Political History of Twentieth-Century Portugal1
CIDEHUS-University of Évora
Paulo Jorge Fernandes
Autónoma University of Lisbon
Filipe Ribeiro de Meneses
National University of Ireland
The political history of twentieth-century Portugal has recently become
the focus of intense research by historians of that country. This article
attempts both to summarise the political developments of the period
and to provide an English-language readership with an introduction to
the on-going debate. This debate is driven to a great extent by the
attempt to explain the reasons for the longevity of Salazar's New State
and by the attempt to place it within a broader European context. As
a result, the regime immediately preceding the New State, the First
Republic, has been somewhat neglected by Portuguese historians.
Twentieth-Century Portugal, Historiography, Political History, First
Republic (1910-1926), New State (1933-1974)
Contemporary history sells in Portugal, and is a regular presence on the
countrys television screens and in its museums. A handful of historians
has become well known through their regular media presence. While it must
be acknowledged that historical research covering contemporary topics
might seem, to the uninitiated, more accessible than medieval or early
modern studies, which require a number of technical skills, notably palaeography,
the reasons for this sudden awakening of interest in twentieth-century
events both among producers and consumers of history lies elsewhere, and
is intimately related to the political events which shaped Portugals
recent past. Towering over other issues lies Salazars New State:
its origins, its nature, its ability to survive for so long, its place
in a wider European context, its demise and its consequences. All of these
are topics that the Portuguese, whether or not part of the academic community,
want to understand, having been unable to discuss them fully while events
were underway, either because of direct censorship or as a result of a
more subtle tactic: the encouragement of historical activity dedicated
to earlier, and less politically troubling, periods, such as the mediaeval
monarchy or the 'Discoveries'.
As was mentioned in an earlier article,2 Salazars New
State rested on the belief that Portugals decadence, which it had
halted and reversed, had been inextricably linked to the untimely adoption,
and subsequent degeneration, of liberal politics. Detailed and critical
evaluations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which might challenge
this belief, were discouraged. And when, in April 1974, Salazars
successor, Marcello Caetano, was overthrown, the balance was excessively
tipped in the other direction, with a refusal to acknowledge the inherent
difficulties faced by Salazars republican predecessors and the mistakes
they committed while in power, which so alienated a considerable part
of the politicised population. What has emerged since the revolutionary
period of the mid-1970s, however, as the political passions of the period
have died down, is a fresher and more objective approach to twnetieth-century
events, an approach guided not by remembered or inherited beliefs about
events and protagonists but by a return to the fundamental activity of
the historian: the attempt to reconstitute the past on the basis of the
A second reason for the recent rise in popularity of contemporary history
in Portugal is that the very questions historians are asking of the past
have changed. As was mentioned in the already alluded-to article, political
history is making a comeback, and this is the type of history that most
appeals to a public eager for answers about Portugals recent past.
This new history, while not discarding the conclusions reached by successive
generations of social and economic historians, concerns itself above all
with the political realm, from the local to the global sphere, identifying
those in positions of influence and seeking to understand the motivation
for their actions. Its necessity and appeal after decades of intense political
strife is obvious.
The objective of this article is to cast an eye over these recent historiographical
developments in Portugal, making their conclusions available to both English
speakers and those who, about to embark on a research project dedicated
to contemporary Portugal, need a quick guide to existing secondary material.
As a result, mention is also made of recent historical work published
in English by Portuguese and non-Portuguese historians.
The large number of competing multi-volume histories of Portugal is one
of the defining characteristics of the Portuguese historiographical scene.
In virtue of the names associated with these works, they are an obligatory
point of departure for aspiring researchers on Portuguese topics. We begin,
therefore, by examining the most important of these histories in relation
to the twentieth century. The final three volumes of Damião Peres História de Portugal are an obvious starting point, although
there was an inescapable political agenda permeating the work.3 It remains essential reading, however, especially in relation to the First
Republic (1910-1926), which is examined in considerable detail. A similar
criticism can be made of Joaquim Veríssimo Serrãos História de Portugal,4 whose volumes XI-XIV cover
the First Republic and the New State, and which often (especially in the
case of Volume XII) becomes too detailed and list-like to accomplish its
More significant are Volumes XI and XII of the Nova História
de Portugal, directed by Joel Serrão and A. H. de Oliveira
Marques. Volume XI, co-ordinated by A. H. de Oliveira Marques himself,
is dedicated to the First Republic and Volume XII, entrusted to Fernando
Rosas, covers the New State until 1960. Heavily influenced by the Annales school, they pay special attention to social and economic factors,
relegating a narrative of the period to a final chapter. The seventh volume
of José Mattosos História de Portugal, almost
exclusively written by Fernando Rosas, marks an important step in the
historiography of the New State. The final volume, entrusted to José
Medeiros Ferreira, is completely dedicated to the post-1974 period. The
twentieth century takes up three of the fifteen published volumes of João
Medinas História de Portugal dos tempos pre-históricos
aos nossos dias. Some other general works should be included in this
survey. João Medinas História contemporânea
de Portugal (1990), in seven volumes, is remarkable for its (not always
successful) mix of primary and secondary sources of the most varied background. Portugal contemporâneo (1989-1990), directed by António
Reis and made up, in its first edition, of six volumes, is another useful
starting point for research covering the twentieth century despite being
clearly aimed at a general public.
