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Portugal to 1974

© 2001 Donald J. Mabry
Revised 2011

A political outline to 1974

People went to the Iberian Peninsular and left their DNA behind even when they did not stay. They bred with the other people there and their progeny did as well.Humans do that sort of thing. The earliest came about 10,000 BCE into the northern part of the Peninsula and into southern France. The "Iberians" arrived around 2,000 BCE. The Celts (also called Lusitanians) settled into Galicia, Spain and northern Portugal. Greeks, Carthaginians, and Phoenicians also entered Portugal at various times . More important and lasting was the Roman invasion into the southern part of the Iberian peninsula in 237 BCE and their expansion northwards. The Lusitanians managed to retain strong holds in northern Portugal in the area which would become the County of Portugal. As the integrity of the Western Roman Empire began to weaken, bearded peoples from central and northern Europeans migrated, sometimes with armies, into Iberia. These barbarians (barbudos or bearded ones), the Visigoths, began coming into Portugal in the 4th century BCE followed by the Suevi and Vandals. Muslims invaded the Iberian peninsula in 711 BCE and extended their control of Portugal from the south on the Atlantic Ocean north to the Douro River; their governments ended a few centuries later but not their customs.
    The Iberian Peninsula hosted numerous linguistic groups; in fact, it still does. Spain has tried to enforce Castilian as its national language but the Catalans and Basques still speak their own tongues. Galicia, Spain north of Portugal, speaks a language more similar to Portuguese than Spanish. Portugal is a Celtic nation in many ways but the language has disappeared. The Italians, i.e. the Romans,  had the greatest impact on Portugal, leaving,among other things. their language (Latin), laws, political organizational techniques, religion, engineering works, wheat cultivation. The Arabs altered the language, the architecture in some places, farming, fishing and shipbuilding techniques, and learning. Muslim civilization was the center of learning both in the Middle East and Europe. The Muslims taught the Christians such things as science and ancient thought from the Greeks and Egyptians, as well as practical matters such as how to sail oceans, irrigate arid lands, and eat better over the hundreds of years they dominated.
    Ambitious people used their Christian faith to gain control of their territory by driving their Islamic neighbors out of the peninsula. One, Alfonso VI, king of León and Castile, sought the aid of French armies, giving daughters in marriage to the two leaders as well as royal privileges. Burgundians rode to arms. Henry of Burgundy took control as regent of the County of Portugal in the name of his wife. Various maneuvering enabled his son, Afonso Henrique, to declare the County a Kingdom in 1139. The war against the Muslims was longstanding. Oporto was regained by 868; almost 200 years later, they gained control of Coimbra. King Afonso I's defeat of the Moors (as Muslims were called) in 1139 at the Battle of Ourique gave him the clout to have himself declared King of Portugal by his soldiers. Alfonso VII of León and Castile recognized Portugal as an independent kingdom in 1143; Pope Alexander III, did in 1179, thus legitimizing the kingdom in western Christian eyes. Afonso Henriques did not wait, however; he understood that it was best to present his rivals with a fait accompli. With the help of northern mercenaries from Flanders, England, and the Germanies, he conquered Lisbon in 1147. The very important Alentejo city of Evora fell in 1166. Eighty-three years later in 1219, Afonso III conquered the Algarve, creating the Kingdom of Portugal and the Algarve See .   for more information.
    Portuguese kings spent many years consolidating their control over their kingdom Afonso Henriques was shrewd enough to gain Papal support in his effort to free himself of León and Castile. His uncle Bernard of Clairvaux of Burgundy, one of the most powerful men in western Christianity, threw his weight behind Afonso Henriques; the king then built the Cistercian monastery at Alcobaça to cement the ties between the two. Roman Catholicism was a binding force even when the kingdom tolerated Judaism and Islam and Protestants. Toleration was tentative and persecution of their subjects occurred when politically expedient. Protestants gained the protection of England, the much-needed ally of the little kingdom of Portugal. Marriages to León and Castile royalty helped but kings of the latter kingdom would make forays against Portuguese interests. Marriage to French royalty helped at a counterweight to Casile but it was the English connection with the marriage of Phillipa to John of Lancaster that made the difference. The first challenge was the Moors, the Muslims. They invaded the Iberian peninsula in 711 CE and extended their control of Portugal from the south on the Atlantic Ocean north to the Douro River. The Christian campaign or crusade against the Muslims began in earnest in the 12th century.


