The first evidence of human population in the territory that today forms the city of Barcelona dates back to 4000 years ago in the late Neolithic period (2000-1500 BC). Anyway, strictly speaking, the city of Barcelona was founded by the Romans in the late first century BC, on a previous Iberian settlement (Barke-no). In the second century it was walled and had a time of great prosperity, even if the capital and major city of the Roman province was Tarraco, Tarragona nowadays.
In 415 Barcelona was conquered by Ataulfo, who established the capital of the Visigoth kingdom, which was soon moved to Toledo. Later in 717-718 Barcelona was conquered by the vizier al-Hurr, starting a period of almost a century of Muslim domination, which ended in 801 when the city was taken by Ludovico Pío in command of Charlemagne’s French arm.
They established the city as a major stronghold of the southern flank of the Carolingian Empire, naming several counts to govern it. At the Council of Troyes (878) The French King Louis the Stammerer invested the son of the Marquis of Gothia, Wilfred I the Hairy Count of Barcelona, Girona and Besalú, beginning the count’s dynasty of Barcelona, at first dependent on the French kings.
In March 988 Borrell II proclaimed independence. In the next two centuries, the various independent Catalan counties were joined in the capital of Barcelona, with a policy of alliances and marriages that included much of southern France (from Bearn to Provence), while they extended the territories at the expense of Muslims. From this moment it’s almost impossible to separate the history of Barcelona with the one of Catalonia.
In 1137 the Count Ramon Berenguer IV married the daughter of the King of Aragon who wanted to protect his kingdom from the Castilian desires, so both territories confederated themselves with an only head of state.
The defeat in the battle of Muret (1213) finished the project of createing a major state heading north to Occitania. This reoriented the expansionary policy of the city to the south and east, which lasted throughout the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries turning Barcelona into the leading maritime power in the Mediterranean, after the conquest of the Balearic Islands (1228), the kingdoms of Valencia (1232) and Sicily (1282), the duchies of Athens and Neopatria (1311), the island of Sardinia (1323) and the kingdom of Naples (1421).
This flourishing period ended with a decline, due to serious demographic crises, the civil war and the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, which gave end to any possibility of trade from the Mediterranean with the East.
The decline, with brief periods of some recovery in Barcelona, lasted until the eighteenth century. In the middle, he had to suffer the Reapers’ War (1640-1652) in a first attempt of Castilla to subdue Catalonia, where Barcelona was finally taken even if it managed to preserve its autonomy, although it represented the dismemberment of Catalonia, leaving the north side to the French. The War of Succession (1705-1714) ended with the conquest of Barcelona by the Castilian-French troops, with the loss of freedoms and political autonomy, the closure of the university, submission to the laws of Castile and the prohibition of using the Catalan language in education and public documents. At the same time, the kingdom of Mallorca became dependent on Madrid while Menorca and the Italian possessions (Sicily, Sardinia and Naples) were lost.
With industrialization things started to get better again. Industry and commerce formed a major bourgeoisie. The outbreak of the First World War and the supply to the warring powers enriched even more the Catalan bourgeoisie, but the end of the war caused a deep economic crisis. In 1920 the social clashes reached a peak, with the appearance of a “dirty war” between employers and anarchists. In 1923 the Captain Primo de Rivera gave a coup and became a dictator. Despite the new crackdown, it was a prosperous period, culminating in the International Exposition in Barcelona in 1929 and a wave of immigration from southern Spain. The fall of the dictatorship resulted in a landslide of Esquerra Republicana and the proclamation in Barcelona of the Catalan state within the Spanish Federal Republic. To stop it, the Madrid government was forced to restore the Generalitat (the secular governing body dissolved in 1714) and the enactment of the Statute of Autonomy of 1932.
The military rebellion of 1936 and the following civil war brought one of the gloomiest times to the city, which suffered heavy bombing by air and sea. Franco’s dictatorship, which lasted for almost 40 years meant the liquidation of all the Catalan achievements, both culturally and politically. However, in the early 60’s a spectacular economic development happened, along with a new wave of immigration that created a large structural deficit. By 1957, 62.000 more homes where needed in Barcelona.
With the death of dictator General Franco, democracy and the Generalitat were restored, turning Barcelona into the capital of Catalonia once again. This period represented a huge growth in infrastructures, which culminated in the Olympic Games of 1992. The big promotion of this event turned Barcelona into what it is nowadays; one of the first European cities as a tourist destination.
Its Architectural wealth, wide range of cultural and social events, its great location on the coast of the Mediterranean, its mixture of people from all over the world, its great gastronomy and weather… have been responsible of building the attractive of this amazing city. But it’s definitely better if you discover it by yourself, just come to Barcelona and you’ll find out the many reasons that make this city one of the most attractive ones in the world!