A brief summary of the long history of Mallorca

Clearly summarize the history of Mallorca is not an easy work as it is long and wide and could take hours and hours, rather endless multitude of days and it would be boring for me and anyone who tries to read this item so I’ll try to summarize as briefly as possible by providing links to more extensive information if anyone of you wants to expand the great information available about the history of Mallorca.

The earliest remains found in Mallorca dating from 3500 BC at the time of the Neolithic transition period between the Bronze Age, where appear the first objects made of copper. The first settlers known of the islands were the Balearic Slingers. The findings of numerous vestiges of that era attest to the existence of prehistoric communities who built stone houses, cultivated small agricultural areas and made tools, pottery and jewelry. Already Phoenician traders regularly stopped over in the islands, followed by the Carthaginians, who founded the city of Ibiza in 654 BC making it one of the main trading ports of the Mediterranean at that time. The Romans were succeeded by the Visigoths and Muslims, who invaded the Balearic Islands in the eighth century and their domination lasted for three centuries, leaving behind mainly a cultural and architectural heritage that is still present today.

By 1300 B.C. Balearic Islands lived crucial changes that resulted in the emergence of Talayótica Culture. This warrior culture persisted after Quintus Caecilius Metellus conquered the island for the Roman Republic in 123 BC. Due to frequent pirate raids based on the Balearics, Rome decided to take over the archipelago. Legend says that the Roman general had to protect their vessels with animal skins because slingers firing slingshots prevented them from disembarking. The Roman legions took two years to subdue the islands. After the conquest, the slingers became part of the Roman auxiliary troops fighting prominently by Julius Caesar in the conquest of Gaul.

Until 534 a.C Mallorca suffered the invasion and looting of the Vandals, a lot of them, when the Byzantine general Belisarius ordered conquer the Balearic archipelago.

In 707 the first Muslim landing took place. They followed two centuries of constant anxiety until after the year 903 Mallorca was held by the Muslim Umayyad dynasty. Alaró Castle held out for eight years, according to the chronicles, and was the last refuge of the resistance of Christians in Mallorca during the Muslim conquest. The Mallorcan protorromance language (old latin and Catalonian) is then replaced by Arabic. Then was a flowering stage, during which Medina Mayurqa as the Arabs called to Palma de Mallorca, was a major cultural center.

In 1115 fleet composed by Catalonian and Pisano attacked Mallorca on a punitive expedition in retaliation for pirate activities carried out from the island. Sacked and destroyed Medina Mayurqa for first time, the Pisano fleet fled when was discovered the Almoravid fleet sent from Africa to help in Mallorca. The island was in the hands of an Almoravid dynasty, Ganiya Banu, who encouraged piracy against Christian ships. Later, in 1203, the Almohads took over Mallorca.

The Christian reconquest was conducted by Jaime I the Conqueror, King of Aragón, who took over Mallorca in 1229 and finally conquered the island for Christians after the final defeat of Abu Yahya in the battle of Portopí (1229) and take and pass by knife Medina Mayurqa (1230), whose resistance ceased in 1231. At his death (1276), his son James II of Mallorca took the throne after the swearing in what it was called the Charter of the Franchises. The independence of the kingdom was short. In 1349 was reinstated to the Crown of Aragón. The death of King James III of Mallorca at the Battle of Llucmajor was the end of the Kingdom of Mallorca.

During the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries especially maritime trade in the Balearic acquires great importance. Mallorca becomes a place where converging routes to North Africa, East and West. Palma was market rate for Mediterranean environment, in competition with such powerful cities like Genoa and Venice. Islands products were exported in large quantities like the good quality textile produced in Mallorca or the salt produced in Ibiza. Cartographic School of Mallorca was very prestigious. The Jewish family Cresques developed the famous Atlas considered a cartographic gem which represented the most advanced of its time. This heavy traffic involved the creation of a powerful merchant class, although formed in part by foreign merchants, mainly Italians. Was a fundamental institution the Consolat de Mar, which was established in 1326, during the reign of Jaume III, and survived into the nineteenth century. It was a special Court of Justice, which address the causes related to maritime trade and navigation. Consolat de Mar pioneered international law institutions, making the Mediterranean a common legal territory. Also was founded an institution of first order , the Merchant´s Guild of Mallorca, a merchants corporation that was responsible for regulating and protecting trade and their representatives and where they could complain to lieutenant and even the king if there were complains, having their own scribes and received part of the taxes levied trade.

In the time of Charles I, in 1521, there was an uprising, the rebels coming to surround the town of Alcudia, where the nobility had taken refuge on the island. Throughout the sixteenth century, the island, like the rest of the Balearic and Spanish Levante coast suffered attacks and looting of Turkish and Barbary pirates.

