It may be said that the history of Majorca (Mallorca)
is as long as its coastline. Were it not for the
5,547km (3,439 miles) of coast, we can be very
sure that the island's past, present and future
would be very different. Majorca (Mallorca), like
other major islands of the Mediterranean, has
attracted a cornucopia of conquerors, invaders,
settlers and tourists, who have all contributed
to its richness and vital history.
The formation of the Baleares islands is assumed
to have taken place around 150 million years ago.
At first, Majorca (Mallorca) was joined to the
peninsula as an underwater island. One hundred
and fortynine million years later, more or less,
its present configuration came into being. Scrub
forests comprising pine, rosemary, wild olive,
lentiscus and dwarf fan palms were the island's
main vegetation. Rockrose and lavender predominated
in the sierra.
The sparse vegetation supported only a few animals.
The smallest were field mice and wood shrews;
the largest, the civet cats. Birds, on the other
hand, have always been plentiful. Even though
their habitat is under constant threat, counting
the migrators and a few indigenous species, they
number today well over 2,000 species. But of all
the non-human species on Majorca (Mallorca), it
is only the pine tree which isn't in decline.
As for home sapiens, the present population stands
at 600,000, and is increasing at a frightening
Rainfall on the island is slight, varying between
1,400mm (55in) in the mountains to only 300mm
(11.8in) on the southern plain. The winds blow
principally during the winter and spring, when
they are predominantly out of the north (the Tramuntana)
and the southwest (the Llebeix). The southeast
Sirocco brings with it red sand from the deserts
of Africa which, if nothing else, seriously irritates
the island's clean-car owners.
||For most Majorca (Mallorca)ns,
history didn't really begin until the Catalans
retook the island from the Moors in the 13th
century. On the other hand, experts date the
first islanders to between 1300 and 1000BC.
Even though the earliest people obviously
carried on primitive but active trade with
others around the western Mediterranean, the
quantity of arms found in their early dwellings
shows that the island still had a long way
to go before becoming the 'Island of the Calm'.
|Because of the location of the
archipelago. the Balearic islands found themselves
on the great trading routes that criss-crossed
the Mediterranean Sea. Eivissa (Ibiza) became
an important commercial center for first the
Phoenicians, then the Carthaginian traders.
While Majorca (Mallorca) played only a minor
part in these 8th- and 7th-century cultures,
there are references in classical texts to
Majorca (Mallorca)n honderos (stone slingers)
fighting for the Carthaginians in the Punic
When the winners, the Romans, finally tired
of the piracy that was rife in the Baleares,
they organised an expedition to conquer and
settle Majorca (Mallorca). in 123BC Quinto
Cecilio Metelo conquered the island, and for
five and a half centuries Majorca (Mallorca)
was subject to the vicissitudes of Roman history.
Historians believe that at the time there
were two major centers. Pollentia (beside
Alcudia) and Palma. After a few centuries
more of 'ups and downs' under the successive
domination of the Vandals and the Byzantines,
the Muslims began 200 years of attacks on
the island at the beginning of the 8th century.
In 902 the entire archipelago was annexed
to the Emirate of Cordoba.
While Roman culture probably had the greatest
impact on Majorca (Mallorca)n social patterns,
the influence of the Moors was responsible for
important advances in the island's agriculture,
along with development of the island's crafts
and commerce. It is also easy to pinpoint the
Moorish contribution to the island's folklore,
language and cuisine
was the Majorca (Mallorca)n Moors' plundering
of Catalan boats that finally provoked King
Jaume I to plan the overthrow of the island.
At the end of the year I229, 15,000 men with
],500 horses aboard 155 ships set sail from
Salou, in Tarragona. Bloody details aside,
Jaume I, the Conqueror, annexed the island
to his Kingdom of Aragon. The monarch then
subdivided this newly enlarged kingdom between
his two sons - the younger, Jaume, got Majorca
|Jaume II's domination of Majorca
(Mallorca) lasted only a brief period. As
an independent Kingdom, from 1276 to 1344,
the island lived through what the historians
call a 'Golden Age'. Jaume's reign saw a flowering
of the island's agriculture, industry and
navigation A number of new villages were founded.
coins were minted, Bellver Castle was built.
ln addition, the Almudaina was transformed
into a splendid Gothic palace and the building
of the Convent of Sant Francese was begun.
It was also the time of the Majorca (Mallorca)n
philosopher and scientist Ramon Llull.
But the Catalans were not happy about Majorca
(Mallorca)'s independent successes. In 1344 they
resorted to brute force, reincorporating the islands
definitively into the Kingdom of Aragon. At the
end of the 15th century, the Baleares were united
with the Kingdom of Spain as part of the political
union of Castile and Aragon.
During the following centuries, Majorca (Mallorca)n
villagers were at odds with their neighbours in
the city. Sometimes they displayed their rancor
by bad-mouthing their foes, while at other times
there was bloodshed. A series of uprisings in
the 16th century were caused by popular discontent
against the nobility. Meanwhile, plague was rampaging
through Europe, decimating populations, including
thousands of Majorca (Mallorca)ns.
||Spain's first civil war took
place in the following century. Called the
'War of Succession' because it would determine
who would succeed the heirless king, it had
great repercussions on Majorca (Mallorca).
