Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gibraltar in three easy steps

In response to your many cards and letters, I have decided to do the long-neglected post about Gibraltar.

1. What it is.

Gibraltar is a rock.

But Gibraltar is much more than JUST a rock, right? Gibraltar is a symbol of British... what?... Ancient Naval might? Empire? A subtle reminder to Spain to mind their manners or else?

Anyway, whatever it is to the rest of the world, it will always be to Americans a symbol of British Power, primate haven, and, above all, the logo for America's largest life insurance company.

It used to be a trivia test question: "Find Gibraltar on the map. 10 seconds." Now, newly-minted American university graduates would be hard-pressed to find, say, China, on a map, much less Gibraltar. Or Canada, for that matter.

2. Why would you want this rock?

Okay, first - you would want it because it commanded a strategic military asset: entrance (or exit, I suppose) to the Mediterranean Sea. Controlling the Strait (Straits? I can never remember that) of Gibraltar is important. At least it WAS important before the invention of the airplane; people in Italy probably feel less claustrophobic today than they must have felt when Britain ACTUALLY controlled the exit of the Mediterranean.

Now I must stop fumbling for answers and come right out and admit it: I don't know why you would want it. Search me.

3. How did you get this rock?

First and foremost, you must recall that (at the beginnings of your Great Empire, at least) you have always hated Spain. Remember that. France, too. I forgot France. You have always hated Spain AND France. And Germany. But never mind Germany for the time being.

So, you probably wanted Gibraltar because Spain had it. That would have been good enough reason. PLUS it was a good Naval thing to have. So.

The year was 1704. The British and Dutch allied with each other (ostensibly to help the Austrian pretender to the Spanish throne wink wink nudge nudge) against the Spanish and the French. Yay! You got to fight both of them at once.

The British sovereign in 1704 was queen Anne. I can't really remember anything else she did. Or even if she did THIS, actually. But she was on the throne (so to speak) when it happened. You are welcome to tell me in the comments what else happened during her reign, but I probably won't retain the knowledge.

And so, in 1704, you took Gibraltar from Spain (and also got to fight France again) and then, in 1713, Spain ADMITTED you had taken it, and signed it over to you. I am a little hazy about what happened to your Dutch allies and the Austrians. I guess they were just SOL, as we crass Americans might say.

Incidentally, before you get too carried away, we are talking about 2.6 square miles here, K?

And there you have it. Bob's your uncle. If there is more to it than this, please share.


  1. I think you will find that the people who live on The Rock are extremely proud to be British and don't want Spain to have anything to do with them, although most people there are bilingual.
    The strategic importance of its situation can't be underplayed, it is the only route to the Suez Canal, a journey that improves cargo distribution throughout the world. Imagine having Spain in charge of such a place, what do they have? A fishing boat and a paper plane? You might as well hand the place over to the pirates.
    Britain keeps the area policed and safe, thank your lucky stars or the East Coast would have to wait a few more weeks for your iPhones to be delivered from China.

  2. Ummm... Tongue-in-cheek post, King.

    I am glad to see you back after a long absence.

    A few observations, lest other readers (should there be any) somehow think this was a serious post, if you please:

    1. This is not a serious post.
    2. I don't want Spain to get it back. Nor do I want them involved in any way with the security of the place. Uh-uh.
    3. If I lived there, I would be proud to be British. Or I wouldn't live there.
    4. It's strategic importance CAN be underplayed: I just did it. Incredibly, the world even lived without the entire Suez canal for many years in the (1960s and 1970s) although, admittedly, no iPhones were shipped expeditiously during that period.
    5. "My" iPhones are delivered from China anywhere in the world in less than 3 days. No ships are that fast. I'm guessing airplanes again. I think what you meant to say is that my Japanese automobiles would take longer to arrive from China. Crap - even that is wrong: those ships are too big to go through the Suez.
    6. I honestly do not want to make light of the importance of Gibraltar in the 21st century. But you must lighten up a bit dood. This is a crap post and must not be taken seriously. K? Save your intensity for New Year's Eve.

    And, I wasn't lying when I said I was glad to see you back. I hope you will come by more often.



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