The history of Portugal begins as the Roman province of Lusitania. After the fall of the Roman Empire, Portugal was occupied by Germans, then by Arabs. During the Middle Ages, Portuguese princes, with the support of the church, began to conquer the country, and Portugal reached its present borders around 1300.
In the 1400s and 1500s, Portugal had its heyday as Europe’s leading naval and colonial power and formed the core of a worldwide empire. The downturn began in 1580 when Spain entered into a personal union with Portugal. In the following years, several Portuguese colonies were conquered by the Netherlands and England. The country regained its independence in 1640, but continued to lose colonies. After Napoleon’s invasion in 1807 and the defeat of Brazil in 1822, the empire’s time was over. In 1910 the monarchy overthrown, and several years of political turmoil followed the First World War.
In 1926, the army committed a coup, and a few years later dictator Antonio O. Salazar came to power. Under Salazar, the country remained an underdeveloped dictatorship until a new coup in 1974, the so-called carnation revolution, and democracy was introduced over a period of two years. In 1975 Portugal declared its last colonies, and in 1976 the country was given a democratic constitution. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Portugal.
Roman times and migration times
The oldest known population in Portugal was Iberians; in the 500s and 400s BCE. immigrant Celtic tribes, and after 200 BCE. followed the Romans who transformed Portugal into the province of Lusitania. Two major revolts against the Romans in the 100th century BCE. was turned down.
When the Roman Empire disintegrated, Portugal became occupied by Germanic tribes and became about 400 AD part of the Visigothic Empire. In the 700s, Portugal, like the rest of the Pyrenees Peninsula, was conquered by the Arabs.
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After the year 1000, feudal princes, with the support of the church, began to conquer the country from the Arabs from the north. In 1139, the Count of Portugal, who was vassal of the King of Castile, was proclaimed king, and in 1143 he conquered Lisbon. In 1290 a university was established in Lisbon, which was later moved to Coimbra. Shortly after 1300, Portugal reached its present limits.
From the beginning of the 1400s, a great overseas expansion began. In 1415, Ceuta in Morocco was occupied, Madeira colonized, and under the direction of Prince Henry the Sailor a number of trade and exploration trips were arranged. Tangier was conquered in 1471, just after the Azores and Cape Verde Islands. In 1486, Bartholomeu Díaz sailed around Cape of Good Hope, and in 1498 Vasco da Gama found the sea route to India. There, a colonial kingdom was created with the city of Goa as its capital.
The Portuguese also conquered areas in Sri Lanka and Java, and they traded with China and Japan. In the 16th century, the colonial empire in Africa was also expanded. In 1500 Pedro Alvarez Cabral reached Brazil, which soon became Portugal’s largest colony. Under the kings of Johan 2 (1481–1495) and Manuel 1 (1495–1521), Portugal was at the height of its power. The country, alongside Spain, was Europe’s leading maritime nation.
Culturally, too, Portugal had a great time. At the same time, the power of the church also increased. The Inquisition was introduced in 1536, the Jesuits gained great influence, and persecution of Jews was initiated.
In the second half of the 16th century, Portugal was exposed to fierce competition, especially from the Dutch, and this was the beginning of a long downturn. In 1580, Philip 2 of Spain became king of Portugal. The union with Spain was not popular in Portugal, and in 1640, in the midst of the Thirty Years’ War, riots broke out simultaneously in Portugal and Catalonia. The rebels were led by the Bragança house and received English support. Although they had control over almost all of Portugal as early as 1640, the war with Spain did not end until 1668.
Independent Portugal became both politically and economically dependent on England, and this was particularly expressed in the Methuen Treaty of 1703, which granted English trade privileges in Portugal and its colonies.
During the economic downturn, the church and landlords gained a lot of influence, and the monarchical monarchy served their interests. The Standing Assembly, Cortes, was not called. During the enlightened period of time, Portugal also had a short period of reform under Pombal’s leadership.
From Kingdoms to Republic
During the Napoleonic Wars, the mainland blockade led the French under General Junot in 1807 to occupy the country. The royal family fled to Brazil. From 1808 Portugal became the basis for Britain’s war on the Pyrenees Peninsula. In 1820, the king, Johan 6, returned from Brazil, and in 1822 he signed a constitution adopted by Cortes. That same year, Brazil became its own empire.
