in transforming the European understanding of the globe.[30] The cultural efflorescence witnessed is now referred to as the Spanish Golden Age. The rise of humanism, the Protestant Reformation and new geographical discoveries raised issues addressed by the influential intellectual movement now known as the School of Salamanca.

In the late 16th century and first half of the 17th century, Spain was confronted by unrelenting challenges from all sides. Barbary pirates under the aegis of the rapidly growing Ottoman empire, disrupted life in many coastal areas through their slave raids and renewed the threat of an Islamic invasion.[31] This at a time when Spain was often at war with France.

The Protestant Reformation schism from the Catholic Church dragged the kingdom ever more deeply into the mire of religiously charged wars. The result was a country forced into ever expanding military efforts across Europe and in the Mediterranean.[32]
El Escorial, central Spain.

By the middle decades of a war- and plague-ridden 17th century Europe the Spanish Habsburgs had enmeshed the country in the continent-wide religious-political conflicts. These conflicts drained it of resources and undermined the European economy generally. Spain managed to hold on to most of the scattered Habsburg empire, and help the imperial forces of the Holy Roman Empire reverse a large part of the advances made by Protestant forces, but it was finally forced to recognise the separation of Portugal (with whom it had been united in a personal union of the crowns from 1580 to 1640) and the Netherlands, and eventually suffered some serious military reverses to France in the latter stages of the immensely destructive, Europe-wide Thirty Years War.[33]
Hernán Cortés, Conquistador, Governor of New Spain.

In the latter half of the 17th century, Spain went into a gradual relative decline, during which it surrendered a number of small territories to France; however, it maintained and enlarged its vast overseas empire, which remained intact until the beginning of the 19th century.

The decline culminated in a controversy over succession to the throne which consumed the first years of the 18th century. The War of Spanish Succession was a wide-ranging international conflict combined with a civil war, and was to cost the kingdom its European possessions and its position as one of the leading powers on the Continent.[34] During this war, a new dynasty originating in France, the Bourbons, was installed. Long united only by the Crown, a true Spanish state was established when the first Bourbon king, Philip V, united the crowns of Castile and Aragon into a single state, abolishing many of the old regional privileges and laws.[35]

The 18th century saw a gradual recovery and an increase in prosperity through much of the empire. The new Bourbon monarchy drew on the French system of modernising the administration and the economy. Enlightenment ideas began to gain ground among some of the kingdom's elite and monarchy. Military assistance for the rebellious British colonies in the American War of Independence improved the kingdom's international standing.[36]
Napoleonic rule and its consequences
Main article: Mid-nineteenth century Spain
Battle of Bailén (July 1808), the first major defeat of Napoleon's Grande Armée.

In 1793, Spain went to war against the new French Republic, which had overthrown and executed its Bourbon king, Louis XVI. The war polarised the country in an apparent reaction against the gallicised elites. Defeated in the field, peace was made with France in 1795 and it effectively became a client state of that country; In 1807, the secret treaty of Fontainebleau between Napoleon and the deeply unpopular Godoy led to a declaration of war against Britain and Portugal. French troops entered the kingdom unopposed, supposedly to invade Portugal, but instead they occupied Spanish fortresses. This invasion by trickery led to the abdication of the ridiculed Spanish king in favour of Napoleon's brother, Joseph Bonaparte.

This foreign puppet monarch was widely regarded with scorn. The 2 May 1808 revolt was one of many nationalist uprisings against the Bonapartist regime across the country.[37] These revolts marked the beginning of what is known to the Spanish as the War of Independence, and to the British as the Peninsular War.[38] Napoleon was forced to intervene personally, defeating several badly coordinated Spanish armies and forcing a British army to retreat. However, further military action by Spanish guerrillas and armies, and Wellington's British-Portuguese forces, combined with Napoleon's disastrous invasion of Russia, led to the ousting of the French imperial armies from the Spain in 1814, and the return of King Ferdinand VII.[39]
Independence of Americas
Main article: Spanish American wars of independence

The French invasions devastated the economy, and left Spain a deeply divided country prone to political instability. The power struggles of the early 19th century led to the Spanish American wars of independence, losing all dominions which stretched from Las Californias to Patagonia, with the sole exception of the Caribbean, Cuba and Puerto Rico.
Disaster of '98
Main article: Spanish–American War
A satirical Catalan cartoon from La Campana de Gràcia (1896), criticising U.S. behaviour regarding Cuba.

