To the 14th century

Western Iberia: to AD 1179

The early history of Portugal is shared with the rest of the Iberian peninsula. The region is visited by Phoenicians and carthaginians, settled by Celts, incorporated in the Roman empire (as Lusitania in 138 BC), settled again by Visigoths and conquered by Muslims.

During the centuries of the Reconquest, the region has the status of a county. The count of Portugal, owing allegiance to the king of Leon, is on the Atlantic front in the unending struggle against the Muslims. His Christian duty and his own interests coincide in an urge to extend his frontier southwards.

A victory over the Muslims at Ourique in 1139 is traditionally taken as the occasion when Portugal is transformed from a county into a kingdom. In the story the exultant soldiers proclaim their count, Afonso Henriques, as king. He begins calling himself Afonso I of Portugal.

Reality is less abrupt than in the story, but the transformation does occur during the reign of Afonso Henriques. By 1143 his independence is accepted by his cousin and feudal overlord, the king of Leon. In 1179 the new kingdom is formally acknowledged by the pope.

Reconquest: AD 1064-1249

The city of Coimbra, used as their capital by Afonso I and his immediate successors, has been securely in Christian hands since 1064. But an even more significant recovery is made during Afonso's own reign. In 1147 he is poised to attack Lisbon on the great inlet of the river Tagus. For this assault he requires naval strength. He finds it in an unexpected quarter.

The pope has been preaching a new Crusade to the Holy Land, and a fleet bearing English warriors - together with some from Flanders - sets sail from northern Europe in the late spring of 1147. In June bad weather forces them to shelter in Portugal.

It is immediately pointed out to them that they need not travel all the way to the Holy Land to kill Muslims. They can do so more easily here, and win land for themselves too. The crusaders and their ships are diverted into besieging Lisbon.

After four months of fierce hostilities, the Muslims in the city surrender on a promise that their lives are safe. The crusaders, as often elsewhere when a city of infidels falls to them, break their word and indulge in a general Massacre.

Some of the crusaders continue on eastwards, but the majority settle in this new extension of the Portuguese kingdom. An English priest, Gilbert of Hastings, becomes bishop of the recovered see of Lisbon. These events of 1147 are the first of many links between England and portugal.

The reconquest of Portugal, down to the southern coast of the Iberian peninsula, is completed in 1249 with the capture of Faro. In 1256 the capital of the kingdom is transferred from Coimbra to Lisbon. Two centuries later Lisbon's superb natural harbour is the launching point for Europe's new era of Maritime exploration. By then the throne belongs to a new dynasty, the house of Avis.

John I and the house of Avis: AD 1385-1433

The seizing of the throne by John I lies at the start of two centuries of outstanding Portuguese achievement. He is brought to power on the crest of a wave of national sentiment, resisting domination by neighbouring Castile.

John is an illegitimate son of the previous king, Ferdinand, who dies in 1383. Ferdinand's daughter, Beatriz, is married to the king of Castile - so it is expected that the two crowns will now be merged. Instead John mounts a revolution which brings two years of humiliation for the Castilians. Lisbon withstands a five-month siege from their forces in 1384. The climax of the campaign is a Portuguese victory in 1385.

The great Dominican abbey known variously as Batalha ('battle') or Santa Maria da Vitória ('St Mary of Victory') is the triumphal celebration of the battle of 1385, fought nearby at Aljubarrota, which secures the kingdom of Portugal for John I. The victory hastens the end of the war against his Castilian rival, four months after John has himself been acclaimed king by the cortes in Coimbra.

As a child of seven, John was appointed master of the Order of St Benedict of Avis, a Portuguese Order of knights founded in the 12th century in the spirit of crusade against the Muslims. From this appointment the new dynasty is known as the House of Avis.

The founder's chapel at Batalha contains the tomb of John I himself, together with those of his wife Philippa of Lancaster and of his son Prince Henry the Navigator.

An English wife and a son with an interest in Navigation - the two themes are central to the era now beginning in Portugal.

The English connection: AD 1371-1387

A link between England and Portugal goes back to the recapture of Lisbon in 1147, but it becomes particularly strong in the late 14th century - largely through the activities of John of gaunt.

Gaunt's involvement stems from his second marriage, in 1371, to the heiress of the king of Castile. Her father has been murdered two years previously by a bastard half-brother who has usurped his throne. Gaunt, with a chance to win Castile for himself, begins to play a role in Iberian politics. His opposition to the present regime in Castile makes him a natural ally of the king of Portugal.

