Portugal, officially the Portuguese Republic (Portuguese:
República Portuguesa), is a country on the Iberian Peninsula, in southwestern
Europe. It is the westernmost country of mainland Europe, being bordered by the
Atlantic Ocean to the west and south and by Spain to the north and east. The
Portugal-Spain border is 1,214 km (754 mi) long and considered the longest
uninterrupted border within the European Union. The republic also holds
sovereignty over the Atlantic archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, both
autonomous regions with their own regional governments.
The land within the borders of current Portugal has been continuously settled
and fought over since prehistoric times. The Celts and the Romans were followed
by the Visigothic and the Suebi Germanic peoples, who were themselves later
invaded by the Moors. These Muslim peoples were eventually expelled during the
Christian Reconquista of the peninsula. By 1139, Portugal had established itself
as a kingdom independent from León. In the 15th and 16th centuries, as the
result of pioneering the Age of Discovery, Portugal expanded Western influence
and established the first global empire, becoming one of the world's major
economic, political and military powers.
Portugal lost much of its wealth and status with the destruction of Lisbon in a
1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars, and the independence of
Brazil, its wealthiest colony, in 1822. After the 1910 revolution deposed the
monarchy, the democratic but unstable Portuguese First Republic was established,
later being superseded by the "Estado Novo" right-wing authoritarian regime.
Democracy was restored after the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation
Revolution in 1974. Shortly after, independence was granted to all its colonies,
with the exception of Macau, which was handed over to China in 1999. This marked
the end of the longest-lived European colonial empire, leaving a profound
cultural and architectural influence across the globe and a legacy of over 250
million Portuguese speakers today.
Portugal maintains a unitary semi-presidential republican form of government and
is a developed country with an advanced economy, and a high living standard,
having the 18th highest Social Progress in the world, putting it ahead of other
western European countries like France, Spain and Italy.
Early history: Pre-Celts and Celts
The early history of Portugal is shared with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula
located in South Western Europe. The name of Portugal derives from the combined
Romano-Celtic name Portus Cale. The region was settled by Pre-Celts and Celts,
giving origin to peoples like the Gallaeci, Lusitanians, Celtici and Cynetes,
visited by Phoenicians and Carthaginians, incorporated in the Roman Republic
dominions as Lusitania and part of Gallaecia, after 45 BC until 298 AD, settled
again by Suebi, Buri, and Visigoths, and conquered by Moors. Other influences
include some 5th-century vestiges of Alan settlement, which were found in
Alenquer (old Germanic Alankerk, from Alan+kerk; meaning church of the Alan
(people), Coimbra and Lisbon.
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. These were subsistence societies that, although they did not
establish prosperous settlements, did establish organized societies. Neolithic
Portugal experimented with domestication of herding animals, the raising of some
cereal crops and fluvial or marine fishing.
It is believed by some scholars that 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.
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 of the country some small, semi-permanent
commercial coastal settlements founded by Phoenicians-Carthaginians (such as
Tavira, in the Algarve).
Roman Lusitania and Gallaecia
Romans first invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 219 BC. During the last days of
Julius Caesar, almost the entire peninsula had been annexed to the Roman
Republic. The Carthaginians, 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 almost two
hundred years and took many lives of young soldiers and the lives of those who
were sentenced to a certain death in the slavery mines when not sold as slaves
to other parts of the empire. It suffered a severe setback in 150 BC, when a
rebellion began in the north. The Lusitanians and other native tribes, under the
leadership of Viriathus, wrested control of all of western Iberia.
Rome sent numerous legions and its best generals to Lusitania to quell the
rebellion, but to no avail—the Lusitanians kept conquering territory. The Roman
leaders decided to change their strategy. They bribed Viriathus's allies to kill
him. In 139 BC, Viriathus was assassinated, and Tautalus became leader.
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
Augusta, today's Braga. There are still many ruins of castros (hill forts) all
over modern Portugal and remains of Castro culture. Numerous Roman sites are
scattered around present-day Portugal, some urban remains are quite large, like
Conímbriga and Mirobriga. The former, beyond being one of the largest Roman
settlements in Portugal, is also classified as a National Monument. Conímbriga
lies 16 km from Coimbra which by its turn was the ancient Aeminium). The site
also has a museum that displays objects found by archaeologists during their
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 Lusitanian land, as well as numerous pieces of ceramics were
also found. Contemporary historians include Paulus Orosius (c. 375–418) and
Hydatius (c. 400–469), bishop of Aquae Flaviae, who reported on the final years
of the Roman rule and arrival of the Germanic tribes.
