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Gibraltar has a history of successive invasions. Geographically it was formed around
55 million years ago when the African Plate collided tightly with Europe. The Mediterranean
became a lake which, in the course of time, dried up until 5 million years ago when the
Atlantic broke through the Strait of Gibraltar and flooded it again, isolating the Rock
of Jurassic limestone.
The Phoenicians followed other navigators from the eastern Mediterranean in visiting the Strait and found the Roman city of Carteia located on the Bay of Gibraltar.
In the year 711 AD. Following the death of the prophet Mohammed a wave of Islamic conquest overran North Africa from Arabia. By 710 AD it had reached the shores of the Strait and Europe was poised for the Islamic conquest. The assault was down to a Berber chief, Tarik-ibn-Ziyad, the Governor of Tangier. He sailed across the Strait by night, from Ceuta not Tangier so as not to arouse suspicion and used Visgothic ships. His first attempt on Algeciras failed but he was successful in landing undetected on Gibraltar.
Following the Moslem General Tarik successful landing on the Rock, he assembled his forces before defeating the Gothic King Roderick, and proceeded with the conquest of Spain. Gibraltar became known as Jebal Tarik (Mountain of Tarik) from which it takes its present name.
In 1309, King Ferdinand IV had laid siege on Algeciras and, learning of Arab weaknesses on the Rock sent Alonso Perez de Guzman to capture it. In the first siege. The Spaniards took the Upper Rock from where they bombarded the town using cannons. The garrison surrendered after one month. Gibraltar then had 1500 inhabitants and they were allowed to leave for North Africa.
The Spaniards set to repair the fortifications and shipyard but few people wanted to settle in Gibraltar, which was considered to be a high risk town. This forced Ferdinand to offer freedom from justice to anyone who lived in Gibraltar for one year and one day. By 1333 Gibraltar was once more in Muslim hands as Abdul Malik, son of the King of Morocco, laid siege. The garrison surrendered after four and a half months.
In 1462 Gibraltar was recaptured by Castille and became part of the estates of the Duke of Medina Sidonia, until 1492 when the Catholic King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella conquer Granada, the last vestige of the Muslim domination of Spain. The Jews are expelled from Spain and many pass through Gibraltar on their way into exile in North Africa. In 1501 AD Queen Isabella issued a decree making Gibraltar, Spanish crown property. Queen Isabella granted Gibraltar a coat of arms consisting of a castle, which symbolises its importance as a fortress, and a key which highlights its reputation as the key to Spain, which it has held since the time of Moslem conquest.
Gibraltar was then largely neglected by Spain until the beginning of the eighteenth centurym until in 1704, the English fleet, under Admiral Sir George Rooke, entered the Gibraltar Bay. At 3pm 1,800 English and Dutch marines were landed on the isthmus with the Dutch Prince Hesse at the head. Gibraltar was cut off but the Governor of Gibraltar refused to surrender. The days that followed saw a massive bombardment of the town by the English fleet on the morning of the 23rd, 1,500 shots were fired in 5-6 hours against the town. Landings took place in the south and in the morning of the 24th, the Governor capitulated.
Despite several attempts to recapture the territory, Gibraltar has remained British thereafter and in 1713, under article X of the Treaty of Utrecht, Spain ceded the territory to the British Crown in perpetuity.
Gibraltar became an important naval base for Britain which after the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 became the dominant sea power.
In 1830 Gibraltar was declared a Crown Colony. Gibraltar was an important military base in WW1 and WW2
In terms of political development, the City Council was established in 1922 and the first elections are held in Gibraltar. In 1967 a referendum was held regarding the future of the territory and the Gibraltarians overwhelmingly vote for continuing their association with Britain. This was formalised under the 1969 Constitution Order, which created an elected House of Assembly. In 2001 the UK Labour government floated the idea of joint sovereignty with Spain, this was soundly rejected in a second referendum held in 2002. A new constitution was approved in 2007 creating the Gibraltar Parliament, which is fully elected.