The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Portuguese Empire

Portuguese Empire - 16th Century
Ceuta 14151580
Arzila/Asilah 14171589
Madeira 1420...
Azores 1432...
Goree / Ilha de Palma1444....
Arguin Island 1455 1633
Alcacer Ceguer/el Qsar es-Seghir14581550
São Tomé and Príncipe 14701975
Tanger / Tangier14711662
Fernando Poo and Annobon 14741778
Portuguese Gold Coast 14821642
Safim/Safi 14881541
Laquedivas / Laccadive Is. 14981545
Brazil 15001822
Mozambique / Portugese East Africa15011975
Cochim 15031663
Fernando de Noronha 15041822
Santa Cruz do Cabo de Gué/Agadir15051541
Anjediva / Angediva15051961
Pemba 15061698
Aguz/Souira Guedima 15061525
Socotra 15061511
Mazagan / El Jadida15061769
Mogador Castello Real 15061510
Goa / Portuguese India 15101961
Malacca / Malaca15111641
Moluccas 15121621
Azamor/Azemmour 15131541
Hormuz / Ormuz15151622
Mascate / Muscat 15151650
Ceylon / Cilão15181658
Maldives 15181573
Chaul 15211740
São Tomé de Meliapore 15231749
Cranganore 15231662
Salsette 15341737
Baçaim / Bassein 15351739
Diu 15351961
Macao / Macau15531999
Damão / Daman 15591961
Nagasaki/Deshima 15711639
Angola / Portuguese West Africa15751975
Hoogli / Ugolim15791632
Cacheu 15881974
Mombasa 15931729
Cape Verde 16421975
Portuguese Timor / East Timor16421975
Nova Colônia do Sacramento 16801822
São João Baptista de Ajudá 16801961
Danish Gold Coast 16801682
Bissau 16871974
French Guiana 18091817
Portuguese Guinea / Guinea-Bissau18791974
Cabinda / Portuguese Congo 18851975

The Portuguese empire was the first and one of the greatest colonial empires, more like the British Empire than any other empire that preceded the latter. The Portuguese empire was founded as a commercial enterprise, and thence expanded into a military occupation, in precisely the same manner as the British Empire. There was this difference, that, whereas the British Empire was founded by private tradesmen, the Portuguese Empire in India was the undertaking of the sovereign. The kings and princes of Portugal had been its chief inspiration from the commencement, and it was only reasonable that, as they had borne the entire risk, they should take the lion's share of the profits. But for the first century, there seemed neither profit nor comfort, nor hope of profit or comfort.

The maritime expansion of Portugal was the result of the threat to Mediterranean commerce that had developed very rapidly after the crusades, especially the trade in spices. Spices traveled by various overland routes from Asia to the Levant, where they were loaded aboard Genoese and Venetian ships and brought to Europe. Gradually, this trade became threatened by pirates and the Turks, who closed off most of the overland routes and subjected the spices to heavy taxes. Europeans sought alternative routes to Asia in order to circumvent these difficulties.

The Portuguese led the way in this quest for a number of reasons. First, Portugal's location on the southwesternmost edge of the European landmass placed the country at the maritime crossroads between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Second, Portugal was by the fifteenth century a compact, unified kingdom led by an energetic, military aristocracy, which, having no more territory on the peninsula to conquer, sought new fields of action overseas. Third, Portuguese kings were motivated by a deeply held belief that their role in history was as the standard-bearers of Christianity against the Muslims. Fourth, Portugal's kings had, since the founding of the monarchy, encouraged maritime activities. Dinis founded the Portuguese navy, and Fernando encouraged the construction of larger ships and founded a system of maritime insurance. Finally, Portugal led the world in nautical science, having perfected the astrolabe and quadrant and developed the lantine-rigged caravel, all of which made navigating and sailing the high seas possible.

