Country of Portugal Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

Portugal 16th Century to Present


Portugal: 16th Century to Present

Portugal: 16th Century to Present

Portugal is a country a part of the continent of Europe. It is on the western coast of Europe sharing a boundary with Spain and the Atlantic Ocean. Portugal's independence and king (now there is a president and a prime minister) received formal recognition since the 12th century AD. The language is Portuguese and the people identify as Portuguese or of the Portuguese Republic (Republica Portuguesa). It is a mostly Catholic country and with mostly female citizens. There are nearly 11 million people living in Portugal according to the Central Intelligence Agency (2012). The capital city is Lisbon and most of the population lives in urban areas rather than rural areas. There are archipelagos, Azores, and Madeira, which are additionally a part of Portugal. The paper will provide insight into the country of Portugal, regaling parts of the country's history from the 16th century to the present.

Portugal is a coastal country, part of the Iberian Peninsula. There are several rivers which begin in Spain and flow through Portugal into the Atlantic. Most of the country has a coast and is bordered by Spain to the north and east. There are nearly 1,000 kilometers of coastline in Portugal. Much of the coastline consists of magnificent yet steep cliffs to view and sometimes jump from. Portugal has primarily black sand beaches and few beaches with white sand. Prominent environmental issues include water pollution, soil erosion, and air pollution. There is additionally increased concern for chemical run-off from cars, roads, other vehicles, and industrial locations such as chemical plants. Despite and likely because of these problems, Portugal is a country that has signed and ratified multiple environmental policies/agreements, including the Kyoto Protocol and the Nuclear Test Ban.

The northern regions of the country are mountainous while the southern regions consist of more plains. The highest point is Serra de Estrela and the country features a volcanic lake, the lake of Lagoa das Furnas, on one of the outerlying islands and archipelagos that make up Portugal. About one third of the country is woodland forest. Portugal has a Mediterranean climate. The areas with mountains in the north experience the most extreme temperatures of any area of the country, predictably to a much greater degree during the winter months. Portugal additionally sits at the intersection or conjunction of several tectonic plates, including the Iberian plate.

The first global empire of the world was the Portuguese empire; the country achieved this status during the 15th and 16th centuries during a period called the Age of Discovery. During this period, the Portuguese made numerous sailing trips around the world, making contact with countries and peoples that many people had yet not encountered. The famous explorer Ferdinand Magellan was Portuguese and made his famous voyages around the world during this period on many ships. In fact, Portugal was of the first pioneering countries that contributed to the European reputation for strong navies, armadas, exploration, and colonization.

Europe's exploration of the world begins in the 15th century, pioneered by Portugal. The Portuguese sailors are under the control of Henry, one of the sons of John I. Although no seaman himself, his energy and vision earns him the name by which history knows him - Prince Henry the Navigator. (HistoryWorld, 2012)

As may be inferred from the mention in previously, Portugal was a monarchy until early in the 20th century, when a revolution overturned a fascist monarchy. King Henry I was a monarch that had great influence on Portugal's modern history. In his zest for exploration, trade, and exchange, he made longlasting decisions that still show evidence of his influence presently.

The Portuguese have a long history of being traders as well as explorers and sailors. Their persistence in exploration and trade influence the cultures and economies of cities and countries past and present. The exploration and establish of new and various trade routes made the Portuguese formidable competitors in many industries. Portuguese prowess and affinity for exchange and naval expeditions upset the balance of power and shifted the favor into the direction of Portugal for a time.

The profitable trade in eastern spices is cornered by the Portuguese in the 16th century to the detriment of Venice, which has previously had a virtual monopoly of these valuable commodities - until now brought overland through India and Arabia, and then across the Mediterranean by the Venetians for distribution in western Europe. By establishing the sea route round the Cape, Portugal can undercut the Venetian trade with its profusion of middlemen. (HistoryWorld, 2012)

There are many places along the trade routes of the Portuguese that are named after places in Portugal, and figures in Portuguese history. Portuguese is a language is found in many areas of the world including South America, foremost in Brazil, in Asia, as there is evidence of Portuguese in the Japanese language (abrigado = arigatou = thanks) and throughout Africa. The spread of Portuguese culture through trade and language affected other powerhouses around the world in the 15th -- 17th centuries.

