The Portuguese Empire was the earliest and longest lived of the modern European colonial empires. It spanned almost six centuries, from the capture of Ceuta in 1415 to Macau's return to China in 1999. Portuguese explorers began exploring the coast of Africa in 1419, leveraging the latest developments in navigation, cartography and maritime technology searching for a sea route to the source of the lucrative spice trade. In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and in 1498, Vasco da Gama reached India. In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral added Brazil to Portugal's "discoveries."
As skilled Portuguese sailors explored the coasts and islands of East Asia, a series forts and trading posts soon followed. By 1571, outposts connected Lisbon to Nagasak. The empire was now global, and a source of great wealth. Between 1580 and 1640, Portugal was Spain's junior partner in the Iberian Union. Although the Spanish and Portuguese empires were administered separately, Portugal's became the subject of attacks by the The Netherlands (engaged in a war of independence against Spain), England, and France. Unable to defend the network of trading posts and factories, the empire went into decline. The loss of the largest and most profitable colony, Brazil, in 1822 as independence movements swept through the Americas, was a blow from which Portugal and its empire never recovered.
The Scramble for Africa from the late nineteenth century gave Portugal a handful of African colonies. After World War II, Portugal's right-wing dictator, António Salazar, desperately tried to keep the Portuguese Empire intact as other European countries were withdrawing from their colonies. In 1961, the Portuguese Goa was unable to prevent Indian troops from annexing the colony, but Salazar began a long and bloody war to crush independence movements in Africa. This unpopular war lasted until the military coup of April 1974. The new government immediately recognized the independence of all colonies exceptMacau, which was returned to China in 1999, finally ending the Portuguese empire. The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) is the cultural successor of the Empire. On the one hand, the Portuguese Empire, like most imperial projects, was exploitative and oppressive. Former colonies inherited economies designed to benefit Portugal, while few indigenous people had been equipped to lead their own state. On the other hand, Portugal's empire did much to create cultural and linguistic links across the globe, helping to nurture consciousness that in the end all humans occupy a single planetary home, which, if not kept healthy and sustainable, will become our common grave. Their explores helped humanity to realize that the world is one by mapping and charting its seas and continents.
The Portuguese Reconquista culminated in 1249, with the conquest of the Algarve by Afonso III, setting the Portuguese borders which have lasted nearly unchanged to this day. Throughout the fifteenth century, the Crowns of Aragon and Portugal expanded territorially overseas. The Aragonese Empire, which had accomplished its Reconquista in 1266, focused on the Mediterranean Sea while the Portuguese Empire turned to the Atlantic Ocean and North Africa. The Kingdom of Castile did not complete the conquest of the last Moorish stronghold at Granada until 1492.
There were several reasons for Portugal to explore the unknown waters to its south and west. As a Catholic kingdom, Portuguese monarchs saw it as their duty to spread Christianity and destroy Islam in the process. The legend of the long-lost Christian kingdom of Prester John located somewhere in the Orient provided hope that, if it could only be reached, Islam could be encircled by Christian forces. At the same time, reaching the Orient would allow Portugal to tap into the source of the lucrative spice trade, bypassing the long overland route that the Venetians had a stranglehold on at its entry point to Europe. Portugal's long coastline and geographical location on the edge of Western Europe, hemmed in by the Spanish kingdoms to its east, and maritime experience, meant that the most promising route to achieving its goals was to find a sea route to the Orient.
Portugal began in 1415, by crossing the Gibralter and capturing Ceuta from the Moors, who unsuccessfully attempted to re-take it in 1418. In 1419, two of Prince Henry the Navigator's captains, João Gonçalves Zarco, Tristão Vaz Teixeira and Bartolomeu Perestrelo were driven by a storm to Madeira. In 1427, another Portuguese captain discovered the Azores.