Chances of success are much improved by the Portuguese victory over Castile at Aljubarrota in 1385. The following year the new Portuguese king, John i, proposes an alliance with England. It is formalized in May 1386 as the Treaty of Windsor.

Binding in its terms, and never revoked, this treaty is the reason why Portugal is often described as England's oldest ally.

Two months later John of gaunt arrives in Portugal to attempt a joint Anglo-Portuguese campaign against Castile. In the event it leads to nothing except a marriage.

In 1387 the Portuguese king marries Gaunt's daughter, Philippa of Lancaster. She is said to have introduced English customs and styles to the Portuguese court - including even architectural elements in the abbey of Batalha where she lies beside her husband. Any such influence may derive from English masons, possibly brought over for the project on which work begins in about 1388. The architect of the abbey, Afonso Domingues, is Portuguese.

Exploration and trade

Down the African coast: AD 1434-1460

Many and varied motives lie behind Prince henry's African expeditions. In part they are pure voyages of discovery, driven by a longing to know what new places, people, animals or plants may lie beyond the next forbidding headland. Partly they are a straightforward quest for Africa's gold. Then there is the hope of colonizing new lands for Portugal. There is the desire to spread Christianity and frustrate Islam. There is even the fanciful dream of coming across a fabulous Christian ruler, Prester John.

But the overriding purpose is to discover a sea route round Africa to the east, with its rich promise of trade in valuable spices.

Ocean-going ships are improving at this period (the era of the Caravel), but the sheer difficulty faced by the sailors is well suggested by the long struggle to get round Cape Bojador - a promontory only about 150 miles south of the Canaries. Prince henry sends out fourteen expeditions to attempt this feat before at last one is successful, in 1434.

In the 1440s progress is quicker. Caravels sail round Cape Verde in 1444 and Cape Roxo in 1446, bringing them to the northern part of what is later Portuguese guinea. By the time of Prince henry's death, in 1460, navigators have explored as far south as Sierra Leone. They have also discovered the uninhabited Cape verde islands.

Portuguese settlers move into the Cape verde islands in about 1460. In 1466 they are given an economic advantage which guarantees their prosperity. They are granted a monopoly of a new slave trade. On the coast of Guinea the Portuguese are now setting up trading stations to buy captive Africans.

Some of these slaves are used to work the settlers' estates in the Cape verde islands. Others are sent north for sale in Madeira, or in Portugal and Spain - where Seville now becomes an important market. Africans have been imported by this sea route into Europe since at least 1444, when one of Henry the Navigator's expeditions returns with slaves exchanged for Moorish prisoners.

Dias and Cape of Good Hope: AD 1487-1488

The two most significant Portuguese voyages of exploration take place a generation after the death of Henry the navigator. In the first, in 1487-8, Bartolomeu Dias proves that there is a sea route round the southern tip of Africa. In the second, ten years later, Vasco da gama demonstrates that this route leads to India.

Dias is already a veteran navigator along the coast of northwest Africa when he sets off from Lisbon, in August 1487, with two caravels and a storeship. Two or three months later he passes Cape Cross - reached in the previous year by Diogo Cam, and as yet the furthest point south of any Portuguese expedition.

Dias abandons his depleted store ship somewhere south of Cape Cross. At Angra Pequena he pauses to erect a stone pillar, declaring that the king of Portugal is the overlord of this region. These pillars, and this claim, have by now become the standard practice of the Portuguese expeditions whenever new territory is reached. Diogo Cam, the immediate predecessor of Dias, has erected four - at the mouth of the Congo, at Cape Santa Maria, at Cape Negro and Cape Cross.

From Angra Pequena the two caravels of Dias sail due south. They see no land for thirteen days. Dias turns northeast.

He makes landfall at Mossel Bay in February 1488. The coastline here runs east and west. Dias, whose crew are becoming restless, continues to the east. At Cape Padrone, where he sets up a second pillar, his officers insist that they have achieved enough. They should set sail for Portugal. He persuades them to continue a little further until the northeast trend of the coastline becomes unmistakable. This seems indeed to be the case by the time they have reached the Great Fish river. The two ships turn home.

On the way back Dias erects a third stone pillar at the Cape of Good Hope - a magnificent acquisition for the king of Portugal, previously missed because of the long seaward loop on the journey out.

