The History of Mallorca


Due to the location of the Balearic Islands, they found themselves becoming part of the great trading routes that ran throughout the Mediterranean Sea. As can be imagined, because of such a strategic situation, Majorca quickly became a highly sought after island, and thus has a highly colourful and varied history.

The most memorable element of Majorcan history is the existence of 'honderos' or stone slingers that fought for the Carthaginians in the Punic Wars (264-241BC, 218-202BC and 149-146BC).

By 123BC Majorca had fallen under Roman control after being conquered by Quinto Cecilio Metelo, integrating it into the vast Roman Empire, where it remained so for the next 5 and a half Centuries. Roman influence played a great part in developing Majorca's trade and social structure, yet the greatest impact on the island's basic development came from its annexe in 902, to the Emirate Cardoba, after 200 years of attacks from the Moors. This new culture introduced and improved a variety of agricultural techniques; introduced new crafts and provided a boost to the nation's commerce; yet it is not only in practical areas that their influence can be felt but also in Majorca's folklore, architecture and cuisine.

Despite such advancements, the Moorish plundering soon drew the attention of King Jaume I of Aragon, and in 1276, forced him to intervene by taking control of the island, which he quickly passed onto his youngest son Jaume II. During Jaume II's rule, Majorca became an independent state and entered, what is often termed as, its 'Golden Age', in which agriculture, industry and navigation thrived. It was not only economically that the island grew but also new towns sprang up, along with the construction of many still existing landmarks, most famously, Bellver Castle and the Convent of Saint Francese. This period of time also saw the work of Majorcan philosopher and scientist Roman Llull.

Such independent success was bound to create a negative interest from neighbouring countries, so in 1344 Mallorca was fiercely annexed to the Kingdom of Aragon, and by the end of the 15th Century the Balearic Islands were joined with Spain, as part of a political alliance between Castile and Aragon. This alliance did not help in keeping peace among Mallorca's population. The 16th Century consisted of a number of uprisings as the island became deeply divided over the imposed Spanish control. It wasn't until 1700, when Felipe V took seat on Spain's throne that Mallorca finally came together in support for the new King. It was at this point that the Castilian language became compulsory in all official dealings and transactions.

By the end of the 19th Century the island had once again suffered falling economic activity and so it is no surprise that one of Mallorca's proudest moments was the classic tale of Joan March Ordinas's 'rags to riches' - he quickly became Spain's richest man, and quite possibly the world's 3rd richest man of his time.

It wasn't until the 1960s with the advent of package holidays, that Majorca's fortunes began to improve, almost solely due to foreign currency, from the sudden flood of tourists. Such a rapid boom in tourism naturally created a loss of cultural identity and traditional values, which Majorca has only just begun to recover from in the more developed areas. The island aims to provide for it's visitors whilst retaining her traditional way of life, and in many areas this is exactly what has happened.


Travellers Choice 2012