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Portugal was part of the Iberian Peninsula until the 11C. The earliest people were of Celtic orgin, but were overrun, in succession, by the Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Visigoths and in 711, the Moors, who remained in control for several centuries. Portugal’s first attempt at independence came in 1065, though Spain regained control. In 1143, the country finally emerged as an independent kingdom.

Time Line

9C–7C BC — The Greeks and the Phoenicians establish trading posts on the coasts of the Iberian Peninsula, inhabited in the west by Lusitanian tribes, originally a Celtiberian population.

3C–2C BC — The Carthaginians master the country; the Romans intervene (Second Punic War) and take over the administration of Lusitania, so named by Augustus. Viriate, chief of the Lusitanians, organises resistance and is assassinated in 139.

5C AD — The Suevi (Swabians) and Visigoths occupy most of the Iberian Peninsula.

Moorish occupation

711 — The Moorish invasion from North Africa.

8C–9C — The Christian war of Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula begins at Covadonga in Asturias, led by Pelayo in 718. By the 9C, the region of Portucale, north of the Mondego, has been liberated.

The Kingdom founded

In 1087, Alfonso VI, King of Castile and León, undertook the reconquest of present-day Castilla-La Mancha. He called upon several French knights, including Henry of Burgundy, descendant of the French king Hugues Capet, and his cousin Raymond of Burgundy.

When the Moors were vanquished, Alfonso offered his daughters in marriage to the princes. Urraca, heir to the throne, married Raymond; Tareja (Teresa) bought the county of Portucale, which stretched between the Minho and Douro rivers, as her dowry to Henry of Burgundy in 1095. Henry thus became Count of Portugal.

Henry died in 1114; Queen Tareja became regent pending the coming of age of her son Afonso Henriques . But in 1128 the latter forced his mother to relinquish her power; in 1139 he broke the bonds of vassalage imposed upon him by Alfonso VII of Castile and proclaimed himself King of Portugal under the name Afonso I; Castile finally agreed in 1143.

Afonso Henriques continued the reconquest and after the victory at Ourique (1139) took Santarém and then Lisbon (1147) with the aid of the Second Crusade’s fleet.

The capture of Faro in 1249 marked the end of Moorish occupation.

Burgundian dynasty (1128–1383) – Wars with Castile

1279–1325 — King Dinis I founds the University of Coimbra and establishes Portuguese, a dialect of the Oporto region, as the official language.

1369–83 — Taking advantage of the trouble in Castile, Fernando I attempts to enlarge his kingdom; in failing he proposes the marriage of his only daughter, Beatriz, to the King of Castile, Juan I.

13 June 1373 — First Treaty of Alliance with England (signed in London).

Avis dynasty (1385–1578) – The Great Discoveries

1385 — Upon Fernando I’s death in 1383, his son-in-law Juan of Castile claims the succession; but João, bastard brother of the late king and Grand Master of the Order of Avis is acclaimed to rule; the Cortes in Coimbra proclaims him King of Portugal under the name João I .

Seven days later, on 14 Aug- ust, Juan of Castile confronts João of Avis at the Battle of Aljubarrota but fails.

To celebrate his victory, João builds the monastery at Batalha. He marries Philippa of Lancaster, thus sealing the alliance with England that is to last throughout Portugal’s history.

1386 — Treaty of Windsor with England.

1415 — The capture of Ceuta in Morocco by João I and his sons, including Prince Henry , puts an end to attacks on the Portuguese coast by Barbary pirates and marks the beginning of Portuguese expansion.

1420–44 — Settlement of the Madeira archipelago begins in 1420 and that of the Azores in 1444.

1481–95João II , known as the Perfect Prince, promotes maritime exploration; however, he mistakenly rejects Christopher Columbus’ project. During his reign Bartolomeu Dias rounds the Cape of Good Hope (1488) and the Treaty of Tordesillas is signed (1494), dividing the New World into two spheres of influence, the Portuguese and the Castilian.

1492 — Christopher Columbus discovers America.

