History of the Canary Islands

According to ancient myths the Canary Islands are the remains of the sunken city Atlantis, but this has never been proved. Most probably the Canary Islands are formed after several volcano outbursts approximately 20 million years ago. Since about 2,000 BC the islands are inhabited by the Guanchen. The lived in caves and handmade stone huts. In 1312 the Canary Islands where discovered by Lanzarotus Marocelus. The island Lanzarote is named after him.

  • Drawings carved in stone at Los Letreros de El Julan - El Hierro
  • The white church with tower and bell of Santuario Nuestra Senora de le Virgen - El Hierro
  • Rock carvings ar La Zarza - La Palma
  • View on Castillo de Santa Barbara with two cannons seen from outside the walls - Lanzarote
f.l.t.r.: Los Letreros de El Julan - El Hierro | Santuario Nuestra Senora de le Virgen - El Hierro | La Zarza - La Palma | Castillo de Santa Barbara - Lanzarote .

Spanish and Portugese reign

At the beginning of the 15th century the islands were occupied by the Spanish and Portugese. Spain reigned Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and El Hierro. A tension between the two countries emerged because the both occupied the islands. This tension lead to the treaty of Alcacovas which was signed by both countries in 1479. This treaty states that the Canary Islands belong to Spain and the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde belong to Portugal. After the treaty had been signed Spain conquered the remaining islands of the Canary Islands. The last island that was conquered was La Palma in 1496. During this battle a lot of Guanches died and those who survived where forced to convert to Christianity.

In the centuries following the treaty multiple countries tried to conquer the Canary Islands but they never succeeded. The biggest attack took place in 1599. This attack was organized by the Netherlands which attacked with 74 Dutch ships and 12,000 soldiers under the supervision of Pieter van der Does. After many bloody battles the Netherlands decided to retreat.

The two provinces

As of 1912 all the islands have a regional governance. This lead to tensions between Tenerife and Gran Canaria which eventually lead to the splitting of the Canary Islands in 2 provinces 1927. The first province (Western Province) consists of Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. The second province (Eastern Province) consists of Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.


In 1936 Franco was forced to go to the Canary Islands and in that year he also takes the control of the Canary Islands. This lead to the boycott by many countries. These measurements forced the population of the Canary Islands to emigrate. The situation remained the same until Franco died in 1975.

Self Governance
In 1982 the Canary Islands got a partial self governance. Some parts of governance are still with the Spanish government. A few examples of governance which are still part of the Spanish government are Foreign affairs, Finance and Defense.


Since the growth of tourism on the Canary Islands it’s getting more and more difficult to find a balance between the financial gain of tourism and the preservation of the nature on the islands. This results in many discussions between on one side the population, political parties and environmental organizations and on the opposite side organizations with commercial gain. The main point of discussion is often pollution of the sea and the influence of hotels and tourists on the nature on the islands.