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Definition: Portugal from Collins English Dictionary


1 a republic in SW Europe, on the Atlantic: became an independent monarchy in 1139 and expelled the Moors in 1249 after more than four centuries of Muslim rule; became a republic in 1910; under the dictatorship of Salazar from 1932 until 1968, when he was succeeded by Dr Caetano, who was overthrown by a junta in 1974; constitutional government restored in 1976. Portugal is a member of the European Union. Official language: Portuguese. Religion: Roman Catholic majority. Currency: euro. Capital: Lisbon. Pop: 10 799 270 (2013 est). Area: 91 831 sq km (35 456 sq miles)

Summary Article: Portugal
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Country in southwestern Europe, on the Atlantic Ocean, bounded north and east by Spain.

Government Portugal is a multiparty liberal democracy, with executive power shared between the president and prime minister. Its 1976 constitution, as revised in 1982 and more recently, provides for a president, elected by universal suffrage for a five-year term, renewable only once in succession, and a single-chamber 230-member national assembly, elected through a party list system of proportional representation and serving a four-year term. The president, an active politician rather than a figurehead, appoints a prime minister who chooses a council of ministers. The prime minister and council of ministers are responsible to the assembly. A council of state, chaired by the president, acts as a supreme national advisory body. The relationship between president and prime minister is similar to the ‘dual executive’ in France.

History Portugal shares much of its early history with that of the whole Iberian peninsula (see Spain: history to 1492). The dominance of Carthage in the south in the 3rd century BC gave place to that of Rome in the following century. Lusitania, comprising that part of Portugal south of the River Tagus, was formed into a Roman province during the reign of the Emperor Augustus (31 BCAD 14), and the country prospered under Roman rule.

In the 5th century AD the area of what was to become Portugal was overrun by two Germanic tribes in succession, the Suebi (Suevi) and the Visigoths, and then in the 8th century by the Muslim Moors from North Africa. By the 11th century the north of the country was subject to León, while the south was still ruled by the Moors.

The creation of Portugal Ferdinand (I) the Great, king of Castile, began the reconquest of the northwest of the Iberian peninsula from the Moors in the mid-11th century, a process continued by his son Alfonso VI of Castile-León. Alfonso VI arranged for the marriage of his illegitimate daughter to the brother of the duke of Burgundy, and their son, Afonso I, had by 1140 established Portugal as his kingdom on a basis of de facto independence, and established the Burgundian line. In 1179 Pope Alexander III acknowledged Afonso as king in return for an annual tribute. However, it was not until the late 13th century that the kingdom of Portugal was acknowledged by the kings of Castile-León. In 1147 Afonso captured Santarém from the Moors, and, with the assistance of English and German crusaders bound for the Holy Land, he also captured Lisbon.

The early kings Afonso I was succeeded by Sancho I (ruled 1185–1211), who was engaged during the earlier part of his reign in war with the Moors and with Alfonso IX of León, and later, by his encouragement of local self-government, won for himself the title of O Povoador (founder of cities). He opposed the claims of Pope Innocent III, but in 1210 submitted to papal authority.

Afonso II, the Fat (ruled 1211–23), is notable as the first king to summon the Portuguese Cortes (parliament). The Cortes, an assembly representing nobles, clergy, and cities, went on to secure control of taxation. Sancho II (ruled 1223–48) drove the Moors from Alentejo, and won many successes in the Algarve. He was forced to abdicate in favour of his brother, Afonso III (ruled 1248–79), who proclaimed himself king. Afonso III expelled the Moors from the Algarve, united it with his other territories in 1253, and strengthened his kingdom by his marriage to the daughter of Alfonso X of Castile. Thus the kingdom of Portugal reached its present European boundaries.

The later Middle Ages Afonso III's son Diniz (ruled 1279–1325) devoted himself to the constitutional and social reconstruction of the kingdom. He encouraged agriculture, shipbuilding, and commerce, and was a patron of learning, founding the University of Coimbra (initially in Lisbon) in 1290. He negotiated a commercial treaty with England in 1294 and founded a Portuguese navy.