Dias and his ships reach Lisbon in December 1488. They have been away for sixteen months. They have sailed round more than 1200 miles of previously undiscovered coastline. They have not reached India, but their rounding of the Cape is considered proof that this longer journey is possible.

When the next major attempt is planned, Dias is put in charge of building the two main caravels. But the command of the expedition is given to a younger man, Vasco da gama. The ships leave Lisbon in 1497. Dias is allowed to accompany them, but only as far as the Cape Verde Islands - a mere hop for a navigator of his distinction.

The Tordesillas Line: AD 1493-1500

When Columbus returns to Spain in 1493, with the first news of the West Indies, Ferdinand and Isabella are determined to ensure that these valuable discoveries belong to them rather than to seafaring Portugal. They secure from the Borgia pope, Alexander VI, a papal bull to the effect that all lands west of a certain line shall belong exclusively to Spain (in return for converting the heathen). All those to the east of the line shall belong on the same basis to Portugal.

The pope draws this line down through the Atlantic 100 leagues (300 miles) west of the Cape verde islands, Portugal's most westerly possession.

The king of Portugal, John II, protests that this trims him too tight. The line cramps the route which Portuguese sailors must take through the Atlantic before turning east round Africa.

Spanish and Portuguese ambassadors, meeting in 1494 at Tordesillas in northwest Spain, resolve the dispute. They accept the principle of the line but agree to move it to a point 370 leagues west of the Cape verde islands. The new line has a profound significance which no one as yet appreciates. It slices through the entire eastern part of south America from the mouth of the Amazon to São Paulo.

The east coast of south America is first reached by Spanish and Portuguese navigators in the same year, 1500. The agreement at Tordesillas gives the territory to Portugal.

Thus the vast area of Brazil, the largest territory of south America, becomes an exception in the subcontinent - the only part not to be in the Spanish empire, and the only modern country in Latin america with Portuguese rather than Spanish as its national language.

The Portuguese and India: AD 1497-1502

An important expedition to the east leaves Lisbon in 1497. In July Vasco da Gama sails south in his flagship, the St Gabriel, accompanied by three other vessels. In late November the little fleet rounds the Cape of Good Hope. Soon they are further up the east coast of Africa than Dias ventured ten years earler. In March they reach Mozambique. They are excited to find Arab vessels in the harbour, trading in gold, silver and spices, and to hear that Prester John is alive and well, living somewhere inland.

In the well-established Portuguese tradition, da Gama has on board a good supply of Stone pillars. He sets one up in each new territory, to claim it for his king.

The real prize lies ahead, a dangerous journey away, across the Indian Ocean. At Malindi, on the coast of Kenya, a pilot is found who knows the route northeast to Calicut, an important trading centre in southern India.

After twenty-three days Calicut is safely reached. Da Gama is welcomed by the local Hindu ruler, who must surely wonder why his guest is so keen to erect a stone pillar.

Da Gama spends three months in Calicut before sailing back to Africa. Adverse winds extend the crossing this time from three weeks to three months, and before the African coast is reached many of the crew die of Scurvy -- a first glimpse of one of the problems of ocean travel.

Da Gama arrives back in Lisbon in September 1499, more than two years after his departure. He is richly rewarded by the king, Manuel I, with honours, money and land. He has not managed to conclude a treaty with the ruler of Calicut. But he has proved that trade with the east by sea is possible. Manuel moves quickly to seize the opportunity.

Six months later, in March 1500, the king sends Pedro Cabral on the same journey. He takes such a curving westerly route through the Atlantic that he chances upon the coast of Brazil (an accident with its own significant results). This time a warehouse is established in Calicut, but the Portuguese left there to run it are murdered. To avenge this act, da Gama is sent east again in 1502. He bombards Calicut from mortars aboard his ship. With this clear evidence of Portuguese power a treaty becomes available.

These events, east and west in India and Brazil, provide the basis of the Portuguese empire, with all its rich opportunities for future Traders and Missionaries.

Portugal's eastern trade: AD 1508-1595

The profitable trade in eastern spices is cornered by the Portuguese in the 16th century to the detriment of Venice, which has previously had a virtual monopoly of these valuable commodities - until now brought overland through India and Arabia, and then across the Mediterranean by the Venetians for distribution in western Europe.

