1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Catalonia
CATALONIA (Cataluña), a captaincy-general, and formerly a province of Spain, formerly also a principality of the crown of Aragon; bounded on the N. by the Pyrenees, W. by Aragon, S. by Valencia, and E. by the Mediterranean Sea. Pop. (1900) 1,966,382; area, 12,427 sq. m. The triangular territory of Catalonia forms the north-eastern corner of the Iberian Peninsula. A full account of the physical features, and of the modern development of commerce, communications, &c., in this area is given in the articles on the four provinces Barcelona, Gerona, Lérida and Tarragona, into which Catalonia was divided in 1833.
The coast, which is partly sandy, partly rocky, extends about 240 m.; its chief harbours are those of the capital, Barcelona, of Mataró, of Rosas and of Tarragona. The surface is much broken by spurs of the Pyrenees, the direction of which is generally south. Running south-west to north-east, and united on the north with one of the offsets of the Pyrenees, is the range of the Sierra Llena, which bisects Catalonia, and forms its central watershed. The principal rivers are the Ter, the Llobrégat, and the Ebro (q.v.), which all run into the Mediterranean. None of them is navigable. The climate, in spite of frequent mists and rains, sudden changes of temperature, and occasional great mid-day heat, is healthy and favourable to vegetation. The dwarf-palm, orange, lime, and olive grow in the warmer tracts; and on the higher grounds the thorn-apple, pomegranate, myrtle, esparto and heaths flourish. is much woodland, but meadows and pastures are rare. Maize, millet, rye, flax, liquorice and fruits of all sorts—especially nuts, almonds, oranges, figs, walnuts and chestnuts—are produced. Wheat sufficient for one-fourth of the population is grown, and the vine is extensively cultivated. Few cattle, but numbers of sheep, goats and swine are reared. Game is plentiful, and the fisheries on the coast are excellent. The wines are for the most part rough and strong, though some are very good, especially when matured. They are much used to adulterate those of Oporto, or, after undergoing the blending operation termed compage, are passed off as Bordeaux wines in France. The best of them, priorato, is chiefly known in England, under the disguise of second or third-rate port; it was much used in the military hospitals of America during the Civil War.
The Catalonians are a frugal, sharp-witted, and industrious people, having much national pride, and a strong revolutionary spirit. They are distinct in origin from the other inhabitants of Spain, from whom they differ in their dialect and costume. In their great energy and their love of enterprise they resemble the Basques. Irrigation, careful husbandry and railroad communications have much developed the resources of their country, in themselves excellent; and there are many manufacturing towns and industrial establishments.
Catalonia was one of the first of the Roman possessions in Spain, and formed the north-eastern portion of Hispania Tarraconensis. About 470 it was occupied by the Alans and Goths. It was conquered by the Moors in 712, but these invaders were in turn dispossessed by the Spaniards and the troops of Charlemagne in 788. Catalonia was subsequently ruled by French counts, who soon, however, made themselves independent of France. By the marriage of Count Raymond Berenger IV. of Barcelona with Petronilla of Aragon, Catalonia became annexed to Aragon; but this union was frequently severed. In 1640, when Philip IV. attempted to deprive Catalonia of its rights and privileges, it gave itself up to Louis XIII. of France. It was restored to Spain in 1659, and was once more occupied by the French from 1694 to 1697. Under Philip V. Catalonia, in 1714, was deprived of its cortes and liberties. From 1808 to 1813 it was held by France. It was the scene of civil war in 1823, and of important revolutionary operations in the Carlist wars.