Decadence of the Muslims started in 11th century, when the various Arabian noble families were more and more at variance among themselves, and al-Andalus broke into numerous small caliphates.
At the same time, the north and centre of Spain was back under Christian control. During this period of the re-taking of Spain, the union of the Kingdom of Castile and the Kingdom of Aragon (the most important norther Christian kingdoms), through the marriage in 1469 of Queen Isabella I and King Ferdinand II, led to the creation of the Kingdom of Spain.
During almost 30 years the Muslims rapidly lost territory, until they were definitely expelled when they lost Granada, the last Moorish kingdom, in 1492.
By 1512 the unification of present-day Spain was complete.
During the reign of Isabel and Ferdinand, the Canary Islands became part of Spanish territory (1495), the hegemony of Spain in the Mediterranean, to the detriment of France, was affirmed with the conquest of the Kingdom of Naples, and Navarre was incorporated into the Kingdom.
Also, their effort to “re-christianize” Spain resulted in the Spanish Inquisition, when thousands of Jews and Moors who didn’t want to convert to Christianism were expelled or killed.
Torquemada, the most notorious of the grand inquisitors, epitomized the Inquisition’s harshness and cruelty.
The year 1492 was also epochal as the year that Ferdinand and Isabella sent Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer, across the Atlantic Ocean in search of a new trade route to Asia.
In the era of exploration, discovery, and colonization, Spain amassed tremendous wealth and a vast colonial empire through the conquest of Mexico by Cortés and Peru by Pizarro.
During these next three hundred years, Spain was prospering economically thanks to the trade with its American colonies.
Spain’s colonial empire covered almost all of South America, large portions of North America, the Philippines in Asia, and portions of coastal Africa—it was one of the largest empires in the history of the world.
However, at the same time, Spain was involved in wars with France, the Netherlands and England, culminating in the disastrous defeat of the “Invincible Armada” in 1588.
The War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714) resulted in Spain’s loss of Belgium, Luxembourg, Milan, Sardinia, and Naples.
Its colonial empire in the Americas and the Philippines vanished in wars and revolutions during the 18th and 19th centuries.
That epoch also marked the end of the dynasty of the Habsburgs and the coming of the Bourbons.
With the accession of the Bourbon dynasty to the Spanish throne at the beginning of the 18th century, Spain came within the French sphere of influence for the following 100 years, up to the defeat of Napoleon’s army during the Peninsular War.
In 1808 Joseph Bonaparte was installed on the Spanish throne, following the Napoleonic invasion to the peninsula.
After Napoleon’s definite defeat at Waterloo in 1815, Ferdinand VII was restored to the Spanish throne and reigned with rigid absolutism.
When Ferdinand VII changed the law of succession to the throne and his daughter Isabel was established as queen, his brother Charles rebelled against it and War of Seven Years broke out.
Economical recession and political instability were the consequences, Spain lost its colonies with the exceptions of Puerto Rico, Cuba and Philippines.
The revolution of 1868 forced Isabel II. to renounce to the throne, and the First Republic was proclaimed.
Anyhow, it lasted for just about one year. After a coup d’état Isabel’s son, Alphonse XII., restored the kingdom.
The 20th century began with little peace; Spain played a minor part in the scramble for Africa, with the colonization of Western Sahara, Spanish Morocco and Equatorial Guinea.
However the area assigned to Spain was mostly abrupt terrain populated by warlike tribesmen.
A poorly planned advance into the interior due to political pressure led to military disaster in Morocco in 1921.
The economical crisis of the early 1920s led the country to the brink of civil war.
In World War I, under Franco, Spain was neutral though sympathetic to the Axis. In 1923, General Primo de Ribera established a military dictature until 1930.
In 1930, King Alfonso XIII revoked the dictatorship, but elections in 1931 saw a triumph for the political left, and Alphonse XIII. left the country.
The elections held in 1936 returned a strong Popular Front majority, with Manuel Azaña as president.
Three years later the Nationalist forces, led by General Francisco Franco, emerged victorious with the support of Germany and Italy.
They received extensive support from Nazi-Germany and fascist Italy and succeeded against the Republican block which was officially supported only by Russia, by many intellectuals (as Ernest Hemingway) and by some International Brigades.
In a referendum in 1947, the Spanish people approved a Franco-drafted succession law declaring Spain a monarchy again.
Franco, however, continued as chief of state. During the 1950s and 60s every effort was taken to improve international relations, and the country’s economy recovered.
In 1969 Franco proclaimed Juan Carlos de Borbon, the grandson of Alphonse XIII., his successor with the title of king. Franco died on Nov. 20, 1975, and Juan Carlos was proclaimed king on Nov. 22.
With the approval of the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and the arrival of democracy, were given some political autonomy, which was then soon extended to all Spanish regions.
In 1982, the Spanish Socialist Worker’s Party (PSOE) came to power and played a crucial role leading the country down the road to Community membership.
The subsequent general elections of 1986, 1989 and 1993 were also won by the Spanish Socialist Party and consolidated the the position of the Popular Party, led by Jose Maria Aznar, as the second largest political force in the country.
In the Basque Country, moderate Basque nationalism coexists with radical nationalism supportive of the terrorist group ETA.
Between 1980 and 1982, the regions of Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia and Andalusia approved statutes for their own self-government and elected their respective parliaments.
In 1985, Spain became member of the NATO and entered the European Community in 1986.
In 1992 it appeared impressively at the world stage: Barcelona hosted the Olympic Games, Seville the world exposition EXPO’92, and Madrid was declared European Cultural Capital.
General elections in March 1996 produced a victory for the conservative Popular Party, and its leader, José María Aznar, became prime minister.
He and his party easily won reelection in 2000. On January 1, 1999 Spain adopted the Euro as its national currency.