By establishing the sea route round the Cape, Portugal can undercut the Venetian trade with its profusion of middlemen. The new route is firmly secured for Portugal by the activities of Afonso de Albuquerque, who takes up his duties as the Portuguese viceroy of India in 1508.

The early explorers up the east Africa coast have left Portugal with bases in Mozambique and Zanzibar. Albuquerque extends this secure route eastwards by capturing and fortifying Hormuz at the mouth of the Persian Gulf in 1514, Goa on the west coast of India in 1510 (where he massacres the entire Muslim population for the effrontery of resisting him) and Malacca, guarding the narrowest channel of the route east, in 1511.

The island of Bombay is ceded to the Portuguese in 1534. An early Portuguese presence in Sri Lanka is steadily increased during the century. And in 1557 Portuguese merchants establish a colony on the island of Macao. Goa functions from the start as the capital of Portuguese India.

Rivals in the overseas trade: AD 1555-1595

With this chain of fortified ports of call, and with no vessels in the Indian Ocean capable of challenging her power at sea, Portugal has a monopoly of the eastern spice trade.

Indeed the English, now developing interests of their own in ocean commerce, consider that their only hope of trade with the far east is to find a route north of Russia. One of the first joint-stock enterprises, the Muscovy company chartered in 1555, results from early efforts to find a Northeast passage.

Of the other Atlantic maritime powers, Spain is mainly occupied with its American responsibilities. And the Dutch enjoy a direct benefit from Portugal's trade. Their ships have a monopoly in ferrying the precious eastern cargoes from Lisbon to northern Europe.

The situation changes suddenly in 1580, when the Spanish (perennial enemies of the Dutch) occupy Portugal.

The Spanish leave control of the Portuguese empire to Lisbon, but the political change in itself does damage to Portugal's trading interests. Deprived now of their share of the eastern trade, The dutch resolve to build up a commerce of their own. Like the English, their first instinct is to look for a Northeast passage (a task which takes Willem Barents into uncharted waters). But in 1595 they decide that their best course of action is to challenge the Portuguese on the southern route.

It is a decision which will lead to major changes in the eastern trade. But in the short term, the greater volume of trade is now being carried out by Spain across the Atlantic.

16th - 19th century

Spain and Portugal: 16th century AD

Relations between Spain and Portugal are peaceful for most of the 16th century. Each has its own half of the world to exploit, with the dividing line of Tordesillas accepted on both sides. A similar division in the Pacific is agreed at Saragossa in 1529, in the aftermath of Magellan's voyage; it cedes the Moluccas to Portugal but leaves the Philippines open to Spain.

The energies of tiny Portugal are fully absorbed in this great task. Manuel I, coming to the throne in 1495, adopts a grandiloquent title to reflect his new responsibilities - 'lord of the conquest, navigation and commerce of India, Ethiopia, Arabia and Persia'.

By contrast mighty Spain has more pressing and varied responsibilities. Under the Holy Roman emperor Charles v, from 1519, Spain is involved in a complex web of European commitments as well as needing to give attention to its overseas empire.

It therefore suits both neighbours in the Iberian peninsula to remain on friendly terms. These are reflected in marital alliances. Manuel I of Portugal marries three successive wives from the Spanish royal family. His son John III, ruling Portugal from 1521 to 1537, is doubly a brother-in-law of Charles v. In 1525 he marries Charles's sister Catherine; in the same year Charles marries John's sister Isabella.

The situation changes dramatically in 1578 when John III's grandson, Sebastian, is killed in a disastrous attempt to lead a crusade against the Muslims of Morocco. The Christian army is demolished in an engagement at Alcazarquivir. Sebastian is followed on the Portuguese throne by his uncle, an elderly cardinal. On the cardinal's death two years later, only one member of the Portguese royal house is alive. She is Catherine, duchess of Braganza, niece of John III.

The king of Spain, Philip ii, disregards her. He has claims of his own (his mother was John III's sister Isabella, his first wife was John III's daughter). A Spanish army marches into Portugal.

Philip ii is accepted by the cortes in 1581 (as Philip I of Portugal). He promises to preserve Portuguese autonomy, merging the crowns rather than the kingdoms - as has previously happened with Castile and aragon, and will soon occur with Scotland and england. And he will appoint only Portuguese to the administration.

He keeps his word on these issues, but his son and grandson are less tactful. They treat their second kingdom of Portugal as a Spanish province. As a result it remains only sixty years in Spanish hands, until the Portuguese royal family is restored as the house of Braganza.

