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History of Portugal
The history of Portugal, a European and an
Atlantic nation, dates back to the Early Middle Ages. In the 15th
and 16th centuries, it ascended to the status of a world power
during Europe's "Age of Discovery" as it built up a vast empire
including possessions in South America, Africa, Asia and
Australasia. In the next two centuries, Portugal gradually lost much
of its wealth and status as the Dutch, English and French took an
increasing share of the spice and slave trades (the economic basis
of its empire), by surrounding or conquering the widely-scattered
Portuguese trading posts and territories, leaving it with ever fewer
resources to defend its overseas interests.
Signs of military
decline began with two disastrous battles: the Battle of Alcácer
Quibir in Morocco in 1578 and Spain's abortive attempt to conquer
England in 1588 - Portugal was then in a dynastic union with Spain,
and contributed ships to the Spanish invasion fleet. The country was
further weakened by the destruction of much of its capital city in a
1755 earthquake, occupation during the Napoleonic Wars and the loss
of its largest colony, Brazil, in 1822. From the middle of the 19th
century to the late 1950s, nearly two-million Portuguese left Europe
to live in Brazil and the United States (U.S.).
there was a revolution that deposed the monarchy. Amid corruption,
repression of the church, and the near bankruptcy of the state, a
military coup in 1926 installed a dictatorship that remained until
another coup in 1974. The new government instituted sweeping
democratic reforms and granted independence to all of Portugal's
African colonies in 1975.
Portugal is a founding member of
the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organisation for
Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the European Free
Trade Association (EFTA). It entered the European Community (now the
European Union) in 1986.
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