Name of Portugal

The history of Portugal, a European and an Atlantic nation, dates back to the Early Middle Ages. In the 15th and 16th centuries, it ascended to the status of a world power during Europe's "Age of Discovery" as it built up a vast empire including possessions in South America, Africa, Asia and Australasia (Oceania). Over the following two centuries, Portugal kept most of its colonies but gradually lost much of its wealth and status as the Dutch, English and French took an increasing share of the spice and slave trades (the economic basis of its empire), by surrounding or conquering the widely scattered Portuguese trading posts and territories, leaving it with ever fewer resources to defend its overseas interests.

Signs of military decline began with two disastrous battles: the Battle of Alcácer Quibir in Morocco in 1578 and Spain's abortive attempt to conquer England in 1588 - Portugal was then in a dynastic union with Spain, and contributed ships to the Spanish invasion fleet. The country was further weakened by the destruction of much of its capital city in a 1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars and the loss of its largest colony, Brazil, in 1822. From the middle of the 19th century to the late 1950s, nearly two-million Portuguese left Europe to live in Brazil and the United States (U.S.).[1]

In 1910, there was a revolution that deposed the monarchy. Amid corruption, repression of the church, and the near bankruptcy of the state, a military coup in 1926 installed a dictatorship that remained until another coup in 1974. The new government instituted sweeping democratic reforms and granted independence to all of Portugal's African colonies in 1975.

Portugal is a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). It entered the European Community (now the European Union) in 1986.


Portugal's name derives from the Roman name Portus Cale. Cale was the name of an early settlement located at the mouth of the Douro River, which flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the north of what is now Portugal. Around 200 BC, the Romans took the Iberian Peninsula from the Carthaginians during the Second Punic War, and in the process conquered Cale and renamed it Portus Cale (Port of Cale). During the Middle Ages, the region around Portus Cale became known by the Suevi and Visigoths as Portucale.

The name Portucale evolved into Portugale during the 7th and 8th centuries, and by the 9th century, that term was used extensively to refer to the region between the rivers Douro and Minho, the Minho flowing along what would become the northern border between Portugal and Spain. By the 11th and 12th century, Portugale was already referred to as Portugal.

The etymology of the name Cale is mysterious, as is the identity of the town's founders. Some historians have argued that Greeks were the first to settle Cale and that the name derives from the Greek word kallis (καλλις), 'beautiful', referring to the beauty of the Douro valley. Still others have claimed that Cale originated in the language of the Gallaeci people indigenous to the surrounding region (see below). Others argue that Cale[2] is a Celtic name like many others found in the region. The word cale or cala, would mean 'port', an 'inlet' or 'harbour,' and implied the existence of an older Celtic harbour.[3] Others argue it is the stem of Gallaecia. Another theory claims it derives from Caladunum.[4]

In any case, the Portu part of the name Portucale became Porto, the modern name for the city located on the site of the ancient city of Cale at the mouth of the Douro River. And Port became the name in English of the wine from the Douro Valley region around Porto. The name Cale is today reflected in Gaia (Vila Nova de Gaia), a city on the left bank of the river.

Early history


Main article: Prehistoric Portugal

The region of present-day Portugal was inhabited by Neanderthals and then by Homo sapiens, who roamed the border-less region of the northern Iberian peninsula.[5]

Early in the first millennium BC, several waves of Celts invaded Portugal from central Europe and inter-married with the local populations, forming different ethnic groups, with many tribes. In the southern part the country, some small, semi-permanent commercial coastal settlements were also founded by Phoenicians-Carthaginians.

Ancient history

Main article: Ancient Portugal

Numerous pre-Roman peoples of the Iberian Peninsula inhabited the territory when the Roman invasion occurred in the 3rd century BC. The Romanization of Hispania took several centuries, and the provinces that covered today's Portugal were Lusitania in the south and Gallaecia in the north.

Numerous Roman sites are scattered around present-day Portugal, some urban remains are quite large, like Conimbriga and Mirobriga. Several works of engineering, such as baths, temples, bridges, roads, circus, theatres and layman's homes are preserved throughout the country. Coins, some of which coined in Portuguese land, sarcophagus and ceramics are numerous.

Following the fall of Rome, the Suebic Kingdom of Galicia and the Visigothic Kingdom controlled the territory between the 5th and 7th centuries.


Romanization began with the Roman arrival to the Iberian Peninsula, in 218 BCE, during the Second Punic War against Carthage. The Romans sought to conquer Lusitania, accounting for much of modern day Portugal, south of the Douro river and Spanish Estremadura, with its capital at Emerita Augusta (Mérida).[6]

Mining was the primary determinant interest in the region: one of the strategic objectives of Rome was to cut the connection of Carthage with the Iberian copper mines, tin, gold and silver. The Romans, able so, intensely exploited the Aljustrel mines (Vipasca) and Santo Domingo, in the Iberian Pyrite Belt that extends to Seville.[7]

While the South was relatively easily occupied by the Romans, the engagement with the north was hardly attained, due to the resistance of the Celts, the Lusitanians, led by Viriathus from Serra da Estrela, whereof he managed to antagonize Roman expansion for years.[6] Viriathus, as an expert in guerrilla tactics, waged a relentless war against the Romans, defeating several and successive Roman generals, until he was killed in 140 BCE to treason.[6]

The conquest of the Iberian peninsula was full two centuries after the arrival, when the Romans defeated the Cantabrian wars in the time of Emperor Augustus (19 BCE). In 74 CE Vespasian granted the Latin right to most municipalities of Lusitania. In 212 CE, the Constitutio Antoniniana gave Roman citizenship to all subjects (free) empire and, at the end of the century, the emperor Diocletian founded Galicia, which included current modern day northern Portugal.[6]

Apart from mining, the Romans developed

The Romans founded numerous cities, such as Olisipo (in Lisbon), Bracara Augusta (in Braga), Aeminium (in Coimbra), Pax Julia (in Beja),[9] and left an important cultural legacy in what is now Portugal: Vulgar Latin became the dominant language of the region, the basis of Portuguese and from the third century Christianity spread throughout Lusitania.

