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The history of Portugal

The Portugal you see today has been shaped down the millennia by a parade of invaders, agressors from shores as distant as Phoenicia, Greece, Rome, northern Europe, north Africa and even England.

The history of Portugal as a political unit begins with the rebelion of Iberian Christians against Moslem domination. In 1095 Henry of Burgundy became the first Count of Portugal as a vassal of the King the Leon. Afonso Henriques defeated the forces of Leon in 1128 and it was as Count of an independent Portugal thet he routed the Moors at Ourique. In 1143 Portugal was raised to the status of a kingdom, with a simple bond of allegiance to the Papacy. Afonso Henriques and is successors defeated the Moslems and conquered territory till the present-day Portugal shape.

Having settled the frontiers, in 1386, Portugal began a programme of exploration and conquest that made it, within 200 years, the richest mercantile empire of the age. Kings encouraged the enterprises of merchants and navigators. Prince Henry the Navigator (1394-1460), a younger son of John I, established one of the first observatories in Europe at Sagres, Algarve, and gave the first impetus to the exploration of the west coast of Africa. Portugal discovered new worls including Azores, Cape Verde Islands, Brazil, Africa and India. During the first decades of the 16th century Portuguese navigators discovered the chief islands of Indonesia, visited Japan and established diplomatic relations with the court of Peking.

In 1578 the power of the monarchy suffered its first serious reverse with the failure of the attempt to conquer Morocco, in which struggle died King Sebastian, at Alcazar-Kebir who was succeeded by his uncle, Cardinal Henry.

When Henry died in 1580, the throne was disputed by several claimants but finally passed to King Philip II of Spain, the son of Isabel of Portugal. The union of the two Iberian kingdoms lasted for 60 years, from 1580 to 1640 and was ruinous for Portugal. Most of the colonial empire was lost to the Dutch. In 1640 merchants and nobles rose against Spain and proclaimed John IV of Braganza as King of Portugal.

In 1801 Portugal was invaded by Spanish and in 1807 by the French, then liberated by the British under Duke of Wellington. In 1820 the liberal revolution broke out at Porto and King John VI swear to observe the constitution.

In 1910 King Manuel was overthrown by the republican revolution.

In 1926 a military dictatorship was set up and Antonio Salazar, who governed Portugal for 37 years, came to power.

In 1974 a democratic regime was set up by a bloodless revolution headed by General Antonio Spinola. In sequence independence was given to the African colonies.

At present Portugal is a democratic republic, governed by a socialist majority.

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