Amid the instability and economic crisis that afflicted Spain in the 19th century there arose nationalist movements in the Philippines and Cuba. Wars of independence ensued in those colonies and eventually the United States became involved. Despite the commitment and ability shown by some military units, they were so mismanaged by the highest levels of command that the Spanish–American War, fought in the Spring of 1898, did not last long. "El Desastre" (The Disaster), as the war became known, helped give impetus to the Generation of 98 who were already conducting much critical analysis concerning the country. It also weakened the stability that had been established during Alfonso XII's reign.
Spanish Civil War
Main article: Spanish Civil War

The 20th century brought little peace; Spain played a minor part in the scramble for Africa, with the colonisation of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. The heavy losses suffered during the Rif war in Morocco helped to undermine the monarchy. A period of authoritarian rule under General Miguel Primo de Rivera (1923–1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. The Republic offered political autonomy to the Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia and gave voting rights to women.
Francisco Franco and US President Eisenhower, Madrid, 1959

The Spanish Civil War (1936–39) ensued. Three years later the rebel Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. The Republican side was supported by the Soviet Union, Mexico and International Brigades, including the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade, but it was not supported officially by the Western powers due to the British-led policy of Non-Intervention.

The Civil War claimed the lives of over 500,000 people[40] and caused the flight of up to a half-million citizens.[41] Most of their descendants now live in Latin American countries, with some 300,000 in Argentina alone.[42] The Spanish Civil War has been called the first battle of the Second World War.[by whom?]
Spain under Franco
Main article: Spain under Franco

The Spanish State established by Franco was nominally neutral in the Second World War, although sympathetic to the Axis. The only legal party under Franco's post civil war regime was the Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las JONS, formed in 1937; the party emphasised anti-Communism, Catholicism and nationalism. Given Franco's opposition to competing political parties, the party was renamed the National Movement (Movimiento Nacional) in 1949.

After World War II Spain was politically and economically isolated, and was kept out of the United Nations. This changed in 1955, during the Cold War period, when it became strategically important for the U.S. to establish a military presence on the Iberian peninsula as a counter to any possible move by the Soviet Union into the Mediterranean basin. In the 1960s, Spain registered an unprecedented rate of economic growth in what became known as the Spanish miracle, which resumed the much interrupted transition towards a modern economy.
Post Franco
Further information: Spanish society after the democratic transition
Spanish Constitution of 1978.

With Franco's death in November 1975, Juan Carlos succeeded to the position of King of Spain and head of state in accordance with the law. With the approval of the new Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the restoration of democracy, the State devolved much authority to the regions and created an internal organisation based on autonomous communities.

In the Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism has coexisted with a radical nationalist movement led by the armed organisation ETA. The group was formed in 1959 during Franco's rule but has continued to wage its violent campaign even after the restoration of democracy and the return of a large measure of regional autonomy.

On 23 February 1981, rebel elements among the security forces seized the Cortes in an attempt to impose a military backed government. King Juan Carlos took personal command of the military and successfully ordered the coup plotters, via national television, to surrender.

On 30 May 1982 Spain joined NATO, following a referendum. That year the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) came to power, the first left-wing government in 43 years. In 1986 Spain joined the European Community, which later became the European Union. The PSOE was replaced in government by the Partido Popular (PP) after the latter won the 1996 General Elections; at that point the PSOE had served almost 14 consecutive years in office.

