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The history of Portugalmarker, a European and an Atlanticmarker 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. In the next two centuries, Portugal gradually lost much of its wealth and status as the Dutchmarker, Englishmarker and Frenchmarker 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 contributed ships to the Spanish invasion fleet). The country was further weakened by the destruction of much of its capital city in a 1755 earthquakemarker, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars and the loss of its largest colony, Brazilmarker, 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. In 1910, there was a revolution that deposed the monarchy; however, the subsequent republic was unable to solve the country's problems. 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 Organizationmarker (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation 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 Rivermarker, which flows into the Atlantic Oceanmarker in the north of what is now Portugal. Around 200 BC, the Romans took the Iberian Peninsulamarker from the Carthaginiansmarker 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 Spainmarker. 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, '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 is a Celtic name like many others found is the region. The word cale or cala, would mean 'port', an 'inlet' or 'harbour,' and implied the existence of an older celtic harbour. Others argue it is the stem of Gallaecia. Another theory claims it derives from Caladunum.

In any case, the Portu part of the name Portucale became Portomarker, 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 language areas in Iberia circa 200 BC.

The region of present-day Portugal was inhabited by Neanderthals and then by Homo sapiens.

Early in the first millennium BC, several waves of Celts invaded Portugal from central Europe and intermarried with the local populations, forming different ethnic groups, with many tribes. Chief among these tribes were the Calaicians or Gallaeci of northern Portugal, the Lusitanians of central Portugal, the Celtici of Alentejo, and the Cynetes or Conii of the Algarve. Among the lesser tribes or sub-divisions were the Bracari, Coelerni, Equaesi, Grovii, Interamici, Leuni, Luanqui, Limici, Narbasi, Nemetati, Paesuri, Quaquerni, Seurbi, Tamagani, Tapoli, Turduli, Turduli Veteres, Turdulorum Oppida, Turodi, and Zoelae).

There were in the southern part the country, some small, semipermanent commercial coastal settlements founded by Phoeniciansmarker-Carthaginiansmarker (such as Taviramarker, in the Algarve).

Roman Lusitania and Gallaecia

Roman conquest of Hispania.

The first Roman invasion of the Iberian Peninsula occurred in 219 BC. Within 200 years, almost the entire peninsula had been annexed to the Roman Empire. The Carthaginiansmarker, Rome's adversary in the Punic Wars, were expelled from their coastal colonies.

The Roman conquest of what is now part of modern day Portugal took several decades: it started from the south, where the Romans found friendly natives, the Conii. It suffered a severe setback in 194 BC, when a rebellion began in the north. The Lusitanians and other native tribes, under the leadership of Viriathus, wrested control of all of Portugal. Rome sent numerous legions and its best generals to Lusitania to quell the rebellion, but to no avail — the Lusitanians gained more and more territory. The Roman leaders decided to change their strategy. They bribed Viriathus's ambassador to kill his own leader. Viriathus was assassinated, and the resistance was soon over.

Rome installed a colonial regime. During this period, Lusitania grew in prosperity and many of modern day Portugal's cities and towns were founded. In 27 BC, Lusitania gained the status of Roman province. Later, a northern province of Lusitania was formed, known as Gallaecia, with capital in Bracara (today's Braga).

Germanic kingdoms

Germanic kingdoms in Iberia, 560.
In the early 5th century, Germanic tribes invaded the peninsula, namely the Suevi, the Vandals (Silingi and Hasdingi) and their allies, the Sarmatian Alans. Only the kingdom of the Suevi (Quadi and Marcomanni) endured after the arrival of another wave of Germanic invaders, the Visigoths, who conquered all of the Iberian Peninsula and expelled or partially integrated the Vandals and the Alans. The Visigoths eventually conquered the Suevi kingdom and its capital city Bracara in 584–585.

