There is little direct filiation between the Portuguese of today and the early tribes who inhabited this region, although the Portuguese long considered themselves descendants of the Lusitanians, a Celtic people who came to the area after 1,000 B.C. The Lusitanians had their stronghold in the Serra da Estrela. Under Viriatus (2d cent. B.C.) and under Sertorius (1st cent. B.C.), they stoutly resisted the Romans (see Lusitania). Other tribes, such as the Conii in Algarve, submitted more readily. Julius Caesar and Augustus completed the Roman conquest of the area, and the province of Lusitania thrived. Roman ways were adopted, and it is from Latin that the Portuguese language is derived.
At the beginning of the 5th cent. A.D., the whole Iberian Peninsula was overrun by Germanic invaders; the Visigoths eventually established their rule, but in the north the Suevi established a kingdom that endured until late in the 6th cent., when they were absorbed by the Visigoths. Present-day Algarve was part of the Byzantine Empire during the 6th and 7th cent. In 711 the Visigoths were defeated by the Moors, who conquered the whole peninsula except for Asturias and the Basque Country. Muslim culture and science had a great impact, especially in the south. Religious toleration was practiced, but a large minority converted to Islam.
It was during the long period of the Christian reconquest that the Portuguese nation was created. The kings of Asturias drove the Moors out of Galicia in the 8th cent. Ferdinand I of Castile entered Beira and took the fortress of Viseu and the city of Coimbra in 1064. Alfonso VI of Castile obtained French aid in his wars against the Moors. Henry of Burgundy married an illegitimate daughter of Alfonso VI and became (1095?) count of Coimbra and later count of Portucalense. Henry's son Alfonso Henriques, wrested power (1128) from his mother and maintained the independence of his lands. After a victory over the Moors in 1139, he began to style himself Alfonso I, king of Portugal. Spain recognized Portugal's independence in 1143 and the Pope did so in 1179. Alfonso's long reign (1128–85) was an important factor in Portugal's attainment of independence.
Alfonso's successors were faced with the tasks of recapturing Alentejo and Algarve from the Moors and of rebuilding the areas devastated by the long wars. There was conflict with other Portuguese claimants and between the kings and powerful nobles, and there was continual strife between the crown and the church over land and power. Until the late 13th cent. the church was victorious, winning inviolability for ecclesiastic law as well as exemption from general taxation. Sancho I (1185–1211) captured the Moorish capital of Silves but could not hold it. Alfonso II (1211–23) summoned the first Cortes (council to advise the king). After Sancho II (1223–48) was deposed, Alfonso III (1248–79) took (1249) Algarve and thus consolidated Portugal. In Alfonso's reign the towns gained representation in the Cortes.
The reconquest and resettlement aided local liberties, since forais (charters) guaranteeing municipal rights were granted in order to encourage settlement. As former serfs became settlers, serfdom declined (13th cent.), but in practice many servile obligations remained. Alfonso's son Diniz (1279–1325) attempted to improve land conditions. He also established a brilliant court and founded the university that became the Univ. of Coimbra. The reign of his son, Alfonso IV, is remembered chiefly because of the tragic romance of Inés de Castro, the mistress of Alfonso's son, Peter (later Peter I; 1357–67); to avenge her fate, Peter, on his succession, had two of her murderers executed. Ferdinand I (1367–83) indulged in long Castilian wars. Ferdinand's heiress was married to a Castilian prince, John I of Castile; after the death of Ferdinand, John claimed the throne.
The Portuguese, largely due to the efforts of Nun'Álvares Pereira, defeated the Castilians in the battle of Aljubarrota (1385) and established John I, a bastard son of Peter, as king. At this time began the long alliance of Portugal with England. John founded the Aviz dynasty and his reign (1385–1433) commenced the most glorious period of Portuguese history. Portugal entered an era of colonial and maritime expansion. The war against the Moors was extended to Africa, and Ceuta was taken. Under the aegis of Prince Henry the Navigator, Portuguese ships sailed out along the coast of Africa. The Madeira Islands and the Azores were colonized. Duarte (1433–38) failed to take Tangier, but his son Alfonso V (1438–81) succeeded (1471) in doing so.