In an expedition to Tangier, undertaken in 1436, by King Edward of Portugal (1433-1438), the Portuguese army was defeated and only escaped destruction by surrendering Prince Ferdinand, the king's youngest brother. By sea, Prince Henry's captains continued their exploration of Africa and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1434, Cape Bojador was crossed by Gil Eanes. In 1441, the first consignment of slaves was brought to Lisbon and slave trading soon became one of the most profitable branches of Portuguese commerce. Senegal and Cape Verde were reached in 1445. In 1446, António Fernandes pushed on almost as far as present-day Sierra Leone.
Meanwhile, colonization continued in the Azores (from 1439) and Madeira, where sugar and wine were now produced by settlers from Portugal, France, Flanders and Genoa. Above all, gold brought home from Guinea stimulated the commercial energy of the Portuguese. It had become clear that, apart from their religious and scientific aspects, these voyages of discovery were highly profitable.
Under Afonso V, the African (1443–1481), the Gulf of Guinea was explored as far as Cape St Catherine, and three expeditions (1458, 1461, 1471) were sent to Morocco. In 1458, Alcácer Ceguer (El Qsar es Seghir, in Arabic) was taken. In 1471, Arzila (Asila) and Tangier were captured.
In 1474, an explorer named João Vaz Corte-Real received a captaincy in Azores because he discovered Terra Nova dos Bacalhaus (New Land of Codfish) in 1472. Some claim this land is Newfoundland. Whether or not this is actually the case is difficult to ascertain, as Portuguese secrecy about the discoveries means that very little evidence remains. The dried cod became a vital economic commodity and a staple of the Portuguese diet.
Afonso V of Portugal claimed the Castilan-Leonese throne when he married Joan, Princess of Castile, but Isabella proclaimed herself queen. The Treaty of Alcáçovas, signed in 1479, gave exclusive navigation to Portugal of the sea below the Canary Islands and the Portuguese then recognized Isabella as queen of Castile.
Under John II (1481–1495), the fortress of São Jorge da Mina, the modern Elmina, in Ghana, was founded for the protection of the Guinea trading and became Portugal's West African headquarters until 1637. Diogo Cão discovered Congo in 1482 and reached Cape Cross in 1486. In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope. The passage to the Indian Ocean was open.
The possibility of a sea route around Africa to India and the rest of Asia would open enormous opportunities to trade for Portugal, so it aggressively pursued the establishment of both trade outposts and fortified bases.
Knowing that Indian Ocean connected the Atlantic Ocean (Bartolomeu Dias' voyage of 1488), King John II of Portugal refused support to Christopher Columbus's offer to reach India by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus next turned successfully to Queen Isabella of Castile, and his unintended discovery of the West Indies led to the establishment of the Spanish Empire in the Americas]].
The Portuguese Empire was guaranteed by the papal bull of 1493 and the Treaty of Tordesillas of June 6 1494. These two actions (and related bulls and treaties) divided the world outside of Europe in an exclusive duopoly between the Portuguese and the Spanish. The dividing line in the Western Hemisphere was established along a north-south meridian 370 leagues (1550 km; 970 miles) west of the Cape Verde islands (off the west coast of Africa) (and the antipodal line extended around the globe to divide the Eastern Hemisphere). As a result, all of Africa and almost all of Asia would belong to Portugal, while almost all of the New World would belong to Spain.
The Pope's initial proposal of the line was moved a little west by John II, and it was accepted. However, the new line granted Brazil and (thought at that time) Newfoundland to Portugal both in 1500. As the distance proposed by John II is not "round" (370 leagues), some see the evidence that Portugal knew the existence of those lands before the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494). John II died one year later, in 1495.
With the Treaty of Tordesillas signed, Portugal assured exclusive navigation around Africa and in 1498 Vasco da Gama reached India and established the first Portuguese outposts there. Soon Portugal become the center of the commerce with the East.
