Aviva Directory » Local & Global » Europe » Gibraltar

The British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar is situated on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula and shares its border on the north with Spain. More famous than the territory is the famed Rock of Gibraltar, a limestone monolith which was one of Plato's Pillars of Hercules which flank the entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar. It borders Spain, which is to the north. It is a representative democratic parliamentary dependency under constitutional monarchy.

In 1848, a Neanderthal skull of an adult female was found in Forbes' Quarry, on the northern face of the Rock of Gibraltar, and in 1926, the skull of a Neanderthal child of approximately four years of age, along with stone tools was found at Devil's Tower Cave, a small fissure which opens up into a cave which was evidently, a shelter for prehistoric people.

Although the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, and the Romans were known to have visited the Gibraltar, none of these groups settled there. The first to do that were the Vandals, and then the Goths. The settlement of the Goths was rather short, but the Visigoths stayed on the Iberian Peninsula from 414 to 711.

The year 711 was the beginning of the Moorish Gibraltar, which lasted 751 years. In April of 711, Tariq ibn-Ziyad, a Berber general, led his men onto the shores of Gibraltar, claiming it for the Umayyad Caliphate, though it was handed down several times due to splintering branches of the Umayyads and a revolution. In 1035, the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba split into several independent Muslim-ruled principalities with the Taifa of Algeciras retaining control of Gibraltar, but in 1056, it was absorbed into the Taifa of Seville. In the middle of the 1060s, Seville was endangered by the advancing Almoravid Kingdom of North Africa, an imperial Berber Muslim dynasty which had Morocco as its base. In 1068, the Governor of Algeciras was ordered to erect fort on Gibraltar and to be alert for intruders. The next year, however, no fort had been erected, and in 1086, the Almoravids were invited to Gibraltar to help fend off the Christians who, on orders of King Alfonso IV of León and Castile, were expanding their kingdom.

The Almoravid Kingdom dissolved in 1090 and were succeeded by the Almohads, who went back to Spain in 1146, winning control there. King Alfonso VII of León and Castile and King Alfonso I of Aragon ventured into Muslim territory during that time, and the Almohad Caliph Add al-Mu'min ordered a fortress be built. He soon ordered the establishment of a mosque, numerous palaces for himself and his family, and a reservoir as well as a wall with just one gate to face the isthmus which connected Gibraltar to the mainland. The Moors hung on to Gibraltar, though in 1292, the Spanish began making serious incursions into Gibraltar, and although the Moors were prepared to the point of distraction, no invasion happened until 1309, when King Ferdinand IV of Castile sent Guzman el Bueno to invade Algeciras.

This invasion was the First Siege of Gibraltar. The Christians took Upper Rock and attacked from on high. The garrison finally surrendered after a month. In the Second Siege in 1316, the Christians at Gibraltar were attacked but repelled the forces. In the Third Siege, in 1333, the Muslims recovered Gibraltar after five months of fighting. The struggle continued, with the territory going back and forth until 1462, when the Castilians won the Eighth Siege of Gibraltar.

In 1704, during the War of Spanish Succession, an Anglo-Dutch fleet attacked the town again, starting the Eleventh siege. In 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht gave control of the territory to the British Crown.

During World War II, the entire civilian population was evacuated, with most people relocating to London and the rest to Morocco, Jamaica, and Madeira. The Rock was turned into a fortress and the naval base handled provisioning and supply of Malta during the extended siege of that country. In the 1950s, Spain tried to renew an 18th century claim of sovereignty over Gibraltar.

A referendum was held in 1967 wherein Gibraltarians voted on whether they wanted to live under Spanish sovereignty under terms defined by Spain or keep their link with Britain, with democratic local institutions and Britain continuing its responsibilities. British sovereignty won in a landslide, with 12,138 votes (99.64%) for British sovereignty and 44 votes (0.36%) for Spanish sovereignty.

A new constitution was passed in 1969. That same year, Generalisimo Francisco Franco, who ran Fascist Spain, shut the border between Gibraltar and Spain, restarting movement and cutting off all travel and most communication. The border was not entirely reopened until 1985, ten years after Franco died. In 2002, another referendum was held, and 98% of Gibraltarians voted against a proposed sovereignty with Spain and Britain.



Recommended Resources

Search for Gibraltar on Google, Bing, or Yahoo!