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Catalunya is more than a part of Spain: the Catalan people have a deeply felt individual identity, rooted in a rich and - at times - glorious past. Perhaps its most conspicuous manifestation these days is in the resurgence of the language, which increasingly takes precedence over Castilian Spanish on street names and signs, and has staged a dramatic comeback after being banned from public use during the Franco dictatorship. However, linguistics is only one element in Catalan regionalism.

Catalan cultural identity can be traced back as far as the ninth century. From the quilt of independent counties of the eastern Pyrenees, a powerful dynastic entity, dominated by Barcelona, and commonly known as the Crown of Aragón, developed over the next six hundred years. Its merger with Castile-Leon in the late 1400s, led to eventual inclusion in the new Spanish Empire of the sixteenth century - and marked the decline of Catalan independence and its eventual subjugation to Madrid. It has rarely been a willing subject, which goes some way to explaining how ingrained are the Catalan notions of social and cultural divorce from the rest of the country

Early civilizations and invasions
In the very earliest times the area which is now Catalunya saw much the same population movements and invasions as the rest of the Iberian peninsula. During the Upper Paleolithic period (35,000-10,000 BC) cave-dwelling hunter-gatherers lived in parts of the Pyrenees, and dolmens , or stone burial chambers, from around 5000 BC still survive. No habitations from this period have been discovered but it can be conjectured that huts of some sort were erected, and farming had certainly begun. By the start of the Bronze Age (around 2000 BC), the Pyrenean people had begun to move into fortified villages in the coastal lowlands.

The first of a succession of invasions of the region began sometime after 1000 BC, when the Celtic "urnfield people" crossed the Pyrenees into the region, settling in the river valleys. These people lived side-by-side with indigenous Iberians, and the two groups are commonly, if erroneously, referred to as Celtiberians .

Meanwhile, on the coast, the Greeks had established trading posts at Roses and Empúries by around 550 BC. Two centuries later, though, the coast (and the rest of the peninsula) had been conquered by the North African Carthaginians , who founded Barcino (later Barcelona) in around 230 BC, on a low hill where the cathedral now stands. The Carthaginians' famous commander, Hannibal, went on to cross the Pyrenees in 214 BC and attempted to invade Italy. But the result of the Second Punic War (218-201 BC) - much of which was fought in Catalunya - was to expel the Carthaginians from the Iberian peninsula in favour of the Romans, who made their new base at the former Carthaginian stronghold of Tarragona.

Roman Catalunya
The Roman colonization of the Iberian peninsula was far more intense than anything previously experienced and met with great resistance from the Celtic and Iberian tribes. It was almost two centuries before the conquest was complete, by which time Spain had become the most important centre of the Roman Empire after Italy. Tarragona (known as Tarraco) was made a provincial capital; fine monuments were built, the remains of which can still be seen in and around the city, and an infrastructure of roads, bridges and aqueducts came into being - much of which was used well into recent times. Barcelona was of less importance, although in 15 BC the Emperor Augustus granted it the lengthy name of Colonia Julia Augusta Faventia Pia.

In the first two centuries AD the Spanish mines and the granaries of Andalucia brought unprecedented wealth, and Roman Spain enjoyed a period of stable prosperity in which the region of Catalunya played an influential part. It was a relatively peaceful time, too. In Tarraco and the other Roman towns, the inhabitants were granted full Roman citizenship; the former Greek settlements on the Costa Brava had accepted Roman rule without difficulty and consequently experienced little interference in their day-to-day life.

Towards the third century AD, however, the Roman political framework began to show signs of decadence and corruption. Although at a municipal level the structure did not disappear completely until the Muslim invasions of the eighth century, it became increasingly vulnerable to barbarian invasions from northern Europe. The Franks and the Suevi swept across the Pyrenees, sacking Tarraco in 262 and destroying Barcelona. It was subsequently retaken by the Romans and rather belatedly defended by a circuit of walls and towers, part of which can still be seen. Within two centuries, however, Roman rule had ended, forced on the defensive by new waves of Suevi, Alans and Vandals and finally superseded by the Visigoths from Gaul, former allies of Rome and already Romanized to some degree.