The Germanic Invasion

In 409, with the decline of the Roman Empire, the Iberian Peninsula was occupied by the Germanic tribes, called by the Romans, Barbarians.[10] In 411, with a federation contract with Emperor Honorius, many of these people settled in Hispania, namely the Suevi and Vandals in Galicia where they founded the Swabian Kingdom with its capital in Braga, coming to dominate Aeminium (Coimbra), as well, and the Visigoths southwards.[11] Both the Suevi and the Visigoths were those who had a more lasting presence in the territory corresponding to Portugal. As elsewhere in Western Europe cities suffered a sharp decline, of urban life both in the economy and as to ruralization.[12]

With these Germanic invasions, Roman institutions disappeared, with the exception of the ecclesiastical organization, which was fostered by the Swabians in the fifth century and adopted by the Visigoths, afterwards. Although the Suevi and Visigoths were initially followers of Arianism and Priscilianism, they assumed Catholicism after the locals, evangelized and influenced by St Martin of Braga.[11]

Yet, in 429, the Visigoths moved south to expel the Alans and Vandals, and founded a kingdom with its capital in Toledo. As of 470 the conflicts between the Suevi and Visigoths increased. In 585 the Visigothic King Leovigildo conquered Braga and annexed Galicia. From there the Iberian peninsula was unified under the Visigothic kingdom.[11]

With the Visigoths settled in the newly formed kingdom, a new class was born unknown previously in Roman Times, Nobility.

It was Nobility that played a huge role during the Middle Ages. It was also with the Visigoths that the Church began to play a very important part within the state. Since the Visigoths didn't know Latin, from the locals, they had to rely on the bishops to continue the Roman system of governance. The laws established during the Visigothic monarchy, were thus, made in councils by bishops, and the Clergy started to emerge as a high-ranking class.

Both elements, Clergy and Nobility had a fundamental role in medieval society, which appeared respectively, during the Romanization of Lusitania, followed by the Visigothic Kingdom.[13]

Islamic rule and the Reconquista (711–1249)

Landing near Algeciras in the spring of 711, the Muslim Moors (mainly Berbers with some Arabs) from North Africa invaded the Iberian peninsula,[14] destroying the Visigothic kingdom. Many of the ousted Gothic nobles took refuge in the unconquered north Asturian highlands. From there they aimed to reconquer their lands from the Moors: this war of reconquest is known in Portuguese (and Spanish) as the Reconquista.

Today, and unlike former historical views of the region, it is generally accepted that the land between the Minho and Douro rivers had maintained a significant share of its populations, between the 8th and the third quarter of the 9th century in a social and political area where there was no acting state powers. This modern and established view, distinct from traditionalist views on the period, derive from the use of modern archaeology and early works by Alberto Sampaio (1979 [1903]) As Vilas do Norte de Portugal (The Villas of Northern Portugal), Pierre David (1947), and Avelino de Jesus da Costa (1959 [1997]) and centered around the Northwestern Iberian Peninsula and the ancient diocese of Braga. Some of the most important sources for medievalists, the Liber Fidei Sanctae Bracarensis Ecclesiae and Inter Lima et Ave (Between the Lima and Ave Rivers, often known as "Bishop Pedro's Censual") are some of the most unique documents of the genre in Western Europe before the 13th century.[15]

At the end of the ninth century, the region appeared as part of the Galician-Asturian, Leonese and Portuguese systematic power structures. As in 868, Count Vímara Peres governed the region between the rivers Minho and Douro as a county (government) of the Kingdom of León, the region became known as Portucale, Portugale, and simultaneously Portugalia — the County of Portugal.[16] Concerning the arts and architecture, the Suebi-Visigothic sculptures showed a natural continuity with the Roman period. With the Reconquista, new artistic trends took hold, the Galician-Asturian influences are more visible than the Leonese. And the Portuguese group became characterized by a general return to classicism, with Mozarabe influences. In this process the county courts of Viseu and Coimbra had the most important role. The Mozarabic architecture was found in the south, in Lisbon or Coimbra, while in the Christian realms, the Galician-Portuguese architecture, along with Asturian, prevailed.[15]

As a vassal of the Kingdom of León, Portugal occasionally gained de facto independence during weak Leonese reigns. Portugal appeared as a kingdom (as the Kingdom of Galicia and Portugal) in 1065 under the rule of Garcia of Galicia and Portugal. Because of feudal power struggles, Portuguese and Galician nobles rebelled. In 1072, the country rejoined León under Garcia II's brother Alfonso VI of León.

In 1095, Portugal broke away from the Kingdom of Galicia. Its territories consisting largely of mountain, moorland and forest were bounded on the north by the Minho, on the south by the Mondego River.


At the end of the 11th century, the Burgundian knight Henry became count of Portugal and defended his independence, merging the County of Portucale and the County of Coimbra. Henry declared independence for Portugal while a civil war raged between León and Castile.

Henry died without achieving his aims. His son, Afonso Henriques, took control of the county. The city of Braga, the unofficial Catholic centre of the Iberian Peninsula, faced new competition from other regions. Lords of the cities of Coimbra and Porto (then Portucale) with Braga's clergy demanded the independence of the renewed county.

Portugal traces its national origin to 24 June 1128, with the Battle of São Mamede. Afonso proclaimed himself first Prince of Portugal and in 1139 the first King of Portugal. By 1143, with the assistance of a representative of the Holy See at the conference of Zamora, Portugal was formally recognized as independent, with the prince recognized as Dux Portucalensis. In 1179 Afonso I was declared, by the Pope, as king. After the Battle of São Mamede, the first capital of Portugal was Guimarães from which the first king ruled. Later, when Portugal was already officially independent, he ruled from Coimbra.