In the early 5th century, Germanic tribes, namely the Suebi and the Vandals (Silingi
and Hasdingi) together with their allies, the Sarmatians and Alans invaded the
Iberian Peninsula where they would form their kingdom. The Kingdom of the Suebi
was the Germanic post-Roman kingdom, established in the former Roman provinces
About 410 and during the 6th century it became a formally declared kingdom,
where king Hermeric made a peace treaty with the Gallaecians before passing his
domains to Rechila, his son. In 448 Réchila died, leaving the state in expansion
In the year 500, the Visigothic Kingdom was installed in Iberia, centred on
Toledo. The Visigoths eventually conquered the Suebi and its capital city
Bracara (modern day Portugal's Braga) in 584–585. It maintained its independence
until 585, when it was annexed by the Visigoths, and turned into the sixth
province of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania.
For the next 300 years and by the year 700, the entire Iberian Peninsula was
ruled by Visigoths, having survived until 711, when King Roderic (Rodrigo) was
killed while opposing an invasion from the south by the Umayyad Muslims.
Today's modern day continental Portugal, along with a significant part of Spain,
was part of the Umayyad Caliphate for approximately five centuries (711 AD -
1249 AD), following the Umayyad Caliphate conquest of the Iberian Peninsula in
After defeating the Visigoths in only a few months, the Umayyad Caliphate
started expanding rapidly in the peninsula. Beginning in 711, the land that is
now Portugal became part of the vast Umayyad Caliphate's empire of Damascus.
Which stretched from the Indus river in the Indian sub-continent (now Pakistan)
up to the South of France, until its collapse in 750, a year in which the west
of the empire gained its independence under Abd-ar-Rahman I with the creation of
the Emirate of Córdoba. After almost two centuries, the Emirate became the
Caliphate of Córdoba in 929, until its dissolution a century later in 1031 into
no less than 23 small kingdoms, called Taifa kingdoms.
The governors of the taifas each proclaimed themselves Emir of their provinces
and established diplomatic relations with the Christian kingdoms of the north.
Most of Portugal fell into the hands of the Taifa of Badajoz of the Aftasid
Dynasty, and after a short spell of an ephemeral Taifa of Lisbon in 1022, fell
under the dominion of the Taifa of Seville of the Abbadids poets. The Taifa
period ended with the conquest of the Almoravids who came from Morocco in 1086
winning a decisive victory at the Battle of Sagrajas, followed a century later
in 1147, after the second period of Taifa, by the Almohads, also from Marrakesh.
Al-Andalus was divided into different districts called Kura. Gharb Al-Andalus at
its largest was constituted of ten kuras, each with a distinct capital and
governor. The main cities of the period in Portugal were Beja, Silves, Alcácer
do Sal, Santarém and Lisbon.
The Muslim population of the region consisted mainly of native Iberian converts
to Islam (the so-called Muwallad or Muladi) and to a lesser extent Berbers and
Arabs. The Arabs were principally noblemen from Oman; and though few in numbers,
they constituted the elite of the population. The Berbers were originally from
the Atlas mountains and Rif mountains of North Africa and were essentially
nomads. In Portugal, the Muslim population (or "Moors"), relatively small in
numbers, stayed in the Algarve region, and south of the Tagus. Today, there are
approximately 800 words in the Portuguese language of Arabic origin. The Muslims
were expelled from Portugal 300 years earlier than in neighbouring Spain, which
is reflected both in Portuguese culture and the language, which is mostly
Celtiberian and Vulgar Latin.
An Asturian Visigothic noble named Pelayos or Pelagius in 718 AD was elected
leader by many of the ousted Visigoth nobles. Pelayos called for the remnant of
the Christian Visigothic armies to rebel against the Moors and regroup in the
unconquered northern Asturian highlands, better known today as the Cantabrian
Mountains, in what is today the small mountain region in North-western Spain,
adjacent to the Bay of Biscay.
