Balearic Islands

Balearic Islands (bălēărˈĭk) [key], Span. Baleares bälāäˈrās, archipelago, off Spain, in the W Mediterranean, forming Baleares prov. (1990 pop. 767,918) of Spain; also an autonomous region since 1983. Palma is the capital. The chief islands are Majorca, Minorca, and Ibiza. Noted for their scenery and their mild climate, the Balearics are a major tourist destination. After tourism, agriculture and fishing are the chief economic activities; fruit, wine, olive oil, majolica ware, and silver filigree are exported. Both Catalan and Castilian Spanish are spoken. Inhabited since prehistoric times—there are numerous Cyclopean remains—the islands were occupied by Iberians, Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, and Byzantines. The Moors, who first came in the 8th cent., established (11th cent.) an independent kingdom, which became the seat of powerful pirates, harassing Mediterranean coastal cities and trade. James I of Aragón conquered (1229–35) the islands. They were included (1276–1343) in the independent kingdom of Majorca and reverted to the Aragonese crown under Peter IV. At the outbreak of the Spanish civil war (1936), Majorca and Ibiza were seized by Insurgent forces—Majorca becoming a base of the Italian fleet—while Minorca remained in the hands of the Loyalists until 1939.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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