1495–1521 — Reign of Manuel I . In order to marry Isabel, daughter of the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, he expels the Jews in 1497 and Portugal loses a great many traders, bankers and learned men. Vasco da Gama discovers the sea route to India in 1498 and Pedro Álvares Cabral lands in Brazil in 1500. Magellan ’s expedition from 1519–22 is the first to circumnavigate the world.

August 1578Sebastião I is killedand succeeded by his great uncle and former regent, Henrique I , a pious man, whose reign lasts two years and ends without heir.

1580 — Three of Henrique’s cousins lay claim to the crown: Dom António , Prior of Crato, the Duchess of Bragança and the King of Spain, Philip II , son of the Infante, Isabel. The Prior of Crato seeks support in the Azores . Philip II sends the Duke of Alba in November 1580 to claim Portugal by force. Lisbon soon falls and Philip is elected king.

Spanish domination (1580–1640)

1580Philip II of Spain invades Portugal and is proclaimed king Felipe I. Spanish domination lasts 60 years.

1 Dec 1640 — Uprising against the Spanish; the war of restoration of Portuguese supremacy ensues. Duke João of Bragança takes the title João IV of Portugal; the Bragança family remain as the ruling dynasty until 1910.

1668 — Spain recognises Portugal’s independence.

The 18C

1683–1706Pedro II on the throne.

1703 — Britain and Portugal sign the Methuen Treaty and a trade treaty facilitating the shipping of port to England.

1706–50 — The reign of João V , the Magnanimous, is one of untold magnificence – sustained by riches from Brazil – in keeping with the luxurious tastes of a king of the Baroque period. The finest testimony to the period is the monastery at Mafra.

1 Nov 1755 — An earthquake destroys Lisbon.

1750–77José I reigns assisted by his minister, the Marquis of Pombal . Through the latter’s policies, Portugal becomes a model of enlightened despotism. Pombal expels the Jesuits in 1759.

The Napoleonic Wars

Portugal joined the first continental coalition against Revolutionary France in 1793. In 1796 Spain left the Convention and allied itself to France. Spain invaded in 1801 when Portugal refused to renounce its alliance with England; the resulting conflict was known as the War of the Oranges . To ensure a strict application of the blockade on Britain, Napoleon invaded Portugal, but his commanders had little success in a country supported by English troops under the command of Wellesley. The future Duke of Wellington preferred guerrilla tactics and finally forced the French from the Peninsula.

Portugal suffered violence and depredations at the hands of both armies with a long-term effect on the politics of the country. General William Carr (1768–1854) was assigned to take command of the British forces in Portugal. With the king in Brazil (until 1821), Carr took full advantage of his power. Named Viscount of Beresford following a string of victories resulting in the Sinatra Accord (which allowed French soldiers to return home), Carr was appointed regent by the absent João VI . By 1821 Beresford’s tyranny provoked a conspiracy by liberal forces. He fled the country and in 1822 the same liberals obliged João to accept a liberal constitution.

The downfall of the monarchy

1828–34Civil War between liberals and absolutists . In 1822 Brazil is proclaimed independent and Pedro IV, older son of João VI, becomes Emperor Pedro I of Brazil. In 1826, on his death Pedro I retains the Brazilian throne and leaves the throne of Portugal to his daughter Maria II . Dom Pedro’s brother Miguel, who has been appointed regent, champions the cause for an absolute monarchy and lays claim to the crown, which he eventually obtains in 1828. A bitter struggle ensues between the absolutists and the liberal supporters of Dom Pedro. Aided by the English, Dom Pedro returns to Portugal to reinstate his daughter on the throne in 1834; the Evoramonte Convention puts an end to the Civil War. In 1836 Maria II marries Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha who becomes king-consort the following year.

1855–90 — In spite of political restlessness during the reigns of Pedro V (1855–61), Luís I (1861–89) and Carlos I (1889–1908), a third Portuguese empire is reconstituted in Angola and Mozambique.The British Ultimatum ends endeavours by the Governor, Serpa Pinto , to set up a territorial belt linking Angola and Mozambique.

