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History
of Madrid

     
   

Sheltered by the central mountain range and the hills of Toledo, the capital of Spain is located in the center of the Iberian Peninsula. The two Castilla regions, Castilla y León and Castilla-La Mancha, surround its almost 8,000 km squared and serves as memory to recent past in which Madrid formed part of these regions.

With a continental Mediterranean climate, Madrid's average temperatures round 30ºC in summer and some 5ºC in winter. The contrasts between day and night, sun and shade, and summer and winter are very pronounced.

Although its history is likely to have begun earlier, the demonstrable origins of Madrid go back to the ninth century, with the construction of a wall (Mayrit) by the emir Muhammed I on the shores of the Manzanares. Until the end of the eleventh century, when it was included as gained territory in Al-Andalus by Alfonso VI, Madrid remained in the shadow of the wealthy head of faction, Toledo.

In 1110, during the reconquest of Spain from centuries-long Islamic rule, Madrid fell. In the conquest, only the almaidana (citadel surrounded by towered walls) and the alcázar (fortress) resisted destruction. With the arrival of Alfonso VI, the border of la Corona de Castilla was moved to Toledo. The move was accomplished without great struggle and permitted the Islamic society to leave and continue following their traditions in Al-Andalus. The almorávides, Spanish/ Iberians in the fight to take back what was once theirs, succeeded in arriving as far as the lands of Tajo. However, with the arrival of Alfonso VII-grandson of Alfonso VI-to the throne, the surrender came little by little; therefore there were no great losses of buildings and the Islamic society remained in Madrid.

In 1118, the first code of laws was dictated in Madrid, the same code that was executed in 1085 in Toledo, and that governed a prominently agrarian society, which evolved into an urban society, as demonstrated in the charter dictated by Alfonso VIII in 1202. The Council was also created. It came to have so much weight in the Castillian society that it even sent a group of citizens of Madrid to Las Navas de Tolosa to support Alfonso VIII in his fight against the almohades, the Muslim conquistadors.

Throughout the 14th and 15th centuries, numerous conflicts took place in Castilla regarding the Crown's opposition to the traditional noble society, a society which acted contrary to the consolidation of a stronger centralized government, which caused the nobility to lose its privileges. The more serious conflicts go back to the middle of the 14th C., with conflicts for royal power between Pedro I and his brother Enrique de Trastámara, upon the Alcázar being turned in several times to Enrique for internal treason. When Enrique obtained the Crown, after the assassination of Pedro, he retaliated against his brother's supporters, wrenching from them Barajas, Cobeña and Alcobendas, which passed to the hands of the Mendoza family.
From this epoch (14th C.) forward, Madrid became one of the favorite residences of kings and Court began to take place there with certain frequency. However, in the second half of the century, Black Plague laid waste to the city.

During the confrontation between Isabel the Catholic and her niece Juana la Beltraneja, Madrid leaned toward the former, due to the predilection of her father, Enrique IV, for the city. With the victory of Toro (1476), however, Isabel won the support of different enterprises.

After the death of Isabel, several new conflicts of successorship arose: first, between Fernando the Catholic and his daughter Juana; next, upon the death of Felipe of Austria (husband of Juana), power was disputed between Carlos (son of Juana and Felipe) and his grandfather, Fernando. These conflicts ended upon the death of the Catholic, but the people of Madrid rose up, in a commoner's revolt, against Carlos, who had reunited the Castellano-Aragonesa crown. At the death of his grandfather, Maximiliano de Austria, Carlos sought to gain the German Empire. With the death of the leaders of Padilla, Bravo and Maldonado, Madrid welcomed the new king.

When Carlos I abdicated, Felipe II rose to the throne. The new monarch established Madrid as the capital of the kingdom. It only stopped being the capital for a short period (1601-1606) when Felipe III moved it to Valladolid. In this period, Spain lived its "Siglo de Oro (Golden Century)". Arts and literature flourished (Ribera, el Greco, Velázquez, Tirso de Molina, Santa Teresa de Jesus, and so on), the Monastery of el Escorial was built as the royal residence. Nevertheless, Madrid remained far from being comparable to the most important European capitals of the time: its population depended entirely on the existence of the Court.

