The small peninsula of Gibraltar has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Excavations of limestone caves of Gibraltar show evidence of sporadic inhabitation dating back 42 thousand years.
In the year 711 muslim troops as they occupied the Iberian Peninsula and this is the first time the Startegic value of the Peninsula becomes evident. After this the site will change hands numerous times but will always be used as a fortress. Gibraltar was then annexed by the Spanish Crown in 1501, by Queen Isabel I of Castille, after the end of the Muslim occupation of the Iberian Peninsula in 1462. Next, Gibraltar would become part of the British government in 1704 during the Spanish War of Succession.
The Spanish War of Succession was fought to determine the next king of Spain, as the crown was in dispute. Though this was a completely Spanish matter, forces from all over Europe aligned themselves with either candidate to the throne as to defend their political and economic interests. Sir George Rooke captured Gibraltar for the British during the war and Spain formally ceded it under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht at the end of the in 1713.
The Spanish made several attempts to reclaim Gibraltar from the British government. From 1779 to 1783 Spain maintained a military siege of the peninsula that was ultimately unsuccessful. Gibraltar officially became a British crown colony in 1830.
Once the Suez Canal was opened in 1869, the British became even more determined to keep possession of Gibraltar. At the time, the Mediterranean was the main route to Britain’s colonies in East Africa and southern Asia.
In the 1960s, as decolonization was taking place worldwide, the Spanish government demanded the return of the peninsula. As a consequence, in 1967 a referendum was held giving residents a choice of between Spanish sovereignty or for continued British occupation. The disputed result was to continue under British rule.
In 1969 a new constitution was drafted for Gibraltar that explicitly reaffirmed Gibraltar’s link with Britain while also granting it full internal self-government. In response the Spanish government closed its border with Gibraltar. This deprived the territory of Spanish goods and labour. This blockade ended in 1985.
The status of Gibraltar has remained a source of friction between the Spanish and British governments. In a nonbinding referendum in 2002 recognized by neither government, 99 percent of Gibraltar’s voters rejected joint British-Spanish sovereignty. Gibraltar subsequently was allowed by both governments to represent itself in negotiations on its future.