BALEARIC ISLANDS ISLAS BALEARES (Sp), ILLES BALEARS (Catalan).
Islands of the western Mediterranean, a province and an autonomous community (PM) in Spain, capital Palma de Mallorca.
The islands were seized by the Vandals in 423, and recovered by the Byzantine Empire in 534, until left to their own devices in the 8th century. In 798 the Moslems of Spain seized Ibiza. In the following year the Franks extended protection to Majorca and Minorca, but the Spanish Moslem advance slowly continued, though it was not until 903 that the islands were completely in the possession of the Umayyad Amir of Córdoba.
In the Taifa period in the 11th century, the ruler of Denia on the mainland controlled the islands until 1075, when local Amirs began to rule there, making a living by piracy. In 1115 the Count of Barcelona seized the islands but by 1126 Moslem control had been re-established under a governor of the Banu Ghaniya family.
His mother was an Almoravid, and when that family fell from power in Morocco and Spain in 1147, members of the Banu Ghaniya attempted to hold on to Seville (lost in 1148) and Granada (1155). Though they failed on the mainland the Banu Ghaniya continued to rule the Balearic Islands. For some time they cooperated with the Almohads, who were always willing to work with former Almoravid supporters, though the separateness of the islands saved the Banu Ghaniya from subservience, but in 1184 the ruler was deposed by his brothers, who allied themselves with enemies of the Almohads in Tunisia. By the end of the 1180s the Almohads had won in North Africa and the Banu Ghaniya were confined to Majorca. They briefly recovered Minorca at the beginning of the 13th century, but lost it again in 1202. The following year the Almohads sent a powerful expedition to Majorca. In September Palma fell and the last ruler was killed.
By the later 1220s Almohad rule in Spain had collapsed and a local ruler, Abu Yahya, ruled in Majorca. This was the era when Catalan maritime trade was growing, and the Balearic islands, home like many of the Mediterranean islands to pirates, threatened that expansion. In 1229 James the Conqueror, King of Aragon and Count of Barcelona, invaded Majorca and by the spring of 1230 had brought it under his control. In 1231 Minorca submitted to him and became a tributary state, while in 1235 Ibiza fell to the Archbishop of Tarragona. In 1231 Majorca was given to Pedro of Portugal for his lifetime in exchange for the Catalonian County of Urgell. He had married the heiress of Urgell, a former mistress of King James, to whom control over the Pyrenean county was more important at that time than over the Mediterranean island. James recovered Majorca in 1244, and on his death left the Kingdom of Majorca to his second son, James II. Minorca was added after its conquest in 1287. The Kingdom was finally confiscated by Peter IV of Aragon in 1343. Many of the Moslems left Majorca after its conquest, and many of those on Minorca in 1287 were sold in slave markets. As a result the islands were repopulated with Catalan immigrants.
After 1343 the Balearic Islands follow the history of Aragon and Spain, except, firstly, that Minorca was British for much of the 18th century, and, secondly, that during the Bonaparte interlude, the Balearics refused loyalty to King Joseph.
The former kingdom of Majorca lost its privileges after the War of Spanish Succession, when the islands supported the unsuccessful claimant, the Archduke Charles. It came under the military authority of the Captain General of Majorca and, later in the 18th century, was placed under the civil authority of the Intendant at Palma de Mallorca.
In the 19th century the Balearic Islands formed a province and in democratic Spain the islands have become an autonomous Community, whose Parliament was first elected in 1983 and whose government is designated the Gobierno. It has the smallest area of any community, though only just – La Rioja is almost as small – but it has more people than La Rioja, Cantabria or Navarre, which is more than twice as large. Counting it as one of the 50 provinces, it is 16th in population.