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By Felipe Fernandez-Armesto

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Extra info for Before Columbus: Exploration and Colonisation from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic 1229–1492

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Their efforts lasted for eight years before they yielded to the necessity of exercising liberality in allowing settlers use-rights in the salt. It was, apart from slave-trading, the only economic resource of the island, and the only 'perk' that would attract settlers. And yet, despite the early preponderance of Moors, the fragile economy and the hesitant colonisation, lbiza was remarkably successful - reflecting, perhaps, the glow of the tail-light of Majorca's 'take-off'. By the late fourteenth century there was an island council of 250 members, divided into 5 groups of 50, each group holding office by turn.

In 1972, amid much rhetorical Catalan nostalgia, Alghero was officially twinned with Tarragona; the return ceremony on the Spanish THE ISLAND CONQUESTS OF THE HOUSE OF BARCELONA 41 mainland had to wait until after the death of General Franco, so that the Catalan language could be freely used and Catalan nationalism freely indulged. It was the last feeble echo of a great imperial effort of the middle ages. Aragon's Dynastic 'Empire' Whether one cares to call it an empire or not, the loose dynastic agglomeration that constituted the Arago-Catalan world of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was meant to function cohesively, as a kind of fraternal alliance, a tenuous confederacy bound more by atavistic appeals to loyalty and the force of oaths than by common institutions.

Yet in about the same period - in the mid to late fourteenth century - the insecurity of life on small islands in corsair-infested seas was thrown into relief by the abandonment of Formentera. By 1403, there was nobody left there. 18 'Proceeding Eastwards': Minorca and Sardinia Majorca and lbiza were the first in a series of islands, of the western and central Mediterranean, conquered by the House of 34 BEFORE COLUMBUS Barcelona at long intervals over a period of about a hundred years. The next burst of activity came in the 1280s and 1290s, some two generations after the first conquests, when Minorca and Sicily, with Malta and Gozo, were conquered, and a title to Sardinia and Corsica acquired.

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