Pelayos' plan was to use the Cantabrian mountains as a place of refuge and
protection from the invading Moors. He then aimed to regroup the Iberian
Peninsula's Christian armies and use the Cantabrian mountains as a springboard
from which to regain their lands from the Moors. In the process, after defeating
the Moors in the Battle of Covadonga in 722 AD, Pelayos was proclaimed king,
thus founding the Christian Kingdom of Asturias and starting the war of
Christian reconquest known in Portuguese as the
At the end of the 9th century, the region of Portugal, between the rivers Minho
and Douro, was freed or reconquered from the Moors by Vimara Peres on the orders
of King Alfonso III of Asturias. Finding that the region had previously had two
major cities—Portus Cale in the coast and Braga in the interior, with many towns
that were now deserted—he decided to repopulate and rebuild them with Portuguese
and Galician refugees and other Christians.
Thus, it was very easy for Vimara Peres to organize the region and elevate it to
the status of County. Vimara Peres named the region he freed from the Moors, the
County of Portugal after the region's major port city—Portus Cale' or modern
Porto. One of the first cities Vimara Peres founded at this time is Vimaranes,
known today as Guimarães - the "birthplace of the Portuguese nation" or the
"cradle city" (Cidade Berço in Portuguese).
After annexing the County of Portugal into one of the several counties that made
up the Kingdom of Asturias, King Alfonso III of Asturias knighted Vimara Peres,
in 868 AD, as the First Count of Portus Cale (Portugal). The region became known
as Portucale, Portugale, and simultaneously Portugália — the County of
Portugal. Later the Kingdom of Asturias was divided into a number of
Christian Kingdoms in Northern Spain due to dynastic divisions of inheritance
among the kings offspring. With the forced abdication of Alfonso III "the Great"
of Asturias by his sons in 910, the Kingdom of Asturias split into three
separate kingdoms of León, Galicia and Asturias. The three kingdoms were
eventually reunited in 924 (León and Galicia in 914, Asturias later) under the
crown of León.
A year before Alfonso III "the Great" of Asturias death, three of Alfonso's sons
rose in rebellion and forced him to abdicate, partitioning the kingdom among
them. The eldest son, García, became king of León. The second son, Ordoño,
reigned in Galicia, while the third, Fruela, received Asturias with Oviedo as
his capital. Alfonso died in Zamora, probably in 910. His former realm would be
reunited when first García died childless and León passed to Ordoño. He in turn
died when his children were too young to ascend; Fruela became king of a
reunited crown. His death the next year initiated a series of internecine
struggles that led to unstable succession for over a century. It continued under
that name until incorporated into the Kingdom of Castile in 1230, after
Ferdinand III became joint king of the two kingdoms. This was done to avoid
dynastic feuds and to maintain the Christian Kingdoms strong enough to prevent
complete Muslim take over of the Iberian Peninsula and to further the
Reconquista of Iberia by Christian armies.
During the century of internecine struggles for dominance among the Northern
Christians kingdoms, the County of Portugal, formed the southern portion of the
Kingdom of Galicia. At times the Kingdom of Galicia existed independently for
short periods, but usually formed an important part of the Kingdom of Leon.
Throughout this period, the people of County of Portugal as Galicians found
themselves struggling to maintain the autonomy of Galicia with its distinct
language and culture (Galician-Portuguese) from the Leonese culture, whenever
the status of the Kingdom of Galicia changed in relation to the Kingdom of Leon.
As a result of political division, Galician-Portuguese lost its unity when the
County of Portugal separated from the Kingdom of Galicia (a dependent kingdom of
Leon) to establish the Kingdom of Portugal. The Galician and Portuguese versions
of the language then diverged over time as they followed independent
evolutionary paths. This began occurring when the Kingdom of Leon and the
Kingdom of Castile united and the Castilian Language (known as Spanish) slowly
over the centuries began influencing the Galician Language and then trying to
replace it. The same thing happened to Astur-Leonese Language to the point where
it is greatly reduced or completely replaced by the Castilian (Spanish
During the Reconquista period, Christians reconquered the Iberian Peninsula
from Moorish domination. A victory over the Muslims at the Battle of Ourique in
1139 is traditionally taken as the occasion when the County of Portugal as a
fief of the Kingdom of León was transformed into the independent Kingdom of
Henry, to whom the newly formed county was awarded by Alfonso VI for his role in
reconquering the land, based his newly formed county in Bracara Augusta
(nowadays Braga), capital city of the ancient Roman province, and also previous
capital of several kingdoms over the first millennia.
