The Iberian Peninsula was frequented by invaders during the first millennium: Celts, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans and Visigoths. One of the most influential groups to arrive was the Moors, a Muslim army of Berbers and Arabs, which invaded in 711 and conquered the entire peninsula.
It took more than 700 years before the Christian kingdoms in the north were able to overthrow the last vestiges of Moorish rule by seizing the city of Granada in 1492. During the mid-12th century, however, Carthusian monks from France arrived in northern Spain to spread Christianity and set up the order's first Spanish branch in the Priorat region. By the time the state appropriated the monastery in 1835, the monks had covered the mountains with vineyards [source: Wines from Spain].
As Moorish rule deteriorated, two of the most powerful kingdoms to emerge and unite Spain in the late fifteenth century were Castile and Aragon. Catalan culture was considered the dominant part of the Crown of Aragon. From the unification of Aragon and Castile by the marriage of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, modern Spain was born.
As the Kingdom of Spain grew and power was increasingly centralized in the monarchy, Catalonia witnessed the erosion of its long-standing privileges and autonomy. Catalonia rose against Philip IV in the Thirty Years War (1618-48). It sided against Philip V in the War of Spanish Succession, which resulted in the banning of all Catalan political institutions and imposed military rule over the region [source: Info Please].
Strife within the country over the royal succession after Ferdinand VII's death was followed by hostilities on the French border. The French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars saw French troops occupying Spain. For a time, Catalonia was annexed by France.
The Catalans established a separate government in 1931. It failed in its revolution for complete independence in 1934, but successfully regained autonomy in 1936. The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939 brought Dictator Francisco Franco to power. Franco squelched Catalan identity, even banning the language. But with Franco's death in 1975, Catalonia has enjoyed peace and a thriving economy [source: Info Please].
Interested in finding out about the Priorat wine region's agriculture? Read on.