Afonso Henriques

 afonsohenriques.jpg (156324 bytes) Photo by Don Mabry©

beat the Muslims in the Battle of Ourique in July 1139; his soldiers declared him King of Portugal. He then defeated an invasion by Alfonso VII, King of León and Castile, who recognized his kingship at the Conference of Samora in 1143 AD.
    Denis (1279-1325), the sixth king of Portugal and the Algarve, systematized royal government during forty-six year reign, a process he learned as an apprentice to his father, Afonso III. He settled a  conflict with the Papacy by swearing the loyalty of Portugal. The powerful and very rich Knights Templar, a Papal army created to protect Crusaders and pilgrims to the Middle East, were disbanded by Pope Clement  V in 1312. They were persecuted in France and elsewhere but Denis gave them refuge in the town of Tomar to live in the fortress Convent of Christ in Tomar in 1160. They became the Order of Christ. Denis and subsequent kings were closely tied to the Knights. (Prince Henry the Navigator  was a grand master of the order). Denis was a builder of laws, justice system, roads, forests, the royal navy, and buildings. He redistributed wealth (land) to foster agriculture. He declared that Portuguese would be the language of the kingdom and of the justice system.  He founded the University of Lisbon (now Coimbra), wrote books, and supported culture. He signed a commercial treaty with England in 1308, giving the latter an entrada it would exploit for centuries but which also served as a reason for Portugal to receive protection against Spain. Denis truly was the founder of the Portugal state.
        In 1385, the House of Avis became the new dynasty because of love affairs, palace intrigue, civil war, and an invasion by the Kingdom of Castile and León. Fernando I (1367-83) died  and Leonor Telles de Menezes became Regent of Portugal (1383-85). This beautiful redhead married a nobleman but later caught the fancy of Fernando when he was a Prince. He was supposed to marry Eleanor, daughter of Henry II of Castile, but Leonor's charms were irresistible. They bedded. She did not want to be a mistress but a wife with all its entitlements. Some historians assert that he seduced her and forced her to marry him after he used his influence to have her marriage annulled. Maybe, but it is plausible that all was mutual or, even, that she was the initiator. At any rate, they married secretly on May 5, 1372. Eleven years later, the 33-year-old widow became regent for her daughter Beatriz and ruled together with João Fernandes Andeiro, 2nd the Count of Ourém. Noble families had a long history of love affairs and having children born on both sides of the blanket. The genealogy of these royal and noble families involves relatively few people. These kingdoms were small.
    Although some contemporaries and, even, historians, might have looked upon her affair with disdain, the political problem arose elsewhere. She married Beatriz to John I of Castile, a marriage that portended the end of Portuguese independence. Nobles revolted and, at Coimbra, elected John, Grand Master of the Military Order of Avis and the half-brother of Fernando I and the illegitimate son of Pedro,  as King John I. He successfully led the revolt to oust mother and daughter. Many of the Portuguese elite believed that King John I of Castile, who had married the ten-year-old Beatriz in 1383 (her mother was ambitious!), would rule Portugal, effectively making the small kingdom subservient to Castilian interests and, eventually diminishing their power. John of Castile withdrew after being beaten in the Battle of Aljubarrota, on August 14, 1385 by King John I of Portugal supported by English archers.   In 1386, the kingdom signed an alliance with the English monarchy. John I of Portugal  married an English noble woman, Phillipa of Lancaster,  in 1387, sealing the Portuguese-English alliance.Portugal thereafter was dependent upon the English/British monarchy.  Phillipa's father was John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster and the son of King Edward III of England and father of King Henry IV of England. The dynasty was named after the Avis religious military order of which John had been grand master. He ruled until 1433.  Three of his sons advanced Portugal's fortunes. Duarte (1433-38), his successor, strengthened the support of the crown by the nobility, healing many of the wounds of the civil war. Pedro encouraged commerce and the development of towns. Henry (the Navigator and Grand Master of the Order of Christ) encouraged conquest and exploration.(David Birmingham, A Concise History of Portugal, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp.  22-24).
    The Avis dynasty expanded Portugal's reach across the globe, pioneering European extra-continental imperialism. The first step came in 1415 when John I and his navy captured Ceuta on the north African coast. Prince Henry and his brothers wanted a taste of blood so they could be like other knights, men who proved their masculinity through killing. Henry, however, realized the importance of Ceuta, a pirate base and a major trading port both in goods and slaves. Prince Henry personified Portuguese imperialism until his death in 1460 even though he never fought again in spite of being Grand Master of the military order, the very rich Knights of Christ. He probably financed the exploration and conquest operations for years with the Knights' money. He created sailing schools with oceanographers and cartographers, principally at Sagres in southwestern Portugal.

