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Featured Country: Portugal
Location of Portugal
Portugal is located in the far west of Europe, on the Iberian Peninsular. It is bounded by Spain to the north and east, and the Atlantic Ocean to the south and west.
Historical Summary of Portugal
The country of Portugal emerged in the tenth century during the Christian reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula: first as a region under the control of the Counts of Portugal and then, in the mid-twelfth century, as a kingdom under King Afonso I. The throne then went through a turbulent time, with several rebellions. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries overseas exploration and conquest in Africa, South America and India won the nation a rich empire.
In 1580 a succession crisis led to a successful invasion by the King of Spain and Spanish rule, beginning an era known to opponents as the Spanish Captivity, but a successful rebellion in 1640 led to independence once more. Portugal fought alongside Britain in the Napoleonic Wars, whose political fallout led to a son of the King of Portugal becoming Emperor of Brazil; a decline in imperial power followed. The nineteenth century saw civil war, before a Republic was declared in 1910. However, in 1926 a military coup led to generals ruling until 1933, when a Professor called Salazar took over, ruling in an authoritarian manner until 1974. His retirement through illness was followed by a further coup, the declaration of the Third Republic and independence for African colonies.
Key People from the History of Portugal
The son of the Count of Portugal, Afonso Henrique was the rallying point for Portuguese nobles who feared losing their power to rival Galicians. Afonso won either a battle or a tournament and successfully expelled his mother, who was styled as Queen, and by 1140 was calling himself King of Portugal. He worked to establish his position, and by 1179 had persuaded the Pope to recognise him as king.
Nicknamed the farmer, Dinis is often the most highly regarded of the Burgundian dynasty, for he began the creation of a formal navy, founded the first university in Lisbon, promoted culture, founded one of the first insurance institutions for merchants and broadened trade. However, tensions grew among his nobles and he lost the Battle of Santarém to his son, who took the crown as King Afonso IV.
A Professor of Political Economy, Salazar was invited in 1928 by Portugal’s military dictatorship to join the government and resolve a financial crisis. In 1933 he was promoted to Prime Minister, and he ruled – if not as a dictator (though an argument can be made that he was), then certainly as a repressive, anti-parliamentary authoritarian, until illness forced him to retire in 1974.