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TOURIST INFORMATIONHISTORY22 OCTOBER 2019

HISTORY OF THE CITY

Plane Madrid

Photo: @ondasderuido (Flickr). License: CC BY-SA

Muslim Era 

Although some historians believe in the existence of an ancient Roman city, the first historical evidence that we have of the city's origin is from the Muslim era in the Iberian Peninsula during the reign of emir Muhammad I, between 852 and 886. Muhammad I ordered the construction of a fortress in the ancient village of Mayrit on the bank of the River Manzanares.  Mayrit, or Magerit in the Spanish version, means “abundance of (water) rivers" and, despite the existence of other versions and different meanings, all of them are related to water streams, being said that the city was built on the water areas.

The citadel or the castle was constructed right on the spot where the Royal Palace is nowadays, with the purpose to control the access to the mountains of Sierra de Guadarrama and invade the Christian territories in the north. 

Palacio Real

Until the conquest of Madrid's territory by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1083, Madrid was part of the Muslim Empire. However, the fortress was temporarily occupied in 932 by Ramiro II of Leon. In the areas surrounding the citadel the city must have started to grow as a result of the populating measures as the granting of the city's own code of law in 1202. 

The Habsburg Dynasty

Plaza Mayor

The city of Madrid did not become nationally influencial until 1561, when King Felipe II moved there with all his court, there being important changes in the urban plan along with a considerable extension of neighbourhoods. With the extension of the urban areas, the population increased in more than 30,000 inhabitants from 1530 to 1594. In 1637 there were around 1,300 poor people and 3,300 people begging in court, mostly foreigners, who were sneaky thieves or roughnecks forming the lowest social class. The huge increase of population caused popular discontent in the form of mutinies such as Gatos de Madrid.

In the meantime, the king, in his residence, hardly ever appeared in public, either in his palace or in the churches, very typical of the kings of the Habsbrug Dynasty. The architecture at that time combined different influences from other European cities and ostentation decoration and materials. During this era Plaza Mayor, the Court's Prison and the City Hall were built. Madrid was the seat for many political and administrative bodies of the whole country, attracting a great number of national and international artists and writers. 

The Borbon Dynasty

Puente Toledo

Photo: Manuel (Flickr). License: CC BY- NC-ND

During the 18th century, Madrid was completely involved in the Spanish Succession War for the Crown of the deceased king Carlos II. As a reward for the city's loyalty to the Borbons since 1706, Madrid became Spain's capital in a model of a centralized state, implying many advantages for the city such as urban improvements. During the reign of Felipe V, the victor of the war, Puente de Toledo was built and Palacio Real (1737) started to be constructed where the previous royal castle burned down in 1734. 

Carlos III ordered the remodelation of Madrid's public spaces and other public services such as the street cleaning, night surveillance services, streetlight, stone pavement, etc. His heir, Carlos IV, otherwise, did not carry out significant urban changes. 

Likewise, Madrid underwent big social changes with liberal workers and artisans. Yet, the poorest still suffered long periods of famines and their discontent caused several historical and political plots such as the mutiny of Esquilache in March, 1766 or the mutiny of Aranjuez in 1808. A few months later the same year, on the 2 of May, the Spaniards will start to fight the French after being invaded by Napoleonic forces.

The Napoleonic Wars stopped the changes and reforms that the Borbons wanted to carried out in the city, not recovering back to normal until the middle of the 19th century. 

Real Basílica San Francisco

Photo: Doug (Flickr). License: CC BY-NC-ND

During the decades after the war, many buildings were destroyed, demolished and rebuilt, and other properties were sold, especially the Church estates and convents to the high-class citizens, landowners and traders thanks to the Mendizábal expropriation of the Church lands. All these lands were used to create new and complete neighbourhoods, but the urban plan stayed almost the same.

Among the still preserved buildings linked to the Borbon dynasty we can find Real Basílica de San Francisco el Grande, with a great collection of paintings; Basílica de San Miguel by the Italian architect Santiago Bonavía where Luigi Boccherini was buried; Iglesia de San Marcos; and Convento de las Salesas Reales, built by François Carlier where Fernando VI and his wife are buried and where the Supreme Court is housed currently.

 Modern development

Unlike other cities at that time, Madrid's population growth was not a result of the industrialization of Spain, since most Spanish business were still very traditional and mostly at a local level, but because of immigration, especially from 1920. In 1930, almost half of the citizens of Madrid came from other provinces. 

After the Second World War, the city started to become a centre of massive consumption and host big chemical-pharmaceutical, electromechanical and metalurgic companies.

 The 20th Century

In the most recent history, in the early 80's a very significant cultural movement took place in the neighbourhood of Malasaña: the so-called La Movida. This cultural and musical phenomenon caused one of the most representative events of Madrid: the performances of many music bands paying hommage to Canito, the drummer of the band Tos, being carried out in Escuela de Caminos on the 9th of February. Many artists attended to this event: Tos, Nacha Pop, Alaska y los Pegamoides, los Solitarios, Mermelada, Paraíso, Trastos, Mario Tenia y los Rebeldes. After being broadcast on the Spanish TV, all these rock and punck bands became popular and started their musical career.

 

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