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Sagres Fortress                                             Photo by Don Mabry©

By 1424, Portuguese sailors were in the Canary Islands; by 1445, they took the Azores. They were bumping down the coast of Africa, looking for trade and people to convert to Christianity. They were trying to find a route to Asia. Vasco da Gama, in a 1497-99 voyage, reached India, opening the route to Asia. There they began an extremely trade in pepper and other spices as well as tea. The English learned to drink tea because of the Portuguese.
    The Portuguese upper class applied to colonization what they had learned from governing their own continental domains. That's what they knew. Only a tiny elite ruled Portugal. Religious military orders and other monks controlled parts of the kingdom. They were conservative and would remain so because Portuguese Catholicism was isolated from the mainstream. Some men of noble lineage headed these religious organizations. A few members of the Catholic hierarchy were kings. The nobility had landed estates and used servile people to work them. Some of these people were slaves; the bulk were ignorant peasants. In major cities, merchants were powerful. If that city were Lisbon, Oporto, or Lagos, shipping interests had some influence. Forays and the founding of colonies or outposts outside of the continent led to the acquisition of such valuable things such as gold, spices, slaves, and diamonds.In addition, it gave the Portuguese the opportunity to implant their ideology on other people. They ruled in a hierarchical, authoritarian fashion backed by military force and propaganda.
    On one of these voyages along the coast of Africa, Pedro Alvares Cabral's fleet touched Brazil in April, 1500.   Although Portugal had received "title" to Brazil with the Treaty of Todesillas in 1494, most of its efforts were directed towards Asia. The Portuguese settled Brazil but it was a backwater of the empire for a generation. Eventually, Brazil became a vast source of income for the mother country and hundreds of thousands of continental Portuguese migrated there to participate in the exploitation of sugar plantations and mineral wealth.  Overseas income aided the Portuguese crown, like the Spanish, French, and English crowns, to centralize authority in its own hands and destroy the power of the nobility.  
    Manoel  I, "the Fortunate," (1495-1521) married the daughter of Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabel of Castile. He expelled or converted Jews; most  were converted by force. These "New Christians" played an important role in Portugal and Brazil.Similarly, crypto Muslims hid their religion from these intolerant Christians. His successor, João III (1521-1557) got the Pope to install the Inquisition in 1536, a thought control institution which was successful both in Portugal and its overseas empire.
    João III continued the expansion and consolidation but, after 1557, Portugal found itself overextended. The kingdom only had between one and one and one-half million people in the 16th century. When one factors out women, children, and old men, there were not enough people to run an empire with territories in South America, Africa, and Asia. One consequence was that the Inquisition did not look too closely at the religious beliefs of colonials. ]
    Sebastião (1557-1578) was a king who was mentally unbalanced. A modern sculpture in Lagos portrays him as a space cadet. He launched an attack on Muslims in northern Africa