In East Africa, small Islamic states along the coast of Mozambique, Kilwa, Brava, Sofala, and Mombasa were destroyed, or became either subjects or allies of Portugal. Pêro da Covilhã had reached Ethiopia, traveling secretly, as early as 1490; a diplomatic mission reached the ruler of that nation October 19. Explorer Pedro Álvares Cabral, on April 22, 1500, landed in what is today Porto Seguro, Brazil and temporary trading posts were established to collect brazilwood, used as a dye. In the Arabian Sea, Socotra was occupied in 1506, and in the same year Lourenço d'Almeida visited Ceylon. Aden, after a failed conquest of 1510, was conquered in 1516.In the Indian Ocean, one of Pedro Álvares Cabral's ships discovered Madagascar, which was partly explored by Tristão da Cunha in 1507, the same year Mauritius was discovered. In 1509, the Portuguese won the sea Battle of Diu against the combined forces of the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid II, Sultan of Gujarat, Mamlûk Sultan of Cairo, Samoothiri Raja of Kozhikode, Venetian Republic, and Ragusan Republic (Dubrovnik). A second Battle of Diu in 1538, finally ended Ottoman ambitions in India and confirmed Portuguese hegemony in the Indian Ocean.
Portugal established trading ports at far-flung locations like Goa, Ormuz, Malacca, Kochi, the Maluku Islands, Macau, and Nagasaki (Japan). Guarding its trade from both European and Asian competitors, Portugal dominated not only the trade between Asia and Europe, but also much of the trade between different regions of Asia, such as India, Indonesia, China, and Japan. Jesuit missionaries, such as the basque Francis Xavier, followed the Portuguese to spread Roman Catholic Christianity to Asia with mixed success.
The Portuguese empire expanded from the Indian Ocean into the Persian Gulf as Portugal contested control of the spice trade with the Ottoman Empire. In 1515, Afonso de Albuquerque conquered the Huwala state of Hormuz at the head of the Gulf, establishing it as a vassal state, before capturing Bahrain in 1521, when a force led by Antonio Correia defeated the Jabrid King, Muqrin ibn Zamil. In a shifting series of alliances, the Portuguese dominated much of the southern Gulf for the next hundred years.
While Portuguese ships explored Asia and South America, King Manuel I of Portugal gave permission to explore the North Atlantic to João Fernandes "Lavrador" in 1499 (he may already explored some lands as soon as 1492) and to the Corte-Real brothers in 1500 and 1501. Lavrador rediscovered Greenland and probably explored Labrador (named after him) and Miguel and Gaspar Corte-Real explored Newfoundland and Labrador, and possibly most of, if not all, the east coast of Baffin Island. In 1516, João Álvares Fagundes explored the North tip of Nova Scotia and islands from its coast to the south coast of Newfoundland. In 1521, Fagundes received the captaincy of the lands he discovered and the authorization to build a colony. His possessions were also distinguished from the Corte-Real's lands. The Corte-Real family, that possessed the Lordship of Terra Nova also attempted colonization. In 1567 Manuel Corte-Real sent 3 ships to colonize his North American land. The colony in Cape Breton (Fagundes' one) is mentioned as late as 1570 and the last confirmation of the title of Lord of Terra Nova was issued in 1579, by King Henry to Vasco Annes Corte-Real, son of Manuel (and not the brother of Gaspar and Miguel, with the same name). The interest in North America faded as the African and Asiatic possessions were more wealthy and the personal union of Portugal and Spain may have led to the end of the Portuguese colonies in North America. As of 2008, no trace was found of any Portuguese colony in North America.
In 1503, an expedition under the command of Gonçalo Coelho found the French making incursions on the land that is today Brazil. John III, in 1530, organized the colonization of Brazil around 15 capitanias hereditárias ("hereditary captainships"), that were given to anyone who wanted to administer and explore them. That same year, there was a new expedition from Martim Afonso de Sousa with orders to patrol the whole Brazilian coast, banish the French, and create the first colonial towns: São Vicente on the coast, and São Paulo on the border of the altiplane. From the 15 original captainships, only two, Pernambuco and São Vicente, prospered. With permanent settlement came the establishment of the sugar cane industry and its intensive labor demands which were met with Native American and later African slaves. Deeming the capitanias system ineffective, Tomé de Sousa, the first Governor-General was sent to Brazil in 1549. He built the capital of Brazil, Salvador at the Bay of All Saints. The first Jesuits arrived the same year.