Other useful sources of information are historical dictionaries. The publication
of Joel Serrãos Dicionário de história de
Portugal was recently restarted (1999-2000), with three volumes dedicated
exclusively to the New State, coordinated by António Barreto and
Maria Filomena Mónica. Some of the entries in these later volumes
are remarkable for their essay-like style. The Dicionário de
história do Estado Novo (1996), in two volumes, coordinated
by Fernando Rosas and José Maria Brandão de Brito, is another
work whose pioneering nature should be emphasized. Important in the identification
of a national political elite is the Dicionário biográfico
parlamentar. A. H de Oliveira Marques (2000) has edited a volume covering
the First Republic and António Costa Pinto is currently doing the
same for the period 1926-1974.
For the English-language reader an obvious starting point is Douglas Wheelers Historical dictionary of Portugal (1993), while an important collection
of introductory essays is to be found in Modern Portugal, edited by António
Costa Pinto (1998). In the wake of the 1974 revolution a number of English-language
histories of contemporary Portugal appeared (Robinson, 1979; Gallagher,
1983), although their usefulness is growing increasingly limited as a
result of new research taking place in Portugal.
of the Twentieth Century: from 5 October 1910 to 25 April 1974
The First Republic (1910-1926)
The First Republic has, over the course of a recent past, lost many historians
to the New State. As a result, it will be difficult to attempt a global
synthesis of the republican period in view of the important gaps that
still persist in our knowledge of its political history. As far as the
October 1910 Revolution is concerned, a number of valuable studies have
been made (Wheeler, 1972), first among which ranks Vasco Pulido Valentes
polemical thesis. This historian posited the Jacobin and urban nature
of the revolution carried out by the Portuguese Republican Party (PRP)
and claimed that the PRP had turned the republican regime into a de
facto dictatorship (Pulido Valente, 1982). This vision clashes with
an older interpretation of the First Republic as a progressive and increasingly
democratic regime which presented a clear contrast to Salazars ensuing
dictatorship (Oliveira Marques, 1991).
A republican Constitution was approved in 1911, inaugurating a parliamentary
regime with reduced presidential powers and two chambers of parliament
(Miranda, 2001). The Republic provoked important fractures within Portuguese
society, notably among the essentially monarchist rural population, in
the trade unions, and in the Church. Even the PRP had to endure the secession
of its more moderate elements, who formed conservative republican parties
like the Evolutionist party and the Republican Union. In spite of these
splits the PRP, led by Afonso Costa, preserved its dominance, largely
due to a brand of clientelist politics inherited from the monarchy (Lopes,
1994). In view of these tactics, a number of opposition forces were forced
to resort to violence in order to enjoy the fruits of power. There are
few recent studies of this period of the Republics existence, known
as the old Republic. Nevertheless, an essay by Vasco Pulido
Valente should be consulted (1997a), as should the attempt to establish
the political, social, and economic context made by M. Villaverde Cabral
The PRP viewed the outbreak of the First World War as a unique opportunity
to achieve a number of goals: putting an end to the twin threats of a
Spanish invasion of Portugal and of foreign occupation of the colonies
and, at the internal level, creating a national consensus around the regime
and even around the party (Teixeira, 1996a). These domestic objectives
were not met, since participation in the conflict was not the subject
of a national consensus and since it did not therefore serve to mobilise
the population. Quite the opposite occurred: existing lines of political
and ideological fracture were deepened by Portugals intervention
in the First World War (Ribeiro de Meneses, 2000). The lack of consensus
around Portugals intervention in turn made possible the appearance
of two dictatorships, led by General Pimenta de Castro (January-May 1915)
and Sidónio Pais (December 1917-December 1918).
Sidonismo, also known as Dezembrismo, has aroused a strong
interest among historians, largely as a result of the elements of modernity
that it contains (José Brandão, 1990; Ramalho, 1998; Ribeiro
de Meneses, 1998, Armando Silva, 1999; Samara, 2003 and Santos, 2003).