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Sebastian I   Photo by Don Mabry

and disappeared in battle in Morocco in 1578 when he was but twenty-one years old. There was great confusion over his death so an old great uncle took the throne until 1580. Phillip II "inherited, bought, and conquered" the Portuguese throne.   He claimed that he had inherited it from the progeny of Manoel I. Spain controlled Portugal and its empire until the Bragança family revolted and retook the throne in 1640. Fortunately for the little kingdom, the slave and spices trades bought prosperity to the upper classes and then the discovery of gold and then diamonds Brazil in gave them tremendous wealth. The crown and the nobility  built monuments to themselves—churches, monasteries, palaces, and other public buildings.
    José I (1750 - 1777 ) reigned only few years before 1755 Lisbon earthquake destroyed much of the city and killed 100,000 people. Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the 1st Marquess de Pombal, the First Minister since 1750 , became the de facto ruler because José I was so disturbed by the destruction that he began living in a tent and then built a wooden palace outside of Lisbon. Pombal began the rebuilding of the city with rectilinear street plans with public squares populated with statuary. He  became an enlightened despot who improved the commerce and communication systems of the entire kingdom. He reduced the power of the Catholic Church including the Inquisition and expelled the chief inquisitors, the  Jesuits (Society of Jesus) in 1759. They had become  powerful and rich. Pombal abolished slavery in Portugal and India but not in Brazil where it was used on vast plantations. He abolished the limpeza de sangue (cleanliness of blood) civil statutes to end legal discrimination against New Christians (often Jews). He strengthened the army and navy but, of course, still relied upon England for protection. He fostered economic activities and organizations, such as the Port wine monopoly, the Douro Wine Company, in an effort to gain a greater degree of economic independence. He monitored and raised taxes to pay for the increased role of the government. The aristocracy, unaccustomed to paying much in taxes, disliked him.
     José I  designated his daughter Maria as Princess of Brazil when he became king.; she ascended the throne in February, 1777 as queen regnant, ruling jointly with her uncle and husband, Pedro III, but she was the dominant partner. She dismissed Pombal. She was a good ruler until her mental illness, a religious mania and melancholy, took over her thought processes. Her son, John VI, took control, becoming Prince Regent in 1799 and then king when she died in 1816 in Brazil where the royal family had moved to escape Napoleon. Spain had invaded Portugal in 1801 and acquired some territory. Because Portugal supported England and would not kowtow to Spain and Napoleon, it was invaded again in 1807. The English loaded the royal family and its nobility onto ships in November, 1807 and took them to Brazil. Rio de Janeiro became the capital of the Empire.  The Duke of Wellington successfully fought the invaders, driving them out of Portugal with the aid of Portuguese troops. In 1815, the crown raised Brazil to the status of a kingdom equal to that of Portugal itself.
    John VI stayed in Brazil until 1821 when the British persuaded the conservative king to return to combat liberalism.  He took the treasury with him, not endearing himself to the Brazilians.They feared, rightly so, that their conservative king would treat them as a mere colony even though he left his son Pedro as regent. Brazil was a great source of revenue for Portugal and John VI intended to maximize Portuguese not Brazilian profit, a print that had grown when Brazil was allowed to trade with other countries. The presence of the royal court and hangers on in Brazil generated resentment among the Brazilian upper classes since their importance lessened. When John VI, back in Portugal, began reducing Brazil's status, they persuaded Pedro  to revolt. He issued the Grito de Ypiranga and the deed was done. He and his brother Michael had always mixed with the working class and thought of themselves as much Brazilian as Portuguese. He was more liberal than his father and supported the outbreak of the liberal .revolution in Oporto in 1820.