On 1 January 2002, Spain ceased to use the peseta as currency replacing it with the euro, which it shares with 17 other countries in the Eurozone. Spain has also seen strong economic growth, well above the EU average; however, well publicised concerns issued by many economic commentators at the height of the boom that the extraordinary property prices and high foreign trade deficits of the boom were likely to lead to a painful economic collapse were confirmed by a severe property-led recession that struck the country in 2008/9.[43]

A series of bombs exploded in commuter trains in Madrid, Spain on 11 March 2004. After a five month trial in 2007 it was concluded the bombings were perpetrated by a local Islamist militant group inspired by al-Qaeda.[44] The bombings killed 191 people and wounded more than 1800, and the intention of the perpetrators may have been to influence the outcome of the Spanish general election, held three days later.[45]

Though initial suspicions focused on the Basque group ETA, evidence soon emerged indicating possible Islamist involvement. Because of the proximity of the election, the issue of responsibility quickly became a political controversy, with the main competing parties PP and PSOE exchanging accusations over the handling of the aftermath.[46] At 14 March elections, PSOE, led by José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, obtained a plurality, enough to form a new cabinet with Rodríguez Zapatero as the new Presidente del Gobierno or Prime Minister of Spain, thus succeeding the former PP administration.[47]

The bursting of the Spanish property bubble in 2008 led to the 2008–2012 Spanish financial crisis.

Main article: Geography of Spain
Bossòst, Lleida, a Pyrenean town

At 505,992 km2 (195,365 sq mi), Spain is the world's 52nd-largest country. It is some 47,000 km2 (18,000 sq mi) smaller than France and 81,000 km2 (31,000 sq mi) larger than the U.S. state of California. Mt. Teide (Tenerife) has the highest mountain peak of Spain and the third largest volcano in the world from its base.

Spain lies between latitudes 26° and 44° N, and longitudes 19° W and 5° E.
El Sardinero beach, Santander, Cantabria

On the west, Spain borders Portugal; on the south, it borders Gibraltar (a British overseas territory) and Morocco, through its exclaves in North Africa (Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera). On the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra. Along the Pyrenees in Gerona, a small exclave town called Llívia is surrounded by France.

Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the Strait of Gibraltar, known as Plazas de soberanía, such as the Chafarine islands, the isle of Alborán, Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil. The little Pheasant Island in the River Bidasoa is a Spanish-French condominium.

Islander population:[48]

Mountains and rivers

Mainland Spain is a mountainous country, dominated by high plateaus and mountain chains. After the Pyrenees, the main mountain ranges are the Cordillera Cantábrica, Sistema Ibérico, Sistema Central, Montes de Toledo, Sierra Morena and the Sistema Penibético whose highest peak, the 3,478 m high Mulhacén, located in Sierra Nevada, is the highest elevation in the Iberian peninsula, while the highest point in Spain is the Teide, a 3,718-metre (12,198 ft) active volcano in the Canary Islands. The Meseta Central is a vast plateau in the heart of peninsular Spain.

There are several major rivers in Spain such as the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.
Main article: Climate of Spain
Köppen climate classification of Spain

Three main climatic zones can be separated, according to geographical situation and orographic conditions:[49][50][51]

The Mediterranean climate, characterized by dry and warm summers. According to the Köppen climate classification, it is dominant in the peninsula, with two varieties: Csa and Csb. The Köppen-Geiger classification (Csb), extends to additional areas not typically associated with a typical Mediterranean climate, with a climate more extreme, hot in summer and cold in winter, such as much of central and northern-central of Spain (Ex. Madrid, Burgos, Leon).
The semiarid climate (Bsh, Bsk), located in the southeastern quarter of the country, especially in the region of Murcia and in the Ebro valley. In contrast with the Mediterranean climate, the dry season extends beyond the summer.
The oceanic climate (Cfb), located in north quarter of the country, especially in the region of Basque Country, Asturias, Cantabria and partly Galicia. In contrary to the Mediterranean climate, winter and summer temperatures are influenced by the ocean, and have no seasonal drought.

