Portugal History

Portugal History


According to constructmaterials, the oldest documentation of human presence in Portugal dates back to the Paleolithic and the rock art site discovered in the Côa valley, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, is particularly interesting. Some Acheulean industries have been found in stratigraphy on the Pleistocene terraces of the Tagus River and in other locations. Evidence of the Middle Paleolithic (Mousterian) follows, with remains attributed to Neanderthal man found in old excavations outside the stratigraphic context at the Columbeira cave, near Bombarral, and lithic complexes coming, for example, from the Salemas cave, near Lisbon, where the levels containing them are underlying levels with different phases of the upper Paleolithic (Perigordian, Solutrean), Mesolithic and Neolithic. Upper Paleolithic industries have also been found in other locations: the cave of Casa de Moura (Cesareda), where a Magdalenian level is attested, that of Escoural (Montemor-O-Novo, Alentejo), where manifestations of parietal art have been found attributed to the Magdalenian or Mesolithic, and to Lapa do Suao in Extremadura. Of particular historical importance is the site of Muge in the lower Tagus valley, where numerous Mesolithic snails (accumulations of shells) have been found, including those of Cabeço de Arruda, Cabeço de Amoreira and Moïta de Sebastiao, with dating to Carbon 14 between 5150 ± 300 a. C. and 7350 ± 350 a. C., with inhabited structures (hearths, post holes, approximately circular pits, etc.) and over 230 burials. It is the largest Mesolithic necropolis so far known in Europe. The ancient Neolithic is represented by cardial pottery, while the recent one sees the appearance of megalithism, especially in the Alentejo region. Particularly impressive is the flowering of facies cultural events of the third millennium, in which copper metallurgy is present. The collective artificial burials of Praja das Macas and Sao Pedro de Estoril show the stratigraphic succession between the local Aeneolithic cultures and the rich local facies of the bell-shaped vase of Palmela (from the name of another locality in which at the beginning of the 20th century they were identified burial caves); this sequence also distinguishes the two large fortified hill towns of Vila Nova de Sao Pedro and Zambujal. The results of the excavations of the natural cavity of Cova da Moura, occupied for a period of time ranging from the ancient Neolithic to the final Bronze Age, have recently been published.


The Spanish rule lasted for 60 years (1580-1640); and although, in principle, it respected a certain autonomy of Portugal, it became more and more heavy and hateful with the accentuation of the political decadence of Spain itself. The warmongering and maniacal despotism of Olivares aggravated the situation, canceling the trade exchanges with England and France, of vital importance for Portugal. In the end, after several failed attempts, the revolt of 1640 succeeded, which restored independence to Portugal by establishing the new dynasty of Braganza in the person of John IV (1640-56). He was, on the whole, a good ruler; but the dynamics of European history and the emergence of dangerous rivals in Asia and America (Holland and England) forced him to assume ever more absolute powers, relying on the high aristocracy. His weak successors allowed themselves to be dominated by omnipotent ministers (Castelo Melhor, Ericeira), who tried to combat economic decline and ended up in fief of England (Treaty of Methuen, 1703). This determined a certain cultural “opening” of Portugal to Europe, at the time of John V (1706-50), but also, in the long run, an aggravation of the economic crisis, which the import of large quantities of gold from Brazil did not solve at all, on the contrary causing popular uprisings, due to the increase in prices and inflation not to mention the growing indignation at the corrupt customs and luxury of the court and the high clergy. The Portuguese history of the second half of the century. XVIII is dominated by the figure of the Marquis of Pombal, minister of the inept Joseph I and politician of European importance. Pombal’s reforms were many and important, in the administrative, fiscal, economic, scholastic and cultural, religious fields (expulsion of the Jesuits, 1759; submission of the Inquisition to the government, 1772), and all of them with an “enlightened” and modernizing sense. His credit was also the reconstruction of Lisbon, after the terrible earthquake of 1755. But his harsh and cruel methods of government frustrated, in large part, the positive results of his political action. After the historical crisis of the Napoleonic era (during which Portugal was occupied by the French and was the scene of a bitter war), the often violent and bloody struggles between conservatives and liberals, and, after the defeat of the absolutists of usurper Michael I (1834), between moderates and revolutionaries, led to an endemic political instability, punctuated by continuous riots, coups, civil wars, jumble of “Constitutional Papers”, economic crises. The “liberal” spirit, however, progressed, albeit with difficulty, taking the form of measures such as the abolition of the slave trade (1836), free primary education, freedom of the press, the construction of roads and railways, the reform of legislation (Civil Code of 1867), etc. Cultural life flourished largely thanks to several generations of distinguished writers; the slow industrialization brought with it the first movements of workers’ organization; the population, which had remained stationary for centuries (1 million and a half at the beginning of the century), exceeded 4 and a half million in 1890. Charles I (who was succeeded by Emanuele II, 1908) and in the revolution of 1910, which established the Republic. However, this did not solve the problems, on the contrary it exasperated them, discrediting the parliamentary regime, unable to put an end to the political-social chaos and the chronic deficit of the state budgets.

Portugal History 2

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