History of Gibraltar

From Academic Kids

The name Gibraltar comes from the Arabic Jabal Tāariq, which means "Tariq's mountain" (for Tariq ibn-Ziyad). Earlier it was Calpe, one of the Columns of Hercules.

Treaty of Utrecht

The territory was ceded to Great Britain by Spain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht as part of the settlement of the War of the Spanish Succession. In that treaty, Spain ceded Great Britain "the full and entire propriety of the town and castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications, and forts thereunto belonging ... for ever, without any exception or impediment whatsoever."

The Treaty stipulates that no overland trade between Gibraltar and Spain was to take place, except for emergency provisions in the case that Gibraltar is unable to be resupplied by sea. Another condition of the cession is that "no leave shall be given under any pretence whatsoever, either to Jews or Moors, to reside or have their dwellings in the said town of Gibraltar." This was quickly broken and Gibraltar has had for many years an established Jewish community, along with Moroccans, the descendants of the Moors.

Under the Treaty, should the British crown wish to dispose of Gibraltar, that of Spain should be offered the territory first. This article of the Treaty has been used by Britain to deny independence to Gibraltar, and by Spain to pursue its claim to the Rock, despite it being ceded in perpetuity.

Most of the original Spanish inhabitants of Gibraltar fled from the Rock when it was seized in 1704 by the Anglo-Dutch expeditionary force headed by Sir George Rooke, and after a short resistance the Spanish surrendered.

Many established a new town in San Roque in the province of Cádiz, which today uses the full title La Ciudad de Gibraltar en San Roque. Spanish nationalists argue that it is the people of San Roque, and not the 'present inhabitants' of Gibraltar, who are the 'people' of Gibraltar. In 2002, the municipality of San Roque angered the Government of Gibraltar, when it used the slogan 'La Ciudad de San Roque, donde reside la de Gibraltar' (the city of San Roque, where that of Gibraltar resides).

Spanish claims to sovereignty

Despite having signed the Treaty of Utrecht, the Spanish attempted the recovery of Gibraltar in a series of sieges starting in 1726. At the conclusion of the Anglo-Spanish War of 1727-1729, the Treaty of Seville allowed Britain to keep Port Mahon and Gibraltar, and stipulated a strip of land of width "600 toises, being more than 2 cannon shots distance between the British guns and the Spanish guns" be considered "the neutral ground". The neutral territory exists to this day between the North Face of of the Rock and the Spanish town of La Linea.

In 1908 the British constructed a fence at the British side of the neutral territory. In order not to offend the Spanish, the fence was actually 1 metre inside British territory. Even though both the United Kingdom and Spain are part of the European Union, the border fence is still relevant today since Gibraltar maintains its tax haven status. The border crossing is open 24-hours a day to facilitate customs collection by Spain.

In 1954, the 250th anniversary of its capture, Queen Elizabeth II visited Gibraltar, which angered General Franco, leading to the closure of the Spanish consulate and to the imposition of restrictions on freedom of movement between Gibraltar and Spain. By the 1960s, motor vehicles were being restricted or banned from crossing the border, while only Spanish nationals employed on the Rock being allowed to enter Gibraltar.

At the United Nations, Spain argued that the principle of territorial integrity, not self-determination, applied in the case of Gibraltar, and that Britain should cede sovereignty of the Rock to Spain. Madrid gained diplomatic support from countries in Latin America, with the UN General Assembly passing resolutions supporting the Spanish case. For its part, Britain stated that it would respect the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, and that there would be no change of sovereignty against their wishes.

A small group of Gibraltarians, known as the palomos or 'doves', advocated a political settlement with Spain. This provoked widespread public hostility and civil unrest. A referendum was held on 10 September 1967, in which Gibraltar's voters were asked whether they wished to either pass under Spanish sovereignty, or remain under British sovereignty, with institutions of self-government. Gibraltarians ignored Spanish pressure and voted overwhelmingly by 12,138 to 44 to remain under British sovereignty.

Under the 1969 Constitution, Gibraltar attained full internal self-government, with an elected House of Assembly. The preamble to the Constitution stated that

"Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes."

