Menorca is truly integral to the story of Europe
2018-10-01 12:56:20 -


By Michael McGowan


If there really is a treasure island in the world its name must surely be Menorca. I have just returned from that island in the Mediterranean which is a unique resource for the study of history, and is a must-visit for all who are interested in the story of Europe.

Menorca is located in the middle of the western Mediterranean. It is a veritable open-air museum containing so much about the history and culture of the whole of Spain and Europe.

It is the second biggest Balearic island after Mallorca, but it is a small island: only 17km from north to south and 48km from east to west. It is an island in the sun which enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate with mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers, with up to 12 hours of sunshine per day.

The island is especially known for its collection of megalithic stone monuments – navetas, taulas and talaiots – which indicate very early prehistoric human activity.

Taulas, which are unique to Menorca, are dated around 8000 BC and are thought to be connected with places of worship or sacrificial alters. Many are situated just at the side of the road and consist of two huge, rectangular limestone slabs, one vertical and the other placed horizontally across in a T shape.

Navetas dated around 1400 BC are often thought to resemble an inverted boat, while talaiots (1000 BC) are stone structures built from large rocks often in walled settlements and near to taulas and a kind of watch tower.

What is amazing about these prehistoric structures is that they are almost all immediately accessible often just over a wall at the side of the road.

And the more recent history of Menorca is packed with fascinating stories, too. Until 1344, the island was part of the Kingdom of Majorca and various Spanish kings, including Philip III and Philip IV, styled themselves “Kings of Minorca”.

During the Spanish Civil War, Menorca stayed loyal to the republican Spanish government, while the rest of the Balearics supported the nationalists. While it did not see ground combat, the island was a target of aerial bombing.

Following the nationalist victory in the Battle of Minorca in February 1939, the British navy assisted in the peaceful transfer of power in Menorca.

After the death of Franco, Spain returned to democracy and became a member of the EU, and in 1993 Menorca was designated by Unesco as a biosphere reserve.

As for natural history, Menorca is well known for its bird life. The island is on the migration route of many species, and bird watchers from far and wide head for the island which is also rich in wild flowers providing brilliant displays in the spring. There are also many species of butterflies and dragonflies despite the absence of large wetlands.

The common lizard can be seen across the island, besides many wall lizards and two species of gecko.

The location of Menorca, in the middle of the western Mediterranean, and as a staging point for different cultures since prehistoric times, has resulted in the island having a mix of colonial and local architecture.

The fiestas which take place throughout the summer in different towns around the island have their origins in the early 14th century. Visitors can learn in a very short time about the history of the island and of Europe, which will help them to understand the challenges and opportunities of today.

Menorca is a special and manageable resource for the study of the culture and history of Spain, Europe and the wider world. The island’s fascinating history

provides an opportunity to learn about European history and help promote a greater understanding of the story of Europe over the years.


Michael McGowan is a former MEP and president of the Development Committee of the European Parliament.

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