Catalonia Before Catalonia
Already inhabited in prehistoric times - the first known fossil remains belong to the Middle Paleolithic period -, the Catalan territory was colonized by the Greeks who founded towards 600 BC the Emporion factory (Empúries) , which with that of Rode (Roses), would become the two westernmost Greek towns. The presence of Greeks, Phoenicians and Carthaginian along the Catalan coast exerted a decisive influence on the formation of the culture of Iberians, name given by the Greeks and Romans to the hinterland native people. During the Punic Wars, Emporion kept a strong alliance with Rome, and in its port the Roman armies of Gnaeus Scipio (218 BC), Scipio (210 BC) and of Cato (197 BC) disembarked to begin the conquest and Romanization of the Iberian Peninsula.
The Romanization, which left a strong imprint on Catalonia, was fairly established at the end of the 1st century BC, when the introduction of Latin, the legislative system and the social structures were already consolidated - that is, when the urban and rural organization was tied up by the network of communication channels. The town of Tarraco (today Tarragona) became the capital of Tarraco province - which comprised a large territory from the Pyrenees to Cartagena-, and was one of the most important political and religious centers in Hispania. It maintained its importance during the Low Empire, something that can be observed in the important archeological remains kept. With the arrival of Christianity, it became the centre of an archbishopric.
The Visigothic reign, following the Roman dominion, strived to keep the structures of a centralized empire with its seat in Toledo, but it came to an end with the Moorish conquest of the peninsula: the first Arab-Moorish penetration in Catalan territory took place in 714. The Islamic penetration, that went as far as Poitiers (732), involved the Arabization of a good part of the Iberian Peninsula, including the future Catalonia. However, the territory bordering the Frank Empire was progressively conquered from the north. In 785, the town of Girona was given over to the Franks; and in 801, Barcelona was conquered by the Carolingians. It was precisely around the county of Barcelona, whose first counts were Franks, that the rest of the Pyrenean counties united. These were the so-called Hispanic March. After Guifré el Pelós, Wilfred the Hairy, (878-897), the County of Barcelona became hereditary, which was the first step towards the sovereignty and constitution of a Catalan state.
The Formation of Catalonia
Despite its uncertain etymology, it is probably derived from "land of castles", the name of Catalonia began to be used in the mid 12th century to refer to the group of counties that made up the Hispanic March, which once liberated from the Moorish dominion in the 9th century, would gradually detach from Frank guardianship and become sovereign.
This sovereign territory known as Old Catalonia, a basically feudal society, started an important territorial expansion at the turn of the 11th century, in times of Count Ramon Berenguer III - the first appointed monarch of the Catalans. This expansion was carried out in different directions: towards the east of the peninsula, the Mediterranean islands and the northern Occitan region. As a result of this expansion, the known New Catalonia was incorporated, southeast of the Llobregat river and as far as the limit of the Ebro river.
The marriage of Count Ramon Berenguer IV, from the house of Barcelona, with Peronella, daughter of the King of Aragon, in 1137, made possible the formation of the Crown of Aragon and the continuation of the feudal expansion that started towards the Moorish south and west. Tortosa was conquered in 1148 and Lleida in 1149.
However, the great Catalan feudal expansion takes place in the 13th century and beginning of the 14th and as a result, the Crown of Aragon extended its Mediterranean domains over Mallorca, Sicily and Sardinia, apart from Valencia. The expansion was started by King Jaume I (James I), who conquered Mallorca in 1229 - from where he expelled the Muslim population - and Valencia in 1238 - a territory that was granted the statute of kingdom and was populated mostly with Catalan people. Subsequently, and coinciding with the great social and economic development of Catalonia in the Middle Ages, the Catalan domains extended over the Mediterranean Sea as far as Sicily and Sardinia.
At the same time, and in the transition from a feudal system to a monarchical state, a political system took shape based on "pactisme", that is, the limitation of royal power by the courts, where the nobility, the clergy and the urban bourgeoisie were represented. This constitutional system gave place to an institution that came into being at the end of the 13th century, Diputació del General (also known as Generalitat from the 16th century onwards), which gradually acquired political relevance.
Notwithstanding, from the mid 14th century onwards, a period began characterized by demographic (with the recurrent strikes of the plague), economic and political crisis that led the country to the paroxysm of a civil war in the mid 15th century.
The Dynastic Union with Castille In 1469, the marriage of King Ferdinand II of Aragon with Isabella of Castile, known as the Catholic queen, paved the way for the establishment of a Hispanic monarchy, though for centuries Catalonia kept its condition as a state, one of imperfect sovereignty but with its own institutions and full validity of its own constitutions and rights.
Demographically and economically weakened and with an absentee monarchy since the dynastic union with Castile, in the 16th and 17th centuries, Catalonia underwent a period of decline, in contrast to the so-called Spanish "Golden Age" that followed the conquest of America. The unifying aspirations of the Hispanic monarchy were the origin of a new conflict between Catalonia and the king, the secessionist uprising known as the Segadors war (1640-1659). The Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) which put an end to this war, sanctioned nevertheless the annexation of the counties of Rousillon and Sardinia to the French monarchy, while the Catalan political institutions came under the tight control of the Hispanic monarchy.
