Welcome to a field of past hopes and dreams
The best, and perhaps only way to understand the past is through the marks the actors left for posterity. Now we live in a true information age, in which more knowledge is available to more people than at any time in human history — all at the touch of a computer keyboard. However, while we have information being thrust at us from all directions, we are still left to make sense of it, and that is best done by reading and listening to the words left by those who went before us.
In this section we aim to provide you with accurate English-language versions of archival material relating to the political history of Republican Portugal. Here you will find copies of the several constitutions, the legal texts that defined an era, proclamations from victorious revolutionaries, declarations of intent from the vanquished, speeches, statements, newspaper extracts, and much more, all of which helps tell the story of the Portuguese Republic and the men and women who made it and who continue to make it. All you need do is click on the topics on the left to be taken to our growing collection of documents.
First Republic (1910–26)
The Portuguese Republic had a turbulent beginning as various republican and monarchist factions vied for control of a generally inward-looking 19th-century imperial state that feared its neighbours and which depended over-much on an ultimately unreliable ally in the United Kingdom. The men who breathed life into the First Republic were struggling to defend the lay urban middle-class from the fears of a largely rural and Catholic majority while holding out against the expectations of a disenfranchised and alienated urban working-class. The small group of liberal republicans were always caught between the two stools, as granting concessions to one side inevitably generated discontent on the other. Consequently, the liberal republican regime was always in peril, and it was this struggle that defined the age.
Military Dictatorship (1926–32)
After 16 years of turmoil the army stepped in and settled the question by throwing out the liberal politicians and governing themselves in the name of the nation — a euphemism for the conservative rural majority. However, as is so often the case, the men with swords were found wanting in the art of government, and were unable to bring the order required. The dictatorship turned to Oliveira Salazar, a quietly-spoken professor of economics who promised he had the answers to Portugal's problems.
New State (and Social State) (1932–74)
Six years after taking power, the military returned to barracks, leaving Salazar and his disciples to restore the nation's finances, restructure its institutions and depoliticise the Portuguese people. A deliberately modest conservative dictator during the age of bombast, Salazar kept Portugal out of trouble during the Spanish civil war and World War Two. While mistrustful of the Americans, he was enough of a pragmatist to realise in 1945 that Britain was yesterday's superpower. He gave the Americans a strategically-important Cold War airbase and in return was allowed to take Portugal into NATO — a dictatorship at the heart of the symbol of the western democracies.
Colonial Wars (1961–74)
Salazar, however, viewed the post-war US-encouraged scramble by the European states to dismantle their overseas empires with horror. The Portuguese empire ceased to exist and a new pluri-continental Portugal emerged with provinces in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australasia. However, the myth of the Ultramar did not fool many, and it certainly did not please the Indian Union, which took Goa, Daman and Diu — much to Salazar's consternation (he had expected the small Portuguese garrison to hold off the entire Indian army, or die in the attempt). Then the wars in Africa broke out, embroiling this small, impoverished state in a military, political, social and diplomatic conflict on three separate fronts.
While Portugal's economy continued to grow during the 1960s, the wars in Africa were always there. Young men left the towns and the villages, and those who were not conscripted to fight in Angola, Mozambique or Guinea-Bissau, fled into self-imposed exile in France, Switzerland, Brazil and the United States. The officers who were being sent to fight were trained to think like the liberation movements opposing them. Many of these officers began to question the purpose of the war and to sympathise with their enemies.
Carnation Revolution (25 April 1974)
In the meanwhile, an elderly Salazar fell awkwardly from a chair and struck the back of his head off a stone floor. By September 1968 he was incapable of governing and was replaced by Marcelo Caetano, a choice that did not please everyone in the regime. The new leader changed the name of the regime from the New State to the Social State, and promised liberalisation. However, the wars and resistance from within the regime forced him to renege on many of his promises. His determination to continue the wars, however, was too much for many of those who actually had to fight in them. A corporate grievance within the military gave way to a political movement, the Armed Forces Movement, which was particularly strongly represented in the most difficult war zone — Guinea-Bissau. The MFA had a programme, and on 25 April 1974 it set about ousting the dictatorship it had established 48 years earlier.
Transition to democracy (1976–86)
The Carnation Revolution of 25 April coup gave way to a two-year period known in Portugal simply as PREC (período revolucionário em curso), or 'current revolutionary period'. The regime question came to the fore again: the dictatorship had gone, but what was to replace it? There followed a period of nationalisations, land occupations, protests and demonstrations. Some within the army wanted to install a third-worldist communist non-aligned state, others wished to see a modern European liberal democracy, and there were all ranges of opinion in between (not including those who wanted a return of the dictatorship). Europe and the US watched on, pushing, prodding and providing finance at opportune moments, before finally elements within the army had their say and handed power to the civilian political parties — albeit with a military mentor in the shape of the president and the Council of the Revolution. The new constitution called for a socialist state: the politicians opted for the economic and financial security of the European Community.
Democratic Portugal (1986– )
In 1986 Portugal joined the EU and in 2001 began using the euro currency. A typically European liberal democracy, politically Portugal is now stable, with a range of political opinion expressed in an elected parliament in which everyone accepts the rules of the game. The two main parties, the PS and the PSD have moved ever-closer and now both represent a fairly homogeneous centre-right constituency, generally rotating in power, either alone or in coalition. Around these are the right-wing CDS and the left-wing PCP and BE.
It is now more than 100 years since the republic was proclaimed from the balcony of Lisbon City Hall. During that time, the men and woman who have shaped the country have left their mark. Here you will find some of the documents that contain the words outlining their dreams and their hopes.