António José Telo has made clear the way in which this regime
predated some of the political solutions invented by the totalitarian
and fascist dictatorships of the 1920s and 1930s (Teixeira, 2000, pp.
11-24). Sidónio Pais undertook the rescue of traditional values,
notably the Pátria, and attempted to rule in a charismatic
fashion. A move was made to abolish traditional political parties and
to alter the existing mode of national representation in parliament (which,
it was claimed, exacerbated divisions within the Pátria) through
the creation of a corporative Senate, the founding of a single party (the Partido Nacional Republicano), and the attribution of a mobilising
function to the Leader. The State carved out an economically interventionist
role for itself while, at the same time, repressing working-class movements
and leftist republicans. Sidónio Pais also attempted to restore
public order and to overcome, finally, some of the rifts of the recent
past, making the Republic more acceptable to monarchists and Catholics.
The vacuum of power created by Sidónio Pais murder (Medina,
1994) on 14 December 1918 led the country to a brief civil war. The monarchys
restoration was proclaimed in the north of Portugal on 19 January 1919
and, four days later, a monarchist insurrection broke out in Lisbon. A
republican coalition government, led by José Relvas, coordinated
the struggle against the monarchists by loyal army units and armed civilians.
After a series of clashes the monarchists were definitively chased from
Oporto on 13 February 1919. This military victory allowed the PRP to return
to government and to emerge triumphant from the elections held later that
year, having won the usual absolute majority.
It was during this restoration of the old Republic that an
attempted reform was carried out in order to provide the regime with greater
stability. In August 1919 a conservative President was elected
António José de Almeida (whose Evolutionist party had come
together in wartime with the PRP to form a flawed, because incomplete,
Sacred Union) and his office was given the power to dissolve Parliament.
Relations with the Holy See, restored by Sidónio Pais, were preserved.
The President used his new power to resolve a crisis of government in
May 1921, naming a Liberal government (the Liberal party being the result
of the postwar fusion of Evolutionists and Unionists) to prepare the forthcoming
elections. These were held on 10 July 1921 with victory going, as was
usually the case, to the party in power. However, Liberal government did
not last long. On 19 October a military pronunciamento was carried
out during which and apparently against the wishes of the coups
leaders a number of prominent conservative figures, including Prime
Minister António Granjo, were assassinated. This event, known as
the night of blood (Brandão, 1991) left a deep wound
among political elites and public opinion. There could be no greater demonstration
of the essential fragility of the Republics institutions and proof
that the regime was democratic in name only, since it did not even admit
the possibility of the rotation in power characteristic of the elitist
regimes of the nineteenth century.
A new round of elections on 29 January 1922 inaugurated a fresh period
of stability, since the PRP once again emerged from the contest with an
absolute majority. Discontent with this situation had not, however, disappeared.
Numerous accusations of corruption, and the manifest failure to resolve
pressing social concerns wore down the more visible PRP leaders while
making the oppositions attacks more deadly. At the same time, moreover,
all political parties suffered from growing internal faction-fighting,
especially the PRP itself. The party system was fractured and discredited
(Lopes, 1994; João Silva, 1997). This is clearly shown by the fact
that regular PRP victories at the ballot box did not lead to stable government.
Between 1910 and 1926 there were forty-five governments. The opposition
of presidents to single-part governments, internal dissent within the
PRP, the partys almost non-existent internal discipline, and its
constant and irrational desire to group together and lead all republican
forces made any governments task practically impossible. Many different
formulas were attempted, including single-party governments, coalitions,
and presidential executives, but none succeeded. Force was clearly the
sole means open to the opposition if it wanted to enjoy the fruits of
power (Schwartzman, 1989; Pinto, 2000).
By the mid-1920s the domestic and international scenes began to favour
another authoritarian solution, wherein a strengthened executive might
restore political and social order. Since the oppositions constitutional
route to power was blocked by the various means deployed by the PRP to
protect itself, it turned to the army for support. The armed forces, whose
political awareness had grown during the war, and many of whose leaders
had not forgiven the PRP for sending it to a war it did not want to fight,
seemed to represent, to conservative forces, the last bastion of order
against the chaos that was taking over the country. Links
were established between conservative figures and military officers, who
added their own political and corporative demands to the already complex
equation. The pronunciamento of 28 May 1926 enjoyed the support
of most army units and even of most political parties. As had been the
case in December 1917, the population of Lisbon did not rise to defend
the Republic, leaving it at the mercy of the army (Ferreira, 1992a). There
are few global and up-to-date studies of this turbulent third phase of
the Republics existence (Marques, 1973; Telo, 1980 & 1984).