On 24 June 1128, the Battle of São Mamede occurred near Guimarães. Afonso
Henriques, Count of Portugal, defeated his mother Countess Teresa and her lover
Fernão Peres de Trava, thereby establishing himself as sole leader. Afonso then
turned his arms against the Moors in the south. His campaigns were successful
and, on 25 July 1139, he obtained an overwhelming victory in the Battle of
Ourique, and straight after was unanimously proclaimed King of Portugal by his
Afonso then established the first of the Portuguese Cortes at Lamego, where he
was crowned by the Archbishop of Braga, though the validity of the Cortes of
Lamego has been disputed and called a myth created during the Portuguese
Restoration War. Afonso was recognized in 1143 by King Alfonso VII of León and
Castile, and in 1179 by Pope Alexander III.
Afonso Henriques and his successors, aided by military monastic orders, pushed
southward to drive out the Moors. At this time Portugal covered about half of
its present area. In 1249, the Reconquista ended with the capture of the Algarve
and complete expulsion of the last Moorish settlements on the southern coast,
giving Portugal its present-day borders, with minor exceptions.
The reigns of Dinis I, Afonso IV, and Pedro I for the most part saw peace with
the Christian kingdoms of Iberia, and thus the Portuguese kingdom advanced in
prosperity and culture.
In 1348 and 1349 Portugal, like the rest of Europe, was devastated by the Black
Death. In 1373, Portugal made an alliance with England, which is the
longest-standing alliance in the world. This alliance served both nations'
interests throughout history and is regarded by many as the predecessor to NATO.
Over time this went way beyond geo-political and military cooperation
(protecting both nations' interests in Africa, the Americas and Asia against
French, Spanish and Dutch rivals) and maintained strong trade and cultural ties
between the two old European allies. Particularly in the Oporto region, there is
visible English influence to this day.
In 1383, John I of Castile, husband of Beatrice of Portugal and son-in-law of
Ferdinand I of Portugal, claimed the throne of Portugal. A faction of petty
noblemen and commoners, led by John of Aviz (later King John I of Portugal) and
commanded by General Nuno Álvares Pereira defeated the Castilians in the Battle
of Aljubarrota. With this battle, the House of Aviz became the ruling house of
Portugal spearheaded European exploration of the world and the Age of Discovery.
Prince Henry the Navigator, son of King João I, became the main sponsor and
patron of this endeavour. During this period, Portugal explored the Atlantic
Ocean, discovering several Atlantic archipelagos like the Azores, Madeira, and
Cape Verde, explored the African coast, colonized selected areas of Africa,
discovered an eastern route to India via the Cape of Good Hope, discovered
Brazil, explored the Indian Ocean, established trading routes throughout most of
southern Asia, and sent the first direct European maritime trade and diplomatic
missions to China and Japan.
In 1415, Portugal acquired the first of its overseas colonies by conquering
Ceuta, the first prosperous Islamic trade centre in North Africa. There followed
the first discoveries in the Atlantic: Madeira and the Azores, which led to the
first colonization movements.
Throughout the 15th century, Portuguese explorers sailed the coast of Africa,
establishing trading posts for several common types of tradable commodities at
the time, ranging from gold to slaves, as they looked for a route to India and
its spices, which were coveted in Europe.
Padrão dos Descobrimentos. The Portuguese Empire was the first and longest
global empire in history, spanning almost 600 years. The Treaty of Tordesillas,
intended to resolve the dispute that had been created following the return of
Christopher Columbus, which was made by Pope Alexander VI, the mediator between
Portugal and Spain. It was signed on 7 June 1494, and divided the newly
discovered lands outside Europe between the two countries along a meridian 370
leagues west of the Cape Verde islands (off the west coast of Africa).
