Gibraltar History

Gibraltar History – A simple synopsis

Gibraltar's History - Summary

Gibraltar History…steeped in our past; the result of an intertwining and moulding of civilisations and cultures which dates back many thousands of years, making Gibraltar History so fascinating. 

Roman Era

It is suggested that ancient mariners first arrived in the rock by the 8th / 9th century BC. Furthermore, some theorists also believe that this may have been as early as the 4th / 5th century BC. The mariners would leave gifts to the gods seeking the blessings of the almighty before sailing into the Atlantic and the unknown. Roman geographer Pomponius Mela was the first to document a description of Gibraltar around 45 AD.

Moorish Era

The Moorish invasion of Europe started in the Bay of Gibraltar. Here, Tarik Ibn Zeyad, assisted by Visigoths, landed on Tarik’s mountain – ‘Jebel Tarik’ – in 711AD. The rock of Gibraltar continued under Moorish occupation for over seven centuries until taken by the Spanish Kingdom of Castille for a brief period of 24 years between 1309-1333.

Spanish Era

Spanish forces occupied Gibraltar for twenty-four years in the early part of the 14th century. However, in 1333 it reverted to Moorish control after a bloody 18-week siege. Gibraltar did not finally become Spanish until 1462, when the Duke of Medina Sidonia recaptured it. The Spanish ‘Catholic Monarchs’ Isabella and Fernando were initially involved in securing Gibraltar as Crown Property of Castille in 1501. 

British Era

King Charles II of Spain died in 1700 without an heir, leaving several contenders to his throne. It was unclear who should succeed him, and so eventually, the War of the Spanish Succession broke out within Europe between 1701-1714.

As a result, in August 1704, British Marines and Dutch marines captured the Rock on behalf of Charles of Austria. Consequently, the war continued until 1713 until the Treaty of Utrecht concluded that Philip V, a grandson of the King of France, would inherit the Spanish throne. Furthermore, Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain and Minorca as part of the treaty.

But Gibraltar continued to be subjected to bloody conflicts from Spain. In 1779 Spain and France began the longest and bloodiest siege in Gibraltar’s history: ‘The Great Siege, 1779-1783’. In 1782 work started on the famous ‘Great Siege Tunnels’. The Battle of Trafalgar was fought close to the Rock in 1805.

Neanderthal man -missed opportunity

In 1848 an ancient skull was discovered in Forbes’ Quarry, eight years earlier than an identical skull found in the Neander Valley near Dusseldorf- Neanderthal. Unfortunately, as the Gibraltar skull was not examined until 1862 when British Archaeologists visited Gibraltar, Gibraltar missed an excellent opportunity to claim the title. The Neanderthal Man, in reality, should have been called the ‘Gibraltar Woman’!

Gibraltar History Tours

Below are some of the most popular history tours organised by Victory Tours Gibraltar.

Gibraltar's historical Timeline

55 million years ago

Pre-History

The African Plate Europe Plates collides some 55 million years ago. The Mediterranean becomes a lake, which then dries up to become a savannah. Eventually, the Atlantic would break through the Strait of Gibraltar flooding it again, isolating the Rock of Jurassic limestone.

55 million years ago

150,000-24,000 years ago

Neanderthals

Neanderthals inhabited Gibraltar

Gibraltar History

150,000-24,000 years ago

711 AD

Moorish Invasion

Moorish Troops landed from North Africa to begin their conquest of the Iberian Peninsular – the conflict lasted for seven centuries.

Gibraltar History

711 AD

8th Century

First Fort

The Moors builds the first Fort of Gibraltar.

8th Century

1309-1333

Brief Spanish Occupation

Brief occupation of 24 years

1309-1333

1316

2nd Siege

Moorish 1st failed attempt in re-capturing the rock from the Spanish

1316

1333

Moors re-capture the Rock

Gibraltar suffers its 3rd siege – after four months, the Spanish surrenders to the Moors.

The Moors immediately improve the Fortification of Gibraltar after its re-capture. They build a Large castle, harbour, wall in the upper Rock, mosques, palaces and baths built.

4th siege – Spain tries to recapture but fails.

1333

1349-1350

5th Siege

Alfonso XI (Spain) tries again to re-capture the Rock but unfortunately dies of plague in March 1350.

1349-1350

1411

6th Siege

Gibraltar is taken by another Moorish faction, the Granadian Moorish kingdom of Fez. It remains under Moorish occupation.

