I make no apology for cutting and pasting this entire section straight from wonderful Wikipedia ! I could not improve on this, so what is the point in trying? The links are still live to Wikipedia so if you click them you will need to hit the back button to return.
Though conquered by the Romans under Augustus and by the Visigoths in the 5th century AD, the territories along Spain's northern coast were never part of Islamic Spain, due to their mountainous landscape. Rather, with the beginning of the Moorish conquest in the 8th century, this region became a refuge for Christian nobles, and beginning with the founding of the Regnum Asturorum (Kingdom of Asturias), it became the site of the incipient Reconquista (Reconquest). For this reason, since the 14th century the heir to the Spanish throne has automatically taken the title Prince of Asturias, much as the heir to the British throne is the Prince of Wales and Duke of Cornwall and the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland.
After the fading of the Kingdom of Asturias, this historic land survived as a marginal territory in the north of Spain, although it provided the Spanish court with high-ranking aristocrats and played an important role in the colonisation of the Americas.
During the 18th century, Asturias was one of the centres of the Spanish Enlightenment. The renowned thinker Benito de Feijoo settled in the Benedictine Monastery of San Vicente, Oviedo. Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, a polymath and prominent reformer and politician of the late 18th century, was born in the seaside town of Gijón.
The Industrial Revolution came to Asturias with the discovery and systematic exploitation of coal and iron resources. At the same time there was significant migration to the Americas; those who succeeded overseas often returned to their native land much wealthier. These entrepreneurs were known collectively as 'Indianos', for having visited and made their fortunes in the West Indies and beyond. The heritage of these wealthy families can still be seen in Asturias today: many large 'modernista' villas are dotted across the region, as well as cultural institutions such as free schools and public libraries.
Like all Spain, Asturias played its part in the events that led up to and including the Spanish Civil War. In 1934, the left-wing workers' movement fought the right-wing government of the Second Spanish Republic in the so-called 'Revolution of Asturias'. Troops under the command of Francisco Franco were brought from the North African colonies to put down the rebellion and a ferocious oppression followed. As a result, Asturias remained loyal to the democratic republican government during the war, and was the scene of an extraordinary defence in extreme terrain, the Battle of El Mazuco. With Franco eventually gaining control of all Spain, Asturias traditionally linked to the Spanish crown was known merely as the 'Province of Oviedo' from 1936 until Franco's death in 1975. The province's name was restored fully after the return of democracy to Spain, in 1977.
In 1982 Asturias became an Autonomous Community within the decentralized territorial structure established by the Constitution of 1978. The Asturian regional government holds comprehensive competencies in important areas such as health, education and protection of the environment. Since 1999 the President of the Government of Asturias has been Vicente Álvarez Areces, of the Spanish Socialist Worker's Party (PSOE).