Coat of arms of autonomous community of Andalu...

Coat of arms of autonomous community of Andalusia (Spain) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former province and present autonomous Community in southern Spain, very similar in extent to the Roman province of Baetica.   One explanation for its name derives it from the Vandals because forms like Vandalusia exist.   Certainly the Vandals were settled in this part of Spain for a time during the first quarter of the 5th century, after leaving Germany via Gaul and before they crossed to North Africa.   Al-Andalus, however, means the lands of the West in Arabic, and became the Arab name for Spain.

Andalucía was the heartland of Moslem Spain.   Within it were Seville (the capital in the early years and later the Spanish capital of the Almoravids and at first of the Almohads), Córdoba (the capital of the Umayyad Amirate and Caliphate and from 1162 Spanish capital of the Almohads), and Granada (the capital of the last Moslem Kingdom).

The west and north of Andalucía (sometimes called Lower Andalusia, for much of the region belonged to the valley of the River Guadalquivir) fell to Castile in the 1230s and 1240s, and the King of Castile then added the Kingdoms of Córdoba, Jaén and Seville to his titles.   In these Kingdoms both the Military Orders and Castilian nobles acquired enormous estates (the latifundia), their reward for the past help given the King, but it also helped to create a military zone on the borders of Granada, the remaining Moslem Kingdom in Spain.

The conquest of Granada (or Upper Andalusia, a land where the mountains reach nearly to the sea) was completed in 1492.   The year 1492 also saw Columbus’s expedition across the Atlantic, which had considerable consequences for the economic fortunes of Andalucía, because it became the Spanish centre for trade with the Americas.

In the 18th century Captains General in Andalucía and Granada had military responsibilities, but the century also saw new civilian officers, the intendants, appointed temporarily at first, but permanently from 1749.   These took over financial and other administrative responsibilities.   In the later 18th century there were four intendencias in Lower Andalucía (Cádiz, Sevilla, Córdoba, and Jaén) and two in the old Kingdom of Granada (Granada and Malaga).   These became provinces in 1833, in which year two more were added:  Huelva (formerly western Sevilla) and Almería (eastern Granada).

In democratic Spain the lands of these eight provinces form the autonomous community of Andalucía, whose first parliament was elected in 1982.   Andalucía was the fourth of the autonomous communities to be created and the first in a region where there was no significant language other than Castilian.   With autonomy being allowed to three of Spain’s communities and with the option of autonomy being on offer to all of them, Andalucía decided to go for autonomy for itself as quickly as possible.   It was the community with most people, in itself a spur to gain autonomy for the sake of prestige, but it was also one of the poorest regions of Spain, so that it hoped to improve its standard of living though its own self-government.   A Statute was drawn up, giving to Andalucía powers beyond the limited ones that were available under the Constitution.

After the Statute had been agreed with central government a referendum was held in February 1980.  Although the first constitutional requirement of a majority in the community was easily met, the second constitutional requirement – that there should be a majority in each of the provinces – was not, because Almería had narrowly voted against.   So changes were made in the Statute, and a second referendum in October 1981 saw both the requirements met and the Parliament was elected in the following year.   The executive in Andalucía is known as the Junta.

Of the autonomous communities only Castilla y León, with nine provinces, exceeds Andalucía in size;  none has more people.

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