Santander (Spain)

History of Santander


Santander's history is a pendulum that has continually swung between eras of great prosperity and terrible calamity.

The origin of the first organized settlement in what is now Santander dates back to a Roman villa from the 1st century. It was dedicated to mining, using the strategic position of the enclave to build a port and take advantage of trade routes.

This situation was maintained throughout the following centuries as a commercial enclave.

Prosperous commercial village

During the reconquest in the 10th century, Alfonso II founded a hermitage on the old enclave to honour the Christian martyrs in a town that came to be called Sanctorum Emeterii. Over the centuries, it became Santander.
 
Santander (Spain)
This town was quickly fortified to protect the strategic enclave from attack by Muslim troops. By the 12th century, Santander was abundant in different commercial areas that ranged from fishing and shipping traffic to the exploitation of wine estates.

Santander's prosperity led it to join other towns in what was called the Brotherhood of the Villas Marinas de Castilla in 1296. This produced a commercial brotherhood that translated into great influence in international markets including powers such as Flanders and England.
 
However, two devastating fires, in 1296 and 1311, devastated the town. This represented a serious socioeconomic setback because it was necessary to repopulate the town and change certain laws. The result was a confrontation between the old and new clans of townspeople, which lasted for the next two centuries.

To make the situation worse, Santander found itself involved in internal struggles for power between the different Christian kingdoms. These struggles aggravated the economic situation and led to the neglect of the already poor sanitary conditions of the town. The result was a series of epidemics throughout the 16th century that decimated the population.

The arrival of the bourgeoisie

With the arrival of the 18th century, the town finally managed to recover from the devastating socioeconomic crises experienced during the Middle Ages that had ruined its infrastructure and population.
 
Santander (Spain)
During the next 150 years, Santander regained some of its commercial momentum with the appearance of a thriving industrial and commercial bourgeoisie that recovered the economy.

Santander's situation improved so much that in 1754 Fernando VI granted it the title of city, which further strengthened its commercial drive, making the city's port one of the most dynamic with the American colonies.
 
The commercial bourgeoisie developed shipping, agro-industry and the production of essential goods, as well as the construction of a new, larger and more modern shipyard.

This situation continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. The city even managed to overcome traumatic events such as the Napoleonic invasion to maintain its high socioeconomic level, which reached its zenith in the 19th century with the arrival of the railway in 1851.

Expansion, modernization and tragedies

Along with commercial development, Santander expanded its former physical limits thanks to the Ensanche policy of the 19th century.

New luxury urban complexes for the wealthy classes originated from the Ensanche. Also founded was a whole series of hotels and spas, which made Santander, along with Palma de Mallorca, the most coveted and attractive destination for incipient tourism in the 19th century.

This new commercial engine made Santander a mandatory stop for tourists from Europe during the summer months. In addition to being a tourist engine, Santander became a highly renowned academic enclave.
 
Santander (Spain)
However, the city of Santander could not escape continuous and devastating tragedies and accidents that seriously affected the city.

In 1893, the Cabo Machichaco, a ship from Biscay with more than 50 tons of explosives, exploded, completely devastating the dock and affecting a large number of homes.

The city was barely recovering from the devastating Spanish Civil War of the 1930s when it once again fell victim to fate.
 
In 1941, a fire completely devastated the city, reminding historians of the devastating fires of the 14th century. This tragedy forced a refoundation of the city with a much stricter ordinance aimed at avoiding future accidents.

Santander's future

With the advent of democracy, Santander resumed its wealth-generating drive by becoming a tourist and industrial hub thanks to Spain's entry into the European Union. This immediately became a lever for the city's development.

Throughout the democratic era, Santander undertook major urban infrastructure works, including an ambitious reorganization and construction plan that would relaunch the tourism, industrial and commercial sectors.

However, the challenges and difficulties are great, especially after the 2008 crash that severely affected Spain. The 21st century offers a great opportunity for this commercial and shipping enclave to remain at the forefront of an increasingly competitive world.
 
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    A Coruña
    Alicante
    Almeria
    Barcelona
    Bilbao
    Burgos
    Caceres
    Cadiz
    Cordoba
    Girona
    Granada
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    Malaga
    Murcia
    Oviedo
    Palma
    Salamanca
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    Santiago
    Segovia
    Seville
    Toledo
    Valencia
    Valladolid
    Zaragoza