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Barcelona History And Culture, Spain

Barcelona was most likely founded by the Carthaginians in the 3rd century BC. Even if developed by the Romans, it remained a city of minor importance until the 11th century AD. The Moors left practically no traces, while it was Guifré el Pilòs who in 878 founded the dynasty of the Counts of Barcelona who ruled over the region for many centuries. During the 12th century the Counts of Barcelona obtained a great advantage from the fall of the caliphate of Cordoba, thanks to the gold they conquered they acquired a large fleet and Catalonia began its expansion in the Mediterranean and its golden age. At the end of the 14th century the Catalans possessed a kingdom that included Valencia, the Balearic Islands, southern France, Sardinia, Sicily and Athens.

After this a period of decline began and they lost power, in part due to a rivalry with Genoa, internal revolts and the black plague. In 1479 King Ferdinand of Aragon managed to include Catalonia in the unified kingdom of Castile and Aragon. Nevertheless, Catalonia was always denied taking part of the spoils of the Americas while Castile continued to accumulate unlimited wealth.

Catalonia acquired the right to trade with the Americas only in 1778, and thanks to its cotton trade, it started to develop a flourishing textile industry as well as iron and cork industries, in the 19th century. The 19th century was a crucial time for Barcelona: its demographic expansion made it necessary to destroy the medieval walls and build new districts, such as Eixample. It was also the century of the Catalan renaissance, or Renaixanca, when writers and intellectuals brought the question of the Catalan language to the forefront, while the nationalist movement was meeting with broad consensus in all the political parties.

Between the two centuries Barcelona witnessed a golden period in arts; it was in these centuries that the great Catalan Modernism originated and developed. However, the first decades of the 20th century were also years of upheaval and political revolts where the various factions fought for power, while the power of the anarchic political formations or those on the extreme left grew, backed by the city's enormous working class. The Spanish Civil War ended with the rise to power of the dictator Franco who destroyed the hopes for an independent Catalonia and prohibited the use of the Catalan language.

The post-Franco period brought democracy to Spain and returned autonomy to Catalonia. The Generalitat currently exercises broad powers over many aspects of the economic and social life of the region. The 1992 Olympic games finally gave Barcelona recognition as a great European city.

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