    Much had changed in Portugal; the very conservative little kingdom has experienced some of the effects of the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, the French Revolution, and the Napoleonic wars. The Marquess of Pombal had begun modernizing the kingdom, defeating the reactionary aristocracy in the process, but they regained power when Maria I and her husband Pedro III ascended the throne in 1777. John VI was a reactionary when he ruled the country in his mother's name and then as king. Because Napoleonic and Spanish forces invaded Portugal again in 1807, he and Portugal became dependent upon the British, first to escape to Brazil and then to lead the counterattack in Portugal itself. It was the British government that gained control of Portugal. It established a regency with man, Viscount William Carr Beresford, calling the shots. Commerce between Portugal and England flourished but it undercut much of the mercantile class of Lisbon and Oporto. The presence of British soldiers, merchants, government officials and the like brought new, more liberal ideas into the kingdom. Freemasonry, then considered liberal in much of the West but radical left by the Catholic Church (it was seen as a rival) and by reactionaries, infiltrated the bourgeoisie and younger army officers. The latter led a revolt in 1820 in Oporto, demanding a constitutional monarchy with a tripartite government and guarantees of civil liberties. Similar revolts occurred that year in other kingdoms, neighboring Spain being one. Conservative forces, including Britain, crushed them.
    In Portugal, the political movement was both anti-British and liberal. Instead of a monarch with absolute power, one that claimed it was installed by a single, almighty deity, one that relied upon the Catholic Church for ideological support, some wanted a constitutional monarchy which would share power the the legislature and the judiciary absolute and which would not be arbitrary. Napoleon spread a version of the ideas of liberty, fraternity, and equality wherever his armies went,. The Supreme Regenerative Council of Portugal and the Algarve, headed by General Gomes Freire de Andrade, a former general under Napoleon, wanted the end of the British occupation.   The General was a Freemason,the Grand Master of the Grande Oriente Lusitano lodge, and Freemason opposed the absolute monarchy. The Regency arrested him and eleven others for treason and executed them in 1817.   Beresford then sailed to Brazil to consult John VI and ask for more power to stifle subversion. The executions, carried out by the British-controlled Regency, sparked protests. and then revolt, first in Oporto and then in other cities. Protestors wanted the return to Portugal of John VI (mistakenly believing that he would be fairer that the Regency), the creation of a constitutional monarchy, and making Brazil a colony which served Portugal's interests only. The 1822 Constitution gave them that but they couldn't keep it. John VI returned from Brazil only to face opposition to his authority from absolutists, including his wife, Queen Carlota Joaquina, and son, Michael, who revolted unsuccessfully even with  the help of an army garrison.  Michael was made a generalissimo of the army but then led another revolt, the Abrilada in 1824, to restore absolute monarchy. John VI exiled him to France, after  stripping him of his rank,. He received a generous pension. John VI suspended the constitution, and ruled as an absolute monarch until his death on March 10, 1826.
    Michael's actions spoke to the political system emerging in post-Napoleonic Portugal. He  asserted that he was the rightful king instead of his brother, Peter I of Brazil/ Peter IV of Portugal because he was Portuguese whereas Peter was Brazilian. Even though European royalty at that time had no country since they were intermarried, he was asserting that the "home folks" were tired of being ruled from a distant land, a former colony at that! There was enough national identity for the argument to resonate and the "Brazilian", Peter IV, had to concede some of the point. He  ascended the throne; installed the liberal Constitution of 1826; abdicated the throne in favor of his seven-year-old daughter, Maria II, and named his brother Michael as Regent on the condition that Michael marry his niece.
      Thus, Michael would be de facto king and one of his progeny would inherit the throne once Maria became of age, married him, and began bearing children. Michael was more ambitious. This vacuum in leadership exacerbated economic and political problems in the country. Peter agreed that Portugal needed a stronger hand and raised his brother's status. Peter's Constitutional Charter of 1828 was more conservative than the Constitution of 1882, giving the monarch greater power. It created four branches of the Government.  Parliament had two chambers, the Chamber of Peers composed of life and hereditary peers and clergy appointed by the king and the Chamber of Deputies of 111 deputies who were elected to four-year terms by the indirect vote of local assemblies, which in turn were elected by a limited suffrage of male tax-paying property owners. The executive power was held by government ministers. The king, however, had a moderating power which gave him an absolute veto over all legislation. The judiciary was the fourth branch of government.