Affirmation of Portugal

From 1249 to 1250 the Algarve, the southernmost region, was finally re-conquered by Portugal from the Moors. In 1255 the capital shifted to Lisbon.[17] Neighboring Spain would not complete their Reconquista until 1492 almost 250 years later.[18]

Portugal's land-based boundaries have been notably stable in history. The border with Spain has remained almost unchanged since the 13th century. The Treaty of Windsor (1386) created an alliance between Portugal and England that remains in effect to this day. Since early times, fishing and overseas commerce have been the main economic activities. Henry the Navigator's interest in exploration together with some technological developments in navigation made Portugal's expansion possible and led to great advances in geographic, mathematical, scientific knowledge and technology, more specifically naval technology.

Naval exploration and Portuguese Empire (15th-16th centuries)

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal was a leading European power, ranking with England, France and Spain in terms of economic, political, and cultural influence. Though not predominant in European affairs, Portugal did have an extensive colonial trading empire throughout the world backed by a powerful thalassocracy.

July 25, 1415, marked the beginning of the Portuguese Empire, when the Portuguese Armada departed to the rich trade Islamic center of Ceuta in North Africa with King John I and his wife Phillipa of Lancaster and their sons Prince Duarte (future king), Prince Pedro, Prince Henry the Navigator (born in Porto in 1394) and Prince Afonso, and legendary Portuguese hero Nuno Álvares Pereira.[19] On August 21, 1415, Ceuta, the city on the coast of North Africa directly across from Gibraltar, was conquered by Portugal, and the long-lived Portuguese Empire was founded.[20]

The conquest of Ceuta had been helped by the fact that a major civil war had been engaging the Muslims of the Magrib (North Africa) since 1411.[21] This same civil war between the Muslims prevented a re-capture of Ceuta from the Portuguese, when Muhammad IX, the Left-Handed King of Granada, laid siege to Ceuta and attempted to coordinate the forces in Morocco and attempted to get aid and assistance for the effort from Tunis.[22] The Muslim attempt to retake Ceuta was ultimately unsuccessful and Ceuta remained the first part of the new Portuguese Empire.[21] However, further steps were taken that would soon expand the Portuguese Empire.

In 1418 two of the captains of Prince Henry the Navigator, João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, were driven by a storm to an island which they called Porto Santo ("Holy Port") in gratitude for their rescue from the shipwreck. In 1419, João Gonçalves Zarco disembarked on Madeira Island. Uninhabited Madeira Island was colonized by the Portuguese in 1420.[22]

Between 1427 and 1431, most of the Azorean islands were discovered and these uninhabited islands were colonized by the Portuguese in 1445. A Portuguese expedition may have attempted to colonize the Canary Islands as early as 1336, but Castile objected to any claim by the Portuguese to the Canary Islands. Castile began its conquest of the Canaries in 1402. Castile expelled the last Portuguese from the Canary islands 1459. The Canary Islands would eventually be part of the Spanish Empire.[23]

In 1434, Gil Eanes turned the Cape Bojador, south of Morocco. The trip marked the beginning of the Portuguese exploration of Africa. Before the turn, very little information was known in Europe about what lay around the cape. At the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th, those who tried to venture there became lost, which gave birth to legends of sea monsters. Some setbacks occurred: in 1436 the Canaries were officially recognized as Castilian by the Pope; earlier they were recognized as Portuguese. Also, in 1438 in a military expedition to Tangier, the Portuguese were defeated.

However, the Portuguese did not give up their exploratory efforts. In 1448, on a small island known as Arguim off the coast of Mauritania, an important castle was built, working as a feitoria, a trading post, for commerce with inland Africa. Some years before the first African gold was brought to Portugal, circumventing the Arab caravans that crossed the Sahara. Some time later, the caravels explored the Gulf of Guinea which lead to the discovery of several uninhabited islands: Cape Verde, Fernão Póo, São Tomé, Príncipe and Annobón.[24]

On November 13, 1460, Prince Henry the Navigator died.[25] He had been the leading patron of all maritime exploration by Portugal up to that time. Immediately following Henry's death, there was a lapse of further exploration. Henry's patronage of explorations had shown that profits could be made in trade which followed the exploration of new lands. Accordingly when exploration was commenced again private merchants led the way in attempting to stretch trade routes further down the African coast.[21]

In 1470s, Portuguese trading ships reached the Gold Coast.[21] In 1471, the Portuguese captured Tangier, after years of attempts. Eleven years later in 1482, the fortress of São Jorge da Mina in the town of Elmina on the Gold Coast in the Gulf of Guinea was built. (Setting sail aboard the fleet of ships taking the materials and building crews to Elmina on this trip in December 1481 was Christopher Columbus.) In 1483, Diogo Cão reached and explored the Congo River.

The New World

In 1484, Portugal officially rejected Christopher Columbus's idea of reaching India from the west, because it was seen as unreasonable. Some historians have claimed that the Portuguese had already performed fairly accurate calculations concerning the size of the world and therefore knew that sailing west to reach the Indies would require a far longer journey than navigating to the east. However, this continues to be debated. Thus began a long-lasting dispute which eventually resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Tordesillas with Spain in 1494. The treaty divided the (largely undiscovered) world equally between the Spanish and the Portuguese, along a north-south meridian line 370 leagues (1770 km/1100 miles) west of the Cape Verde islands, with all lands to the east belonging to Portugal and all lands to the west to Spain.

A remarkable achievement was the turning of the Cape of Good Hope by Bartolomeu Dias in 1487.[26] The richness of India was now accessible. Indeed the name of the cape stems from this promise of rich trade with the east. In 1489, the King of Bemobi gave his realms to the Portuguese king and became Christian. Between 1491 and 1494, Pêro de Barcelos and João Fernandes Lavrador explored North America. At the same time, Pêro da Covilhã reached Ethiopia by land. Vasco da Gama sailed for India, and arrived at Calicut on 20 May 1498, returning in glory to Portugal the next year.[27] The Monastery of Jerónimos was built, dedicated to the discovery of the route to India.

