The autonomous community consists of a single province, unlike most autonomous communities, which have several provinces within the same territory. Because of this, the autonomous community and the province are operated as one unit of government. The city of Murcia is the capital of the region and seat of government organs, except for the parliament, the Regional Assembly of Murcia, which is located in Cartagena. The autonomous community and province is subdivided into municipalities.
The Region of Murcia is bordered by Andalusia (the provinces of Almería and Granada); Castile–La Mancha (the province of Albacete, which was historically connected to Murcia until 1980); the Valencian Community (province of Alicante); and the Mediterranean Sea. The community measures 11,313 km² and has a population of 1.4 million, of whom one-third live in the capital. The highest mountain is Los Obispos (2,015 m).
The region is a major producer of fruits, vegetables, and flowers for the rest of Spain and Europe. Wineries have developed near the towns of Bullas, Yecla, and Jumilla, as well as olive oil near Moratalla. Murcia is mainly a warm region which has made it very suitable for agriculture. However the precipitation level is low and water supply is a hot subject today since, in addition to the traditional water demand for crops, there is now also a demand of water for the booming tourist developments. Water is supplied by the Segura River and, since the 1970s, by the Tajo transvasement, a major civil engineering project which, under some environmental and sustainability restraints, brings water from the Tajo into the Segura.
The Carthaginians established a permanent trading port on the coast at Cartagena, which the Romans called Carthago Nova. For the Carthaginian traders, the mountainous territory was merely the Iberian hinterland of their seacoast empire. During The Roman period Murcia did not exist but its actual borders could have been inside of the province of Hispania Carthaginensis. Under the Moors, who introduced the large-scale irrigation on which Murcian agriculture depends, the province was known as Todmir; it included, according to Idrisi, the 11th century Arab cartographer based in Sicily, the cities of Orihuela, Lorca, Mula and Chinchilla, Spain.
The Kingdom of Murcia became independent as a taifa centered on the Moorish city of Murcia after the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba (11th century). Moorish Taifa of Murcia included Albacete and part of Almería as well. After the battle of Sagrajas in 1086 the Almoravid dynasty swallowed up the taifas and reunited Islamic Spain. Ferdinand III of Castile received the submission of the Moorish king of Murcia in 1243 under the terms of the Treaty of Alcaraz.
In the usual way, the Muslims were evicted from the cities, and Ferdinand's heir Alfonso X of Castile, who benefited from rule over a largely depopulated Murcia, divided the border kingdom in three regions for administrative purposes, entrusted respectively to the concejos de realengo, to the ecclesiastical señores seculares, as a reward for their contributions to the Reconquista and to the Military Orders founded in the 11th century. Alfonso annexed the Taifa of Murcia as King of Murcia and Señorio de Cartagena outright in 1266, and it remained technically a vassal kingdom of Spain until the reforms in the liberal constitution of 1812. Murcia became an autonomous region in 1982.
The Castilian conquest of Murcia was significant because it gave the former access to the Mediterranean for the first time and ended the expansion of the Kingdom of Aragon which had been moving south along the coast.