Alfonso's attempt to gain the Castilian throne ended in defeat. Under his son John II (1481–95) voyages of exploration were resumed. Bartholomew Diaz rounded (1488) the Cape of Good Hope. By the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), Spain and Portugal divided the non-Christian world between them. During the glittering reign of Manuel I (1495–1521), Vasco da Gama sailed (1497–98) to India, Pedro Alvarez Cabral claimed (1500) Brazil, and Afonso de Albuquerque captured Goa (1510), Melaka (1511), and Hormoz (1515). The Portuguese Empire extended across the world, to Asia, Africa, and America. In 1497, as a precondition to his marriage with Ferdinand and Isabella's daughter, Manuel ordered the Jewish population to convert to Christianity or leave the country. Manuel's reign and that of John III (1521–57) marked the climax of Portuguese expansion.
The slender resources of Portugal itself were steadily weakened by depletion of manpower and the neglect of domestic agriculture and industry. Government policy and popular ambition concentrated on the rapid acquisition of riches through trade with East Asia, but foreign competition and piracy steadily decreased profits from this trade. Lisbon was for a time the center of the European spice trade, but, for geographical considerations and because of limited banking and commercial facilities, the center of the trade gradually shifted to N Europe. The reign (1557–78) of Sebastian proved disastrous. His rash Moroccan campaign was a national catastrophe, and he was killed at Ksar el Kebir (1578); but the lack of certainty over his death led to a legend that he would return, and Sebastianism (a messianic faith) persisted into the 19th cent.
The Aviz dynasty, founded by John I, disappeared with the death of Henry, the cardinal-king, in 1580. Philip II of Spain, nephew of John III, validated his claims to the Portuguese throne (as Philip I) by force of arms, and the long "Spanish captivity" (1580–1640) began. Spain's wars against the English and the Dutch cut off Portuguese trade with these nations; moreover, the Dutch attacked Portugal's overseas territories in order to obtain for themselves direct access to the sources of trade. Eventually the Dutch were driven from Brazil, but most of the Asian empire was permanently lost. Portugal was never again a great power.
Portugal was compelled to participate in Spain's wars against the Dutch and in the Thirty Years War. Finally in 1640 the Portuguese took advantage of the preoccupation of Philip IV with a rebellion in Catalonia to revolt and throw off the Spanish yoke. John of Braganza was made king as John IV (1640–56). Portugal, however, continued to be threatened by its larger neighbor. Alfonso VI (1656–67), weak in mind and body, signed the crown away to his brother Peter II (1667–1706), who was first regent and then king. The alliance with England was revived by the Treaty of Methuen (1703), which gave mutual trade advantages to Portuguese wines and English woolens, and Portugal reluctantly entered the War of the Spanish Succession against Louis XIV. Gold from Brazil helped to recreate financial stability by 1730, but it also freed John V (1706–50) from dependence on the Cortes (last called in 1677).
Absolutism reached its height under John V and under Joseph (reigned 1750–77), when the marquês de Pombal was the de facto ruler of the land. Pombal attempted to introduce aspects of the Enlightenment in education, to achieve monarchical centralization, and to revitalize agriculture and commerce through the policies of mercantilism. His policies disturbed entrenched interests, and his new wine monopoly led to the Oporto "tippler's rebellion," which Pombal put down harshly. He also won a long contest with the Jesuits, expelling them from the land. After the terrible earthquake of 1755, Pombal began the rebuilding of Lisbon on well-planned lines. Finances again became disorganized as Brazilian treasure dwindled.