Afonso IV (ruled 1325–57) was chiefly occupied in wars with the Castilians and Moors, while his successor Pedro I, the Justicer (ruled 1357–67), endeavoured to lessen the power of the nobility and clergy. The claim of Ferdinand (1367–83) to the throne of Castile was contested by Henry of Trastamara. Ferdinand allied himself with the Aragonese and Moors and with England (the alliance with England dating from 1373).

On Ferdinand's death the Burgundian line established by Afonso I in the 12th century came to an end. In order to preserve Portugal's independence of Castile, the Cortes asserted its right to elect the new king, choosing John I (ruled 1385–1433), an illegitimate brother of Ferdinand and the first king of the house of Aviz. In 1385 the united Portuguese and English forces defeated the Castilians at Aljubarrota, securing Portugal's independence. The Anglo-Portuguese alliance was confirmed by the Treaty of Windsor in 1386, and John cemented the friendship between the two countries in 1387 by marrying Philippa, daughter of John of Gaunt (son of Edward III of England).

The era of exploration and expansion It was during the reign of John I that the great period of Portuguese exploration and overseas expansion began, during which Portugal became for a while the greatest maritime country in the world.

This period began with the capture of Ceuta on the northwest coast of Africa in 1415 by John's fourth son Prince Henry the Navigator (1394–1460). Henry established a school for navigators in 1419, and under his patronage Portuguese sailors sailed around Cape Bojador (or Boujdour, in what is now the Western Sahara) in 1434, and discovered Madeira and the Azores in 1442, Senegal in 1445, and the Cape Verde Islands in 1446. The first consignment of African slaves was brought to Lisbon in 1434.

Exploration continued down the African coast in search of a route to India; in 1486 Bartolomeu Diaz sailed round the Cape of Good Hope, and in 1497 Vasco da Gama reached India. In 1494, by the Treaty of Tordesillas, Spain and Portugal agreed on the division between them of the uncharted world.

In 1500 King Manuel I (ruled 1495–1521) assumed the title of ‘Lord of the conquest, navigation, and commerce of India, Ethiopia, Arabia and Persia’; in the same year Pedro Cabral claimed Brazil for Portugal, and Portuguese settlements were made on the west coast of India. Gaspar and Miguel Côrte-Real reached Greenland in 1500–01, and new colonies were established in east and north Africa. Afonso de Albuquerque conquered Goa (1510) in India and Malacca (now Melaka) in the Malay Peninsula (1511). Portuguese domination of the East Indies (modern Indonesia) was established in 1512–14, and commercial exchange began with China in 1517 and Japan in 1542. Portugal's commercial enterprise knew no limits, and Lisbon was recognized as the centre of European trade with southern and eastern Asia.

Spanish domination and rule Portugal's pre-eminent position was not maintained. Alternative routes were opened up to the east by Portugal's rivals, while Portugal remained relatively weak and vulnerable. In addition, the commercial classes in Portugal were weak by comparison with the feudal nobility and the church.

Portugal's subsequent decline was at least partially due to its adoption of a fanatically orthodox Roman Catholicism, largely under the influence of Spain. This resulted in the persecution and, from 1497, the expulsion of the Jews, largely at the behest of Spain, which had expelled its own Jews in 1492. The Jews had contributed greatly to the wealth of the country, and many settled in the Netherlands, where their experience of the Portuguese trade was to prove invaluable.

During the reign of John III (ruled 1521–57) Catholic orthodoxy was rigorously imposed on the country, largely at the instigation of John's wife Catherine, the sister of the ardently Catholic Charles V, king of Spain and Holy Roman emperor. In 1536 the Inquisition was introduced, and from 1540 all education was in the hands of the Jesuits.

In 1578 the Portuguese army suffered a disastrous defeat at the Battle of Alcazarquivir, during an ill-advised crusade against the Moors of Morocco. The zealously religious King Sebastian, the young grandson of John III, died in the battle. Sebastian was succeeded by his uncle, the senile Cardinal Henry, last of the Aviz dynasty, who died in 1580.

Among the many claimants to the crown was Philip II of Spain, who marched into the country and had himself crowned king. From 1580 to 1640 Portugal remained under Spanish suzerainty, thus becoming involved in the Dutch Revolt in the Spanish Netherlands and the Thirty Years' War in Germany. England and the Netherlands seized the Portuguese possessions in South America and the East Indies, although the Dutch seizure of Brazil was only temporary.