Portugal's empire in Asia made its monarchy the richest in Europe and made Lisbon the commercial capital of the world. This prosperity was more apparent than real, however, because the newfound wealth did not transform the social structure, nor was it used to lay the basis for further economic development. The country's industry was weakened because the profits from Asian monopolies were used to import manufactured goods. As the empire in Asia was a state-run enterprise, no middle class or commercial sector independent of the crown of any consequence emerged as it had in other parts of Europe. Moreover, the persecution of the Jews, who possessed vital technical skills, robbed the country of an important force for modernity and reinforced feudal elements. Adding to the drain on the economy was the large amount of money spent on sumptuous palaces and churches.

Because the wealth from the discoveries did not produce a middle class of competent, trained individuals to whom the affairs of state gradually fell, leadership in Portugal remained in the hands of the king and the military aristocracy. Moreover, the imperial system had intensified the already centralized system of government, which meant that the quality of national policy was closely tied to the abilities of the top leadership, especially the king himself. Unfortunately, the House of Avis did not produce a king of great merit after João II, and Portugal entered a long period of imperial decline.

In India, though the prosperity of the Portuguese empire was evidently on the decline, the viceroys were sometimes good men, and the inferior governors always brave: hence its ruin was gradual. Under Constantine de Braganza, successor of Barreto, Daman, a city belonging to the king of Cambay, was added to the empire, and the island of Ternate was reconquered; the king of Cananor and the zamorin of Calicut were humbled; the Abyssinians were protected against the Turks; some acquisitions were made in Ceylon, and the petty princes of Malabar, ever prone to hostilities, were defeated. Under the same governor, Goa was elevated into an archbishopric and two suffragans were sent to aid him in the important office—the means, alas! were, too often, sword and fagot—of converting the heathen.

The English soon resolved to share in the lucrative traffic of these regions; the Portuguese, English, and Dutch contended for the exclusive possession of that traffic; the latter people formed settlements, both in the eastern continent of India and among the islands. As their power increased that of the Portuguese diminished; the Portuguese were frequently defeated by the Dutch, who expelled them from Ceylon; that they regained possession of some settlements on the coasts, but not of their ancient influence. In most of their subsequent actions they had the disadvantage,—the influence of the English and the Dutch every day increasing in these seas.

The Portuguese presence in Africa dates from the sixteenth century when fuel and water stations were established for ships enroute to the spice market of Goa. Portugal neglected these outposts for a time after the pepper trade declined. With the advent of political stability in the early 19th Century, the attention of Portugal turned toward its colonial possessions in Africa. In East Africa, the chief settlement was Mozambique Island, but there was little control over the estates of the mainland where Portuguese of mixed ancestry ruled as feudal potentates. In West Africa, the most important settlements were Luanda and Benguela on the Angolan coast, linked to Brazil by the slave trade conducted through the African island of São Tomé. It was during this period that the Portuguese began to send expeditions into the interior.

In 1852 António Francisco Silva Porto explored the interior of Angola. In 1877 a scientific expedition led by Hermenegildo Capelo and Roberto Ivens, two naval officers, and Alexandre Serpa Pinto, an army major, departed from Luanda and traveled to the Bié region in central Angola, where they separated. Serpa Pinto explored the headwaters of the Cuanza River in Angola and followed the course of the Zambezi River to Victoria Falls in present-day Zimbabwe. Exploring areas now part of South Africa, he crossed the Transvaal and arrived in Natal in 1879. In 1884 Capelo and Ivens departed from Moçamades on the coast of Angola and crossed the continent through entirely unexplored territory, arriving at Quelimane on the east coast of Mozambique in 1885. In the same year, Serpa Pinto and Augusto Cardoso explored the territory around Lake Nyassa. Various Portuguese, such as Paiva de Andrade and António Maria Cardoso, explored the interior of Mozambique.

Despite Portugal's historical claim to the Congo region, the colonial ambitions of the great powers of the day -- Britain, France, and Germany -- gave rise to disputes about its ownership. Portugal therefore proposed an international conference to resolve the disputed claim to the Congo. This conference, which met in Berlin in 1884-85, awarded the Congo to the king of Belgium and established the principle that in order for a claim to African territory to be valid, the claimant had to demonstrate "effective occupation," not historical rights. The Berlin Conference, as it is known, resulted in the partition of Africa among the European powers, and awarded Portugal Mozambique, Angola, and Guinea.

