Tuesday, July 6, 2010

History of Spain I

Spain (pronounced /ˈspeɪn/ (  listen) spayn; Spanish: España, pronounced [esˈpaɲa]  (  listen)), officially the Kingdom of Spain (Spanish: Reino de España), is a member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula.[note 6] Its mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar; to the north by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the northwest and west by the Atlantic Ocean and Portugal.

Spanish territory also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the African coast, and two autonomous cities in North Africa, Ceuta and Melilla, that border Morocco. Furthermore, the town of Llívia is a Spanish exclave situated inside French territory. With an area of 504,030 km², it is the second largest country in Western Europe and the European Union after France.
Because of its location, the territory of Spain was subject to many external influences since prehistoric times and through to its dawn as a country. Conversely, it has been an important source of influence to other regions, chiefly during the Modern Era, when it became a global empire that has left a legacy of over 400 million Spanish speakers today, making it the world's second most spoken first language.

Spain is a democracy organised in the form of a parliamentary government under a constitutional monarchy. It is a developed country with the ninth or tenth largest economy in the world by nominal GDP, and very high living standards (15th highest Human Development Index), including the seventeenth-highest quality of life index rating in the world.[citation needed] It is a member of the United Nations, European Union, NATO, OECD, and WTO.

Etymology

The true origins of the name España and its cognates "Spain" and "Spanish" are disputed. The ancient Roman name for Iberia, Hispania, may derive from poetic use of the term Hesperia to refer to Spain, reflecting Greek perception of Italy as a "western land" or "land of the setting sun" (Hesperia) and Spain, being still further west, as Hesperia ultima.

It may also be a derivation of the Punic Ispanihad, meaning "land of rabbits" or "edge", a reference to Spain's location at the end of the Mediterranean; Roman coins struck in the region from the reign of Hadrian show a female figure with a rabbit at her feet. There are also claims that España derives from the Basque word Ezpanna meaning "edge" or "border", another reference to the fact that the Iberian peninsula constitutes the southwest of the European continent.

The humanist Antonio de Nebrija proposed that the word Hispania evolved from the Iberian word Hispalis, meaning "city of the western world". According to new research by Jesús Luis Cunchillos published in 2000 with the name of Gramática fenicia elemental (Basic Phoenician grammar), the root of the term span is spy, meaning "to forge metals". Therefore i-spn-ya would mean "the land where metals are forged".

Geography

At 504,782 km2 (194,897 sq mi), Spain is the world's 51st-largest country. It is some 47,000 km2 (18,000 sq mi) smaller than France and 81,000 km2 (31,000 sq mi) larger than the U.S. state of California. The Teide (Tenerife, Canary Islands) is the highest peak of Spain and the third largest volcano in the world from its base.
El Sardinero beach, in Santander (Cantabria)

On the west, Spain borders Portugal; on the south, it borders Gibraltar (a British overseas territory) and Morocco, through its exclaves in North Africa (Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera). On the northeast, along the Pyrenees mountain range, it borders France and the tiny principality of Andorra.

Spain also includes the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean and a number of uninhabited islands on the Mediterranean side of the Strait of Gibraltar, known as Plazas de soberanía, such as the Chafarine islands, the isle of Alborán, Alhucemas, and the tiny Isla Perejil. Along the Pyrenees in Catalonia, a small exclave town called Llívia is surrounded by France. The little Pheasant Island in the River Bidasoa is a Spanish-French condominium.

Mainland Spain is dominated by high plateaus and mountain ranges, such as the Sierra Nevada. Running from these heights are several major rivers such as the Tagus, the Ebro, the Duero, the Guadiana and the Guadalquivir. Alluvial plains are found along the coast, the largest of which is that of the Guadalquivir in Andalusia.

Climate

Due to Spain's geographical situation and orographic conditions, the climate is extremely diverse; discounting the mountain climate, it can be roughly divided into five areas:
* A Continental Mediterranean climate in the inland areas of the Peninsula (largest city, Madrid).
* An Oceanic climate in Galicia and the coastal strip near the Bay of Biscay or (largest city, Bilbao). This area is often called Green Spain.
* A Semiarid climate or arid Mediterranean in the southeast (largest city, Murcia).
* A Mediterranean climate region extends from the Andalusian plain along the southern and eastern coasts up to the Pyrenees, on the seaward side of the mountain ranges that run near the coast. Also in Ceuta and Melilla (largest city, Barcelona). Localized Subtropical climate areas exist in the coasts of Granada and Málaga (Costa Tropical).
    * A Subtropical climate in the Canary Islands (largest city, Las Palmas and Santa Cruz de Tenerife).

The rain in Spain does not stay mainly in the plain. It falls mainly in the northern mountains.

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