Organ of government: Consell General de les Illes Balears
The island group known as the Balearics (Islas Baleares), lying in the western Mediterranean off the southeastern coast of Spain, consists of the Balearic islands proper of Majorca (Mallorca) and Minorca (Menorca), together with Ibiza and Formentera, which are also known as the Islas Pityusas (''Pine Islands''), and about 150 smaller islands, including Cabrera, to the south of Majorca, some of which are used for military or nautical purposes, while others are totally unoccupied.
There are abundant remains of the prehistoric and early historical periods in the Balearics, often excellently preserved. They belong predominantly to the Talayot culture (from Arabic atalaya, "lookout"), a megalithic culture which flourished between 1500 B.C. and the Roman conquest, erecting the characteristic Balearic talayots (towers built of massive blocks of stone). From the same period date the taulas (Catalan taula, "table"), which are found only on Minorca - table like structures with a large stone slab resting horizontally on a vertical monolith. Other monuments of this period are the navetas ("boats"), which have the form of an upturned boat.
In the third century B.C. the early inhabitants of the islands were subjugated by the Carthaginians, and their great leader Hannibal is believed to have been born on Ibiza or a nearby islet. In 123 B.C. the Romans, led by Quintus Caecilius Metellus (Balearicus), established themselves in the Balearics, to be succeeded in the fifth century A.D. by the Vandals, who in turn were driven out by the Byzantines. Finally in 798 the islands were conquered by the Moors. After the disintegration of the Caliphate of Córdoba the islands became the haunt of pirates, who harried shipping off the coasts of Catalonia, Provence and Italy. In 1229 Jaime I of Aragon ("el Conquistador") launched a punitive expedition against the corsairs and conquered Majorca. This later developed into an independent kingdom, but in the 14th century was reincorporated in Aragon. Thereafter it became an important center of Mediterranean trade. After the discovery of America and the shift of European interest to the Atlantic the Mediterranean trade, and with it the Balearics, declined. Under the treaty of Utrecht after the War of the Spanish Succession Minorca was assigned to Britain, which had already occupied the island in 1708. During the 18th century it was successively occupied by Britain, France and Spain, finally becoming Spanish in 1808. During the Spanish Civil War Majorca and Ibiza were controlled by the Nationalists, Minorca by the Popular Front. After the Second World War, from the 1950s onwards, mass tourism came to the Balearics on a rapidly increasing scale. This sparked off an uncontrolled building boom, particularly on Majorca, which radically changed the life of the islands.
On February 22, 1983 the Balearics became an Autonomous Community.
There are car ferries from Barcelona, Tarragona, Valencia, Denia, Alicante and Málaga in mainland Spain, from Marseilles and Sète in France and from Genoa in Italy. There are also ferry services between the.
Majorca and Ibiza are served by both scheduled services and charter flights throughout the year. Minorca has scheduled services from Madrid and Barcelona and charter flights from other European airports during the summer months; in winter it is not easy to get a flight to Minorca.
The languages spoken in the islands are Majorcan (Mallorquí), Minorcan (Menorquí) and Ibizan (Ibicenco), which are all dialects of Catalan. The language of business is Spanish.
Until the advent of mass tourism the main source of revenue was agriculture. Nowadays - particularly during the summer months - the islands no longer produce enough to meet their own needs. One traditional crop in the Balearics is almonds, which are grown on a large scale on Majorca, producing great masses of blossom in January and February. Other crops are figs, apricots, citrus fruits and vegetables. On Minorca and Ibiza dry farming methods predominate. Stock farming is practiced only on a small scale, though there is a fair amount of dairy farming on Minorca. The fisheries have declined and can no longer meet the islands' needs.
A major export from Ibiza and Formentera is salt, which is harvested from large marine salt pans and exported, predominantly to Scandinavia, as table salt.
The most important non agricultural source of revenue is the leather industry of Majorca and Minorca which manufactures shoes, handbags, etc. There is also some textile production, particularly on Ibiza.
Pottery and ceramics are old established traditional crafts. Faience, originally introduced by the Moors, was already being exported in medieval times from Majorca to Italy, where it became known as majolica (a name derived from Majorca). Other products of the islands are glass, silver and artificial pearls.
With their mild climate, beautiful scenery and good bathing, the Balearics attract visitors throughout the year, and tourism - mainly on the coasts - now contributes more than half the total tax revenue of the Autonomous Community of the Balearics. The tourist boom, however, has severely damaged the established economic structures of the islands, and it is now being questioned whether the development of the last three decades has brought only benefits to the islanders. It is increasingly being suggested that a brake should be put on the further expansion of tourism.