Country Listing

Portugal Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Historical Setting


Ruins of Roman temple in ╔vora

THE HISTORY OF PORTUGAL can be divided into seven broad periods. The first begins in the Paleolithic period and extends to the formation of Portugal as an independent monarchy. During this period, Lusitania, that portion of the western Iberian Peninsula known today as Portugal, experienced many waves of conquest and settlement by Iberos, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Swabians, Visigoths, and Muslims. Of these successive waves of people, the Romans left the greatest imprint on present Portuguese society.

The second broad period of Portuguese history runs from the founding of the monarchy in 1128 until the disappearance of the House of Burgundy, Portugal's first dynasty, in 1383. During this period, the monarchy was established and expanded by reconquering territory from the Muslims and populating those lands with Christian settlers. Consolidation and economic development were furthered by policies designed to increase agricultural productivity.

The third period begins with the founding of the House of Avis, Portugal's second ruling dynasty. During this period, Portugal experienced a dynastic struggle that brought the House of Avis to the throne, a series of wars with Castile that threatened the independence of the new kingdom, a social revolution, a second dynastic struggle, and the assertion of royal supremacy over the nobility.

The fourth period begins in 1415 when the Portuguese seized Ceuta in Morocco, thus beginning Portugal's maritime expansion. During this period, Portugal explored the west coast of Africa, discovered and colonized Madeira and the Azores, opened the passage to India around Africa, built an empire in Asia, and colonized Brazil.

The fifth period, that of imperial decline, begins with the dynastic crisis of 1580, which saw the demise of the House of Avis. During this period, Portugal was part of the Iberian Union until 1640, when the monarchy was restored and a new dynasty, the House of Braganša, was established. This period includes the advent of absolutism in Portugal and ends with the Napoleonic invasions in the early 1800s.

The sixth, the period of constitutional monarchy, begins with the liberal revolution of 1820, which established in Portugal for the first time a written constitution. This period includes a civil war in which constitutionalists triumphed over absolutists, the winning of independence by Brazil, and the exploration of Portugal's African possessions. It ends with the collapse of rotativismo (see Glossary) in the early twentieth century.

The final period begins in 1910 with the downfall of the monarchy and the establishment of the First Republic. This period includes the corporative republic of Antˇnio de Oliveira Salazar; the collapse of that regime on April 25, 1974; and the establishment of Portugal's present democratic regime, the Second Republic.

Data as of January 1993