Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It has an area of 6.7 km2 (2.6 sq mi) and is bordered to the north by Spain. The landscape is dominated by the Rock of Gibraltar at the foot of which is a densely populated town area, home to over 32,000 people, primarily Gibraltarians.
In 1704, Anglo-Dutch forces captured Gibraltar from Spain during the War of the Spanish Succession on behalf of the Habsburg claim to the Spanish throne. The territory was ceded to Great Britain in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. During the Napoleonic Wars and World War II it was an important base for the Royal Navy as it controlled the entrance and exit to the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar, which is only 14.3 km (8.9 mi) wide at this naval choke point. It remains strategically important, with half the world’s seaborne trade passing through the strait. Today Gibraltar’s economy is based largely on tourism, online gambling, financial services and bunkering.
The sovereignty of Gibraltar is a point of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations because Spain asserts a claim to the territory. Gibraltarians rejected proposals for Spanish sovereignty in a 1967 referendum and, in a 2002 referendum, the idea of shared sovereignty was also rejected.
On 31 January 2020, the UK and Gibraltar left the European Union. In December 2020, the UK and Spain agreed in principle to a basis on which the UK and the EU might negotiate terms for Gibraltar to participate in aspects of the Schengen Agreement.
Prehistory and ancient history:
Evidence of Neanderthal habitation in Gibraltar from around 50,000 years ago has been discovered at Gorham’s Cave. The caves of Gibraltar continued to be used by Homo sapiens after the final extinction of the Neanderthals. Stone tools, ancient hearths and animal bones dating from around 40,000 years ago to about 5,000 years ago have been found in deposits left in Gorham’s Cave.
Numerous potsherds dating from the Neolithic period have been found in Gibraltar’s caves, mostly of types typical of the Almerian culture found elsewhere in Andalusia, especially around the town of Almería, from which it takes its name. There is little evidence of habitation in the Bronze Age when people had largely stopped living in caves.
During ancient times, Gibraltar was regarded by the peoples of the Mediterranean as a place of religious and symbolic importance. The Phoenicians were present for several centuries since around 950 BC, apparently using Gorham’s Cave as a shrine to the genius loci, as did the Carthaginians and Romans after them. Gibraltar was known as Mons Calpe, a name perhaps of Phoenician origin. Mons Calpe was considered by the ancient Greeks and Romans as one of the Pillars of Hercules, after the Greek legend of the creation of the Strait of Gibraltar by Heracles. There is no known archaeological evidence of permanent settlements from the ancient period. They settled at the head of the bay in what is today known as the Campo (hinterland) of Gibraltar. The town of Carteia, near the location of the modern Spanish town of San Roque, was founded by the Phoenicians around 950 BC on the site of an early settlement of the native Turdetani people.
After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Gibraltar came briefly under the control of the Vandals, who crossed into Africa at the invitation of Boniface, the Count (or commander) of the territory.