Throughout the centuries which witnessed the conquest of Lusitania and
destruction of Carthaginian power by Rome, the establishment and decline
of Latin civilization, the invasion by Alani, Suevi and other barbarian
races, the resettlement under Visigothic rule and the overthrow of the
Visigoths by Arab and Berber tribes from Africa, today's Portugal remained
an undifferentiated part of Hispania, without sign of national consciousness.
The Iberian Peninsula was one and its common history is related under
Spain. Its divisions didn't match the modern ones. It is true that some
Portuguese writers have sought to identify their race with the ancient
Lusitani, and have claimed for it a separate and continuous existence dating
from the 2nd century B.C. The revolt of Lusitania against the Romans has
been regarded as an early manifestation of Portuguese love of liberty,
Viriathus as a national hero. But this theory, which originated in the
15th century and was perpetuated in the title of the Lusiadas epic, has
no historical foundation, and Viriathus has also been considered a national
hero in Spain.
In 1095 Portugal was an obscure border fief of the kingdom of Leon.
Its territories, far from the centers of European civilization and consisting
largely of mountain, moorland and forest, were bounded on the north by
the Minho, on the south by the Mondego.
Its name (Portucelia, Terra portucalensis) was derived from the little
seaport of Portus Cale or Vila Nova de Gaia, now a suburb of Porto, at
the mouth of the Douro. Its inhabitants, surrounded by Moorish and Christian
enemies and distracted by civil war, derived such rudiments of civilization
as they possessed from Arabic or Leonese sources. But from these obscure
beginnings Portugal rose in four centuries to be the greatest maritime,
commercial and colonial power in Europe.
The history of the nation comprises eleven periods.
1095 - 1279 A Portuguese kingdom was established independent from Leon
and extended southwards until it reached its present continental limits.
1279 - 1415 The monarchy was gradually consolidated in spite of resistance
from the Church, the nobles and the rival kingdom of Castile.
1415 - 1499 A period of crusades and discoveries, culminating in the
discovery of an ocean-route to India (14971499).
1499 - 1580 Portugal acquired an empire stretching from Brazil eastward
to the Moluccas, reached the zenith of its prosperity and entered upon
a period of swift decline.
1581 - 1640 Spanish kings ruled over Portugal
1640 - 1755 The chief event of these years was the restoration of the
1755 - 1826 The reforms of the Marquis of Pombal and the Peninsular
War prepared the country for a change from absolutism to constitutional
1826 - 1910 Portugal was a constitutional Monarchy, and Brazil becomes
1910 - 1926 The Republic was established.
1926 - 1974 Portugal was under a dictatorial regime.
A democratic regime was established.
Existing as a country since 1143, and with almost always the same main
territory border line since the 13th century, Portugal has always been
turned to the sea. Since early, fishing and overseas commerce have been
main economical activities. The political separation induced slow differentiation
of Galician-Portuguese into today's Galician and Portuguese languages,
though there are still lots of commonalities.
Henry the Navigator's interest in exploration together with some technological
developments in navigation brought together, gave way to the Portuguese
expansion and to great geographical knowledge advancements. Pedro Alvares
Cabral sailed to India but steered far westward to avoid the winds and
currents of the Guinea coast, reached Brazil (1500) and claimed it for
his sovereign. João da Nova discovered Ascension in 1501 and Saint
Helena 1502; Tristão da Cunha was the first to sight the archipelago
still known by his name 1506. In East Africa small Islamic states along
the coast of Mozambique, Kilwa, Brava and Mombasa were destroyed or became
subjects or allies of Portugal. Pedro de Covilham had reached Abyssinia
as early as 1490; In the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, one of Cabral's
ships discovered Madagascar (1501), which was partly explored by Tristão
da Cunha (1507); Mauritius was discovered in 1507, Socotra occupied in
1506, and in the same year D. Lourenco d'Almeida visited Ceylon.
In the Red Sea Massawa was the most northerly point frequented by the
Portuguese until 1541, when a fleet under Estevão da Gama penetrated
as far as Suez. Mormuz, in the Persian Gulf, was seized by Alfonso d'Albuquerque
(1515), who also entered into diplomatic relations with Persia.
On the Asiatic mainland the first trading-stations were established
by Cabral at Cochin and Calicut (1501); more important, however, were the
conquest of Goa (1510) and Malacca (1511) by Albuquerque, and the acquisition
of Diu (1535) by Martim Afonso de Sousa. East of Malacca, Albuquerque sent
Duarte Fernandes as envoy to Thailand (1511), and dispatched to the Moluccas
two expeditions (1512, 1514), which founded the Portuguese dominion in
the Malay Archipelago (q.v.). Fernão Pires de Andrade visited Canton
in 1517 and opened up trade with China, where in 1557 the Portuguese were
permitted to occupy Macao. Japan, accidentally reached by three Portuguese
traders in 1542, soon attracted large numbers of merchants and missionaries.
In 1522 one of the ships in the expedition that Ferdinand Magellan organized
in the Spanish service completed the first voyage around the world.
By the end of the 15th century, Portugal expelled the local Jews, including
those refugees that came from Castile and Aragon after 1492. However, lots
of Jews converted to Catholicism and remained as Conversos. Many remained
as hiddenly Jewish and were persecuted by the Portuguese Inquisition. Those
who fled reached such prominence in commerce that for centuries a "Portuguese"
abroad was presumed a Jew of Portuguese descent.
On December 1, 1640, Portugal regained its independence from Spain and
John IV of Portugal became king. Spain recognized Portugal as an independent
nation on February 13, 1668.
Following its heyday as a world power during the 15th and 16th centuries,
Portugal lost much of its wealth and status with the destruction of Lisbon
in a giant 1755 earthquake. The centuries alliance with England brought
French occupation during the Napoleonic Wars. Another blow was the loss
of its Brazilian colony in 1822. A 1910 revolution deposed the monarchy
starting then a period of chaotic republicanism (primeira Republica); in
1926 a nationalist military coup began a period of more than five decades
of repressive fascist governments, mostly under the rule of António
de Oliveira Salazar. Lots of poor Portuguese had to emigrate to Brazil
and Northwestern Europe. On April 25, 1974, a effectively bloodless left-wing
military coup installed a government that instituted broad democratic reforms.
The following year Portugal granted independence to its colonies in Africa
(Portuguese East Africa, Portuguese West Africa, Cape Verde, São
Tomé and Príncipe and Portuguese Guinea) and lost its colony
of Portuguese Timor in Asia to an Indonesian invasion. Portugal entered
the EC in January 1, 1986 and joined the euro single currency in 2002.
The last world exposition of the 20th century was held in Lisbon in 1998
and the country organized the 2004 European football championship.
Macao was devolved to the People's Republic of China in 1999.