Portugal History – From the Middle Ages to the Modern Age

Until the 11th century. the history of the populations of today’s Portugal is confused with the general history of the Iberian Peninsula (➔ Iberica, Peninsula ; Lusitani). In the 11th century. the Christian reconquest took place by the kings of León, Ferdinand the Great and Alfonso VI, who formed the county of Portugal, entrusting its government to Henry of Burgundy, son-in-law of Alfonso VI of León, whose daughter Teresa he had married. Henry should have remained subordinate to Raymond of Burgundy, husband of Urraca, heir to the throne of León. But, when Alfonso VI died and the civil war broke out in the kingdom of León, it consolidated its independence; on his death (1114), his wife Teresa assumed power by rebelling against Leonese sovereignty. However, the struggle continued for a long time, also due to the hostilities that arose between Teresa and her son Alfonso Henriques. Later, they both had to pay homage to Alfonso VII of Castile and of León, which had invaded Galicia; until in 1143, after new hostilities, Alfonso VII bent to recognize Alfonso Henriques (who declared himself a vassal of the Holy See and promised the payment of an annual census to the pope) the title of king of Portugal.

● In the long reign of Alfonso Henriques (Alfonso I), the struggle against the Muslims was carried on successfully; at the death of Alfonso I (1185), the borders of the kingdom (the title of king had been recognized by Pope Alexander III only in 1179) had extended to Beja, comprising more than three quarters of the current territory. The conquest continued under the reigns of Sancho I (1185-1211), Alfonso II (1211-23), Sancho II (1223-45) and Alfonso III (1248-79); the Algarve was taken in 1249 and was definitively secured to the Portugal, after long disputes with Castile which made claims on it, with the treaty of Alcañiz (1297), which established the territorial borders as they still are today. Pope Innocent IV deposed (1245) Sancho II and replaced him with his brother Alfonso. The reigns of Dionysius (1279-1325), Alfonso IV (1325-57), Pietro I (1357-67), Ferdinando I (1367-83) followed; the latter died, the last monarch of the house of Burgundy, without male heirs, the king of Castile, the husband of his only daughter, was preparing to occupy the country; but the bourgeois of Lisbon rose up with some nobles and acclaimed the defender of the kingdom John, grand master of the military order of Aviz and bastard of King Peter I.

● Acclaimed king of the Cortes (1385), Giovanni started the house of Aviz, under the whose reign, which lasted until 1585, flourished the most glorious period in Portuguese history. Castilian attempts to seize the kingdom were rejected, the independence of the Portugal ensured with the peace of 1411 and concluded a treaty of friendship and perpetual peace with the England (John himself married an English princess, Philippa, daughter of the Duke of Lancaster), John I (1385-1433) and his successors Edward (1433-38), Alfonso V (1438-81), John II (1481-95), Emanuele I (1495-1521), Giovanni III (1521-57) were able to create the Portuguese colonial empire. Conquered Ceuta in 1415, the Portuguese took possession of the island of Madeira (1418-20), the Azores (1431 or 1432), the islands of Cape Verde (1433), reaching Sierra Leone (1460) and Congo (1484) ): in 1487 they rounded the Cape of Storms (later Cape of Good Hope), entering the Indian Ocean.

● According to a2zdirectory, the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), stipulated between John II and the Catholic Monarchs, fixed the division between the Spaniards and the Portuguese of the lands discovered and to be discovered, establishing as a dividing line the meridian at 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands and leaving the lands to the Portuguese east of it. In 1498 Vasco da Gama arrived on the Malabar coast, in India, in 1500 PA Cabral discovered Brazil; in 1505 the first viceroy, F. de Almeida, left for India, whose successor, A. de Albuquerque, organized the Portuguese empire in the Indies, establishing a strategic triangle from Hormuz (1507) to Goa (1510) and Malacca (1511). In 1515 Japan was reached ; between 1521 and 1522 the Moluccas were visited, then the Sunda islands ; in 1526 a landing was made in New Guinea. Meanwhile, in 1520, the first Portuguese ambassadors had arrived in Beijing. Under John III, Lisbon became one of the greatest emporiums of international trade, supplanting Venice and Genoa.

● The Portuguese monarchy was by now so strong that it could also attempt to unite the crown of Castile with its own (marriage of Alfonso V to Giovanna la Beltraneja in 1475, invasion of Castile, fight against the Catholic Monarchs, with negative results). John II established royal absolutism but, under the reign of Sebastian (1557-78), the Portuguese power suffered the first serious blow: the king’s attempt to conquer Morocco he was frustrated in the defeat of Alcázarquivir, where he died (1578) and, having no direct heirs, the throne fell to his great-uncle, the now old cardinal Enrico, whose death (1580) opened up the problem of succession. Among the many candidates prevailed the king of Spain Philip II, son of Isabella di Portugal, acclaimed king by the Cortes of Tomar (1581).

● The union of all the Iberian kingdoms had become a fait accompli, but with the submission of the Portugal to Spain. Thus began a period of decline for the Portugal: the struggle between Spain on the one hand and England and Holland on the other also closed the Portugal to trade with these two nations, ruining Lisbon economically, and induced the Dutch to attack colonial rule Portuguese, seizing the Moluccas, Malacca, Angola, San Jorge da Mina in the Gulf of Guinea, and finally invading Brazil. In 1640, taking advantage of the rebellion of Catalonia, nobility and bourgeoisie rose up, acclaiming the Duke of Braganza who took the name of John IV. The war of independence lasted for 24 years, in which Portugal had allies France and England: finally in 1688, with the Treaty of Lisbon, Spain recognized Portuguese independence. Even in the colonies the fight against the Dutch was successfully conducted, who were forced to leave Angola and Brazil. John IV (1641-56) and Alfonso VI (1656-67) victoriously brought the struggle for independence to a conclusion: but under their successors Peter II (1683-1706), John V (1706-50) and Joseph I (1750-77) Portugal’s life was that of a small state. With the treatise of Methuen (1703) the Portugal entered the English orbit. The reforms of the Marquis of Pombal, of clear Enlightenment mold, gave new fame to Portugal and his dynasty for a moment.

● Under Maria I (1777-1816), mentally ill, Portugal underwent a new invasion by Spain (1801) and France (1807). The queen, with the prince regent John, took refuge in Brazil; but almost immediately the English army landed in northern Portugal and the war of liberation began, won by the English. The dynasty, personified by John VI (1816-26), nevertheless continued to reside in Brazil. A liberal revolution broke out in Porto in 1820, the king was forced to return to Portugal and swear the Constitution (1822); at the same time Brazil declared itself an independent empire under the eldest son of John VI, Prince Peter. An absolutist reaction followed the Constitution of 1822 which led John VI to abolish the Constitution (1823).

● The usurper who succeeded him, Michele, further accentuated the reaction; but the liberal emigrants, gathered around Pietro, who had left Brazil abdicating (1831), landed in Portugal forced the usurper to give up power. Political life under the last kings of the house of Braganza, Maria II (1833-53), Peter V (1853-61), Louis I (1861-89), Charles I (1889-1908), was characterized at first (with Maria) by riots; subsequently (with Pietro and Luigi) from the pacification of the country and from the resumption of the overseas expansion, with the colonization of the African possessions (Angola and Mozambique); finally (under the reign of Charles) by the rapid spread of republican ideas.

Portugal History - From the Middle Ages to the Modern Age