The Visigoths established their first Spanish capital at Barcelona in 531 (before eventually basing themselves further south at Toledo), and built a kingdom encompassing most of modern Spain and the southwest of modern France. Their triumph, however, was relatively shortlived. Ruling initially as a caste apart from the local people, with a distinct status and laws, the Visigoths lived largely as a warrior elite, and were further separated from the local people by their adherence to Arian Christianity, which was considered heretical by the Catholic Church. Under their domination, the economy and the quality of life in the Roman towns declined, while within their ranks a series of plots and rivalries - exacerbated by their system of elective monarchy - pitted members of the ruling elite against each other. In 589 King Reccared converted to Catholicism, but religious strife only multiplied, resistance on the part of Arian Christians led to reaction, one of the casualties of which was the sizeable Jewish population of the peninsula, who were enslaved en masse in the seventh century

The Moors and the Spanish Marches
Divisions within the Visigothic kingdom, coincided with the Islamic expansion in North Africa, which reached the shores of the Atlantic in the late seventh century. In 711 (or 714, no one is sure) Tariq ibn Ziyad, governor of Tangier, led a force of several thousand largely Berber troops, across the Straits of Gibraltar (the name of which is a corruption of the Arabic, jebl at-Tariq , "Tariq's mountain") and routed and massacred the Visigothic nobility near Jerez de la Frontera. With no one to resist, the stage for the Moorish conquest of Spain was set. Within ten years, the Muslim Moors had advanced to control most of modern Catalunya - they destroyed Tarragona and forced Barcelona to surrender - although the more inaccessible parts of the Pyrenees retained their independence. It was not simply a military conquest. The Moors had little manpower, and so granted a limited autonomy to the local population in exchange for payment of tribute. They did not force the indigenous people to convert to Islam, and Jews and Christians lived securely as second-class citizens. In areas of the peninsula that remained under Muslim power through the ninth century, a new ethnic group emerged; the "Mozarabs", Christians who lived under Muslim rule, and adopted Arabic language, dress and social customs.

In the power vacuum, of southern France, Moorish raiding parties continued beyond the Pyrenees and reached as far north as Poitiers in 732, where Charles Martel, the de facto ruler of Merovingian France, dealt them a minor defeat which convinced them to withdraw. Martel's son Pepin and his famous grandson Charlemagne (768-814) both strove to restore order in the south and push back the invaders, with Charlemagne's empire including the southern slopes of the Pyrenees and much of Catalunya. After being ambushed and defeated by the Basques at Roncesvalles in 778, Charlemagne switched his attention to the Mediterranean side of the Pyrenees, attempting to defend his empire against the Muslims. He took Girona in 785 and his son Louis directed the successful siege of Barcelona in 801. Continued Frankish military success meant that Muslim influence in Catalunya had waned long before the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212 - the turning point for the reconquest of the peninsula as a whole.

With the capture of Barcelona, the Frankish counties of Catalunya became a sort of buffer zone, known as the Spanish Marches . Separate territories, each ruled by a count and theoretically owing allegiance to the Frankish king (or Emperor), were primitive proto-feudal entities, almost exclusively agrarian, and ruled by a small hereditary military elite. It was the building of local fortifications to protect and control the population, reaching its greatest pitch between 1000 and 1200, which led to the term catlá (or lord of the castle) being used to refer to the people of the area - the root of today's " Catalan " (Castilian has an analogous root). Also, and as happened across much of the former Roman Empire, spoken Latin had taken on geographical particularities, and the "Romance" languages, including Catalan, had begun to develop. A document from 839 recording the consecration of the cathedral at La Seu d'Urgell is seen as the first Catalan-language historical document.

From Wilfred the Hairy to Ramon Berenguer IV
As the Frankish empire of Charlemagne disintegrated in the decades following his death, the counties of the Marches began to enjoy greater independence, which was formalized in 878 by Guifré el Pelós - known in English as Wilfred the Hairy . Guifré was count of Urgell and the Cerdagne, and after adding Barcelona to his holdings, named himself its first count, founding a dynastic line that was to rule until the 1400s. Count Guifré made important territorial gains - he inherited Girona and Besalù, and regained control of Montserrat (the first monastery there was founded around this time). In the wake of the Muslim withdrawal from the area, Christian outposts had been established throughout Catalunya, and Wilfred continued the process, founding Benedictine monasteries at Ripoll (about 880) and Sant Joan de les Abadesses (888), where his daughter was the first abbess.

Guifré died in 898 on an expedition against Muslim enemies and was followed by a succession of rulers who attempted to consolidate his gains. Early counts, like Ramon Berenguer I (1035-76) concentrated on establishing their superiority over the other local counts, which was bitterly resisted. Ramon Berenguer III (1144-66) added considerable territory to the his realms with his marriage in 1113 to a Provençal heiress, and made alliances and commercial treaties with Muslim and Christian powers around the Western Mediterranean.

The most important stage in Catalunya's development as a significant power, however, came in 1137 with the marriage of Ramon Berenguer IV to Petronella, the two-year-old daughter of King Ramiro II of Aragón. This led to the dynastic union of Catalunya and Aragón . Although this remained a loose and tenuous federation - the regions retained their own parliaments and customs - it provided the platform for rapid expansion over the next three centuries. As importantly, Ramon managed to tame almost all of the other counts, forcing them to recognize his superior status, in the course of this he promulgated the Usatges de Barcelona , a code of laws and customs defining feudal duties, rights and authorities - sneakily putting Ramon I's name on them to make them appear older than they were. He also captured Muslim Tortosa and Lleida in 1148-49, which mark the limits of the modern region of Catalunya, but now the region began to look east for its future, across the Mediterranean .