Apart from these main types, other sub-types can be found, like the alpine climate in the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada, and a typical subtropical climate in the Canary Islands.
Main articles: Politics of Spain and Spanish Constitution of 1978
HM Juan Carlos I King of Spain and HM Queen Sofía of Spain.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978 is the culmination of the Spanish transition to democracy. The constitutional history of Spain dates back to the constitution of 1812. Impatient with the pace of democratic political reforms in 1976 and 1977, Spain's new King Juan Carlos, known for his formidable personality, dismissed Carlos Arias Navarro and appointed the reformer Adolfo Suárez as Prime Minister.[52][53] The resulting general election in 1977 convened the Constituent Cortes (the Spanish Parliament, in its capacity as a constitutional assembly) for the purpose of drafting and approving the constitution of 1978.[54] After a national referendum on 6 December 1978, 88% of voters approved of the new constitution.

As a result, Spain is now composed of 17 autonomous communities and two autonomous cities with varying degrees of autonomy thanks to its Constitution, which nevertheless explicitly states the indivisible unity of the Spanish nation. The constitution also specifies that Spain has no state religion and that all are free to practice and believe as they wish.

As of November 2009, the government of Spain keeps a balanced gender equality ratio. Nine out of the 18 members of the government are women. Under the administration of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Spain has been described as being "at the vanguard" in gender equality issues and also that "[n]o other modern, democratic, administration outside Scandinavia has taken more steps to place gender issues at the centre of government".[55] The Spanish administration has also promoted gender-based positive discrimination by approving gender equality legislation in 2007 aimed at providing equality between genders in Spanish political and economic life (Gender Equality Act).[56][57] However, in the legislative branch, as of July 2010 only 128 of the 350 members of the Congress are women (36.3%).[58] It places Spain 13th on a list of countries ranked by proportion of women in the lower house. In the Senate, the ratio is even lower, since there are only 79 women out of 263 (30.0%).[59] The Gender Empowerment Measure of Spain in the United Nations Human Development Report is 0.794, 12th in the world.[60]
Branches of government
Mariano Rajoy, Prime minister.

Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes Generales. The executive branch consists of a Council of Ministers of Spain presided over by the Prime Minister, nominated and appointed by the monarch and confirmed by the Congress of Deputies following legislative elections. By political custom established by King Juan Carlos since the ratification of the 1978 Constitution, the king's nominees have all been from parties who maintain a plurality of seats in the Congress.

The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate (Senado) with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.

Head of State
King Juan Carlos I, since 22 November 1975
Head of Government
Prime Minister of Spain (Spanish Presidente del Gobierno literally President of the Government): Mariano Rajoy Brey, elected 20 November 2011.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for the Presidency: Soraya Sáenz de Santamaría.
Council of Ministers (Spanish Consejo de Ministros) designated by the Prime Minister.

Spain is organizationally structured as a so-called Estado de las Autonomías ("State of Autonomies"); it is one of the most decentralized countries in Europe, along with Switzerland, Germany and Belgium;[61] for example, all Autonomous Communities have their own elected parliaments, governments, public administrations, budgets, and resources. Health and education systems among others are managed regionally, and in addition, the Basque Country and Navarre also manage their own public finances based on foral provisions. In Catalonia and the Basque Country, a full fledged autonomous police corps replaces some of the State police functions (see Mossos d'Esquadra, Ertzaintza, Policía Foral and Policía Canaria).
See also: List of Spanish monarchs and Monarchs of Spain family tree
Administrative divisions
Main article: Political divisions of Spain

The Spanish State is integrated by 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities, both groups being the highest or first-order administrative division in the country. Autonomous communities are integrated by provinces, of which there are 50 in total, and in turn, provinces are integrated by municipalities. In Catalonia, two additional divisions exist, the comarques (sing. comarca) and the vegueries (sing. vegueria) both of which have administrative powers; comarques being aggregations of municipalities, and the vegueries being aggregations of comarques. The concept of a comarca exists in all autonomous communities, however, unlike Catalonia, these are merely historical or geographical subdivisions.
Autonomous communities and autonomous cities
Main article: Autonomous communities of Spain
See also: Nationalities and regions of Spain
La Rioja
La Mancha
and León
Basque Country
Mediterranean Sea
Bay of Biscay
Flag of the Balearic Islands.svg
Flag of Andalucía.svg
Flag of Castile and León.svg
Bandera de la Comunidad Valenciana (2x3).svg
Bandera Castilla-La Mancha.svg
Flag of Aragon.svg
Flag of the Community of Madrid.svg
Flag of La Rioja (with coat of arms).svg
Flag Melilla.svg
Gibraltar (UK)
Flag Ceuta.svg
Flag of Catalonia.svg
Flag of Cantabria.svg
Flag of the Basque Country.svg
Flag of Galicia.svg
Flag of Extremadura with COA.svg
Bandera de Navarra.svg
Flag of Asturias.svg
Flag of the Canary Islands.svg
Flag of the Region of Murcia.svg

