Portugal's independence and sovereignty as a nation-state are based on being separate from Spain. Achieving this on a peninsula where its only landward neighbor, Spain, is stronger, richer, larger, and more populous, raises interesting historical questions. Considering the disparity in size of population alone — Spain (as of 2000) had a population of 40 million, whereas Portugal's population numbered little over 10 million—how did Portugal maintain its sometimes precarious independence? If the Basques, Catalans, and Galicians succumbed to Castilian military and political dominance and were incorporated into greater Spain, how did little Portugal manage to survive the "Spanish menace?" A combination of factors enabled Portugal to keep free of Spain, despite the era of "Babylonian Captivity" (1580-1640). These include an intense Portuguese national spirit; foreign assistance in staving off Spanish invasions and attacks between the late 14th century and the mid l9th century, principally through the Anglo- Portuguese Alliance and some assistance from France; historical circumstances regarding Spain's own trials and tribulations and decline in power after 1600.
   In Portugal's long history, Castile and Leon (later "Spain," as unified in the 16th century) acted as a kind of Iberian mother and stepmother, present at Portugal's birth as well as at times when Portuguese independence was either in danger or lost. Portugal's birth as a separate state in the 12th century was in part a consequence of the king of Castile's granting the "County of Portucale" to a transplanted Burgundian count in the late 11th century. For centuries Castile, Leon, Aragon, and Portugal struggled for supremacy on the peninsula, until the Castilian army met defeat in 1385 at the battle of Aljubarrota, thus assuring Portugal's independence for nearly two centuries. Portugal and its overseas empire suffered considerably under rule by Phillipine Spain (1580-1640). Triumphant in the War of Restoration against Spain (1640-68), Portugal came to depend on its foreign alliances to provide a counterweight to a still menacing kindred neighbor. Under the Anglo-Portuguese Alliance, England (later Great Britain) managed to help Portugal thwart more than a few Spanish invasion threats in the next centuries. Rumors and plots of Spain consuming Portugal continued during the 19th century and even during the first Portuguese republic's early years to 1914.
   Following difficult diplomatic relations during Spain's subsequent Second Republic (1931-36) and civil war (1936-39), Luso-Span-ish relations improved significantly under the authoritarian regimes that ruled both states until the mid-1970s. Portugal's prime minister Antônio de Oliveira Salazar and Spain's generalissimo Francisco Franco signed nonaggression and other treaties, lent each other mutual support, and periodically consulted one another on vital questions. During this era (1939-74), there were relatively little trade, business, and cultural relations between the two neighbors, who mainly tended to ignore one another. Spain's economy developed more rapidly than Portugal's after 1950, and General Franco was quick to support the Estado Novo across the frontier if he perceived a threat to his fellow dictator's regime. In January 1962, for instance, Spanish army units approached the Portuguese frontier in case the abortive military coup at Beja (where a Portuguese oppositionist plot failed) threatened the Portuguese dictatorship.
   Since Portugal's Revolution of 25 April 1974, and the death of General Franco and the establishment of democracy in Spain (1975-78), Luso-Spanish relations have improved significantly. Portugal has experienced a great deal of Spanish investment, tourism, and other economic activities, since both Spain and Portugal became members of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1986.
   Yet, Portugal's relations with Spain have become closer still, with increased integration in the European Union. Portugal remains determined not to be confused with Spain, and whatever threat from across the frontier exists comes more from Spanish investment than from Spanish winds, marriages, and armies. The fact remains that Luso-Spanish relations are more open and mutually beneficial than perhaps at any other time in history.

Historical dictionary of Portugal 3rd ed.. . 2014.

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