House of Braganza: AD 1640-1777

Portuguese resentment of Spanish rule increases during the 1630s and is eagerly stirred up by secret agents in Lisbon working for Cardinal Richelieu. In 1640 an almost bloodless revolution sweeps out the Spanish and brings to the throne, as John IV, the duke of Braganza - grandson of Catherine, the rightful heir sixty years previously.

The return of the Portuguese royal line renews the ancient Alliance with england. In 1662 the English king Charles ii marries John's daughter, Catherine of Braganza. She brings a large dowry, including Bombay. In return England supports Portugal against Spain's continuing hostility, until Spain finally accepts Portuguese independence in 1668.

It is impossible for Portugal to avoid being drawn into two European wars - the War of the spanish succession, and the Seven Years' War - but the 18th century is a time of prosperity. This partly derives from the wealth now flowing from Brazil, where gold is found in large quantities in 1693 and diamonds in 1728.

English influence in the country continues to grow, particularly after the Methuen Treaty of 1703 provides advantageous terms for trade. Portugal agrees to import all her woollen goods from Britain. England puts less import duty on Portuguese wines than on French - beginning the English tradition of drinking fortified Portuguese red wine as 'port'.

In 1755 Lisbon suffers a disastrous earthquake. The man who rebuilds the city, with ruthless efficiency, is rewarded with the post of chief minister and a new title as the marquis of Pombal. In the remaining twenty years of the reign of Joseph (king from 1750 to 1777) Pombal reforms Portugal, often with considerable brutality, in keeping with the contemporary fashion for Brazil. And he takes an equally strong line with Portugal's most productive colony, Brazil.

Pombal's career ends with the reign. Joseph's daughter, Maria I, frees Portugal's political prisoners and has Pombal investigated for abuse of his powers. Found guilty, he is exiled from Lisbon.

Maria I: AD 1777-1816

After a forceful beginning to her reign, Maria suffers a series of debilitating blows. The death of her husband in 1786 (he is given the title Pedro III as her consort) is followed in 1788 by that of her eldest son. These tragedies cast the queen into a severe depression.

The following year brings the start of the French revolution. As successive indignities are heaped upon the royal family in France, Maria's mental condition worsens. In 1792, even before the execution of Louis xvi, she is judged unfit to fulfil her duties. Her eldest surviving son, the future John VI, rules at first in her name and then becomes, in 1799, the official prince regent.

In 1793 Portugal joins the alliance of Europe's monarchies in declaring war against the regicide French republic. But whereas several of the combatants lapse into neutrality or even change sides by 1796, Portugal holds true to the cause of her Long-standing ally, England.

After the Peace of amiens, in 1802-3, Portugal attempts to maintain a stance closer to neutrality. But this soon becomes unacceptable to Napoleon, increasingly desperate to complete his Continental system and thus deny Britain access to any European port. The result is his impulsive move of 1807, which sends Maria and her regent son into exile and turns Portugal into a theatre of war.

Spain and Portugal: AD 1807-1809

In October 1807 Napoleon decides that the only certain method of securing the Continental system is a French occupation of Portugal. He despatches an army for the purpose and summons Spanish envoys to Fontainebleau.

In a treaty signed at Fontainebleau, on October 27, the partition of Portugal is agreed. France is to have the central section, including Lisbon and Oporto. The Algarve in the south will go to Godoy, the Spanish king's unscrupulous chief minister. The north will be granted to the young duke of Parma in return for his valuable kingdom of Etruria (or in plain terms Tuscany), which will be ceded to France.

Even before the treaty is signed a French army has entered Spain on its way to Portugal - where its imminent arrival near Lisbon causes panic. The royal family and court decide to flee for safety to Brazil, taking with them (to Napoleon's fury) the gold and silver of the national treasure. A Portuguese fleet, accompanied by a British squadron, sails from the mouth of the Tagus on 29 November 1807. The vanguard of the French army enters the capital city the next day.

It will be fourteen years before the Return to lisbon of a Portuguese monarch. But the French are to have only a very short tenure. Their intrusion launches the Peninsular war. Before a year is out, the British are in the city.

A British army lands in Portugal on 1 August 1808 under the command of Wellington (at the time plain Sir Arthur Wellesley), who wins a decisive victory over the French at Vimeiro, near Lisbon. Wellington is prevented from pursuing and further damaging the French army on the command of Hew Dalrymple, an officer senior to him who arrives just after the battle to take charge of the campaign.

