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Catalonia

CATALONIA

CATALONIA. Catalonia is a land of mountains and seashores in the northeastern corner of Spain. The northern Pyrenees and the western Sierra de Cadi create the mountainous profile visible from the eastern stretch of the Mediterranean coast. The foothills of these mountains extend throughout the region, flattening only at the coastline. Rivers cut through the valleys, making their way to the Mediterranean and connecting the mercantile and industrial cities of the coast with the agricultural interior. To the south, only the flat, marshy delta of the Ebro River resists the Sierran uplift.

A province of approximately 300,000 people by the end of the fifteenth century, Catalonia was the political and economic force of the Crown of Aragón, wielding this power through its capital city, Barcelona. Catalonia was governed by the Corts, the parliament representing the province in dealings with the king, and by the Diputació del General, the treasury and tax-collecting agency of the Corts. The union of Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragón in 1469 brought the two crowns under one monarchy. Despite this union, Catalonia continued to govern itself, reflecting Ferdinand's vision of a united Spain ruling over coexisting autonomous regions.

Catalonia did not share in Castile's "Golden Age" in the sixteenth century, which was fueled in large part by exploitation of Castile's American territories. Although Ferdinand repeatedly affirmed the Crown of Aragón's right to participate in transatlantic trade, several factors inhibited this. Seville was the official port for Spain's American empire and the most convenient port for the trade, which disadvantaged Mediterranean merchants. Moreover, Catalonia suffered from a lack of capital following a civil war (14621472) in addition to a contraction in population caused by repeated waves of plague from the fourteenth century onward. The population of mid-sixteenth century Catalonia (331,000) never reached one-twentieth that of Castile (6,300,000).

During the reign of Philip IV, as Spain faced economic depression and extraordinary expenses in the Thirty Years' War, the crown looked to Catalonia and other parts of its monarchy for increased tax revenues. The Catalans feared the loss of their traditional liberties and resisted the efforts of Philip IV's chief minister, the count-duke of Olivares, to raise their contributions to the Habsburgs' war efforts. Intransigence on both sides led to the Catalan rebellion of 16401652, which ended with a royal victory and a wise decision by the crown not to punish the rebels too harshly. Catalonia remained loyal to the Habsburgs when a Bourbon prince inherited the throne of Spain. When the Bourbons retained the throne after the hard-fought War of the Spanish Succession (17011714), they determined to bring Catalonia under closer central control. Nonetheless, Bourbon economic policies channeled resources into Catalan industry and commerce in the eighteenth century. Thanks to a boom in industries such as cotton manufacturing, and the opening of the American trade to all Spanish ports after 1765, Catalonia was arguably the most dynamic part of Spain at the end of the eighteenth century, with a population approaching one million. Efforts of French revolutionaries to incite another revolt in Catalonia against the Bourbon monarchy were not effective, and Catalonia shared the fate of the rest of Spain during the Napoleonic invasion and the subsequent war of independence against the French.

See also Barcelona ; Catalonia, Revolt of (16401652) ; Charles III (Spain) ; Ferdinand of Aragón ; Isabella of Castile ; Spanish Succession, War of the (17011714) ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Read, Jan. The Catalans. London, 1978.

Vicens Vives, Jaime. An Economic History of Spain. Princeton, 1969.

Vilar, Pierre. La catalogne dans l'Espagne moderne. Paris, 1986.

Shelley E. Roff

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Catalonia

Catalonia (kătəlō´nēə), Catalan Catalunya, Span. Cataluña, autonomous region (1990 pop. 6,165,638), NE Spain, stretching from the Pyrenees at the French border southward along the Mediterranean Sea.

