Brief history of Portugal summarized
A brief and enjoyable overview of the history of Portugal, located on the Iberian Peninsula.
Humans have lived in Portugal since approximately 30,000 BC, when the world was in the grip of an ice age. The first Portuguese were hunters and fishermen. They also gathered plants for food. They wore leather clothing and made stone tools. In the year 5,000 BC agriculture was introduced in Portugal.
However, farmers continued to use stone tools. Bronze was introduced to Portugal around 2,000 BC Around 700 BC Celtic tribes entered Portugal from the north. They introduced iron in Portugal.
Meanwhile, by 800 BC the Phoenicians in what is now Lebanon had begun trading with the Portuguese. (They wanted Portuguese tin to make bronze). Around 600 BC the Greeks were also trading with Portugal.
In the year 210 BC the Romans invaded the Iberian Peninsula. They soon conquered the south, but the central part was something else. Here lived a Celtic tribe called the Lusitani. In 193 BC, led by their ruler Viriatus, they rebelled against Roman rule. They fought the Romans for decades and were only defeated in 139 BC when Viriatus was captured.
Then the resistance collapsed. However, the Celtic tribe gave its name to the Roman province of Lusitania. Over time, the south of the Iberian Peninsula became fully integrated into the Roman world. Wheat, olives, and wine from what is now Portugal were exported to Rome.
However, by the middle of the third century AD the Roman Empire was in decline. In the 5th century Roman rule in Portugal collapsed. In the year 409 the Germanic peoples invaded the Iberian Peninsula. A race called the Suevi invaded Portugal.
However, in the 6th century, another race called the Visigoths ruled Spain and attacked the Suevi. In 585 the Visigoths had conquered the Suevi. The Germanic invaders became the new upper class. They were landowners and warriors who despised trade. Under his rule, trade was dominated by the Jews.
In the year 711 the Moors from North Africa invaded the Iberian Peninsula. They quickly conquered what is now southern Portugal and ruled it for centuries. However, they were unable to permanently subdue northern Portugal.
A small Visigothic statue grew slowly in the north. In the eleventh century it was known as Portugal. The counts of Portugal were vassals of the king of León, but culturally the area was very different from León.
In 1095 the King of León granted Portugal to his daughter Doña Teresa and her husband. When her husband died, Doña Teresa ruled as regent for her son. She married a Galician nobleman.
However, the Portuguese nobles were alarmed at the prospect of a union with Galicia. They rebelled and led by her son Dom Alfonso Henriques defeated Teresa at the battle of Sao Mamede. Later Alfonso Henriques became the ruler of Portugal.
Portugal gradually became independent from León. In 1140 Afonso called himself king of Portugal and asserted the country’s independence from him. From 1179 papal diplomats also called him king.
Meanwhile, Alfonso dedicated himself to recovering territory from the Moors. In 1139 Alfonso defeated the Moors at Ourique. In 1147 he captured Lisbon and moved the border to the Tagus River. He later captured territory south of the Tagus.
Meanwhile, trade continued to prosper in Portugal. The Jews were still important in the cities. The first parliament or Cortes met in 1211. At first only the clergy and nobility were represented. However, King Dinis (1279-1325) allowed the merchant class to send representatives, a sign of their growing importance.
From the middle of the 13th century Lisbon became the capital of Portugal. In 1290 the first Portuguese university was founded in Lisbon. (Although he soon moved to Coimbra). Also during the reign of Dinis pine forests were planted and swamps were drained for agriculture. Agriculture flourished.
However, in 1348-49, like the rest of Europe, Portugal was devastated by the Black Death, which probably killed a third of the population.
At the end of the 14th century, Portugal was plunged into a war. When King Ferdinand (1367-1383) died, his daughter Beatriz became queen. However, she was married to Juan de Castilla. Some Portuguese feared that Portugal would join Castile and cease to be independent. They rose in rebellion.
The King of Castile invaded Portugal to support his wife. The war lasted two years. Finally the Castilians were defeated by a Portuguese army (supported by English archers) at the Battle of Aljubarrota. Dom Joao became king and Portugal remained independent.
In 1386 Portugal made an alliance with England. Then, in the fifteenth century, Portugal became a great maritime nation. In 1415 the Portuguese captured Ceuta in Morocco. Madeira was discovered in 1419. The Azores followed in 1427.
At that time, Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460) made navigation an art. He also provided ships and money to the Portuguese captains. The Portuguese sailors ventured further and further afield.
When Prince Henry died, the Portuguese had already sailed to Sierra Leone. Tangier was then captured in 1471. Finally, in 1488, Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope.
In 1492 Columbus discovered the Antilles. As the new lands were south of the Canary Islands, the Portuguese king claimed that they were his. However, the discussion with the Spanish ended with the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.
Portugal and Spain agreed that all new land west of a line 370 degrees west of the Cape Verde Islands would belong to Spain. Any land east of the line belonged to Portugal. Following the 1498 treaty, an expedition led by Vasco da Gama sailed around Africa and reached India.
Asia was the source of spices, which were very expensive in Europe. Huge profits could be made by importing spices by sea. At first, the Portuguese dominated the spice trade. In 1510 the Portuguese annexed Goa to India. In 1511 they took Malacca in Indonesia. In 1514 they reached China and in 1557 they established a trading post in Macao. The Portuguese also colonized Brazil.
Meanwhile, in 1536 the Inquisition was formed in Portugal. The first execution in Portugal took place in 1541. The last was in 1765.
King Sebastian (1557-1576) led an expedition to Morocco. It ended in a complete disaster. Thousands of Portuguese were killed, including the king and most of the nobility. Sebastiao was succeeded by Henrique, who died childless.
