The permanent exhibition is a proposal to explore the history of Catalonia, ranging from prehistoric times to the present day, focusing its discourse on the knowledge and understanding of the characteristics and evolution of the societies that have occupied the territory today known. as in Catalonia, emphasizing both the political, the social, economic and cultural aspects, with a visibly didactic and popular character.
From the earliest period of prehistoric times, the Catalan lands have witnessed human activities. Located at the western end of the Mediterranean, Catalonia is a passing area through which the most diverse cultures have come and settled.
From the Neolithic period, the extension of agriculture and animal husbandry led to the emergence of increasingly complex societies. From the 7th century BC, the influence of eastern peoples, such as the Greeks or the Phoenicians, has become more prominent in Iberian culture, one of the most fascinating civilizations of the Iron Age.
With the arrival of the Romans, in 218 BC, a long period of cultural and political integration begins, in which some of the characteristic features of our society are shaped. The fall of the Roman Empire, in the fifth century, gives way to the creation of the Visigoth kingdom, which is being imposed throughout the peninsula.
We do not know precisely when the first humans arrived on our earth, but we have found witnesses 450,000 years old. From the Lower Paleolithic to the Neolithic, we can trace the characteristics that make up the human condition: the manufacture of tools, the control of fire, the ability to communicate or the conception of a cosmology to explain life and death.
Nomadic groups of hunter-gatherers lived in caves, and their paintings and engravings have left us. With the extension of agriculture and animal husbandry, the first villages that evolve into complex societies appear, at the gates of the Bronze Age. It is a long period, full of episodes that are fundamental to humanity, and we still have much to discover.
Between the European continent and the Mediterranean
During the final bronze period (1250 – 700 BC) the communities established in Catalonia enter a period of great social, economic and cultural transformations. These changes are related to the arrival of migratory waves from central Europe and the establishment of networks of exchange between communities on both sides of the Pyrenees.
From the Iron Age (700-550 BC), contacts with the peoples of the Eastern Mediterranean area (Phoenicians and Greeks) favor and stimulate the economic, technological and cultural development of the native groups. The evolution that takes place during this stage is decisive in the consolidation of the Iberian culture.
Iberian culture began in the 6th century BC in a vast region of the western Mediterranean. It is a group of diverse villages that share a series of cultural features. Like the Greeks or Etruscans, they have a complex and developed civilization with urban and commercial networks, currency minting, and their own writing system applied to a native language.
The knowledge that we have of the Iberian civilization has continued to grow in recent years. The archeological sites we find in Catalonia, such as the one in Ullestret, show us a warrior society, which dominates iron metallurgy and maintains commercial contacts with other peoples of the Mediterranean, especially with the Carthaginians and Greeks. These contacts intensify when, around 580 BC, the Greeks from Massalia founded the colony of Empúries on the Catalan coast.
In 218 BC, during the Second Punic War, the Roman army landed in the allied city of Empúries. Once the Carthaginians, their great rivals in the western Mediterranean, have been defeated, the Romans settle in the Iberian Peninsula, initiating a long period of domination. The various rebellions of the native peoples are suppressed and the Iberian society assimilates the Romanization progressively.
The Romans structure the territory into provinces and construct roads that connect the main enclaves. Tarraco will become the most important city in Hispania. Numerous settlers from the Italian peninsula and the Hellenistic Mediterranean settled there. Latin culture and language take root and mix with local cultures, laying the foundations for a new society.
In the third and fourth centuries, the borders of the Roman Empire were no longer secure and economic and social crises became commonplace. A monotheistic religion of Eastern origin, Christianity, displaces traditional beliefs. After an attempted repression, Emperor Constantine legalized the practice, and in 380 Theodosius I the Great proclaimed Christianity to be the official religion in the Roman Empire.
The solid organization of Catholic Christians survives the fall of the Roman empire and becomes an indispensable support for the new Germanic kingdoms. The Visigoths, who settled in the Iberian Peninsula professed Arianism, over the centuries ended up adopting Catholicism as their official religion.
The birth of a nation
In 711 a Muslim army begins the conquest of Visigothic Hispania. The Iberian Peninsula, renamed al-Andalus, joins Islam. For four centuries, the lands of Balaguer, Lleida, Tarragona and Tortosa are part of an economic and religious community that extends to India.
The Catalan counties are formed on the border between al-Andalus and the Carolingian empire, in the Pyrenees. From the 10th century onwards, under the hegemony of the Barcelona mansion, the counties became independent of the power of the Frankish kings and, over the centuries, gained political importance in the context of feudal Europe.
