Gibraltar is a rugged promontory in the province of Andalusia, Spain, about 6 miles in circumference. Its almost perpendicular walls rise to a height of 1396 feet. The town in on the west side; on the north a narrow isthmus (neutral ground) connects the fortress with the mainland of Spain. The great rock itself is the ancient Mount Calpe, which with Abyla (Ceuta) constituted the famous Pillars
of Hercules. In antiquity Gibraltar belonged in turn to the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Romans, and Visigoths. Scipio took it from the Carthaginians, and it remained Roman territory until A. D. 412, when the Goths became masters of Spain. Being Arians, they built two churches of their faith in the vicinity of Calpe; one at San Rocco, the other, a chapel, on the rock itself. In 710 the Visigothic
kingdom in Spain, after an existence of 300 years, was torn with internal strife. Amid this dissension the Moors crossed from Africa, for the second time (711), under their leader Tarik-Ibn-Zeyad, who sent a detachment of soldiers to Mount Calpe, and had a castle built there, the ruins of which yet excite admiration. The mountain was thenceforth known as Gibel-Tarik, the mountain of Tarik, or
Gibraltar. Thus began the Moorish conquest of Spain. Gibraltar was besieged, in 1309, and retaken from the Moors by Alonzo de Guzman. By 1462 it had sustained eight sieges, with varying fortune. The last of these was under Alonzo de Arcos, who captured it from the Moors in 1462, the surrender on this occasion taking place on 20 August, the feast of St. Bernard, in consequence of which he became
the patron of Gibraltar. The Infante Don Alonzo gave the city and territory of Gibraltar to the Duke of Medina-Sidonia in absolute and perpetual possession for himself and his successors. Ferdinand and Isabella confirmed this gift, conferring on the Duke of Medina-Sedonia the title of Marquis of Gibraltar; at a later period, however, during the same reign, the place was annexed by the
During the War of Spanish Succession, which began in 1701, Gibraltar was besieged (1704) by a squadron commanded by Sir George Rooke and a land force of 1800 English and Dutch under Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt; after three days the city was captured (24 July). The fortress had 100 cannon and ammunition, but a garrison of only 150 men; the inhabitants were reduced to 6000. After a
bombardment of six hours the garrison surrendered.
Before a year had passed Spain endeavoured, with the help of France, to recapture Gibraltar. In this, the twelfth siege of Gibraltar, the attacking party had a great preponderance of numbers, but the fortress successfully resisted all their efforts to capture it. By a special decree of February, 1706, Queen Anne declared Gibraltar a free port. In 1713, by the Treaty of Utrecht, it became
definitively a British possession, though many attempts were made by the Spaniards to regain it. The last siege, the fourteenth in its history, began 14 July, 1779, and continued for 3 years, 7 months, and 12 days. In April, 1782, the French and Spaniards again bombarded Gibraltar by land and sea, but without success. A peace was finally concluded by which Spain received the island of Minorca in
place of Gibraltar. When the city was occupied by the English in 1704, the Spaniards carried away whatever they could and settled in the neighbouring district of San Rocco. Scarcely a dozen persons remained in Gibraltar. It was subsequently populated by people of every nation, especially by Genoese and Maltese, as is evident from the various family names.
The British garrison was formally declared a colony in 1830. In referendums held in 1967 and 2002, Gibraltarians ignored Spanish pressure and voted overwhelmingly to remain a British dependency. Since Gibraltar residents voted overwhelmingly by referendum in 2003 against a "total shared sovereignty" arrangement, talks between the UK and Spain over the fate of the 300-year-old UK colony
have stalled. Spain disapproves of UK plans to grant Gibraltar greater autonomy.
Gibraltar benefits from an extensive shipping trade, offshore banking, and its position as an international conference center. The British military presence has been sharply reduced and now contributes about 7% to the local economy, compared with 60% in 1984. The financial sector, tourism (almost 5 million visitors in 1998), shipping services fees, and duties on consumer goods also generate
revenue. The financial sector, the shipping sector, and tourism each contribute 25%-30% of GDP. Telecommunications accounts for another 10%. In recent years, Gibraltar has seen major structural change from a public to a private sector economy, but changes in government spending still have a major impact on the level of employment.