For the rest of the 19th century Portugal was characterized by internal strife, revolutions and military coups. There was a conflict between a clerical, reactionary political direction, which was once supported by France, and a more liberal and anti-clerical one, which received British support. In both directions, officer clicks played a crucial role, and the warring groups often relied on different branches of the royal house. Towards the end of the century a radical republican movement arose with the third republic in France, and an anarchistly characterized and weakly organized labor movement.
In the years 1907-1908, Prime Minister João Franco ruled dictatorially, with the support of King Carlos 1. In 1908 both the king and the crown prince were murdered. Franco had to escape from the country, and the king’s second son became king under the name Manuel 2. In 1910, a republican revolt broke out, the king fled, and in 1911 a republican constitution was adopted. In the same year it was decided that the church should be separated from the state.
During World War I, Portugal in 1916 was pressured to join the war against Germany, sending a smaller force to the western front. Portugal allowed the Allies to use Portuguese ports and to seize German ships lying there.
At the peace in Versailles in 1919, Portugal gained the district of Kionga in East Africa. Government debt had risen rapidly during the war, and the country was facing major financial problems.
In 1926 the government was displaced by a military rebellion, and in 1927 General António Fragoso Carmona took power. In 1928 he was elected president. However, the real political power lay with Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Salazar became Minister of Finance in 1928 and Prime Minister in 1932, and he remained in power in Portugal until 1969. In 1933, he adopted a corporate constitution, which came into force in 1935. He succeeded in creating stable conditions, although the basic ones social problems were not solved. During the Spanish Civil War, Salazar supported the Spanish fascist dictator Francisco Franco, but without interfering directly with the fighting. In July 1940 Portugal signed a pact with Spain.
During World War II, the mood in Portugal was allied, but the government declared itself neutral. By agreement in 1943, however, the Azores were placed at the disposal of the United Kingdom and the United States, as a base for the Allied fleet and air force. Portugal joined NATO in 1949 and the UN in 1956.
At the 1958 presidential election, criticism of the totalitarian leadership was expressed, with the opposition’s counterpart, General Huberto Delgado, receiving 23.5 percent of the vote. In the 1960s, Portugal faced increasing problems in its overseas possessions as active liberation movements arose in several places. In 1961, Indian forces moved into Goa, Daman and Diu in India, and the areas were declared incorporated in India, despite Portuguese protests. Portugal’s policy in the African territories led to strong criticism of the country in the UN, and sanctions against Portugal were repeatedly called for by Africa. In 1968, Salazar became seriously ill, and President Américo Tomás appointed Marcelo Caetano new prime minister.
The dissatisfaction with the regime grew, not least after the military forces suffered setbacks in Portuguese possessions in Africa. Led by a group of officers, a coup was carried out on April 25, 1974, the so-called “carnation revolution”. During a two-year period, democracy was introduced during a two-year period. General António de Spínola took over as president. A civil government was formed, and politically radical Colonel Vasco Gonçalves took the lead, with Socialist Mário Soares as Foreign Minister. Spínola resigned in protest against the left-wing politics that were being pursued, and he was followed by former Chief of Staff Francisco da Costa Gomes.
An attempted coup against President Spínola in March 1975 did not go ahead. The election of the Constitutional Assembly on the anniversary of the coup was a victory for the Democratic parties. At the parliamentary elections the following year, the Socialist Party became the largest. The revolution led to the independence of the former Portuguese colonies in Africa – Angola, Mozambique and Guinea-Bissau – in 1975.
In the 1976 Democratic Constitution, the Military Revolutionary Council was given the role of president’s advisers and guarantors of the new order that had been established. On several occasions, the Council opposed reforms that broke with the socialist ideas that played a central role in the Armed Forces movement in 1974 and which were enshrined in the Constitution, among other things, the repatriation of banks was a protracted issue of conflict. In 1974, a long-awaited land reform began, with the establishment of collective land use for landless farmers. In addition to extensive state expropriation, large areas were taken over illegally and had to be returned later.