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Madrid History, Spain

There are two stories that go around about the founding of the city of Madrid.  The story that you will hear from most places is that Madrid was created as part of the westward expansion of the Roman Empire.  This is the popularized history of the city and that is the history that is told to many of the people around.  While this is an interesting way to look at it, most historians believe that the founding of Madrid was not initially by the Roman Empire, but rather was by Islamic forces that were looking for a garrison to place troops.  Because of the location of Madrid, it made an ideal garrison at the time for those forces and that is why Madrid was founded.

Madrid stayed in Muslim hands until approximately the end of the 11th century, at which point it was handed over to a precursor to the modern Spanish state.  All of the history of Madrid from that time to the present is very much in keeping with the image of Madrid as a Spanish Town and it is for that reason that many people tell the idealized Roman version of the history, because that tends to link up more and be more attractive as a point of continuance than what most historians believe is the real history of the region.  With Italian and Spanish being languages that hail from the same base, this is a convenient way to recount events.  The true founding of the city is not known however, so the Roman version might be the correct one.  What is known however is that Madrid as a major city was initially in the hands of Islamic forces before being handed over around the end of the 11th century.

After the 11th Century, Madrid became part of the European medieval landscape and during the early years was part of a Spanish land that was split into two kingdoms, neither of which had Madrid as their capital city.  For this reason, the city lacked international prominence for most of the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries, although the 15th century saw the time of Spanish global dominance in the world with the melding of the two kingdoms into one as well as the rise of prominence in the status of Madrid.  Even so, it was not until 1561 that Madrid became the official capital of Spain, a role which it has held ever since.  In the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries Madrid remained the Spanish capital and a major player in every major decision that the country made.  However, with the decline of the Spanish Empire in the 17th century, Madrid was largely dormant as a source of world influence until the 20th century and the two World Wars.

Madrid has always been a cultural centre within the European continent, but the years between 1935 and 1975 did not help matters that much.  Spain was under a fascist dictatorship for most of that period and it was only with the death of Franco that the last officially fascist government left power in Europe and Spain was able to become a democratic nation in the mould of many of its nearby counterparts.  Ever since 1975 Spain has experienced free elections and democratic rule and under that particular atmosphere, the cultural aspects of Madrid have come back again in full force.  The evidence of the brutal repression that occurred over those four decades is still present in many areas however and can be seen chronicled in various museums and art galleries as well.

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Read our members' reviews about Madrid

  • TudiA visit to Santiago Bernabeu stadium
    review by Tudi posted more then 30 days ago
    The gallery above is from April 2008, during my trip through Spain. I ended up in Madrid for a couple of days, visiting some friends, without any real travelling plan. As a football fan though, it's hard to visit Madrid and not feel the urge to at least see from the outside the Cathedral of...
  • cipristbMadrid attractions: the Prado Museum
    review by cipristb posted more then 30 days ago
    Prado Museum is included in the top 10 most beautiful museums in the world. It was inaugurated in 1819. The museum is located in a building from the time of Charles The third. This building houses the most interesting collections of European art. Even if it was founded as a museum of sculpture...
  • cipristbShort trip to the Escorial Palace, Madrid
    review by cipristb posted more then 30 days ago
    The Escorial Palace is located in the Madrid region 50 km from it. It is a huge building-sized, with a imposing past made to commemorate the victory of the Battle of San Quintin Its construction started in 1563 under the command of King Philip the Second and completed in 1584. The building is...
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Read our members' travel tips about Madrid

  • blackangel_66Royal Palace
    travel tip by blackangel_66 posted more then 30 days ago
    The Royal Palace used to be the residence of the Spanish kings and queens. Now it is only used for official ceremonies and when foreign diplomats come. It is opened for visitors every day (except when it is used for the official...
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