The creation of the contemporary Community of Madrid was preceded by an intense political debate during the "pre-autonomic" period; that is, the period of political debate that led to the institution of autonomous communities as the first-level political divisions of Spain consisted of provinces, a political division that had existed since 1833. Autonomous communities were to be created by one or more provinces with a distinct regional identity; since Madrid was part of the historic region of Castile, assigned to New Castile in the 1833 provincial organization, it was first planned that the province of Madrid would be part of future community of Castile-La Mancha (which was roughly similar to New Castile, with the adding of the province of Albacete) but with some special considerations as the seat of government of the State. The integrating provinces of Castile-La Mancha opposed such a special status, and after considering other options—like its inclusion to the community of Castile and León or its constitution as an entity similar to a federal district—it was decided that the province of Madrid would become a single-province autonomous community by appealing to the 144th article of the constitution, whereby the Parliament can authorize the creation of an autonomous community, even if it did not satisfy the requirement of having a distinct historical identity, if it was the "nation's interest". Thus, in 1983, the Community of Madrid was constituted and a Statute of Autonomy was approved taking over all the competences of the old Diputación Provincial and the new ones the Statute considered.
The City of Madrid (Villa de Madrid) was designated as the capital of the community as well as has been explicityl designated as the capital of the country by the 1978 Constitution. Nonetheless, several proposals have been made to make other towns the capital of the community like Alcalá de Henares, in the 1980s, and more recently, Getafe, without any relevance.
The territory of the Community of Madrid has been populated since the Lower Paleolithic, mainly in the valleys between the rivers of Manzanares, Jarama, and Henares, where several archaeological findings have been made. Some notable discoveries of the region the bell-shaped vase of Ciempozuelos (between 1970 and 1470 BCE). During the Roman Empire, the region was part of the Citerior Tarraconese province, except for the south-west portion of it, which belonged to Lusitania. It was crossed by two important Roman roads, the via xxiv-xxix (joining Astorga to laminium and via xxv (which joined Emerita Augusta and Caesaraugusta), and contained some important conurbations. The city of Complutum (today Alcalá de Henares) became an important metropolis, whereas Titulcia and Miaccum were important crossroad communities.
During the period of the Visigothic Kingdom, the region lost its importance. The population was scattered amongst several small towns. Alcalá de Henares was designated the bishopric seat in the 5th century by orders of Asturio, archbishop of Toledo, but this event was not enough to bring back the lost splendor of the city.
The fortress of Mayrit (Madrid) was built somewhere between 860 and 880 AD, as a walled precinct where a military and religious community lived, and which constituted the foundation of the city. It soon became the most strategic fortress in defense of the city of Toledo above the fortresses of Talamanca de Jarama and Qal'-at'-Abd-Al-Salam (Alcalá de Henares). In 1083, king Alfonso IV of Castile conquered the city of Madrid, and two years later, Toledo. Alcalá de Henares fell in 1118 in a new period of Castilian annexation.
The recently conquered lands by the Christian Kingdoms were desegregated into several constituencies, as a consequence of a long process of repopulation that took place over the course of four centuries. The feudal and ecclesiastical lords came into constant conflict with the different councils that had been granted the authority to repopulate.
In the 13th century, Madrid was the only city of the region that preserved its own juridical personality, at first with the Old Fuero (Charter) and later with the Royal Fuero, granted by Alfonso X of Castile in 1262 and ratified by Alfonso XI in 1339. On the other hand, the town of Buitrago de Lozoya, Alcalá de Henares and Talamanca de Jarama, which were rapidly repopulated until that century, were under the dominion of the feudal or ecclesiastical lords. Specifically, Alcalá de Henares was under the hands of the archbishopric of Toledo and remained so until the 19th century.
Around the town of Madrid, an administrative territory was created known as Tiera de Madrid (Land of Madrid), the origin of the province that included the areas of the current municipalities of San Sebastián de los Reyes, Corbeña, Las Rozas de Madrid, Rivas-Vaciamadrid, Torrejón de Velasco, Alcorcón, San Fernando de Henares, and Griñón. This council was in constant strife with Segovia—which was one of the most influent cities of Castile—as they both fought for the control of Real de Manzanares, a large comarca (shire) that was finally given to the House of Mendoza.
