Gibraltar

Introduction

Gibraltar (jĭbrôlˈtər) [key], British overseas territory (2005 est. pop. 27,900), 2.5 sq mi (6.5 sq km), on a narrow, rocky peninsula extending into the Mediterranean Sea from SW Spain. Most of the peninsula is occupied by the Rock of Gibraltar (Lat. Calpe ), one of the Pillars of Hercules, which guards the northeastern end of the Strait of Gibraltar, linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. The town of Gibraltar lies at the northwest end of the Rock of Gibraltar. The peninsula is connected with the mainland by a low sandy area of neutral ground. West of the peninsula is the Bay of Gibraltar, an inlet of the strait. There is a safe enclosed harbor of 440 acres (178 hectares). The rock, of Jurassic limestone, contains caves in which valuable archaeological finds have been made. It is honeycombed by defense works and arsenals, which are largely concealed. A tunnel bisects the rock from east to west.

During the many years that Gibraltar was a British fortress, most of the area was taken up by military installations, and the civilian population was kept small. Many of the laborers lived in the Spanish border town of La Línea. The population now consists of people of Spanish, Italian, English, Maltese, Portuguese, German, and North African descent. More than three quarters of the population is Roman Catholic; there are Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish minorities. English is the official language, and Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese are spoken.

The town is a free port, with some transit trade. Financial services, shipping, and duty-free shopping are economically important, and Gibraltar is also an online gambling center. The climate is mild and pleasant, and tourism is also a significant industry. Gibralter must import most of its fuel, manufactured goods, and foodstuffs.

Gibraltar is governed under the constitution of 1969. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by a governor, is the head of state. The chief minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the governor with the approval of the House of Assembly. Of the 18 members of the unicameral House of Assembly, 15 are elected by popular vote and three are appointed; all serve four-year terms. Gibraltar is largely self-governing.

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