The Kingdom of Spain is a country located in the southwest of Europe. It shares the Iberian Peninsula with Portugal and Gibraltar. In the northeast it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra, along the Pyrenees mountain range. It includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and the cities of Ceuta and Melilla in the north of Africa.

Spain has been a constitutional monarchy and a democracy since the Spanish Constitution of 1978 was approved, being divided into 17 autonomous communities and 2 autonomous cities with high degree of autonomy.

Reino de España (Spanish)
Regne d'Espanya (Catalan)
Reino de España (Galician)
Espainiako Erresuma (Basque)
Flag of Spain Coat of Arms
National motto: Plus Ultra (further beyond)
Official languages Spanish (also called Castilian)
(in some regions also Catalan, Basque or Galician)
Capital Madrid
Largest City Madrid
Capital´s coordinates
40° 24' N, 3° 41' W
King Juan Carlos I of Spain
Prime Minister José María Aznar
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 50th
504,782 km2
 - Total (2000)
 - Density
Ranked 29th
Currency Euro¹, Spanish euro coins
Time zones Mainland: UTC+1 (Canary Islands UTC 0). DST.
National anthem Marcha Real
Internet TLD.ES
Calling Code34
(1) Prior to 1999: Spanish peseta

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Autonomous communities
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 International rankings
9 Miscellaneous topics
10 External links


Main article: History of Spain

Beginning in the 9th century BC, Celts, Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians entered the Iberian Peninsula, followed by the Roman Republic, who arrived in the 2nd century BC. Spain's present language, religion, and laws stem from the Roman period. Conquered by the Visigoths in the 5th century AD and subsequently in 711 by Islamic North African Moors, modern Spain began to take form in the Reconquista, the efforts to drive out the Moors, which lasted until 1492. In 1492 Queen Isabella I of Castile (Isabel La Catolica) began the Spanish Inquisition, which lasted for more than 300 years. This was also the year in which she gave Christopher Columbus the money for his first trip across the Atlantic to the "New World". By 1512, the unification of present-day Spain was complete. Nevertheless, the project of Castilian monarchs was to unify all Iberia and this aim seemed almost accomplished when Philip II became King of Portugal in 1580, as well as of the other many Iberian Kingdoms (collectively know as "Spain" which was not a unified State then). In 1640, the centralist policy of the Count-Duke of Olivares provoked wars in Portugal and Catalonia: Portugal became an independent kingdom again and Catalonia enjoyed some years of French-supported independence, but was quickly returned to the Spanish Crown.

During the 16th century, Spain became the most powerful nation in Europe, due to the immense wealth derived from the Spanish colonisation of the Americas. But a series of long, costly wars and revolts began a steady decline of Spanish power in Europe. Controversy over succession to the throne consumed the country during the 18th century (see War of the Spanish Succession - importantly, it was only after this war that a centralized Spanish state was established), with an occupation by France during the Napoleonic era in the early 1800s, and led to a series of armed conflicts and revolts between Liberals and supporters of the Ancient Regime throughout much of the 19th century; a century that also saw the loss of most of Spain's colonies in the Americas, culminating in the Spanish-American War of 1898.

The 20th century initially brought little peace; colonisation of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea was tried as a substitute for the loss of the Americas. A period of dictatorial rule (1923-1931) ended with the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic. Dominated by increasing political polarisation, combined with pressures from all sides, coupled with growing and unchecked violence, led to the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in July 1936. Following the victory of his nationalist forces in 1939, General Francisco Franco ruled a nation exhausted politically and economically.

Nevertheless, in the 1960s and 1970s, Spain was gradually transformed into a modern industrial economy with a thriving tourism sector. Upon the death of the dictator General Franco in November 1975, his personally designated heir Prince Juan Carlos assumed the titles of king and head of state. He played a key role in guiding Spain further to a modern democratic state, notably in opposing an attempted coup d'etat in 1981. Spain joined NATO in 1982 and became a member of the European Union in 1986. After the death of Franco, the old historic nationalities - Basque Country, Catalonia and Galicia - were given far-reaching autonomy, which, in due course, was extended to all Spanish regions.

See also: List of Spanish monarchs - Kings of Spain family tree


Main article: Politics of Spain

Spain is a constitutional monarchy, with a hereditary monarch and a bicameral parliament, the Cortes or National Assembly. The executive branch consists of a Council of Minister presided over by the President of Government (comparable to a prime minister), proposed by the monarch and elected by the National Assembly following legislative elections.

