Introduction to History of Portugal

In ancient times, what is now Portugal was inhabited mainly by the Lusitanians. This tribe carried on trade with the Phoenicians at Gades (Cádiz) and later with the Carthaginians who colonized southern Spain.

Important dates in Portugal
1000's B.C. Phoenicians established settlements in what is now Portugal.
100's B.C. Portugal became part of the Roman Empire.
A.D. 711 Muslims invaded the Iberian Peninsula.
1143 Portugal became an independent nation.
1419 Portugal began its overseas expansion.
1500 Pedro Alvares Cabral claimed Brazil for Portugal.
1580 Spain invaded and conquered Portugal.
1640 Portugal regained its independence.
1822 Portugal lost its colony of Brazil.
1910 The Portuguese established a republic.
1928 Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, who ruled as a dictator for 40 years, began his rise to power.
1949 Portugal and 11 other nations formed a military alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
1960's Rebellions against Portuguese rule broke out in the country's African colonies.
1974 A revolution overthrew the Portuguese dictatorship.
1975 Almost all remaining Portuguese colonies gained independence.
1976 Portugal held its first free general elections in more than 50 years.
1986 Portugal joined the European Community, an economic organization that later became the basis of the European Union.

About 200 B.C. the Romans annexed the Iberian Peninsula, and in 60 years had subdued the Lusitanians. In the early fifth century A.D., the Alans, a Scythian tribe, settled in Lusitania. In mid-century the Germanic Suevi, who had settled to the north, invaded Lusitania and sacked Lisbon. About 470 the Visigoths from southern Gaul (France) migrated to the peninsula and founded a kingdom.

In 711 the Moors, Muslims from Africa, began invading Spain. By 719 they had conquered the whole peninsula. Lisbon was besieged by Norsemen in the ninth century, but withstood the attack. In the north of Spain the Christians had slowly pushed the Moors southward, and at the end of the ninth century the northern part of modern Portugal was occupied by the Christian Kingdom of León. By the mid-11th century, the boundary reached almost to Lisbon.

Rise of the Portuguese Kingdom

In 1094 Alfonso VI of León and Castile made Portugal, from the Minho River to Coimbra, a separate county under the rule of his son-in-law, Henry of Burgundy. Alfonso (I) Henriques, Henry's son, took the title of king in 1139. He extended the kingdom south to the Tagus River, and made Coimbra the capital. By the mid-13th century the southern boundary was the coast, and Lisbon became the capital.

Castile made repeated attempts to regain Portugal. When this goal was achieved finally by marriage, the half-brother of the previous ruler led a revolt, defeated the Castilian forces at Aljubarrota in 1385, and took the throne as John I of the House of Aviz. The Treaty of Windsor, 1386, established a permanent alliance between Portugal and England.

Under the Aviz dynasty Portugal underwent its period of greatest achievement. Prince Henry the Navigator, a son of John I, started the search for a route to the Indies. Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, and Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498. Pope Alexander VI in 1493–94 established the Line of Demarcation, dividing the world's unclaimed lands between Spain and Portugal. Pedro Alvares Cabral reached Brazil and claimed it for Portugal. Trading stations were established in Morocco and on the west and east coasts of Africa, as well as in India. Colonial trade brought wealth and power to the nation.

Da Gama's voyage from Portugal to India, 1497-1498.Da Gama's voyage from Portugal to India, 1497-1498. Vasco Da Gama sailed from Portugal to India in 1497 and 1498. This map shows his historic voyage around Africa, which opened a new trade route between Europe and Asia.

Decline In Portugal

When the direct Aviz line died out in 1580, the throne was seized by Philip II of Spain, an heir through his mother. Portugal remained under Spanish rule until 1640, when it revolted, and the House of Braganza came to the throne. Much of Portugal's colonial empire had been lost to the English and Dutch. In 1654 the Portuguese expelled the Dutch from the northern coastal areas of Brazil, which they had seized earlier in the century. However, Portugal continued to decline economically and as a world power.

Spain tried repeatedly to reconquer Portugal, but finally recognized its independence in 1668. In the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14) there was further fighting between the two countries. During the Seven Years' War (1756–63), Portugal was invaded by Spain and France, who withdrew at the end of the war.

