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jih brahl' tur, site of the "Rock of Gibraltar"
Gibraltar is a British dependency on the southern coast of Spain. It lies on a narrow peninsula near the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea. It gets its name from the Moorish words Jebel-al-Tarik, meaning "Hill of Tarik." The Rock of Gibraltar (shown above), a huge limestone mass, rises 1,408 feet above sea level and occupies most of Gibraltar's 2.3 square miles. The remainder of the area is occupied by the town of Gibraltar, a British military base, and an airport.
The Gibraltar Peninsula has a total population of approximately 28,000 civilians and 5,000 British military personnel. Most of the civilians are descended from Italtian, Maltese, Portuguese, and Spanish settlers. Most of Gibraltar's workers are employed by the Gibraltar government, the British military base, a dockyard, or in jobs connected with the tourist industry.
Gibraltar has great military value because during a war the country that occupies the peninsula can keep enemy ships from passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. Moors from North Africa settled in Gibraltar in A.D. 711 and held it for almost 600 years. The Spaniards conquered Gibraltar in 1309 but lost it to the Moors again in 1333. The Spaniards reconquered the peninsula in 1462 and held it until 1704, when a British naval force captured it. The Treaty of Utrecht, signed in 1713, gave Gibraltar to Great Britain.
According to the treaty, Britain must offer Gibraltar to Spain if Britain decides to give up the dependency. In 1964, Britain considered granting independence to Gibraltar. Spain objected, however, and began a campaign to force Britain to return it to Spain. In 1965, the United Nations supported Spain's claim to Gibraltar. In 1967 Britain decided to keep the dependency after the people of Gibraltar voted for continued British control. Gibraltians were given another chance to vote for a change in status in 2002, and once again they voted overwhelmingly to remain a British dependency.
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This page was last updated on May 12, 2017.