Nevertheless, much has been written about the crisis and fall of the regime
and the 28 May movement (Cruz, 1986; Cabral, 1993; Rosas, 1997; Martins,
1998; Pinto, 2000; Afonso, 2001). The First Republic continues to be the
subject of an intense debate which is impossible to summarise in these
pages. A recent historiographical balance sheet elaborated by Armando
Malheiro da Silva (2000) is a good introduction into this debate. Nevertheless,
one can distinguish three main interpretations. For some historians, the
First Republic was a progressive and increasingly democratic regime.5 For others, it was essentially a prolongation of the liberal and elitist
regimes of the nineteenth century.6 A third group, finally,
chooses to highlight the regimes revolutionary, Jacobin, and dictatorial
English-language interest in the First Republic was for a long time restricted
to American historian Douglas Wheeler, whose pioneering political history
of the period remains even today a useful summary (1978). Portugals
participation in the First World War, and its alliance with Britain, generated
some interest, and a steady number of theses and articles. Of special
notice are the works of John Vincent-Smith covering Portuguese-British
diplomatic relations from 1910 to 1916 (Vincent-Smith, 1974 & 1975).
Few of these, however, became books, and Portugals role in the Great
War remains, to a large extent, shrouded in mystery (see, nevertheless,
Ribeiro de Meneses 1998a and 2000a). An interesting analysis of the religious
question during the period has been made by R.A.H. Robinson (1977 &
Military Dictatorship (1926-1933) and the New State (1933-1974)
dictatorship of 1926 to 1933 was a period of intense struggle for political
power, whether it be among those within the army or between the army and
its opponents. It is also a period marked by the ascent of Salazar and
his inner circle: of the men who, together, would build the New State
(1933-1974). It is for this reason that the period, along with the first
years of the New State, has received so much historiographical attention.8
The successful pronunciamento of 1926 was carried out by an extremely
varied group which included monarchists, fascists, conservatives, liberals,
and even those to the left of the PRP. Its first objective was precisely
to remove the PRP from power. Once this was achieved, a struggle for power
and for the ideological direction of the dictatorship broke out almost
immediately. On 9 July the most visible figures of the coup, General Gomes
da Costa and Commander Mendes Cabeçadas, were driven from power
in order for another general, Óscar Carmona, to take up the position
of Prime Minister. After direct and uncontested presidential elections
Carmona rose to the presidency on 25 March 1928. The financial instability
of the first years of the dictatorship forced Carmona to appoint António
Oliveira Salazar as his Minister of Finance on 18 April 1928. This Coimbra
academic entered the cabinet thanks to his reputation as a specialist
in financial matters and was able to satisfy, in his first year, the needs
of employers and of the countrys middle class, delivering a balanced
budget, financial and monetary stabilisation, and the promise of an economic
relaunch of the country thanks to direct State intervention. With the
financial crisis thus resolved, the question of the political course of
the dictatorship became more acute: what would be the armys alternative
to the First Republic? Three groups can be identified in the struggle
to provide the generals with a working alternative: Conservative republicans,
right-wing radicals, and Salazars own faction, the Catholic Centre
Generals Vicente de Freitas and Ivens Ferraz attempted, through their
action while in government (until 1930), to regenerate the Republic through
a simultaneous strengthening of the executive branch, of public order,
and of the States authority, taking care not to destroy the basic
features of a democratic regime. However, the prestige acquired by Salazar
through his financial policies allowed him to gather up the support of
the more conservative elements within the army, notably President Carmona,
in order to deprive the reforming republicans of power and so create an
authoritarian regime in Portugal. On January 1930 General Domingos Oliveira
was entrusted with the formation of a government which marked a new departure.
Still limited, officially, to the Finance portfolio, Salazar had become
the de facto ideological and political leader of the dictatorship.
He was asked to form a government in 1932. Already in 1930 a civilian
structure capable of harnessing the support of all conservative forces
that approved of the nascent regime was created. This União
Nacional (UN) was conceived initially as a civic association, although
it carried out the typical functions of a political party. Despite this,
it was destined never to control either the government or the State (Cruz,
The institutionalisation of the New State depended on the elaboration
of a new Constitution. In 1933 a balance was finally found among all the
forces which supported Salazars project. The resulting Constitution
reinforced the power of the government and combined democratic principles
and measures (limited, in practice, by the governments power to
legislate) with authoritarian elements (Rosas, 1992). The radical and
fascist Right considered the new Constitution to be too centrist and the
UN to be too static to mobilise public opinion. It refused to join the
UN and in 1932 a National-Syndicalist movement was formed under the leadership
of Rolão Preto. Salazar, who had used this group to defeat the
conservative republicans in 1929-30, now turned against them, launching
a systematic campaign which would culminate in Rolão Pretos
exile in 1934. After this, many national-syndicalists would adhere to
the UN, wherein they would continue to push for fascist solutions to the
regimes problems (Pinto, 1999).