Napoleonic Era and Aftermath

In 1801 France and Spain invaded Portugal in the War of the Oranges (named for oranges sent by the Spanish commander to his queen). In 1807 a French army occupied Portugal, and the royal family fled to Brazil. The Peninsular War started the next year. British forces landed in Portugal and defeated the French, who withdrew. The French invaded again in 1809, but were repelled by the British.

Portugal adopted a constitution in 1820, and the king, John VI, returned from Brazil to rule as a constitutional monarch. Brazil, under his son Dom Pedro, declared itself independent. Another son, Miguel, started a civil war in Portugal to restore absolute monarchy. Dom Pedro succeeded his father to the Portuguese throne in 1826, but abdicated in favor of his infant daughter, Maria. In 1828 Miguel, then regent, seized the throne and abolished the constitution. Dom Pedro, with the aid of England, France, and Spain, defeated him in 1834.

Founding of the Republic

During the rest of the 19th century Portugal's government was in the hands of professional politicians who had little concern for the wishes of the people. Discontent was widespread by the early 20th century, and in 1908 King Carlos I and the crown prince were assassinated. A younger son, Manuel II, came to the throne and restored the constitution, but in 1910 he was forced to leave the country and a republic was declared.

A liberal constitution was adopted in 1911, and Manoel d'Arriaga was elected president. Church and state were made separate, and property of the religious orders was confiscated. In 1916 Portugal entered World War I on the side of the Allies.

Portugal Under Salazar

In 1926 the army seized control of the government. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar became minister of finance in 1928, and was soon dominant. He strengthened the economy and established a fascist type of government. In 1932 he became premier, with the powers of a dictator. A new constitution went into effect in 1933. Salazar supported Erancisco Franco in the Spanish Civil War, and signed a nonaggression pact with Spain in 1939.

Portugal observed neutrality in World War II, but permitted Allied bases in the Azores and in 1949 joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. It was refused admission to the United Nations by Soviet veto until 1955, when it became a member.

In Portugal, strong opposition developed against Salazar and his regime. To keep opposition candidates from coming to power, in 1959 the government abolished direct election of presidents in favor of election by an electoral college. In the 1960's revolts began in Portugal's African possessions of Angola, Portuguese Guinea, and Mozambique. In 1961 India seized the territories of Goa, Damo, and Diu.

Portugal After Salazar

In 1968 Salazar became critically ill and his close associate Marcello Caetano replaced him as premier. Under Caetano, government controls were eased slightly and greater internal selfgovernment was authorized for the overseas possessions. However, many repressive practices were maintained. As a result, unrest continued within Portugal while liberation groups intensified the battle for independence in the African possessions. Prolonged warfare in Africa seriously weakened Portugal's economy, contributing to internal discontent.

In 1974 Caetano's government was overthrown by an armed forces coup. A provisional government was formed, and a series of reforms returned many freedoms to Portugal's citizens. A new constitution in 1976 guaranteed civil liberties and established a democratic socialist government.

Meanwhile, the provisional government dismantled Portugal's empire. Portuguese Guinea was granted independence in 1974, followed by Angola, Cape Verde, Mozambique, and Sao Tomé and Príndpe in 1975. Portugal withdrew from Portuguese Timor, now called East Timor, in 1974 but never fully granted it independence. It retained control over Macau, a small territory on the Chinese coast it acquired in 1557.

The government moved increasingly to the left, nationalizing many businesses and collectivizing agriculture. This trend was reversed after the failure of a coup by extreme leftists late in 1975. From 1975 to 1987 no party held a majority of seats in parliament and Portugal had a succession of unstable governments. In 1987 the Social Democratic party won a majority of seats in parliament. Meanwhile, in 1986, Portugal joined the European Community (now the European Union).

The Social Democrats fell from power in 1995 when the Socialists won a majority of seats in parliamentary elections. In 1998, Portugal and Indonesia, after years of acrimonious relations, reached an agreement on an autonomy plan for East Timor, which Indonesia had occupied since 1975. In 1999, Portugal returned Macau to China in accordance with the terms of a 1987 agreement between the two countries.

In elections in 2002, the Social Democrats won the most seats in the Assembly. The Socialist Party regained control of the Assembly in 2005.