In the sixteenth century to the late eighteenth piracy and privateering (corsairs) became a factor of generalized insecurity. They differ only by the legality of their actions of prey. Privateers enjoyed the famous “Letter of Marque” issued by the State to attack the ships and goods of enemy countries, and had to meet a percentage of their earnings to the exchequer. Piracy was, however, one not controlled by the state, yet it also benefited from predation. It was a traditional activity in the Mediterranean since the beginning of the trade history, although during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries it grew dramatically because of political conflicts and insecurity.

In 1525 the dreaded Kair Ed-Din Barbarossa installed in Algiers and settle in the North African coast corsairs centers benefiting from major expeditions against the shores of southern Europe and Mallorca was halfway between the two. Another famous pirate, a renegade known as the Devil Drub, fought and won against the Spanish fleet off the island of S’Espalmador, hiding part of his spoils in Formentera. The saltworks in Ibiza also were another favorite point for the Barbary pirates, who preyed on the vulnerability of those who worked there to take them as captives.

Also in 1535 came one of the worst events when Barbarossa went to Mahon and being the natives from there desperate because the lack of resources ended up agreeing with the pirates the respect of a few families but taking more than five hundred prisoners in one night. Between 1545 and 1550 attacks on the city of Ibiza, Porto Colom, Estellencs, Banyalbufar, Santanyi and Pollensa occur. There is an strong feeling of insecurity in small villages in Mallorca that are far away from main cities and people started to defend themselves in fortified towers and advising the rest of habitants by “Blowing Horns” in front of possible threats coming from the sea due those who were caught by the Algiers were sold into slavery or pending high ransoms that not everyone could afford.

To detect the presence of pirate ships a system of watchtowers was projected in Mallorca that together with a code of signals was the only surveillance system in Mallorca until the nineteenth century. The signs were made with smoke by day and fire by night. The mission of all those guards, sometimes in places as exposed as the Castle of Cabrera, was less than enviable.

The memory of this time was in black folk legends and place names, so is full of stories of Mallorcan maidens abducted by Moorish or renegades coming back for revenge. While Mallorca suffered the impact of this piratical depredation, it is fair to say that from Mallorca an intense privateering was also exerted. Finally we can say that the abduction and enslavement of people, theft of property and assault craft was a general shift currency in that troubled Mediterranean in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

In 1715, the monarchy of the Bourbons, after the victory in the War of Succession in Spain, takes over Mallorca and Ibiza, then under the rule of the Habsburgs, passing Menorca to British hands under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, occupation that lasted until 1802 and was discontinued in 1756 and 1763 by the Seven Years War and the occupation of the French. With the decline of Spain from s. XVII, Mallorca fell in the provincial oblivion. The Mallorcan support to the Habsburgs in War of Succession to the Spanish Crown (1703-1715) did not earn the sympathy of the conquering king, Philip V of Bourbon. In 1716 he abolished all privileges of the island and ended its autonomy.

In ss. Eighteenth and nineteenth Mallorca suffered the same fate as the rest of Spain. The major events of the first decades of s. XX were the demolition of the walls in the city of Palma de Mallorca and a rapid urban expansion. National policy also affected Mallorca island life and the general elections of 1931 had an unprecedented result. Republicans and Socialists won an absolute majority together in Palma, as in Madrid. The Spanish Confederation of Autonomous Rights (CEDA) won national elections in 1933, and in 1934 all left Mallorca mayors were dismissed.

The uprising against the Republican government led by General Francisco Franco in July 1936 did not find much resistance in Mallorca. Military rebels and right-wing militants the Falange stormed into Cort (town hall) on July 19, 1936 and arrested the mayor left, Emili Darder (executed along with other politicians in February 1937). Then they quickly occupied strategic points in the city of Palma de Mallorca almost without firing a shot. The populations of the rest of Mallorca oppose more resistance, which was bloodily crushed. In mid-August, Mallorca was filled with battalions and Italian warplanes sent by the dictator Benito Mussolini, Franco ally. The island became the main base of the Italian air operations, and their planes bombed Barcelona with increasing intensity as it moved out civil war.

On August 9, 1936 Republican troops coming from Catalonia and Valencia retook Ibiza and landed in Porto Cristo on 16 August but with the national counter started in September 3, supported by the Italian air force, drove them back and abandon the Island. Immediately after the Republicans left also Ibiza and Formentera. Menorca was the only one of the Balearic who remained loyal to the Republic during the war.

With the victory of Franco in 1939, life in Mallorca was not very different from mainland Spain. Rationing was established in 1940 and remained until 1952. Of the nine mayors who had the city of Palma de Mallorca between 1936 and 1976, four were military and the rest conservatives.

So, Mallorca and the other Balearic Islands do not leave their chronic stagnation until the advent of mass tourism in 1950 when the first charter flight to Mallorca landed on a small track. No one could imagine what that meant. Currently the Balearic Islands still enjoy the tourist boom and economic prosperity, but this is for another article that we will post shortly called the History of Tourism in Mallorca.


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