Who discovered Spain

History of Spain: The History of Spain from 507 to 1898

From the Reconquista to the conquest of Latin America, from the Inquisition to the Enlightenment - an overview of the most important dates and events in the history of the Spanish Empire



The Visigoths, one of those Germanic tribes who roamed the territory of the Roman Empire during the "Migration Period", flee to the Iberian Peninsula after a defeat.


The Visigoth king Rekkared (r. 586–601) converted from Arian Christianity to Catholicism. From Toledo he rules almost the entire Iberian Peninsula.


July: A Muslim army beats the Visigoths in Andalusia and takes almost the entire Visigothic empire within three years.


Resistance against the Muslims is forming in northern Spain: the Christians achieve their first success in the battle of Covadonga. Christian empires emerged in the north and gradually expanded their influence to the south. At the beginning of this reconquista (Spanish, reconquest), Christians colonize the almost deserted buffer zones to the Muslim domain.


Abd ar-Rahman (r. 756–788) unites al-Andalus, the dominion of the Muslims on the peninsula, and founds the emirate of Córdoba.


A son of Charlemagne conquered Barcelona and the surrounding regions and established the Spanish Mark as a border district of the Franconian Empire. The county of Catalonia will later develop from this.


In the northwest of the peninsula, Alfons III. (ruled until 910) King of Asturias. He can expand and fortify his empire as far as the Duero River. He made León the capital, after which the kingdom was named from then on.


Abd ar-Rahman III. , the emir of Córdoba (r. 912–961), appointed himself caliph - a successor to Muhammad. This puts him in open competition with the Caliph of Baghdad, who until then was considered the highest secular and religious leader of Islam.


Under Abd ar-Rahman's son al-Hakam II (r. 961–976), al-Andalus experienced a cultural boom. With more than 100,000 inhabitants, Cordoba became the most important metropolis in Europe.


Sancho III. (around 992 to 1035) becomes king of Navarre. Under his rule, the kingdom, which was formed east of Asturias in the 9th century, reached its greatest expansion.


Due to internal unrest, the caliphate is divided into partial realms (Taifas).


After the death of Sancho III. Navarre is divided among his sons. This is how the Kingdom of Aragón and the independent county of Castile came into being.


In Santiago de Compostela the construction of a cathedral is started over a tomb, which is said to contain St. James. This is the end point of the Camino de Santiago, which from now on leads pilgrims from all over Europe to Spain.


King Alfonso VI of Castile (1040–1109) conquered Toledo from the Moors. The Christians thus rule the center of the peninsula.


A Moorish invasion army led by North African warrior monks, the Almoravids, conquered the Taifa empires.


June 15: The military leader Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (around 1044-1099), called El Cid (from arab. sayyid, Lord), conquered Valencia on a Christian mission and established his own rule there.


The King of Aragón promises his one-year-old daughter to the ruler of Catalonia as a wife. Thus both kingdoms combine to form the Crown of Aragón.


Alfonso Henriques (1109–1185), Count of Portugal, can be proclaimed king, strengthened by a victory over the Moors. Until then, Portugal was under the suzerainty of León.


The Almohads, even more radical warrior monks than the Almoravids, lead an army north from Africa and conquer al-Andalus.


In Palencia, in the north of Castile, King Alfonso VIII (1155–1214) founded the first Spanish university.


July 16: In the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa (near Jaén) the Almohads are defeated by Christian crusaders. The Moors can only survive in the Granada region in the south.


Creation of the important University of Salamanca.

The creation of the Spanish kingdom


Ferdinand II (1199 to 1252), King of Castile, inherited the Kingdom of León from his father after his death. Both realms are thus permanently united.


The King of Castile recognizes the rule of Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Nasr over Granada. Henceforth the emir is liable to him tribute The Moorish culture flourished again.


Alfonso X of Castile-León (1221–1284) created a set of laws that became the basis of the Spanish legal system.