Most of Pombal's reforms were rescinded in the reign of Maria I (1777–1816) and her husband, Peter III. Under the regency of Maria's son (later John VI; 1816–26) Portugal's alliance with Britain led to difficulties with France; in 1807 the forces of Napoleon I marched on Portugal. The royal family fled (1807) to Brazil, and Portugal was rent by the Peninsular War. The French were driven out in 1811, but John VI returned only after a liberal revolution against the regency in 1820. He accepted a liberal constitution in 1822, and forces supporting him put down an absolutist movement under his son Dom Miguel. Brazil declared its independence, with Pedro I (John's elder son) as emperor.
After John's death (1826) Pedro also became king of Portugal but abdicated in favor of his daughter, Maria II (reigned 1826–53), on condition that she accept a new charter limiting royal authority and marry Dom Miguel. Miguel instead seized the throne and defeated the liberals, but Pedro abdicated the Brazilian crown, came (1832) to Portugal and led the liberals in the Miguelist Wars. Maria was restored to the throne. Although her reign was marred by coups and dictatorship, the activities of moderates and liberals laid a groundwork for the reforms—penal laws, a civil code (1867), and commercial regulations—of the reigns of Peter V (1853–61; begun under the regency of Maria's husband Ferdinand II) and of Louis I (1861–89).
Portuguese explorations in Africa strengthened Portugal's hold on Angola and Mozambique; conflicting claims with Britain in E Africa were settled in 1891. To end the inefficiency and corruption of the late 19th-century parliamentary regime, Charles I (1889–1908) established (1906) a dictatorship under the conservative João Franco, but, in 1908, Charles and the heir apparent were assassinated. Manuel II succeeded to the throne, but in 1910 a republican revolution forced his abdication.
The republic was established in 1910 with Teófilo Braga as president. The change of rule did not cure Portugal's chronic economic problems. Anticlerical measures aroused the hostility of the Roman Catholic Church. In World War I, Portugal was at first neutral, then joined (1916) the Allies. The economy deteriorated, and insurrections of both the right and the left made conditions worse. In 1926 a military coup overthrew the government, and General Carmona became president. António de Oliveira Salazar, the new finance minister, successfully reorganized the national accounts.
Salazar became premier in 1932; he was largely responsible for the corporative constitution of 1933, which established what was destined to become the longest dictatorship in Western European history. Portugal was neutral in World War II but allowed the Allies to establish naval and air bases. It became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949 but was not admitted to the United Nations until 1955. Under Salazar's "New State," economic modernization lagged, with the result that Portugal fell increasingly behind the rest of Europe in the 1950s and 60s.
Portugal's colony of Goa was seized by India in 1961. In Africa, armed resistance to Portuguese rule developed in Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea in the early 1960s. On the domestic front, the 1958 antigovernment candidate, Gen. Humbert Delgado, contested the previously phony elections and received almost a quarter of the vote; a constitutional amendment the following year changed the method of electing the president. Censorship of the press and of cultural activities grew especially severe in the mid-1960s, as student demonstrations were sternly repressed.
In 1968, Salazar suffered a stroke and was replaced by Marcello Caetano as premier. Under Caetano repression was eased somewhat and limited economic development programs were started in Portugal and in the overseas territories. The continuing armed conflicts with guerrillas in the African territories, requiring about 40% of Portugal's annual budget to be devoted to military spending, drained the country's resources. By early 1974 dissatisfaction with the seemingly endless wars in Africa, together with political suppression and economic difficulties, resulted in growing unrest within Portugal.
On Apr. 25 an organized group of officers toppled the government in the Captains' Revolution, encountering a minimum of resistance from loyal forces and enthusiastic acceptance from the people. The officers who initiated the revolution constituted the Armed Forces Movement (MFA). Gen. António de Spínola, who did not play an active role in the coup but had publicly criticized the Caetano government, was appointed head of the ruling military junta. The secret police force was abolished; all political prisoners were released; full civil liberties, including freedom of the press and of all political parties, were restored; and overtures were made to the guerrilla groups in the African territories for a peaceful settlement of the conflicts. In September, Spínola was forced to resign and the government became dominated by leftists.