Land and Economy

Catalonia comprises four provinces, named after their capitals: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Barcelona, the historic capital, contains more than a third of the region's residents. Catalan and Spanish have been the official languages of Catalonia since 1978, which has led to a considerable revival of Catalan. Mostly hilly, with pine-covered mountains, it also has some highly fertile plains. Cereals, olives, and grapes are grown, and one third of the wines of Spain are produced there. The beautiful 240-mi (386-km) seacoast has fine harbors, excellent fisheries, and an active tourist trade. The Ebro (Ebre, in Catalan), Segre, and Cinca rivers furnish hydroelectric power for the industries in Barcelona and Girona provs.; chief products are textiles, chemicals, automobiles, airplanes, locomotives, and foundry and other metal items. The service sector has grown rapidly.

History

Trade has been active along the coast since Greek and Roman times. The history of medieval Catalonia is that of the counts of Barcelona, who emerged (9th cent.) as the chief lords in the Spanish March founded by Charlemagne. United (1137) with Aragón through marriage (see Raymond Berengar IV), Catalonia nevertheless preserved its own laws, cortes (or corts), and language (akin to Provençal). Catalan art and Catalan literature flourished in the Middle Ages. In the cities, notably Barcelona, the burgher and merchant classes grew very powerful.

Catalonian traders rivaled those of Genoa and Venice, and their maritime code was widely used in the 14th cent. They, and adventurers like Roger de Flor, were largely responsible for the expansion in the Mediterranean of the house of Aragón (see Aragón, house of). Catalonia failed in its rebellion (1461–72) against John II of Aragón, and after the union (1479) of Aragón and Castile, Catalonia declined. The centralizing policy of the Spanish kings, the shifting of trade routes with the consequent loss of commercial income, pirate attacks, and recurring plagues and famines were all major factors.

Agitation for autonomy was always strong. In the Thirty Years War (1618–48), Catalonia rose against Philip IV. The Catalan region of Roussillon, in the Pyrenees, passed to France in 1659 (see Pyrenees, Peace of the). In the War of the Spanish Succession, Catalonia sided with Archduke Charles against Philip V, who in reprisal deprived it of its privileges. In the late 19th and early 20th cent. it was a center of socialist and anarchist strength. In 1931 the Catalans established a separate government, first under Francesc Macià, then under Lluis Companys, which in 1932 won autonomy from the Spanish Cortes. A revolution (1934) for complete independence failed, but in 1936 autonomy was restored.

In the civil war of 1936–39, Loyalist Catalonia sided with the Republic and suffered heavily for its opposition to Franco. Barcelona was the Loyalist capital from Oct., 1937, to Jan., 1939. Catalonia fell to Franco in Feb., 1939. Under the Franco dictatorship, the use of Catalan was banned in public life. Catalonia elected its first parliament as an autonomous region in 1980, and by the mid-1990s Catalonian nationalists had become a force in both Catalonian and Spanish politics.

Increased autonomy for Catalonia and recognition of the region as a "nation" within Spain was approved in 2006, but the Spanish constitutional court subsequently (2010) greatly limited the significance of the changes, leading to increased support for independence. The Spanish government blocked a proposed Catalonian independence referendum in 2012. Catalonian parties continued nonetheless to press the issue, and the central government's intransigent stand on any vote increased pro-independence sentiment. In 2013 Catalonia called for a referendum, later changed to a nonbinding poll, to be held in Nov., 2014, but the Spanish constitutional court called for its suspension. Conducted by grassroots organizations, the poll drew roughly half the region's voters; 80% voted for independence. Spain's constitutional court later declared the vote unconstitutional.

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Catalonia

Catalonia (Sp. Cataluña) Region in ne Spain, extending from the French border to the Mediterranean Sea. The capital is Barcelona. Catalonia includes the provinces of Barcelona, Gerona, Lérida and Tarragona. United with Aragón in 1137, it retained its own laws and language. During the Spanish Civil War it was a Loyalist stronghold, and recently it has been a focus of separatist movements. The Costa Brava is an important tourist area. Products: grain, fruit, olive oil, wool, wine. Area: 31,932sq km (12,329sq mi). Pop. (1998) 6,147,610.

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Catalonia

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