Peter III of Aragón (1240–1285) wins the crown of Sicily; his son Jacob II (1267-1327) subjugates Sardinia. In addition, in 1311 Catalan troops took parts of Greece (until 1391).


The plague rages in Spain. Castile's King Alfonso XI. (1312–1350) fell victim to her.


On behalf of Castile, two French knights begin the 100-year conquest of the Canary Islands. The archipelago off the African coast later became an important base in the Atlantic.


Alfonso V of Aragón (1416–1458) conquered the Kingdom of Naples and with it all of southern Italy. Aragón reached the height of its power in the Mediterranean.


October 19: The Castilian heir to the throne Isabella (1451–1504) and Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Aragón (1452–1516), marry in Valladolid. After the death of King Henry IV of Castile five years later, Isabella proclaimed herself Queen of Castile. Ferdinand ascends the Aragonese throne in 1479. He and his wife rule Spain together. Formally, the kingdoms of Aragón and Castile remain separate - until the 19th century, the Spanish monarchs will list the individual sub-kingdoms in their official rulers.


Ferdinand and Isabella receive the right to appoint inquisitors from the Pope. This ecclesiastical institution that has been persecuting heretics, which has existed since the 13th century, becomes a state religious tribunal controlled by the kings - and the first joint authority for the empires of Aragon and Castile.


September 4th: In the Treaty of Alcaçovas, Castile and Portugal agree to separate their spheres of interest in the Atlantic. Castile is excluded from trade in the South Atlantic and thus from Africa's gold - and must direct its further expansion efforts to the west.

The conquest of America and the rise to European hegemonic power


January 2nd: Emir Abu Abdallah, called Boabdil (around 1460 to 1533), hands over Granada to Ferdinand and Isabella after an eight-month siege. In ten years of struggle, the last Muslim rule in Western Europe was gradually conquered by the Christians. This ends the Reconquista, the peninsula is completely under Christian rulers.

March 31: Ferdinand II and Isabella expel all Jews. The deportation is intended to consolidate religious unity on the peninsula. Only baptized “new Christians” are allowed to stay in their homeland. In 1502 all Muslims are expelled from the country.

August 3: In the service of Ferdinand and Isabella, Christopher Columbus sets out to find a sea route to India in the west - and reaches the Bahamas on October 12.

August 18: Antonio de Nebrija publishes a Castilian grammar - the first comprehensive set of rules for a European vernacular.


June 7th: In the Treaty of Tordesillas, Portugal and Castile agree to share their interests in the Atlantic. All areas around 2000 kilometers west of Cape Verde belong to Castile from now on, all territories east of this line Portugal.


March 14th: Charles I, grandson of Isabella, who grew up in the Netherlands and of Ferdinand, who died shortly before, proclaims himself King of Aragon and Castile. Officially, he shares power with his mother Johanna, but like his grandfather, Karl isolates the mentally confused and de facto rules alone.


With a force of about 500 men, Hernando Cortés (1485–1547) attacks the Aztecs in Mexico. The conquistador can win Indian allies oppressed by the Aztecs and thus subdue the great empire by 1521, whose ruler Montezuma II dies in Spanish captivity in 1520.

June 28th: ​​The Spanish King Charles I is elected as Charles V as Roman-German King and thus de facto Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire; he succeeds his late Austrian grandfather Maximilian I. The king is unpopular in Spain: he grew up abroad, initially speaks poor Castilian and gives high offices to foreigners. Some Castilian cities oppose his tax policy; while Karl travels to Germany, the uprising breaks out comunidades: A junta of citizens from 13 opposition cities takes power in Castile. Charles's troops defeat the army of the Comunidades on April 23, 1521, and the leaders are executed.


The Krone creates the first central administrative structures for America. Charles I founded the “India Council” at the Spanish court, which was made up of lawyers and clergy, and henceforth the highest authority in matters of administration and jurisdiction over the western colonies.


