Portugal DescriptionAn independent kingdom since 1143, Portugal is one of the oldest nations in Europe. The region was first inhabited by Neanderthals and later by Homo sapiens, however there weren't any permanent settlements until the first millennium BC when the Pre-Celts and Celts dominated the landscape.
In 868 AD, during the Reconquista period, Christians conquered the Iberian Peninsula, and the First Country of Portugal was formed.
Then, around 1128, the Battle of Sao Mamede occurred. Count of Portugal, Afonso Henriques, defeated his mother, and thereby established himself as sole leader. Upon his proclamation of himself as King in 1139, Henriques officially declared Portugal independent.
During his reign, Henriques and his successors pushed southward to drive out the Moors, and in 1249 as the Reconquista came to an end the capture of Algarve on the Southern coast gave way to Portugal's present day borders.
In 1415, the Portuguese set sail on epic voyages that would make them the first to discover the ocean routes to India, Brazil, China and Japan, and at the same time establish settlements on the east and west coasts of Africa. This brought economic prosperity to Portugal, and its population grew to nearly 1.7 million.
Amidst their good fortune, Portugal's independence faltered between 1580 and 1640 when the last two kings died without producing heirs. Philip II of Spain claimed the throne of Portugal, and thus governed the country along with Spain, briefly forming a union of the two kingdoms.
This joining of unions deprived Portugal of a separate foreign policy, and inevitably pushed them (because of Spain) into the middle of the Eighty Years' War. Portugal's involvement with the war strained the relationship with their longest ally, England.
To add insult to injury, from 1595 to 1663 the Dutch-Portuguese War involving many Portuguese colonies and commercial interests in Brazil, Africa, India and the Far East, resulted in the loss of the Portuguese Indian Sea trade monopoly.
As the nation grew more upset and disgruntled, John IV, the King of Portugal and the Algarves, spearheaded an uprising. This revolt sparked the Portuguese Restoration War with Spain, and ended the sixty-year period of the Iberian Union under the House of Habsburg.
In 1755, Sebastiao de Melo, the talented son of a Lisbon squire, became Prime Minister, and brought more economic and financial success to Portugal in the form of companies and guilds to regulate every commercial activity. His strong-handed rule of imposing strict laws against all classes of society, however, gained him enemies in the upper class.
On the morning of November 1, 1755, a powerful, magnitude 9 earthquake struck Portugal, and completely leveled the city of Lisbon with a subsequent tsunami and fires. Not deterred by the misfortune, Sebastiao de Melo immediately set forward to rebuild the city.
The current king of Portugal, Jospeh I, was impressed with his Prime Minister's success, and granted Sebastiao even more power, which he used to transition himself into a powerful and progressive dictator. His increased power gained him more enemies, and bitter disputes with the upper class grew.
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This page was last modified on August 28, 2015.