Spain's powerful world
empire of the 16th and 17th centuries ultimately yielded command of the
seas to England. Subsequent failure to embrace the mercantile and
industrial revolutions caused the country to fall behind Britain,
France, and Germany in economic and political power. Spain remained
neutral in World Wars I and II but suffered through a devastating civil
war (1936-39). A peaceful transition to democracy following the death
of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975, and rapid economic modernization
(Spain joined the EU in 1986) have given Spain one of the most dynamic
economies in Europe and made it a global champion of freedom.
Continuing challenges include Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA)
terrorism and relatively high unemployment.