Some historians argue that it was Portuguese sailors that were the first Europeans to discover Australia, exploring from their bases in East Asia. This view is based on reinterpretations of maps from the period, but remains contentious.
From 1565 through 1567, Mem de Sá, a Portuguese colonial official and the third Governor General of Brazil, successfully destroyed a ten year-old French colony called France Antarctique, at Guanabara Bay. He and his nephew, Estácio de Sá, then founded the city of Rio de Janeiro in March 1567.
In 1578, the Portuguese crusaders crossed into Morocco and were routed by Ahmed Mohammed of Fez, at the Alcazarquivir (Now Ksar-el-Kebir) also known as "the battle of the Three Kings." King Sebastian of Portugal was almost certainly killed in battle or subsequently executed. The Crown was handed over to his uncle, Henry of Portugal, but he died in 1580 without heirs. King Philip II of Spain who was one of the closest dynastic claimants to the throne, invaded the country with his troops and was proclaimed King of Portugal by the Portuguese Cortes Generales (Assembly). This episode marked the end of Portugal's global ambitions.
From 1580 to 1640, the throne of Portugal was held by the Habsburg kings of Spain resulting in the most extensive colonial empire until then. In 1583 Philip I of Portugal, II of Spain, sent his combined Iberian fleet to clear the French traders from the Azores, decisively hanging his prisoners-of-war from the yardarms and contributing to the "Black Legend." The Azores were the last part of Portugal to resist Philip's reign over Portugal.
Portuguese colonization was not successful in Iran. Gamru Port and a few other places (like Hormuz Island) where occupied by Portuguese in 1615, but later in 1622 Abbas I of Persia battled the Portuguese with the aid of Royal Navy and British East India Company. The city was renamed then to Bandar Abbas (Bandar means port).
In the Americas, the Portuguese expansion continued beyond the west side by the meridian set by the Treaty of Tordesillas. Portugal was able to mount a military expedition, which defeated and expelled the French colonists of France Équinoxiale in 1615, less than four years after their arrival in the land. On April 30, 1625, a fleet under the command of Fradique de Toledo recovered the city of Salvador da Bahia to the Dutch. The fleet was composed of 22 Portuguese ships, 34 Spanish ships and 12,500 men (three quarters were Spanish and the rest were Portuguese). File:Goa (1675).PNG However, in 1627, the Castilian economy collapsed. The Dutch, who during the Twelve Years' Truce had made their navy a priority, devastated Spanish maritime trade after the resumption of war, on which Spain was wholly dependent after the economic collapse. Even with a number of victories, Spanish resources were now fully stretched across Europe and also at sea protecting their vital shipping against the greatly improved Dutch fleet. Spain's enemies, such as the Netherlands and England, coveted its overseas wealth, and in many cases found it easier to attack poorly-defended Portuguese outposts than Spanish ones. Thus, the Dutch-Portuguese War began.
Between 1638 and 1640, the Netherlands came to control part of Brazil's Northeast region, with their capital in Recife. The Portuguese won a significant victory in the Second Battle of Guararapes in 1649. By 1654, the Netherlands had surrendered and returned control of all Brazilian land to the Portuguese.
Although Dutch colonies in Brazil were wiped out, during the course of the 17th century the Dutch were able to occupy Ceylon, the Cape of Good Hope, the East Indies, part of India and to take over the trade with Japan at Nagasaki. Portugal's Asiatic territories were reduced to bases at Macau, East Timor and Portuguese India.