In the spring of 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral set sail from Cape Verde with 13 ships and crews and a list of nobles that included Nicolau Coelho, Bartolomeu Dias and his brother Diogo, Duarte Pacheco Pereira (author of the Esmeraldo) along with various other nobles, nine chaplains and some 1,200 men.[28] From Cape Verde they sailed southwest across the Atlantic. On April 22, 1500, they caught sight of land in the distance.[29] They disembarked and claimed this new land for Portugal. This was the coast of what would later become the Portuguese colony of Brazil.[29]

However, the real goal of the expedition was to open sea trade to the empires of the east. Trade with the east had effectively been cut off since the Conquest of Constantinople in 1453. Accordingly, Cabral turned from exploring the coasts of the new land of Brazil and sailed to the southeast back across the Atlantic and around the Cape of Good Hope. Cabral reached Sofala on the east coast of Africa in July 1500.[29] Later in 1505, a Portuguese fort would be established here and the land around the fort would become the Portuguese colony of Mozambique.[30]

Then they sailed on to the east and landed in Calicut in India in September 1500.[31] Here they traded for pepper and, more significantly opened European sea trade with the empires of the east. No longer would the Muslim Ottoman occupation of Constantinople form a barrier between Europe and the east. Ten years later in 1510, Afonso de Albuquerque after attempting and failing to capture and occupy Zamorin's Calicut militarily, conquered Goa on the west coast of India.[32]

João da Nova discovered Ascension in 1501 and Saint Helena in 1502; Tristão da Cunha was the first to sight the archipelago still known by his name 1506. In 1505, Francisco de Almeida was engaged to improve the Portuguese trade with the far east. Accordingly, he sailed to East Africa. Several small Islamic states along the coast of Mozambique, Kilwa, Brava and Mombasa were destroyed or became subjects or allies of Portugal.[33] Almeida then sailed on to Cochin, made peace with the ruler and built a stone fort there.[29]

Portuguese Empire

The two million Portuguese people ruled a vast empire with many millions of inhabitants in the Americas, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. From 1514, the Portuguese had reached China and Japan. In the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, one of Cabral's ships discovered Madagascar (1501), which was partly explored by Tristão da Cunha (1507); Mauritius was discovered in 1507, Socotra occupied in 1506, and in the same year Lourenço de Almeida visited Ceylon.

In the Red Sea, Massawa was the most northerly point frequented by the Portuguese until 1541, when a fleet under Estevão da Gama penetrated as far as Suez. Hormuz, in the Persian Gulf, was seized by Afonso de Albuquerque in 1515, who also entered into diplomatic relations with Persia. In 1521, a force under Antonio Correia conquered Bahrain ushering in a period of almost 80 years of Portuguese rule of the Persian Gulf archipelago[34] (for further information see History of Bahrain#Portuguese rule).

On the Asiatic mainland the first trading stations were established by Pedro Álvares Cabral at Cochin and Calicut (1501); more important were the conquests of Goa (1510) and Malacca (1511) by Afonso de Albuquerque, and the acquisition of Diu (1535) by Martim Afonso de Sousa. East of Malacca Albuquerque sent Duarte Fernandes as envoy to Siam (now Thailand) in 1511, and dispatched to the Moluccas two expeditions (1512, 1514), which founded the Portuguese dominion in Maritime Southeast Asia.[35]

The Portuguese established their base in the Spice Islands on the island of Ambon.[36] Fernão Pires de Andrade visited Canton in 1517 and opened up trade with China, where in 1557 the Portuguese were permitted to occupy Macau. Japan, accidentally reached by three Portuguese traders in 1542, soon attracted large numbers of merchants and missionaries. In 1522 one of the ships in the expedition that Ferdinand Magellan organized in the Spanish service completed the first voyage around the world.

By the end of the 15th century, Portugal expelled some local Jews, along with those refugees that came from Castile and Aragon after 1492. In addition, many Jews were forcibly converted to Catholicism and remained as Conversos. Many Jews remained secretly Jewish, in danger of persecution by the Portuguese Inquisition. In 1506, 3,000 "New Christians" were massacred in Lisbon.[37]

1580 crisis, Iberian Union and decline of the Empire

On August 4, 1578, while fighting in Morocco, young King Sebastian died in battle without an heir and his body was not found.[38] His death lead to a dynastic crisis. The late king's elderly granduncle, Cardinal Henry, became king.[39] Henry I died a mere two years later on January 31, 1580.[40] Portugal was worried about the maintenance of its independence and sought help to find a new king.

Philip II of Spain was on his mother's side the grandson of King Manuel I, and on that basis claimed the Portuguese throne. He was opposed by António, Prior of Crato, the illegitimate son of one of the younger sons of Manuel I. As a result, following Henry's death Spain invaded Portugal and the Spanish king became Philip I of Portugal in 1580. The Spanish and Portuguese Empires came under a single rule.

This did not, however, end resistance to Spanish rule. The Prior of Crato held out in the Azores until 1583, and continued to actively seek to recover the throne until his death in 1595. Impostors claimed to be King Sebastian in 1584, 1585, 1595 and 1598. "Sebastianism", the myth that the young king will return to Portugal on a foggy day, has prevailed until modern times.

After the 16th century, Portugal gradually saw its wealth decreasing. Portugal was officially an autonomous state, but, in actuality, the country was under the rule of the Spanish from 1580 to 1640.[41] The Consejo de Portugal independent inasmuch as it was one of the key administrative units used by the Castilian monarchy, on legally equal terms with the Consejo de Indias.[42]

The joining of the two crowns deprived Portugal of a separate foreign policy, and Spain's enemies became Portugal's. England had been an ally of Portugal since the Treaty of Windsor in 1386. War between Spain and England led to a deterioration of the relations with Portugal's oldest ally, and the loss of Hormuz. From 1595 to 1663 Dutch-Portuguese War led to invasions of many countries in Asia and commercial interests in Japan, Africa and South America. In 1624, the Dutch seized Salvador, the capital of Brazil.[43] In 1630, the Dutch seized Pernambuco in northern Brazil.[29] The Treaty of 1654 returned Pernambuco to Portuguese control.[44] Both the English and the Dutch continued to aspire to dominate both the Atlantic slave trade and the spice trade with the Far East.

