- (17,800), a kingdom of South-West Europe, which with Portugal (less than one-fifth the size of Spain) occupies the entire Iberian Peninsula, and is divided from France on the N. by the Pyrenees Mountains, and on the E. and S. is washed by the Mediterranean; the NW. corner fronts the Bay of Biscay (N.) and the Atlantic (W.), while Portugal completes the western boundary; its area, three and one-third times the size of England and Wales, is, along with the Canaries and the Balearic Isles, divided into 49 provinces, although the more familiar names of the 14 old kingdoms, states, and provinces (New and Old Castile, Galicia, Aragon, etc.) are still in use; forms a compact square, with a regular, in parts precipitous, coast-line, which is short compared with its area; is in the main a highland country, a vast plateau (2000 to 3000 ft. high) occupying the centre, buttressed and crossed by ranges (Sierra Nevada in the S., Sierra de Guadarrama, Sierra Morena, etc.), and diversified by the long valleys of the Ebro, Douro, Tagus, Guadalquivir, and other lesser rivers, all of which are rapid, and only a few navigable; climate varies considerably according as one proceeds to the central plains, where extremes of heat and cold are experienced, but over all is the driest in Europe; agriculture, although less than a half of the land is under cultivation, is by far the most important industry, and Valencia and Catalonia the provinces where it is most successfully carried out, wheat and other cereals, the olive and the vine, being the chief products; other important industries are mining, the Peninsula being extremely rich in the useful minerals; Merino sheep farming, anchovy and sardine fisheries, wine-making, and the manufacture of cotton, silk, leather, and paper; chief exports are wine, fruits, mineral ores, oil and cork; Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Seville, and Malaga are the chief towns; the widest variety of character exists among the natives of the various provinces, from the hard-working, thrifty Catalan to the lazy, improvident Murcian, but all possess the southern love "of song, dance, and colour," and have an inherent grace and dignity of manner; Roman Catholicism is the national religion; and although systems of elementary and secondary schools are in vogue, education over all is in a deplorably backward condition; the Government is a hereditary and constitutional monarchy; the Cortes consists of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies; universal suffrage and trial by jury are recent innovations. The outstanding fact in the history of Spain, after the downfall of the Roman Empire, of which she had long formed a part, is the national struggle with the Moors, who overran the peninsula in the 8th century, firmly established themselves, and were not finally overthrown till Granada, their last possession, was taken in 1492; sixteen years later the country became a united kingdom, and for a brief period, with its vast American colonies and wide European possessions, became in the 16th century the dominant power of Europe; since then she has lagged more and more in the race of nations, and her once vast colonial empire has gradually crumbled away till now, since the unsuccessful war with America in 1898, only an island or two remains to her.
The Nuttall Encyclopaedia. James Wood. 1907.
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