My summer holidays of discovery

Over the last week I’ve spent time in Spain on what was described in the holiday brochure as ‘Discover Spain’ and it certainly has been an eye-opener to realise and gain an insight into the history of Spain:

Around 1100 BC, Phoenician seafarers from present-day Lebanon set up trading colonies along the Spanish coast. Phocaean Greeks also traded along the northeastern coast. With the fall of Phoenicia, the Iberian Peninsula came under the rule of Carthage (present day Tunisia), but was occupied by Rome following the Punic Wars. The Romans held sway in Iberia for six centuries, laying the foundations for Spanish language and culture.

Following the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the fifth century AD, Spain was ruled by the Visigoths, a Germanic people who had migrated from central Europe. In 711, the Muslims of North Africa launched an invasion across the Straits of Gibraltar, occupying the majority of the peninsula within a few years. Their presence lasted more than seven centuries, though the Christian kingdoms in the north increased their power over each subsequent generation, gradually driving the Moors southwards. The last Moorish kingdom, Granada, was conquered in 1492.

The discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus and the expulsion of Jews and Moors from Spain marked Spanish history forever. Treasure from Spain’s vast overseas empire pushed Spain into the forefront of European countries. However, constant warfare drained Spain’s resources. With the accession of the Bourbon dynasty to the Spanish throne at the beginning of the 18th century, Spain came within the French sphere of influence for the following 100 years, until the defeat of Napoleon’s army during the Peninsular War.

In 1931 king Alfonso XIII abdicated and this lead to Spain becoming a Republic. Conservative reaction from certain groups sparked the Spanish Civil War (raging from 1936 to 1939 & precluding World War II). Franco’s War stance lead to its isolation. In the 1950s the first US bases opened. Tourism also flourished in later decades. It was only 1975 when Spain became a democracy. In the last thirty years Spain was described by one of our tour guides as having made the move from the ‘3rd to 1st world’.

A negative point is certainly being concerned about the shear power of extremists from both the Christian and Muslim religions (suggested as the main culprits of radical changes and ethnic isolation) to cause the mass movement and ejection of people. We need to analyse and become aware of what factors ‘tip the balance’ of sense in people. Generally what drives people to communal violence there are too many examples (Rwanda, Dafur, Yugoslavia, Nazi Germany…)? My fear is that sometimes it is not that obvious when radical evil takes place.

Ending on a positive it is important to note that at one point Spain had three different religions living together in peace and respect. More recently they have been able to rapidly establish a reliable technical and logistical infrastructure. In the month that India and Pakistan celebrate their independence/Republic days (60 years) is there more progress that can be made by working together? The potential is certainly there!

Categories: 2005

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