Spain profile - Timeline


A chronology of key events:

1492 - The Christian Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon conquer the Emirate of Granada, ending nearly 800 years of Muslim rule in the south and founding modern Spain as a united state.

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Replicas of the ships of Christopher Columbus arrive in New York in 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary of his landing in the Americas

Christopher Columbus arrives in the Americas, heralding the conquest of much of South and Central America. Jews and later Muslims are expelled from Spain during the Inquisition.

Spanish Empire

16th-17th centuries - Spanish Empire at its height, with Spain the predominant European power. The rise of Protestant states in northern Europe and the Ottoman Empire in the Mediterranean begin the country's gradual decline.

18th century - The War of the Spanish Succession loses Spain its European possessions outside the Iberian Peninsula. Bourbon dynasty, originally from France, centralises the Spanish state, shutting down many regional autonomous assemblies and modernising government and the military.

1807-1814 - Napoleon's France occupies Spain, which has been a French satellite since 1795. Fierce nationalist resistance and British intervention in the Peninsular War gradually force French troops out.

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US troops advance on Manila during the Spanish-American War, when Spain lost some of its colonies

19th century - Napoleonic legacy of political division and economic dislocation leaves Spain weak and unstable, with frequent changes of government and a low-level insurgency by Carlist supporters of a rival branch of the royal family.

All Latin American colonies win their independence, with Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines in Asia lost during a disastrous war with the United States in 1898.

1910s - Spain sought compensation in conquering colonies in Africa, most significantly northern Morocco and the Spanish Sahara.

1920s - The trade boom achieved by neutrality in the First World War is squandered through fighting Moroccan rebels and the financial mismanagement of the Primo de Rivera dictatorship at home.

Civil war and dictatorship

1931 - The return of democratic government leads to an electoral backlash against the monarchy and its allies, and a republic is declared. Radical policies of land reform, labour rights, educational expansion and anti-Church legislation deepen the political divide.

1936 - After two years of right-wing government, a Popular Front coalition of left-wing and liberal parties narrowly wins parliamentary elections and seeks to reintroduce the radical policies of 1931.

A coup by right-wing military leaders captures only part of the country, leading to three years of civil war.

1939 - General Francisco Franco leads the Nationalists to victory in the Civil War. More than 350,000 Spaniards died in the fighting, and Franco purges all remaining Republicans.

Spain remains neutral throughout the Second World War, although the government's sympathies clearly lie with the Axis powers.

1946-50 - Francoist Spain is ostracised by United Nations and many countries sever diplomatic relations.

1950s - As the Cold War deepens the US gradually improves relations with Spain, extending loans in return for military bases.

Spain is admitted to the UN in 1955 and the World Bank in 1958, and other European countries open up to the Franco government.

El Milagro Español - the economic miracle of the late 1950s - sees Spain's manufacturing and tourism industries take off through liberalisation of state controls.

1959 - The Eta armed separatist group is founded with the aim of fighting for an independent homeland in the Basque region of Spain and France. Its violent campaign begins with an attempt to derail a train carrying politicians in 1961.

1968 - West African colony of Spanish Guinea gains independence as Equatorial Guinea.

1973 December - Eta kills Prime Minister Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco in retaliation for the government's execution of Basque fighters. Subsequent attempts to liberalise the Franco government founder on internal divisions.

Move to democracy

1975 November - Franco dies, and is succeeded as head of state by King Juan Carlos. Spain makes transition from dictatorship to democracy, and withdraws from the Spanish Sahara, ending its colonial empire.

1977 June - First free elections in four decades. Ex-Francoist Adolfo Suárez's Union of the Democratic Centre manages a relatively smooth transition to stable democracy.

1980 - 118 people are killed in Eta's bloodiest year so far.

1981 February - Coup attempt fails after King Juan Carlos makes a televised address demanding that plotters surrender.

1982 - Socialists under Felipe González win elections and govern until 1996. Free education, an expanded welfare state and liberalisation of abortion laws are key policies. Spain joins Nato.

1986 - Spain joins the European Economic Community, later to become the European Union.

Aznar years

1996 March - Conservative José María Aznar becomes prime minister.

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Rebels attempted a coup in 1981 but King Carlos defused the situation

1997 July - Eta kills Basque councillor Miguel Ángel Blanco, sparking national outrage and bringing an estimated six million people onto the streets in protest.

1997 December - 23 leaders of Eta's political wing Herri Batasuna are jailed for seven years for collaborating with Eta - the first time any members of the party are jailed as a result of Eta links.