In 1975, Angola, Mozambique, São Tomé and Principe, and Cape Verde were granted independence. East Timor was forcibly taken over by Indonesia and did not achieve independence until 2002. January to November of 1975 was the period of greatest leftist ascendancy domestically—most banks and industries were nationalized, a massive agrarian reform was begun in the Alentejo, and the MFA-dominated government tried to ignore the elections of Apr., 1975, which strongly favored moderate parties, and instead relied on Communist support. Leftist predominance vanished after a failed coup attempt by radical military units in November, but many features of the revolutionary period of 1974–75 were incorporated into the constitution of 1976.
From 1977 to 1980 several moderate, Socialist-dominated governments tried unsuccessfully to stabilize the country politically and economically. In 1980–82, a center-right coalition experienced a similar fate, although it did succeed in instituting a process of constitutional revision, which reduced presidential power, the right of the military to intervene in politics, and the anticapitalist biases of the 1976 constitution. From 1983 to 1985 a coalition government under Socialist leader Mário Soares began to make some headway against the chaos and poverty into which Salazar's long dictatorship, the African wars, and the 1974–75 leftist revolution had thrown Portugal.
In 1986, the centrist Social Democratic party under Aníbal Cavaco Silva won an undisputed majority in parliament, Soares was elected to the presidency, and Portugal was admitted to the European Community (now the European Union). Constitutional revision was furthered in 1989. Political stability and economic reforms created a favorable business climate, especially for renewed foreign investment, and there was strong economic growth. The Socialists returned to power as a minority government after the 1995 parliamentary elections; António Manuel de Oliveira Guterres became premier.
Barred from running for a third term, Soares retired as president in 1996; he was succeeded by another Socialist, Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio. Portugal became part of the European Union's single currency plan in 1999; in October, Guterres and the Socialists were returned to power, again as a minority government. Under a 1987 agreement, Portugal's last overseas territory, Macao, reverted to Chinese sovereignty at the end of 1999. Sampaio was reelected in Jan., 2001. Social Democratic victories in the Dec., 2001, local elections led Guterres to resign as premier and party leader in 2001. Early parliamentary elections in Mar., 2002, resulted in a defeat for the Socialists, and Social Democrat José Manuel Durão Barroso became premier, heading a coalition with the smaller Popular party. Barroso resigned in July, 2004, in anticipation of his being named president of the European Commission, and Social Democrat Pedro Miguel de Santana Lopes was appointed premier.
Parliamentary elections in Feb., 2005, resulted in a victory for the Socialists, who won more than half the seats, and José Sócrates Carvalho Pinto de Sousa became premier. In 2006 former premier Aníbal Cavaco Silva was elected president, becoming the first center-right candidate to win the office since the 1974 revolution; he won a second term in 2011. The Socialists won the parliamentary elections in Sept., 2009, but failed to secure a majority of the seats. Sócrates subsequently formed a minority government.
High budget deficits in the wake of the global recession of 2008–9 forced the government to adopt an austerity budget in 2010. When additional austerity measures failed to win passage in Mar., 2011, Sócrates resigned, and in April, as cost of financing Portugal's debt increased, he asked for financial aid from the European Union in exchange for austerity measures that were enacted in May. Parliamentary elections in June led to a win for the Social Democrats and the Popular party; they formed a coalition government with Social Democrat Pedro Passos Coelho as premier. In Nov., 2011, the new government enacted austerity measures more severe than those put forward by the Socialists.
Dismal economic conditions, increasing unemployment, and decreasing government revenues in 2012 led to the need for greater austerities, and a proposal for a significant increase in employee social security contributions (coupled with a reduction in employer contributions) led to protests and government backtracking in Sept., 2012. A number of austerity measures have also been overturned by the constitutional court. In mid-2013 tensions within the governing coalition over austerity measures led to a brief crisis but little ultimate change.