Autonomous communities are the first level administrative division in the country. These were created after the 1979 and current constitution came into effect in recognition of the right to self-government to the "nationalities and regions of Spain".[62] Autonomous communities were to be integrated by adjacent provinces with common historial, cultural, and economical traits. This territorial organization, based on devolution, is known in Spain as the "State of Autonomies".

The basic institutional law of each autonomous community is the Statute of Autonomy. The Statutes of Autonomy establish the name of the community according to its historical identity, the limits of their territories, the name and organization of the institutions of government and the rights they enjoy according the constitution.[63]

The government of all autonomous communities must be based on a division of powers comprising:

a Legislative Assembly whose members must be elected by universal suffrage according to the system of proportional representation and in which all areas that integrate the territory are fairly represented;
a Government Council, with executive and administrative functions headed by a president, elected by the Legislative Assembly and nominated by the King of Spain;
a Supreme Court of Justice, under the Supreme Court of the State, which head the judicial organization within the autonomous community.

Catalonia, Galicia and the Basque Country, which identified themselves as "nationalities" were granted self-government through a rapid process. Andalusia also took that denomination in its first Statute of Autonomy, even though it followed the longer process stipulated in the constitution for the rest of the country. Progressively, other communities in revisions to their Statutes of Autonomy have also taken that denomination in accordance to their historical regional identity, such as the Valencian Community,[64] the Canary Islands,[65] the Balearic Islands,[66] and Aragon.[67]

The autonomous communities have wide legislative and executive autonomy, with their own parliaments and regional governments. The distribution of powers may be different for every community, as laid out in their Statutes of Autonomy, since devolution was intended to be asymmetrical. Only two communities—the Basque Country and Navarre—have full fiscal autonomy. Aside of fiscal autonomy, the "historical" nationalities—Andalusia, the Basque Country, Catalonia, and Galicia—were devolved more powers than the rest of the communities, amongst them the ability of the regional president to dissolve the parliament and call for elections at any time. In addition, the Basque Country, Catalonia and Navarre have police corps of their own: Ertzaintza, Mossos d'Esquadra and the Policía Foral respectively. Other communities have more limited forces or none at all, like the Policía Autónoma Andaluza[68] in Andalusia or the BESCAM in Madrid.

Nonetheless, recent amendments to existing Statutes of Autonomy or the promulgation of new Statutes altogether, have reduced the asymmetry between the powers originally granted to the "historical nationalities" and the rest of the regions.

Finally, along with the 17 autonomous communities, two autonomous cities are also part of the State of Autonomies and are first-order territorial divisions: Ceuta and Melilla. These are two exclaves located in the northern African coast.
Provinces of Spain.
Provinces and municipalities
Main articles: Provinces of Spain and Municipalities of Spain

Autonomous communities are subdivided into provinces (provincias), which served as their territorial building blocks. In turn, provinces are integrated by municipalities (municipios). The existence of both the provinces and the municipalities is guaranteed and protected by the constitution, not necessarily by the Statutes of Autonomy themselves. Municipalities are granted autonomy to manage their internal affairs, and provinces are the territorial divisions designed to carry out the activities of the State.[69]

The current provincial division structure is based—with minor changes—on the 1833 territorial division by Javier de Burgos, and in all, the Spanish territory is divided into 50 provinces. The communities of Asturias, Cantabria, La Rioja, the Balearic Islands, Madrid, Murcia and Navarre are the only communities that are integrated by a single province, which is coextensive with the community itself. In this cases, the administrative institutions of the province are replaced by the governmental institutions of the community.
European Union membership, 1986
Foreign relations
Main article: Foreign relations of Spain

After the return of democracy following the death of Franco in 1975, Spain's foreign policy priorities were to break out of the diplomatic isolation of the Franco years and expand diplomatic relations, enter the European Community, and define security relations with the West.