1411

1436

7th Siege

Henry de Guzman, Count of Niebla, fails to capture Gibraltar and is killed in the attempt.

1436

1462

Spain conquers the Rock

Alonso de Arcos joined by other Spanish forces capture Gibraltar in the name of the Duke of Medina on 20 August. Later in the year, the Crown of Spain annexes it, the Duke of Medina unreluctantly gives up Gibraltar in protest.

Gibraltar History

1462

1466-1467

9th Siege

Henry de Guzman, son of Medina, captures the Rock after a siege of fifteen months on behalf of the Duke of Medina

1466-1467

1502

Coat of Arms

Queen Isabella of Spain embroiders coat of arms of Gibraltar, which has prevailed to this day as the Coat of Arms of the City (the Castle and Key).

Gibraltar History

1502

1506

10th Siege

The 3rd Duke of Medina imposes a blockade but gives up.

1506

1540

Pirates attack!

Barbarossa’s corsair pirates land and sack the village, taking hostages as slaves.

1540

1704

Britian conquers the Rock

The British support Charles of Austria’s claim to the Spanish throne. A British fleet under Admiral Rooke land British and Dutch forces on the 23 July.

Gibraltar History

1704

1704-1705

12th Siege

Forces supporting throne contender Philip V of Spain, start an attack on Gibraltar in October. The siege continued until April 1705 but is unsuccessful.

1704-1705

1713

Peace Treaty

Spain cedes Gibraltar to the British under the Treaty of Utrecht

1713

1727

13th Siege

Spanish and French broke the peace treaty and attempted to recapture Gibraltar.

1727

1779-1783

The Great Siege

14th siege, also known as the Great Siege of Gibraltar, lasted from June 1779 – to February 1783. Spanish and French forces unsuccessfully besiege the Rock.

Gibraltar History

1779-1783

1805

Battle of Trafalgar

Admiral Lord Nelson dies at The Battle of Trafalgar and his body is brought into Gibraltar on board the HMS Victory.

Gibraltar History

1805

1810-1814

Napoleonic Wars

Gibraltar’s strategic importance becomes invaluable during the Napoleonic Wars

Gibraltar History

1810-1814

1830

Officially a Colony

Gibraltar becomes officially a British Crown Colony. 

1830

1848

Neanderthal Find

The Gibraltar skull is discovered in Forbes Quarry 8 years before the Neander Valley find

Gibraltar History

1848

1914-1918

WWI

Gibraltar is used for convoy collection and covert anti-submarine operations during WWI

1914-1918

1939-1945

WWII

Gibraltar is again used during conflict by the British and allies, this time for convoy collection and as a base for anti-submarine operations. It becomes the main base for British and American campaigns in North Africa.

Gibraltar History

Tunnelling works inside the Rock is done by the British and Canadian engineers during WWII

1939-1945

1940

Mass Evacuation

All non-essential Gibraltarians are evacuated to the UK, Madeira, Northern Ireland, French Morocco and Jamaica. 

1940

1942

Operation Torch

US General D Eisenhower conducts his famous Operation Torch (the landing of US & Allied Troops in North Africa) from a secret tunnel in Gibraltar.

Gibraltar History

1942

1954

Royal Visit

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visits Gibraltar

1954

1967

Referendum

First referendum – Gibraltarians vote 99.9% to remain under British sovereign. 

1967

1969

Spain closes the frontier

Spanish dictator General Franco orders the Spanish side of Frontier to be closed, cutting off all pedestrian and vehicular access into Spain.

1969

1981

Royal Visit

Prince Charles and Princess Diana commence their honeymoon from Gibraltar. They then start their onward journey onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia.

1981

1985

Frontier fully opens

Spain agrees to formally fully open the frontier with Gibraltar as part of the agreement for Spain to become EU member.

1985

2009

Gibraltar Miss World

Kaiane Aldorino becomes the first Gibraltarian to ever win Miss World.

Gibraltar History

2009

2013-2016

Gibraltar Football

2013 – 24 May – The Gibraltar Football Association is accepted as a full UEFA member.

2016: 13 May – The Gibraltar Football Association is accepted as a full FIFA

2013-2016

2016

UNESCO title

Gorham’s Cave complex attains the UNESCO World Heritage Site status

Gibraltar History

2016

2020

Brexit

Gibraltar is forced to withdraw from the EU due to the Brexit Referendum. 

2020

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