Until this point the Austrian dynasty, the
Habsburgs, had allowed Majorca (Mallorca)
a state of semi-autonomy. The possibility
of a French Bourbon king acceding, with ideas
of an 'absolute' monarchy; divided the population
of the island to such an extent that even
now historians aren't sure exactly who supported
| However, when,
in 1700, Felipe V finally ascended to the
Spanish throne, the Majorca (Mallorca)ns gave
him their approval. The Grand and General
Council was replaced by an 'Audience' supervised
by a Captain General of the King's troops,
and the use of Castilian (the Spanish language)
was made obligatory for all public and official
The next chapter in Majorca (Mallorca)'s history
was, if not fun, at least romantic. The island
lived in constant fear of pirate attacks from
North Africa. In response, several generations
of notable Majorca (Mallorca)n sailors were
given permission by the king to 'defend' their
homeland. Needless to say, the license - the
patente de corso - proved enormously beneficial.
The most famous of the corsairs (named after this
license) was Captain Antoni Barcelo, who eventually
achieved the rank of Lieutenant General of the Spanish
Armada by such acts as renting ships to the navy
whenever it was short of sea power.
personage from the same era was the Majorca
(Mallorca)n missionary Fray Junipero Serra.
Born in the tiny island village of Petra,
Serra travelled considerably further than
Barcelo. In fact, without the Majorca (Mallorca)n
missionary, San Francisco and many other Californian
cities might not exist today
The Napoleonic wars, at the beginning of the 19th
century. put a damper on the heady days of previous
decades. Catalan refugees poured into Majorca (Mallorca),
causing both social and economic unrest among the
islanders. But the same century also saw the birth
of the bourgeoisie and its impulse for social change.
Communications with the peninsula were installed.
shipping lines to exploit trade with the Indies
were established, the broad, marshy plain near Palma
was pumped dry and the land reclaimed for agricultural
purposes. the railway was built and a timid regionalism
emerged with the renewed use of the Catalan language.
But the end of the century saw another falling
of local economic fortunes. The phylloxera did
away with the island's booming wine business and
the loss of Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines
as colonies put an abrupt halt to much of the
local shipbuilding. Many of the islanders, seeing
the writing on the wall (and the lack of food
in the pantry), emigrated to the peninsula and
|The first half
of the 2Oth century on Majorca (Mallorca)
was dominated by two men, the politician Antoni
Maura and the financier Joan March. Maura,
the leader of the conservative party, spent
all of his political life in Madrid. but never
lost the loyal support of his fellow islanders.
||The life of Joan March Ordinas
was the archetypal 'from rags to riches' story.
Born in a Majorca (Mallorca)n village at a
time of strong class prejudices on the part
of the ruling elite, he became not only the
richest man in Spain, but was considered the
third richest man in the world (after John
Paul Getty and Howard Hughes)
|The Majorca (Mallorca)ns continued
into the third decade of this century much
as they had left the 1800s - provincial, extremely
religious and politically conservative With
the governing classes firmly on the side of
Francisco. Franco from the very beginning,
the islands saw little violence during the
Spanish Civil War. During the dictatorship,
the political situation in the islands was
the same as that on the peninsula. It wasn't
until the 1960s and the arrival of tourism
that Majorca (Mallorca) began to dismantle
her traditional way of life. In 1975, with
the death of Franco. the island began the
work of recovering it's autonomy and cultural
identity In 1978, the new Spanish Constitution
sanctioned the creation of the provincial
government which exists today.
||Being islanders, the Majorca (Mallorca)ns
have withstood a long history of invasions
by nearly everyone who could reach their coastline.
As the result of invasions they have become
defensive and nationalistic. But they have
also learned the advantages of trade. Trade
has made them a little Phoenician themselves.
They have learned to accommodate their 'visitors'
while accommodating themselves.
In regards to their language, Majorca (Mallorca)ns
divide themselves into three groups: pro-Catalan,
anti-Catalan and the so-called 'No/NRs' (No Opinion/No
Response ). The third group is by far the largest
(and obviously the most reticent). The pro-Catalanists
seem to want a tight union with Catalunya, with
which they share their Language. Many among them
spent time either in jail or in exile during the
They express their wishes at linguistic conferences,
demanding more T.V programming in the Catalan
language and providing funds for events which
promote their language and its culture. The opposition
the - anti-Catalanists- have little power to respond;
they have resorted to vandalizing Catalan signs
and, recently, blowing up the receiving station
for the Catalan language TV3.
Because the Calalan language was banned for many
years, virtually everyone on Majorca (Mallorca)
speaks Castilian. In fact, many of those who did
their schooling under Franco's rule have difficulty
reading and writing in the local language. Consequently,
none of Majorca (Mallorca)'s five daily newspapers
is written in Catalan.
|Although the Majorca (Mallorca)ns in general
are in agreement regarding the necessity of
using and promoting their language, they are
deeply divided over what to do about the exploitation
of another resource - the island itself. Again,
the 'silent majority' is, by far, the largest
player in the arena. The others are polarised
between maintaining the incredible pace of
growth which Majorca (Mallorca) has enjoined
over the past 20 years, or facing the reality
that times are changing and the goose that
laid the golden egg is being squeezed too
hard. The big money is on 'continuing growth'
while the ecologists are on the other side
of the ring. The people who have been enticed
to Majorca (Mallorca) are realising that those
who attracted them are turning 'La lsla de
la Calma' into a jungle of noise and concrete.