It was during this period that the world felt the influence in other great ways around the world. Baruch Spinoza is a philosopher of great import who lived during the times that Portugal rose an empire. Though born in the Netherlands, Spinoza is of Portuguese ancestry and was raised in a Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam. He is regarded by many prominent philosophers as one of the greatest modern philosophers in the world. His works were translated into several languages during his lifetime and some of his books were even banned by some groups, including Jews. One of his greatest works, Ethics, remains on the curricula for study in universities across the world during his time and presently in the 21st century. On of the late, great modern philosophers, Giles Deleuze, called Spinoza "the prince of philosophers." There have been many people from Portugal and of Portuguese descent born around the world that have and continue to contribute to world history. Some other notable Portuguese figures include singer, Nelly Furtado, and Nobel Peace Prize winning neurologist, Egos Moniz. Former Presidential candidate John Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry, is also of Portuguese descent.

The 18th and 19th centuries were periods of great change for Portugal. There had been tumultuous times for Portugal in the 17th and 18th centuries, as it sporadic periods of that time under the rule of Spain. Spanish control ended when the Duke of Braganza rose to power as king in 1640. (Facts About, 2012) As Portugal moved into the 19th century, there was instability again as Napoleon Bonaparte invades Portugal in 1807. (Facts About, 2012) War ensues throughout Europe and Portugal participates to defend against invaders, sometimes successfully.

With the end of the Peninsular War, and the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, Portugal enters a brief period of political hiatus. The royal family is in exile in Brazil. As a result of the six years of war, British officers are carrying out many of the functions of everyday administration. (HistoryWorld, 2012)

After dispelling Bonaparte and his forces, it is then that Portugal adopts the name of republic and kingdom. Brazil, Portugal's largest colony, declares independence in 1822. (Facts About, 2012) This is a terrible blow for Portugal in many respects. Certainly, Brazil is known for its abundance of natural resources that turned a profit in prior centuries, but products from or derived from the natural resources in Brazil make people millionaires and billionaires in the 21st century. Thus, the loss is clearly an economic one.

On a global scale, with a loss as great as Brazil, other countries do not see Portugal as the powerhouse and leader it once was. Countries (colonies) under its rule take an example from Brazil and begin to expose weaknesses in Portuguese occupation. Culturally, socially, and economically, the loss of Brazil ultimately symbolized Portugal's fall as a global empire in the eyes of the world. Moreover, a great deal of military engagements and conflicts between Portugal and primarily other European countries occurred during the 18th and 19th centuries. For example,

In 1793 Portugal joins the alliance of Europe's monarchies in declaring war against the regicide French republic. But whereas several of the combatants lapse into neutrality or even change sides by 1796, Portugal holds true to the cause of her long-standing ally, England. (HistoryWorld, 2012)

To this day, while Portugal is a country that is respected and revered by some, it is not considered one of greatest and most powerful countries in the world like the United States of America, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, or Russia.

Furthermore, in the beginning of the 20th century, in 1910, a great revolution overthrows the monarchy. Several years later, the world engaged in the first great war. The early and mid 20th century marks another period in Portugal's history where there are a series of devastating conflicts. In contrast to earlier centuries when the…

Sources Used in Document:


Central Intelligence Agency. (2012). Portugal. Available from: 2012 August 01.

Facts About. (2012) Portugal History and Timeline & Facts. Available from: 2012 August 07.

HistoryWorld. (2012). History of Portugal. Available from: 2012 August 04.

Migration Policy Institute. (2002). Portugal Seeks Balance of Emigration, Immigration. Available from: 2012 August 05.

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