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The history and evolution of Barcelona - Barcino - Catalonia, Spain


Roman Barcelona:

Barcino, the original name of Barcelona, has its origin in the first century A.D., when the Romans established a small colony around the Taber mount. Barcelona formed this way part of Eastern Hispania, the capital being Tarraco, now known as Tarragona, city, capital and province south of Barcelona.

The Roman cities in Catalonia were small, except Tarraco, but they formed a compact and well communicated net which covered the whole country. Some cities were built on the site of former Iberian villages, others like Barcelona, moved the established indigenous settlements to more easy to defend plain regions, or to key positions on high points between two rivers.

In the surroundings of the Barcino colony, remains of old native settlements have been found, including some from the late Bronze Age. The remains of two Roman walls clearly show that the mount Taber colony was the first structured urban nucleus in the whole plain. A nucleus, which would be kept walled -with different outlines- until well into the nineteenth century, when the Cerda plan of the so called “eixample” tore down the last walls to start the urban development of the rest of the plain. There, other urban centres had thrived like Sants or Gracia.

Romanesque Barcelona:

Between the fourth century and the thirteenth century the city nucleus founded by the Romans was consolidated, and a process of expansion began that later would give a definitive shape to the city. After many political upheavals and the retreat of Moorish Spain, Barcelona experienced feudalism and a growing maritime trade, which allowed it to strengthen its position as a political, religious and trade centre.

The most important features of the city’s growth were the new suburbs and the new buildings and houses built outside the old city and the modernization of the city centre.

At the end of the thirteenth century a second city wall was built to give protection to the new suburbs around the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, where the thriving new buildings of the Mercadal and the port were to be found.

Gothic Barcelona:

The walls of the thirteenth century sheltered the new houses built outside the area of the Roman city, and from the 14th century on, Barcelona gained a third stretch of walls around the cultivated fields of the Raval area.

After the departure of the royal court, the Mediterranean seemed small and insignificant alongside the Atlantic trade. Within the confines of the newly established city, Barcelona erected a Gothic city around its geometric and political centre, the Plaza Sant Jaume, while artisans flourished around the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, in the suburb of La Ribera, turning Barcelona into a city of merchants, navigators, traders and professionals. In the city was a high level of participation with its corporate identity, its selective and gradual approach to affairs. In fact it was the Barcelona of the guilds.

Neoclassical Barcelona:

For Barcelona the eighteenth century was quite significant: In 1714 defeat in the War of the Spanish Succession and in 1808 the struggle against Napoleon's army in the Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) War. The eighteenth century was the Age of Enlightenment and enlightened despotism. A century that the German philosopher Immanuel Kant summed up as "dare to think for yourself". A time of many changes across Europe that concluded with the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789.

Barcelona experienced a period of economic revival after the military occupation of 1714, by means of military spending in the city, the opening of cotton and calico mills and authorisation to trade with the Americas. It was still a walled garrison city with the newly-built fortress of the Ciutadella to protect and keep it under firm control. Within those city walls reforms led to the development of the suburbs El Raval and la Rambla and the embellishment of the main streets of the city with neoclassical façades and buildings.

Barcelona at that time was a city in a state of flux, where old rural ways of life were making way for a modern city and industrial centre. It was the passing of the Ancien Regime and the beginning of the Capitalist Era.

Modernist Barcelona:

From the proclamation of the new Cadiz Constitution in 1812 till the Republic of 1873, Barcelona experienced the various social and political upheavals that were experienced throughout Spain. There were riots, strikes, the burning of convents, bombardments of the city and other kinds of confrontation resulting from the great strains within the city.

The city itself passed from being a provincial capital in 1833 to being governed by revolutionary councils later in the 19th century.

Anyhow, these struggles brought up further developments that radically changed the city: The most obvious was to demolish the city walls that still surrounded Barcelona, which in turn made possible the growth of the city and the absorption of neighbouring towns, and the destruction of the Ciutadella Militar (site of the military garrison) to make way for the 1888 Universal Exhibition. Within the old walled city the first reforms were made to deal with the lack of public areas, and the properties of religious orders along the Ramblas and in the Raval were reclaimed.

As for industry, Barcelona - which was known as "the small Manchester" - inaugurated the first railway in Spain in 1848 and later saw the founding of the labour unions UGT in 1888 and CNT in 1910.

Noucentista Barcelona:

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Cerda thought of expanding the city based on a rigid grid system but it was carried out in a rather imprecise way. Barcelona became a capital of the cultural avant-garde, a city where the new advances in science and technology made an impact on every aspect of the daily life of its inhabitants. A new generation of industrialists and politicians started out on ambitious industrial and development plans to turn Barcelona into a modern metropolis, which they called "big" Barcelona. But 40% of the city’s residents were still illiterate in 1900 and 18% in 1920. There were fresh initiatives in schooling and professional training; new market necessities and the city’s housing problems were dealt with; the first city trains were built, the tramway was electrified, the streets were lit and lifts were installed in buildings. Barcelona was on its way to becoming a fast-moving vibrant city, a city characterised by the media and mass consumption.

During this period the football clubs Barça and Espanyol were founded, the mountains of Montjuïc and Tibidabo were developed and the city grew to the east.

The barricades and sacking of religious buildings in the "Tragic Week" of 1909, the gangsterism of the 1920s, the Second Republic, the military revolt and the bombs of the Civil War (1936-1939) left behind a defeated city, without energy to confront the long post-war period.

Drab Barcelona:

Barcelona made a dramatic break with its immediate past after the Spanish Civil War, as well as with the hopes and aspirations of the 1931 Republic.

In the years that followed the war, the daily life of the city was one of rationing and smuggling, and cinemas and street festivities were the only escape from the shortages and repression of the long years of the dictatorship.

In the Barcelona of the fifties, surrounded by shanty towns that grew up in the shadow of new industrial complexes, cars and television sets began to be seen in streets and houses.

The city continued growing until the whole metropolitan area took in Barcelona itself and 26 neighbouring boroughs.

More information on Barcelona, Spain:
Hotels, hostels and apartments in Barcelona Museums in Barcelona
Cooking school with traditional cuisine for team building Olympic Barcelona
The Modernism Route
Tapas, sightseeing and cooking day in Barcelona La Rambla
Spanish language school Paseo de Gracia & Rambla Catalunya
Flats, apartments for sale Fountains of Montjuic (and webcam)
Flats for long term rental History of Barcelona
Photos of Barcelona Public Holidays in Barcelona
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