At the moment there is a stalemate.
Compared to the French or the English, Majorca
(Mallorca)ns appear extremely sociable. They are
quite happy to chat with a stranger in a bar.
They will greet everyone upon entering and bid
everyone goodbye when they leave. They are answered
by a chorus of 'Bon dia !' from everyone within
hearing range. They seem genuinely delighted if
a foreigner speaks to them in either of their
two languages. But to really get to know one is
And since it is far easier to build on Majorca (Mallorca)
than to tear down, the island may end up with ghost
towns bleaching in the summer sun. Our bet is that
the island will go on much the way it is today.
The worst of the construction will fall into disuse
(and hopefully be torn down), expansion will trickle
to a halt and everyone will have time to take a
long hard look at the island's recent past for guidance
to its future.
A tradition of hospitality
has developed from literally centuries of
subjection to all races of invaders and,
now, to tourists. But the Majorca (Mallorca)ns
expect something in return for this hospitality.
They want to make a living.
Where is Majorca (Mallorca) going from here?
For the first time in recent history almost
everyone agrees that growth cannot continue
at its present rate. People talk about 'high-class
tourism' without mention of the areas beyond
||Height of the Talayuiic culture Warring
tribes carry on primitive trade around the
|| Baleares dominated by Phoentians then Carthaginians.
||Majorca (Mallorca) conquered by Quinto Cecilio
Metelo, the Baleares join the Roman Empire.
The islands are Christianised in the 2nd century
||Vandals devastate the islands and persecute
||The Christian religion is restored by the
|| First Muslim attack on the Baleares.
||The Baleares are annexed to the Emirate
||Majorca (Mallorca) is annexed to another
Muslim 'kingdom', the 'Taifa of Denia'.
||Majorca (Mallorca) becomes an independent
||A group of Pisa-Catalans manage to conquer
Eivissa and Majorca (Mallorca). The siege
of Palma lasts eight months. After the city
is defeated and sacked, the invaders go home.
||The Almoravides, a tribe from North Africa,
arrive to help the Majorca (Mallorca)n Muslims
and stay on to occupy the island. The island
experiences a period of prosperity. The Almoravides'
dominion extends to all of the island and
to Tunisia and Tripolitania.
||The Baleares fall into the hands of Almohadian
tribes from Algeria and Denia. Political instability
allows the reconquest of MalIorca by the Catalans.
||Catalan King Jaume I of Aragon occupies
and conquers Majorca (Mallorca) on 31 Dccember,
after three months of fighting.
||Life of Majorca (Mallorca)n philosopher
and scientist. Ramon Llull.
|| Death of Jaume I and creation of the independent
Kingdom of Majorca (Mallorca), ruled by, Jaume
||First attempt by the Catalans to recover
the Kingdom of Majorca (Mallorca) by force.
Later expedition returned by order of the
Pope. Two years later Menorca is incorporated
into the Kingdom of Aragon by King Alfons
||Jaume II of Aragon returns the Baleares,
including Menorca, to his uncle, Jaume II
of Majorca (Mallorca).
||Reign of King Sanc, son of Jaume II of Majorca
||Reign of King Jaume III of Majorca (Mallorca),
bringing economic prosperity. Palma is one
of the richest cities in the Mediterranean.
|| Troops of Pere IV of Aragon invade and
reincorporate the three islands into the Kingdom
||Jaume III tries to recover the Kingdom of
Majorca (Mallorca) and dies in the Battle
||Kingdom of Espana formed by uniting the
Kingdom of Castilla and the Kingdom of Aragon,
including Majorca (Mallorca).
|| Felipe de Bourb6n ascends to the throne.
Beginning of the War of Succession.
||Troops loyal to Felipe V arrive. The law
of the Nueva Planta is decreed. Three years
later the Gran i General Consell is dissolved.
||Life and times of Fray Junipero Serra, founder
of the missions of California.
||Treaty of Algiers signed, ending piracy
while establishing the Majorca (Mallorca)n
|| The War of Independence against the invading
troops of Napoleon. Many refugees arrive on
Majorca (Mallorca), provoking social tension.
||Massive emigration to Algeria and South
||First regular steamship line between Majorca
(Mallorca) and the peninsula.
||The years of the 'gold fever'. Period of
prosperity thank to the wine and almond trade.
Ends with arrival of the phylloxera and loss
of Spain`s last colonies.
||Spanish Civil War.
||Dictatorship of Franco.
||Approval of new Spanish Constitution, which
opens the doorway to the creation of 'autonomies'.
||Approval of the Statutes of Autonomy for
the Baleares; First election held shortly
|All of the information above is courtesy
of Balear Net