Some Catalanist authors argue that first precedents of Catalan independentism may date back as far as 1640, with the unsuccessful first Catalan Republic after Reaper’s War. An increase in taxes by then King Philip IV to support an ambitious foreign policy was strongly resisted in Catalonia. The peasants were required to lodge and provision Spanish troops fighting in the Thirty Years’ War, which led to an uprising in 1640 called the Corpus de Sang. The revolt was channeled by the Catalonian Generalitat into a political war against Castilian domination, a war for Catalan independence known as the Reapers’ War. The president of the Generalitat, Pau Claris, declared a Catalan Republic under the protection of Louis XIII of France. This allowed French troops to draw that much closer to the heartland of Spain. By 1652, Catalonia was again occupied by Spanish troops; war with France lasted until 1659, when the Peace of the Pyrenees ceded Roussillon, Conflent, Vallespir, Capcir, and the northern half of Cerdanya to France. These remain French territory to this day, and every year on November 7, Catalanists remember this event and demonstrate in Perpignan. The treaty included several points about conserving Catalan institutions, which Louis XIV did not respect. Catalan institutions were abolished one year after the treaty was signed, and a royal decree on April 2, 1700 forbade the use of the Catalan language in any official capacity. French continues to be the only official language in the region.
The War of the Spanish Succession (1705–1714) resulted in the revocation of Catalonia’s traditional autonomy and privileges due to their support of the losing claimant to the throne, Archduke Charles. Afterwards, Spain attempted to crush the Catalans’ sense of identity as a nation in a process that culminated in the Nueva Planta decree (1716), which abolished the Catalan constitutions, established a new territorial and administrative structure, suppressed the Catalan universities and abolished the administrative use of the Catalan language; half a century later, the Catalan language would also be banned from primary and secondary schools.
In the modern sense, the first political parties which started defining themselves as separatists were created between the 1920s and the 1930s in Spanish Catalonia. The main separatist party created at this time was Estat Català and its branch called Bandera Negra, others independentist parties born from Estat Català were: Nosaltres Sols, the Partit Nacionalista Català and the Partit Català Proletari. After the Spanish Civil War, members of Estat Català and Nosaltres Sols founded the Front Nacional de Catalunya which became the main pro-independence party. However, one might argue that modern Catalan independentism was actually born in the 1960s with the Partit Socialista d’Alliberament Nacional (PSAN). Since then, the pro-independence movement has assumed a mostly left-wing political trend and has often shifted its focus from “independence for Catalonia” to “independence for the ‘Catalan Countries’”. By the 1970s, the PSAN split into several factions, and many other groups appeared, including the armed organization Terra Lliure. In the 1980s, the Moviment de Defensa de la Terra (MDT) became the major pro-independence political group but this too became divided by the end of the decade. During the 1990s, existing political parties such as Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya and the linguistic-national initiative Crida a la Solidaritat progressively evolved towards a more pro-independence stance.
Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya is currently the only organization campaigning explicitly for independence represented in the Catalan Parliament. They won 14.06% of the total votes in the last 2006 regional elections. Polls regularly indicate an ambivalent and far from univocal feeling. For example, in 2007 a poll indicated that, when asked about the independence of Catalonia, 51% of the population would be against it, 32% would favour it, while 17% do not have an opinion. In turn, this same poll indicated that, when asked about the meaning of Spain, only 5% identified with the independentist option (“Spain is an alien State of which my country is not a part”).