The History of Mallorca – Part 2

Today is a continuation of our previous post 10 Fabulous (Historic) Facts about Mallorca bringing us from 1600 AD to the present time. So here are some more fabulous facts about how our beautiful island has evolved:

1. The War of Succession – so called because spanish war of succession mallorca hikingthe winner would succeed the heir-less King Carlos II, and rule a united Spain. It was fought among several European powers, against the Spanish loyal to Felipe V, France and Bavaria over a possible unification of the Kingdoms of Spain and France under one Bourbon monarch. Such a unification would have drastically changed the balance of power in Europe.

As it turned out, it resulted in the recognition of Felipe as King of Spain but he was required to renounce any claim to the French throne and to cede much of the Spanish Crown’s possessions thereby breaking up the Spanish Empire in Europe at the time.

Mallorca was the last territory to be acquired by Felipe in 1715, and the following years saw many changes for the island. The new King introduced a new regime, which abolished the autonomy the island had enjoyed. The first among the “Nueva Planta” decrees (another twist in the battle for language supremacy) was the decree that Mallorca would now use Castilian as the official language instead of Catalan. In 1716 the new regime made Mallorca part of the new Baleares region.

Antonio Barcelo with Mallorca Hiking2. Famous sailors and navigators feature in our next stage in history. Due to continued problems with pirates, the King gave permission for established sailors to defend their homelands. One “corsair” noted for his bravery (and for lending his ships to the King!) was Captain Antoni Barcelo. Achieving the rank of Lieutenant General of the Spanish Armada was one of the rewards for his gallantry and support.

Another famous sailor is the missionary Fray Junipero Serra. In the mid 1700’s he sailed to the new Americas and helped establish the missions of California. He can probably be given credit for founding such US cities as San Francisco. Not bad for an island boy brought up in Petra!

3. More wars in the 1900s – this time the Napoleonic version. The comfortable lifestyle and relative peace that had prevailed was harshly broken with the influx of refugees from Catalonia escaping the fighting on the mainland. Although this caused much unrest amongst islanders the new business skills of the Catalan settlers established a new bourgeoisie society and many new trading initiatives. This included shipping routes, train lines and communication channels with the mainland. The other major change was the return of the Catalan language.

4. Economic Crisis (yes, there were others!) – Bad times return and the equivalent of our current phylloxera plague mallorca history mallorca hikingeconomic crisis for Mallorca. The vibrant wine producing industry was devastated with all the vines destroyed by phylloxera plague. At the same time the colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines broke away from Spain reducing significantly the local shipbuilding industry. There followed an exodus of islanders to the mainland and America to seek their fortunes elsewhere.

5. Enter the 20th Century and Two Giants in Mallorcan political history:

Born in Palma, Antoni Maura was a politician and spent most of his political life in Madrid as leader of the Conservative party. He was Prime Minister of Spain on five separate occasions during the early 1900’s.

Joan March Ordinas was a “rags to riches” financier who at one time was reputed to be the third richest man in the world. He was a Mallorcan businessman closely associated with the Nationalist side in the Spanish Civil War, and with Franco’s regime after the war. He was notorious for shady dealings and political influence, and in 1926 created the Banca March one of Mallorca’s largest banks.

Spanish Civil War as told by Mallorca Hiking

6. Spanish Civil War – General Francisco Franco succeeded in installing his military regime from a coup he mounted against the elected Republican party in 1936. He was backed by many conservative groups as well as Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy.

When Franco assumed power, the country entered three years of Civil War during which 1 million Spaniards lost their lives. He managed to keep Spain out of the Second World War that raged just after the Spanish Civil war had ended.

Mallorca was seen as a Nationalist stronghold and in 1936 it had a decisive battle against Republican forces. Now known as the Battle of Mallorca, it was won by the outnumbered islanders supported by the Italian air-force. Mallorca then became a base from which to send raids to the Spanish mainland.

General Franco not with Mallorca Hiking

7. The Franco Regime 1939 – 1975.

Franco’s right wing, military regime was hard and alienated Spain from the rest of the world. Franco implemented martial law and local languages such as Catalan, Mallorquin and Basque were forbidden in public places, with Castellano again installed as the official language. When he died in 1975, the monarchy was reinstated and local languages and cultures began to flourish.

8. Tourism arrives in Mallorca – from the 1950’s the island was discovered as a fabulous destination forholidays-in-majorca mallorca hiking holidays, sailing and (originally) fairly exclusive and classy clientele. This has steadily declined with mass construction of hotels in key resorts around the island. All inclusive breaks are the latest point of discussion in the context of the future of the island’s tourist industry.

