- Area: 195,960 sq. miles
- Population: 40,000,000
- Infant mortality: 2.9 per 1000 live births
- Life expectancy: 83.38
- Urbanisation: 80.3% of total population
- Literacy: 98.1
Carthage dominated Spain from the fifth century B.C., then Spain became part of the Roman Empire from 200 B.C.. This ended when it was overrun by the Visigoths. The Moors invaded from North Africa in A.D. 711 and advanced up Spain until they were checked in battle at Tours in 732. Spain was effectively ‘partitioned’ between the Catholic north and the Muslim south until about 1000. Evidence of Moorish influence is still to be seen in the architecture and place-names in southern Spain. By 1250 the Catholic kings had reconquered most of Spain from the Moors. The Catholic areas belonged to the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and were united politically by the marriage of Ferdinand of Aragon to Isabella of Castile. The unification of all Spain was complete by 1494. Under ‘the Catholic kings’ of this era Spain became a super-power. The discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus meant vast new wealth for Spain. From the late sixteenth century, however, and with the defeat of the Armada in 1588, Spain’s power and empire began to decline. The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were periods of intellectual torpor and extreme social conservatism in Spanish society. The Roman Catholic Church became hopelessly intolerant and corrupt and its power waned. Throughout the nineteenth century Spain was convulsed by internal civil strife. 1873 to 1874 saw the establishment of a brief ‘first republic’. Republicanism and socialism grew again in Spanish society during the twentieth century. This led to the ‘second republic’ of 1931 to 1936 which was anti-fascist and anti-clerical in ethos. Growing strife between republicans and nationalists led to the Spanish Civil War lasting from 1936 to 1939. The nationalists led by General Franco and supported by Hitler’s regime defeated the republicans. Franco restored the fortunes of the Vatican in Spain. Franco’s ensuing dictatorship lasted until his death in 1975 when King Juan Carlos I assumed the Spanish monarchy. There followed a slow but steady transition to democratic government. In 1986 Spain joined NATO and the European Economic Community. Full religious rights were given to evangelicals, Muslims and Jews in 1992. Church history It is possible that the apostle Paul visited Spain (Romans 15:24). By the third century there was a national but heretical (Arian) church. At the Council of Toledo, in 589, Spain accepted Roman Catholicism. In 1479 the Roman Catholic Inquisition was introduced to Spain. Its trials against non-Catholic ‘heretics’ were conducted in secret under torture. Its penalties ranged from fines or imprisonment to death by burning. Jews and Muslims were treated mercilessly, as Protestants were later. By the time of the Reformation Spain had entered on her golden age of imperial prosperity. It was also the one country in Europe where the worst excesses of the Catholic Church had already been ‘cleaned up’ by the church itself. Both factors made it difficult for Reformers to obtain a sympathetic hearing from the general populace. Spain, infatuated with her American wealth and conscious of her earlier struggles on Catholicism’s behalf against Islam, was not going to weaken towards Protestant ‘heretics’. The first public burnings of Protestants took place in 1559 in the presence of the heir to the Spanish throne. The limited, transient impact of the Spanish reformation was among isolated families and individuals of the aristocratic and educated classes. No Protestant churches were formed. Catholicism continued in a position of complete dominance until around the time of the first republic in 1868, when new laws brought relief to the few believers. Missionaries were also allowed to enter Spain from that date. Today most of the older evangelical churches find their origins in that period. Roman Catholicism continued to be very powerful in Spain and the second republic (1930s) was a welcome respite to Protestants. It is not surprising that when Franco triumphed in 1939 Protestants were denounced as republicans. Persecution followed. Churches were closed and in some cases children were removed from the care of their families. It was only after the second Vatican council that a measure of religious toleration in Spain was granted again. Following the death of Franco in 1975 complete religious freedom was guaranteed under the new constitution.
Mountain ranges include the Pyrenees and Sierra Nevada.
The last two decades of tourism and industry, together with integration into the EU, have lifted Spain out of economic stagnation. Exports include fruit, vegetables, wine, olive oil, fish, iron ore and a variety of manufactured goods.