By way of an introduction to Catalonia. Matthew Tree
In 1833, the Madrid government divided Spain into 49 provinces, in an attempt to centralise the state. Catalonia
itself got four provinces, named after their respective capitals: Tarragona, Lleida, Barcelona and Girona, and the following overview of Catalonia is divided accordingly.
But many Catalans have seen this as an artificial imposition and the Catalan parliament has long been debating about how to replace the provinces with a more rational partitioning of the territory into eight areas, historically known as 'vegueries'. It should also be born in mind that all of Catalonia has long been divided into smaller administrative units, called comarques (pronounced 'coo-markas') which are traditional cantons that grew up in the medieval period around the main market towns. These cantons often vary greatly in both geographical and gastronomic ways, even when they belong to the same province.