There is evidence that as long ago as 1000 B.C. there were thriving trade relations between the peoples of this region and Phoenicia. This early civilization is the "Tarshish" of the Old Testament (called Tartessos by the Greeks), and it may well date back to the time of the Minoans, or even earlier. Its earliest peoples were of Celtiberian stock and may have come from the east. As long ago as the fourth or fifth millennium, Aegean ships began to arrive at Almería, seeking to trade for Andalusia's rich copper resources. While it is unclear whether the trade in copper and other Andalusian minerals stimulated the development of Tartessan civilization or whether Sociopolitical organization predated the trade, by the middle of the third millennium or the start of the second, a loose confederation of tribes existed. After the Aegeans came the Phoenicians, who established a trading post at what is now Cadiz by 1100 B.C. The Phoenicians and their colonists (especially the Carthaginians) held sway in the region until the coming of the Romans in 206 B.C. Along with their trade and language, they brought many other eastern Mediterranean peoples to the region. Of singular importance to the region's developing economy and culture were the Jewish wine and olive growers and traders who established colonies of their own. These Sephardic Jews flourished in Andalusia throughout the times of Phoenician, Roman, and Muslim rule.
By the time of the Roman conquest, Andalusia was the home of great ethnic diversity, being comprised of Africans, Jews, Phoenicians, and Greeks, as well as descendants of the indigenous Celtiberian peoples. Roman rule did not diminish this diversity but simply provided an integrative political and economic framework within which it could function. The Muslims conquered these Roman territories of southern Spain in the early eighth century A.D. Much of the population converted to Islam under the Moors, but there was tolerance on the part of the new rulers, so conversion was not forced. Thus the Sephardic enclaves remained vital participants in the region's economy and formed the essential core of its trade, crafts, and merchant classes. Moorish occupation in Andalusia, which lasted until nearly the end of the fifteenth century, had the positive effect of sparing Andalusia from the "Dark Ages" of the rest of Europe, for Andalusia participated in the Islamic high culture of the time and became a center for advances in philosophy, theology, the sciences, medicine, and the arts. It was not until the expansion of Castilian-based Christianity into the region, which began in the 1100s but was not fully successful until the late 1500s, that the rich and vibrant culture of Andalusia was cut off from its eastern sources. The persecutions, forced conversions, and suppression of all things Moorish that ensued in the course of this Castilian-based crusade resulted in the destruction of much of this culture. In addition, with the expulsion of the Jews, Moors, and moriscos (Jewish converts to Islam) and the confiscation of much of their property and wealth, an economic decline of the region began that has persisted to this day. At some time in the late 1400s, Gypsies arrived in the region. Although found throughout Europe, the Gypsies became more settled and assimilated in Andalusia than they did elsewhere in the world, a fact that enabled them to influence the Development of Andalusian cultural forms, particularly music.
Whereas northern Spain looked to Europe for its cultural influences, Andalusia retained its strongly Mediterranean flavor. This development was perhaps partly the result of the concentration of the new Spanish nobility in Castile and their general unwillingness to settle in a region like Andalusia, so far from the attractions of the royal court. Andalusia itself was thus left free to develop its own cultural style, elaborating upon the diverse traditions of its long history and preserving, with modifications, elements of all of them. The fact that Spain as a whole remained outside the early industrialization and drive toward "progress" that gripped Europe during the Industrial Revolution, using the wealth it derived from its overseas colonies for consumption rather than for investment and modernization, has been cited as the cause of the nation's "stagnation." Indeed, Andalusia has become impoverished because of its reliance until well into the twentieth century upon ancient agricultural techniques and a weak industrial base. Yet this "stagnation" also provided an environment in which Andalusian culture was able to elaborate upon its unique cultural traditions, so that today it retains a distinctive flavor. The region's "backwardness" was encouraged, even enforced, by the Franco regime—as well as by the entire country's isolation from the United States and the rest of Western Europe during the postwar years, owing to the Allies' disdain for Franco's fascism. With Franco's death and the end of the fascist regime in the 1970s, and especially with Spain's entry into the European Economic Community, Economic development has begun to make inroads in the region with the introduction of modern agricultural technology and a move—however halting and small-scale—to establish industry in the region. The 1980s brought to all of Spain a new constitution, which, among other things, sought to accomplish the decentralization of power from Castile to a series of autonomous communities. Andalusia achieved autonomous status by the middle of the decade. Retaining ties to the larger
Spanish polity, Andalusia is now able to make social and Economic development decisions for itself.