In response, Spain closed the border with Gibraltar in 1969, and severed all communication links. Gibraltarians with families in Spain had to go by ferry to Tangier in Morocco, and from there to the Spanish port of Algeciras, while many Spanish workers lost their jobs in Gibraltar. This situation remained unchanged after the death of General Franco in 1975, with the border not fully reopened until 1985 as Spain sought to join the European Communities.

Major Robert (later Sir Robert) Peliza of the Integration with Britain Party (IWBP) was elected Chief Minister in 1969, although Joshua (later Sir Joshua) Hassan of the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights (AACR) was returned to power in 1972.

In 1975, the British Foreign Office Minister Roy Hattersley ruled out integration with the UK, and stated that any constitutional change would have to involve a 'Spanish dimension'. This position was reaffirmed the following year when the British government rejected the House of Assembly's proposals for constitutional reform. The IWBP broke up and was succeeded by the Democratic Party of British Gibraltar (DPBG), led first by Maurice Xiberras, formerly of the IWBP, and subsequently by Peter Isola.

In 1982 the re-opening of the border was delayed in the wake of the war between Britain and Argentina over the Falkland Islands. The re-opening was only partial, as only pedestrians resident in Gibraltar and Spain were allowed to cross the border.

Under the 1985 Brussels Agreement, Britain agreed to enter into discussions with Spain over Gibraltar, including sovereignty. In 1987, a proposal for joint control of Gibraltar's airport with Spain led to widespread opposition locally. Chief Minister Sir Joshua Hassan resigned at the end of that year, to be succeeded by Adolfo Canepa.

In 1988, Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP) leader Joe Bossano was elected as Chief Minister, and firmly ruled out any discussions with Spain over sovereignty. In the 1996 election, Bossano was replaced by Peter Caruana of the Gibraltar Social-Democrats (GSD), who while favouring dialogue with Spain, also ruled out any deals on sovereignty.

In 1988, there was controversy when three members of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) were shot dead by the SAS, after they were suspected of planning to bomb a military parade; a car bomb was later discovered in Spain. In 1991, the British Army effectively withdrew from Gibraltar, leaving only the locally recruited Royal Gibraltar Regiment, although the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy remain.

Spain has made various proposals involving the sovereignty of Gibraltar, which have been rejected by all parties in the Gibraltar House of Assembly. In 1991, the Socialist government of Felipe González proposed joint sovereignty over Gibraltar with the United Kingdom. A similar proposal was advocated by Peter Cumming, formerly of the GSD, in which the Rock would become a self-governing condominium or 'Royal City', with the British and Spanish monarchs as joint heads of state.

In 1997, the Partido Popular Spanish Foreign Minister, Abel Matutes made proposals under which Gibraltar would be under joint sovereignty for fifty years, before being fully incorporated into Spain, as an autonomous region, similar to Catalonia or the Basque Country, but these were rejected by British Government.

In 2000, an agreement was reached between the UK and Spain over recognition of 'competent authorities' in Gibraltar. Spain had a policy of non-recognition of the Government of Gibraltar as a 'competent authority', therefore refusing to recognise Gibraltar's courts, police and government departments, driver's licences and identity cards. Under the agreement, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London would act as a 'post box', through which Gibraltar's police and other government departments could communicate with their counterparts in Spain. In addition, identity documents issued by the Government of Gibraltar now featured the words 'United Kingdom'.

In 2001, the UK Government announced plans to reach a final agreement with Spain over the future of Gibraltar, which would involve shared sovereignty; however agreement was not reached. The Gibraltar government organised a referendum on 7 November 2002 when the voters rejected shared sovereignty by 17,900 votes to 187 on a turnout of almost 88%.

The actual wording of the 2002 referendum was:

On the 12th July 2002 the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, in a formal statement in the House of Commons, said that after twelve months of negotiation the British Government and Spain are in broad agreement on many of the principles that should underpin a lasting settlement of Spain's sovereignty claim, which included the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar.
Do you approve of the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar?

The Gibraltarians did not approve. The Referendum was supervised by a team of international observers headed by the Labour MP Gerald Kaufman, who certified that it had been held fairly, freely and democratically.

See also


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