Map showing the Balearic Islands and their location

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Where is Menorca and how did the British get involved?

Menorca is the second largest island in the Balearic archipelago in the western Mediterranean Sea near the coasts of France and Spain. The first people of the island, according to history, were the Phoenicians who used it for a trading base. It remained so until 212 BC when Quietus Mete brought it under control of the Roman Empire. In 710 AD the Moors conquered the island, and it was not until the year 1229 that the Moors were driven from the Island and Menorca became a possession of Spain.

Spanish rulers called upon the people of the province of Catalan, on the mainland, to come populate the island, and it is the Catalans who gave Menorca its later distinct culture and language.

During the 18th Century, Menorca was fought over by the British, French and Spanish powers, primarily because of the Port of Mahon, the finest natural harbor in the Mediterranean. This large, deep harbor could protect, behind its fearsome forts, the largest fleets of the time, and much like Florida, the island changed hands often.

The Treaty of Utrecht (1713), ending the War of Spanish Succession, gave Minorca to the British. Their rule lasted until 1755 when it was captured by France. The 1st Treaty of Paris (1763), the same treaty that gave Florida to Great Britain, also gave Menorca to the British. During the War for American Independence, the British lost Menorca to the allied French-Spanish navy in 1781. In 1798, in the French Revolutionary War, England regained control, and Mahon served as a major naval base during the Napoleonic Wars. The British remained until 1808 when still another treaty returned it to Spain.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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