A Concise History of Portugal / Edition 2by David Birmingham
Pub. Date: 11/30/2003
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
As a new member of the EEC as well as a emerging tourist attraction, Portugal has in recent years experienced great social and economic change. This concise, illustrated history offers an introduction to its people, culture and evolving role as an imperial power in contemporary Europe.
Table of Contents
Introduction; 1. Peoples, cultures and colonies; 2. Rebellion and revolution in the seventeenth century; 3. The golden age and the earthquake in the eighteenth century; 4. Brazilian independence and the Portuguese Revolution; 5. The bourgeois monarchy and the republicans; 6. The dictatorship and the African empire; 7. Democracy and the European Community; 8. Further reading in English; Annotated bibliography; Select source materials.
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If you read nothing else in David Birmingham's A CONCISE HISTORY OF PORTUGAL (1993, 2003) ponder its 10-page Introduction. If you insist on reading all seven chapters, genealogical charts, maps, sources and other lists, be sure to come back to that Introduction. It is a good Executive Summary of the whole. *** Therein you will notice (reinforced and verified by skimming the generally good Index) that certain biases or beliefs of the author recur: Portugal's aristocracy has always been a drag on the nation's progress, especially economic; the Catholic Church is equally backward; 700 years of skirmishing and warring with next-door neighbor Spain drained Portugal of scarce resources; Portuguese have always been among Europe's worst educated, poorest populations, and more. *** Perhaps the strongest recurring thesis of all is the paradox: "England made Portugal." Author Birmingham marshals his evidence convincingly. (1) English Crusaders were decisive in helping Portuguese remove Muslim invaders from Lusitanian soil many decades sooner than from Spain. Indeed the first bishop of Lisbon was English. (2) Royal Philippa of Lancaster married King John I of Portugal in 1387. She was the eldest daughter of John of Gaunt and sister of usurping King Henry IV of England. Their Luso-Anglo marriage cemented relations with England and their dynasty began with nine children collectively recalled today in Portugal as "the Illustrious Generation." One of those was the great pioneer of navigation and exploration Prince Henry the Navigator, to this day the nation's most revered hero. (3) In 1662 Princess Catherine of Braganza became the Queen Consort of King Charles II of England. She introduced the Portuguese nobility's custom of drinking tea to England. Also important to the King's strapped finances was her dowry which included the gift of Portuguese Bombay in India. And on and on. *** Fascinating also is the story of century upon century of Portuguese exporting of wine to Britain and of the very early dominance of that trade by English businessmen resident first in Lisbon and later in northern Porto on the Doura river down which increasing quantities of wines reached the sea. English consuls in Lisbon and Porto were counted as virtual monarchs with their own mini-courts. Pragmatic ultra-Catholic Portuguese learned the profitability of tolerating English heretics in their midst. Vine culture in Madeira also became part of this bilateral picture. In the 18th Century Portuguese Prime Minister the Marques of Pombal modernized the port wine standards of the Douro valley and port wine laced with brandy then became an unremovable staple at Oxford and Cambridge among dons who served it in the evening with bananas in their lodgings to their brainier students. *** Given its brevity (225 pages), A CONCISE HISTORY OF PORTUGAL is necessarily densely packed with fact, illustrations and speculations as to what made Portugal Portugal. In some real sense Britain made Portugal. -OOO-
This book was a life saver. I had to write an end-of-year paper for my history class about Portugal, and most other books were either outdated, unavailable, or off-topic. This book has accurate facts and presents them in a beautiful, organized manner. I recommend this book to anyone wondering about Portugal or looking for knowledge about the country.