King's College London
Online Exhibitions
West of Suez: Britain and the Mediterranean, 1704-1967

The history of Gibraltar

In August 1704, under the overall command of Sir George Rooke, an Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar from Spain. This limestone promontory, at the end of an isthmus that joins the Spanish mainland to the north and juts out southwards into the Mediterranean Sea, has remained a British territory since.

The battle for Gibraltar began with the fleet, commanded by Admiral Bynge and situated off the west coast of the peninsula, initiating a fierce bombardment which is described below:

… the cannonade then commenced all along the line, and was kept up with unabated fury for six hours, during which time not less than 15,000 shot were thrown into the town.

Frontispiece showing the Rock of Gibraltar and surrounding seaFrontispiece showing the Rock of GibraltarAt the south end of the territory, a now undefended fort called New Mole was the first point at which sailors came ashore, although many were killed by an explosion of armaments at the fort.

Allied to this, marines who had landed to the north and succeeded in cutting off Gibraltar from the mainland, strengthened their position and the Anglo-Dutch force now had the territory within its grip.

In the aftermath of the invasion, most of the Spanish residents fled the territory believing it would soon be re-captured and no doubt in fear of a hostile foreign invading force.

The strategic location of Gibraltar, as guard to the western gate of the Mediterranean Sea, has seen it play an important role in trade and conflict. This book traces the history of the territory known to the ancients as Mons Calpe, one of the Pillars of Hercules, through its pre-British history, the 1704 battle to capture it and the sieges and battles that followed its acquisition by Britain.

The famous Rock of Gibraltar is shown in the frontispiece reproduced here, viewed from the west.

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