Throughout Gibraltar’s history its sullen limestone rock jutting out of the sea at the entrance to the Mediterranean was a marker to sailors who passed through this region. From the Phoenician and Roman times, there were communities living in the area, with its plentiful supply of fishing stocks giving a livelihood to the first settlers.
It rose to further importance after the Moorish invasion of 711, when it became the key communications point with the African continent. Connecting with the mountain capital of Granada, one of top current Gibraltar attractions, the Moorish Castle was built during this time. Traders would frequent the Rock of Gibraltar, making the town grow in stature and influence.
Even after the Reconquista by Castillian forces from the north of Spain it was still a major fort and and its port no doubt helped in establishing the Spanish control of the seas it enjoyed during the 16th and 17th centuries.
It only changed hands during the War of the Spanish Succession when King Charles II of Spain died without an heir in 1700. The British, backing the Austrian Habsburgs, saw the capture of Gibraltar as a great way to pressurise the Bourbon incumbent Philip I who had taken the crown. After a failed attack on Cadiz two years earlier, British and Dutch forces conquered Gibraltar on 4 August 1704, reinforcing its strategic location. It then had to survive 14 sieges despite Philip I officially handing over the territory to the British at the conclusion of the War.
The final attempt at retaking it was also the longest. The Great Siege which started in 1779 saw the Rock being blockaded for four long years, although the British had the uncanny ability to break through and resupply the garrison just when it was at breaking point. With its end came an alliance with the Spanish to remove Napoleon from the mainland after his invasion at the beginning of the 19th Century. His defeat at Trafalgar and Waterloo signalled a period of wealth in peacetime for Gibraltar under Queen Victoria. The colony thrived as a stop off to the rest of the empire via the Suez Canal and to America with the British at the helm.
Come the twentieth century it became a focal point of the British front against the Germans during two world wars. Its airport was built and seaport expanded, laying the foundations for the Gibraltar we have today. During the Cold War, the military had a large foothold on the Rock of Gibraltar, providing security to the area. This helped the growth of infrastructure, which was reinforced by the civilian government which gradually took control of the day-to-day administration.
As a self-governing British overseas territory, Gibraltar now has a modern air terminal, a well-developed seaport and access via land through the frontier with Spain since 1982. Gibraltar Rock Tours have become the best way to see the famous monkeys, while the tourism offering has been gradually increased over the years. There are now lots of things to do for cruise passengers, with music, dance and art festivals held throughout the year. Info about Gibraltar is provided on this site, with more about what’s on available online. Whether it’s history, culture or just duty-free shopping, Gibraltar has it all for either day-trippers or cruise-liner holidaymakers.