Peace of Utrecht, Spanish Succession, Rock of Gibraltar, labor problems, military spending
Gibraltar and ancient Abila (now Mount Acho at Ceuta, a Spanish exclave in Morocco) form the classical Pillars of Hercules, which were crowned with silver columns by Phoenician mariners to mark the limits of safe navigation for the ancient Mediterranean peoples. The Rock of Gibraltar was named Jabal Tariq (Arabic, “Mount of Tariq”) in honor of the Muslim general Tariq ibn-Ziyad (died about 720), who invaded Spain in 711. In 1309 Gibraltar was captured by the Castilians but was regained by the Moors in 1333 and held until 1462, when it finally passed from Moorish possession. In 1502, it was annexed to the Spanish crown.
After the sacking of Gibraltar by the Algerian corsair Barbarossa II (Khayr ad-Din, 1483?-1546) in 1540, the Rock was furnished with strong defenses by command of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. On July 24, 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Gibraltar was captured by combined English and Dutch forces. The English commander took possession in the name of Queen Anne. Nine years later the acquisition was formalized by the Peace of Utrecht.
During the European phase of the American War of Independence, the Spanish, who had entered the conflict against the British, imposed a stringent blockade against Gibraltar as part of an unsuccessful siege that lasted for more than three years (1779-83). On September 14, 1782, the British destroyed the floating batteries of the French and Spanish besiegers. In February 1783 the signing of peace preliminaries ended the siege. In 1830, Gibraltar was named a crown colony.
In World War I, the Rock served as a strategic base for Allied naval units and was used as a coaling station for transports en route to theaters of war in the eastern Mediterranean. During the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), the town of Gibraltar served as a haven for large numbers of Spanish refugees.
When Britain gave almost complete control over internal affairs to the dependency in 1964, Spain contended that under terms of the Peace of Utrecht it should acquire sovereignty over Gibraltar. The British step led to strained relations between the two countries and economic isolation of the dependency by Spain. In a referendum held on September 10, 1967, the people of Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly to remain under British rule and to reject ties with Spain. Spain, however, pursued its claim and in 1969 closed its border to the 5000 Spanish workers who crossed it daily on their way to work in Gibraltar. The dependency consequently adapted its economy, which benefited from a general diversification, increased tourism, and military spending by the British.
Toward the end of the 1970s Spain began to show more flexibility on the question of Gibraltar. In 1980 an agreement in principle was reached on the reopening of the border, but it was not implemented because of labor problems. It was further delayed in 1981, when the prince and princess of Wales selected the Rock as the first stop on their honeymoon, a choice that Spain regarded as an affront. In 1982, however, both countries again committed themselves to resolving their differences, and in February 1985, for the first time in 16 years, the border with the Spanish mainland was fully reopened.
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