As a member of NATO since 1982, Spain has established itself as a participant in multilateral international security activities. Spain's EU membership represents an important part of its foreign policy. Even on many international issues beyond western Europe, Spain prefers to coordinate its efforts with its EU partners through the European political cooperation mechanisms.

Spain has maintained its special relation with Hispanic America and the Philippines. Its policy emphasizes the concept of an Iberoamerican community, essentially the renewal of the historically liberal concept of "Hispanidad" or "Hispanism", as it is often referred to in English, which has sought to link the Iberian Peninsula with Hispanic America through language, commerce, history and culture.
Territorial disputes

Spain claims Gibraltar, a six square km Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom in the southernmost part of the Iberian Peninsula. Then a Spanish town, it was conquered by an Anglo-Dutch force in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession on behalf of Archduke Charles, pretender to the Spanish throne.

Melilla and Gibraltar.

The legal situation concerning Gibraltar was settled in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, in which Spain ceded the territory in perpetuity to the British Crown[70] stating that, should the British abandon this post, it would be offered to Spain first. Since the 1940s Spain has called for the return of Gibraltar. The overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians strongly oppose this, along with any proposal of shared sovereignty.[71] UN resolutions call on the United Kingdom and Spain, both EU members, to reach an agreement over the status of Gibraltar.[72][73]

However, the Spanish claim makes a distinction between the isthmus that connects the Rock to the Spanish mainland on the one hand, and the Rock and city of Gibraltar on the other. While the Rock and city were ceded by the Treaty of Utrecht, Spain asserts that the "occupation of the isthmus is illegal and against the principles of International Law".[74] The United Kingdom relies on de facto arguments of possession by prescription in relation to the isthmus,[75] as there has been "continuous possession [of the isthmus] over a long period".[76]

Another claim by Spain is about the Savage Islands, not recognized by Portugal.

Spain claims the sovereignty over the Perejil Island, a small, uninhabited rocky islet located in the South shore of the Strait of Gibraltar. The island lies 250 metres (820 ft) just off the coast of Morocco, 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) from Ceuta and 13.5 kilometres (8.4 mi) from mainland Spain. Its sovereignty is disputed between Spain and Morocco. It was the subject of an armed incident between the two countries in 2002. The incident ended when both countries agreed to return to the status quo ante which existed prior to the Moroccan occupation of the island. The islet is now deserted and without any sign of sovereignty.

Besides the Perejil Island, the Spanish-held territories claimed by other countries are two: Morocco claims the Spanish cities of Ceuta and Melilla and the plazas de soberanía islets off the northern coast of Africa; and Portugal does not recognise Spain's sovereignty over the territory of Olivenza.
Spanish soldiers in Afghanistan.
Main article: Spanish Armed Forces

The armed forces of Spain are known as the Spanish Armed Forces (Spanish: Fuerzas Armadas Españolas). Their Commander-in-chief is the King of Spain, Juan Carlos I.[77]

The Spanish Armed Forces are divided into three branches:[78]

Army (Ejército de Tierra)
Navy (Armada)
Air Force (Ejército del Aire)

Main article: Economy of Spain
Madrid: Cuatro Torres Business Area
Barcelona: finance centre
Valencia: finance centre

Spain's capitalist mixed economy is the twelfth largest worldwide and the fifth largest in the European Union, as well as the Eurozone's fourth largest.

