Portugal Old History

By | January 2, 2023

Portugal is an independent nation in Southern Europe. With the capital city of Lisbon, Portugal 2020 population is estimated at 10,196,720 according to countryaah. The area that today constitutes Portugal was united in the 13th century under a ruler. Over time, the Kingdom developed into a major shipping nation and colonial power. In 1903 the king was overthrown and Portugal became a republic. A military coup was carried out in 1926 and seven years later a fascist-inspired new state was proclaimed under the dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.

  • AbbreviationFinder.org: Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Portugal, covering history, economy, and social conditions.

The oldest traces of man in the area that today make up Portugal are about half a million years old. Along the river Tejo, tribes have been feeding on hunting and fishing from the 7th century BC, and agriculture began to be practiced about 4,000 years later. Between the 16th century and the 11th century BC several groups of people moved to the area: Liguras, Iberians, Phoenicians and later Celts and Greeks. For Portugal political system, please check computerminus.

From 27 BC until the AD 400, the area was a Roman province, called Lusitania. Subsequently, Western Goths ruled from the end of the 500s to 711, when the area was invaded by Moors (Arabs and Islamized Berbers). In the 1000s, the Arab empire began to weaken, while several kingdoms on the Iberian Peninsula, including Portucale near present-day Porto, united under the King of León and Castile, Alfonso VI.

French crusader Henry of Burgundy got the counties of Coimbra and Portucale (who named Portugal) through marriage to Alfonso’s daughter Teresa. Their son Afonso Henriques was proclaimed king of Afonso in 1139. Just over a hundred years later, the king’s descendants conquered the Moorish kingdom of the Algarve in the south. The food thus dominated almost the entire area that is today’s Portugal.

A trade and shipping nation

During the 13th century, Portugal’s development into the shipping nation was founded. In 1303, an agreement was entered into with England which granted Portuguese ships access to English ports and provided Portuguese merchants with trade privileges. New King became João I, leader of the Order of Knights Aviz, and a year later an alliance between Portugal and England was concluded.

Under Henrik “The Mariner”, son of João I, Portugal grew as a shipping nation. The Portuguese built ever better ships, developed navigation instruments and set out to “discover” the world. In 1415, the Portuguese entered the city of Ceuta in North Africa. They soon found their way to the then uninhabited islands of Madeira, the Azores and Cape Verde that were colonized. One goal of the trips was to find the sea route to India in order to control the spice trade and spread Christianity. In 1487, Bartolomeu Dias rounded the southern tip of Africa, and just over ten years later Vasco da Gama reached India.

After the Europeans “discovered” America, the Pope divided the “new world” for Europe between the colonial empires of Spain and Portugal in 1494. Brazil became Portuguese and the rest of America was Spanish. Initially, the Portuguese concentrated on controlling the spice trade from India. It succeeded until the 1590s when Holland and England began to take over trade with Asia. The African areas “discovered” on the road to India became trading stations where the Portuguese bought slaves. In Brazil, sugarcane was planted, which among other things made spirits. The beverage was used as payment in Africa for slaves who were then sent to the sugar plantations in Brazil.

Large investments in trade trips

The profits from trade trips did not benefit the population. Instead, they invested heavily in new and expensive expeditions abroad. In addition, the royal family received a fifth of their earnings and strengthened their position. Agriculture at home in Portugal was neglected and food shortages ensued. In the 16th century, the Catholic Jesuit order also gained great power. Among other things, it controlled all education. During the Inquisition (the Pope’s counter-offensive to the Protestant Reformation), heretics were persecuted (Christians whose faith diverged from the Pope’s teachings, sometimes converted Jews).

When King Sebastião died on the battlefield in North Africa in 1578, Portugal stood without an heir to the throne. Two years later, Spain entered the country. After a rebellion in 1640, Portugal regained its independence and the Duke of Bragança was appointed King João IV. At the same time, during the 17th century, the country lost parts of its colonial rule to the Netherlands and England. Portugal then tied close ties with England. In 1703, the countries concluded the Methuen Treaty, which gave the English strong influence over Portuguese trade.

Lisbon was hit in 1755 by a devastating earthquake.

The marquee of Pombal, which in effect ruled the country at this time, was influenced by the ideas of the Enlightenment. A modernization of the administration and education system was implemented and the country’s finances were restored. The awning also drove the Jesuits out of the country.

Portugal becomes a republic

In the early 19th century, French Emperor Napoleon attacked Portugal and King João VI fled to Brazil. The country was defended with the United Kingdom’s help and then came to be effectively governed by British envoy Lord Beresford. At the same time, liberal ideas began to take root in Portugal. The Portuguese rose against the British in 1820 and the king returned home from Brazil. Two years later, a new constitution was adopted which was influenced by the ideas of the French Revolution.

The period up to the 1850s became uneasy with party struggles between liberals and royalists. A Republican party, formed in 1878, gradually gained more followers. Following a 1901 voting reform, the Republican opposition rose in strength. In 1908 King Carlos I was assassinated and two years later the monarchy was overthrown; Portugal became a republic.

The first time in the Republic was marked by political unrest. During the first 16 years, the country had 45 different governments.

Portugal joins in the First World War

At the end of the 19th century, the Portuguese sought control over the whole of southern Africa. They feared, however, that the Germans wanted to join the battle for the region and therefore entered World War I in 1914–1918 on the part of Britain and France – something that devastated the country’s already poor finances.

In 1926, the democratically elected government was overthrown in a military coup. The economist António de Oliveira Salazar became finance minister in 1928 and was given wide powers. He was appointed prime minister in 1932. The new state, Estado Novo, which was proclaimed in 1933, had a constitution influenced by the Italian fascists. Elections to the National Assembly and the head of state were allowed, but all political organizations except Salazar’s National Union were banned. In practice, Salazar became dictator. The security police PIDE supervised the opposition and checked that the harsh censorship was complied with.

Portugal was neutral during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939; see Spain, Modern History), although Salazar sent a special force to Franco’s aid. Portugal remained formally neutral even during the Second World War but secretly sold the important metal tungsten to Nazi Germany and at the same time from 1943 allowed the Allies to use an air base in the Azores.



Agreement on the Lisbon Treaty

At a special summit in Lisbon, a number of European leaders decide on a “new constitution” for the EU, the Lisbon Treaty.


Portugal becomes EU President

Portugal will take over the EU presidency for six months.

Abortion legislation is liberalized

Portugal’s abortion legislation is loosened. A new law allows abortion during the first ten weeks of pregnancy. Previously, the procedure was only allowed if the mother’s life was in danger, if the pregnancy was the result of rape or if the fetus was at risk of serious injury. The change in the law is the result of a consensus spirit and good cooperation between President Cavaco Silva and the government. The president signs the law “against his own conviction”.


Demonstrations against austerity policy

The largest demonstrations in several years are being held in protest of the government’s economic reforms and austerity policies.

Portugal Old History