Independence regained After several insurrections, Portugal regained its independence, and John, Duke of Braganza, a descendant of Manuel I, was crowned John IV in 1640. England recognized the Braganza dynasty in 1662 when Charles II of England married Catherine of Braganza, who brought in her dowry Bombay and Tangier. This confirmed the friendly relations between the two countries, which already dated back 500 years.

Portugal became involved in colonial wars with the Netherlands in Brazil and Angola, and a more serious conflict with Spain, which did not recognize Portugal's independence. In the reign of Afonso VI (1656–83), son of John IV, the Spanish were defeated at Elvas in 1659, Ameixial in 1663, Ciudad Rodrigo in 1664, and Montes Claros in 1665. The war concluded with the Treaty of Lisbon in 1668, by which Spain finally recognized Portugal's independence.

The reforms of Pombal The Anglo-Portuguese alliance was renewed by the Methuen Treaty (1703), and Portugal became involved in the War of the Spanish Succession as Britain's ally. However, Portugal had lost many of its colonies (a notable exception being Brazil, where gold and diamonds were discovered in the last decade of the 17th century), and was no longer one of the chief powers in Europe.

The Marquês de Pombal (1699–1782), chief minister throughout the reign of Joseph I (1750–77), tried to restore the kingdom to its former position by strengthening the monarchy and encouraging colonial development. His name is associated particularly with the rebuilding of the city of Lisbon, destroyed by the great earthquake of 1755. Pombal, an advocate of enlightened despotism, expelled the Jesuits in 1759, organized education, encouraged industry and commerce, and reformed the army. However, his autocratic methods alienated many, and on the accession of the mad Queen Maria I, Pombal was deprived of office in 1777. In 1799, Maria's son, John, was appointed regent.

The Napoleonic period Following the French Revolution and outbreak of the Revolutionary Wars, in 1793 Portugal allied itself with Britain and Spain against France. In 1807 Napoleon sent a French army to invade Portugal and the royal family left the country for Brazil. Portugal then became a battleground in the struggle between the French and the British during the Peninsular War, until the French were finally ousted from Portugal in 1811.

Portugal in the 19th century In 1816, on the death of Maria I, John VI succeeded to the throne, but remained in Brazil, appointing the British army officer Marshal Beresford as his viceroy. The discontent that this caused among his subjects resulted in a revolution in 1820 and the establishment of a more democratic form of government. John hurried back to Lisbon, and promised to obey the ‘constitution of 1822’. Meanwhile Brazil had obtained complete independence in 1822, with John's son having declared himself constitutional emperor as Pedro I of Brazil.

On the death of John VI in 1826, Pedro, who was now Pedro IV of Portugal, established the basis of the constitution that remained in force until 1910, and then, returning to Brazil, abdicated in favour of his seven-year-old daughter, Maria da Gloria, who ruled with her uncle Miguel as regent. The latter headed a reactionary movement, and with the aid of the nobility, military, and clergy proclaimed himself king in 1828.

A period of civil war followed, between the supporters of the autocratic Miguel and those of the more democratically and constitutionally minded Pedro. With the help of British troops, the constitutional party emerged victorious in 1834, and Pedro reinstated his daughter. However, political instability continued for much of the following two decades.

Maria's son, Pedro V (ruled 1853–61), was succeeded by his brother Luiz I (ruled 1861–89). He in turn was succeeded by Carlos I.

Towards the end of the 19th century Portugal was obliged to cede some of its territory in east and west Africa, giving up its claim to Nyasaland (modern Malawi) after a British ultimatum in 1890.

The foundation of the republic Carlos I and the crown prince were assassinated in 1908. His second son, Manuel II, was dethroned in a revolution in October 1910, and a republic was proclaimed on 5 October.

The provisional government was under the presidency of Teófilo Braga, who was succeeded in 1911 by Manuel de Arriaga, the first president of the constitutional republic. A royalist counter-revolution under Paiva Couceiro in 1911 was suppressed, as was a leftist revolution in 1912. After three ineffective coalition cabinets, Afonso Costa, head of the majority democratic party, became prime minister. He ruled as a veiled dictator, although he respected parliamentary forms of government to some degree, effectively ruling by patronage.

