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(kăstēl`), Span. Castilla (kästē`lyä), historic region and former kingdom, central and N Spain, traditionally divided into Old Castile and New Castile, and now divided among the autonomous communities of Castile and Léon, Castile–La Mancha, and Madrid. Castile is generally a vast, sparsely populated region surrounding the highly industrialized Madrid area. It includes most of the high plateau of central Spain, across which rise the rugged Sierra de Guadarrama and the Sierra de Gredos, forming a natural boundary between Old and New Castile. The upper Duero, the Tagus, and Guadiana rivers form the chief valleys etched into the plateau. The soil of Castile, ravaged by centuries of erosion, is poor, and rainfall is sparse.


The name Castile derives from the many castles built there by the Christian nobles early in the reconquest from the Moors (8th–9th cent.). Old Castile at first was a county of the kingdom of LeónLeón
, historic region and former kingdom, NW Spain, E of Portugal and Galicia, now part of Castile–León. It includes the provinces of León, Salamanca, and Zamora, named after their chief cities.
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, with BurgosBurgos
, city (1990 pop. 163,507), capital of Burgos prov., N Spain, in Castile and Léon, on a mountainous plateau c.2,800 ft (850 m) above sea level, overlooking the Arlanzón River. Normally it has among the coldest winters of any Spanish city.
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 its capital. Its nobles (notably Fernán González) secured virtual autonomy by the 10th cent. Sancho III of Navarre, who briefly annexed the county, made it into a kingdom for his son, Ferdinand I, in 1035.

León was first united with Castile in 1037, but complex dynastic rivalries delayed the permanent union of the two realms, which was achieved under Ferdinand III in 1230. The Castilian kings played a leading role in the fight against the Moors, from whom they wrested New Castile. They also had to struggle against the turbulent nobles and were involved in dynastic disputes that plunged the country into civil war (see Alfonso XAlfonso X
(Alfonso the Wise), 1221–84, Spanish king of Castile and León (1252–84); son and successor of Ferdinand III, whose conquests of the Moors he continued, notably by taking Cádiz (1262).
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). Peter the CruelPeter the Cruel,
1334–69, Spanish king of Castile and León (1350–69), son and successor of Alfonso XI. His desertion of his wife, Blanche of Bourbon, for María Padilla and his favors to the Padilla family aroused the opposition of the nobles and led to
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 limited the vast privileges of the nobles, but they were permanently curbed only late in the 15th cent.

In 1479, after Isabella I had defeated the dynastic claims of Juana la Beltraneja, a personal union of Castile and Aragón was established under Isabella and her husband, Ferdinand IIFerdinand II
or Ferdinand the Catholic,
1452–1516, king of Aragón (1479–1516), king of Castile and León (as Ferdinand V, 1474–1504), king of Sicily (1468–1516), and king of Naples (1504–16).
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 of Aragón. The union was confirmed with the accession (1516) of their grandson, Charles I (later Emperor Charles VCharles V,
1500–1558, Holy Roman emperor (1519–58) and, as Charles I, king of Spain (1516–56); son of Philip I and Joanna of Castile, grandson of Ferdinand II of Aragón, Isabella of Castile, Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, and Mary of Burgundy.
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), to the Spanish kingdoms. Charles suppressed the uprisings of the comuneroscomuneros
, in Spain and Spanish America, citizens of a city or cities when organized to defend their rights against arbitrary encroachment of government. The first great revolt of comuneros in Spain was the uprising (1520–21) of the comunidades
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 in 1520–21.

With the decline of Catalonia and Valencia during that period, Castile became the dominant power in Spain. It was the core of the Spanish monarchy, centralized in Madrid (the capital after the 16th cent.). Its dialect became the standard literary language of Spain, and the character of its people—proud and austere—typifies the Spanish state. Latin America was largely influenced by Castilian culture.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a feudal state in the center of the Iberian Peninsula from the 11th through the 15th century. In 932, Castile became a county in the kingdom of Leon. In 1035 it was declared a kingdom, with Burgos as its capital. In subsequent years Castile was united with Leon several times (1037–65, 1072–1157, and 1230). After its reunification with Leon in 1230, Castile became the most powerful state of the Iberian Peninsula. The capital of the united kingdom was the city of Toledo.

Castile played a leading role in the Reconquista and extendedits territory to the southern coast of the peninsula during the waragainst the Arabs (conquest of Cádiz in 1262). Castile’s victorieswere consolidated by the large-scale population movement fromthe north to the south in the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries. Inorder to induce the peasants to participate in the Reconquista, rural communities were granted the rights of the behetría (freecommunes). The serfs’ personal freedom and right to changefeudal lords was recognized almost universally. The rights andliberties of urban and rural communities were stipulated in fue-ros, or charters. In the mid-13th century, townsmen were repre-sented in the cortes. The attempts of the feudal lords to bind thepeasantry to the land led to several peasant uprisings during the15th century. The dynastic union of Castile and Aragón in 1479marked the beginning of the unification of Spain into a singlestate.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


, Castilla
a former kingdom comprising most of modern Spain: originally part of León, it became an independent kingdom in the 10th century and united with Aragon (1469), the first step in the formation of the Spanish state
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005