The Dutch intrusion into Brazil was long lasting and troublesome to Portugal. The Seven Provinces (the Dutch) captured a large portion of the Brazilian coast including the entire coasts except that of Bahia and much of the interior of most contemporary Northeastern states (Bahia, Sergipe, Alagoas, Pernambuco, Paraíba, Rio Grande do Norte and Ceará), while Dutch privateers sacked Portuguese ships in both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

This was reversed, beginning with a major Spanish-Portuguese military operation in 1625. This laid the foundations for the recovery of remaining Dutch controlled areas. The other smaller, less developed areas were recovered in stages and relieved of Dutch piracy in the next two decades by local resistance and Portuguese expeditions. After the dissolution of the Iberian Union in 1640, Portugal would reestablish its authority over some lost territories of the Portuguese Empire.

Portuguese Restoration War (1640–1668)

At home, life was calm and serene with the first two Spanish kings; they maintained Portugal's status, gave excellent positions to Portuguese nobles in the Spanish courts, and Portugal maintained an independent law, currency and government. It was even proposed to move the Spanish capital to Lisbon. Later, Philip IV tried to make Portugal a Spanish province, and Portuguese nobles lost power.

Because of this, as well as the general strain on the finances of the Spanish throne as a result of the Thirty Years War, on 1 December 1640, the Duke of Braganza, one of the great native noblemen and a descendant of King Manuel I, was proclaimed king as John IV, and a war of independence against Spain was launched. Ceuta governors did not accept the new king; they maintained their allegiance to Spain. Although Portugal had substantially attained its independence in 1640, the Spanish continued to try to reassert their control for the next twenty-eight years, only accepting Portuguese independence in 1668.

In the 17th century the Portuguese emigrated in large numbers to Brazil. By 1709, John V prohibited emigration, since Portugal had lost a sizable fraction of its population. Brazil was elevated to a vice-kingdom.

Pombaline era

In 1738, Sebastião de Melo, the talented son of a Lisbon squire, began a diplomatic career as the Portuguese Ambassador in London and later in Vienna. The Queen consort of Portugal, Archduchess Maria Anne Josefa of Austria, was fond of Melo; and after his first wife died, she arranged the widowed de Melo's second marriage to the daughter of the Austrian Field Marshal Leopold Josef, Count von Daun. King John V of Portugal, however, was not pleased and recalled Melo to Portugal in 1749. John V died the following year and his son, Joseph I of Portugal was crowned. In contrast to his father, Joseph I was fond of de Melo, and with the Queen Mother's approval, he appointed Melo as Minister of Foreign Affairs. As the King's confidence in de Melo increased, the King entrusted him with more control of the state.

By 1755, Sebastião de Melo was made Prime Minister. Impressed by British economic success he had witnessed while Ambassador, he successfully implemented similar economic policies in Portugal. He abolished slavery in Portugal and in the Portuguese colonies in India; reorganized the army and the navy; restructured the University of Coimbra, and ended discrimination against different Christian sects in Portugal.

But Sebastião de Melo's greatest reforms were economic and financial, with the creation of several companies and guilds to regulate every commercial activity. He demarcated the region for production of Port to ensure the wine's quality, and this was the first attempt to control wine quality and production in Europe. He ruled with a strong hand by imposing strict law upon all classes of Portuguese society from the high nobility to the poorest working class, along with a widespread review of the country's tax system. These reforms gained him enemies in the upper classes, especially among the high nobility, who despised him as a social upstart.

Disaster fell upon Portugal in the morning of 1 November 1755, when Lisbon was struck by a violent earthquake with an estimated Richter scale magnitude of 9. The city was razed to the ground by the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami and ensuing fires. Sebastião de Melo survived by a stroke of luck and then immediately embarked on rebuilding the city, with his famous quote: "What now? We bury the dead and feed the living."

Despite the calamity, Lisbon suffered no epidemics and within less than one year was already being rebuilt. The new downtown of Lisbon was designed to resist subsequent earthquakes. Architectural models were built for tests, and the effects of an earthquake were simulated by marching troops around the models. The buildings and big squares of the Pombaline Downtown of Lisbon still remain as one of Lisbon's tourist attractions: They represent the world's first quake-proof buildings. Sebastião de Melo also made an important contribution to the study of seismology by designing an inquiry that was sent to every parish in the country.

Following the earthquake, Joseph I gave his Prime Minister even more power, and Sebastião de Melo became a powerful, progressive dictator. As his power grew, his enemies increased in number, and bitter disputes with the high nobility became frequent. In 1758 Joseph I was wounded in an attempted assassination. The Távora family and the Duke of Aveiro were implicated and executed after a quick trial. The Jesuits were expelled from the country and their assets confiscated by the crown. Sebastião de Melo showed no mercy and prosecuted every person involved, even women and children. This was the final stroke that broke the power of the aristocracy and ensured the victory of the Minister against his enemies. Based upon his swift resolve, Joseph I made his loyal minister Count of Oeiras in 1759.

Following the Távora affair, the new Count of Oeiras knew no opposition. Made "Marquis of Pombal" in 1770, he effectively ruled Portugal until Joseph I's death in 1779. However, historians also argue that Pombal’s "enlightenment," while far-reaching, was primarily a mechanism for enhancing autocracy at the expense of individual liberty and especially an apparatus for crushing opposition, suppressing criticism, and furthering colonial economic exploitation as well as intensifying book censorship and consolidating personal control and profit.[45]

The new ruler, Queen Maria I of Portugal, disliked the Marquis (See Távora affair), and forbade him from coming within 20 miles of her, thus curtailing his influence.

Portuguese-led Invasion of Spain of 1707

Main Article: War of the Spanish Succession, The Battle of Almansa

In 1707, and as part of the War of the Spanish Succession, a joint Portuguese, Dutch, and British army, led by the Marquis of Minas, D. António Luis de Sousa, conquered Madrid, acclaimed Charles III King of Spain. Along the route to Madrid, the army led by the Marquis of Minas was successful in conquering Ciudad Rodrigo and Salamanca. Later in following year Madrid was reconquered by the Spanish troops loyal to the Bourbons.[46]

The Ghost War

In 1762 France and Spain tried to make Portugal to join the Bourbon Family Compact, by saying that Britain had become too powerful. Joseph refused to accept this and protested that his 1704 alliance with Britain was no threat.