1714 Catalonia in modern Spain
During the succession war, a conflict of European scope where the succession to the Spanish crown was disputed, most of Catalonia supported the Austrian claimant as a way to keep its constitutions in what was internationally known as "the Catalans' case". On 11th September 1714, nevertheless, Barcelona surrendered to the troops of the French claimant. The Treaty of Utrecht, which put an end to the war, meant the enthronement in Spain of the Bourbon French dynasty with Phillip V as king. This monarch, grandson of Louis XIV, established an absolutist system of government which meant for the territories of the old Aragon Crown such as Catalonia, the end of their own institutions and constitutional system by means of the so-called Decret de Nova Planta (The Decree of the New Regime) in 1716. Catalunya stopped having its own state and definitively became part of the Spanish Monarchy.
The Nova Planta also meant the substitution of Spanish for the Catalan language in all public areas: the administration, schools, etc. This brought about a decline in the Catalan language - kept alive nevertheless in the family circle - and culture. This situation persisted until the so-called Renaixença (Renaissance) of the 19th century. In the economic field, and once the effects of war and military occupation had been overcome, Catalonia underwent a gradual process of agricultural, commercial and manufacturing development that laid the foundations for the industrialization of the country in the next century.
An Industrial society
In the 19th century, Catalonia became the most industrialized region in Spain: it has been stated that Catalonia was the factory of Spain. This industrial development - based on the hegemonic textile sector - took place between 1833, when the first steam-driven mechanized factory began to operate in Barcelona, and the eve of the First World War, when the Catalan economy could be considered to be fully industrial.
Industrialization gave rise to a new kind of society, different from the rest of Spain, with an increasing level of social conflict as well as increasing friction with the Spanish State, which was unable to respond to the interests of a society like the Catalan. This explains that throughout the 19th century, and inspired by the memory of medieval magnificence and lost liberties, movements arose that advocated for the recognition of the Catalan character. They went from early-century particularism to various forms of federalism and regionalism. This vindication was boosted as from the middle of the century by the revival of the Catalan culture and language advocated by what was known as Renaixença.
Catalanism. From region to nation
At the beginning, the Renaixença (Renaissance) was a cultural, historical and literary movement that pursued in the wake of European Romanticism the recovery of the own language and literature. As time went by, and particularly immediately after the Revolution of 1868 and its fiasco, the movement acquired a clear political character, directed to the attainment of self-government for Catalonia within the framework of the Spanish liberal state.
In the last third of the 19th century, Catalanism was formulating its own doctrinal foundations, not only among the progressive ranks but also in the conservative, and at the same time it started to establish the first political programmes (e.g. Bases de Manresa, 1892), and to generate a wide cultural and association movement of a clearly vindicatory character.
In 1898, Spain lost its last colonial possessions in Cuba and the Philippines, a fact that not only involved an important crisis of confidence, but also gave an impulse to political Catalanism. The first modern political party in Catalonia and Spain was the Lliga Regionalista. Founded in 1901, it formed a coalition in 1907 with other Catalanist forces (from Carlists to Federalists), grouped in the so-called Solidaritat Catalana, and won the elections with the regionalist programme that Prat de la Riba had formulated in La nacionalitat catalana (1906).
Even so, the social tensions made manisfest in the creation of Solidaridad Obrera in the same year of 1907 led to the popular uprising of the Tragic Week (1909) and the next year to the foundation of CNT, the trade union of anarcho-syndicalist orientation that was absolutely predominant in the first third of the 20th century.
Political Catalanism achieved in 1914 the creation of the Mancomunitat, a first attempt at self- government, which came to an end due to the dictatorship of General Primo de Rivera (1923). The proclamation of the Second Republic in 1931 gave autonomy back to Catalonia, making possible the restoration of a self-government institution that would carry the historical name of the Generalitat. A dramatically short period of restoration of democratic and cultural normality was interrupted at its outset by the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
In the winter of 1939, Catalonia was occupied by Franco's army. The victory of the camp called national and the dictatorship established by General Franco brought along the exile, death and repression of many Republicans, worker parties and union activists all over Spain. The new regime immediately suppressed the Statute of Catalonia, crushed down any manisfestation of Catalanism and prohibited the public use of the Catalan language. In 1940, the President of the Generalitat, Lluís Companys, captured in France by the Nazis, was handed over to Franco's authorities and was executed in Barcelona.
After a long and cruel war, characterized by a climate of political and social repression and of economic and cultural backwardness, the Spain of Franco underwent, starting from the situation in 1959 and in spite of the adverse political conditions, a period of economic growth determined by the belated though rapid insertion of Spain in general and of Catalonia in a broader European process of development. This period corresponds to what is called "the glorious thirty years" (1945-1975).
In this period, Catalonia experienced a significant growth in population, that went from 3 to 6 million inhabitants between 1950 and 1980. This huge demographic leap was possible due to the existence of an industry that required labor force and the migratory contribution of people coming mainly from southern Spain. This demographic contribution has decisively given shape to today's Catalan society.
Democracy, Autonomy and European Integration
When Franco died in 1975, Spain evolved into a democratic and autonomic state, which is defined in the Constitution of 1978. In 1977, the Generalitat of Catalonia was provisionally restored with its exiled president, Josep Tarradellas, who came back to Barcelona in October of that year. In 1979, The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia was approved making possible the restoration of self-government. In 1986, Spain joined the European Union, where Catalonia proposed the recognition of the role of the regions as a driving force for economic development and social welfare. During the 1980-2003 period, which was characterised by autonomous development, the Covergència I Unió (CiU) coalition was in power, led by president Jordi Pujol. In 2003, Pujol was succeeded by Pasqual Maragall, with the tripartite government (PSC-ERC-ICV), which has promoted a reform in The Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia in order to adapt it to the new Catalan reality. This new statute will enter into effect on 9 August 2006. In November of that same year, José Montilla succeeded Maragall as president of the Generalitat of Catalonia.