After the War of Succession, in 1706, the first Bourbon, Felipe V, inherited the throne. He ffound himself with a capital in a truly lamentable state. He constructed new palaces in an attempt to beautify it (Aranjuez, Palacio Real), but even with his efforts, Madrid would not take the distinction of an authentic royal capital until Carlos III (1716-1788) made urban modifications to the city.

During the reign of Carlos III, there arose the Motín de Esquilache, a popular revolution against measures taken against delinquency, which consisted in trimming capes and wearing pointed hats. The people of Madrid confronted the rebels, shouting: "Muera Esquilache, Viva el Rey" (Die Esquilache, long live the King). The popularity of this king in Madrid in this age affirmed the motto, "el mejor alcalde, el rey (the best mayor is the king)".

Upon Carlos IV's inheritence of the throne, the people of Madrid revolted. The government was in the hands of the Prime Minister, Godoy, who later fell in the Riot of Aranjuez, driven by the prince's conspiracy, Fernando VII, against his father. The King abdicated after the Riot, but the reign of Fernando lasted little time, since in May of the same year (1808), Napoleon's troupes entered Madrid and kidnapped the king. Through a heroic rebellion of the people, its principal leaders were shot.

At the end of the War of Independence (1814), after many smaller battles of the Spanish people against the French army, Fernando VII, the Desired, returned to the throne. He only would remain in power for six years, after several military insurrections, culminated by the De Riego, in which the general revolted and forced the King to swear on the Constitution before the Court. The Liberals triumphed.

For years, the power alternated between absolutists and liberals, until 1833, when Isabel II inherited the throne. She would reign in an environment marred by confrontations, political revolts and uprisings, and which ended (1870) with the revolution of the popular front headed by Prim, which had as objective the disenthroning of the Bourbon Dynasty. An important point in the history of Madrid during the reign of Isabel II was the Demortization of Medizábal, since it transformed the features of the city and meant substantial investments. A large part of the religious buildings of the city were lost and entire new buroughs of housing were created.

In 1873, the First Republic was proclaimed, which only lasted 2 years. In 1875, true stability of the kingdom was achieved with the proclamation of Alfonso XII as king. Furthermore, the Free Institution of Teaching (Instituto Libre de Enseñanza) and the Socialist party were created in Madrid.

At the death of Alfonso XII, and after a period of regency, Alfonso XIII inherited the throne and continued to foster the development of the city of Madrid. The loss of the last colonial territory gave origin to the literary Generation of '98.

The existing social differences among the inhabitants of the capital became accentuated, the working class adopted Marxist tendencies. Madrid was the scene of the events that gave birth to a social revolution, to a dictatorship and to the start of the Second Republic.

During the Civil War (1936-1939), Madrid was one of the most affected cities. Its neighborhoods and villages became an authentic battle ground, leaving it completely razed. It lived, therefore, a postwar era filled with deprivation and hunger. In spite of this, Madrid grew. A massive exodus from others communities invaded it and with that, there was a major increase in social problems. General Franco sought to convert Madrid into an industrial city, constructing factories and, with this, provoking an even greater immigration. It is worth noting for Madrid's history the assassination of the President of the Government, Luis Carrero Blanco, in 1973 on Claudio Coello Street.

Franco's death (1975) brought about the reinstallment of the monarchy in the figure of Juan Carlos I, who, under a banner of democracy, rigors in a new era for Spain. 19 April, 1979 the first City Government voted in by the citizens was constituted. As Mayor, Enrique Tierno Galván culturally enriched the city.

In 1992, Madrid became the Cultural Capital of Europe and the network of highways was completed that united Madrid with the rest of the peninsula.

Currently, the president of the Autonomous Community of Madrid is Alberto Ruiz Gallardón, and the Mayor of Madrid, José María Alvárez del Manzano.

   
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