Asturias – a brief history

Below is a very brief, superficial and general history of the region now known as Asturias. For a more in depth history of Asturias you will need to research other sources.

The Spanish region of Asturias has a long history of human inhabitation and ancient cave paintings indicate the presence of man dating back many thousands of years ago.

The first acknowledged Asturians were know as "Asturiense" and they evolved culturally, socially and industrially through the various ages of metal (e.g. bronze age) and were later known as "Astures".

By this time the Celtic influences were present and this northern region of the Iberian Peninsula was already distinct and different from southern and central Spain. Throughout this period there were many influences and the amalgamation of a number of different tribes, all of which led to the people who live in the area today. Like much of Europe, Asturias fell under Roman rule and later it was the Visigoths who influenced the regions development, both culturally, but also militarily.

The Reconquista

Significantly, unlike nearly every other region of Spain, Asturias was never conquered by the marauding Moors, a dominant empire in parts of Europe at that time. This was to become highly important for a number of reasons.

Firstly, Asturias became safe haven for the Christians who were forced to flee Islamic rule and the persecution that they would otherwise have suffered under the regime of the Moors. It also acted as a stronghold for the Royalty and dignatories of the region providing them with a base from which to eventually take back their nation.

Secondly, under their King, Pelayo, it would be the Asturians who would not only resist the Moor’s invasion, but ultimately start the re-conquest (or reconquista) of Spain and Portugal that would, over a 700 year period, see the Moors and islam driven out of the Iberian Peninsula.

This Reconquista is possibly the single most significant event in Spanish history and, with its centers at Covadonga and Cangas de Onis, it proved to be the catalyst that gave the other regions of Spain the confidence to repel and eject the Moors and remove Islamic rule for good. Today fiestas and celebrations still mark this event and there are monuments to Pelayo. You can find out more about Pelayo using this link the story of Pelayo.

More changes

As the centuries passed by Asturias, then a kingdom, became part of Leon, but it was again to become an important region in the history of what would become modern Spain.

In the fourteenth century the Principality of Asturias was founded following which the region became a part of medieval Spain, then a kingdom.

As the Spanish nation grew and evolved it would be Asturias that would play a significant role in colonising the American continent and influencing national politics. This role was to be so significant that all future heirs to the Spanish throne would be first crowned Prince of Asturias (similar to Prince of Wales in Great Britain), a tradition and honour that remain to this day.

In addition to its role in history and the shaping of both Spain and the then New World, Asturias has also been an important player in the economic growth of its mother nation. The region was discovered to be rich in both coal and iron and by the early part of the nineteenth century (the industrial revolution era), Asturias was supplying the nation with fuel to power the new machinery of the period and iron from which to manufacture a vast range of products. It was and still remains an industrial hub of Spain.

Along with neighbour Galicia, Asturias has also seen extensive migration to other parts of the world, most notably the American continent and, in so doing, the influence of Asturias has spread across the world.

Spanish revolution

Perhaps the most notable historic event in modern Spanish and Asturian history was the Spanish revolution.

This event would shape Spain as we know it today and, on a very superficial level, it could be described as a war between those supporting Marxism and those supporting Fascism. In truth the Marxist were simply socialists and an important part of their movement was based around a left-wing workers movement in Asturias.

The Civil War would of course by won by General Franco’s Fascist regime and Asturias as an entity and as a people would be made to suffer dearly for opposing Franco. The region was no longer officially recognised as Asturias and many atrocities were (and still are) reported to have taken place at the hands of the new regime.

By the time of Franco’s death and the establishment of a new Spanish democracy in 1977, Asturias was once again returned to the status of an autonomous region.

Today Asturias is internationally famous for the Prince of Asturias awards which are handed out annually at a ceremony attended by the Price and Princess of Asturias.

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