The Kingdom of Catalunya and Aragón
Ramon Berenguer IV was no more than a count, but his son Alfons I (who succeeded to the throne in 1162) also inherited the title of king of Aragón (where he was Alfonso II), and became the first count-king of what historians later came to call the Crown of Aragón . To his territories he added Roussillon and much of southern France, becoming known as "Emperor of the Pyrenees"; he also made some small gains against the Berber Almohads who now dominated Muslim Iberia, and allied with and intrigued against neighbouring Christian kingdoms of Navarre and Castile.

Under the rule of Alfons's son, Pere (Peter) the Catholic, the kingdom suffered both successes and reverses. Pere gained glory as one of the military leaders in the decisive defeat of Muslim forces at the Battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212, but, swept up into the Albigensian Wars through his ties of lordship to the Counts of Toulouse, he was killed by Catholic forces at Muret a year later. In the years of uncertainty which followed the succession of his five-year-old son, Jaume I (1213-76), later known as "the Conqueror", his rivals took advantage of the power vacuum and stripped the count-kings of Provence. Although they would retain Roussillon and acquire Montpellier, for all intents and purposes this signalled the end of Catalan aspirations north of the Pyrenees .

The golden age
In spite of these setbacks, Catalunya's age of glory was about to begin in earnest, with the 63-year reign of the extraordinary Jaume. Shrugging off the tutelage of his Templar masters at the age of 13, he then personally took to the field to tame his rebellious nobility. This accomplished, he embarked on a series of campaigns of conquest, which brought him Muslim Mallorca in 1229, Menorca in 1231 and Ibiza in 1235 (which, incidentally, explains why the Balearics share a common language with the region). Next he turned south and conquered the city of Valencia in 1238, establishing a new kingdom of which he was also ruler. Valencia, however, was no easy territory to govern, and the region's Muslim inhabitants rose up in a series of revolts which outlasted the king's reign.

Recognizing that Mediterranean expansion was where Catalunya's future lay, Jaume signed the Treaty of Corbeil in 1258, renouncing his rights in France (except for Montpellier, the Cerdagne and Roussillon), in return for the French King Louis's renunciation of claims in Catalunya. In this period Catalunya's economic development was rapid, fuelled by the exploits of Barcelona's mercantile class who were quick to see the possibilities of Mediterranean commerce. Maritime customs were codified in the so-called Llibre del Consolat de Mar , trade relations were established with North Africa and the Middle East, and consulates opened in foreign ports to protect Catalan interests.

Equally important during Jaume's reign was the establishment of the Corts , Catalunya's first parliament - and one of the earliest such bodies in Europe - and demonstrative of the confidence developing within the region. In 1249, the first governors of Barcelona were elected, nominating councillors to help them who became known as the Consell de Cent .

On Jaume's death, his kingdom was divided between his sons, one of whom, Pere II ("the Great"), took Catalunya, Aragón and Valencia. Connected through marriage to the Sicilian Crown, Pere used the 1282 "Sicilian Vespers" rising against Charles of Anjou to press his claim to that island. In August that year Pere was crowned at Palermo , and Sicily became the base for Catalan exploits throughout the Mediterranean. Athens and Neopatras were taken (1302-11) by Catalan mercenaries, the almogávares , and famous sea-leaders-cum-pirates such as Roger de Flor and Roger de Llúria fought in the name of the Catalan-Aragónese crown. Malta (1283), Corsica (1323), Sardinia (1324) and Naples (1423) all fell under the influence of successive count-kings.

With the territorial gains came new developments with a wider significance. Catalan became used as a trading language throughout the Mediterranean, and 1289 saw the first recorded meeting of a body which became known as the Generalitat , a sort of committee of the Corts. Within it were represented each of the three traditional Estates - commons, nobility and clergy - and it gradually became responsible for administering public order and justice, and maintaining an arsenal and fleet for the defence of the kingdom.

The rise of Castile
The last of Wilfred the Hairy's dynasty of Catalan count-kings, Martin the Humane (Martí el Humà), died in 1410 without an heir. After nearly five hundred years of continuity, there were six claimants to the throne, and in 1412 nine specially appointed counsellors elevated Ferran (Ferdinand) de Antequera, son of a Catalan princess, to the vacant throne.

