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Minorca (Menorca both in Catalan and Spanish and increasingly in English usage; from Latin insula minor, later Minorica "minor island") is one of the Balearic Islands (Illes Balears Catalan official name, Islas Baleares in Spanish), located in the Mediterranean Sea, and belonging to Spain. It takes its name from being smaller than nearby island of Majorca. The island has a population of approximately 82,000.
The local dialect of Catalan is called Menorquí: Gramatical differences with standard Catalan are minimal, and differences exist mostly only in pronunciation. A remarkable difference is the use of the article "the", where Menorquí uses "es" for masculine and "sa" for feminine instead of Catalan "el" and "la", a form which was historically used in the north of the province of Girona, in Catalonia, from where the islands were repopulated after being taken from the Moors. It also has some English loan words dating back to the British occupation such as "grevi" and "xumaquer", taken from "gravy" and "shoemaker", respectively.
Minorca was annexed to the Caliphate of Córdoba in 903. The island was conquered by Alfonso III of Aragon on January 17, 1287, Minorca's national day, and until 1344 was part of the Kingdom of Majorca, before being annexed to Aragon and thus becoming later part of Spain. During the 16th century, Turkish naval attacks destroyed Mahon and the then capital Ciutadella.
Captured by the British navy in 1708 during the War of the Spanish Succession, it became for some 70 years a British dependency (and Mahon harbour a Mediterranean naval base) in the 18th century. The capital was moved to Mahon. The British influence can be seen in local architecture with elements such as sash windows.
During the Seven Years' War, the failure of a British naval squadron to relieve a French siege of Minorca on May 20, 1756 led to the later court-martialling and execution of Admiral John Byng. This naval engagement, the Battle of Minorca, represented the outbreak of the Seven Years' War in the European theatre.
The British garrison at Mahon continued its defense, but was forced to capitulate under honourable terms on June 29, and the garrison was allowed passage to return to England. It was later restored to British control at the end of the war by the Treaty of Paris (1763), Britain and her allies having for the large part prevailed.
During the American Revolutionary War, Spanish and French forces defeated British forces and captured the island on February 5, 1782, but it was recovered by the British in 1798 during the French Revolutionary Wars. It was finally and permanently ceded to Spain by the Treaty of Amiens in 1802; one story is that Nelson preferred to hold a base at Malta so as to be closer to Emma Hamilton in Naples.
In the Spanish Civil War, Minorca stayed loyal to the Republican Spanish goverment, while the rest of the Balearic Islands supported the Nationalists' coup. It did not see combat, although it was bombed, and many minorcans were killed in a failed invasion of Mallorca. When the Nationalists won in 1939, the British navy assisted a peaceful transfer of power in Minorca and the evacuation of some political refugees.
In July 2005, the island's application to become the twenty-fifth member of the International Island Games Association was approved.
Famous megalithic stone monuments: navetes, taulas, and talaiots.
Sobrassada (typical sausage with paprika), gin (strong liquor, a vestige of the British period), Maó cheese (original cheese of the island).
The major towns are Ciutadella and Maó. The island is administratively divided into these
* Es Castell (Spanish Villacarlos) Founded by the British and originally named as Georgetown.
* Ciutadella (Spanish Ciudadela) (Catalán Ciutadella, previously the capital of Minorca
* Fornells Famous for its lobster soup
* Mahon, the capital of Minorca and the city from which mayonnaise gets its name (Catalán Maó or Mahó, Spanish Mahón), became the capital thanks to its deep-water harbour
* Es Mercadal
* Es Migjorn Gran or Es Mitjorn Gran (Spanish Sant Cristóbal) hometown of Joan Riudavetsand the newest municipality.
* Sant Lluís Founded by the French