The legislative branch is made up of the Congress of Deputies (Congreso de los Diputados) with 350 members, elected by popular vote on block lists by proportional representation to serve four-year terms, and a Senate or Senado with 259 seats of which 208 are directly elected by popular vote and the other 51 appointed by the regional legislatures to also serve four-year terms.

As of 2003, Spain is currently holding talks with the United Kingdom about Gibraltar, a tiny peninsula that changed hands during the War of Spanish Succession in 1713. The discussion has been about "total shared sovereignty" over Gibraltar, subject to a constitutional referendum by Gibraltarians, who have largely expressed opposition to any form of cession to Spain.

Spain is, at present, what is called a State of Autonomies, formally unitary but, in fact, functioning as a Federation of Autonomous Communities, each one with different powers (for instances, some have their own educational and health systems, others do not) and laws. There are some problems with this system, since some autonomous governments (especially those dominated by nationalist parties) are seeking a more federalist kind of relationship with Spain, while the Central Government is trying to restrict what some see as excessive autonomy of some autonomous comunities (ex. Basque Country and Catalonia).

Terrorism is a problem of present-day Spain, since ETA (Basque Homeland and Freedom) is trying to achieve Basque independence through violent means, including bombings and murders. Although Basque Autonomous government does not condone any kind of violence, the different approaches to the problem are a source of tension between Central and Basque governments.

Map of Spain

Spain's autonomous communities

Autonomous communities

Main article: Autonomous communities of Spain Spain consists of 17 autonomous communities (comunidades autónomas).

The communities are in turn divided into fifty provinces (provincias).

There are also five places of sovereignty (plazas de soberanía) on and off the African coast: the cities of Ceuta and Melilla are administered as autonomous cities, an intermediate status between cities and communities; the islands of the Islas Chafarinas, Peñón de Alhucemas, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera are under direct Spanish administration.


Main article: Geography of Spain

Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges such as the Pyrenees or 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. Spain is bound to the east by Mediterranean Sea (containing the Balearic Islands), to the north by the Bay of Biscay and to its west by the Atlantic Ocean, where the Canary Islands off the African coast are found.

Spain's climate is mostly temperate and mediterranean; there are clear hot summers in the interior, with more moderate and cloudy conditions along the coast. Winters are cloudy and cold in the interior, with the coastal regions being relatively temperate.


Main article:
Economy of Spain

Spain's mixed capitalist economy supports a GDP that on a per capita basis is 80% that of the four leading West European economies. Its center-right government successfully worked to gain admission to the first group of countries launching the European single currency on January 1, 1999. The administration of Jose Maria Aznar has continued to advocate liberalisation, privatisation, and deregulation of the economy and has introduced some tax reforms to that end. Unemployment has been steadily falling under the Aznar administration but remains the highest in the EU at 13%. The government intends to make further progress in changing labour laws and reforming pension schemes, which are key to the sustainability of both Spain's internal economic advances and its competitiveness in a single currency area. Spain is the second tourism destination in the World after France. They welcome 52 million tourists per year.

See also: List of Spanish companies


Main article: Demographics of Spain

Spain can be said to be composed of many nations but has adopted Castilian culture as the Spanish one, although increasingly recognising other nationalities inside its borders, such as the much older Basque.

Four major languages are spoken in Spain, which are official languages in certain regions:

Catalan, Galician, and Castilian, the latter commonly called "Spanish", are all descended from Latin and have their own dialects; there are also some other surviving Romance dialects such as Asturian or Bable in Asturias and part of León, Aragonese in part of Aragón, and Aranese (a Gascon Occitan variant) in the Val d'Aran on the northwest tip of Catalonia. The Spanish spoken in America is descended from the dialect of Spanish spoken in southwestern Spain.

Spain is a predominantly (94%) Roman Catholic country. The most important minority group in the country are the gipsies.


Main article: Culture of Spain

International rankings

Miscellaneous topics

External links

European Union:
Austria  |  Belgium  |  Denmark  |  Finland  |  France  |  Germany  |  Greece  |  Ireland
Italy  |  Luxembourg  |  Netherlands  |  Portugal  |  Spain  |  Sweden  |  United Kingdom

Countries acceding to membership on May 1, 2004:
Cyprus  |  Czech Republic  |  Estonia  |  Hungary  |  Latvia  |  Lithuania  |  Malta  |  Poland  |  Slovakia  |  Slovenia

Countries of the world  |  Europe  |  Council of Europe