In spring 1762 Spanish and French troops invaded Portugal from the north as far as the Douro, while a second column captured Almeida and threatened to advance on Lisbon. The arrival of a force of British troops helped the Portuguese army commanded by the Count of Lippe (and leading the new Allied troops), blocking the Franco-Spanish advance and driving them back across the border following the Battle of Valencia de Alcántara. At the Treaty of Paris in 1763 Spain agreed to hand back Almeida to Portugal.

Crises of the nineteenth century

In 1807 Portugal refused Napoleon Bonaparte's demand to accede to the Continental System of embargo against the United Kingdom; a French invasion under General Junot followed, and Lisbon was captured on 8 December 1807. British intervention in the Peninsular War restored Portuguese independence, the last French troops being expelled in 1812. The war cost Portugal the province of Olivença,[47] now governed by Spain. Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, was the Portuguese capital between 1808 and 1821. In 1820 constitutionalist insurrections took place at Oporto (24 August) and Lisbon (15 September). Lisbon regained its status as the capital of Portugal when Brazil declared its independence from Portugal in 1822.

The death of John VI in 1826 led to a crisis of royal succession. His eldest son, Pedro I of Brazil, briefly became Pedro IV of Portugal, but neither the Portuguese nor the Brazilians wanted a unified monarchy; consequently, Pedro abdicated the Portuguese crown in favor of his 7-year-old daughter, Maria da Glória, on the condition that when of age she would marry his brother, Miguel. Dissatisfaction at Pedro's constitutional reforms led the "absolutist" faction of landowners and the church to proclaim Miguel king in February 1828. This led to the Liberal Wars in which Pedro, eventually forced Miguel to abdicate and go into exile in 1834, and placed his daughter on throne as Queen Maria II.

In 1890 the British government made an ultimatum delivered on 11 January 1890, to Portugal, forcing the retreat of Portuguese military forces in the land between the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola (most of present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia). The area had been claimed by Portugal, which had included it in its "Pink Map", but this clashed with British aspirations to create a railroad link between Cairo and Cape Town, thereby linking its colonies from the north of Africa to the very south. This diplomatic clash leading to several waves of protest, prompted the downfall of the Portuguese government. The 1890 British Ultimatum was considered by Portuguese historians and politics at that time, the most outrageous and infamous action of the British against her oldest ally.[48]

After 1815, the Portuguese expanded their trading ports along the African coast, moving inland to take control of Angola and Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique). The slave trade was abolished in 1836, in part because many foreign slave ships were flying the Portuguese flag. In India, trade flourished in the colony of Goa, with its subsidiary colonies of Macau, near Hong Kong on the China coast, and Timor, north of Australia. The Portuguese successfully introduced Catholicism and the Portuguese language into their colonies, while most settlers continued to head to Brazil.[49][50]

The First Republic (1910–1926)

Main article: Portuguese First Republic

The First Republic has, over the course of the recent past, lost many historians to the Estado Novo. As a result, it is difficult to attempt a global synthesis of the republican period in view of the important gaps that still persist in our knowledge of its political history. As far as the October 1910 Revolution is concerned, a number of valuable studies have been made,[51] first among which ranks Vasco Pulido Valente’s polemical thesis. This historian posited the Jacobin and urban nature of the revolution carried out by the Portuguese Republican Party (PRP) and claimed that the PRP had turned the republican regime into a de facto dictatorship.[52] This vision clashes with an older interpretation of the First Republic as a progressive and increasingly democratic regime that presented a clear contrast to Salazar’s ensuing dictatorship.[53]

The revolution immediately targeted the Catholic Church: churches were plundered, convents were attacked and religious (priests and nuns) were harassed. Scarcely had the provisional government been installed when it began devoting its entire attention to an anti-religious policy, in spite of the disastrous economic situation. On 10 October – five days after the inauguration of the Republic – the new government decreed that all convents, monasteries and all religious orders were to be suppressed. All religious were expelled and their goods confiscated. The Jesuits were forced to forfeit their Portuguese citizenship.

A series of anti-Catholic laws and decrees followed each other in rapid succession. On 3 November, a law legalizing divorce was passed; then laws recognizing the legitimacy of children born outside wedlock, authorizing cremation, secularizing cemeteries, suppressing religious teaching in the schools and prohibiting the wearing of the cassock, were passed. In addition, the ringing of church bells and times of worship were subjected to certain restraints, and the public celebration of religious feasts was suppressed. The government even interfered with the seminaries, reserving the right to name the professors and determine the programs. This whole series of laws authored by Afonso Costa culminated in the law of Separation of Church and State, which was passed on 20 April 1911.

A republican constitution was approved in 1911, inaugurating a parliamentary regime with reduced presidential powers and two chambers of parliament.[54] The Republic provoked important fractures within Portuguese society, notably among the essentially monarchist rural population, in the trade unions, and in the Church. Even the PRP had to endure the secession of its more moderate elements, who formed conservative republican parties like the Evolutionist Party and the Republican Union. In spite of these splits, the PRP, led by Afonso Costa, preserved its dominance, largely due to a brand of clientelist politics inherited from the monarchy.[55] In view of these tactics, a number of opposition forces were forced to resort to violence in order to enjoy the fruits of power. There are few recent studies of this period of the Republic’s existence, known as the ‘old’ Republic. Nevertheless, an essay by Vasco Pulido Valente should be consulted (1997a), as should the attempt to establish the political, social, and economic context made by M. Villaverde Cabral (1988).