The loss of colonies was one of the reasons that contributed to the end of the personal union with Spain. In 1640, John IV was proclaimed King of Portugal and the Portuguese Restoration War began. In 1668, Spain recognized the end of the Iberian Union and in exchange Portugal ceded Ceuta to the Spanish crown.
In 1661, the Portuguese offered Bombay and Tangier to England as part of a dowry, and over the next hundred years the British gradually became the dominant trader in India, providing the bases from which its empire would grow as the Moghul Empire disintegrated from the middle of the eighteenth century, gradually excluding the trade of other powers in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Portugal was able to cling onto Goa and several minor bases through the remainder of the colonial period, but their importance declined as trade was diverted through increasing numbers of English, Dutch and French trading posts.
In 1755, Lisbon suffered a catastrophic earthquake, which together with a subsequent tsunami killed more than 100,000 people out of a population of 275,000. This sharply checked Portuguese colonial ambitions in the late eighteenth century.
Although initially overshadowed by Portuguese activities in Asia, Brazil would become the main center for Portuguese colonial ambitions; firstly wood, sugar, coffee and other cash crops. Until the seventeenth century, most colonial activity was restricted to areas near the coast. The Amazon basin was, under Tordesillas, considered Spanish territory, as confirmed by explorers like Orellana, but left largely unoccupied except for missions around some of its outlying areas. However throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries Bandeirantes (Portuguese colonial scouts) gradually extended their activities, at first primarily in search of indigenous people to enslave for the demands of the plantations, and later for gems and precious metals as well, in an ever westward expansion. This finally lead to the Treaty of Madrid (1750) that recognized this defacto occupation, and transferred sovereignty of about half of the Amazon basin from Spain to Portugal. In 1693, major gold deposits were found at Minas Gerais, leading to Brazil becoming the largest supplier of gold in the eighteenth century. Gems and diamonds also became an important part of mining activities. The strongly rising demand of sugar and coffee in Europe also brought further wealth. Voluntary immigration from Europe and the slave trade from Africa increased Brazil's population immensely: today Brazil is the largest Portuguese-speaking country in the world.
Unlike Spain, Portugal did not divide its colonial territory in America. The captaincies created there were subordinated to a centralized administration in Salvador which reported directly to the Crown in Lisbon.
Encouraged by the example of the United States of America, which had won its independence from Britain, an attempt was made in 1789 to achieve the same in Brazil. The Inconfidência Mineira, or Brazilian independence movement, failed, the were leaders arrested. Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, known as Tiradentesof, who of all the rebel leader was from the lowest social position, was hanged.
In 1808, Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Portugal, and Dom João, prince regent in place of his mother, Dona Maria I, ordered the transfer of the royal court to Brazil. In 1815 Brazil was elevated to the status of Kingdom, the Portuguese state officially becoming the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves (Reino Unido de Portugal, Brasil e Algarves), and the capital was transferred from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro. There was also the election of Brazilian representatives to the Cortes Constitucionais Portuguesas (Portuguese Constitutional Courts).
Dom João, fleeing from Napoleon's army, moved the seat of government to Brazil in 1808. Brazil thereupon became a kingdom under Dom João VI, and the only instance of a European country being ruled from one of its colonies. Although the royal family returned to Portugal in 1821, the interlude led to a growing desire for independence amongst Brazilians. In 1822, the son of Dom João VI, then prince-regent Dom Pedro I, proclaimed the independence, September 7, 1822, and was crowned emperor. Unlike the Spanish colonies of South America, Brazil's independence was achieved without significant bloodshed.
At the height of European colonialism in the nineteenth century, Portugal had lost its territory in South America and all but a few bases in Asia. During this phase, Portuguese colonialism focused on expanding its outposts in Africa into nation-sized territories to compete with other European powers there. Portuguese territories eventually included the modern nations of Cape Verde, São Tomé and Príncipe, Guinea-Bissau, Angola, and Mozambique.