Ferran ruled for only four years, but his reign and that of his son, Alfons, and grandson, Joan (John) II, spelled the end for Catalunya's influence in the Mediterranean. The Castilian rulers were soon in dispute with the Consell de Cent ; illegal taxes were imposed, funds belonging to the Generalitat were appropriated, and most damagingly non-Catalans started to be appointed to key positions in the Church, state offices and the armed forces. In 1469 Joan's son, Prince Ferdinand (Ferran in Catalan), married Isabel of Castile, a union that would eventually finish off Catalan independence.

Both came into their inheritances quickly, Isabel taking Castile in 1474 and the Catalan-Aragónese crown coming to Ferdinand on the death of Joan II in 1479. The two largest kingdoms in Spain were thus united, the ruling pair becoming known as " Los Reyes Católicos " ("Els Reis Catòlicos" in Catalan), the Catholic monarchs. Their energies were devoted to the reconquest and unification of Spain: they finally took back Granada from the Moors in 1492, and initiated a wave of Christian fervour at whose heart was the Inquisition . Ferdinand and Isabel shared in the religious bigotry of their contemporaries, although Isabel, under the influence of her personal confessor and advisors, was the more reactionary of the two. In Catalunya, the Inquisition was established in 1487, and aimed to purify the Catholic faith by rooting out heresy. It was directed mainly at the secret Jews , most of whom had been converted by force (after the pogrom of 1391) to Christianity. It was suspected that their descendants, known as New Christians , continued to practice their old faith in secrecy, and in 1492, an edict forced some seventy thousand Jews to flee the country. The Jewish population in Barcelona was completely eradicated in this way, while those communities elsewhere - principally in Girona, Tarragona and Lleida - were massively reduced, and those who remained were forced to convert to Christianity.

Also in 1492, the final shift in Catalunya's outlook occurred with the triumphal return of Christopher Columbus from the New World, to be received in Barcelona by Ferdinand and Isabel. As trade routes shifted away from the Mediterranean, this was no longer such a profitable market. Castile, like Portugal, looked to the Americas, for trade and conquest, and the exploration and exploitation of the New World was spearheaded by the Andalucían city of Seville. Meanwhile, Ferdinand (who was born in Aragón) gave the Supreme Council of Aragón control over Catalan affairs in 1494. The Aragónese nobility, who had always resented the success of the Catalan maritime adventures which they had refused to take part in, now saw the chance to complete their control of Catalunya by taking over its ecclesiastical institutions - with Catalan monks being thrown out of the great monasteries of Poblet and Montserrat.

Habsburg and Bourbon rule
Charles I, a Habsburg , came to the throne in 1516 as a beneficiary of the marriage alliances made by the Catholic monarchs. Five years later he was elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire (as Charles V), inheriting not only Castile, Aragón and Catalunya, but also Flanders, the Netherlands, Artois, the Franche-Comté and all the American colonies. With such responsibilities, it became inevitable that attention would be diverted from Spain, whose chief function became to sustain the Holy Roman Empire with gold and silver from the Americas. It was in this era that Madrid was established as capital city of the Spanish Empire, and the long rivalry between Madrid and Barcelona began.

Throughout the sixteenth century , Catalunya continued to suffer under the Inquisition, and - deprived of trading opportunities in the Americas - became an impoverished region. Habsburg wars wasted the lives of Catalan soldiers, banditry in the region increased as the economic situation worsened, and emigration from certain areas followed. By the middle of the seventeenth century , Spain's rulers were losing credibility as the disparity between the wealth surrounding Crown and Court and the poverty of the mass of the population produced a source of perpetual tension.

With Spain and France at war in 1635, the Catalans took advantage of the situation and revolted, declaring themselves an independent republic under the protection of the French King Louis XIII. This, the "War of the Reapers" after the marching song Els Segadors (the Reapers), later the Catalan national anthem, ended in 1652 with the surrender of Barcelona to the Spanish army. The Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659 finally split the historical lands of Catalunya as the Spanish lost control of Roussillon and part of the Cerdagne to France; the town of Llívia remained Spanish, but the surrounding territory became French, leaving it isolated.

In 1700, when the Habsburg king Charles II died heirless, France's Louis XIV saw an opportunity to fulfil his long-time ambition of putting a Bourbon on the Spanish throne. He managed to secure the succession of his grandson, Philippe d'Anjou, under condition that the latter renounced his rights to the throne of France. This deal put a Bourbon on the throne of Spain, but led to war with the other claimant, Archduke Charles of Austria: the resulting War of the Spanish Succession lasted thirteen years from 1701, with Catalunya (along with England) lining up on the Austrian side in an attempt to regain its ancient rights and in the hope that victory would give it a share of the American trade dominated by the Castilians since the late fifteenth century.

