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Ancient history and first Europeans

Around 3000 years ago, writers such as Homer already spoke of the 'islands of the blessed'. Between 1100 and 800 B.C., the Canary Islands were discovered by the Phoenicians, coming from present-day Cadiz, and the Carthaginians. The oldest finds date back to 500-200 BC.

In 1312 AD Lancelotto Malocello entered the island and founded the first settlement Teguise. The island thus owes its name to this sailor.

In 1402, the Norman Jean de Béthencourt conquered Lanzarote for the Castilian crown and thus received the title of "King of the Canary Islands".

The original population, the majos, revolted, but de Béthencourt, with the help of his governor Gadifer de la Salle, put down the rebellion. King Guadarfia was baptised and the chapel of the Rubicón fortress became the first episcopal seat in the Canaries. In 1414, De Béthencourt donated the Canary Islands to the Iberian Count of Niebla.

In reality, Maciot, a cousin of De Béthencourt, held power in Lanzarote. From 1440 onwards, the Canary Islands were ruled by the Peraza people in a heavy-handed manner and this period was marked by many rebellions.

Lanzarote definitively Spanish territory

In the period 1433-1479, the Spaniards and the Portuguese fought over the Canary Islands. In 1479, the archipelago was granted to Spain in the Treaty of Alcáçovas. The slave trade flourished on Lanzarote in the 16th and 17th centuries, but Berber and Algerian pirates regularly plundered the towns of Arrecife and Teguise, the island's capital. Hundreds of inhabitants of the island were kidnapped.

From 1730 to 1736 volcanic eruptions destroy the south of Lanzarote. Famine ensues and a large part of the population emigrates to South America. The population of Lanzarote fell dramatically to only about 300 people. During the reign of Carlos III, the economy flourished.

Arrecife new capital; Canary Islands free trade zone

In 1852, Arrecife was declared the new capital and the entire Canary archipelago was declared a free trade zone. When Spain lost its last colonies, the Canary Islands suffered an economic setback, as a whole market was lost.

The eastern islands of Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura were merged in 1927 to form the Spanish province of Gran Canaria.

Francisco Franco, at that time military commander in the Canary Islands, staged a coup against the government in Madrid. The Spanish Civil War, however, brings only economic malaise and political isolation. The Canary Islands were at that time the poorest area of Spain.

From 1960 onwards, tourism increased and rapidly replaced agriculture as the main source of livelihood.

After the death of General Franco in 1975, political openness increased and tourism also boomed.

In 1982, the Canary Islands, along with several other Spanish provinces, were granted autonomous status and in 1986, despite joining the European Union, the archipelago retained its separate status as a free trade zone.

In 1993, Lanzarote was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO. In 2000, more than 1.5 million tourists visited Lanzarote for the first time.

See also the history of Spain.


Evers, K. / Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote

Reisenegger, V. / Lanzarote

Scialdone, V. / Lanzarote

Weniger, S. / Lanzarote
Van Reemst

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated June 2024
Copyright: Team The World of Info