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Introduction - History of Barcelona

This is a short guide to Barcelona in easy English. It tells about its history, its architecture, its people, and its customs. Let us visit it together.

Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain
and is also the capital of Catalonia. Catalonia is an ancient nation. It is part of Spain and it has its own language and its own history. Barcelona is a port on the Mediterranean coast. Four million people live in and around Barcelona. Many of the citizens of Barcelona speak both Catalan and Spanish. These two languages come originally from Latin.
Barcelona is a city of industry and trade. It is also a city of music and of beautiful parks and buildings. It is a friendly place, full of life and colour. It is also a city of sport
: the city of the Olympic Games in 1992.


The First Inhabitants 
The Iberian Peninsula runs from the Pyrenean Mountains in the north to the Straits of Gibraltar in the south. Barcelona is in the north-eastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula. The first inhabitants of Barcelona were Iberians.
Around 250 BC, Greeks and Carthaginians came across the Mediterranean. A Carthaginian called Amilcar Barca was the founder of the city. The city was called Barcino. The Greeks and Carthaginians brought trade to the city.
The Romans became the rulers of Barcino in 200 BC and they built the walls around the city.
Iberia was invaded around AD 400 by the Goths. The Goths came from north-eastern Europe. A Goth king, King Ataulf, made Barcelona his capital.
The Muslims came from North Africa. They invaded the Iberian Peninsula around AD 700. Christians and Muslims fought many battles. Barcelona was conquered by the Muslims in AD 800. Later, it was conquered by the Franks. Barcelona became an independent city in AD 900. It was ruled by Guifrè, the Count of Barcelona. He was also called 'el Pilos' (the Hairy).   

The Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages (AD 400-1500), Catalonia was part of the most powerful kingdom in the Mediterranean. King James the First (The Conqueror) sent ships to Italy, Greece, Egypt and the Middle East. Barcelona became a centre for Mediterranean trade. The traders of Barcelona competed with the traders of Genoa, Pisa and Venice.
In 1265, King James gave the city its first democratic parliament. It was called Consell de Cent. Some of the most beautiful buildings in Barcelona were built at this time. They were built in the part of the city now called the Gothic Quarter.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered America. He came to Barcelona and offered the new lands to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
But the discovery of America was not good for the ports on the coast of the Mediterranean. Traders moved to Cádiz and Sevilla, ports in south-west Spain. Barcelona became less important. There were other important changes in the Middle Ages. Madrid became the capital of the new Spanish Empire. In the 1700s there was a war about who was going to rule Spain. Barcelona lost its independence in 1714 and part of the city was destroyed.

The New City
The Spanish Industrial Revolution began in Barcelona in the 1900s. Barcelona grew much bigger. Once again it became an important city. Streets and houses were built outside the old city walls. The architect, Ildefons Cerdà (1815-76), designed a new town. The houses had gardens inside and outside.
Two World Exhibitions were held in Barcelona. The first was in 1888 and the second was in 1929. Barcelona became a world centre of modern literature, music and art.

Into the Future

The Spanish Civil War (1936-39) and the military dictatorship (1939-76) were difficult times throughout Spain. Thousands of Spaniards came to Barcelona to find jobs and homes.
Today, Barcelona is the centre of Government and Parliament for Catalonia. The city is changing all the time. New squares and parks are being built. The transport systems are being improved all the time. Barcelona is looking towards the future. Barcelona 2000 was a plan for the development of the city in the future and many international events were held in Barcelona.

Source: Ramón Ribé, Neus Serra, Núria Vidal (Heinemann)


customs: tradiciones
it is part of: forma parte de
citizens: ciudadanos
both Catalan and Spanish: tanto el Catalán como el Español
trade: comercio
friendly place: lugar amistoso
inhabitants: habitantes
Straits of Gibraltar: Estrecho de Gibraltar
north-eastern: noreste
Carthaginians; Cartagineses
founder: fundador
rulers: gobernantes
Goths: Godos
Muslims: Musulmanes
fought: libraron
conquered: conquistada
Franks: Galos 
Count: Conde
Middle Ages: Edad Media

powerful kingdom: poderoso reino
The Conqueror
: El Conquistador
Middle East: Medio Oriente
traders: comerciantes
Genoa: Génova
Gothic Quarter: Barrio Gótico
discovery: descubrimiento
became less: se volvió menos
about who was going to rule: para decidir quién iba a gobernar
destroyed: destruída
grew much bigger: se volvió much más grande
were held: se realizaron
military dictatorship: dictadura militar
throughout: en toda
are being built: se están construyendo
are being improved: se están mejorando
is looking towards: mira hacia
development: desarrollo
events: acontecimientos