Andalusia (region, Spain)

Andalusia (ăndəlōō´zhə, –shə), Span. Andalucía (än´dälōōthē´ä), autonomous region (1990 pop. 7,100,060), 33,675 sq mi (87,218 sq km), S Spain, on the Mediterranean Sea, the Strait of Gibraltar, and the Atlantic Ocean. Spain's largest and most populous region, it covers most of S Spain, comprising the provinces of Almería, Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Málaga, and Seville (Sevilla), all named for their chief cities. Andalusia is crossed in the north by the Sierra Morena and in the south by mountain ranges that rise in the snowcapped Sierra Nevada to the highest peak in mainland Spain, Mulhacén (11,417 ft/3,480 m); between the ranges lies the fertile basin of the Guadalquivir River.

Economy and People

Despite the natural wealth of the region, poverty is widespread; Andalusian farm laborers are among the poorest in Europe, and many unemployed Andalusians have migrated to more industrialized regions of Spain. With its subtropical climate, Andalusia has many affinities with Africa, which it faces. Barren lands contrast with richly fertile regions where cereals, grapes, olives, sugarcane, and citrus and other fruits are produced. Industries, based generally on local agricultural produce, include wine making, flour milling, and olive-oil extracting. Much farming has become mechanized. Cattle, bulls for the ring, and fine horses are bred. The rich mineral resources, exploited since Phoenician and Roman times, include copper, iron, zinc, and lead.

Moorish influence is still strong in the character, language, and customs of the people. One of Europe's most strikingly colorful regions, Andalusia, with its tradition of bull fights, flamenco music and dance, and Moorish architecture, provides the strongest external image of Spain, especially to North Americans. Increasing tourism has made the service industry the fastest growing economic sector.


In the 11th cent. BC, the Phoenicians settled there and founded several coastal colonies, notably Gadir (now Cádiz and, supposedly, the inland town of Tartessus, which became the capital of a flourishing kingdom (sometimes identified with the biblical Tarshish). Greeks and Carthaginians came in the 6th cent. BC; the Carthaginians were expelled (3d cent. BC) by the Romans, who included S Spain in the province of Baetica. The emperors Trajan, Hadrian, and Theodosius were born in the region.

Visigoths ended Roman rule in the 5th cent. AD, and in 711 the Moors, crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, established there the center of their western emirate (see Córdoba). Andalusia remained under Moorish rule until most of it was conquered in the 13th cent. by the kings of Castile; the Moorish kingdom of Granada survived; it, too, fell to the Catholic kings in 1492. The Moorish period was the golden age of Andalusia. Agriculture, mining, trade, and industries (textiles, pottery, and leather working) were fostered and brought tremendous prosperity; the Andalusian cities of Córdoba, Seville, and Granada, embellished by the greatest Moorish monuments in Spain, were celebrated as centers of culture, science, and the arts.

From the 16th cent. Andalusia generally suffered as Spain declined, although the ports of Seville and Cádiz flourished as centers of trade with the New World. Gibraltar was ceded to Britain in 1713, and in 1833 Andalusia was divided into the present eight provinces. With Catalonia, Andalusia was a stronghold of anarchism during the Spanish republic (est. 1931); however, it fell early to the Insurgents in the Spanish civil war of 1936–39. The region later saw recurrent demonstrations against the national government of Francisco Franco. In 1981 it became an autonomous region and in 1982 it elected its first parliament.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Andalusia: Selected full-text books and articles

White Wall of Spain: The Mysteries of Andalusian Culture By Allen Josephs University of West Florida Press, 1990
Flamenco: Gypsy Dance and Music from Andalusia By Claus Schreiner; Molly Comerford Peters Amadeus Press, 1990
Passional Culture: Emotion, Religion, and Society in Southern Spain By Timothy Mitchell University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990
Primitive Rebels: Studies in Archaic Forms of Social Movement in the 19th and 20th Centuries By E. J. Hobsbawm Manchester University Press, 1959
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "Millenarianism II: The Andalusian Anarchists"
Metaphors of Masculinity: Sex and Status in Andalusian Folklore By Stanley Brandes University of Pennsylvania Press, vol.1, 1980
Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science By Roshdi Rashed; Regis Morelon Routledge, 1996
The Regions of Spain: A Reference Guide to History and Culture By Robert W. Kern; Chuck Smith Greenwood Press, 1995
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "Andalusia (Andalucia)"
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