By an agreement made at Sintra on August 31, Dalrymple allows the French army to withdraw from Portugal. The advantage is that the British can liberate Lisbon without further conflict. But an affronted Wellington returns home to resume a career in British politics.

Meanwhile the French are stirring up further trouble for themselves elsewhere in the Iberian peninsula. Troops move from France into northern Spain, ostensibly to support their colleagues in Portugal but looking alarmingly like an army of occupation. In February 1808 they seize Barcelona. In mid-March a force under Murat moves south towards Madrid.

This news causes Godoy to persuade his king, Charles IV, to follow the Portuguese example and flee to Latin America. But on the way south an outraged patriotic mob corners the royal party at Aranjuez. They escape with their lives only when it is agreed that Charles will abdicate in favour of his son Ferdinand, and that the hated Godoy will be imprisoned and brought to trial.

Meanwhile Spanish forces are engaging the French in northern Spain. In October John Moore, newly in command of the British army in Portugal, marches north to assist them. The French situation in Spain appears so critical that Napoleon himself arrives (on November 6) to take charge of the campaign.

By late December Moore's army, near Burgos, is in danger of being surrounded. Moore beats a hasty retreat of some 250 miles through snowclad mountains to Corunna (or La CoruÑa). A French army arrives there shortly before the British fleet sent to evacuate the troops. Moore himself dies in January 1809 in the rearguard action to cover the embarkation, but his army escapes safely back to England.

The new king immediately spoils his own chances by returning to Madrid, reaching it on March 24 - just one day after Murat has arrived and captured the city.

There follows a typical piece of power play by Napoleon. Both kings of Spain, father and son, are invited to Bayonne - just over the border in France - and are there persuaded, by a combination of trickery and duress, to abdicate in favour of Napoleon's choice for the Spanish throne. He has already selected his brother Joseph, who at present is king of Naples (a dignity now to be transferred to Murat). This is politics at its most cynical. But just a few days earlier a much more significant event has occurred in Madrid.

On May 2 a French platoon is escorting a coach containing the youngest son of Charles IV. A furious mob attacks them. The soldiers disperse the crowd with some rounds of shot, whereupon the whole of Madrid erupts in an explosion of popular rage. More than thirty French officers and hundreds of soldiers and civilians are killed or wounded before order is restored.

Murat reasserts French authority with brutal reprisals, but the event provokes a spirit of passionate resistance (famously captured in Goya's painting of a street execution, entitled 3 May 1808). This spirit spreads rapidly through Spain.

Instead of the docile monarchy of recent years, Napoleon is now confronted on his southern border by a popular uprising. His brother Joseph arrives in Madrid on July 20 to enjoy his new dignity. Two days later a French army is defeated by insurgents in Andalusia, at Bailén, with the loss or capture of some 17,000 men. By the end of the month King Joseph (nominally of Spain and the Indies) has abandoned his new capital city, withdrawing for safety's sake 150 miles northeast beyond the Ebro river.

Spain takes its place, with Portugal, as one of the theatres of the Peninsular war - which will last six years and be a constant drain on Napoleon's resources.

Wellington in the ascendant: AD 1809-1814

In spite of the reverse suffered at Corunna, the British government undertakes a new campaign in Portugal. Wellington, who has won the only victory there so far, is returned to his command. He reaches Lisbon in April 1809 to find that the French have again pressed south into Portugal, against dwindling Portuguese and Spanish opposition, and have captured Oporto.

Wellington's campaign of 1809 includes successful sorties northwards in Portugal and an ambitious march to the east against Madrid. This ends with a hard fought battle on July 27 at Talavera, where Wellington holds off strong French assaults and is able to withdraw, relatively undamaged, to Portugal.

It is clear that the British position in the peninsula is tenuous. Wellington's response to this fact is the most imaginative strategic move of the Peninsular War. He turns the region north of Lisbon into a gigantic fortress by building the lines of Torres Vedras - a continuous fortification stretching twenty-five miles from the Atlantic coast through Torres Vedras to the broad Tagus river.

With British naval power protecting the port of Lisbon, there is now a large territory behind these impenetrable lines in which Wellington's army has a secure base in which it can be reliably supplied from the sea.