The Germanic tribe of the Buri also accompanied the Suevi in their invasion of the Iberian Peninsulamarker and colonization of Gallaecia (modern northern Portugal and Galiciamarker). The Buri settled in the region between the rivers Cávado and Homem, in the area known as thereafter as Terras de Boiro or Terras de Bouro (Lands of the Buri).

Other minor influences from this period include some 5th century vestiges of Alan settlement, which were found in Alenquermarker, Coimbra and even Lisbonmarker.

Moorish rule and the Reconquista

Islamic expansion, 622-750.
In 711, the Islamic Moors (mainly Berber with some Arab) from North Africa invaded the Iberian Peninsula, 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.

In 868, Count Vímara Peres reconquered and governed the region between the rivers Minho and Douromarker. The county was then known as Portucale (i.e., Portugal).

While it had its origins as a dependency of the Kingdom of Leónmarker, Portugal occasionally gained de facto independence during weak Leonese reigns.

Portugal gained its first de jure independence (as the Kingdom of Galicia and Portugal) in 1065 under the rule of Garcia II. Because of feudal power struggles, Portuguese and Galician nobles rebelled. In 1072, the country rejoined Leónmarker and Castile under Garcia II's brother Alfonso VI of León.

Affirmation of Portugal

The Reconquista, 790-1300.
In 1095, Portugal separated almost completely 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.

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. The lords of the cities of Coimbra and Portomarker (then Portucale) with the 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.

From 1249 to 1250, the Algarve, the southernmost region, was finally re-conquered by Portugal from the Moors. In 1255, the capital shifted to Lisbonmarker.

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 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.

Period of discoveries and Portuguese Empire

During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal was a major 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.

25 July 1415 marked the beginning of the Portuguese Empire, when the Portuguese Armada departed to the rich trade Islamic centre of Ceutamarker in North Africa with King John I and his sons Prince Duarte (future king), Prince Pedro, Prince Henry the Navigator and Prince Afonso, and legendary Portuguese hero Nuno Álvares Pereira. On 21 August, the city was conquered by Portugal, and the long-lived Portuguese Empire was founded. Further steps were taken that expanded the Empire even more.

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 Santomarker ("Holy Port") in gratitude for their rescue from the shipwreck. In 1419, João Gonçalves Zarco disembarked on Madeira Islandmarker. Between 1427 and 1431, most of the Azorean islands were discovered.

In 1434, Gil Eanes turned the Cape Bojadormarker, south of Moroccomarker. 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 Canariesmarker were recognized as Castilian by the Pope; earlier they were recognized as Portuguese. Also, in 1438 in a military expedition to Tangiermarker, the Portuguese were defeated.

However, the Portuguese did not give up their exploratory efforts. In 1448, on a small island known as Arguimmarker off the coast of Mauritaniamarker, 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 Verdemarker, Fernão Poomarker, São Tomémarker, Príncipemarker and Annobónmarker. Finally, in 1471, the Portuguese captured Tangier, after years of attempts. Eleven years later, the fortress of São Jorge da Mina in the Gulf of Guineamarker was built. In 1483, Diogo Cão reached and explored the Congo Rivermarker.

In 1484, Portugal officially rejected Christopher Columbus's idea of reaching Indiamarker 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 Verdemarker 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 Hopemarker by Bartolomeu Dias in 1487; the richness of Indiamarker was now accessible, hence the name of the cape. 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 Ethiopiamarker by land. Vasco da Gama sailed for India, and arrived at Calicutmarker on 20 May 1498, returning in glory to Portugal the next year. The Monastery of Jerónimosmarker was built, dedicated to the discovery of the route to India. In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral sighted the Brazilian coast; ten years later, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Goamarker, in India.

With this, the Portuguese became the first civilization to fully start the process we know today as globalization.

João da Nova discovered Ascensionmarker in 1501 and Saint Helena in 1502; Tristão da Cunha was the first to sight the archipelago still known by his name 1506. In East Africa, small Islamic states along the coast of Mozambiquemarker, Kilwamarker, Brava and Mombasamarker were destroyed or became subjects or allies of Portugal.