Thankfully, the building frenzy that has left massive derelict and waste areas on the mainland and the Costas has been controlled to a degree in Mallorca. The latest economic problems have helped curb any further expansion. There is much debate about the need to return to quality tourism – highlighting the other Mallorca e.g. Rural Hotels, the natural environment, history and culture here at Mallorca Hiking we are big supporters of this latest strategy.

9. In 1983 the Balearics became an Autonomous State – the Balearic islands now have their own governing body, and local elections started shortly after the Autonomous Statutes were passed. Today, Palma is the capital of the Balearic Islands and is the seat of government for the political and judicial system for the ‘Autonomous Community of the Balearic Islands’.

10. Mallorca Hiking was founded in 2001 – probably one of the most significant developments in modern times for Mallorca (!!) offering everything required to show the wmallorca-hiking walking holidays mallorcaorld the natural beauty, culture, cuisine and history of this wonderful island. This includes Tailor Made Walking Holidays for those who want to escape with their own personal agenda within the great outdoors of Mallorca; Guided Walking Tours; walking and wine tours, gourmet tours and now a growing local Resident’s Walking Club and all are helping secure Mallorca Hiking’s footprint throughout the Mallorcan countryside – come join our party and help us spread the word about our wonderful island!

10 Fabulous (historical) Facts about Mallorca

Mallorca History with Mallorca HikingThe history of Mallorca is fairly well documented and of course taught to all the resident children at school on the island. To the visiting tourist and “newer” residents (depending on your level of interest), here are some interesting facts about the history of Mallorca, which uncover some of the myths and legends and equip you with some information to impress your friends and (we hope) the locals too!

Fact Nº1:    Majorca or Mallorca? For the British in Mallorca the island is known and referred to as Majorca (the “j” being silent or hard, usually depending on which end of the UK you come from). The island was originally named by the Romans, who referred to its size compared to the other Balearic islands – Major (i.e. large). “Major” in Latin is pronounced as MAH-yor – so the English spelling of Mallorca is correct to its roots, but the pronunciation is won by the locals. The obvious spelling to follow the pronunciation in Castellano is with “ll”. So the name Majorca/Mallorca can still be justified by both arguments!

Fact Nº2: The first human settlement of Mallorca is recorded as 3000BC (although there are records of burial chambers that could date as far back as 6000BC). The Greeks and Phoenicians established trading ports here and the Balearic Islands formed part of the Carthaginian Trading Empire from North Africa.

palma-cathedral mallorca hikingFact Nº3: The Romans conquered Mallorca in 123 BC and their occupation lasted until 5th century AD. The Romans were responsible for naming the capital city Palmeria (now abbreviated to Palma – meaning Palm of Victory) and Alcudia (Pollentia).

Fact Nº4: The 5th century AD also sees the first records of vandalism in Mallorca! The Roman’s were defeated by the Vandal kingdom of Africa.

Fact Nº5: The island was then conquered again and became part of the Byzantine Empire from 523 AD to the 8th century.

Fact Nº6: Yet another conquest of Mallorca in 902 by the Moors started the Arab occupation of the island, which lasted some 300 years. The Moors had ruled mainland Spain since the early 8th century but came to Mallorca much later.

Fact Nº7: Many of us have seen the well-enacted fiestas of the battles between the Moors and the Christians, but the real conquest by the Christian armies of King James I of Aragon were in 1229. This is also when the Catalan language became the island’s official language. (Did you know Catalan is a derivative of Latin, so it’s really been around since Roman times!)

Bellver Castle with Mallorca HikingFact Nº8: King James II succeeded his father James I on his death in 1276, and it was during his reign that Palma Cathedral and Bellver castle were started.

Fact Nº9: The design and early construction of Palma Cathedral were started in 1229 but it wasn’t finished until 1601 – so don’t complain about delays on your building works – at least today it’s mañana – not next century!!

Pirates Mallorca Hiking

Fact Nº10: In the mid-14th century Mallorca became part of the Kingdom of Aragon and was aligned to mainland Spain. But Spain’s New World campaigns and the fateful Armada attack on Britain in 1588 saw the island’s defences weakened and exposed to attack from pirates. Some are still holding out in Magaluf to this day…!

We’ve covered four and a half thousand years here – next week we’ll slow down the pace and travel just 400 years from 1600 to the modern day, so see you then for our next installment!