Former Portuguese Colonies

An old Portuguese colonial building in Brazil.

Located on the western side of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is a small nation that had colonies in South America, Asia, and Africa. With the financial aid of Prince Henry the Navigator, famous explorers such as Vasco de Gama and Bartolomeu Dias led the exploration of these territories. These colonies, as was the case with other colonial powers, were established in order to source for resources such as gold and agricultural goods as well as spread Christianity. The gradual decline of the Portuguese empire was brought about by their small population, which led to a shortage of workers to look after the colonies as they kept on expanding into new territories.


The Portuguese occupied Angola in the 1500s with Soyo and Luanda being the first settlements. Other settlements and forts were established later with their main trade being slaves who were sent to the New World in exchange for products from Europe. In addition to human slaves, diamonds and gold were also traded. The pressure for Portugal to let go of its colonies began in the 20th century. Despite their dictator’s hard stance, independence movements arose in Angola, Guinea Bissau, and Mozambique which led to the death of thousands in the 1960s and 1970s in what is known as the Portuguese Colonial War. The eventual release of these three nations from the clutches of the Portuguese did not happen until 1975 after the dictator, Antonio Salazar, was forcefully removed from power in 1974. After independence, there was a massive migration of people from these three nations to Portugal.


Compared to all the other colonies, Brazil was easily the largest of them all in terms of population and area. After Portugal set its eyes on the country, they began colonizing Brazil after the signing of the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, which was signed in Spain. Some of the resources that the Portuguese wanted were tobacco, sugar, Brazilwood from the forest, and several other cash crops. In fact, the Portuguese considered Brazil so important that the royal family ruled both Brazil and Portugal from Rio de Janeiro in the 19th century. The Portuguese were officially kicked out in 1822 when Brazil attained its independence.


The Portuguese began colonizing Goa, which is in the Western region of India, in the 1500s as well. The colonials liberated the city from the Muslims and began spreading Christianity and intermarrying with the locals. Aside from Goa, which was their jewel due to the spices, the Portuguese also established settlements in other places such as Daman, Mumbai, Chaul, and other places. The annexation of Goa by India from the Portuguese happened in 1961.

Effects of the Portuguese Occupation

One of the ways the Portuguese affected the places they occupied was in the language. As a result, the language is the sixth most widely spoken language on the globe. Among some of its former colonies such as Brazil, Sao Tome and Principe, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, and a few others, it the only or one of the official languages. In addition, it is one of the formal languages of bodies such as the European and the African Unions.

Former Portuguese Colonies

RankFormer Portuguese Colonies
5Cape Verde
6East Timor
16Sao Tome and Principe
17Sri Lanka

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