However, the Treaty of Utrecht in 1714 gave the throne to the Bourbon ("Borbón" in Castilian, "Borbó" in Catalan) Philippe, now Philip V of Spain, and initiated a fresh period of repression from which the Catalans took a century to recover. Barcelona lay under siege for over a year, and with its eventual capitulation, a fortress was built at Ciutadella to subdue the city's inhabitants - the final defeat, on September 11, is still commemorated every year as a Catalan holiday, La Diada. The universities at Barcelona and Lleida were closed, the Catalan language banned, the Consell de Cent and Generalitat abolished - in short, Catalunya was finished as even a partially autonomous region.

Throughout the eighteenth century , Catalunya's interests were submerged in those of Bourbon Spain, and successive monarchs were determined to Castilianize the region. When neighbouring France became aggressively expansionist following the Revolution of 1789, Spain was a natural target, first for the Revolutionary armies, and later for the machinations of Napoleon. In 1805, during the Napoleonic Wars , the French fleet (along with the Spanish who had been forced into an alliance) was defeated at Trafalgar. Shortly thereafter, Charles IV was forced to abdicate with Napoleon installing his brother Joseph on the throne three years later. Attempting to broaden his appeal among Spain's subjects, the French emperor proclaimed a separate government of Catalunya - independent of Joseph's rule - with Catalan as its official language. The region's response was an indication of how far Catalunya had become integrated into Spain during the Bourbon period - despite their history the Catalans supported the Bourbon cause solidly during the ensuing Peninsular War (1808-14), ignoring Napoleon's blandishments. Girona was defended heroically from the French in a seven-month siege, while Napoleon did his cause no good at all by attacking and sacking the holy shrine and monastery at Montserrat. Fierce local resistance was eventually backed by the muscle of a British army, and the French were at last driven out.

The slow Catalan revival
Despite the political emasculation of Catalunya, there were signs of economic revival from the end of the seventeenth century onwards, at first almost imperceptibly slow, but gathering pace to a sprint by the nineteenth century. During the 1700s there was a gradual growth in agricultural output, partly caused by a doubling of the population: more land was put under cultivation, and productivity improved, too, with the introduction of easy-to-cultivate maize from the Indies. The port of Barcelona also saw a steady increase in trade, since from 1778 Catalunya was allowed to trade with the Americas for the first time; in this way, the shipping industry received a boost and Catalunya was able to export its textiles to a wider market. The other great export was wine, whose widespread production in the region also dates from this period. A chamber of commerce was founded in Barcelona in 1758, and other economic societies followed as commercial interests increased.

After the Napoleonic Wars, industry in Catalunya developed apace - significantly for the future, it was an industrialization that appeared nowhere else in Spain. In the mid-nineteenth century, the country's first railway was built from Barcelona to Mataró, and later extended south to Tarragona, and north to Girona and the French border. Manufacturing industries appeared as the financial surpluses from the land were invested, encouraging a shift in population from the land to the towns; olive oil production in Lleida and Tarragona helped supply the whole country; and previously local industries flourished on a wider scale - in the wine-growing districts, for example, cava (champagne-like wine) production was introduced in the late nineteenth century, supported closely by the age-old cork industry of the Catalan forests. From 1890, hydroelectric power was harnessed from the Pyrenees, and by the end of the century Barcelona was the fastest growing city in Spain - it was one of only six with more than a hundred thousand inhabitants.

Equally important was the first stirring of what became known as the Renaixença (Renaissance), in the mid-nineteenth century. Despite being banned in official use and public life, the Catalan language had never died out; it had been retained especially in the local churches. Books began to appear again in Catalan - a dictionary in 1803 and a grammar in 1814 - and the language was revived among the bourgeoisie and intellectuals in the cities as a means of making subtle nationalist and political points. Catalan poetry became popular, and the late medieval Floral Games (the Jocs Florals), a sort of literary competition, were revived in 1859 in Barcelona: one winner was the great Catalan poet, Jacint Verdaguer (1845-1902). Joan Maragall (1860-1911), forebear of Barcelona's Olympic mayor, was writing at the same time. Catalan drama developed (although even in the late nineteenth century there were still restrictions on performing wholly Catalan plays), led mainly by the dramatist, Pitarra. The only discipline that didn't show any great advance was prose literature - partly because the Catalan language had been so debased with Castilian over the centuries that writers found it difficult to express themselves in a way that would appeal to the population.

These cultural developments didn't take place in isolation. Prosperity had led to the rapid expansion of Barcelona in particular, and the mid-nineteenth century addition to the city by the engineer Cerdà, the Eixample, opened the architectural floodgates. Encouraged by wealthy patrons and merchants, architects like Puig i Cadafalch, Domènech i Montaner and Antoni Gaudí were in the vanguard of the modernista movement which changed the face of the city. Culture and business came together with the International Exhibition of 1888, based around the modernista buildings of the Parc de la Ciutadella, and the International Fair on Montjuïc in 1929, which boasted creations in the style of modernisme 's successor, nou centisme .