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 Chinamarker and Japanmarker. In the Indian Oceanmarker and Arabian Seamarker, one of Cabral's ships discovered Madagascarmarker (1501), which was partly explored by Tristão da Cunha (1507); Mauritiusmarker was discovered in 1507, Socotramarker occupied in 1506, and in the same year Lourenço de Almeida visited Ceylonmarker.

In the Red Seamarker, Massawamarker was the most northerly point frequented by the Portuguese until 1541, when a fleet under Estevão da Gama penetrated as far as Suezmarker. Hormuz, in the Persian Gulfmarker, was seized by Afonso de Albuquerque in 1515, who also entered into diplomatic relations with Persiamarker. In 1521, a force under Antonio Correia conquered Bahrainmarker ushering in a period of almost eighty years of Portuguese rule of the Persian Gulf archipelago (for further information see Bahrain as a Portuguese dominion).

On the Asiatic mainland the first trading-stations were established by Pedro Álvares Cabral at Cochin and Calicut (1501); more important, however, were the conquest of Goamarker (1510) and Malaccamarker (1511) by Afonso de Albuquerque, and the acquisition of Diumarker (1535) by Martim Afonso de Sousa. East of Malacca, Albuquerque sent Duarte Fernandes as envoy to Siam (now Thailandmarker) in 1511, and dispatched to the Moluccas two expeditions (1512, 1514), which founded the Portuguese dominion in the Malay Archipelago. Fernão Pires de Andrade visited Canton in 1517 and opened up trade with China, where in 1557 the Portuguese were permitted to occupy Macaumarker. Japanmarker, 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 Aragonmarker 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, 3000 "New Christians" were massacred in Lisbon.

1580 crisis, Iberian Union and decline of the Empire

In 1578, a very young king Sebastian died in battle without an heir (the body was not found), leading to a dynastic crisis. The late king's elderly granduncle, Cardinal Henry, became king, but died two years later. 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. Even if Portugal was officially an autonomous state, the country was under the rule of the Spanishmarker monarchy from 1580 to 1640, and Portuguesemarker colonies were attacked by Spain's opponents, especially the Dutchmarker and Englishmarker who aspired to dominate both the Atlantic slave trade and the spice trade with the Far East.

The joining of the two crowns deprived Portugal of a separate foreign policy, and Spain's enemies became Portugal's. Englandmarker 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 Hormuzmarker. From 1595 to 1663 Dutch-Portuguese War led to invasions of many countries in Asia and commercial interests in Japanmarker, Africa and South America.

The Dutch intrusion into Brazil was long lasting and troublesome to Portugal. The Seventeen Provinces captured a large portion of the Brazilian coast including Bahia, Salvadormarker, Recifemarker, Pernambuco, Paraíbamarker, Rio Grande do Norte, Cearámarker, and Sergipe, while Dutch privateers sacked Portuguese ships in both the Atlanticmarker and Indian Oceansmarker. 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.

Restoration War and the end of the Union

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 Lisbonmarker. 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

Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal
In 1738, Sebastião de Melo, the talented son of a Lisbon squire, began a diplomatic career as the Portuguese Ambassador in Londonmarker and later in Viennamarker. 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 Indiamarker; 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 Lisbonmarker was struck by a violent earthquakemarker 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 Lisbonmarker 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 Oeirasmarker in 1759.

Following the Távora affair, the new Count of Oeirasmarker knew no opposition. Made "Marquis of Pombal" in 1770, he effectively ruled Portugal until Joseph I's death in 1779. His successor, 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.