    Michael then deposed Maria II and became Michael I, and ruled from 1828-34. He had to fight to stay in power in what are called the Liberal Wars.   He lost. Maria II resumed the throne and Michael was exiled and forbidden to return.  Some of the power of the absolutists was undercut by the May 30, 1834 law converted "all convents, monasteries, colleges, hospices and any other houses of the regular religious orders" to ownership by the Portuguese government as part of the   Fazenda Nacional (the National Exchequer). The state tried to sell this property to peasants but few had the capital to buy. Speculators benefited.
    Maria II (1834-1853) reigned for nineteen years until her death while giving birth to her eleventh child since 1837.  She originally married Auguste, Duke of Leuchtenberg in January, 1835; he died within two months. The 16-year-old married Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg, who was rewarded the title of king in 1837 with the birth of their first son, Peter.  Royalist troops defeated a revolt in May, 1846. The throne was secure but, in spite of repeated warnings from her medicos, she continued to bear child after child by Ferdinand II. The Pope praised her for setting an example for Christian women; he awarded her a Golden Rose in 1842.
    Prime ministers began playing an important, if not they key, role under the constitutional monarchy, even leading coups d'etat. João Carlos Saldanha de Oliveira Daun, the Duke of Saldanha was his last title, was a hero of the military resistance to Napoleonic, served the king when they were in Brazil, and became very active in continental Portuguese politics after 1821.  He instigated seven coups d'etat between 1822-1871 and   served as  Prime Minister three times between 1846-70. He died in 1876 while serving as the all-important Ambassador to Great Britain.  António Bernardo da Costa Cabral, 1st Marquess of Tomar,  was a favorite of Maria II in part because, as governor of Lisbon, he put down the radicals protesting government conservatism in what was called the Massacre do Rossio. Like the queen, he was fond of the Vatican, restoring diplomatic relations though he began his career as a liberal. This was likely because he opposed the conservative Michael. Once the War of the Two Brothers was won, he ruled as a conservative with an iron fist. He reintroduced the conservative Constitutional Charter. When a female-led peasant revolt erupted in 1846 in the north, he crushed it instead of seeking the aid the farmers who were devastated by the failure of the potato harvest and declines in corn yields. The brutality with which he put down the Maria da Fonte offended even conservative Portugal so he high-tailed it to England until the heat was off in 1848. He had power until 1851 when Saldanha replaced him again. Both men tried to modernize the kingdom's economy and with some success but Portugal lagged behind Western and Central Europe more and more.
    Government in this constitutional monarchy, for fewer than one percent (1%) of the people could vote.  Decisions were made by a few important people—nobles, military officers, prominent farmers, important merchants, and some professionals. They held somewhat different views but not in the essentials, that people like themselves should control their "lessers". The king would keep a faction in power until it faded in effectiveness and then appointed the other faction.  The practice was called rotativismo. The Regenerators and Historicals tended to keep their disputes out of the public eye.  This parliamentary system worked as long as one faction/party could obtain a majority but neither could by 1906.  Then the monarch took a  strong stance which backfired. 
      The popular Peter V (1853-1861) was young and modern and determined to bring Portugal out of its backwardness.  He began modernizing the transportation infrastructure  and improving public health. He combated the cholera epidemic, visiting comfort to the sick.  Unfortunately, he,  his brother Ferdinand, and other royals died of cholera in 1861. He and his wife had no children so the crown went to his brother Louis.