The conquest of New Catalonia, its connection with Occitania and its dynastic union with Aragon, consolidate the new state. The repopulation of land is largely organized through the founding of parishes and monasteries that expand the art and sensitivity of Romanesque art throughout the territory.
On the border of al-Andalus
From the Arabobereber conquest of the year 711, the Iberian Peninsula is part of the Umayyad caliphate of Damascus. A new society is born in the confines of Islam, the result of the miscegenation of very diverse cultures: al-Andalus. In 929, Abderraman III became independent of the power of the Abbasid Caliphs, who ruled from Baghdad, and proclaimed Cordoba as the capital of a new caliphate.
Al-Andalus is the first cultural and economic power in the West and has a great influence on the northern Christian kingdoms. Islam’s footprint is a determining factor in shaping the future of Catalonia: for more than four centuries, the territories of southern Llobregat have been fully integrated into the Andalusian cultural and political space.
The border of Europe
The formation of the Carolingian empire signals the passage of late antiquity to medieval Europe. In the wake of the Pyrenees and at the gates of the Islamic world, the future Catalonia begins its construction. Frankish domination organizes the border territories into counties, which protect the so-called Hispanic brand. However, over time, the power of the Franks over these territories weakens.
The young earl dynasties, born of native lineages, often lack the ties of vassalage. Guifré el Pilós, count of Cerdanya and Urgell, gathers under his government the counties of Girona, Barcelona and Osona, thus forming the basic heritage of the Barcelona mansion. At the end of the tenth century, ties to free power were definitively broken and the path to political independence began.
A land of work and hardness
In the eighth century the Pyrenees were densely populated due to the migratory currents caused by the crises of the Low Empire, the Germanic invasions and the Muslim conquest. When the Pyrenean valleys reach their demographic peak, a strong migration to the lowlands begins.
The work of peasant families living in uninhabited areas makes the wasteland productive. This process is essential to understand the conquest and colonization of Old Catalonia. As the years passed, however, feudalism prevailed throughout the land, and the small free peasant property was reduced to the domains of the clergy and the great feudal lords.
The strength of the knights
The Carolingian conquest of the Catalan territories and the establishment of the so-called Hispanic brand, originate the formation of a singular aristocracy, rooted in the territory, but in many cases have interests that are opposed to the population as a whole. This social class arises from the fusion between lineages of Pyrenean origin and members of the Hispanogoda nobility.
The members of the ruling estates have the main activity in the war, although they also carry out administrative and judicial functions in the districts which they have on behalf of the account. It is from these domains that they extract their income. In the eleventh century, they became the great beneficiaries of social change and the establishment of feudalism.
The vertebrating and constructing Church
The Church carries out an intense work of evangelization during the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries. The agrarian communities find in the parish their natural sphere of relationship. Monasteries become centers of conservation and transmission of culture and knowledge of antiquity, and develop Romanesque art, which extends throughout the territory.
The Church plays a key role in maintaining legality and order. In order to defend itself from feudal violence, the church hierarchy creates legal instruments such as the institution of God’s Peace and Truce, which provides for the abolition of feudal struggles during a truce period. Abbot Oliba is the driving force behind it, and his work exemplifies the vertebrate and building function of the Church.
The consolidation of a country
Throughout the 12th century, some of the features that characterize Catalan identity were consolidated. The appearance of the Catalonia crown is almost simultaneous with the beginning of the use of Catalan as a written language. ‘The four bars’, the flag of the counts of Barcelona and the current national flag, has been used since the end of the 11th century.
The feudal society, markedly agrarian, is energized by the intensification of trade: new towns, markets and fairs appear, which surround the territory, and large sea routes are established that open the country to exchange. Barcelona is the most populated urban center and the political, economic and social center of Catalonia: it is the head and home.
The expansion of the Crown of Aragon
The Crown of Aragon was born in 1137 as a result of the marriage of Ramon Berenguer IV of Barcelona to Peronella de Aragon, daughter of King Ramir II ‘the monk’, and becomes a military power that expands on Muslim lands. The conquest of New Catalonia generates an important migratory current to the south, in which religious and military orders will have a great influence.
The cultural and political links with Occitania mark the personality of the Crown of Aragon. The troubadour culture, so characteristic of the time, is well present in court. Expansion into Occitan lands will be cut short by the French crusade against Cathar heresy and the defeat of King Peter the Catholic at the Battle of Muret in 1213.
