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Geography of Spain

Learn Information about the European Country of Spain

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Map pin placed in Madrid, Spain on map, close-up
Jeffrey Coolidge/ Photodisc/ Getty Images
Updated May 27, 2014

Population: 46,754,784 (July 2011 estimate)
Capital: Madrid
Bordering Areas: Andorra, France, Gibraltar, Portugal, Morocco (Ceuta and Melilla)
Area: 195,124 square miles (505,370 sq km)
Coastline: 3,084 miles (4,964 km)
Highest Point: Pico de Teide (Canary Islands) at 12,198 feet (3,718 m)

Spain is a country located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula to the south of France and Andorra and to the east of Portugal. It has coastlines on the Bay of Biscay (a part of the Atlantic Ocean) and the Mediterranean Sea. Spain's capital and largest city is Madrid and the country is known for its long history, unique culture, strong economy and very high living standards.

History of Spain

The area of present-day Spain and the Iberian Peninsula has been inhabited for thousands of years and some of the oldest archeological sites in Europe are located in Spain. In the 9th century B.C.E. the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians and Celts all entered the region but by the 2nd century B.C.E., the Romans had settled there. Roman settlement in Spain lasted until the 7th century but many of their settlements were taken over by the Visigoths who arrived in the 5th century. In 711 the North African Moors entered Spain and pushed the Visigoths to the north. The Moors remained in the area until 1492, despite several attempts to push them out. Present-day Spain was then unified by 1512 according to the U.S. Department of State.

By the 16th century, Spain was the most powerful country in Europe because of wealth obtained from its exploration of North and South America. By the later part of the century however, it had been in several wars and its power declined. In the early 1800s it was occupied by France and it was involved in several wars, including the Spanish-American War (1898), throughout the 19th century. In addition many of Spain's overseas colonies revolted and gained their independence at this time. These problems led to a period of dictatorial rule in the country from 1923 to 1931. This time ended with the establishment of the Second Republic in 1931. Tensions and instability continued in Spain and in July 1936 the Spanish Civil War began.

The civil war ended in 1939 and General Francisco Franco took over Spain. By the beginning of World War II, Spain was officially neutral but it supported Axis power policies; because of this though it was isolated by the Allies following the war. In 1953 Spain signed the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement with the United States and joined the United Nations in 1955.

These international partnerships eventually allowed Spain's economy to begin growing because it had been closed off from much of Europe and the world prior to that time. By the 1960s and 1970s, Spain had developed a modern economy and in the late 1970s it began to transition to a more democratic government.

Government of Spain

Today Spain is governed as a parliamentary monarchy with an executive branch made up of a chief of state (King Juan Carlos I) and a head of government (the president). Spain also has a bicameral legislative branch made up of the General Courts (made up of the Senate) and the Congress of Deputies. Spain's judicial branch is composed of the Supreme Court, also called the Tribunal Supremo. The country is divided into 17 autonomous communities for local administration.

Economics and Land Use in Spain

Spain has strong economy that is considered mixed capitalist. It is the 12th largest economy in the world and the country is known for its high standard of living and quality of life. The major industries of Spain are textiles and apparel, food and beverages, metals and metal manufactures, chemicals, shipbuilding, automobiles, machine tools, clay and refractory products, footwear, pharmaceuticals and medical equipment (CIA World Factbook). Agriculture is also important in many areas of Spain and the main products produced from that industry are grain, vegetables, olives, wine grapes, sugar beets, citrus, beef, pork, poultry, dairy products and fish (CIA World Factbook). Tourism and the related service sector is also a major part of Spain's economy.

Geography and Climate of Spain

Today most of Spain's area is located in southwestern Europe with the mainland of the country that is south of France and the Pyrenees Mountains and east of Portugal. However it also has territory in Morocco, the cities of Ceuta and Melilla, islands off the coast of Morocco as well as the Canary Islands in the Atlantic and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. All of this land area makes Spain the second largest country in Europe behind France.

Most of the topography of Spain consists of flat plains that are surrounded by rugged, undeveloped hills. The northern part of the country however is dominated by the Pyrenees Mountains. The highest point in Spain is located in the Canary Islands with Pico de Teide at 12,198 feet (3,718 m).

The climate of Spain is temperate with hot summers and cold winters inland and cloudy, cool summers and cool winters along the coast. Madrid, located inland in the center of Spain has a average January low temperature of 37˚F (3˚C) and a July average high of 88˚F (31˚C).

To learn more about Spain, visit the Geography and Maps page on Spain on this website.

References

Central Intelligence Agency. (17 May 2011). CIA - The World Factbook - Spain. Retrieved from: https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/sp.html

Infoplease.com. (n.d.). Spain: History, Geography, Government, and Culture- Infoplease.com. Retrieved from: http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107987.html

United States Department of State. (3 May 2011). Spain. Retrieved from: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/2878.htm

Wikipedia.com. (30 May 2011). Spain - Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spain

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