Portugal - An Overview UA-4944458-2

Portugal – An Overview

Portugal, whose name comes from the Roman name Portus Cale, is a country that occupies the southwest part of the Iberian Peninsula. Located in southwestern Europe, it is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south, and by Spain to the north and east.The PortugueseRepublic also includes the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, in the Atlantic Ocean.

Its land area is 35,382 sq mi (91,639 sq km), and with the islands, it is a total of 35,672 sq mi (92,391 sq km).

Its capital and largest city is Lisbon, with a population of 2,618,100 (metro. area) in 2003. Portugal counted 10,642,836 people in 2007.


The early history of Portugal and the Iberian Peninsula cannot be separated. The first inhabitants of the country might be the Lusitanians, a Celtic tribe that inhabited this region.

The First County of Portugal was created in 868, during the Reconquista (by which Christians reconquered the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim and Moorish domination).

Portugal became officially independent in 1139, when Afonso Henriques styled himself king of Portugal.

In the 1380’s, Portugal made an alliance with England, which is the longest-standing alliance in the world.

Then Portugal began its period of exploration of the world and colonization: The first colonization movements began with Madeira and the Azores (Atlantic) in 1415.

During the 15th century, the Portuguese Empire extended across the world, to Asia, Africa, and America: Vasco da Gama sailed to India (1498); Pedro Álvares Cabral claimed Brazil for Portugal (1500); Afonso de Albuquerque captured Goa, in India (1510).

Between 1580 and 1640, the “Spanish captivity” began: Philip II of Spain claimed his throne as Philip I of Portugal. Portugal didn’t lose its formal independence, since it was governed by the same monarch who governed Spain, briefly forming a union of kingdoms, as a personal union.

In 1640, John of Braganza was proclaimed king as John IV. This was the beginning of the House of Braganza, which was to reign in Portugal until 1910.

In 1822, Brazil declared its independence: It was the beginning of the decline that Portugal knew until the 20th century.

In 1910, a republican revolution deposed the Portuguese monarchy: The republic was established, with Teófilo Braga as president. But the country’s economic problems continued and got worse.

In 1926, a military coup d’état deposed the government. General Carmona was the president and António de Oliveira Salazar, the new finance minister.

In 1932, Salazar became premier, and the longest dictatorship in Western European history began in 1933.

Some independence movements in Africa caused the Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974).

In 1974, a left-wing military coup – “the Carnation Revolution” -, led the way for a modern democracy as well as the independence of the last colonies in Africa shortly after. At the end of 1999, Macau (Asia), Portugal’s last overseas territory, reverted to Chinese sovereignty.

Portugal was a founding member of NATO, OECD and EFTA. In 1986, Portugal joined the European Union (now the European Community). It is also a co-founder of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.