In the thirteenth century, the conquest of the kingdoms of Mallorca and Valencia by James I began a period of military and commercial expansion across the Mediterranean that extends to the fifteenth century. The growth of cities, the rise of trade and the consolidation of merchant and artisan groups are some of the phenomena closely linked to the process of expansion.
Gothic art replaces Romanesque and literary culture is experiencing great development during this period. At the political level, the main government institutions of the country are formed: the Cortes, the Generalitat and the Municipal Councils. The famine of 1333 and the black plague of 1348, however, mark the beginning of a deep demographic, economic and social crisis.
In the countryside, peasant farmers rise in arms against the lords, while profound social upheaval is experienced in the cities. In the second half of the 15th century, a long civil war (1462-1472), which faced the crown with the Generalitat, devastated the whole country. In 1479 access to the throne of Ferdinand II, married to Isabel de Castile, represents the dynastic union of the two crowns.
Catalan hegemony in the Mediterranean
At the beginning of Century XIII, Corona de Aragon guides the policy of expansion towards the Mediterranean. The conquests of Mallorca and Valencia by James I have continued with Peter the Great, who annexed Sicily, as well as with his successors. The Catalan hegemony and the struggle for the rule of Sardinia or Naples, cause conflicts with France, the Republic of Genoa and the Papacy.
Consolats de Mar are set up in the main Mediterranean ports to deal with maritime and commercial issues. In the eastern Mediterranean, despite the control of the Duchies of Athens and Neopatria, the Crown of Aragon fails to displace the Republic of Venice. From the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, internal crises and social conflicts weaken the Crown and end hegemony.
The pact, the foundation of government
Due to the growing complexity of the Middle Ages society, throughout the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, Catalonia was endowed with government institutions: the Corts and the Generalitat. In an age when monarchies are strengthening and tending to authoritarianism, the institutionalized practice of pact and consensus is imposed on the Principality and on other territories of the Crown, as the basic foundation of royal government.
The Corts are divided into three main sections: the church, the nobility and the popular, representing the cities and cities of royal jurisdiction. The peasantry, which makes up the bulk of the population, has no direct presence. Consensus is specified in the drafting of constitutions or laws. For its part, the Generalitat, in permanent representation of the arms, oversees the fulfillment of the agreements.
The emergence of cities
Since the thirteenth century, increasing agricultural production and the development of trade have been driving population and economic growth. Cities become manufacturing and trading centers. The monarchs find in their might a firm support against the high feudal nobility and favor them.
The dynamism of urban centers is manifested in the desire to gain more capacity for self-government, as with the creation of the Consell de Cent in Barcelona, and in the construction of spectacular cathedrals, churches, markets and palaces. Gothic art spreads in all its glory through the cities of Barcelona, Mallorca, Perpignan or Valencia.
Science, culture and art
In the late Middle Ages, Catalan became a fully developed written language; literature excels with figures such as Ramon Llull, Jordi de Sant Jordi or Ausiàs March, and works such as the Tirant lo Blanc are universal. The first universities are founded and an advanced, native scientific and technical practice is developed.
Catalan medicine is gaining high prestige with Arnau de Vilanova, doctor of three kings and three popes. Also noteworthy are the cartographers Abraham and Jafuda Cresques and their ‘Catalan Atlas’ of 1375. Made with surprising accuracy, the most important world map of the time includes India and China, and synthesize the yearnings of a world that is it is booming.
Time of crisis
Since the mid-fourteenth century, Catalonia has been experiencing severe political and social upheaval, as well as a significant demographic and economic decline. The crisis, developed during the reign of Peter III, continues in the reigns of the first monarchs of the Trastamara dynasty. The civil war of 1462 – 1472 confronts the Crown with the country’s institutions and devastates a territory that had already been decimated by epidemics.
Feudal oppression provokes the revolt farmers’ revolt, which lasted in the second half of the 15th century, and did not end until the Guadalupe Arbitration Judgment (1486), which abolished bad lordships. At the end of the 15th century, the population reached an all-time low: 250,000. The Mediterranean loses prominence over the new ocean routes and Catalonia remains at the periphery of the new trade routes.
On the outskirts of the Empire
The modern age is for Catalonia a period of economic and demographic expansion, not without conflicts. Within the Hispanic Monarchy, the Principality maintains its own institutions of government, but the growing authoritarianism of the monarchs results in a confrontation between two different conceptions of politics.
The Habsburg wars to achieve European hegemony, the rise of the Ottoman and Barbarian hearts in the western Mediterranean, and banditry, triggered by an increase in internal inequalities, also characterize a period marked by the lush Baroque and the dogmas of the Counter-Reformation.