1899 — Treaty of Windsor.

1 Feb 1908 — Assassination in Lisbon of King Carlos I and the Crown Prince. Queen Amélia manages to save her youngest son who succeeds to the throne as Manuel II .

5 Oct 1910 — Abdication of Manuel II and Proclamation of the Republic.

The Republic

1910–33 — The Republic cannot restore order. Entering the war against Germany in 1916 and sending troops to France only aggravates the domestic situation. General Carmona calls upon Oliveira Salazar, professor of economics at Coimbra University. Dr Salazar is appointed Minister of Finance, then in 1932, Prime Minister: he restores economic and political stability but in 1933 promulgates the Constitution of the New State instituting a corporative and dictatorial regime.

1939–45 — Portugal remains neutral during World War II.

1949 — Portugal is one of the founding members of NATO.

1961 — India annexes Goa, a Portuguese territory since 1515.

1968–70 — Salazar, whose accident near the end of 1968 prevents him from taking part in affairs of state, dies in July 1970. His successor, Caetano, continues a ruinous and unpopular anti-guerrilla war in Africa.

1974Carnation Revolution (Revolução dos Cravos): the Armed Forces Movement, led by General Spínola, seizes power on April 25. Independence of Guinea-Bissau.

1975 — Independence of Cape Verde Islands, Mozambique, Angola and São Tomé.

1976 — General António Ramalho Eanes is elected President of the Republic. Independence of East Timor. Autonomy is granted to Macau, Madeira and the Azores.

1980 — The conservative party wins the general election. Sá Carneiro forms a government, but dies in a plane crash. General Eanes’s presidential mandate is renewed.

1986 — Portugal becomes a member of the EEC on 1 January. Mário Soares is elected President on 16 February.

March 1986 — 600 years of friendship between Britain and Portugal celebrated with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip’s state visit.

1991 — Mário Soares is re-elected president.

1994 — Lisbon chosen as European Capital of Culture.

1996 — Jorge Sampaio elected President of the Republic.

1998 — Lisbon hosts Expo’98 .

1999 — Portugal converts its currency to the Euro.

2001 — Socialists win elections and Sampaio becomes Premier.

2002 — Another change as Social Democrats take over with José Barroso becoming the leader.

2004 — Barosso resigns to become President of the European Commission. Social Democrat Pedro de Santana Lopes becomes Premier. Portugal hosts the Euro ‘04 football championships.

2005 — Socialists win over 50per cent of the parliamentary seats and José Pinto de Sousa becomes Premier. Droughts and forest fires devastate large parts of the country.

2006 — Anibál Cavaçao Silva elected President of the Republic.

2007 — Portugal takes over the Presidency of Europe and tries to restore relations with Africa. The Lisbon Treaty, binding the nations of Europe closer together, is signed in December.

The Great Discoveries

On 25 July 1415, some 200 ships under the command of Dom João I and his three sons, including Prince Henry, set sail from Lisbon. The capture of Ceuta in Morocco ended attacks by Barbary pirates, resulting in Portuguese control of the Straits of Gibraltar. The Potuguese also hoped that the expedition would reward them with gold and slaves from the Sudan.

At the end of the Middle Ages wealth lay in the hands of the Moors and Venetians, who monopolised the spice and perfume trade brought overland from the Orient to the Mediterranean. To bypass these intermediaries, a sea route had to be found, and Henry the Navigator was to devote his life to this dream.

The sagres school

Prince Henry the Navigator (1394–1460) retired to the Sagres promontory together with cosmographers, cartographers and navigators to try and work out a sea route from Europe to India. Madeira was discovered in 1419 by João Gonçalves Zarco and Tristão Vaz Teixeira, the Azores in 1427 (supposedly by Diogo de Silves), and in 1434 Gil Eanes rounded Cape Bojador , then the farthest point known to western man. Each time they discovered new land the mariners erected a padrão , a cairn surmounted by a cross and the arms of Portugal, to mark their presence. Prince Henry inspired new methods of colonisation by setting up trading posts (feitoras) , exchanges and banks. These offices, set up and run by private individuals, sometimes fostered the development of towns independent of the local powers, such as Goa. Companies were created to control trade in a particular commodity, for which the monopoly rights were often acquired. There were also deeds of gift , usually of land, to ships’ captains with the proviso that the area be developed. Henry died in 1460, but the stage was set.

