The territory where Madrid is currently located was occupied by Roman troops in their war against Carthage. After the victory, it was divided into three provinces.
In the beginning, the territory was a province without any strategic importance and functioned as a rural settlement. In this way it was maintained for several centuries until, in the ninth century, the Emir of Córdoba, Muhammad I, reinforced the settlement with a fortification and the city began to flourish with large-scale works.
This situation continued until 1085, when Alfonso VI of León took the city without any resistance after a long siege and annexed it under the name of the Kingdom of León.
The Middle Ages, the capital and the Golden Age
From the beginning, Madrid was a strategic enclave for the Christian troops of the reconquest, suffering prolonged and constant attacks. Its importance is reflected in the fact that it was designated as a city at an early stage. Throughout the 14th century, and part of the 15th century, the Courts of the Kingdom of Castile chose the town for state meetings.
After the War of the Communities, the influence of Madrid was reinforced. On February 13, 1561, it was designated as the capital, bringing together the different kingdoms under the command of Philip II.
As the capital of the kingdom, Madrid experienced a boom in its urban reorganization and in the construction of buildings, palaces and government institutions. The city became the centre of what was then the most powerful and influential kingdom in Europe.
Just as its urbanism grew exponentially, the population increased dramatically, not only in relation to bureaucratic positions but also in terms of the businessmen, merchants and artists who saw Madrid as the perfect place to grow and prosper.
The growth of Madrid was such an extraordinary event that in 1625 Philip IV ordered the collapse of the enormous defensive walls that guarded the city, creating the so-called "last fence of Madrid".
During the 17th and 18th centuries, Madrid exercised the greatest influence of any court in the known world due to its immense colonies in the American continent, Africa and the Philippines. This strengthened its enormous commercial and diplomatic channels, turning the capital of Spain into the centre of Europe and, therefore, the world.
In fact, during the so-called Golden Age, Madrid experienced unusual growth in the field of arts and culture, crowned with the inauguration of “El Salón del Prado” (later the Prado Museum), home to the most spectacular collection of works of art of the Spanish crown, surpassed at that time only by the Louvre in Paris.
The War of Independence and decadence
At the beginning of the 19th century, one of the most traumatic events for the city took place when Napoleonic troops invaded Spain. This forced Madrid to entrench itself and carry out a bloody guerrilla war in which it was necessary to sacrifice entire urban areas to contain the invaders.
After the French were expelled following several years of war, the demographic growth of the city did not stop. However, the economic situation worsened, making it necessary to apply draconian measures throughout the 19th century, including a confiscation that affected many properties.
By 1868, "the last fence of Madrid" had collapsed and El Ensanche was carried out to enable the city to grow in a more orderly and organic way through an ambitious urban reorganization plan. This lasted for decades until the beginning of the 20th century.
However, the Spanish crown entered a phase of decline, losing the last American and Asian colonies after the disastrous war against the United States.
The most dramatic change of all was slowly taking place.
Civil War, Francoism, democracy and the future
In 1931, the second republic was installed in Spain. This immediately made Madrid the focus of the new republican government.
The radical changes carried out by the government and the serious economic depression inherited from 1929 originated a period of serious political instability that unleashed the Spanish Civil War in 1936.
Although at first the uprising was quickly put down in the capital, in a short time the city entrenched itself and suffered bloody battles that greatly affected valuable heritage and historical buildings. The economic crisis worsened.
After the war, Madrid recovered its economic and demographic momentum by undergoing a new urban redesign that preserved a large part of the patrimonial legacy and further widened the limits of the capital. This was maintained until the arrival of democracy. The city became the protagonist of the transition.
Democracy and subsequent entry into the European Union had a very positive influence on Madrid’s growth and development as a modern and thriving city where multiple economic engines act simultaneously, with tourism being one of the main workhorses.