The seeds of civil war
In 1814, the repressive Ferdinand VII had been restored to the Spanish throne, and, despite the Catalan contribution to the defeat of the French, he stamped out the least hint of liberalism in the region, abolishing virtually all Catalunya's remaining privileges. On his death, the Crown was claimed both by his daughter Isabel II (with liberal support) and by his brother Charles (backed by the Church and the conservatives). The ensuing First Carlist War (1833-39) ended in victory for Isabel, who came of age in 1843. Her reign was a long record of scandal, political crisis and constitutional compromise, until liberal army generals under the leadership of General Prim eventually effected a coup in 1868, forcing Isabel to abdicate. However, the experimental First Republic (1873-75) failed, and following the Second Carlist War the throne went to Isabel's son, Alfonso XII.

A new constitution was declared in 1876, limiting the power of the Crown through the institution of bicameral government, but again progress was halted by the lack of any tradition on which to base the constitutional theory. Against this unstable background, local dissatisfaction increased and the years preceding World War I saw a growth in working-class political movements . Barcelona's textile workers organized a branch affiliated to the First International, and the region's wine growers also banded together to seek greater security. Tension was further heightened by the loss of Cuba in 1898, which only added to local economic problems, with the return of soldiers seeking employment in the cities where there was none.

A call-up for army reserves to fight in Morocco in 1909 provoked a general strike and the so-called Tragic Week (Setmana Trágica) of rioting in Barcelona, and then throughout Catalunya, in which over one hundred people died. Catalans objected violently to the suggestion that they should go to fight abroad for a state that did little for them at home, and the city's streets saw burning churches, barricades and popular committees, though there was little direction to the protest. What the Tragic Week did prove to Catalan workers was the need to be better organized for the future. A direct result was the establishment of the Confederación Nacional del Trabajo - the CNT - in 1911, which included many of the Catalan working-class organizations.

During World War I Spain was neutral, though inwardly turbulent since soaring inflation and the cessation of exports following the German blockade of the North Atlantic hit the country hard. As rumblings grew among the workers and political organizations, the army moved decisively, crushing a general strike of 1917 and pulling the Catalan bourgeoisie, which was equally determined not to let the country go down the revolutionary road, behind it. The Russian Revolution had scared the conservative businessmen of the region, who offered co-operation with the army in return for political representation in the country's government. However, things didn't improve. Violent strikes and assassinations plagued Barcelona, the CNT and the union of the Socialists, the CGT, both saw huge increases in their membership, and matters looked to be irretrievable. In 1923, General Primo de Rivera , the captain-general of Catalunya, overthrew the national government in a military coup that had the full backing of the Catalan middle class, establishing a dictatorship which enjoyed initial economic success.

Civil War
The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) was one of the most bitter and bloody the world has seen. Violent reprisals were visited on their enemies by both sides - the Republicans shooting priests and local landowners wholesale, and burning churches and cathedrals; the Nationalists carrying out mass slaughter of the population of almost every town they took. It was also to be the first modern war - Franco's German allies demonstrated their ability to inflict damage and terror on civilian populations with their bombing raids on Gernika and Durango, while radio became an important propaganda weapon, with Nationalists offering starving Republicans the "white bread of Franco".

Catalunya was devoutly Republican from the outset, many of the rural areas particularly attracted by anarchism, an ideology that embodied their traditional values of equality and personal liberty. However, the Republicans were hard pressed from the start. Despite sporadic help from Russia and the 35,000 International Brigades volunteers, the Republic could never compete with the professional armies and the massive assistance from fascist Italy and Nazi Germany that the Nationalists enjoyed. Foreign volunteers arriving in Barcelona were sent to the front with companies that were ill-equipped; lines of communication were poor; and, in addition, the left was torn by internal divisions which at times led almost to civil war within its own ranks. George Orwell's account of this period in his Homage to Catalonia is instructive; fighting in an anarchist militia, he was eventually forced to flee the country when the infighting became intolerable, though many others like him were not so fortunate and ended up in prison or executed.

Eventually, the nonintervention of the other European governments effectively handed victory to the Nationalists. The Republican government fled Madrid first for Valencia, and then moved on to base itself at Barcelona in 1937. The Battle of the Ebro around Tortosa saw massive casualties on both sides; Nationalist troops advanced on Valencia in 1938, and from the west were also approaching Catalunya from their bases in Navarre. When Bilbao was taken by the Nationalists, the Republicans' fight on the Aragón front was lost. The final Republican hope - that war in Europe over Czechoslovakia would draw the Allies into a war against fascism and deprive Franco of his foreign aid - failed in September 1938, with the British Prime Minister Chamberlain's capitulation to Hitler at Munich, and Franco was able to call on new arms and other supplies from Germany for a final offensive against Catalunya. The fall of Barcelona came on January 25, 1939 - the Republican parliament held its last meeting at Figueres a few days later. Republican soldiers, cut off in the valleys of the Pyrenees, made their way across the high passes into France, joined by women and children fearful of a fascist victory. Among the refugees and escapees was Lluís Companys , president of the Generalitat , who was later captured in France by the Germans, returned to Spain and ordered by Franco to be shot at the castle prison on Montjuïc in 1940.