The Castilian monarchs showed a predilection for the center of the peninsula, noted by the abundant forests and hunting game. El Pardo was a region visited frequently by the kings, since the times of Henry III, in the 14th century. The Catholic Kings started the construction of the Real de Aranjuez Palace. In the 16th century, San Lorenzo de El Escorial was built and became another royal site of the province.
The town of Madrid, which was one of the eighteen cities with the right to vote in the Courts of Castile, was seat of the Courts themselves on several occasions and was the residence of several monarchs, amongst them the emperor Charles I who reformed and expanded the Alcázar or Castle of the city. Besides its growing political importance, it also became a cultural center with the foundation of the University of Alcalá de Henares on 1508.
In 1561, king Phillip II made Madrid the capital of the empire. As such, the surrounding territories of the town of Madrid became economically subordinated to the town itself, even beyond the current limits of the Community of Madrid. Nonetheless, it was not a unified administrative entity since several jurisdiction of lords and churches existed, some of them controlling vast territories.
During the 18th century, the fragmented administrative situation of the region was not solved despite the several attempts. During the reign of Phillip V, the intendencia was created as a policial and administrative division. Nonetheless, the intendencia of Madrid did not fully solve the problem, and the region was still fragmented into several small dominions even though some processes were centralized. This territorial dispersion had a negative effect on its economic growth; while the town of Madrid received economic resources from the entire country as the capital, the surrounding territories—in hands of noblemen or the clergy—became impoverished.
During the eighteenth century, the town of Madrid was transformed through several grandiose buildings and monuments as well as through the creation of many social, economical, and cultural institution, some of which are still operating. Madrid grew to a population of 156,672 inhabitants by the end of the eighteenth century.
In the 20th century during the process that preceded the creation of the autonomous communities of Spain, a fear of a political inequality amongst the proposed constituent provinces of the community of Castile-La Mancha led to the creation of the autonomous Community of Madrid, which was the last autonomous community of Spain created.
Despite the existence of a large city of 5 million people, the Community of Madrid still retains some remarkably unspoiled and diverse habitats and landscapes. Madrid is home to mountain peaks rising above 2,000m, holm oak dehesas and low lying plains. The slopes of Guadarrama mountain range are cloaked in dense forests of Scots Pine and Pyrenean oak. The Lozoya Valley supports a large black (monk) vulture colony, and one of the last bastions of the Spanish Imperial Eagle in the world is found in the Park Regional del Suroeste in dehesa hills between the Gredos and Guadarrama ranges. The recent possible detection of the existence of Iberian lynx in the area between the Cofio and Alberche rivers is testament to the biodiversity of the area. When looking at a map of the Province of Madrid, it can be seen that it is almost an equilateral triangle, in whose center would be the city. It seems that Madrid's geographic limits turn out to be those of nature: on the western side the "Sistema Central" (the Guadarrama mountain range), the south represents the desire to include (the Royal Site of) Aranjuez, and finally the eastern edge of the triangle comes from the rupture of the fluvial river basins.
Province of Madrid occupies a surface area of approximately 8,028 km² (1.6% of all Spanish territory). More specifically, the exact position of Madrid is 3º 40´ of longitude west of Greenwich, England, and 40º 23´ north of the equator.
Practically all of the Province is located between 600 and 1,000 m above sea level, with the highest point being Peñalara at 2,430 m and the lowest Alberche river in Villa del Prado at 430m. Other considerable heights, as well as being famous, are the Ball of the World mountain (la Bola del Mundo) in Navacerrada, at a height of 2,258m and the seven peaks in Cercedilla, at 2,138m.
