The area where Segovia is located received its first Neanderthal settlers more than 60,000 years ago, though the first organized human nucleus dates from 146 BC when the leader Viriato arrived on board a Portuguese expedition loyal to Rome.
From early on, Segovia was part of a smaller network of small towns and populations whose objective was to serve as a supply enclave. After the Christianization of Rome, it served as the episcopal seat of the Catholic Church during the rule of the Visigoths.
In 711, the Muslim invasion occurred and the town quickly fell into the hands of the caliphate, then was immediately fortified. The intervention of Alfonso VI of León was necessary. He undertook a repopulation of the enclave after the flight of the Muslim troops during the reconquest.
The Middle Ages
In the year 1088, Alfonso VI's plans accelerated when the repopulation of the enclave included the bishopric and a whole population from the north of the peninsula and the farthest part of the Pyrenees.
After repopulation and political stabilization by containing the disturbances caused by the mismanagement of Governor Álvar Fáñez, Segovia experienced rapid demographic and commercial growth. This was the result of its important transhumance route, which consolidated it as one of the textile and wool manufacturing centres most appreciated at that time.
With the arrival of the 13th century, Segovia experienced a flourishing and splendour thanks to its important cloth industry, which was in the hands of the Jewish aljama. It also had thriving and constant trade that resulted in extraordinary Gothic architectural works.
In the 15th century, the influence and political and economic power of Segovia manifested themselves to make Segovia the place where Isabel la Católica was proclaimed Queen of Castile in December 1474.
Said power and influence were put to the test when it joined the rebellious Castilian towns in the Wars of the Communities that sought greater political autonomy. Although this uprising was put down and many of the towns suffered serious consequences, Segovia kept its influence and economic power.
However, the decline that devastated Castilian towns during the 17th century caused a profound decline in Segovia’s power, influence and, especially, demography. Its population drastically fell from 27 inhabitants to less than 8,000 in 1694.
The contemporary era
At the beginning of the 18th century, serious attempts were made to revive the declining economy of Segovia through its textile industry, which, although it initially had positive results, declined again due to the lack of quality and competitiveness of its products, especially wool. This caused Carlos III to withdraw his patronage in 1779.
The most outstanding thing that helped the city recover a bit of its influence, especially in the military sphere, was the founding, in 1764, of the Royal College of Artillery. It was the first professional military academy in Spain and exists to this day.
The preparation and professionalization of this new generation of soldiers faced a tough test when Napoleonic troops invaded Spain in 1808, mercilessly attacking the city and completely looting it.
From the beginning, the resistance was fierce. Segovia faced the French troops, who, although they were finally expelled from Spain in 1814, left the city in a very bad position on a socioeconomic level.
The situation worsened when the First Carlist War broke out. While the city was not seized, it was once again left impoverished.
Not until after 1850 would Segovia begin to recover some of its influence and splendour during the so-called urban Ensanche that architecturally transformed the city by collapsing the old medieval walls and expanding its physical limits. This increased its demographics as a result of economic prosperity upon the recovery of its textile industry and the promotion of tourism.
20th century and the future
With the arrival of the 20th century, the economic recovery of Segovia continued remarkably with the arrival of vehicles and modern services. However, the economic debacle of 1929 and the political instability that affected all of Spain were present in the city. The situation worsened with the proclamation of the second republic in 1931 and the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936.
Under the Franco dictatorship, the city resumed some of its momentum thanks to the ambitious urban plans undertaken throughout Spain during the so-called Spanish Economic Miracle. However, the arrival of democracy would be necessary for said relaunch to receive the strength it needed.
The city immediately developed new industrial markets, with highlights including metallurgy, the food industry (especially sausages), construction, furniture manufacturing, timber exploitation and especially tourism.
One of the most important moments that gave the city the boost and recognition it needed took place in 1985 when its famous Roman aqueduct and historic centre were declared a World Heritage Site.
The 21st century finds Segovia with thriving development, but also facing great challenges in an increasingly globalized world.