The Kingdom of Portugal emerged in the 12th century connected with the process concerning the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. At the same time that all the territories occupied by the Moors were conquered southwards Portugal, originally a county and a part of one of the most ancient Christian kingdoms of the Peninsula – Leão – demanded its independence in 1143. Due to endless fights and negotiations D. Afonso I, first king of Portugal, was awarded by the pope (1179) with the papal bull manifestis probatum thus bringing stability. At the eyes of all the Christian world, that meant the birth of a new kingdom in a part of the world were the fight against the infidels would be reinforced by a backup force of attack (The Palestine and the Peninsula).
The concept of crusade and the believe that all peninsular kings descent from an ancient visigotic monarchy justified all the Southern process of conquest in the al-Andaluz. The support of the church was unquestionable – the crusaders (conquest of Lisbon and Silves) and the religious and military orders gave a big help to the birth of several kingdoms by their endless effort of conquest and settlement.
The peculiarity of the kingdom’s formation lies in the various ways by the which the territory was occupied. To all the well known European feudal forms of occupation – by the nobility, by the clergy and the allotment, the council land is added. It is an autonomous form serveyed between the king or the nobel and a community of free men, it derives from an effort to populate deserted territories and it was carried out by kings and nobels during the conquest process. The word council is still used in the modern local administration.
The Arabic culture, which is clearly seen in several Portuguese cultural aspects, as been since the beginning denied, especially because of the religious contrast by which it is enveloped. However we must not forget the numerous quantity of words of Arabic influence existing in our vocabulary.
Portugal was an expert concerning the technological development of cartography and navigation and that enabled us in the 15th century of discoveries.
The inventions and the technical improvements have the most various roots, though Portugal’s geographical position and its cultural cohesion were a step ahead to find new things. A nautical culture was being built.
The motivation to the great adventure was bottom line the food and workers scarcity. Social and economic reasons do not justify such deed. In that period it was important to fight the infidel and save souls. Foreign people (such as Italians or Catalonians, castilians, bascs, northern Europeans and muslins) also wanted to take part on the crusade enterprise but with their own interests. Above all, the discoveries enterprise was seen as a way of increasing the national patrimony and treasure.
In the beginning of the 15th century, due to the crisis felt through all Europe during the 14th century, Portugal was dealing with serious economical problems.
It was urgent to find new resources, spereead the Christian belief to new people and fulfil the desire to find/know new lands.
In that time the Infante D. Henrique, one of D. João I sons, took the responsibility to make these journeys:
The islands in the Atlantic were found: Madeira (1418) ; Azores (1427);
We sailed around the Bojador Cape in 1434
The western African coast was found until Sierra Lione in 1460 (the Infante died in the same year)
From here on king D. João II was the leader of the Indies reached by sea sailing along the African coast. The known maps showed that that was impossible to accomplish, for in those maps the African coast was straight down until the south pole without any access to Indian ocean, however the Portuguese navigators and merchants experience indicated that it might be possible for them to connect the Atlantic ocean to the Indian ocean.
D. João II organised several voyages:
Diogo Cão reached the Zaire (Congo) river mouth in 1483;
Bartolomeu Dias sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, until than Known as Cape of the Torments, in 1487.
The doorway to the Indies was opened, the land of the spices and the luxurious products. Meanwhile Spain had also joined the expansion race, and, to solve several conflicts the two countries drawn a treaty in 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas, in which they agreed to share among them all the found or found-to-be lands.
Vasco da Gama reached the Indies in 1498, in the reign of D. Manuel I.
The second expedition sent to the Indies was commanded by Pedro Álvares de Cabral, but on that voyage he officially found the Brazil in 1500.
The recent navigation knowledge was enormous. The Portuguese people in little less than a century found new lands in a big part of the world. They maid bonds with people from different continents.
They informed us about animals and plants that had never been seen before. Even the sky and the stars looked different seen from the southern hemisphere.
One of the main reasons that lead the Portuguese to the expansion was the pursuit of wealth. Whenever they reached a new land they tried to take as much advantage of it as they could.
In the 16th century Portugal had dominion over areas from the Atlantic until the Far East, making it altogether a vast empire.
The new worlds that Portugal found melted together. They learn the ideas, the techniques, the knowledge and the every day life of one another. Out of all these exchange of ideas one thing is for sure, a new world emerged.
A new sensibility, a new taste and a new knowledge were brought in to a light with the discovery voyages made in 16th century. The culture, the science, the arts, the literature were given new impetus.