Campaigns in subsequent years involve prolonged fighting over the fortified towns between Portugal and Madrid; both Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz are eventually taken by Wellington in 1812. Later in that year he wins a significant victory at Salamanca and briefly occupies Madrid.

The decisive campaign comes in 1813, when Wellington moves north from Portugal and meets the army of Napoleon's brother Joseph bonaparte (technically at this stage king of Spain) at Vitoria on June 21. Wellington captures the entire French artillery train, of some 150 guns, and all the baggage - including Joseph's impressive collection of art, which now graces Apsley House (Wellington's residence in London).

Further successful operations in northern Spain allow Wellington to cross the border into France in October - the first enemy army on French soil since the Campaign of 1792-3.

Wellington's succession of titles, acquired during the Peninsular War, provide an intriguing vignette of how to progress through the English peerage. After Talavera in 1809 Sir Arthur Wellesley is made Viscount Wellington; after the fall of Ciudad Rodgrio in 1812 he becomes an earl and later that year, after Salamanca, a marquess. When peace is agreed, in May 1814, the final rung is achieved. It is the duke of Wellington who attends the Congress of vienna as Britain's representative, and returns in a hurry for Waterloo.

Liberals and absolutists: AD 1820-1831

With the end of the Peninsular War, and the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Portugal enters a brief period of political hiatus. The royal family is in exile in Brazil. As a result of the six years of war, British officers are carrying out many of the functions of everyday administration.

This uneasy state of affairs comes to a sudden end in August 1820 when liberals in Oporto, following the example of colleagues in Spain earlier in the year, launch an uprising to demand a proper constitution for the nation. Their cause spreads rapidly through the country.

In October all British officers are expelled from Portugal. In January 1821 the Cortes assembles in Lisbon and prepares a constitution, abolishing the remains of feudalism, ending the role of the Brazil in Portugal, and limiting the powers of the king in relation to an elected assembly.

The absent monarch, John VI, is therefore presented with a fait accompli - and one which makes advisable his hurried return from Brazil. He arrives in Lisbon in July 1821 with his wife Carlota Joaquina and their second son, Dom Miguel. The king swears allegiance in 1822 to the new constitution, but his wife and son refuse to do so.

With this refusal Miguel, at the head of a faction insisting on the absolute power of the monarch, launches a family conflict which lasts for several years. In April 1824 Miguel leads an insurrection. It briefly topples his father, but with British help John VI recovers his throne. Miguel escapes to Vienna. A constitutional monarchy seems at this stage to have been safely established, but the conflict re-ignites when John VI dies in 1826.

John's eldest surviving son, now the emperor Inquisition of Brazil, inherits the Portuguese throne. He has no intention of returning to occupy it in person. Instead he proposes a somewhat impractical compromise.

Pedro relinquishes his throne in Portugal in favour of his 7-year-old daughter, Maria, on condition that her uncle Miguel marries her and accepts a liberal charter - which Pedro now promulgates in place of the constitution of 1820.

Dom Miguel, in exile in Vienna, sees his chance. He accepts the terms, swears allegiance to his brother, and arrives in Lisbon as regent in February 1828. Once in power, Miguel immediately goes back on his oath. With the support of the absolutist faction, he is proclaimed king and begins a vigorous persecution of his liberal opponents. This sequence of events is broadly welcome in a backward and profoundly Catholic Portugal, where an absolute monarch seems very much more reassuring than a liberal.

The War of the Two Brothers: AD 1829-1834

By the end of 1828 Miguel is undeniably the de facto king of Portugal, and is recognized as such by several foreign powers (including the Holy See, Spain and Russia). The liberal leaders and the royal child, Maria, flee to exile in Britain. The whole of Portugal seems content with the new dispensation, apart from one tiny corner. On Terceira, one of the islands of the Azores, the garrison remains loyal to Pedro and Maria.

From this distant outpost, a campaign is launched. A regency is set up here on behalf of Maria. Her father Dom Pedro, after abdicating in Brazil, arrives in the Azores in February 1832 with a fleet and an army, composed mainly of British and French troops.

Dom Pedro's force reaches Portugal in July 1832 and succeeds in capturing the town of Oporto. Here they are besieged for a year, until a fleet of five British steamers arrives in the summer of 1833 with a reinforcement of mercenaries. In a battle in July, off Cape St Vincent, Miguel's fleet is destroyed. Later in the month Lisbon is taken.