Portugal in World War I In 1914 Costa was succeeded by the more moderate Bernardino Machado. When World War I broke out, Machado, who favoured the Allies, was succeeded by Azevedo Coutinho. The non-interventionist president, Arriaga, allowed the Germans to engineer a neutralist coup in 1915, which made Gen Pimenta de Castro a dictator, but he was quickly overthrown.

Costa returned to power, and, because he allowed the Allies the benefit of interned shipping, Germany declared war on Portugal on 9 March 1916. Portugal's chief theatre of war was in Africa (where its colony of Mozambique bordered German East Africa), while Gen Tamagnini commanded the Portuguese Expeditionary Force (numbering 40,000 men) in France. In 1917 Costa was ousted by a coup led by the pro-German Sidónio Pais, who was assassinated in 1918.

Salazar's dictatorship Domestically, Portugal remained unstable after World War I; its economic situation was chronically bad, and corruption was rife. Government followed government until a military coup in 1926, and in 1928 Gen Carmona became president. Carmona appointed as his finance minister Dr António de Oliveira Salazar, who introduced austerity measures to stabilize the economy. President Carmona continued his dictatorship despite protests against it, leading to revolt and revolution in Madeira and the Azores. In 1932 Salazar became prime minister, with dictatorial powers, while Carmona remained as president until his death in 1951.

During World War II Portugal remained neutral, but in 1943, under the treaty of 1373, it granted Britain facilities to set up air and naval bases in the Azores. Britain returned these bases in 1946. Portugal became a founder-member of NATO in 1949.

The assembly set up under the constitution of 1933 provided a form of safety valve, but Salazar was not prepared to entrust any substantial measure of power to an elected body, and that of the assembly was very limited. Political parties (with the exception of Salazar's Portuguese National Union), trade unions, and strikes were banned; a secret police force, known as the PIDE (Policia Internacional e de Defesa do Estado) suppressed dissent, with opponents to the regime imprisoned, and there was strict media censorship. The constitution established Portugal as a corporative state, the New State (Estado Novo), somewhat along the lines of Fascist Italy. Although social conditions improved and the economy grew in the 1950s and 1960s, this was at the cost of personal liberties.

Colonial wars The constitution of 1933 adhered steadfastly to the idea that Portugal's overseas empire was an integral part of the nation. However, its remaining possession in India, Goa, was annexed by India in 1961, and during the 1960s, while Britain and France granted independence to their African colonies, Portugal refused to consider such a move. This resulted in the formation of armed liberation movements in Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea (Guinea-Bissau), and Portugal became involved in long and costly colonial wars, with over 100,000 Portuguese troops fighting in Africa in the late 1960s. The increasingly heavy demands made on the national budget by these wars limited the supply of capital for investment at home. In Africa itself Portugal's only friends were white-ruled South Africa, and, after the unilateral declaration of independence there in 1965, Rhodesia (Zimbabwe).

The 1974 revolution In 1968 Salazar suffered a stroke and was succeeded as prime minister by Marcelo Caetano. There was some easing of domestic repression but no change in approach over Portugal's colonies in Africa.

On 25 April 1974, with public discontent increasing, the Caetano regime was overthrown in a coup by the Armed Forces Movement (MFA) under the leadership of Gen António Ribeiro de Spínola, a critic of the regime's African policies. The MFA's stated aim was to ‘save the nation from government’. One month later Spinola became president of the Junta of National Salvation, with a military colleague replacing the civilian prime minister.

Events moved rapidly in the first few months of the revolution. The African colonies were granted their independence; the following year Portugal also withdrew from East Timor (which was annexed by Indonesia in 1976). Political parties burgeoned, with the socialists and communists proving to be the best organized. Ministers of the former regime were purged, the PIDE dismantled, and business concerns nationalized.

After disagreements within the junta, Spínola resigned in September 1974 and fled the country. He was replaced by Gen Francisco da Costa Gomes. The leaders of the FA drew ever closer politically to the Communist Party led by Alvaro Cunhal, and President Gomes narrowly avoided a communist coup by collaborating with the leader of the moderate Socialist Party (PS), Mario Soares, a long-time opponent of the Salazar dictatorship.

