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Lusitania is the name of the Iberian region now known as Portugal. The region experienced different waves of conquest and settlement by Iberos, Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Greeks, Romans, Swabians, Visigoths, and Muslims. All of these groups influenced the cultural development of modern Portugal. The Portuguese are basically a homogeneous people formed by a heterogeneous ethnic past.

The name of Portugal is comparatively of a modern date, the oldest writing extant in which it is found applied to the nhole kingdom heing of the year 1O69. Lusilania was in former times the name of this part of the peninsula ; but the boundaries of the ancient Lusitania and the present kingdom of Portugal do not correspond. Several etymologies have been given of the latter name, of which the following is the most probable. There was in the Roman period a town called Gale, now Oporto, near the mouth of the Douro; this becoming, in the course of time, a very flourishing sea-port, the name of Porto Gale was in the middle age given to the circumjacent region ; and as the countiy was gradually recovered from the Moors, this name was yet more improperly extended to the whole kingdom.

Portugal is one of the oldest states in Europe. The history of Portugal can be divided into eight broad periods. The first begins in the Paleolithic period and extends to the formation of Portugal as an independent monarchy. During this period, Lusitania, that portion of the western Iberian Peninsula known today as Portugal, experienced many waves of conquest and settlement by Iberos, Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Swabians, Visigoths, and Muslims. Of these successive waves of people, the Romans left the greatest imprint on present Portuguese society.

The second broad period of Portuguese history runs from the founding of the monarchy until the disappearance of the House of Burgundy, Portugal's first dynasty, in 1383. In AD 1140, following a 9-year rebellion against the King of Leon-Castile, Afonso Henriques, the Count of Portugal, became the country's first king, Afonso I. Afonso and his successors expanded their territory southward, capturing Lisbon from the Moors in 1147. The approximate present-day boundaries were secured in 1249 by Afonso III. During this period, the monarchy was established and expanded by reconquering territory from the Muslims and populating those lands with Christian settlers. Consolidation and economic development were furthered by policies designed to increase agricultural productivity. The explorations of the African Coast and the Atlantic began under King João. Portugal's mainland boundaries have not changed since.

The third period begins with the founding of the House of Avis, Portugal's second ruling dynasty. During this period, Portugal experienced a dynastic struggle that brought the House of Avis to the throne, a series of wars with Castile that threatened the independence of the new kingdom, a social revolution, a second dynastic struggle, and the assertion of royal supremacy over the nobility.

The fourth period begins in 1415 when the Portuguese seized Ceuta in Morocco, thus beginning Portugal's maritime expansion. Portuguese explorers had reached the Canary Islands by 1337. Inspired by Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), explorers such as Vasco da Gama, Bartolomeu Dias, and Pedro Alvares Cabral made explorations from Brazil to India and Japan. The Portuguese discovered the sea route to India, via the Cape of Good Hope. Vasco da Gama reached India in 1498 and Pedro Cabral, trying to reach India, discovered Brazil two years later (1500). During this period, Portugal explored the west coast of Africa, discovered and colonized Madeira and the Azores, opened the passage to India around Africa, built an empire in Asia, and colonized Brazil. Portugal eventually became a massive colonial empire with vast territories in Africa (Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Sao Tome) and Latin America (Brazil), and outposts in the Far East (East Timor, Macau, Goa).

The fifth period, that of imperial decline, begins with the dynastic crisis of 1580, which saw the demise of the House of Avis. Dynastic disputes led in 1580 to the succession of Philip II of Spain to the Portuguese throne. During this period, Portugal was part of the Iberian Union until 1640, when the monarchy was restored and a new dynasty, the House of Bragança, was established. In 1640 the kingdom of Portugal freed itself from the domination of Spain. With the same blow Spain lost the great colonial possessions that came to her with the attachment of the Portuguese. All the places which the Portuguese had in the Indies, separated themselves from the crown of Castile and recognized as king, Don Juan of Portugal.

The House of Braganca was established as Portugal's ruling family, lasting until the establishment of the Portuguese Republic in 1910. This period includes the advent of absolutism in Portugal and ends with the Napoleonic invasions in the early 1800s. When Napoleon's army threatened Portugal, the Royal Family fled to Brazil and ruled from Rio de Janeiro where they remained for 14 years. The French were expelled in 1811, with the help of the British, under the command of Arthur Wellesley, later Duke of Wellington.

The sixth, the period of constitutional monarchy, begins with the liberal revolution of 1820, which established in Portugal for the first time a written constitution. This period includes a civil war in which constitutionalists triumphed over absolutists, the winning of independence by Brazil, and the exploration of Portugal's African possessions. It ends with the collapse of rotativismo - the alternation of political factions at regular intervals with little or no change to the political system as a whole - in the early twentieth century.

The seventh period begins in 1910 with the downfall of the monarchy and the establishment of the First Republic. The Monarchy was overthrown in Portugal after the assassination of King D Carlos in 1908, and in 1910 Portugal was proclaimed a Republic. Portugal was initially neutral in the Great War, but managed to provoke a German declaration of war on 09 March 1916. The last King of Portugal, D Manuel II died in exile in London in 1932. For a period of 16 years, intense political rivalries and economic instability undermined newly established democratic institutions. The end of the Monarchy was followed by an ebullient Republican period during which Portugal had 45 different governments in less than 16 years. The most revolutionary of Latin American States was never as unstable as the Portuguese Republic.

After 16 years of Republicanism the country was prepared to try anything else. Indeed, on the 28th of May 1926, the military would put an end - although without any clear alternative - to the ephemeral Republic. The Armed Forces were united solely in the protest against the partidocracia, the parliamentary inefficiency, the governmental instability, the discredit of institutions and social upheaval. Responding to pressing economic problems, a military government, which had taken power in 1926, named a prominent university economist, Antonio Salazar, as finance minister in 1928 and prime minister in 1932. For the next 42 years, Salazar and his successor, Marcelo Caetano (appointed prime minister in 1968), ruled Portugal as an authoritarian "corporate" state. Between 1936 and 1974 Portugal lived under a right wing dictatorial regime characterised by suppression of dissent and local government growth, isolated from the European mainstream and drawing on natural resources of African colonies.

Unlike most other European countries, Portugal remained neutral in World War II. It was a charter member of NATO, joining in 1949. In the early 1960s, wars against independence movements in Portugal's African territories began to drain labor and wealth from Portugal. Professional dissatisfaction within the military, coupled with a growing sense of the futility of the African conflicts, led to the formation of the clandestine "Armed Forces Movement" in 1973.

This period ended with the military-led left wing revolution of 25 April 1974. The downfall of the Portuguese corporate state came when the Armed Forces Movement seized power in a nearly bloodless coup and established a provisional military government. This was followed by a rapid and chaotic de-colonisation of its former colonies. Portugal managed to assimilate almost one million "retornados" (Portuguese citizens who previously lived in the colonies) into a total population’ of less than ten million, during a time when the free world was suffering the effects of rapidly escalating inflation. The key industrial and commercial enterprises were nationalised, as were many large agricultural estates, some of them owned by foreign citizens. Portugal held its first democratic elections and approved its first democratic Constitution in 1976. The country joined the EU (then European Economic Community EEC) in 1986.

During the 1980's Portugal revitalised her relationship with former colonies in Africa. In July 1996, they formed the Commonwealth of Portuguese speaking countries (CPLP). Following a period of Indonesian occupation, East Timor gained independence in 2002 and was the last to join the CPLP in 2003.

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Page last modified: 31-01-2013 16:45:12 ZULU