Salazar was able to create consensus among the countrys elite, resisting
both the liberal-democratic and the fascist threats. But as the New State
rooted itself more firmly, it also had to face threats from outside the
original 1926 coalition. From 1926 to 1934 there were a number of military
and civilian revolts against the new authoritarian institutions (Farinha,
1998). The workers movement, the Socialist and Communist parties,
and the old republicans were never able, however, to come together within
and outside Portugal in order to take the fight to the dictatorship in
a concerted fashion. By 1934 all political and syndicalist leaders opposed
to the New State and to corporativism (Lucena, 1976; Wiarda, 1977; Patriarca,
1995 & 2000) were either in exile or behind bars. The States
repressive system was improved through the creation of a new political
police (Gallagher, 1979; Wheeler, 1983; Ribeiro 1995) and with the perfecting
of censorship, which allowed for the regime to legitimise itself through
the 1934 elections to the new National Assembly (Rosas, 1985). The threat
of the Spanish Second Republic (Oliveira, 1986) and the subsequent Civil
War (Oliveira, 1987; Rosas, 1998) forced the regime to move further towards
the authoritarian Right and the fascist model through the creation of
organisations such as the National Foundation for Joy in the Workplace
(Valente, 1999), the Portuguese Youth, and a party militia, the Portuguese
Legion (Rodrigues, 1996), as well as by stepping up the personality cult
These steps are behind an intense debate over the question of whether
or not Salazar can be classified as Fascist (Pinto, 1995; Torgal, 1992;
Nunes, 1993a). Two broad currents have emerged, classified by Fernando
Rosas as the taxidermists and the historicists
(VA, 1989a, pp. 21-29). Different theoretical presuppositions and analytical
models are behind this debate, producing, obviously, distinct results.
For the former, the New State was an authoritarian regime, close to fascism
but alien to it both because of its origins and because of its evolution.9 For the latter, this was a fascist regime, endowed, of course, with a
set of distinct national features.10 Salazars was a
fascism devoid of a fascist movement (Lucena, 1976, Vol. I, p. 27).
Portugal adopted, during the Second World War, a 'policy of neutrality'
which, after 1943, became a 'neutral collaboration' with the Allies (Telo,
1987, 1990 & 1991b; VA, 1989c; Peter, 1996; Wylie, 2001). Of late
there has been a certain amount of polemical discussion over the economic
links with Nazi Germany, especially around the questions of wolfram exports
(Wheeler, 1986) and the so-called Nazi gold (Telo, 1999, 2000;
Louçã, 1998, 2000). Internally, the Second World War led
to an increase in social agitation and to the reorganisation of the opposition
now clearly under the control of the clandestine Portuguese Communist
Party (PCP). It also fed the hopes for a democratisation of the regime.
Both tactics for the removal of Salazar from power legal or armed
were to fail, however. A common opposition front, the Movimento
para a Unidade Democrática (MUD), attempted to take part in
the 1945 elections, but withdrew from them once it realised that there
were no guarantees that, as Salazar had originally promised, these would
be free and fair. Its leadership was subsequently arrested.
In the wake of war, Salazar was able to split the opposition, neutralising
its more radical elements and including moderates in the regime. It was
only in the run-up to legislative and presidential elections that the
political and social order was threatened through the appearance of opposition
candidacies. The greatest threat of all occurred in 1958 when general
Humberto Delgado, who had reached a position of prominence within the
New State, mounted a bid for the presidency in opposition to the UNs
candidate, admiral Américo Tomás. Delgado was able to mobilise
all opposition forces behind his bid and famously threatened to remove
Salazar from the government once he had won the election. As was widely
predicted, however, Tomás emerged victorious from the poll thanks
to widespread electoral rigging. Nevertheless, the threat posed by the
direct election of the President to the New State was realised by Salazar,
who altered the Constitution in order to prevent future destabilising
bids (Raby, 1988; Delgado, 1998).
Delgados bid for the presidency led to the emergence of serious
fractures within the New State, giving rise to a long period of unrest.
That this was not manifested more clearly was the result of the outbreak
of the colonial wars (Pinto, 2001), which also prevented any attempt to
modernise the regime as Salazar sought the backing of a more conservative
and loyal cabinet. Only after Salazars health was permanently impaired,
in 1968, could an attempted modernisation take place, thanks to the selection
of a new premier, Marcelo Caetano. The new government generated great
hopes of significant liberal reforms through a softening of censorship
laws, the permitted return of political exiles, and greater syndical freedom.
