Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona, Spain's second city is on the northeastern coast of the Iberian peninsula. It is the capital of Catalonia, 1 of the 17 Autonomous Communities that make up Spain.

Under the Spainish constitution both Catalan ( a language loosely between Spanish & French. In fact Catalan's closest linguistic relative today is the langue d'oc, the old language of southern France) and Castillian Spanish are official languages. The city of Barcelona has a population of 1.5 million, and the Greater Barcelona area covers around 4 million inhabitants.

The documented history of the city dates back to the second century B.C. In modern times Barcelona led industrialization in Spain during the second half of the 19th century. The 1888 World's Fair was held here and culture and the arts flourished wonderfully up to the present time.

The Gothic centre with its maze of narrow streets has been preserved almost intact. Around it has been built the modern city with its grid-like layout - the Eixample area was part of the enlargement project at the end of the 19th century.

It was founded around 230 BC, probably by the Carthaginians, and saw Romans, Visigoths and then the Muslims control the city

After a period of ruling itself after the expulio of the arabs, Barcelona was more or less annexed into the Castilian state in the late 1400s. After a number of unsucessful revolts against Castillian rule, eventually Catalunya sided with Britain and Austria against Felipe V, the French contender for the Spanish throne during the War of the Spanish Succession. Barcelona fell in 1714 after along siege - the Catalan language was banned, and to protect his conquest Felipe built a huge fort, the Ciutadella.

But by the end of the 1700's Catalonia's fortunes started to improve. Spain's first industrial revolution, based on cotton, was centred on Barcelona, and other industries like wine, cork and iron also prospered. There was an explosion in Barcelona's population - from around 115,000 in 1800 to more than half a million by 1900, then over a million by 1930 - as workers were required for industrial work. Politics tended to be fairly extreme, and 80% of the city's workers embraced the anarchist CNT by the end of World War I. Things became grim a wave of strikes in 1919-20 when employers hired assassins to kill union leaders.

In 1931, Catalan nationalists declared themselves to be \ republic within an 'Iberian Federation'. Catalunya briefly gained genuine autonomy after the leftist Popular Front won the February 1936 Spanish general election, and for nearly a year revolutionary anarchists and the POUM (the Workers Marxist Unification Party) ran the town. In May 1937 infighting between communists, anarchists and the POUM broke out into street fighting for three days, killing at least 1500 people.

Barcelona was the last stronghold of the Republicans to fall to Franco's fascist forces in January 1939, and the war ended a few months later. Franco banned Catalan and brought in tens of thousands of poor Andalusian peasants in a vain effort to stamp out Catalan nationalism. This resulted in thousands of Catalans fleeing across the border to France and Andorra.

After Franco's death Catalan was revived and , the Generalitat, or local parliament, was reinstated. The 1992 Olympic Games took place here.

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