Catalunya in Franco's Spain
Although the Civil War left more than half a million dead, destroyed a quarter of a million homes and sent a third of a million people (including 100,000 Catalans) into exile, Franco was in no mood for reconciliation, and there was a significant number of Catalans who sympathized with him or simply acquiesced. With his government recognized by Allied powers, including Britain and France, he set up war tribunals which ordered executions and provided concentration camps in which upwards of two million people were held until "order" had been established by authoritarian means. Until as late as the mid-1960s, isolated partisans in Catalunya (and elsewhere in Spain) continued to resist fascist rule.

The Catalan language was banned again, in schools, churches, the press and in public life; only one party was permitted and censorship was rigorously enforced. The economy was in ruins, and Franco did everything possible to further the cause of Madrid against Catalunya, starving the region of investment and new industry. Pyrenean villagers began to drift down into the towns and cities in a fruitless search for work, accelerating the depopulation of the mountains.

After World War II (during which the country was too weak to be anything but neutral), Spain was economically and politically isolated. There were serious strikes in 1951 in Barcelona and in 1956 across the whole of Catalunya.

What saved Franco was the acceptance of American aid , offered by General Eisenhower in 1953 on the condition that Franco provide land for US air bases - a condition he was more than willing to accept. Prosperity did increase after this, fuelled in the 1960s and 1970s by a growing tourist industry, but Catalunya (along with the Basque country, another thorn in Franco's side) was still economically backward, with investment per head lower than anywhere else in the country; absentee landlords took much of the local revenue, a situation exacerbated by Franco's policy of encouraging emigration to Catalunya from other parts of Spain (and granting the immigrants land) in an attempt to dilute regional differences.

Despite the cultural and political repression , the distinct Catalan identity was never really obliterated: the Catalan Church retained a feisty independence, while Barcelona emerged as the most important publishing centre in Spain. Clandestine language and history classes were conducted and artists and writers continued to produce work in defiance of the authorities. Nationalism in Catalunya however did not take the same course as the Basque separatist movement , which engendered the terrorist organization ETA (Euzkadi ta Azkatasuna: "Basque Homeland and Freedom"). There was little violence against the state in Catalunya and no serious counterpart to ETA. The Catalan approach was subtler: an audience at the Palau de la Música sang the unofficial Catalan anthem when Franco visited in 1960; a massive petition against language restrictions was raised in 1963; and a sit-in by Catalan intellectuals at Montserrat was organized in protest against repression in the Basque country.

As Spain became comparatively more wealthy, so the political bankruptcy of Franco's regime and its inability to cope with popular demands became clearer. Higher incomes, the need for better education and a creeping invasion of Western culture made the anachronism of Franco ever clearer. His only reaction was to attempt to withdraw what few signs of increased liberalism had crept through, and his last years mirrored the repression of the postwar period

Democracy and contemporary Spanish politics
When Franco died in 1975, King Juan Carlos was officially designated to succeed as head of state - groomed for the succession by Franco himself. The king's initial moves were cautious in the extreme, appointing a government dominated by loyal Franquistas, who had little sympathy for the growing opposition demands for "democracy without adjectives". In the summer of 1976 demonstrations, particularly in Madrid, ended in violence, with the police upholding the old authoritarian ways.

To his credit, Juan Carlos recognized that some real break with the past was urgent and inevitable, and, accepting the resignation of his prime minister, set in motion the process of democratization . His newly appointed prime minister, Adolfo Suárez, steered through a Political Reform Act, which allowed for a two-chamber parliament and a referendum in favour of democracy; he also legitimized the Socialist Party (the PSOE) and the Communists, and called elections for the following year, the first since 1936.

In the elections of 1977, the Pacte Democratico per Catalunya - an alliance of pro-Catalan parties - gained ten seats in the lower house of the Spanish parliament (Basque nationalists won a similar number) dominated by Suárez's own centre-right UCD party but also with a strong Socialist presence. In a spirit of consensus and amnesty, it was announced that Catalunya was to be granted a degree of autonomy , and a million people turned out on the streets of Barcelona to witness the re-establishment of the Generalitat and to welcome home its president-in-exile, Josep Tarradellas. A new Spanish constitution of 1978 allowed for a sort of devolution within a unitary state, and the statute of autonomy for Catalunya was approved on December 18, 1979, with the first regional elections taking place in March 1980. In a way, it had been easy for the central government to deal with Catalunya, since the demands for autonomy here did not have the extreme political dimension they had in the Basque country - the notion of a completely independent Catalan nation had (and still has) very few adherents.