In 1969, Caetano sponsored the entry of a reformist current a liberal
wing made up of relatively young modernisers who pushed both for
economic growth in a European setting and political modernisation
into the National Assembly (Castilho, 2000). This overall timid push for
change met with strong resistance from a conservative wing led by President
Américo Tomás, a strong supporter of the existing order
and of the colonial war. Marcelo Caetano was forced to give in to this
group, calling a halt to the reformist programme. It was too late, however,
to quiet the opposition of students (Proença, 1999), among other
social players, as well as to restrain the growth of opposition parties,
who would again bear the full weight of the regimes repressive nature
The colonial wars played a vital role in the resolution of the problem.
They divided the regimes supporters, including the Catholic Church
(Cruz, 1998) and the armed forces (Ferreira, 1992a). Some of the highest-ranking
officers in the army, including generals Spínola and Costa Gomes,
criticised publicly the governments colonial policy, for which they
were forced to resign from their posts. The political immobility to which Marcelismo was condemned; the inability to generate a political
solution to the colonial conflict; and the defence of corporative rights
by career officers, who viewed the expansion of the army as a threat to
their livelihood: all contributed to a rising of the increasingly politicised
mid-ranking officers, designed to end the war and carry out a change of
regime. A coup was carried out on 25 April 1974 with the support of a
majority within both the armed forces and the population of Lisbon (Graham,
1979; Sánchez Cervelhó, 1993; Ferreira, 1994).
The New State, as can be imagined, proved to be a richer pasture for English-language
historians than previous periods. Much of this interest arose the moment
the regime fell. There was a sudden rush to explain what had just happened
in Portugal, and how a dictatorship begun in the 1930s, before that of
Hitler, had survived well into the 1970s. Douglas Porch concentrated his
attention on the Portuguese army in a hurried and very partial work (Porch,
1977). More thoughtful and comprehensive attempts were made by R.A.H.
Robinson (1979) and Tom Gallagher (1983). The nature and working arrangements
of Portuguese corporativism have been explored in some detail (Schmitter,
1975, 1978 & 1980; Wiarda, 1977; Wiarda & Mott, 2001), as have
been aspects of Portugals involvement in the Second World War (Wheeler,
1983; Stone, 1994; Peter, 1996). Malyn Newitt has long been charting the
history of the Portuguese colonial empire (1981), a subject recently summarised
by David Birmingham (1999), while D.L. Raby attempted to chronicle the
experiences and internal rivalries of the opposition to Salazar (1988).
A number of extremely useful works has also been published in English
relating to the fall of the New State and its international consequences,
notably in Africa. Maxwells already mentioned The making of Portuguese
democracy is one (1995); another is Norrie MacQueens The
decolonization of Portuguese Africa (1997).
Studies on Twentieth-Century Politics
After this brief sketch of the political evolution of twentieth-century
Portuguese politics, we must now address in greater detail some specific
issues of this evolution, as was done above in relation to the nineteenth
century. Elections and electoral systems have not been the subject of
any great attention by Portuguese historiography. As regards the First
Republic, the standard reference work continues to be the História
da Primeira República Portuguesa, edited by A. H. de Oliveira
Marques in the 1970s (Marques, n.d.) In it can be found an analysis of
electoral legislation as well as results, expressed in a series of tables
and maps. Little advance was subsequently made in the study and analysis
of Portuguese voting patterns. There is a basic and fundamental lack of
individual studies about individual elections (Menezes, 1992). There is
no overall study of local elections. The new regime looked like a democracy:
but no movement was made, despite repeated promises, towards universal
suffrage. Patronage networks and the caciquismo typical of the
constitutional monarchy remained in place, and in fact acts of political
violence became common and widespread, carried out by the PRPs supporters
against all opposition forces (Lopes, 1994). Little interest has also
been manifested in the elections held during the New State, whose outcome
was of course known well in advance. However, the few studies so far carried
out show how both regime and opposition attributed considerable importance
to these elections (Schmitter, 1978; Rosas, 1985; Cruz, 1986 & 1988;
There have been some attempts to examine the internal and external propaganda
effort of the New State, directed by the Secretariado de Propaganda
Nacional (Paulo, 1994; Ramos do Ó, 1999; Medina, 2000).
