1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Algeciras

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ALGECIRAS, or ALGEZIRAS, a seaport of southern Spain in the province of Cadiz, 6 m. W. of Gibraltar, on the opposite side of the Bay of Algeciras. Pop. (1900) 13,302. Algeciras stands at the head of a railway from Granada, but its only means of access to Gibraltar is by water. Its name, which signifies in Arabic the island, is derived from a small islet on one side of the harbour. It is supplied with water by means of a beautiful aqueduct. The fine winter climate of Algeciras attracts many invalid visitors, on whom the town largely depends for its prosperity. The harbour is bad, but at the beginning of the 20th century it became important as a fishing-station. Whiting, soles, bream, bass and other fish are caught in great quantities by the Algeciras steam-trawlers, which visit the Moroccan coast, as well as Spanish and neutral waters. There is also some trade in farm produce and building materials which supplies a fleet of small coasters with cargo.

Algeciras was perhaps the Portus Albus of the Romans, but it was probably refounded in 713 by the Moors, who retained possession of it until 1344. It was then taken by Alphonso XI. of Castile after a celebrated siege of twenty months, which attracted Crusaders from all parts of Europe; among them being the English earl of Derby, grandson of Edward III. It is said that during this siege gunpowder was first used by the Moors in the wars of Europe. The Moorish city was destroyed by Alphonso; it was first reoccupied by Spanish colonists from Gibraltar in 1704; and the modern town was erected in 1760 by King Charles III. During the siege of Gibraltar in 1780-1782, Algeciras was the station of the Spanish fleet and floating batteries. On the 6th of July 1801 the English admiral Sir James Saumarez attacked a Franco-Spanish fleet off Algeciras, and sustained a reverse; but on the 12th he again attacked the enemy, whose fleet was double his own strength, and inflicted on them a complete defeat. The important international conference on Moroccan affairs, which resulted in an agreement between France and Germany, was held at Algeciras from the 16th of January to the 7th of April 1906. (See MOROCCO.)