The region of Madrid has a temperate Continental Mediterranean climate with cold winters with temperatures that sometimes drop below 0 °C (32 °F). There are about two to three light snowfalls each year. Summer tends to be hot with temperatures that consistently surpass 30 °C (86 °F) in July and that can often reach 40 °C (104 °F). Due to Madrid's high altitude and dry climate, nightly temperatures tend to be cooler, leading to a lower average in the summer months. Average Precipitation levels are below 500mm, evenly distributed throughout the year, with peaks in autumn and spring.
| Maximum |
| Minimum |
In the process whereby democracy was restored in Spain between 1975–1978, the nationalist and regionalist parties pressed to grant home rule to certain territories in Spain. The constitution of 1978 opened a legal way for autonomous communities to be formed from provinces with common historical and cultural links. Even though the province of Madrid belonged to the cultural and historical region of Castile, the other provinces refused to include Madrid in their autonomic developments and, finally, it was granted autonomy as a single-province community by means of the 144th article of the constitution which declared an exception to the aforementioned rule in the creation of autonomous communities if it was the "nation's interest." The Community of Madrid was created in 1982 after the elaboration of a Statute of Autonomy, later approved by the General Courts of Spain.
All autonomous communities are organized politically within a parliamentary system; that is, the executive branch of government—known as "president" in the case of the Community of Madrid—is dependent on the direct support of the legislative power, whose members elect him by majority.
The Statute of Autonomy of the Community of Madrid is the fundamental organic law in conjunction with the Spanish constitution. The Statute of Autonomy establishes that the government of the community is exercised through three institutions:
The service, construction, and industry sectors are prominent in Madrid’s commercial productive structure. According to the Directorio Central de Empresas (Central Companies Directory of the INE), Madrid’s active businesses stand in third place nationally in terms of numbers as at 1 January 2006. The branches of activity with most active businesses are other business activities, retail trade, construction, wholesale trade, hospitality, property activities, land transport, and pipeline transport. Madrid’s levels of industry set it at fourth place in Spain. The following areas predominate in terms of business numbers: publishing and graphic arts, manufacture of metal products (except machinery and equipment), manufacture of furniture and other manufacturing industries, wearing apparel and fur industry, and food product industry. The province also boasts a higher concentration of high and medium technology activities and services than the rest of Spain. This is the case in the following areas: manufacture of office machinery and IT equipment; manufacture of electronic products, manufacture of radio equipment, and devices; manufacture of medical and surgical, precision, optical and timekeeping equipment and instruments; post and telecommunications; IT activities; and research and development.
Madrid, meanwhile, is also the province of Spain with the greatest population density. Its inhabitants are mainly concentrated in the capital (which is the Spanish city with the highest resident population) and in a series of municipalities (Móstoles, Alcalá de Henares, Fuenlabrada, Leganés, Alcorcón, Getafe, Torrejón de Ardoz, and Alcobendas), as opposed to in rural areas with low population density. Its citizens have diverse origins, and Madrid is the province with the highest number of residents born outside its territory and with the largest foreign population (13.32%). It is a focus of attraction for those migrating for reasons of employment. Population growth in Madrid is mainly due to the arrival of foreigners.
Children from three to five years old in Spain have the option of attending the infantil (popularly known as prescolar) or Pre-school stage, which is non-compulsory and free for all students. It is regarded as an integral part of the education system with infantil classes in almost every primary school. There are some separate Colegios Infantiles or nursery schools.
Spanish students aged six to sixteen undergo primary (Colegio) and secondary school (Instituto) education, which are compulsory and free of charge. Successful students are awarded a Secondary Education Certificate, which is necessary for entering further (optional) education as is Bachillerato for their University or Formacion Professional (vocational studies). Once students have finished their Bachillerato, they can take their University Entrance Exam (Pruebas de Acceso a la Universidad, popularly called Selectividad) which differs greatly from region to region.
The secondary stage of education is normally referred to by their initials, eg. ESO or Educación Secundaria Obligatoria for secondary education.