In 1886 Portugal signed two treaties that delimited the boundaries between Portuguese territories and those of France and Germany. France and Germany recognized Portugal's right to exercise sovereignty in the interior territory between Mozambique and Angola. This claim was represented on a map, annexed to the treaty with France, on which the claimed territory was colored red. In order to validate this claim, the Portuguese published the "rose-colored map" and organized successive expeditions into the interior between Mozambique and Angola. Meanwhile, the British were also exploring the territory from south to north under the auspices of Cecil Rhodes, who had designs on the territory for the construction of a railroad that would run from Cape Town through central Africa to Cairo.

Portugal protested against the activities of the British in what they considered to be their territory. The British, having signed a number of treaties with African chiefs, claimed that the territory was under their protection and refused to recognize the rose-colored map. Moreover, they said the territory was not Portuguese because Portugal had not effectively occupied it as required by the terms of the Berlin Conference. Portugal proposed that the conflicting claims be resolved through arbitration. Britain refused and sent the Portuguese an ultimatum, on January 11, 1890, demanding the withdrawal of all Portuguese forces from the disputed territory. Portugal, faced with the armed might of the British, complied.

British and German colonial ambitions after 1885 led the Portuguese to undertake a series of military campaigns to control the interior of Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea. The effort to subdue the African colonies was a slow process that was not completed until 1915. The costly campaigns were pursued by the Lisbon authorities to maintain prestige and to keep the oversized military establishment gainfully occupied.

Salazar strongly rejected pressures from the European powers to decolonize following World War II. He was grimly determined to maintain Portugal's overseas empire. Salazar's successor in 1968, Marcello Caetano, continued the struggle against the African independence movements in spite of its drain on resources and manpower.

The coast of Portuguese Guinea was discovered in 1446, and from 1462 onwards sovereignty was claimed by the Kings of Portugal. In 1669 a station was established on the Corubal, and by 1690 Bissau was a flourishing slave port. In Portuguese Guinea (present-day Guinea-Bissau), the struggle against Portuguese rule began officially in January 1963, although there had been earlier acts of sabotage by members of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde (Partido Africano pela Independência de Guiné e Cabo Verde- -PAIGC). By 1968 PAIGC claimed control of nearly 70 percent of the territory and half the population of the province, the Portuguese being confined largely to the towns and major villages of the coastal area. After 1973, military morale eroded because the soldiers felt that they were fighting an unwinnable war in a territory of little value. The revolutionary government that had recently come to power in Portugal began negotiations for withdrawing Portuguese troops from the province. Portugal recognized Guinea-Bissau as an independent state in September 1974. Portuguese losses in Portuguese Guinea were reported to be 1,656 killed in action and 696 noncombat deaths.

From the mid-1960s until the April 1974 coup, Portuguese government forces were generally in control in Angola. Insurgency continued, however, as long as the guerrilla movements could obtain sanctuary in neighboring states. The long years of conflict increasingly damaged the morale of both the military and a large segment of the Portuguese people. A few months after the revolutionary government came to power in Lisbon in 1974, it began negotiations with the Angolan factions. Full independence was granted on November 11, 1975. Portugal officially announced its losses in Angola as 1,526 killed in action and 1,465 noncombat deaths. Other sources estimated a much higher mortality figure.

The insurgency in Mozambique began in the extreme northern areas of the province in 1964 and was led by guerrilla forces of the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique--FRELIMO). FRELIMO was well armed by various communist countries, and its fighters were trained by the Chinese. Of the 60,000 government troops ultimately involved in Mozambique, 35,000 were black Africans, 10,000 were white Africans, and the remaining 15,000 were from Portugal. This relatively large force faced approximately 8,000 insurgents. Despite this numerical superiority, the Portuguese government was unable to counter the guerrillas' tactics, which included ambushes, selective terrorism, and severing road and rail links. By September 1975, when the former province became independent as the People's Republic of Mozambique, Portuguese losses were officially reported as 1,606 killed in action and 724 noncombat deaths.

Join the mailing list

Page last modified: 22-07-2017 18:15:11 ZULU