Political elites, meanwhile, have been traditionally ignored (Lewis, 1978;
Schmitter, 1980). The situation is changing as a result of the arrival
of a new generation of historians. Political elites, notably at a parliamentary
and government level, have become the subject of great interest (VA, 2001a;
Carvalho, 2002; Pinto, 2003). Attempts have been made, as was earlier
pointed out, to collect the biographies of all Portuguese parliamentarians
(Marques, 2000), as well as comparing the biographies of Portuguese ministers
with those of their southern European counterparts.11 Beyond
these collective efforts, local elites are being fleshed out by individual
researchers (Almeida, 1997; Baiôa, 2000). Biography is also increasingly
important, and numerous masters and doctoral thesis have been dedicated
to selected Portuguese personalities. However, there is still a good way
to go in order to reach the level of coverage to be found in other countries.
There are, for example, no modern biographies dedicated to the two politicians
who left the greatest mark on the First Republic and the New State, Afonso
Costa (Oliveira Marques, 1975) and Salazar12. Most biographical
details are to be found in encyclopaedias and historical dictionaries,
but some progress has been made in recent years (Ventura, 1994; Leal,
1994; VA, 2001; Vieira, (2001-2003); Valente, 2002; Pinto 2002a). There
have been works on Norton de Matos (Norton, 2002), Sidónio Pais
(Ramalho, 1998; Armando Silva, 1999), New State minister and diplomat
Armindo Monteiro (Oliveira, 2000), Raul Proença, a leading intellectual
figure of the first half of the century (Reis, 2000), and Álvaro
Cunhal, leader of the PCP during the second half of the century (José
Pacheco Pereira, 1999 & 2001), as well as all who have so far served
as President (Pinto, 2001a).
The First Republic has been described as a dominant-party parliamentary
regime (Sousa, 1982). For Portuguese historiography in general, the political
supremacy of the PRP, the parliamentary drive of the 1911 Constitution,
the electoral mechanisms which made difficult the access of opposition
parties to political institutions and, above all, the practices inherited
from the constitutional monarchy all help to explain the instability,
the violence, and the lack of legitimacy of the republican regime (Lopes,
1994). There is, however, a great deal of speculation taking place, since
there are still no systematic examinations of either the parties themselves
or of the party system. Little progress has been made in the study of
the largest parties of the period (João Silva, 1997). Portuguese
historiography has been attracted by smaller and more marginal movements
and parties, especially those which enjoyed some continuity with the parties
on the political scene after 1974. Studies were thus made of the Socialist
and Communist parties (Maria Filomena Mónica, 1985; Cunha, 1992)
and of those which inspired the builders of the New State. We thus know
more about the Portuguese Catholic Centre (Cruz, 1980; Seabra, 1993; Alves,
1996), the Lusitanian Integralists (Cruz, 1986; Leal, 1999; Pinto, 1999)
and other fascist groupings than we know about the main party of the period,
Solid research has been carried out into the UN, whose limitations as
a movement have already been noted. One historian, in view of these limitations,
described the New State as a State with a single party,
rather than a single-party State (Braga da Cruz, 1988, p. 62). Similar
research has also been conducted in the field of the radical right-wing
movements which, close to fascism, appeared in Portugal in the 1920s and
1930s (Pinto, 1999). Despite these general works, there is still a need
for studies about more specific subject matter and periods which might
allow for a more critical reading of the pioneering studies which have
become standard readings in Portuguese historiography. Opposition forces
have been paid less attention, largely as a result of their dispersed
nature, their lack of internal cohesion and, of course, the lack of materials.
Nevertheless, historians have focused on republican movements attempting
to overthrow the military dictatorship and the nascent New State (Cruz,
1986; Farinha, 1998) and on the extremely durable PCP (José Pacheco
Pereira, 1993; Raby, 1990; Cunha, 1992; Madeira, 1996).
The nineteenth-century origins of Republican, socialist and anarchist
ideologies have received more historiographical attention than their later
twentieth-century developments. (Homem, 1990; Freire, 1992; Ramos, 2001;
Catroga, 2000). More conservative ideologies have been studied primarily
in regards of their contribution to the New State. The ideological basis
of this regime can be found at a crossroads between Catholic politics,
Integralism, Fascism, and the earlier liberal traditions (Cruz, 1980,
1986 & 1988; Nunes, 1993b; Leal, 1999; Pinto, 1999; Medina, 2000).