The centre-right government of former prime minister José María Aznar worked successfully to gain admission to the group of countries launching the euro in 1999. Unemployment stood at 7.6% in October 2006, a rate that compared favorably to many other European countries, and especially with the early 1990s when it stood at over 20%. Perennial weak points of Spain's economy include high inflation,[79] a large underground economy,[80] and an education system which OECD reports place among the poorest for developed countries, together with the United States and UK.[81]

However, the Spanish property bubble that begun building from 1997, fed by historically low interest rates and an immense surge in immigration, imploded in 2008, leading to a rapidly weakening economy and soaring unemployment. By the end of May 2009, unemployment reached 18.7% (37% for youths).[82][83]

Before the current crisis, the Spanish economy was credited for having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU.[84] In fact, the country's economy created more than half of all the new jobs in the European Union over the five years ending 2005, a process that is rapidly being reversed.[85] The Spanish economy has been until recently regarded as one of the most dynamic within the EU, attracting significant amounts of foreign investment.[86]

The most recent economic growth benefited greatly from the global real estate boom, with construction representing an astonishing 16% of GDP and 12% of employment in its final year.[87]

According to calculations by the German newspaper Die Welt in 2007, Spain was on course to overtake Germany in per capita income by 2011.[88] But the collapse of the housing boom in 2008 brought this to an end. According to the IMF, the PPP GDP per capita of Spain had, by 2010, slipped to USD 29,830; this compared to Germany at 36,081, UK 35,059, France 33,910, Italy 29,480, Greece 28,496, and Portugal 23,262.[89]

Research about quality of life by the Economist Intelligence Unit's quality of life survey placed Spain as the country among the top 10 best quality of life in the world for 2005, ahead of other economically and technologically advanced countries like France, Germany, the United Kingdom and South Korea.[90]

Before the collapse of the real estate boom there had been a corresponding rise in the levels of personal debt as prospective home owners struggled to meet asking prices. The average level of household debt tripled in less than a decade. This placed great pressure upon lower to middle income groups; by 2005 the median ratio of indebtedness to income had grown to 125%, due primarily to expensive boom time mortgages.[91]

The 2008/2009 credit crunch and world recession manifested itself in Spain through a massive downturn in the property sector. Fortunately, Spain's banks and financial services avoided the more severe problems of their counterparts in the USA and UK, due mainly to a stringently enforced conservative financial regulatory regime. The Spanish financial authorities had not forgotten the country's own banking crisis of 1979 and an earlier real-estate-precipitated banking crisis of 1993. Indeed, Spain's largest bank, Banco Santander, participated in the UK government's bail-out of part of the UK banking sector.[92]

A European Commission forecast predicted Spain would enter a recession by the end of 2008.[93] According to Spain’s Finance Minister, “Spain faces its deepest recession in half a century”.[94] Spain's government forecast the unemployment rate would rise to 16% in 2009. The ESADE business school predicted 20%.[95] In 2012, it had already risen to an astonishing 23.3%.[96]
Port of Málaga.
Main article: Tourism in Spain

During the last four decades the Spanish tourism industry has grown to become the second biggest in the world, worth approximately 40 billion Euros, about 5% of GDP, in 2006.[87][97] Today, the climate of Spain, historical and cultural monuments and its geographic position together with its facilities make tourism one of Spain's main national industries and a large source of stable employment and development. The Spanish hotel star rating system has requirements much more demanding than other European countries, so at a given rating Spanish accommodations worth higher.[98]
PS10 Seville solar power tower
Main article: Renewable energy in Spain

Spain is one of the world's leading countries in the development and production of renewable energy. In 2010 Spain became the solar power world leader when it overtook the United States with a massive power station plant called La Florida, near Alvarado, Badajoz.[99][100] Spain is also Europe's main producer of wind energy. In 2010 its wind turbines generated 42,976 GWh, which accounted for 16.4% of all the energy produced in Spain.[101][102][103] On 9 November 2010, wind energy reached an instantaneous historic peak covering 53% of mainland electricity demand[104] and generating an amount of energy that is equivalent to that of 14 nuclear reactors.[105] Other renewable energies used in Spain are hydroelectric, biomass and marine (2 power plants under construction).[106]

Non-renewable energy sources used in Spain are nuclear (8 operative reactors), gas, coal, and oil.
Main article: Transport in Spain
AVE Barcelona-Madrid.