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Pedro V

    Louis I (1861-1889) was mediocre  as a politician. He was a poet and a man who funded oceanographic studies. Conservative by nature, he allowed liberals to take power when they gained enough support. His kingdom fell further and further behind western Europe in terms of modernization. His son, Charles I (1889-1908) became King on 19 October 1889. The rulers looked to their African colonies as a means of reinvigorating Portugal's wealth and glory. After all, imperialism was in the nation's DNA, so to speak, and it was the first European nation to establish African colonies.  The two largest were Angola in southwest Africa and Mozambique in  southeast Africa.  Portugal got the German chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, to call a conference in Berlin to divide Africa among the European powers. Portugal wanted to join Angola and Mozambique together by acquiring the land in between (called the Pink Map) but was thwarted by the three-month Berlin Conference (1884-85) for the the United Kingdom and France has their way.  To gain control of the territory, a country had to work a deal with local rulers and take possession. By 1890, the British government forced Portugal out of that territory. People in Portugal were furious at this humiliation.
    They were not happy when the kingdom went bankrupt in 1892 and again in 1902. The political system was dysfunctional. Neither of the principal factions/parties could get a majority in Parliament by 1906 and republicanism was growing, especially among young army officers.  The Republicans got four deputies in 1906 and they did all they could to criticize the monarchy, foment xenophobia (with the Great Britain and Spain as the bogeymen), and force a collapse of the system. Charles I responded in 1907 by giving João Franco the power to rule by decree. Thus he proved that the republicans were correct; the monarchy was actually a dictatorship of the wealthy and powerful in spite of universal male suffrage. On February 1, 1908, Charles and his younger son were assassinated. His eighteen-year-old son Manuel became Manuel II, only to be exiled in 1910.
    Manuel II (1908-1910) tried to bring unity to his kingdom but the republicans, especially the Carbonária, saw the monarchy as the primary obstacle to a modern state. Unable to gain a majority in the lower house of the Cortes (14 seats outright; 40 with the addition of allies against 120 who supported the monarchy), they instigated a coup d'etat on October 4, 1910. Manuel II was gone the next day. He finally gave up hope that he could return. Instead, he tried to help the country from his exile in England. A republic was declared.
    The republican movement split on a number of issues. It did officially abolish the  monarchy in the 1911 Constitution and extend rights to citizens. They disestablished  the church and adopted measures to limit the influence of the clergy. They established a bicameral legislature with a Senate (six year terms via indirect election) and a Chamber of Deputies (three year terms).  Congress appointed the government ministers, including the Prime Minister as well as the President, the nominal head of state. Workers could organize and strike. The merit system was introduced to the civil service. The Portuguese Republican Party began arguing  about who would be selected as President of the Republic, an argument that led to a split into the Republican National Union and the Democratic Party.  In early, 1912,  the Republican National Union split into the Republican Union and the Republican Evolutionist Party.   So there were 45 governments, eight Congressional elections, and eight for the Presidency.  The military had been instrumental in overthrowing the monarchy; now it became the arbiter of the political system.  It took control in January, 1915 but returned power in May.
    Portuguese participation in World War I was a disaster for the country and alienated the military from civilian government even more. The poor, agrarian, underdeveloped country should have ignored its 1386 treaty with the United Kingdom and declared itself neutral. It did not have the wherewithal to support the 40,000 troops it sent to fight; they were ill-equipped and poorly-trained and the government failed to feed are care for them adequately. The causality rate was high. It was not for lack of trying but the military effort deprived the home population of needed food. So, in December 1917, the conservative, pro-German Major Sidónio Pais grabbed power and held it until he was assassinated in December, 1918 by a corporal.  Civilians took control again but could not rule effectively.  Its anticlericalism undercut its authority with the faithful; the Portuguese church responded with the "Miracle of Fatima" in 1917, reassuring believers.  Many Portuguese looked favorably upon the pro-Church, authoritarian regimes of Mussolini in Italy (1922) and Spain (1923).     After the military failed twice,  General Manuel Gomes da Costa overthrew the civilian government on May 26, 1926.
    The officer corps was not of one mind, however, for some members were monarchists, others republicans, and still other fascists. General  Gomes da Costa shared power until ousted by General Óscar Fragoso Carmona. In March, Carmona, a very Catholic republican, was elected President. He appointed a republican army officer as prime minister and a university economics professor, António de Oliveira Salazar, as finance minister in April, 1928. He demanded and got control of all government expenditures. He understood where power lay. He was authoritarian, antiliberal, anticommunist, and pro-Church. He appealed to Portuguese fear of the outside world, its desire for internal peace and stability, and its dream of past glory.