Seven Years' War

In 1762 France and Spain tried to force Portugal to join the Bourbon Family Compact, by asserting 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 troops invaded Portugal from the north as far as the Douromarker, while a second column captured Almeida and threatened to advance on Lisbon. The arrival of a force of British troops rescued Portugal from defeat, blocking the 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 Kingdommarker; 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, now governed by Spain. Rio de Janeiromarker in Brazil, was the Portuguese capital between 1808 and 1821. In 1820, constitutionalist insurrections took place at Oportomarker (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, Peter I of Brazil briefly became Peter IV of Portugal, but neither the Portuguese nor the Brazilians wanted a unified monarchy; consequently, Peter abdicated the Portuguese crown in favor of his seven-year-old daughter, Maria da Glória, on the condition that when of age she would marry his brother, Miguel. Dissatisfaction at Peter's constitutional reforms led the "absolutist" faction of landowners and the church to proclaim Miguel as 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 Portugalmarker, forcing the retreat of Portuguese military forces in the land between the Portuguese colonies of Mozambiquemarker and Angolamarker (most of present-day Zimbabwemarker and Zambiamarker). 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 Cairomarker and Cape Townmarker, 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.

The First Republic

The First Republic has, over the course of a recent past, lost many historians to the New Statemarker. 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, 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. 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.

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 a 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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, finally, some of the rifts of the recent past, making the Republic more acceptable to monarchists and Catholics.

The vacuum of power created by Sidónio Pais’ murder on 14 December 1918 led the country to a brief civil war. The monarchy’s restoration was proclaimed in the north of Portugal on 19 January 1919 and, four days later, a monarchist insurrection broke out in Lisbonmarker. 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 Oportomarker 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’ 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. 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.

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. 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. There are few global and up-to-date studies of this turbulent third phase of the Republic’s existence. Nevertheless, much has been written about the crisis and fall of the regime and the 28 May movement. The First Republic continues to be the subject of an intense debate. A recent historiographical balance sheet elaborated by Armando Malheiro da Silva (2000) is a good introduction into this debate. Three main interpretations can be identified. 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 nineteenth century. A third group, finally, chooses to highlight the regime’s revolutionary, Jacobin, and dictatorial nature.

New State (Estado Novo)

Portuguese colonies in Africa by the time of the Colonial War.
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, installing the "Second Republic" that would later become the Estado Novomarker in 1933, led by António de Oliveira Salazar, which transformed Portugal into a proto-Fascist Axis-leaning state, which later evolved into some mixture of single party corporative regime. 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 Angolamarker, Portuguese Mozambiquemarker and Portuguese Guineamarker, and the Portuguese Colonial War started. Portugal, during this period, however, was never an outcast, and was a founding member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organizationmarker (NATO), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation 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

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 (Mozambiquemarker, Angolamarker, Guinea-Bissaumarker, Cape Verdemarker and São Tomé and Príncipemarker). Nearly 1 million Portuguese or persons of Portuguese descent left these former colonies as refugees. In that same year, Indonesiamarker invaded and annexed the Portuguese province of Portuguese Timormarker (East Timor) in Asia before independence could be granted. The massive exodus of the Portuguese military and citizens from Portuguese Angolamarker and Mozambiquemarker, 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 Angolamarker and Mozambiquemarker) left those territories as destitute refugees - the retornados. 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 Macaumarker, after an agreement in 1986, was returned to Chinesemarker 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 and Portugal recognized its independence in 2002.

With the 1975–76 independence of its colonies, other than Macau which had no independence movement, the 560 year old Portuguese Empire effectively ended. Similtaneously 15 years of war effort also came to an end; many Portuguese returned from the colonies (the retornados) and came to comprise a sizeable section of the population. 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 was founded by Portugal and its partners in 1960. The country joined the Euro in 1999. The Portuguese empire finished de facto in 1999 when Macau was returned to China, and de jure in 2002 when East Timormarker was independent.



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  25. Cruz, 1986; Cabral, 1993; Rosas, 1997; Martins, 1998; Pinto, 2000; Afonso, 2001
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  27. Flight from Angola, The Economist (August 16, 1975).
  28. Dismantling the Portuguese Empire, Time Magazine (Monday, July 07, 1975).

See also

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