Charles I appointed Francisco Pizarro (1478–1541) captain general of Peru, a territory on the west coast of Latin America that the conquistador was supposed to explore and conquer at his own expense.


Pizarro penetrates into the interior of Peru with around 180 soldiers, exploits rivalries within the local dynasty and arrests the Inca ruler Atahualpa, whom he executes in July 1533. Shortly afterwards he takes Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Empire. Starting from Mexico and Peru, other conquistadors continue the campaigns of conquest.


The viceroyalty of New Spain is established in Mexico. The viceroy represents the Spanish monarch and is the colony's supreme political authority.


The viceroyalty of Peru is established in the Spanish possessions in South America. Around the middle of the 16th century, large parts of Central and South America and southern North America were subject to Spain.


Rich silver veins are discovered in Potosí in today's Bolivia and shortly afterwards in Zacatecas and Guanajuato (Mexico). Between 1503 and 1660, around 17,000 tons of American silver reached Spain.


In Valladolid the clergymen Bartolomé de Las Casas and Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda enter into a dispute about the treatment of the Indians in America by the Spanish conquerors. Las Casas opposes slavery and violent proselytizing, Sepúlveda justifies this because the Indians are barbaric by nature. The dispute does not change colonial policy for the time being.

Spain under Philip II


January 16: Charles I abdicates and hands over Spain, the Netherlands, the Italian possessions and the overseas colonies to his son Philip II. Karl's brother Ferdinand I succeeds him as Roman-German Emperor.


Philip II makes the insignificant Madrid the capital of Spain. The king has a palace built 45 kilometers away from the capital: the Escorial, completed in 1584, also includes a monastery and a basilica.


Philip II sets up regular fleet traffic between Spain and the New World: twice a year, military-protected convoys are supposed to sail to Panama and Veracruz (Mexico) and transport silver on their return journey.


The Protestant estates of the northern Dutch provinces rise up against Philip II's attempt to forcibly restore the Catholic faith in all parts of the empire. The following year, the Spanish ruler sends the military leader Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba, to put down the rebellion. Nevertheless, the conflict smoldered until 1648.


June 24th: Miguel López de Legazpi declares Manila the capital of the Pacific archipelago of the Philippines that he has conquered. The archipelago is named after Philip II.


August 25th: After Philip II prevailed over another applicant for the orphaned throne, he added Portugal to his empire - and with it the Portuguese colonies in Asia, Africa and South America. Portugal remains formally independent and is only connected to Spain through Philip's royal dignity.


April 28th: ​​A Spanish armada sets sail to conquer England. Its pirates threaten the Spanish trade routes; In addition, Philip II wants to regain the island kingdom for Catholicism. More than 130 ships transport around 19,000 soldiers who are to unite with troops from the Spanish Netherlands. However, due to violent storms, the fleet suffers dramatic losses. Although Spain remains the most important sea power in the world, the loss of prestige is enormous.

Cultural prosperity and decline in power


The first volume of "El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha" ("The ingenious Junker Don Quixote of the Mancha") by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra (around 1547-1616) appears - because of its complexity, it is still the most important novel in Spanish literary history today .


April 9th: King Philip III. (1578–1621) shows the moriscos from Spain. The ruler fears that these converted Muslims could collaborate with North African pirates, who often threaten the Spanish Mediterranean coast. 273,000 people have to leave their homes. Many regions are almost completely depopulated or at least lose a particularly economically active population group.


Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez (1599–1660) was appointed painter to the court of Philip IV (1598–1665). The petty aristocracy from Seville soon became the ruler's favorite painter and one of the most important artists of his time.


May 19: France declares war on Spain to weaken competitors for hegemony in Europe. The conflict is part of the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), in which Philip IV is already involved through the conflict in the Netherlands and his support for the Austrian Habsburgs.


June 7: Peasants, farm workers and artisans rise up in the Catalan capital of Barcelona against the policies of Philip IV's First Minister, Gaspar de Guzmán, Count of Olivares (1587–1645). Olivares wants to curtail the traditional special rights of the regions and thus strengthen the royal central power. At the beginning of 1641 the rebels proclaim a Catalan republic and submit to the sovereignty of the French king.

