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Portugal Table of Contents


Social Revolution

The crisis of 1383-85 that brought Joćo I to the throne was not only a dynastic revolution; it was a social one, as well. Joćo I distrusted the old aristocracy that had opposed his rise to power and promoted the growth of a new generation of nobility by confiscating the titles and properties of the old and distributing them to the new, thus forming a new nobility based on service to the king.

Joćo rewarded the urban bourgeoisie that had supported his cause by giving it positions and influence and by allowing it to send representatives to the king's royal council. Artisans grouped themselves according to professions into guilds and were permitted to send delegates to the governing chamber of Lisbon, where they were actively involved in the administration of the capital and other cities. The king also surrounded himself with skilled legalists who professionalized royal administration and extended royal jurisdiction at the expense of the old aristocracy. This new class of bureaucrats, having studied Roman law at the university, defended the Caesarist principle that the will of the king had the force of law. This belief encouraged the later development of absolutism in Portugal and pitted the king against the landed nobility, especially the old aristocracy that wished to regain its lost power and privilege.

Data as of January 1993