Lisbon in 16th century was the capital of an empire, it became the trade centre. Its geographical position was fundamental. The city became the meeting point of all europeans, who soon would settle in Lisbon, from Africa slaves were brought (in the 16th century, in Lisbon, 10 out of 100 were slaves) people from all over the world arrived to Lisbon seeking a better way of life. On the other hand, others would leave to the new world seeking adventure.
While Lisbon was becoming one of the most important and busiest cities of the world, the rest of the country had stagnated.
The maritime commerce was largely profitable, but that money was not directed to the agriculture or handcraft industry development, therefore every consumer goods were imports. The national expenses soon became larger than the profits.
By the end of the 16th century there was a succession problem, for D. Sebastião disappeared in the Ksar el- Kebir battle in 1478. Portugal was then ruled by a Spanish king. Though at beginning Portugal had same benefits with this fusion, by the 17th century the situation was different it was that this integration in the big empire of Carlos V’s successors brought a higher tax pressure along with all the empire troubles: participation in wars which Portugal had nothing to do with (the Spanish Armada); the loss of influence in the colonies (Dutch advance in South America).
The independence process began in December, 1., 1640 and ended in 1668 when a peace treaty was sign were Spain granted Portugal its independence. This is not an isolated riot, many others took place during the Phillips Dynasty which led to there decay (Catalunian uprise, ….).
After achieving the independence it was of major importance to get back the lost empire, Portugal did not rule anymore in the found lands, the Cape Route was now in the hands of the British, the Dutch and the French. Brazil looked like a good solution to the weakened Portuguese economy, they had the sugar production during the 17th century and lots of gold in the 18th century.
The echoes of the French revolution were also felt in Portugal, ending with the Ancient Regime (Antigo Regime). The ideals of this revolution were in a way gladly acknowledge by some people, however they were violently imposed by three invasions (1807, 1808, 1810). The royal family fled to Brazil keeping Portugal’s independence and its government, even ruling from overseas. Meanwhile the British, taking advantage of several popular uprisings all over the Peninsula against the French dominion, send troops to another European battle field.
With the end of the Napoleonic Wars, England enjoys a privileged governmental position controlling all commercial relationships with the colonies and the rest of the world (Oporto and Madeira wine).
While the king was still in Brazil there a was in Portugal and uprising against Beresford (Who represented the British interests in Portugal), the idea was to expel him out of the country. People were getting angrier every day and the acceptance to the French Revolution ideals – Liberty, Equality and Fraternity – was growing. So, in 1820 a group of liberals organised an uprising in Oporto that spread through out the country.
Government was set in the hand of a temporary committee whose task was organise the first elections and write a constitution, which would be published in 1822. That is how a constitutional monarchy was born. The loss of Brazil in 1822 shows a period of troubled times to the liberals. The remaining supporters of an absolute system went to a civil war that lasted until 1834, the liberals won the war, they were led by D.Pedro, brother of the leader of the absolutist wing, D.Miguel.
Liberal governments do serious agrarian and industrial reforms in the country, and also in transports and public affairs. It is obvious that the progress in commerce is due to the development of the communications.
The technological delay, the lack of capital, loosen investments, the foreign competition in main economical sectors, opposite policies of development led to a slight gap between Portugal and the rest of the world.
Like the Berlin Conference (1884-85) has confirmed, other European major countries were looking for new markets and raw materials, but Portugal was far back in this race, though without enlarging its possessions, Portugal still maintained, with some effort, the colonies. There were many problems with which the monarchic government could not deal with: in one hand the people unsatisfaction, and in the other hand the growing group of republican supporters that were against the government. In fact on 1. February of 1908 in an attack against the royal family D.Carlos and the heir prince D.Luís Filipe, are killed. D.Manuel II (the second son of D.Carlos) was recognised king of Portugal by the end of that same year. He was the last king of Portugal. During the two last years of is reign the revolution movements did not stop growing.
In October 5. 1910 it was proclaimed the Republic in Lisbon, the royal family was expelled out of country. The first temporary cabinet declared:
The national hymn «A Portuguesa»
The nowadays known flag
Abolished all nobility ranks
Abolished the religious swear at trials
laws protecting the family (civil marriage, the end of illegitimate child status)
Laws concerning free press
Labour rights (strike, weekly rest, social bonus)
The lock-out right
All these measures were set in the first Constitution of the Portuguese Republic of 1911.
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