History Of Spain

Spain [speɪn].(Spanish: España?·i, IPA: [es'paɲa]) or the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: Reino de España),is a country located mostly in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish mainland is bordered to the south and east almost entirely by the Mediterranean Sea (except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar); to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal. Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco. With an area of 504,030 km², Spain is the second largest country in Western Europe (after France) and with an average altitude of 650 m, the second highest country in Europe (after Switzerland).

Spain is a constitutional monarchy organised as a parliamentary democracy and has been a member of the European Union since 1986, and NATO since 1982. It is a developed country with the eighth largest economy in the world and fifth largest in the EU, based on nominal GDP.
Spain is a key site when it comes to studying the human prehistory of Europe. After a long and hard conquest Hispania became one of the Roman Empire's most important regions. During the early Middle Ages it came under Germanic rule. Later it was conquered by Muslim invaders. Through a very long and fitful process, the Christian kingdoms in the north gradually rolled back Muslim rule, finally extinguishing its last remnant in Almería in 1492. The same year Columbus reached the New World, a global empire began. Spain became the strongest kingdom in Europe and leading world power during the 16th century and first half of the 17th century, but continued wars and other problems eventually led to a diminished status. A French invasion of Spain in the early 19th century led to chaos; triggering independence movements that tore apart most of the empire and left the country politically unstable. In the 20th century it suffered a devastating civil war and came under the rule of a dictatorship, leading to years of stagnation, but finishing in a strong economic revival. Democracy was restored in 1978 in the form of a constitutional monarchy. In 1986, Spain joined the European Union; experiencing a cultural renaissance and steady economic growth.

Main article: Geography of Spain
At 194,884 mi² (504,782 km²), Spain is the world's 51st-largest country. It is some 47,000 km² smaller than France and 81,000 km² larger than the U.S. state of California.

On the west, Spain borders Portugal, on the south, it borders Gibraltar (a British overseas territory) and Morocco, through its cities in North Africa (Ceuta and Melilla). On the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra. Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the strait of Gibraltar, known as Plazas de soberanía, such as the Chafarine islands, the isle of Alborán, the "rocks" (peñones) of Vélez and Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil. Along the Pyrenees in Catalonia, a small exclave town called Llívia is surrounded by France. The little Pheasant Island in the River Bidasoa is a Spanish-French condominium.

Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges, such as the Sierra Nevada. Running from these heights are several major rivers such as the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.

Main article: Economy of Spain
According to the World Bank, Spain's economy is the eighth largest worldwide and the fifth largest in Europe. As of 2007, absolute GDP was valued at $1.362 trillion according to the CIA Factbook, (see List of countries by GDP (nominal)). The per capita PPP is estimated at $33,700 (2007), ahead of G7 countries like Italy and placing Spain at a similar per capita basis as France or Japan (both with an 2007 estimated at $33,800). The Spanish economy grew 3.8% in 2007 outpacing all G7 members and all the big EU economies for the 3rd consecutive year.

The centre-right government of former prime minister José María Aznar worked successfully to gain admission to the group of countries launching the euro in 1999. Unemployment stood at 7.6% in October 2006, a rate that compares favorably to many other European countries, and which is a marked improvement over rates that exceeded 20% in the early 1990s. Perennial weak points of Spain's economy include high inflation,a large underground economy,and an education system which OECD reports place among the poorest for developed countries, together with the United States and UK.Nevertheless, it is expected that the Spanish economy will continue growing above the EU average based on the strengthening of industry, the growth of the global economy and increasing trade with Latin America and Asia.

The Spanish economy is credited for having avoided the virtual zero growth rate of some of its largest partners in the EU.In fact, the country's economy has created more than half of all the new jobs in the European Union over the five years ending 2005.The Spanish economy has thus been regarded lately as one of the most dynamic within the EU, attracting significant amounts of foreign investment.During the last four decades the Spanish tourism industry has grown to become the second biggest in the world,worth approximately 40 billion Euros (approx. 5% of GDP) in 2006 More recently, the Spanish economy has benefited greatly from the global real estate boom, with construction representing 16% of GDP and 12% of employment.According to calculations by the German newspaper Die Welt, Spain is on pace to overtake countries like Germany in per capita income by 2011.However, the downside of the real estate boom has been a corresponding rise in the levels of personal debt; as prospective homeowners struggle to meet asking prices, the average level of household debt has tripled in less than a decade. Among lower income groups, the median ratio of indebtedness to income was 125% in 2005.

The Spanish Constitution of 1978, in its second article, recognises historic entities ("nationalities", a carefully chosen word in order to avoid the more politically charged "nations") and regions, within the context of the Spanish nation. For some people, Spain's identity consists more of an overlap of different regional identities than of a sole Spanish identity. Indeed, some of the regional identities may even conflict with the Spanish one. Distinct ethnic groups within Spain include the Basques, Catalans, and Galicians.

It is this last feature of "shared identity" between the more local level or Autonomous Community and the Spanish level which makes the identity question in Spain complex and far from univocal.

The Hemispheric at the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències, Valencia.Main articles: Culture of Spain and UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain
Spain is known for its culturally diverse heritage, having been influenced by many nations and peoples throughout its history. Spanish culture has its origins in the Iberian, Celtiberian, Latin, Visigothic, Roman Catholic, and Islamic cultures. The definition of a national Spanish culture has been characterized by tension between the centralized state (dominated in recent centuries by Castile) and numerous regions and minority peoples. In addition, the history of the nation and its Mediterranean and Atlantic environment have played strong roles in shaping its culture.

After Italy, Spain is the country with the second highest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world, with a total of 40.

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