December 1: In Portugal the nobles conspire against the rule of the Spanish monarch Philip IV. Spain's viceroy is captured in Lisbon, and the Portuguese Duke of Bragança is proclaimed the new king as John IV. Spain tried unsuccessfully to militarily prevent the separation of Portugal and finally recognized its independence in 1668.


May 19: An attack by Spanish troops from the Netherlands on the Rocroi fortress in northeastern France ends in a devastating defeat. This failure strengthens Philip IV's readiness for peace.


January 30th: In the Peace of Munster, Spain has to recognize the independence of the Protestant Netherlands. Meanwhile, the war with France continues.


With the fall of Barcelona, ​​the Spanish government finally recaptured Catalonia.


November 7th: Philip IV and Louis XIV end the war that has been going on since 1635 in the Peace of the Pyrenees. Spain loses parts of Flanders and northern Catalonia; thus the Pyrenees become the border with France. The monarchs also agree to marry the French king with the Spanish infanta María Teresa. The peace agreement means the end of Spanish hegemony in Europe.

Overseas, Spain is losing more and more Caribbean islands: The British conquer Barbados and Jamaica, the French Martinique, Guadeloupe and Haiti (the western part of Hispaniola).

Spain in the 18th century


November 1st: Charles II dies. In his will, the childless Habsburg transferred the crown to Philip of Anjou from the French Bourbon dynasty, the grandson of Louis XIV. In February 1701, the new monarch moved into Madrid as Philip V. But the Austrian Habsburgs contest the change of the throne, claim the crown for Archduke Charles and declare war on France and Spain in 1702. The Netherlands and Great Britain fight alongside them.


With Charles landing in Lisbon, the War of the Spanish Succession reached the Iberian mainland, where Aragón sided with the Habsburgs, while Castile supported Philip V.


Charles conquers Madrid; Philip V and his court flee temporarily.


War-weary Great Britain and the Netherlands make the Treaty of Utrecht with Spain and France. Now, in the Peace of Rastatt in 1714, Karl had to recognize his opponent Philip V as King of Spain. With this, the Bourbons have established themselves on the Spanish throne. These peace agreements mean for Spain the final loss of the southern Netherlands, Sardinia and Gibraltar as well as the temporary renunciation of Naples, Sicily and Menorca.


Portugal and Spain agree on a border in South America, giving Brazil roughly its current shape. The Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494 thus becomes obsolete.


The first permanent bullring is built in Seville. From the ritualized competition of the nobles, in which they fight a bull on horseback, the first go in the 18th century matadores like Francisco Romero (1700–1763) - men of the people who fight a bull on foot.


Spain joins France in the Seven Years' War (1756–1763), in which an Austro-French coalition fights against Prussia and England. The British occupy Manila and Havana. In the Treaty of Paris in 1763, Spain got both port cities back, but had to cede Florida to Great Britain. The Louisiana Territory of France was replaced by it, but it was returned in a treaty of 1800.


February 27, Charles III. (1716–1788) identifies the Jesuits from Spain and Hispanic America. The Jesuits are critical of absolutism and even approve of tyrannicide. Their influence is great as they run numerous schools and universities.


Spain fights against revolutionary France in a coalition of monarchies, but concludes a separate peace in 1795 after several defeats. When Great Britain turned against Spain, Madrid allied with Paris. This involvement in the war also ended in defeat.

The end of the Spanish empire


In the Third Coalition War, Spain is once again on the side of France against Great Britain. In the decisive naval battle of Trafalgar on October 21, a Spanish-French fleet is defeated by the British under Admiral Nelson.


October 27: In a secret agreement, Charles IV (1748–1819) allows the French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte to lead his troops through Spain to hostile Portugal. Napoleon, however, takes advantage of the situation and lets his soldiers occupy Spain.