1998 April - Crops destroyed and wildlife wiped out when an iron pyrite mine reservoir belonging to a Canadian-Swedish company bursts its banks causing toxic waste spillage. Waterways feeding Europe's largest wildlife reserve, the Donana national park, are severely contaminated.

1998 September - Eta announces its first indefinite ceasefire since its campaign of violence began.

2000 March - Aznar's Popular Party (PP) wins landslide in general elections.

2002 January - Peseta replaced by Euro.

2002 November - North-west coastline suffers ecological disaster after oil tanker Prestige breaks up and sinks about 130 miles out to sea.

Madrid attacks

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Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí shattered traditional concepts

2004 March - A total of 191 people are killed in explosions on packed rush-hour trains in Madrid in near-simultaneous pre-election attacks by an Islamic group with links to al-Qaeda.

With Spain still in mourning, the Socialists under José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero defy earlier opinion polls and win a general election.

2004 April - Prime Minister Zapatero orders Spanish troops withdrawn from Iraq in May.

2005 June - Parliament defies Roman Catholic Church by legalising gay marriage and granting homosexual couples same adoption and inheritance rights as heterosexual ones.

2005 September-October - At least 11 die and many more are injured in a series of mass attempts by African migrants to enter the enclaves of Melilla and Ceuta from Morocco in a bid to reach Spain.

Catalan autonomy demands

2006 January - Lt Gen Jose Mena Aguado sacked as head of army ground forces after suggesting that the military might take action in Catalonia if the region gains too much autonomy.

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The movement seeking independence for Catalonia has been growing in strength

2006 June - Voters in Catalonia back proposals to give the region greater autonomy as well as the status of a nation within Spain.

2007 October - Twenty-one mainly North Africans are found guilty and given long jail sentences for the Madrid train bombings in 2004.

2007 November - Parliament passes a bill formally denouncing General Franco's rule and ordering the removal of all Franco-era statues and symbols from streets and buildings.

2008 March - The Socialists win re-election with an increased margin, but falls short of an absolute majority.

Economic crisis

2009 January - Spanish economy enters recession for first time since 1993.

2009 July - Foreign Minister Miguel Ángel Moratinos visits Gibraltar - the first visit by a Spanish minister in 300 years.

2010 February - Thousands of workers demonstrate against government spending cuts and plans to raise the retirement age by two years to 67 - the first mass labour protests since the Socialists came to power in 2004.

2010 May - Unemployment rate climbs to over 20% for first time in nearly 13 years. Parliament approves 15bn-euro (£13bn) austerity package.

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Spaniards were put under severe pressure by economic problems

2011 November - Conservative Popular Party wins resounding victory in parliamentary election.

2011 December - New government headed by Mariano Rajoy takes office. Announces new round of austerity measures to slash public spending by 16.5bn euros (£14bn) and nearly halve the public deficit from about 8% of GDP in 2012.

2012 November - The Basque armed group Eta issues a statement that it is ready to disband, disarm and enter talks with the French and Spanish governments.

2013 April - Spain's unemployment rate soars to new record of 27.2% of the workforce in the first quarter, passing six million figure, although the rate of increase slows.

2013 September - Economy registers 0.1% growth in July-September, formally lifting it out of recession.

2014 June - King Juan Carlos abdicates, succeeded by the crown prince as Felipe VI.

2014 November - Spanish government dismisses the result of a symbolic independence referendum in Catalonia.

New political forces

2015 December - Popular Party government loses majority in general election that sees populist anti-austerity movement Podemos and new liberal Cuidadanos movement perform well.

2016 October - Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy forms minority government and ends 10 months of political deadlock after repeat elections in June.

2017 August - Two Islamic State terror attacks kill 16 people in Barcelona and the nearby resort of Cambrils.

2017 October - Madrid imposes direct rule in Catalonia after voters in a referendum back separation from Spain.

2018 May - Basque separatist former armed group Eta announces it is ceasing all political activities.

2018 June - Mariano Rajoy loses a vote of confidence. Socialist leader Pedro Sánchez takes over as prime minister.

2019 April - Snap election boosts Socialists, but they remain short of a majority. Vox becomes first far-right party to win seats since the death of Francisco Franco in 1975.

2019 October - Thousands of protesters take to the street after Supreme Court sentences nine Catalan leaders to long jail terms for sedition over the failed 2017 independence bid.

2019 November - Fourth general election in as many years leaves Socialists still short of a majority, while Vox more than doubles its seats to become the third-largest party.

2020 January - Pedro Sánchez forms minority coalition government with left-wing Podemos party after winning a narrow parliamentary vote of confidence.