Portuguese international relations in the twentieth century have been
marked by a hesitation over whether to embrace Europe or to find comfort
in the colonies (Ferreira, 1993; Telo, 1993; Teixeira, 1996b; Alexandre,
2000; Martínez, 2001; Martins, 2001). They were, of course, governed
for a long time by the all-important British alliance (Rosas, 1988; Stone,
1994) and the Spanish threat (Torre Gómez, 1980, 1985; Oliveira,
1986, 1987 & 1995; Ferreira, 1989; Loff, 1996; Telo, 2000a). An effort
was nevertheless made to diversify Portugals diplomatic options
and to participate in the great decision-making centres such as the Peace
Conference of 1919 (Ferreira, 1992b), the League of Nations, the United
Nations, the European Organisation for Economic Cooperation (Rollo, 1994)
and NATO (Telo, 1996). Membership of the EEC became possible only through
the process of democratisation begun in 1974 (Pinto, 2002). Although great
strides have been made into the Portuguese-Spanish relationship, there
remains a great dearth of material covering Portugals relationship
with individual countries, despite some inroads made in relation to the
United States of America (Antunes, 1986, 1992 &1993; Rodrigues, 2002),
Italy (Schirò, 1997; Salvadorini, 2000), France (Derou, 1986, Janeiro,
1988), Germany (VA, 1996; Louçã, 1998, 2000; Telo, 1999,
2000; Medina Guevara, 1997), and Ireland (Ribeiro de Meneses, 2002).
Military interference in politics has been a constant feature of contemporary
Portugal, and it has been the subject of much historical writing (Carrilho,
1985; Ferreira, 1992a; Caeiro, 1997; Martelo, 1999; Faria, 2001). Less
attention has been paid to the armys performance on the battlefield,
(Pélissier, 1997; Teixeira, 1998), although the first studies of
the colonial campaigns are now emerging (Guerra, 1994; Cann, 1998; VA,
2000; Afonso, 2000; Pinto, 2001; Teixeira, 2001 & 2002). Classic works
on national and local administration (VA, 1998; Oliveira, 1996; Silveira,
1997b) and modern studies on public opinion (Vaz, 1997) and the media
(Cádima, 1996) have also aroused much interest among the academic
community, although much remains to be done.
The overthrow of the New State in 1974 did not bring in its wake, as might
have been expected, academic recognition of the political history of twentieth-century
Portugal as a valid field of research. Marxism, structuralism and the
Annales school all combined to stifle this discipline through the 1970s
and 1980s. Few dared, from either within or outside university circles,
to write a biography, or to analyse an election. The 1990s witnessed the
inversion of this trend, with political history acquiring both a set of
dedicated practitioners and a considerable mediatic presence. Some experienced
researchers and a new generation of historians, trained in the 1990s,
have been able to restore the discipline of political history to its rightful
place in academic life, thus providing a new boost in terms of
quality and quantity to Portugals historiographical output.
Nevertheless, there remain important gaps in the political history of
the twentieth century, as even this short and imperfect overview was able
to demonstrate. The lack of biographical studies of even the most important
figures of the period (beginning with Salazar himself) remains acute;
the workings of most political formations are still largely ignored, and
the whole of the First Republic remains insufficiently studied, overshadowed
as it is in terms of both popular and academic interest by the New State.
1 A version of this article was published in Historia y Política:
Ideas, procesos y movimientos sociales, no. 7, Madrid, Universidad
Complutense de Madrid e Editorial Biblioteca Nueva, 2002, pp. 11-54.
2 See The Political History of Nineteenth-Century Portugal, e-Journal of Portuguese History, Volume 1, number 1, Summer 2003,
by the same authors, for a wider discussion of political history´s
place in Portuguese historiography.
3 This is especially true of the final volume, written not
by Damião Peres himself but rather by one of Salazar´s
ex-ministers, Franco Nogueira, and published in 1981.
4 Veríssimo Serrão writes, in the preface to
the first edition of the work, 'May the História de Portugal accomplish its goal: helping the Portuguese to feel a renewed pride
in the past of a nation which rendered the greatest of services to the
progress of Humanity (
5 At the head of these historians stands A. H. de Oliveira
6 Among these the names of António Costa Pinto, António
José Telo, Fernando Farelo Lopes, and João B. Serra stand
7 See, for example, the works of Vasco Pulido Valente and
8 For the period of military dictatorship, see Wheelers
general account (1988) and Baiôa's bibliographical survey (1994).
The best narrative accounts of the period of the New State are to be
found in the above-cited general works. See also the following conference
proceedings and detailed studies: Various Authors (VA), 1987, 1989a
9 See studies by Manuel Braga da Cruz and António
10 See works published on the subject by Fernando Rosas and
11 Pedro Tavares de Almeida and António Costa Pinto,
The Portuguese Ministers, 1851-1999, in Pedro Tavares de
Almeida and António Costa Pinto (eds), Regime change and ministerial
recruitment in Southern Europe in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries (to be published).
12 The most extensive biography of the dictator was written
by one of his former ministers, Franco Nogueira (Nogueira, 1977-1985).
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2004, ISSN 1645-6432
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