history goes back to the Celts who settled the Iberian Peninsula
around 700 BC. The region soonattracted a succession of peoples
and was colonised by the Phoenicians,
Greeks, Romans and Visigoths. In the 8th century, the Moors crossed
the Strait of Gibraltar and commenced a long occupation which introduced their culture, architecture
and agricultural techniques to Portugal. But resistance to the
Moors grew and they were finally ejected during the 12th century.
In the 15th century, Portugal entered a phase of overseas expansion
due to the efforts of Prince Henry the Navigator. Mariners set
off to discover new trade routes and helped create an enormous
empire that, at its peak, extended to India, the Far East, Brazil
and Africa. This period marked the apogee of Portuguese power
and wealth, but it faded towards the end of the 16th century when the country was occupied by Spain. Although
the occupation lasted only a few decades, the momentum of the
empire declined over the following centuries. At the close of
the 18th century Napoleon
sent expeditionary forces to invade Portugal but they were forced
back by the troops of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance.
During the 19th century the economy faltered and republicanism
took hold. National turmoil led to the abolition of the monarchy
in 1910 and the founding of a democratic republic.Portugal's
democratic phase lasted until 1926, when a military coup ushered
in a long period of dictatorship under Antonio de Oliveira Salazar.
His reign came to an end in 1968 when he sustained brain damage
after falling off a chair. Anachronistic attempts to hold onto
colonies in the face of nationalist independence movements resulted
in costly wars in Africa and led to the Revolution of the Carnations,
a bloodless military coup on 25 April 1974.
During the 1970s and early 1980s, Portugal underwent some painful
adjustments: the political climate vacillated between right and
left, and the economy suffered from wrangles between government
and private ownership. The granting of independence to Portugal's
African colonies in 1974-5, resulted in a flood of over 500,000
refugees into the country. Entry into the European Community
(EC) in 1986 restored some measure of stability, which was buttressed
by the acceptance of Portugal as a full member of the European
Monetary System in 1992. Portugal's remaining overseas territories
include Macau, which is scheduled to be handed over to the Chinese
in 1999, and the semi-autonomous archipelagos of the Azores and
the Madeira Islands in the Atlantic Ocean.
Page created and maintained by Moura da Silva - updated Feb/2001