Democracy restored National elections for the constituent assembly held in April 1975 (after the FA had announced in advance their intention to retain control, whatever the outcome) gave the Socialist Party 38% of the vote and the Popular Democratic Party of Francisco Sá Caneiro 25% – a clear victory for more moderate policies. The military government's exclusion of the leaders of these parties from power exacerbated political tensions and in late 1975 the military junta was dissolved and a Supreme Revolutionary Council held power pending new elections.

The PS won 36% of the vote in the April 1976 elections, and Soares formed a minority government to become the country's first democratically elected leader since 1926. In the summer of 1976, the army chief, Gen António Ramalho Eanes, was elected presidenct, with the support of centre and left-of-centre parties. The government headed by Soares faced a critical economic and political situation and needed a large loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to avoid bankruptcy. It introduced agricultural and legal reforms and started negotiations to join the European Community (EC). The government was defeated in the assembly in December 1977 but survived precariously until Soares resigned in 1978.

A period of political instability followed, with five prime ministers in two and a half years, until in December 1980 President Eanes invited Francisco Balsemão, a cofounder of the centrist Social Democratic Party (PSD), to form a centre-party coalition.

The 1982 constitution Balsemão survived many challenges to his leadership, and in 1982 the assembly approved his new constitution, which reduced the powers of the president and abolished the military Council of the Revolution to move the country towards a fully civilian government.

The PS won the largest number of seats in the 1983 elections and Soares returned as prime minister, forming a coalition with the PSD, led by former finance minister Aníbal Cavaco Silva. This government began the process of rebuilding the country after a period of chaos, and in 1985 signed a treaty of accession to the EC.

Cavaco Silva becomes prime minister The coalition lasted until elections in October 1985, when the PSD secured most seats and its leader Cavaco Silva formed a minority government. He increased economic growth and raised living standards, and favoured a free market and privatization.

In the 1986 presidential election Mario Soares became Portugal's first civilian president for 60 years. In the same year Portugal entered the EC. The country's increasing political stability and membership of the EC encouraged inward foreign investment and a period of rapid economic growth.

In July 1987 the PSD won an absolute majority in parliament, with the left-of-centre Democratic Renewal Party and the communists both losing seats. In June 1989 parliament approved a series of measures that denationalized major industries and renounced the socialist economy. In January 1991 Soares was reelected to a five-year term, and in October 1991 the PSD won the general election with a slightly reduced majority.

Socialists returned to power Cavaco Silva stepped down as PSD leader prior to the October 1995 general election and was succeeded by former defence minister Fernando Nogueira. The elections were won by the PS, which had adopted a centre-left stance and won 44% of the vote to end ten years of PSD rule. Its leader Antonio Guterres formed a new minority PS administration, which pledged itself to continue the drive for closer European integration and to tackle crime and improve education. In January 1996, PS candidate Jorge Sampaio won the presidential election. The PS Party easily won a second consecutive term at general elections in October 1999, and Sampaio was re-elected in January 2001, although only 50% of eligible voters turned out.

Portugal joined the European Monetary Union (EMU) and in January 1999 the euro became a legal currency in Portugal; in January 2002 the euro replaced the escudo as the national currency. In 1999 Portugal handed back its colony of Macao to China.

Barroso in power Guterres stepped down as PS leader for the March 2002 parliamentary elections, being replaced by Eduardo Ferro Rodrigues. The PSD finished 2% ahead of the PS, but fell short of an overall majority of seats. The PSD leader, José Manuel Durão Barroso, formed a right-of-centre coalition government with the right-wing Popular Party (PP), whose leader, Paulo Portas, became defence minister.

The Barroso government introduced austerity measures to reduce the public debt, including wage freezes and labour reforms, leading to public sector strikes in November 2002. In 2003 Barroso declared support for the USA's campaign to disarm Iraq, but Portugal refused to join in military action. In July 2004 Barroso resigned as prime minister to become president of the European Union.

Barroso was succeeded by Pedro Santana Lopes, formerly the mayor of Lisbon, who continued with his predecessor's economic programme.

