History of Malaga

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Although the founding of Malaga is attributed to the Phoenicians, archaeological remains in various parts of the province indicate that prehistoric man had already left his mark on the area. Later on, the Carthaginians and Romans would come. The latter bestowed upon the city the status of a confederate city of Rome, a privilege enjoyed by only three cities in Andalusia. The Roman Theatre and Lex Flavia Malacitana, the remains of which were found in the 19th century, date back to this era, the 1st century AD.

Three centuries later the Christians arrived, and the Visigoths made their presence felt. Their might was definitively established in the 7th century. The Arabic invasion occurred in 711 and with it the capture of Malaga. During the time of the taifas (small Spanish kingdoms), Muslims from the kingdom of Granada established themselves in the city. From 1057 this had a positive effect on the city's growth, and was the period during which the Alcazaba (Citadel) was built. Five centuries after this, on the 18th of August 1487, Malaga surrendered to Castilian troops after a cruel battle in which Ferdinand the Catholic King acted without compromise in dealing to the Arabs. Any survivors were sold as slaves, or exiled. The void left by the Arabs was filled by Christians from all parts of the country.

The 17th century was a tragic time for the city. Added to the poor harvests, famine and epidemics were the huge floods in the years 1580, 1621 and 1661, and the earthquake of 1680 that damaged many buildings. Surprisingly, one that was saved was the Cathedral.

Malaga would not return to normality until well into the 18th century. This was a time of renewed commercial activity, largely thanks to business dealings with America. However, just as the city had recovered from the tragedies of the 17th century, it again suffered a harsh setback with the outbreak of yellow fever in 1803 and 1804. This set off another downward trend that the city would take years to recover from. There were also the effects of the French invasion, despite the achievements of the guerrilla resistance movements of Serranía and Axarquía. During the absolutist reign of Ferdinand VII, altercations never ceased between his followers and the liberals. The King's troops in Malaga arrested the liberal General Torrijos along with some of his companions. In December 1831, they were executed by firing squad on the beaches of Malaga. Years later a memorial obelisk was erected in their memory in the Plaza de la Merced (Square of Mercy).

Following the death of Ferdinand VII in 1833, the liberals took power and Malaga assumed an important role in the nation thanks to industrialisation. Iron and steel works and textile factories were established. The latter were instigated by the Larios and Heredia families. They jointly founded 'Industria Malagueña' in 1846, which made Malaga the second most important industrial centre in the country after Barcelona.

Malaga began the 20th century with an industrial crisis that had started at the end of the previous century with their inability to compete with Catalan industries, and the high price of coal. The agricultural sector was also in crisis due to the destruction of the vines by phylloxera (similar to green-fly). The economy deteriorated with the loss of Cuba, and commercial activity slowed. The situation did not change until the Primo de Rivera dictatorship (1923-1929). Agricultural prosperity had a positive influence on external commerce and industry. The economy once again suffered with the proclamation of the Republic. The working classes were constantly striking over conditions and increasing unemployment. The torching and sacking of religious institutions in 1931 were manifestations of this discontent.

After the military uprising on the 18th of July 1936, Malaga remained under Republican control until their defeat in February 1937. With the Civil War over, the arduous task of rebuilding the city began. Some industries began to recover, but true recovery began in the 1950s with the tourist explosion. This generated enormous economic activity, making public works possible. The service sector then developed, and it remains the basis of today's economy. By exploiting its sun and its beaches, Malaga has become one of the most important tourist destinations in Europe.