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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 León, with Burgos 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 X). Peter the Cruel 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 II of Aragón. The union was confirmed with the accession (1516) of their grandson, Charles I (later Emperor Charles V), to the Spanish kingdoms. Charles suppressed the uprisings of the comuneros 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.
a historic region in Spain, situated primarily in the Meseta. Area, 66,100 sq km; population, 2.2 million (1971). The region includes the provinces of Santander, Palencia, Burgos, Logroño, Valladolid, Soria, Segovia, and Avila. The administrative center is the city of Burgos.
Old Castile is an agricultural and industrial region. There are large landholdings, but land use is minimal. Pulse crops and sugar beets are the region’s principal crops. In 1971, Old Castile produced 18.9 percent of Spain’s wheat, 14.8 percent of the oats, 31.2 percent of the barley, 16.3 percent of the rye, and 31.1 percent of the sugar beets. Grapes are grown and made into wine in the La Rioja region (Logroño Province). More than 3 million head of sheep are raised in Old Castile, accounting for about one-fifth of the national herd; there is also beef and dairy cattle raising.
Deposits of iron and zinc ores, oil, and coal are worked in the region. In 1971 the various sectors of the manufacturing industry had a work force of approximately 110,000: the metallurgy, machine-building, and metalworking industries employed 26,200 persons, the food-processing industry 22,900 persons, and the chemical industry 14,600 persons. Most of the region’s industrial enterprises are located in Santander Province; for example, there are metallurgical plants in the cities of Reinosa and Los Corrales de Buelna, zinc mines in Reocin, shipyards in the city of Santander, and chemical plants in Torrelavega. Valladolid is also an important industrial center, producing aluminum, fertilizers, and about 20 percent of the country’s motor vehicles. In 1971 electrical energy production, provided mainly by steam power plants, totaled 3.5 billion kW-hr. The freight turnover at the seaport of Santander was 3.7 million tons in 1973.
S. V. ODESSER