Socialists' return to government The PS polled strongly in the February 2005 parliamentary elections, which had been called by the PS president Jorge Sampaio. The PS won 121 seats with 45% of the vote, as support for the PSD slumped to 29%. The PS leader, José Socrates, became prime minister. An economic modernizer, he pledged to revive a Portuguese economy which had struggled from 2002, with real GDP growing by barely 0.5% a year between 2002 and 2005. He put emphasis on improving education to create a labour force with skills for high-technology industries. However, to stay within EMU financial rules, he also had to take unpopular measures to cut the budget deficit and he sought to reform public sector wage and pension schemes. This led to a one-day general strike in May 2007.

In January 2006, former prime minister Cavaco Silva, from the PSD, was elected president. This created tension, with executive power being shared by a president and prime minister from different parties. In February 2007, Portuguese voters approved proposed measures to liberalize the country's abortion laws and the president endorsed this legislation.

Impact of the global financial crisis Portugal entered the global financial crisis of 2008–11 with a slow-growing economy that was losing international competitiveness and with a high level of government spending and debt, to finance transport and other infrastructure projects. This debt became increasingly expensive to fund and, in an attempt to reassure investors, in 2009–10 the Socrates government introduced austerity measures, with tax increases and salary cuts for public sector workers. These moves were unpopular and led to unemployment rising to over 12% by 2011, as the economy contracted in 2010–11.

During early 2011, borrowing costs for the government debt continued to rise and in March 2011 Portugal's parliament rejected government proposals for further austerity measures, including cuts in welfare payments and rises in taxes and public transport fares. In response, Socrates resigned as prime minister and took a caretaker role until new elections in June 2011. Just before these elections, Portugal secured 78 billion euros in bailout loans from the EU and IMF, becoming the third EU country, after Greece and Ireland, to do so.

PSD win power under Coelho The centre-right PSD, led by Pedro Passos Coelho, won 108 seats in the June 2011 general election with 39% of the vote, defeating the PS, which slumped to 74 seats with 28% of the vote, its worst result in over 20 years. Socrates immediately resigned as PS leader and Coelho became prime minister, heading a majority government with the right-of-centre People's Party (CDS-PP), which had won 12% of the vote.

The Coelho government implemented an austerity programme required as part of the EU/IMF financial bailout. It involved the country's biggest spending cuts in 50 years, including cuts in state spending on healthcare, education, and social security, and accelerated privatization, tax rises, and labour law reforms.

Public sector workers responded In November 2011 and March 2012 with a general strike – the third since Portugal became a democracy in the 1970s. Meanwhile, the economy contracted and in September 2012 the government backed down on a proposed increase in social security taxes following mass street protests. Austerity cuts continued during 2013. This avoided a second international bailout, with Portugal exiting the EU/IMF programme in May 2014. However, the financial sector remained fragile and in August 2014 the government had to spend 3.9 billion euros on a bailout of the country's largest private bank, Banco Espirito Santo, which had become bankrupt.

Swing to the left brings Costa and the socialists to power The October 2015 general election saw a sharp loss in support for Coelho's ruling Portugal Ahead (PàF) coalition of the PSD and CDS-PP, attracting 39% of the vote (down 12%). The parties making gains were the PS, led by the Lisbon mayor, António Costa, with 32% of the vote (up 4%), the Left Bloc (BE), with a record 10% (up 5%), and the communist and ecologist Unitary Democratic Coalition (CDU), with 8%.

Coelho attempted to form a new government, but it lost a confidence vote on 10 November 2015. Two weeks later, Costa became prime minister, leading a centre-left PS minority government with backing from the BE and CDU. Costa announced an increase in the minimum wage, a halt to planned wage cuts for civil servants, and set out plans to reduce the budget deficit through faster economic growth rather than unpopular cuts to government spending. In February 2016 the European Commission approved the government's anti-austerity budget after Costa agreed to some last minute adjustments to ensure that deficit projections remained within the EU limit of 3% of GDP.

Presidential elections, held in January 2016, were won by Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a former leader of the PSD and TV pundi, with 52% of the vote. His term began in March 2016.


Exploration: The Age of Discovery


Portugal's National Tourism Service


medieval walled town

Maria I


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