The PRP viewed the outbreak of the First World War as a unique opportunity to achieve a number of goals: putting an end to the twin threats of a Spanish invasion of Portugal and of foreign occupation of the African colonies and, at the internal level, creating a national consensus around the regime and even around the party.[56] These domestic objectives were not met, since participation in the conflict was not the subject of a national consensus and since it did not therefore serve to mobilise the population. Quite the opposite occurred: existing lines of political and ideological fracture were deepened by Portugal’s intervention in the First World War.[57] The lack of consensus around Portugal’s intervention in turn made possible the appearance of two dictatorships, led by General Pimenta de Castro (January–May 1915) and Sidónio Pais (December 1917-December 1918).

Sidonismo, also known as Dezembrismo (English "Decemberism"), aroused a strong interest among historians, largely as a result of the elements of modernity that it contained.[58] António José Telo has made clear the way in which this regime predated some of the political solutions invented by the totalitarian and fascist dictatorships of the 1920s and 1930s.[59] Sidónio Pais undertook the rescue of traditional values, notably the Pátria (English: "Homeland"), and attempted to rule in a charismatic fashion.

A move was made to abolish traditional political parties and to alter the existing mode of national representation in parliament (which, it was claimed, exacerbated divisions within the Pátria) through the creation of a corporative Senate, the founding of a single-party (the National Republican Party), and the attribution of a mobilising function to the leader. The state carved out an economically interventionist role for itself while, at the same time, repressing working-class movements and leftist republicans. Sidónio Pais also attempted to restore public order and to overcome some of the rifts of the recent past, making the republic more acceptable to monarchists and Catholics.

Political instability

The vacuum of power created by Sidónio Pais’ murder[60] on 14 December 1918, led the country to a brief civil war. The monarchy’s restoration was proclaimed in the north of Portugal (known as the Monarchy of the North) on 19 January 1919, and four days later a monarchist insurrection broke out in Lisbon. A republican coalition government, led by José Relvas, coordinated the struggle against the monarchists by loyal army units and armed civilians. After a series of clashes the monarchists were definitively chased from Oporto on 13 February 1919. This military victory allowed the PRP to return to government and to emerge triumphant from the elections held later that year, having won the usual absolute majority.

It was during this restoration of the ‘old’ republic that an attempted reform was carried out in order to provide the regime with greater stability. In August 1919 a conservative president was elected – António José de Almeida (whose Evolutionist party had come together in wartime with the PRP to form a flawed, because incomplete, Sacred Union) – and his office was given the power to dissolve parliament. Relations with the Holy See, restored by Sidónio Pais, were preserved. The president used his new power to resolve a crisis of government in May 1921, naming a liberal government (the Liberal party being the result of the postwar fusion of Evolutionists and Unionists) to prepare the forthcoming elections.

These were held on 10 July 1921, with victory going, as was usually the case, to the party in power. However, liberal government did not last long. On 19 October a military pronunciamento was carried out during which – and apparently against the wishes of the coup’s leaders – a number of prominent conservative figures, including Prime Minister António Granjo, were assassinated. This event, known as the ‘night of blood’[61] left a deep wound among political elites and public opinion. There could be no greater demonstration of the essential fragility of the Republic’s institutions and proof that the regime was democratic in name only, since it did not even admit the possibility of the rotation in power characteristic of the elitist regimes of the nineteenth century.

A new round of elections on 29 January 1922 inaugurated a fresh period of stability: the PRP once again emerged from the contest with an absolute majority. Discontent with this situation had not, however, disappeared. Numerous accusations of corruption, and the manifest failure to resolve pressing social concerns wore down the more visible PRP leaders while making the opposition’s attacks more deadly. At the same time, moreover, all political parties suffered from growing internal factionalism, especially the PRP itself. The party system was fractured and discredited.[62]

This is clearly shown by the fact that regular PRP victories at the ballot box did not lead to stable government. Between 1910 and 1926 there were forty-five governments. The opposition of presidents to single-party governments, internal dissent within the PRP, the party’s almost non-existent internal discipline, and its desire to group together and lead all republican forces made any government’s task practically impossible. Many different formulas were attempted, including single-party governments, coalitions, and presidential executives, but none succeeded. Force was clearly the sole means open to the opposition if the PRP wanted to enjoy the fruits of power.[63]

28 May 1926 coup d'état

By the mid-1920s the domestic and international scenes began to favour another authoritarian solution, wherein a strengthened executive might restore political and social order. Since the opposition’s constitutional route to power was blocked by the various means deployed by the PRP to protect itself, it turned to the army for support. The political awareness of the armed forces had grown during the war, and many of whose leaders had not forgiven the PRP for sending it to a war it did not want to fight.[64]

They seemed to represent, to conservative forces, the last bastion of ‘order’ against the ‘chaos’ that was taking over the country. Links were established between conservative figures and military officers, who added their own political and corporative demands to the already complex equation. The pronunciamento of 28 May 1926 enjoyed the support of most army units and even of most political parties. As had been the case in December 1917, the population of Lisbon did not rise to defend the Republic, leaving it at the mercy of the army.[64]

There are few global and up-to-date studies of this turbulent third phase of the Republic’s existence.[65] Nevertheless, much has been written about the crisis and fall of the regime and the 28 May movement.[66] The First Republic continues to be the subject of an intense debate. A historiographical balance sheet by Armando Malheiro da Silva (2000,) identifies three main interpretations. For some historians the First Republic was a progressive and increasingly democratic regime. For others it was essentially a prolongation of the liberal and elitist regimes of the 19th century. A third group chooses to highlight the regime’s revolutionary, Jacobin and dictatorial nature.

Estado Novo (1933–1974)

Salazar dictatorship

Political chaos, several strikes, harsh relations with the Church, and considerable economic problems aggravated by a disastrous military intervention in the First World War led to the military 28 May 1926 coup d'état. This coup installed the "Second Republic" that would become the Estado Novo ('New State') in 1933, led by economist António de Oliveira Salazar. He transformed Portugal into a sort of Fascist regime that evolved into a single-party corporative regime. Portugal, although neutral, informally aided the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War (1936–39).

