CIUDAD REAL, a province of central Spain, formed in 1833 of districts taken from New Castile, and bounded on the N. by Toledo, E. by Albacete, S. by Jaen and Cordova and W. by Badajoz. Pop. (1900) 321,580; area, 7620 sq. m. The surface of Ciudad Real consists chiefly of a level or slightly undulating plain, with low hills in the north-east and south-west; but along the south-western frontier the Sierra de Alcudia rises in two parallel ridges on either side of the river Alcudia, and is continued in the Sierra Madrona on the east. The river Guadiana drains almost the entire province, which it traverses from east to west; only the southernmost districts being watered by tributaries of the Guadalquivir. Numerous smaller streams flow into the Guadiana, which itself divides near Herencia into two branches,—the northern known as the Giguela, the southern as the Zancara. The eastern division of Ciudad Real forms part of the region known as La Mancha, a flat, thinly-peopled plain, clothed with meagre vegetation which is often ravaged by locusts. La Mancha (q.v.) is sometimes regarded as coextensive with the whole province. Severe drought is common here, although some of the rivers, such as the Jabalon and Azuer, issue fully formed from the chalky soil, and from their very sources give an abundant supply of water to the numerous mills. Towards the west, where the land is higher, there are considerable tracts of forest.
The climate is oppressively hot in summer, and in winter the plains are exposed to violent and bitterly cold winds; while the cultivation of grain, the vine and the olive is further impeded by the want of proper irrigation, and the general barrenness of the soil. Large flocks of sheep and goats find pasture in the plains; and the swine which are kept in the oak and beech forests furnish bacon and hams of excellent quality. Coal is mined chiefly at Puertollano, lead in various districts, mercury at Almadén. There are no great manufacturing towns. The roads are insufficient and ill-kept, especially in the north-east where they form the sole means of communication; and neither the Guadiana nor its tributaries are navigable. The main railway from Madrid to Lisbon passes through the capital, Ciudad Real, and through Puertollano; farther east, the Madrid-Lináres line passes through Manzanares and Valdepeñas. Branch railways also connect the capital with Manzanares, and Valdepeñas with the neighbouring town of La Calzada.
The principal towns, Alcázar de San Juan (11,499), Almadén (7375), Almodóvar del Campo (12,525), Ciudad Real (15,255), Manzanares (11,229) and Valdepeñas (21,015), are described in separate articles. Almagro (7974) and Daimiel (11,825), in the district of La Mancha known as the Campo de Calatrava, belonged in the later middle ages to the knightly Order of Calatrava, which was founded in 1158 to keep the Moors in check. Almagro was long almost exclusively inhabited by monks and knights, and contains several interesting churches and monasteries, besides the castle of the knights, now used as barracks. Almagro is further celebrated for its lace, Daimiel for its medicinal salts. Tomelloso (13,929) is one of the chief market towns of La Mancha. Education is very backward, largely owing to the extreme poverty which has frequently brought the inhabitants to the verge of famine. (See also Castile.)