After a series of battles during the winter of 1833-4, Miguel's armies are finally defeated. Dom Miguel, the absolutist king, surrenders in May and goes again into exile. Dom Pedro, the ex-emperor, dies before the end of the year (he is thirty-six). The war between the brothers is over. And Maria II (now fifteen) is undeniably queen.

20th century

Last of the Braganzas: AD 1834-1910

The reign of Maria II is marked by the struggles between liberal and conservative factions which are characteristic of political life in many nations at this time, though here there is a local dimension here in the split between those who want the people's constitution accepted by John VI in 1822 and those preferring the Charter imposed by his son Pedro in 1826.

Maria is succeeded by two sons (Pedro V, Luís I) and then by a grandson (Carlos I). During the reigns of Luís and Carlos the dominant theme in Portuguese politics is the expansion of the Portuguese empire in Africa.

Meanwhile republicanism is a growing force within Portugal in the late 19th century. The first decade of the new century brings the assassination of Carlos I and his heir, Luís Filipe, as they ride in an open carriage in Lisbon in 1908.

The identity and precise motives of the assassins are unknown, but their act destablizes an already shaky and unpopular monarchy. Manuel II, the younger son of Carlos, rules only two years before a republican revolution sends him into exile in England - bringing to an end nearly three centuries of the Braganza dynasty.

From republic to New State: AD 1910-1968

The early years of the republic are violent, with sudden swings between rival groups and the assassination from time to time of leading politicians - particularly after 1918. (The nation joins the allied side in World War I, sending troops to fight in Africa and on the western front in Europe.)

An increasingly unstable situation during the 1920s is followed by a military coup, in 1926, which plunges Portugal into a long period of right-wing dictatorship. António Óscar de Fragoso Carmona becomes leader of the military government.

After crushing an uprising in 1927, Carmona wins the support of the nation in a plebiscite and is elected president. It is a position to which he is re-elected every seven years until his death in 1951. But from as early as 1928 real power is in other hands.

In 1928, confronted by economic chaos, Carmona hands control of the nation's finances to an economics professor from the university of Coimbra, António de Oliveira Salazar. Puritanical by nature, a man of simple and self-denying habits, Salazar is a strict authoritarian who rapidly brings the nation's finances into good order and then applies the same strong medicine to the Portuguese themselves.

From 1932 he is prime minister with absolute power in all departments. In the following year he introduces a constitution as the basis for his Estado Novo (New State). Relying on a secret police, press censorship and a large army, his regime blends the coercive powers of a fascist state and of the Catholic church. In World War II he follows Spain in maintaining neutrality.

Like other totalitarian rulers, Salazar is better at building railways, bridges and power stations than at educating the people or improving the economy at an everyday level. When he suffers a stroke in 1968, and is replaced as dictator by his colleague Marcelo Caetano, Portugal is the poorest and most backward nation in western Europe.

In Salazar's repertoire of certainties, one of the most passionately held is the conviction that Portugal must not relinquish any part of its remaining empire. The Indians cock a snook at this by marching into Goa in 1961. Later in the 1960s the Portuguese army is forced to expend much effort in resisting independence movements in Angola and Mozambique.

Discontent with this unending commitment lies behind a military coup which topples Caetano in 1974, bringing to an end four decades of Salazar's New State.

Portugal in Europe: AD 1974-1999

In the early years after the revolution of 1974 Portugal has a bumpy ride in its gradual return to democracy and to a role among the nations of western Europe, after nearly half a century of dictatorship and isolation. Two counter-coups are attempted during 1975, and violent feuding between the emergent political parties makes stable progress difficult at first. But the determination to join the European Union soon concentrates the collective mind.

Portugal becomes a member of the EU in 1986. Its economy is in sufficiently stable shape for it to be one of the first eleven states to adopt the Euro as a common currency in 1999.

The outstanding figure in Portuguese political life since the revolution has been Mario Soares. A Socialist, imprisoned twelve times during the Salazar years, Soares becomes foreign minister in 1974 and oversees the rapid winding up of the Portuguese empire (a process which brings a million or more refugees to Portugal).

In 1976 Soares becomes the first Portuguese prime minister in half a century to be democratically elected (serving in this role in 1976-8 and again in 1983-5). In 1986 he becomes head of state as president, being re-elected for a second five-year term in 1991. In 1996 he is followed in this role by Jorge Sampaio, also a Socialist and previously the mayor of Lisbon.
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