A short Spanish history, 900 – 1492

Moorish Spain

In the centuries following the birth of Christ Spain was a thriving Moorish Kingdom. Culture, technology and learning were advancing far past that of Spain’s counterparts in England, France or Germany. Cordova was a city of 200,000 houses, 600 mosques and 900 public baths, with a library holding 600,000 volumes. Great tolerance was shown to other religions, with Sunday even being universally acknowledged as a holy day.

The Reconquista

But many were not happy, and as early as 718, descendants of the Visigoths and Romans were fighting to get the Moors out of Spain, the Reconquista. In the 11th Century the Reconquista changed from individual nobles driven to regain land to a unified Spanish effort, driven by the crumbling of the Moorish infrastructure and the crusading spirit prevalent in Europe. Alfonso IV of León and Castile took Toledo, and his niece’s husband, the great El Cid Campeador, took Valencia.

Most advances of the Reconquista took place in the mid-1200s. King Ferdinand III of León and Castile took Cordova and Seville, and King Jaime of Aragon took the Balearic Islands and Valencia. Two major Spanish Kingdoms had developed; Castile and Aragon.

End of the Reconquista

Progress slowed until the late 15th Century when several events paved the way for a united Christian Spain. First, in 1469, Aragon and Castile were united with one of the most important marriages in Spanish history, between Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella Castile. Moorish influence was finally ended in 1492 when Granada, the last Muslim outpost (Ultimo Suspiro Del Moro- The last breath of the Moors), was conquered.

Ferdinand and Isabella’s Legacy

The royal partnership also passed several laws and reforms, prepared Spain to become a modern nation-state. In the same year Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. Ferdinand and Isabella’s successors came to lead the greatest European country of the time, with Spain ruling much of the Netherlands, Flanders, and Italy, as well as most of South and Central America and the Phillipines.

Decline of the Spanish Empire

However, by the mid-sixteenth century, Spain was in decline. It had exhausted much of its wealth in its overseas conquests, and, in 1588, when Phillip II sent his great Armada against Britain, it was totally and utterly destroyed. There followed the loss of many of its European possessions, and several costly wars.


Between 900 and 1500, Spain was transformed from a Moorish Kingdom, with mosques and citadels littering the countryside, and the country ruled by Muslims, through a Reconquista to regain Spain, into a Christian Kingdom, ruled by a united royal pair. Already this royal partnership laid the basis for Spain to transform again from an isolated Kingdom into a world power, and a Royal Kingdom into a nation-state, before again declining- whether through greed, ill-planning, or misfortune.

Text by Brave Sir Robin