For its diminutive proportions of just 2.6 square miles, Gibraltar has been fiercely fought and defended over the years, giving it a lively and intriguing history. Gibraltar's pivotal position - sitting at the gateway between Europe and Africa - makes it strategically very important, and it is this which has shaped much of its history.
The first inhabitants of Gibraltar are thought to have been the Neanderthals, some 50,000 years ago. Experts claim that Gibraltar was the last place they lived before their extinction.
Recorded history of Gibraltar dates back to around 950 BC, when the Phoenicicans, Carthaginians and Romans worshipped Hercules, by building shrines in the Rock of Gibraltar.
In 711 A.D, Gibraltar was under Muslim Moorish rule - originally known as Jebel Tariq. A battle of possession between the Moors and the Christian Crown of Castile ensued over a period of years, until it became part of the Unified Kingdom of Spain until 1704.
The war of the Spanish Succession in 1704 saw British fleets take ownership of Gibraltar. By 1713, Gibraltar was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht, which was renewed twice during the same century. Despite this, the Spanish made an unsuccessful attempt to regain ownership of Gibraltar in 1726.
One of the most notable events in the history of Gibraltar is the Great Siege, which took place in 1779 and lasted for four years. During the Great Siege, a network of tunnels was excavated in the Rock to assist in firing guns and for shelter.
By the late 18th century, Gibraltar had suffered 14 sieges over 500 years.
During the second world war, Gibraltar's location made it a key asset in the fight against the enemy, giving the British the power to control the entrance to the Mediterranean. The tunnels were also highly strategic for defence and protection and are still a prominent feature of the Rock today.
At this time, a superstition existed that claimed if the apes left the Rock, then the British would no longer remain in power. To ensure this never happened, Sir Winston Churchill brought more apes over from Africa to keep their numbers up. The apes still reside on the Rock today, and the British still remain in power.
In 1968, a referendum took place to decide whether the people of Gibraltar wanted to remain with the British or if they would prefer to be with Spain. The overwhelming majority favoured British ruling. A further referendum back in 2002 also revealed the same outcome.
Britain has enjoyed sovereignty over Gibraltar for 300 years, and although the British military has scaled back its presence since 1985, it still has a very British feel to it, with UK branded stores and red telephone boxes.
With low unemployment and high affluence levels, it's no wonder that Gibraltar is a prime location for many British expats.
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