The Spanish road system is mainly centralized, with six highways connecting Madrid to the Basque Country, Catalonia, Valencia, West Andalusia, Extremadura and Galicia. Additionally, there are highways along the Atlantic (Ferrol to Vigo), Cantabrian (Oviedo to San Sebastián) and Mediterranean (Girona to Cádiz) coasts.

Spain has the most extensive high-speed rail network in Europe, and the second most extensive in the world after China.[107][108][109] As of October 2010 Spain has a total of 3,500 km (2,174.80 mi) of high speed tracks linking Málaga, Seville, Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia and Valladolid, with the trains reaching speeds up to 300 km/h (187 mph). On average, the Spanish high-speed train is the fastest one in the world followed by the Japanese bullet train and the French TGV.[110] Regarding punctuality, it is the second one in the world (98.54% on-time arrival) after the Japanese Shinkansen (99%). [111] Should the aims of the ambitious AVE program (Spanish high speed trains) be met, by 2020 Spain will have 7000 km (4300 mi) of high-speed trains linking almost all provincial cities to Madrid in less than 3 hours and Barcelona within 4 hours.

There are 47 public airports in Spain. The busiest one is the airport of Madrid (Barajas), with 50 million passengers in 2011, being the world's 15th busiest airport, as well as the European Union's fourth busiest. The airport of Barcelona (El Prat) is also important, with 35 million passengers in 2011, being the world's 31th busiest airport. Other main airports are located in Majorca (23 million passengers), Málaga (13 million passengers), Las Palmas (Gran Canaria) (11 million passengers), Alicante (10 million passengers) and smaller, with the number of passengers between 4 and 10 million, for example Tenerife (two airports), Valencia, Seville, Bilbao, Ibiza, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura. Also, more than 30 airports with the number of passengers below 4 million.

Spain aims to put 1 million electric cars on the road by 2014 as part of the government's plan to save energy and boost energy efficiency.[112] The Minister of Industry Miguel Sebastian said that "the electric vehicle is the future and the engine of an industrial revolution."[113]
Main article: Demographics of Spain
See also: List of Spanish autonomous communities by population
Geographical distribution of the Spanish population in 2008

In 2008 the population of Spain officially reached 46 million people, as recorded by the Padrón municipal.[114] Spain's population density, at 91/km² (235/sq mi), is lower than that of most Western European countries and its distribution across the country is very unequal. With the exception of the region surrounding the capital, Madrid, the most populated areas lie around the coast. The population of Spain more than doubled since 1900, when it stood at 18.6 million, principally due to the spectacular demographic boom in the 1960s and early 1970s.[115]

Native Spaniards make up 88% of the total population of Spain. After the birth rate plunged in the 1980s and Spain's population growth rate dropped, the population again trended upward, based initially on the return of many Spaniards who had emigrated to other European countries during the 1970s, and more recently, fuelled by large numbers of immigrants who make up 12% of the population. The immigrants originate mainly in Latin America (39%), North Africa (16%), Eastern Europe (15%), and Sub-Saharan Africa (4%).[116] In 2005, Spain instituted a three-month amnesty program through which certain hitherto undocumented aliens were granted legal residency.

In 2008, Spain granted citizenship to 84,170 persons, mostly to people from Ecuador, Colombia and Morocco.[117] A sizeable portion of foreign residents in Spain also comes from other Western and Central European countries. These are mostly British, French, German, Dutch, and Norwegian. They reside primarily on the Mediterranean coast and the Balearic islands, where many choose to live their retirement or telecommute.

Substantial populations descended from Spanish colonists and immigrants exist in other parts of the world, most notably in Latin America. Beginning in the late 15th century, large numbers of Iberian colonists settled in what became Latin America and at present most white Latin Americans (who make up about one-third of Latin America's population) are of Spanish or Portuguese origin. In the 16th century perhaps 240,000 Spaniards emigrated, mostly to Peru and Mexico.[118] They were joined by 450,000 in the next century.[119] Between 1846 and 1932 it is estimated that nearly 5 million Spaniards emigrated to the Americas, especially to Argentina and Brazil.[120] Approximately two million Spaniards migrated to other Western European countries between 1960 to 1975. During the same period perhaps 300,000 went to Latin America