World War II

Portugal was officially neutral in World War II, but in practice Salazar collaborated with the British and sold them rubber and tungsten,.[67] In late 1943 he allowed the Allies to establish air bases in the Azores to fight German U-boats. He helped Spain avoid German control. Tungsten was a major product, and he sold to Germany until June 1944, when the threat of a German attack on Portugal was minimal.[68] He worked to regain control of East Timor after the Japanese seized it.[69] He admitted several thousand Jewish refugees. Lisbon maintained air connections with Britain and the U.S. Lisbon was a hotbed of spies and served as the base for the International Red Cross in its distribution of relief supplies to POWs.


In 1961 the Portuguese army was involved in armed action in its colony in Goa against an Indian invasion (see Operation Vijay). The operations resulted in a humiliating Portuguese defeat and the loss of the colonies in India. Independence movements also became active in Portuguese Angola, Portuguese Mozambique and Portuguese Guinea; the Portuguese Colonial War started. Portugal, during this period, was never an outcast, and was a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

After the death of Salazar in 1970, his replacement by Marcelo Caetano offered a certain hope that the regime would open up, the primavera marcelista (Marcelist spring). However the colonial wars in Africa continued, political prisoners remained incarcerated, freedom of association was not restored, censorship was only slightly eased and the elections remained tightly controlled.

The regime retained its characteristic traits: censorship, corporativeness, with a market economy dominated by a handful of economical groups, continuous surveillance and intimidation of several sectors of society through the use of a political police and techniques instilling fear (such as arbitrary imprisonment, systematic political persecution and even assassination of anti-regime insurgents).

The Third Republic (1974–)

The "Carnation Revolution" of 1974, an effectively bloodless left-wing military coup, installed the "Third Republic". Broad democratic reforms were implemented. In 1975, Portugal granted independence to its Overseas Provinces (Províncias Ultramarinas in Portuguese) in Africa (Mozambique, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe). Nearly 1 million Portuguese or persons of Portuguese descent left these former colonies as refugees.[70]

In that same year, Indonesia invaded and annexed the Portuguese province of Portuguese Timor (East Timor) in Asia before independence could be granted. The massive exodus of the Portuguese military and citizens from Portuguese Angola and Mozambique, would prompt an era of chaos and severe destruction in those territories after independence from Portugal in 1975. From May 1974 to the end of the 1970s, over a million Portuguese citizens from Portugal's African territories (mostly from Portuguese Angola and Mozambique) left those territories as destitute refugees – the retornados.[71][72]

The newly independent countries were ravaged by brutal civil wars in the following decades – the Angolan Civil War (1975–2002) and Mozambican Civil War (1977–1992) - responsible for millions of deaths and refugees. The Asian dependency of Macau, after an agreement in 1986, was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1999. Portugal applied international pressure to secure East Timor's independence from Indonesia, as East Timor was still legally a Portuguese dependency, and recognized as such by the United Nations. After a referendum in 1999, East Timor voted for independence, which Portugal recognized in 2002.

With the 1975–76 independence of its colonies (apart from Macau), the 560-year-old Portuguese Empire effectively ended. Simultaneously 15 years of war effort also came to an end; many Portuguese returned from the colonies (the retornados) and came to comprise a sizeable number of the population: approximately 580,000 of Portugal's 9,8 million citizens in 1981.[73] This opened new paths for the country's future just as others closed. In 1986, Portugal entered the European Economic Community and left the European Free Trade Association which had been founded by Portugal and its partners in 1960. The country joined the euro in 1999. The Portuguese empire ended de facto in 1999 when Macau was returned to China, and de jure in 2002 when East Timor became independent.

See also

Portugal portal



Further reading

  • Anderson, James Maxwell (2000). The History of Portugal online
  • Birmingham, David. A Concise History of Portugal (Cambridge, 1993)
  • Disney, A. R. A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire, Vol. 1: From Beginnings to 1807: Portugal (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Figueiredo, Antonio de. Portugal: Fifty Years of Dictatorship (Harmondsworth Penguin, 1976).
  • Grissom, James. (2012) Portugal - A Brief History excerpt and text search
  • Kay, Hugh. Salazar and Modern Portugal (London, 1970)
  • Livermore, Harold. V. A New History of Portugal (Cambridge University Press: 1969)
  • Livermore, Harold. A History of Portugal (Cambridge, 1947)
  • Machado, Diamantino P. The Structure of Portuguese Society: The Failure of Fascism (1991), political history 1918-1974 online
  • Maxwell, Kenneth. Pombal, Paradox of the Enlightenment (Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  • Oliveira Marques, A. H. de. History of Portugal: Vol. 1: from Lusitania to empire; Vol. 2: from empire to corporate state (1972).
  • Nowell, Charles E. A History of Portugal (1952) online
  • Payne, Stanley G. A History of Spain and Portugal (2 vol 1973) full text online vol 2 after 1700; standard scholarly history


  • Boxer, Charles R.. The Portuguese Seaborne Empire, 1415-1825 (1969)
  • Clarence-Smith, Gervase. The Third Portuguese Empire, 1825-1975: A Study in Economic Imperialism (1985)
  • Disney, A.R. A History of Portugal and the Portuguese Empire, Vol. 2: From Beginnings to 1807: the Portuguese empire (2009) excerpt and text search
  • Newitt, Malyn. The First Portuguese Colonial Empire (University of Exeter Press, 1986) online
  • Russell-Wood, A. J.R. The Portuguese Empire 1415-1808 (Manchester, 1992),


  • Campos Matos, Sérgio. "History of Historiography and National Memory in Portugal," History Compass (Oct 2012) 10#10 pp 765–777.
  • de Carvalho Homem, Armando Luís. "A. H. de Oliveira Marques (1933–2007): Historiography and Citizenship," E-Journal of Portuguese History (Winter 2007) 5#2 pp 1–9.
  • Sardica, José Miguel. "The Memory of the Portuguese First Republic throughout the Twentieth Century," E-Journal of Portuguese History (Summer 2011) 9#1 pp 1–27. online

External links

  • Atlas of Portugal
  • Portugal Chronology World History Database
  • History of Portugal: Primary documents

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.