Second largest of the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean; area 689 sq km/266 sq mi; population (2001 est) 75,300. The capital and chief port is Mahón; the other main towns are Ciudadela, Alayor, Mercadal, Ferrerias, and Fornells. Leather goods, costume jewellery, and cheese and dairy products are produced on the island, and tourism is also important. Mahón has the finest and largest natural harbour in the Mediterranean. The inhabitants speak their own dialect of Catalan (Menorquin).
History Highly prized because of its port, the island was occupied by the Carthaginians (who founded Mahón), Romans, Vandals, and Moors. It was occupied by British forces in 1708, during the War of Spanish Succession, and annexed to the British crown in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht. The French occupied the island during the Seven Years' War (1756–63); the British regained control until 1808, when the island reverted to the Spanish crown. The island still has a somewhat British flavour, especially the town of Mahón.
Archaeology The island is rich in prehistoric remains, particularly Bronze Age megalithic monuments, of which there are several hundred. A unique type of such monuments is the taula (consisting of a huge upright slab of stone and another slab laid across the top), which is found nowhere else in the world. Archaeological work continues to uncover further remains and evidence of the island's thriving prehistoric culture.
Ecology Because its coastal ecosystem is unusually well preserved, the whole island was designated a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1993, and in 1995 a large area in the northeast of the island was declared a National Park of Spain, ensuring the protection of a wide variety of fauna and flora, especially bird species.