Later, King Felipe II of Spain claimed the throne of Portugal claiming that he was King Sebastian’s nephew. The Spanish won the Battle of Alcántara and Philip II of Spain became Philip I of Portugal.
From then until 1640 Spain and Portugal shared a monarch. However, the union became less and less popular. In 1640 the Portuguese nobles staged a coup in Lisbon. They deposed the governor of Portugal. The Duke of Braganza was named King Joao IV.
Spain did not recognize Portugal’s independence until 1668, when the Treaty of Lisbon was signed. However, Portugal was in decline in the 17th century. In 1600 the Portuguese dominated the spice trade with Asia. However, in the 17th century they lost their position to the Dutch.
At the end of the 17th century, gold was discovered in Brazil. In 1730 diamonds were discovered there. Taxes on both helped the Portuguese treasury. Also, in 1717 the Portuguese won a naval victory over the Turks at Matapan.
In 1750 the Marquis of Pombal became the king’s prime minister. In 1755 Lisbon was destroyed by an earthquake. Tens of thousands of people were killed and entire areas of the city were destroyed. Pombal took the opportunity to rebuild Lisbon as a modern city. In 1758 an attempt was made to assassinate the king, José I. Pombal took the opportunity to execute several powerful noblemen.
He also expelled the Jesuits from Portugal and confiscated their property. Pombal wanted to make Portugal an enlightened despotism. He has carried out a series of legal reforms. He also reformed taxation and promoted trade. Pombal also created many state-funded schools.
However, when the king died in 1777, Pombal’s enemies took the opportunity to put him on trial for the harsh measures of the previous regime. Pombal was found guilty but escaped punishment because of his age.
In 1807 a French army invaded Portugal. The court fled to Brazil. However, in 1808 a rebellion against the French began in Spain and Portugal. The British sent a force under Sir John Moore to Portugal.
Moore was killed at the Battle of A Coruña in January 1809, but the French were unable to drive the British out of Portugal. After 3 years of fighting, the French were expelled from Portugal in 1811.
In 1820 there was a revolution in Portugal. At that time, the king was still in Brazil. In his absence, a group of army officers seized power and a “Constitutional Court” was formed to draft a new constitution. However, the new Constitution was not popular with everyone. Conservative landowners and clergy did not like the new liberal regime very much.
In 1821 the Cortes asked King Joao VI to return from Brazil. He did so and accepted the new constitution, but the queen refused. Meanwhile, her son Pedro de Ella stayed in Brazil. Under his leadership, Brazil broke away from Portugal and became independent.
King Joao VI died in 1826. The heir to the throne, Pedro, was emperor of an independent Brazil and had no desire to rule Portugal as well. He abdicated the throne of Portugal in favor of his 7-year-old daughter, Maria da Gloria. Since she was a child, her uncle Miguel ruled as regent.
Pedro also drafted a “charter” to replace the liberal constitution. The charter still limited the powers of the monarch, but it was not as liberal as the old constitution. Miguel, the regent, at first agreed to accept the charter, but soon tore it up and became an absolute ruler.
In 1828, with the support of conservative forces in Portugal, he made himself king. However, a rebellion against his stranglehold began in the Azores. Then, in 1831, Pedro, the Emperor of Brazil, fell from power. He fled to Europe and declared himself Regent of Portugal in place of his brother Miguel.
The rebels were willing to support Pedro and in July 1832 a rebel army, with many British supporters, landed in Portugal to fight for him. The fight lasted until 1834, when Pedro took the throne and Miguel went into exile.
Later Portugal was divided between those who wanted a strong traditional monarchy and those who wanted a liberal constitution. No one could find an agreement that satisfied both parties. In 1838, following the demands of the Liberals, a new constitution was introduced.
However, the Conservatives strongly opposed it and in 1846-47 a civil war broke out between the two sides. It only ended when foreign powers intervened. At the end of the 19th century, some European countries were transformed by the industrial revolution.
However, Portugal remains a poor and agricultural country. Illiteracy was common. Meanwhile, the monarchy’s popularity waned and republican sentiment grew. A republican revolution occurred in 1891 but was defeated.
However, in 1908 King Charles was assassinated. Finally in 1910 a republican revolution took place, led by the army and the navy. King Manuel II fled to Great Britain.
Many poor Portuguese had high hopes for the revolution, but saw no improvement in their standard of living afterward. Soon many Portuguese became disillusioned. Finally in 1926 the army took power. In 1928 Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, a professor at the University of Coimbra, was appointed Minister of Finance.
In 1932 Salazar became prime minister. He drafted a new constitution, which was accepted in a referendum. Salazar became a virtual dictator. A secret police force, the PIDE (Policia Internacional e de Defensa do Estado), was formed. The press was censored and political parties were banned.
Salazar spent money on public works such as roads, bridges, and public buildings. Portuguese industry grew steadily and the urban population grew. However, poverty remained widespread. Also, in the early 1960s, guerrilla warfare began in Portugal’s African colonies. Fighting the rebels put a heavy strain on Portugal’s resources.
In 1968 Salazar was forced to resign due to health problems. He was replaced by Marcelo Caetano. Meanwhile, growing discontent in the army led officers to form the Movimento das Forcas Armadas (MFA).
On April 25, 1974, the army staged a coup. People wore red and white carnations to show their support for the revolution. So it became known as the Carnation Revolution. Democracy was restored in Portugal.
In 1986 Portugal joined the EU. In 1999, Portugal joined the euro.
Today Portugal is known for its olives, wheat, wine and cork. Tourism is also an important industry in Portugal. Like the rest of Europe, Portugal suffered in the 2009 recession.
However, Portugal eventually recovered and its economy began to grow again. However, Portugal suffered from a high level of unemployment (9.7% in 2017). Today the population of Portugal is 10.8 million inhabitants.
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