In 1498, Vasco da Gama reached India and brought economic prosperity to Portugal
and its population of 1.7 million residents, helping to start the Portuguese
Renaissance. In 1500, the Portuguese explorer Gaspar Corte-Real reached what is
now Canada and founded the town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's, Newfoundland and
Labrador, long before the French and English in the 17th century, and being just
one of many Portuguese Colonizations of the Americas.
In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral discovered Brazil and claimed it for Portugal. Ten
years later, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa in India, Muscat and Ormuz in
the Persian Strait, and Malacca, now a state in Malaysia. Thus, the Portuguese
empire held dominion over commerce in the Indian Ocean and South Atlantic.
Portuguese sailors set out to reach Eastern Asia by sailing eastward from
Europe, landing in such places as Taiwan, Japan, the island of Timor, and in the
Although for a long period it was believed the Dutch were the first Europeans to
arrive in Australia, evidence points to the Portuguese discovery of Australia in
The Treaty of Zaragoza, signed on 22 April 1529 between Portugal and Spain,
specified the anti-meridian to the line of demarcation specified in the Treaty
All these factors made Portugal one of the world's major economic, military, and
political powers from the 15th century until the late 16th century.
Iberian Union and Restoration
Portugal's sovereignty was interrupted between 1580 and 1640. This occurred
because the last two kings of the House of Aviz – King Sebastian, who died in
the battle of Alcácer Quibir in Morocco, and his great-uncle and successor, King
Henry of Portugal – both died without heirs, resulting in the Portuguese
succession crisis of 1580.
Subsequently, Philip II of Spain claimed the throne and so became Philip I of
Portugal. Although Portugal did not lose its formal independence, it was
governed by the same monarch who governed the Spanish Empire, briefly
forming a union of kingdoms. At this time Spain was a geographic territory. The
joining of the two crowns deprived Portugal of an independent foreign policy and
led to its involvement in the Eighty Years' War between Spain and the
War led to a deterioration of the relations with Portugal's oldest ally,
England, and the loss of Hormuz, a strategic trading post located between Iran
and Oman. From 1595 to 1663 the Dutch-Portuguese War primarily involved the
Dutch companies invading many Portuguese colonies and commercial interests in
Brazil, Africa, India and the Far East, resulting in the loss of the Portuguese
Indian sea trade monopoly.
In 1640, John IV spearheaded an uprising backed by disgruntled nobles and was
proclaimed king. The Portuguese Restoration War between Portugal and the Spanish
Empire, in the aftermath of the 1640 revolt, ended the sixty-year period of the
Iberian Union under the House of Habsburg. This was the beginning of the House
of Braganza, which reigned in Portugal until 1910.
Official estimates – and most estimates made so far – place the number of
Portuguese migrants to Colonial Brazil during the gold rush of the 18th century
at 600,000. This represented one of the largest movements of European
populations to their colonies in the Americas during colonial times.
Early Brigantine and Pombaline era
In 1738, Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, 1st Marquis of Pombal, 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
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 that he had witnessed from the 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 take care of the living."
Despite the calamity and huge death toll, Lisbon suffered no epidemics and
within less than one year was already being rebuilt. The new city centre 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 City
Centre still remain as one of Lisbon's tourist attractions. 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 prosecuted every person involved, even women and
children. This was the final stroke that broke the power of the aristocracy.
Joseph I made his loyal minister Count of Oeiras in 1759.
In 1762, Spain invaded Portuguese territory as part of the Seven Years' War, but
by 1763 the status quo between Spain and Portugal before the war had been
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
National and Imperial change
The new ruler, Queen Maria I of Portugal, disliked the Marquis because of the
power he amassed, and never forgave him for the ruthlessness with which he
dispatched the Távora family, and upon her accession to the throne, she withdrew
all his political offices. Pombal died on his estate at Pombal in 1782.
In the autumn of 1807, Napoleon moved French troops through Spain to invade
Portugal. From 1807 to 1811, British-Portuguese forces would successfully fight
against the French invasion of Portugal, while the royal family and the
Portuguese nobility, including Maria I, relocated to the Portuguese territory of
Brazil, at that time a colony of the Portuguese Empire, in South America. This
episode is known as the Transfer of the Portuguese Court to Brazil.