The Complutense University of Madrid is one of the most prestigious, and the largest, university in Spain and one of the oldest universities in the world. It has 10,000 staff members and a student population of 117,000. Nearly all academic staff are Spanish. It is located on two campuses, in the university quarter Ciudad Universitaria at Moncloa in Madrid, and in Somosaguas. The Complutense University of Madrid was founded in Alcala de Henares, old Complutum, by Cardinal Cisneros in 1499. Nevertherless, its real origin dates back from 1293, when King Sancho IV of Castile built the General Schools of Alcalá, which would give rise to Cisnero's Complutense University. During the course of 1509-1510 five schools were already operative: Artes y Filosofía (Arts & Philosophy), Teología (Theology), Derecho Canónico (Canonical Laws), Letras (Liberal Arts) and Medicina (Medicine). In 1836, during the reign of Isabel II, the University was moved to Madrid, where it took the name of Central University and was located at San Bernardo Street. Subsequently, in 1927, a new university area was planned to be built in the district of Moncloa-Aravaca, in lands handed over by the King Alfonso XIII to this purpose. The Spanish Civil War turned the "Ciudad Universitaria" into a war zone, causing the destruction of several schools in the area, as well as the loss of part of its rich scientific, artistic and bibliographic heritage. In 1970 the Government reformed the High Education, and the Central University became the Complutense University of Madrid. It was then when the new campus at Somosaguas was created in order to house the new School of Social Sciences. The old Alcala campus was reopened as the independent University of Alcalá in 1977.
Another important university is the Autonoma, perhaps Spain's best university for research along with Complutense, was instituted under the leadership of the famous physicist, Nicolás Cabrera. The Autonoma is widely recognised for its research strengths in theoretical physics. Known simply as la Autónoma in Madrid, its main site is the Cantoblanco Campus, situated 15 kilometers to the north of the capital (M-607) and close to the municipal areas of Madrid, namely Alcobendas, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Tres Cantos and Colmenar Viejo. Located on the main site are the Rectorate building and the Faculties of Science, Philosophy and Fine Arts, Law, Economic Science and Business Studies, Psychology, Higher School of Computing Science and Engineering, and the Faculty of Teacher Training and Education. The Medical School is located outside the main site and beside the Hospital Universitario La Paz.
Other local universities, among many others, are the Technical University of Madrid, as the result of merging the different Technical Schools of Engineering; the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, founded in 1499; the Carlos III, whose philosophy is to create responsible free-thinking people with a sensitivity to social problems and an involvement in the concept of progress based on freedom, justice and tolerance and the Universidad Pontificia Comillas, involved in a number of academic exchange programmes, work practice schemes and international projects with over 200 Higher Education Institutions in Europe, South America, North America, and Asia.
Other universities in Madrid: Rey Juan Carlos University (public), Universidad Alfonso X, Universidad Antonio de Nebrija, Universidad Camilo José Cela, Universidad Francisco de Vitoria, Universidad Europea de Madrid, and Universidad San Pablo (all of them private).
Madrid is served by Barajas International Airport. Barajas is the main hub of Iberia Airlines and consequently serves as the main gateway to the Iberian peninsula from Europe, America, and the rest of the world. Current passenger volumes range upwards of 52 million passengers per year, putting it in the top 10 busiest airports in the world. Given annual increases close to 10%, a new fourth terminal has been constructed. It has significantly reduced delays and doubled the capacity of the airport to more than 70 million passengers per year. Two additional runways have also been constructed, making Barajas a fully operational four-runway airport.
Spain's railway system, the Red Nacional de Ferrocarriles Españoles (Renfe), operates the vast majority of Spain's railways. In Madrid, the main rail terminals are Atocha in the south and Chamartín in the north.
The crown jewel of Spain's next decade of infrastructure construction is the Spanish high speed rail network, Alta Velocidad Española AVE. Currently, an ambitious plan includes the construction of a 7,000 kilometre (4,350 mi) network, centered on Madrid. The overall goal is to have all important provincial cities be no more than four hours away from Madrid and no more than six hours away from Barcelona. As of 2008, AVE high-speed trains link Atocha station to Seville, Málaga, and Toledo in the south and to Zaragoza, Tarragona, and Barcelona in the east. AVE trains also arrive to Segovia and Valladolid.
Serving the city's population of some six million, the Madrid Metro is one of the most extensive and fastest-growing metro networks in the world. With the addition of a loop serving suburbs to Madrid's south-west "Metrosur," it is now the second largest metro system in Western Europe, second only to London's Underground. In 2007, Madrid's metro system was expanded, and it currently runs over 322 kilometers (200 miles) of line. The province of Madrid is also served by an extensive commuter rail network called Cercanías.