After the failure of an attempted military coup in February 1981, led by Civil Guard Colonel Tejero, the elections of 1982 saw Felipe González's PSOE elected with a massive swing to the left in a country that had been firmly in the hands of the right for 43 years. The 1986 general election gave González a renewed mandate, during which time Spain entered the European Community , decided by referendum to stay in NATO, and boasted one of the fastest-growing economies in Western Europe. However, high unemployment, wage controls and a lack of social security measures led to diminishing support and the PSOE began losing much of its credibility. Narrow victories in two more elections kept the Socialists in power but after the 1993 results were counted it was clear that they had failed to win an overall majority and were forced to rely on the Catalan nationalist coalition CiU's seventeen seats to retain power. This state of affairs well suited Jordi Pujol , long-serving head of the autonomous government of Catalunya and CiU leader. Holding the balance of power, Pujol was in a position to pursue some of the Catalan nationalists' more long-cherished aims, in particular the right to retain part of the region's own income-tax revenue.

Following allegations of sleaze and the disclosure of the existence of a secret "dirty war" against the Basque terrorists, the calling of a general election in 1996 came as no surprise and neither did the overall result. In power for almost fourteen years, the PSOE finally succumbed to the greater appeal of the conservative Partido Popular, under José Maria Aznar - the first conservative government in Spain since the return of democracy. However, like PSOE in 1993, the PP came in well short of an outright majority and Aznar was left with the same problem as González before him - relying on the Catalan nationalists (down to sixteen seats in the new parliament) and other smaller regionalist parties to maintain his party in power. Agreement was eventually reached with CiU and the moderate Basque Nationalist Party (PNV), though not before a raft of concessions had been wrested from the PP. Making concessions to regions with a history of antagonism towards Madrid does, of course, fly in the face of the right's centralizing tendencies, but nevertheless soon after the 1996 election Aznar began to play down the Spanish nationalist nature of his party, even appearing on television speaking Catalan.

In the general elections of 1999, enough Spaniards agreed with Aznar's blithe analysis "España va bien" ("Spain is working fine") to give the PP a resounding victory in the national parliament, whilst Catalunya was left under CiU. The difference this time, however, was that now Pujol had to go hat in hand to Aznar - not surprisingly, since this election, CiU's discourse on regionalism has all but evaporated

Catalunya and Barcelona today

The province 's official title is the Comunitat Autonoma de Catalunya. The Generalitat - the Catalan government - enjoys a very high profile, employing eighty thousand people, controlling education, health and social security, local culture, industry, trade, tourism and agriculture. However, as long as the budget is based on tax collected by central government and then returned proportionately, the scope for real independence is limited as the Generalitat has no tangible resources of its own. Still, steps are being taken to create the illusion of independence, and two of the most visible symbols of the Spanish state, the Guardia Civil and the Policía Nacional - are gradually being scaled down, with urban crime policing and rural and highway duties being taken over by the Mossos d'Esquadra, Catalunya's police force by 2004.

Since autonomy was granted, the region has consistently elected right-wing governments , led by the conservative president of the Generalitat , Jordi Pujol, a position he has held since 1980. The Catalan predilection for the right may come as a surprise in view of the past, but Catalunya is nothing if not pragmatic, and such administrations are seen as better able to protect Catalan business interests. Though other Catalan parties like the venerable prewar ERC (Esquerra Republicana Catalana) and the Verts (Greens) do get votes, they are confined to certain well-defined enclaves, and after more than twenty years in power, and having dominated every branch of the region's government, it's difficult to envisage the CiU being defeated.

By way of contrast to conservative Catalunya, Barcelona itself remains by and large a Socialist stronghold within the province. Part of this is due to the city's industrial heritage, but it's also in good measure the result of the large immigrant population from elsewhere in Spain, who feel little attraction for Pujol, despite their own linguistic integration, and despite Pujol's assurances that all immigrants who work in Catalunya are Catalan. For many years the city council was led by an incredibly popular and charismatic independent mayor, Pasqual Maragall. He took much of the credit for the 1992 Olympic Games, and his popularity endured even in their aftermath when massive public debt led to a corresponding tax increase. However, much to the consternation of locals, he stepped down from his post as mayor in 1997, leaving his deputy, the little-known Joan Clos, in his place. Maragall moved on to take charge of the Socialist party in Catalunya, the PSC, running unsuccessfully against Pujol in the autonomous elections of 1999. Clos has tried hard to fill Maragall's shoes, but his offhand approach to certain inner-city problems has gained him the reputation of being distant and arrogant. Voter reaction could conceivably lead to a CiU victory in the next election

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