Ceuta guide book
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History of Ceuta

from Ceuta Mini Guide published by Mirage

Recent archaeological discoveries have indicated that people have lived the region of Ceuta since the Paleolithic era. Over the ages the area has been populated at various times by the Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Visigoths and Arabs. During the Middle Ages Ceuta became an important trading centre for European merchants and in 1415 the Portuguese took control under the leadership of John I of Portugal. At this time the pope conferred it with the title of "city".

During subsequent decades Ceuta gained the institutions and appearance of a European city. The king of Spain seized the Portuguese throne in 1580 and held it for 60 years. During this time Ceuta gained many residents of Spanish origin.

A treaty between Spain and Portugal in 1668 led to Ceuta coming under Spanish control again and the city gained a Statute of Autonomy. The 18th and 19th centuries saw many new arrivals to Ceuta, in particular South American exiles, many of whom played an important role in the development of the city.

The African War (also known as the Spanish-Moroccan War) of 1859-60 began with a dispute over the borders of the city and was fought in northern Morocco. A Spanish victory was achieved following the Battle of Tetuan.

The Spanish Protectorate of Morocco, known simply as Spanish Morocco and encompassing much of northern Morocco, was established in 1912 and had its capital in Tetuan. Ceuta was not included as it was considered an integral part of the Spanish state. Spain recognized the independence of Spanish Morocco in 1956 but Ceuta and the other Spanish enclave of Melilla remained under Spanish rule.

In July 1936, General Francisco Franco took command of the Spanish Army in Africa and rebelled against the Spanish republican government in a military uprising that was to lead to the Spanish Civil War. The troops were transported to mainland Spain in an airlift using transport aircraft supplied by Germany and Italy. Ceuta was one of the first casualties of the uprising. The citizens of Ceuta were repressed by the rebel nationalist forces led by General Franco while at the same time the city came under fire from the air and sea forces of the republican government.

During the fascist years Ceuta built on its reputation as a trading post. Following the death of General Franco and the restoration of democracy, Ceuta had its Statute of Autonomy restored, albeit not until 1995. Modern Ceuta benefits from investment and funding from the Spanish government and the European Union. It is a cosmopolitan city with a significant Berber Muslim community as well as Sephardic Jewish and Hindu minorities.