With the occupation by Napoleon, Portugal began a slow but inexorable decline
that lasted until the 20th century. This decline was hastened by the
independence in 1822 of the country's largest colonial possession, Brazil. In
1807, as Napoleon's army closed in on Lisbon, the Prince Regent João VI of
Portugal transferred his court to Brazil and established Rio de Janeiro as the
capital of the Portuguese Empire. In 1815, Brazil was declared a Kingdom and the
Kingdom of Portugal was united with it, forming a pluricontinental State, the
United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.
As a result of the change in its status and the arrival of the Portuguese royal
family, Brazilian administrative, civic, economical, military, educational, and
scientific apparatus were expanded and highly modernized. Portuguese and their
allied British troops fought against the French Invasion of Portugal and by 1815
the situation in Europe had cooled down sufficiently that João VI would have
been able to return safely to Lisbon. However, the King of Portugal remained in
Brazil until the Liberal Revolution of 1820, which started in Porto, demanded
his return to Lisbon in 1821.
Thus he returned to Portugal but left his son Pedro in charge of Brazil. When
the Portuguese Government attempted the following year to return the Kingdom of
Brazil to subordinate status, his son Pedro, with the overwhelming support of
the Brazilian elites, declared Brazil's independence from Portugal. Cisplatina
(today's sovereign state of Uruguay), in the south, was one of the last
additions to the territory of Brazil under Portuguese rule.
At the height of European colonialism in the 19th century, Portugal had already
lost its territory in South America and all but a few bases in Asia. Luanda,
Benguela, Bissau, Lourenço Marques, Porto Amboim and the Island of Mozambique
were among the oldest Portuguese-founded port cities in its African territories.
During this phase, Portuguese colonialism focused on expanding its outposts in
Africa into nation-sized territories to compete with other European powers
With the Conference of Berlin of 1884, Portuguese Africa territories had their
borders formally established on request of Portugal in order to protect the
centuries-long Portuguese interests in the continent from rivalries enticed by
the Scramble for Africa. Portuguese Africa's cities and towns like Nova Lisboa,
Sá da Bandeira, Silva Porto, Malanje, Tete, Vila Junqueiro, Vila Pery and Vila
Cabral were founded or redeveloped inland during this period and beyond. New
coastal towns like Beira, Moçâmedes, Lobito, João Belo, Nacala and Porto Amélia
were also founded. Even before the turn of the 20th century, railway tracks as
the Benguela railway in Angola, and the Beira railway in Mozambique, started to
be built to link coastal areas and selected inland regions.
Other episodes during this period of the Portuguese presence in Africa include
the 1890 British Ultimatum. This forced the Portuguese military to retreat from
the land between the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola (most of
present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia), which had been claimed by Portugal and
included in its "Pink Map", which clashed with British aspirations to create a
Cape to Cairo Railway.
The Portuguese territories in Africa were Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe,
Portuguese Guinea, Angola, and Mozambique. The tiny fortress of São João
Baptista de Ajudá on the coast of Dahomey, was also under Portuguese rule. In
addition, Portugal still ruled the Asian territories of Portuguese India,
Portuguese Timor and Macau.
Republic and turmoil
On 1 February 1908, the king Dom Carlos I of Portugal and his heir apparent,
Prince Royal Dom Luís Filipe, Duke of Braganza, were murdered in Lisbon. Under
his rule, Portugal had twice been declared bankrupt – on 14 June 1892, and again
on 10 May 1902 – causing social turmoil, economic disturbances, protests,
revolts and criticism of the monarchy. Manuel II of Portugal became the new
king, but was eventually overthrown by the 5 October 1910 revolution, which
abolished the regime and instated republicanism in Portugal. Political
instability and economic weaknesses were fertile ground for chaos and unrest
during the Portuguese First Republic. These conditions would lead to the failed
Monarchy of the North, 28 May 1926 coup d'état, and the creation of the National
Dictatorship (Ditadura Nacional).
