Portugal travel arrow Portugal History
A brief history of Portugal Print E-mail

Before becoming a kingdom in 1139 under Alfonso I, Portugal was inhabited by a succession of people, from the tribal settlements of the II millennium BC to the Phoenician and the Carthaginians, who colonized the Algarve in 900BC and 600BC respectively. The ideal geographical position with such an easy access via sea brought many colonizers, the Celts arrived in 500BC and the Romans, in the 2nd century BC. With the fall of the Roman Empire, it was the time of the Barbarians followed by the Arabs who stayed until they were totally defeated by the Christian Army in the 13th century when, with the conquest of Muslim territory, the kingdom was consolidated.


Portugal’s long alliance with England began in the 14th century. It was from Portugal that Prince Henry the Navigator financed expeditions leading to the discovery of the new world. From the 15th century Portuguese explorers opened up new trade routes via the Atlantic allowing for an establishment of an empire that included Mozambique, Angola and Brazil. It was a century marked by the discoveries of the Madeira Islands, the Azores, Cape Bojador and Cape Verde. Then Portuguese explorers reached Africa rounding Cape of Good Hope giving the Portugal its own route to India. This was a time of Portuguese power and wealth which faded when Felipe II of Spain claimed the throne in 1580. Portugal remained under Spanish domination until 1640, after which the Monarchy became increasingly reactionary, a trend that Pombal attempted to reverse with a series of reforms. At the beginning of the 19th century Portugal was invaded by the French and the king went to Brazil where his presence contributed to the direct sovereignty of the Colony, which demanded independence status in 1815 under Joao VI, the king’s son. During the 19th century economy weakened and republicanism took over, a revolution in 1910 overthrew the monarchy and established a republic. A long period of political instability resulted with a military coup in 1926 giving a prominent role to Salazar who started a long dictatorship ending only in 1968. The government of Salazar’s successor, Marcelo Caetano, was overturned with a military coup led by Spinola and the African colonies were immediately abandoned. The stratagem used by Salazar to keep the colonies by which they were declared provinces and all citizens were given a Portuguese passport resulted in a massive migration of people to Portugal, half a million people escaped to the mother land. Today the “retournados” count at least 1 million and concentrate mainly in Lisbon. In the 1970s’ and 1980s’ Portugal went through a difficult time until entry into the European Community in 1986.