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State

Capital

Portugal

Lisboa

Lisbon

Currency unit

euro

Connections

Angola

Brazil

EU

Guinea Bissau

Hegemony

Macao

Mozambique

NATO

Spain

Timor

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

History

An ancient state formed from the western Iberian Christian people based on the Roman town of Portus Cale (Oporto). It expanded from the north to its present size as the Muslim states of Iberia were conquered by the Christian kingdoms. The last Muslim territory was conquered in 1250.

The language is derived from Latin and is similar to Galician (Gallegan) in Spain. Its culture is a synthesis of the Latin and Arabic. This is especially noticeable in the traditional music which shows similarities with that of north Africa.

Portugal's history has had two main strands: one was its relation towards the Iberian kingdoms to the east; the other its relations with the world of the oceans. There was a constant threat or promise of union with the other kingdoms of Spain to form a united Iberia. Had this occurred Portuguese might have had the same relation to Castilian (modern Spanish) as Catalan has - a barely tolerated regional dialect. Now it is the language of Brazil, Angola, Mozambique, Goa, Guine Bissau and Timor.

Portugal early looked to the sea first for fishing, then for trade and exploration. Portugal traded with England and is said to be England's "oldest ally" having signed treaties in 1372 and 1386.

As Europe's most westerly nation it was the Portuguese who explored the coasts of Africa and reached India by sea during the Age of Exploration. From this developed a trading empire in India and Indonesia and the settlement of the Brazilian coast. Portugal began to explore the seas before Spain. After Columbus's voyage Spain and Portugal were in conflict. This was resolved by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 which divided the whole planet in two, giving half to Portugal and half to Spain. Portugal was given the area east of a line drawn to the west of the Azores (just far enough to include Brazil which they had probably already secretly visited). The line was a circle of longitude that also included the east where it passed between the Philippines and Indonesia. Portugal explored this whole hemisphere, including visiting Canada (?Ca Nada=there is nothing there), Greenland and Australia (evidence fom Portuguese shipwrecks). The records of their explorations were a state monopoly and were kept in the India House (Casa da India) in the capital. Unfortunately they were destroyed in the Lisbon earthquake of 1755.

The legacy of this empire can be found in Portuguese names such as Lagos and Bombay. They traded in the islands of modern Indonesia, the source of spices which were the main object of European trade in the 16th century.

Portugal was united with Spain from 1580-1640. During this period its empire decayed and its power passed to newer maritime powers including the English and the French. Its Indonesian colonies passed to the Netherlands. Its interests in the Indian Ocean passed to England. Its footholds in Africa were divided up between many of the European powers but mostly between England and France.

Colonies remained in what is now Guiné Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Goa in India, Timor in Indonesia and Macao on the coast of China. During the 19th century the African colonies were enlarged by claiming control over the interior. Portugal's most important possession was Brazil where the King fled during the Napoleonic wars.

The monarchy was overthrown in 1910. Following the declaration of a republic there was a period of unstable government, as a very poor country did not have a large middle class.

This period was brought to an end by a dictatorship under the fascist Antonio de Oliveira Salazar from 1928 until 1968. After Spain too became a fascist dictatorship the two countries worked together. However, Portugal was, although formally neutral during the second world war, more favourable to the allies than to the Axis.

Salazar's rule was a period of economic and cultural stagnation which came to an end when the African colonies of Angola, Guiné Bissau and Mozambique revolted. The long guerrilla wars drained the state of resources.

There was a revolution in 1974 in which the army leaders accepted that the wars could not be won and allowed the African colonies to become independent. They ended the dictatorship at home. The home country then evolved toward the European norm. It went through a brief left-wing phase and no doubt caused Americans to fear that it might have become communist. However, elections have favored the conservatives or very moderate socialists.

Portugal joined the European Community in 1986. The only colony remaining was Macao, handed over to the Chinese in 1999.

Languages

Portuguese

 History

 Economics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Politics

Since the revolution Portugal has had free elections and a parliamentary regime of conventional European type: mainly ceremonial president, executive prime minister answerable to parliament.

The 1974 revolutionaries were left wing and initially prescribed a socialist (Communist) system. However, elections produced a more moderate government, with center left and center right governments alternating. Membership of the European Union brings economic assistance and sends power up to the Commission.

Elections in March 2002 resulted in a coalition of conservative parties led by the Social Democrats gaining a parliamentary majority.

Following the April 2011 application to the IMF the then Socialist government lost parliamentary support for its austerity measures and a general election was held in June 2011, with the conservative parties replacing the former moderate socialists.

 History

 Politics

 Green

 Rights

 Climate

Economics

One of the poorest members of the European Union.

Portugal is a member of the eurozone. During April 2011 the government debt, following the 2008 financial catastrophe caused the government to ask for assistance from the IMF and European Central Bank.

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Rights

 Climate

Green/Ecology

There seem to be increasing droughts, as in other parts of southern Europe. Portugal has invested heavily in hydropower, with many dams on its rivers. Increasing drought may affect their ability to continue to supply energy. One plan is to use them as pumped storage systems to balance power from wind - strongest at night. (See Kenya wind power)

 History

 Politics

 Economics

 Green

 Climate

Human Rights

Notoriously bad during the Salazar period. Improved since then but police rather inefficient.

Climate effects

As with the rest of southern Europe, Portugal is likely to become hotter and drier as the Sahara moves northward.

Last revised 20/06/11


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