Antonio_Salazar.jpg (44946 bytes) António de Oliveira Salazar

    Several years passed before Salazar had the country adopt his constitution for a New State; he was a careful politician who cultivated the powerful while reassuring the powerless. He announced his goal in 1930.   The military trusted him and allowed him to become Prime Minister in 1932. The next year, the New State constitution was adopted.  Corporate groups—the Church, the military, the family, business organizations, etc.—had representation, not individuals, via the Corporative Chamber.   The only political organization was the National Union and members of the National Assembly had to be members. Salazar was Prime Minister and head of the National Union. Theoretically, the president was elected for a seven year term and appointed the prime minister but, in fact, Salazar ruled.  The Assembly could only consider matters that required no money.  Women were given the vote because the assumption was that women were naturally conservative and religious. Nevertheless, only twenty percent of the people could vote.  He disliked politics, mass movements, Catholic Church involvement in politics, and dissension. He loved his religion, order, balanced budgets, and prosperity for the elites.
    He was not a fascist, certainly not in the sense that Hitler and Mussolini were, but a very authoritarian elitist.  He believed he knew better than anyone else, a common delusion among college professors. He declared neutrality during World War II because he saw no gain for Portugal in taking sides. When NATO was created, Portugal joined; he was a staunch opponent of the Soviet Union.  Although he allowed some of the trappings of liberal democracy such as elections, he did not let anyone forget that he ruled. In regards to Portuguese Africa, he clamped down. The purpose of the colonies was to enrich the mother country. The Portuguese peasantry were to be dutiful, uneducated Catholics who worked to make Portugal richer.
    Salazar embodied the tradition of the divine right monarch who asserted that only he and God knew what was best. He ruled until his stroke on 1968; he died in 1969.  Marcello José das Neves Caetano, a liberal by comparison, succeeded him, but conflicted with the old-line conservative, President America Tomás who opposed Caetano. Their conflict allowed the Armed Forces Movement, more liberal army officers, to eject both of them in the Carnation Revolution of April 25, 1974.  
      Portugal changed into a democratic and modern country. It took time. A military junta, the National Salvation Junta took over until 1975. The people had to discard authoritarian habits of mind and adopt the mentality of a free people. To do this, they had to rid the country of its African colonies; the colonial wars were unjust as well as a drag on the country. Basic freedoms had to be guaranteed. Entry into the European Union brought investment, new markets, and the construction of infrastructure. A variety of political parties contested for power with the left initially gaining ascendancy. By the 21st century, the country's politics had become centrist. Although improved, the economy was one of the weakest in Europe.


Suggested Readings

Birmingham, David (1993). A Concise History of Portugal. Cambridge and New York, Cambridge University Press, 1993.

History of Portugal (1834–1910)

History of Portugal: Primary Documents

Index of Portugal-related articles.

Payne, Stanley G. A History of Spain and Portugal Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1973) 2 vols.

Rodrigues, Ana Maria S.A, "For the Honor of Her Linage and Body: The Dowers and Dowries of Some Late Medieval Queens of Portugal," e-JPH, Vol. 5, number 1, Summer 2007

Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia: Portugal