Catalonia’s conflicts with the monarchy would peak during the Reapers’ War (1640 – 1659) and the War of Succession (1702–1715). At the end of this, Philip V, the first king of the Spanish branch of the Bourbons, abolishes his constitutions and institutions, through the New Plant Decree.
A corner of the empire
From 1516, Catalonia has been part of the Habsburg territories: a huge European empire, soon also extended by America, led from Castile. Catalonia is a peripheral territory with little capacity for intervention in general affairs. In the north, the border with France is the scene of continuous wars, while in the Mediterranean, the threat of the Ottoman Empire and the barbarian chorus shuffle.
Catalonia, however, maintains its idiosyncrasy and its system of government, based on the constitutions and the tradition of pactism. This tradition continues to evolve and is in opposition to the growing authoritarianism of the monarchy. During the sixteenth century, despite major conflicts, the country was advancing demographically and the economy recovered some of its strength.
Bandits and privateers
Violence is a common practice in modern Catalonia. Many private conflicts are resolved through arms. Bandits are a consequence of the social and economic changes that lead to greater social polarization. Revenges, crimes, abductions, blackmail, attacks and even small private wars proliferate in a gang-laden society.
The hearts are increased due to the struggle between the various Mediterranean states and especially between the Ottoman Empire and the Hispanic Monarchy. Stolen from the shores of North Africa, they attack the Catalan coast with virulence. Slowly, however, a defensive network is organized, based on watchtowers.
Counter-reform and Baroque
From the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Catholic Church redefines its dogmas, questioned by the Protestant Reformation, and dictates a new morality. In the Hispanic kingdoms, the Counter-Reformation is imposed by Philip II and his successors, and has an important component of fanaticism and intolerance toward other religious beliefs.
The Renaissance style gives way to the baroque one, which is characterized by a more lush language. Catalan is still the language of popular use at all levels, and has great authors such as Vicenç Garcia or Francesc de Fontanella. In any case, the local aristocracy becomes Spanish and, gradually, Spanish becomes the predominant language of culture in the literature of the ‘Golden Age’.
The Reapers’ War
During the 17th century, wars between Spain and France necessarily passed through Catalan territory. The presence and arbitrariness of the Spanish thirds, together with the authoritarian policy of the government of the Count-Duke of Olivares, is the spark that ignites the latent social and political conflict. In 1640 Catalonia revolted against the Hispanic Monarchy.
The popular revolution, which is led by the peasantry, is followed by the political revolution led by the institutions, which are allied with the French monarchy. The war ends with the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659) by which Catalonia returns to the Hispanic Monarchy and France annexes the county of Roussillon and part of Cerdanya.
The war of succession
The death without offspring of Charles II triggers an international conflict, the War of Succession (1702 – 1715). Beyond the dynastic issue, political, strategic and commercial issues are mixed in the dispute over the throne of the Hispanic Monarchy, which eventually formed two sides at the European level.
The Catalans finally stand in favor of Archduke Charles of Austria (Charles III) and against Duke Philip of Anjou (Philip V), who has the support of the crown of Castile and France. The main consequence of the military defeat and the fall of Barcelona on September 11, 1714 is the abolition of the Catalan constitutions and institutions and the beginning of a severe repression.
History Museum of Catalonia
The Museum of the History of Catalonia (MHC) is a museum located in the Palau de Mar in Barcelona, created with the mission of telling its visitors the history of Catalonia, by means of a collection of objects and documents that are They relate, in historical recreations and settings, and in audiovisual and computer equipment, which playfully approach the history of this nation, aiming to stimulate, as well as inform, the interest in the evolution of Catalan culture. It was created in 1996 by the Government of the Generalitat. It is also responsible for managing monuments owned by the Government of Catalonia, with the aim of improving their conditions of maintenance, visit and cultural dissemination. The museum depends on the Ministry of Culture of the Generalitat de Catalunya, which manages it through its Catalan Agency for Cultural Heritage.
The History Museum of Catalonia is a space open to everyone so that people can meet, debate and reflect. It is also a tool helping provide information, education and entertainment, while at the same time raising awareness. The permanent exhibition offers an interactive story of the history of Catalonia from earliest times to the present day, complemented with educational and leisure activities, workshops and temporary exhibitions.
The History Museum of Catalonia has become established as a leader in preserving, researching and popularising the country’s history and cultural heritage. The founding decree of 1996 establishes that the institution’s mission is precisely to “preserve, explain and popularise the history of Catalonia as collective heritage and strengthen citizens’ identification with the nation’s history”.