Portugal pressed into the hinterland of Angola and Mozambique, and explorers Hermenegildo Capelo and Roberto Ivens were among the first Europeans to cross Africa west to east. The project to connect the two colonies, the Pink Map, was the Portuguese main objective in the second half of the 19th century. However, the idea was unacceptable to the British, who had their own aspirations of contiguous British territory running from Cairo to Cape Town. The British Ultimatum of 1890 was respected by King Carlos I of Portugal and the Pink Map came to an end. The King's reaction to the ultimatum was exploited by republicans. In 1908 King Carlos and Prince Luís Filipe were murdered in Lisbon. Luís Filipe's brother, Manuel, become King Manuel II of Portugal. Two years later Portugal become a republic.
António de Oliveira Salazar, who had seized power in 1933, considered Portuguese colonies as overseas provinces of Portugal. In the wake of World War II, the decolonization movements began to gain momentum. Unlike the other European colonial powers, Salazar attempted to resist this tide and maintain the integrity of the empire. As a result, Portugal was the last nation to retain its major colonies. The Cold War also created instabilities among Portuguese overseas populations, as the United States and Soviet Union tried to increase their spheres of influence. In 1954 India invaded Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and in 1961 Portuguese India come to an end when Goa, Daman and Diu were also invaded.
The cost and unpopularity of the Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974), in which Portugal attempted to subdue the emerging nationalist movements in its African colonies, eventually led to collapse of the Salazar regime in 1974. Known as the "Carnation Revolution," one of the first acts of the democratic government which then came into power was to end the wars and negotiate Portuguese withdrawal from its African colonies. In both Mozambique and Angola a civil war promptly broke out, with incoming communist governments formed by the former rebels (and backed by the Soviet Union, Cuba, and other communist countries) fighting against insurgent groups supported by nations like Zaire, South Africa, and the United States.
East Timor also declared independence at this time, but was almost immediately invaded by neighboring Indonesia, which occupied it until 1999. A United Nations-sponsored referendum that year resulted in East Timoreans choosing independence for the small country, which was achieved in 2002.
The handover of Macau to China, in 1999, under the terms of an agreement negotiated between People's Republic of China and Portugal twelve years earlier marked the end of the Portuguese overseas empire.
The seven former colonies of Portugal that are now independent nations with Portuguese as their official language]], together with Portugal, are members of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.
Like almost all empires, that of Portugal was more often than not exploitative and oppressive. It was designed to enrich Portugal, not to develop locally viable economies and political polities. Instead, Portugal resisted the decolonization process until the cost of resisting this became unacceptable to the very agency that was responsible for prosecuting the colonial war, the Army. On the other hand, it was the skill of Portuguese navigators that opened up many sea-routes enabling trade, commerce to flourish between East and West. On the one hand, this resulted in the creation of colonial empires by several European powers, in the occupation and often exploitation of other people's land and resources. People's right to freedom and self-determination was denied,. Their desire to achieve this was strongly resisted by Portugal until the 1974 coup.
On the other hand, the great voyages of exploration and the colonization process to which Portugal contributed significantly also knit the human family into a single world community. The world of today that cherishes respect for all people and increasingly embraces responsibility for the welfare of all people and for the health and wholeness of the planet, results at least in part from the legacy of the Portuguese Empire. Exploitation and oppression was part and parcel of colonialism. So, too, was cultural genocide, as the dominant Europeans looked with scorn on indigenous cultures and religions, believing that their civilization and faith was superior. Yet there were exceptions to this. Not all Europeans devalued what they saw in other cultures. Portuguese missionaries in South America pioneered a new approach that honored and respected native peoples, and protected them from the excesses of colonial rule, creating a series of Reducciones (missions) where slavery was outlawed and local people lived in dignity and freedom. In India and Japan, Francis Xavier, instead of rejecting everything in the cultures he encountered, saw that they contained much that was of worth and value.
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