New territories

The major discoveries were made during the reigns of João II and Manuel I who were both grand nephews of Henry the Navigator. Diogo Cão reached the mouth of the Congo in 1482 and the whole coast of Angola then came under Portuguese control. In 1488 Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Storms, which was immediately rechristened the Cape of Good Hope by Dom João II. A few years earlier Christopher Columbus , a Genoese navigator with a Portuguese wife, had the idea of sailing to India by a westerly route. His proposals, rebuffed in Lisbon, found favour with the Catholic Monarchs and in 1492 he discovered the New World. In 1494, under the Treaty of Tordesillas and with the Pope’s approval, the Kings of Portugal and Castile divided the newly discovered and as yet undiscovered territories of the world between them: all lands west of a meridian 370 sea leagues west of the Cape Verde Islands were to belong to Castile, all east to Portugal. The position of the dividing meridian has led some historians to speculate as to whether Portugal knew of the existence of Brazil even before its official discovery by Pedro Álvares Cabral in 1500.

The exploration of the African coast by the Portuguese continued. On 8 July 1497 a fleet of four ships commanded by Admiral Vasco da Gama sailed from Lisbon with the commission to reach India by way of the sea route round the Cape. By March 1498 Vasco da Gama had reached Mozambique and on 20 May he landed in Calicut (Kozhicode, southern India): the sea route to India had been discovered. This epic voyage was later sung in The Lusiads (Os Lusíadas) by the poet Camões.

In 1501 Gaspar Corte Real discovered Newfoundland, but King Manuel was interested primarily in Asia. Within a few years the Portuguese had explored the coastlines of Asia. By 1515 they were in control of the Indian Ocean, thanks to fortified outposts like Goa, which had been established by Afonso de Albuquerque in 1510.

It was, however, on behalf of the King of Spain that the Portuguese Fernão

de Magalhães (Magellan) set out in 1519 and landed in India in 1521. Though he was assassinated by the natives of the Philippines, one of his vessels continued the journey to become the first to circumnavigate the world in 1522.

In 1517 King Manuel I sent an ambassador to China but this proved a failure and it was not until 1554 that the Portuguese were able to trade with Canton and make contact with Macau. In 1542 the Portuguese arrived in Japan where they caused political upheaval by introducing firearms. The Jesuits, whose Society of Jesus had been founded in 1540, became very active there and by 1581 there were almost 150 000 Christians. The Discoveries had a huge impact on western civilization. New products – the sweet potato, maize, tobacco, cocoa and indigo – were introduced to Europe; gold from Africa and America flooded in through the Tagus. Portugal and Spain became great powers.

A different world

The sea faring age and Europe’s discovery of new lands and civilizations disrupted every sphere of global society. For instance in Europe, the discovery of the existence of formerly unknown peoples posed religious problems: did the men of the New World have a soul and were they marked by original sin? These doubts presaged the Reformation and the development of the critical approach led to the advancement of modern science. Emerging trade empires began to thrive on cheap manual labour, bringing about history‘s most ignominious period of international slave trading, escalating existing slaving on a massive scale.

Evanescent Riches

Portugal overspent its strength; many went overseas and the population halved from two to one million; riches encouraged idlers and adventurers; land was not tilled and wheat and rye had to be imported; crafts and skills were lost while the cost of living rose steeply. Gold was exchanged for goods from the Low Countries and France, until Portugal’s riches were dissipated and little remained. The final blow came on 4 August 1578, when the young King Sebastião I was killed at El-Ksar El-Kebir in Morocco. Two years after his death Portugal came under Spanish control.

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