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.
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
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 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.