Barcelona’s history started during the 2nd century BC. It was named Barcino, and it was known to be the largest Roman village outside Rome. However, today are still visible some Gothic and Modernism traces that date back further than Roman occupation. The legacy left by the Franco dictatorship has long gone, but Barcelona can only be characterized in part by the quest of its people for independence and the ongoing struggle to maintain a Catalonian cultural identity.
Carthaginian Settlement 3rd Century BC
Historical remains show evidence of early settlements in the area of Barcelona. The archaeological recording of Iberian and Laeitani people in Catalonia during the third and second centuries BC are recorded in the city archive. Phoenicians and Greeks had already established trading posts along the water’s edge of Catalonia at this time in Barcelona’s history.
It is with the creation of Barcino settlement for Carthaginian people in the 3rd century BC that the city of Barcelona first emerged. It is said, according to one of the many legends, Hannibal’s father, Hamil Barca, the Carthaginians were dominated by Romans in 206 BC who then went on to rule Spain for a further 600 years. Roman Barcelona remains can still be found in the city gate next to the cathedral.
In the basement of the Museu d’Història de la Ciutat extensive archaeological excavations can be visited and represent a glimpse into the past of this spectacular city. When the Roman Empire collapsed, the region fell into the hands of the Germanic Visigoths who quickly made Barcino the capital of their kingdom. Barcino was re-named Barcelona at that time, until 554 when the Visigoths capital moved to Toledo
Moorish Invasion 711
The Moorish invasion finished the Visigoth rule in 711. However, unlike in other parts of Spain, Moorish domination in Catalonia lasted considerably less than a century. The Franks captured Barcelona in 801. Barcelona was then born. In 878 the feudal lord, Guifré el Pilós (Wilfred the Hairy), became Count of Barcelona in 878. This was the founding point of a dynasty that was to endure for almost 500 years. Catalonia was created in 988, while Spain remained Moorish, Barcelona and Catalonia kept links to Europe throughout this period. In 988, Louis V refused to help repulse Moorish raiders from attacking Catalonia, so the counts of Barcelona declared independence from the Franks. This single event marked the beginning of Catalonia as a nation-state. By the end of the 11th century, Catalonia had established the first constitutional government in Europe.
Petronila of Aragon 1137
Catalonian soon expanded due to a series of well-placed marriages and armed victories in Mallorca, Ibiza and then Tarragona. Ramon Berenguer IV united Catalonia with Aragon because of his marriage to Petronila of Aragon in 1137. His son, Alfonso II later became the first Aragon-Catalan king. He ruled the Mediterranean coast beyond the boundary of Catalonia all the way to Nice.
Jaume I 1213-76
In this period Catalonia was becoming more sophisticated as a society. Jaume I introduced the Consell de Cent, a municipal council attended and managed by prominent citizens of the day. In 1283, the Generalitat foundation was laid. The Llibre del Consolat de Mar, an underlying code of trading practice was introduced, and this would prove to be the foundation of European maritime law.
Barcelona was the capital, and Catalonia ruled the seas. It was a time of high prosperity and expansion in the city. With the conquest of the Balearic Islands and Sicily under Jaume I, Barcelona city walls were rebuilt to provide a safe refuge for its citizens in an area ten times larger than the city contained within the old Roman walls. It was at this point that Barcelona reached the peak of its glory.
In the 14th century, Barcelona became a major center for trade, scientific knowledge, and the arts flourished. Great Gothic buildings were erected, and Catalonia expanded further. It flexed its powers taking over Sardinia, Corsica, Naples, and the Roussillon region.
The Thirty Years War (1618-48)
The war began when the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II of Bohemia attempted to curtail the religious activities of his subjects. It sparked rebellions among Protestants. The battle involved all the major powers in Europe, with Spain, Sweden, France, and Austria waging campaigns firstly only on German soil. Known for the atrocities committed by mercenary soldiers, the war thankfully ended with a series of treaties, making up the Peace of Westphalia. The fallout of the war reshaped the religious and political map of central Europe. It set the stage for old centralized Roman Catholic empire rule to give way to a community of sovereign states and so began the Catalonian demise.
Catalonian demise 1714
The Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand II of Catalonia-Aragon and Isabella of Castille, made Barcelona one of the Catholic seats. Its political influence declined somewhat in the 16th century when the monopoly on the New World trade was awarded to Barcelona and Cadiz. Madrid became the capital of the kingdom and Barcelona took a decline of fortune. During the Thirty Years War with its neighbor France, the Catalan people revolted against the Spanish Monarchy. Before this, Barcelona was allying itself with France until a Spanish offensive brought the city back under Spanish control. Political relations with Madrid remained difficult, and so Barcelona took the side with the French Habsburgs against Bourbon Felipe V during the War of the Spanish Succession. The French Habsburgs are recorded as being the largest and most potent royal house of the Holy Roman Empire. This power dates from an Early Modern Period until the First World War.
Barcelona was under siege during the war, but this ended after 13 months on 11th September 1714. It is celebrated today as Catalonia’s National Day. On his victory, Felipe V immediately revoked all Catalonia’s privileges when he took power. The Generalitat was dissolved and use of the Catalan language was banned although as we know it survived to this day.
Economic recovery began slowly towards the end of the 18th Century, this is thanks to the city’s natural position as a premier Mediterranean port. Barcelona was the first city in Spain to become industrialized. This was mainly around cotton manufacturing during the19th century. Barcelona’s re-emergence in Europe as a significant political, economic and cultural center inspired the Renaixenca. This was the renaissance of Catalan culture. Barcelona hosted a Universal Exhibition in 1888, it was a great chance for the city to show off its not inconsiderable wealth.
Civil War in 1936 After World War I
The city underwent substantial economic growth, and this came to an abrupt end with the Civil War in 1936. The Republican Governor and autonomous institutions of Catalonia were abolished. The use of the Catalan language was once again suppressed. Democracy returned in 1975, Catalonia regained a considerable degree of autonomy and the Catalan culture once again flourished as it is doing today.