This in turn led to the establishment of the right-wing dictatorship of the
Estado Novo under António de Oliveira Salazar in 1933. Portugal was one of only
five European countries to remain neutral in World War II. From the 1940s to the
1960s, Portugal was a founding member of NATO, OECD and the European Free Trade
Association (EFTA). Gradually, new economic development projects and relocation
of mainland Portuguese citizens into the overseas provinces in Africa were
initiated, with Angola and Mozambique, as the largest and richest overseas
territories, being the main targets of those initiatives. These actions were
used to affirm Portugal's status as a transcontinental nation and not as a
After India attained independence in 1947, pro-Indian residents of Dadra and
Nagar Haveli, with the support of the Indian government and the help of
pro-independence organisations, separated the territories of Dadra and Nagar
Haveli from Portuguese rule in 1954. In 1961, São João Baptista de Ajudá's
annexation by the Republic of Dahomey was the start of a process that led to the
final dissolution of the centuries-old Portuguese Empire.
According to the census of 1921 São João Baptista de Ajudá had 5 inhabitants
and, at the moment of the ultimatum by the Dahomey Government, it had only 2
inhabitants representing Portuguese Sovereignty. Another forcible retreat from
overseas territories occurred in December 1961 when Portugal refused to
relinquish the territories of Goa, Daman and Diu. As a result, the Portuguese
army and navy were involved in armed conflict in its colony of Portuguese India
against the Indian Armed Forces.
The operations resulted in the defeat and surrender of the limited Portuguese
defensive garrison, which was forced to surrender to a much larger military
force. The outcome was the loss of the remaining Portuguese territories in the
Indian subcontinent. The Portuguese regime refused to recognize Indian
sovereignty over the annexed territories, which continued to be represented in
Portugal's National Assembly until the military coup of 1974.
Also in the early 1960s, independence movements in the Portuguese overseas
provinces of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea in Africa, resulted in the Portuguese
Colonial War (1961–1974).
Revolution and imperial end
Throughout the colonial war period Portugal had to deal with increasing
dissent, arms embargoes and other punitive sanctions imposed by most of the
international community. However, the authoritarian and conservative Estado Novo
regime, first installed and governed by António de Oliveira Salazar and from
1968 onwards led by Marcelo Caetano, tried to preserve a vast centuries-long
intercontinental empire with a total area of 2,168,071 km2.
The Portuguese government and army successfully resisted the decolonization of
its overseas territories until April 1974, when a bloodless left-wing military
coup in Lisbon, known as the Carnation Revolution, led the way for the
independence of the overseas territories in Africa and Asia, as well as for the
restoration of democracy after two years of a transitional period known as PREC
(Processo Revolucionário Em Curso). This period was characterized by social
turmoil and power disputes between left- and right-wing political forces. The
retreat from the overseas territories and the acceptance of its independence
terms by Portuguese head representatives for overseas negotiations, which would
create independent states in 1975, prompted a mass exodus of Portuguese citizens
from Portugal's African territories (mostly from Portuguese Angola and
Over one million Portuguese refugees fled the former Portuguese provinces as
white settlers were usually not considered part of the new identities of the
former Portuguese colonies in Africa and Asia. Mário Soares and António de
Almeida Santos were charged with organising the independence of Portugal's
overseas territories. By 1975, all the Portuguese African territories were
independent and Portugal held its first democratic elections in 50 years.
The country continued to be governed by a Junta de Salvação Nacional until the
Portuguese legislative election of 1976. It was won by the Portuguese Socialist
Party (PS) and Mário Soares, its leader, became Prime Minister of the 1st
Constitutional Government on 23 July. Mário Soares would be Prime Minister from
1976 to 1978 and again from 1983 to 1985. In this capacity Soares tried to
resume the economic growth and development record that had been achieved before
the Carnation Revolution, during the last decade of the previous regime. He
initiated the process of accession to the European Economic Community (EEC) by
starting accession negotiations as early as 1977.
The country bounced between socialism and adherence to the neoliberal model.
Land reform and nationalizations were enforced; the Portuguese Constitution
(approved in 1976) was rewritten in order to accommodate socialist and communist
principles. Until the constitutional revisions of 1982 and 1989, the
constitution was a highly charged ideological document with numerous references
to socialism, the rights of workers, and the desirability of a socialist
economy. Portugal's economic situation after its transition to democracy,
obliged the government to pursue International Monetary Fund (IMF)-monitored
stabilization programs in 1977–78 and 1983–85.