History of Andalucia

Casares, with its Moorish castle, which stands proud on the hillside, a simple cross on top of the hill- a discreet but visible symbol of Christianity, both relfect the rich history of Andalucia. © Michelle Chaplow
Casares, with its Moorish castle, which stands proud on the hillside, a simple cross on top of the hill- a discreet but visible symbol of Christianity, both relfect the rich history of Andalucia. © Michelle Chaplow

An historical overview of Andalucia, Spain

The prehistoric Beginnings

Neanderthal man is known to have lived on the Rock of Gibraltar, 50,000 years ago. In about 8,000 BC an influx of North African tribes established farming settlements throughout the region, and these people are known today as the Iberians. Andalucia's seaboard was extensively settled by the Phoenicians, who established a chain of trading posts, founding the sea port of Cadiz in 1100BC - which makes its Europe's oldest city - and strongly influencing the way of life of the native Iberians. The Phoenicians were followed by the Celts, who in 800 BC moved south across Europe and into Andalucia. By 700 BC the Tartessus Kingdom was flourishing in Andalucia, and a century later Greek sailors founded trading ports along its shore. By the year 500 BC, the Carthaginians had colonised southern Spain. More>



The Romans & the History of Spain

In their struggle against Carthage, the Romans invaded the peninsula in 206 BC, crushing the resistance of the native Iberians and soon transforming Andalucia into one of their richest and best organised colonies, which they called Betis, crisscrossing the region with paved roads. Roman galleys sailed up its main river, now called the Guadalquivir, as far as Cordoba, where they took on board amphorae of olive oil and wine for exportation to Rome. Under the Romans, in the 4th century AD, Spain became a Christian country, and the Spanish language - perhaps the closest modern tongue to Latin - began to take its current shape. More>

The Dark Ages

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Andalucia was devastated by successive waves of barbarian tribes coming from northern Europe, with the eventual predominance of the Visigoths.  This warlike people reigned chaotically over the peninsula for almost two centuries, leaving Spain open to the invasion of the Moors - Islamic warriors from Arabia and North Africa - in the year 711, and who called the region al-Andalus because they associated it with the Vandals, one of the barbarian tribes who had, several centuries earlier, swept across the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa. More>


The Moors made the region their home for eight centuries and permanently marked it with their cultural legacy, signs of which are still visible in monuments such as the Mosque of Cordoba and the Alhambra Palace in Granada. It was not until the 13th century that the Christian reconquest reached Andalucia, seizing the cities of Cordoba and Seville.   By the end of the 15th century, the Catholic Monarchs, Isabel of Castille and Ferdinand of Aragon, had taken the last stronghold of the Moors, Granada and the Alhambra Palace.    Read more about Spain’s Moorish History.

Jews in Spain

It is said that the first Jews arrived in Seville in the sixth century BC, and were from David's family. They spoke Ladino, a Judeo form of Spanish. The Sephardic Jews suffered persecution from the Visigoths during the sixth century AD, followed by a period of harmony under Moorish rule, during which Jews, Moors and Christians co-existed, respecting each other's religions and holy days, each with their own skills to offer; they were employed as court envoys. In the 13th century they fled the fundamentalist Almohads to the Christian north of Spain, returning after the Reconquest. Sephardim prospered in banking, medicine, law and commerce, with a far higher literacy rate than other Spanish communities.   More >


The Reconquista is the period of the Iberian Peninsula's history between the Battle of Covodonga (c.718), the first victory of Christian military forces since the Islamic Invasion, and the eventual fall of the Islamic kingdom of Granada in 1492. In the mid-12th century, the Almoravid dynasty in Morocco, which ruled the southern part of Spain, was overthrown by a different religious movement: the Almohads. By 1150, these Berbers from the Atlas Mountains had conquered the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula that today approximately forms Andalucía, then known as Al-andalus. More>

Christian rule

Andalucia was the launching point for the discovery of America (after the Upper Guadalquivir had silted up, making it impossible to sail as far inland as Cordoba), and Seville became the main port for the imports of gold from the New World during the 16th and 17th centuries.  Whilst Fernando III had made significant progress in the Reconquest his successors for the next 150 year made very little. They concentrated on internal inheritance disputes and those with the the other Catholic Kingdoms of Navarre, Aragon and Portugal. More>

Catholic Monarchs

Isabel I (of Castile and Leon) and Ferdinand II (of Aragon), better known as the Catholics Monarchs, were a marriage which united medieval Spain: the great houses of Castile and Aragon, which between them controlled vast tracts of the peninsula. You can see references to these monarchs all over Andalucia, as their reign marked a key turning point in Spain's history, its fortunes and its power. They reconquered Granada from the Nasrids in 1492. This was the same year Columbus sailed to the New World. More>


Much of the wealth from America was spent on the wars waged by Spain's Hapsburg monarchy against the Lutheran countries in northern Europe and the Ottoman Turks in the Mediterranean, and as the flow of riches decreased, Spain and Andalucia sank into economic decline.  Europe was at war and William and Mary were fighting Louis XIV. See HMS Sussex shipwreck. The region suffered the ravages of the Spanish War of Succession in the early 18th century and, one hundred years later. Andalucia's economy suffered the direct effect of the independence movement in South America during the rest of the 19th century.  More>

The Bourbons

These French rulers dominated Spain from 1700 until the early 1900s. Andalucia suffered the ravages of the War of Succession 1701-1713, when the Bourbons were fighting with Archduke Charles of Austria (allied with the British) over the Spanish throne. In the course of this war, Gibraltar was lost to the British. More>

Battle of Trafalgar

The Napoleonic invasion at the begining of the 19th century leading to the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, touching off the War of Independence.

French Occupation

French Occupation

La Pepa - Spain's First Constitution

On 19 March 1812, Spain's first constitution was drawn up in Cadiz, enshrining the rights of Spanish citizens and limiting the power of the monarchy. Although it was not enacted for some years, its influence was considerable, both within peninsular Spain and its territories around the world. More>

Carlist Wars

Carlist Wars

First Republic

First Republic

The Restoration

The Restoration

Second Republic

Second Republic

Early 20th century

The devastating loss of Spain's last colonies, Cuba and the Philippines, led to political instability and further economic decline. In 1913 Blas Infante, the "father of Andalucia" began his fight for an Independent Andalucia.

Civil War

Meanwhile opposition to the autocratic King Alfonso XIII increased, culminating in the deposition of the monarchy and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, in 1936, when the Republic was overthrown by General Franco and his Nationalist movement.  Although Spain did not openly take sides in World War II, Franco lent his support to the Axis, (eg Operation Mincemeat) as a result of which Spain suffered the disastrous effects of an international blockade after the war.  More>

Democracy Restored

It was not until Franco died, in 1975, that democracy was restored, under the symbolic monarchy of King Juan Carlos II. Spanish government was decentralised and Andalucia became an Autonomous Region in 1982, with its own regional administration, the Junta de Andalucia (Assembly of Andalucia). More>

On 22 December 1963, a Dutch-built, Greek-owned cruise ship called the TSMS Lakonia caught fire when sailing off Madeira.

Andalucia moves with Europe

Andalucia as a region of Spain, has benefited as member of the European Union. It has experienced a dramatic improvement in the standard of living. The poverty of the Andalucian countryside has been largely eliminated and its people have regained their pride in the local culture, which flourishes alongside the benefits of improved roads, modern health care and high-tech infrastructures. On the other hand the GDP per capita and the levels of unemployment remain the worst in Europe. The romantic image of Andalucia, in spite of progress, is still very much a thing of the present.

Living in Andalucia