Empire, Portuguese overseas

(1415-1975)
   Portugal was the first Western European state to establish an early modern overseas empire beyond the Mediterranean and perhaps the last colonial power to decolonize. A vast subject of complexity that is full of myth as well as debatable theories, the history of the Portuguese overseas empire involves the story of more than one empire, the question of imperial motives, the nature of Portuguese rule, and the results and consequences of empire, including the impact on subject peoples as well as on the mother country and its society, Here, only the briefest account of a few such issues can be attempted.
   There were various empires or phases of empire after the capture of the Moroccan city of Ceuta in 1415. There were at least three Portuguese empires in history: the First empire (1415-1580), the Second empire (1580-1640 and 1640-1822), and the Third empire (1822-1975).
   With regard to the second empire, the so-called Phillipine period (1580-1640), when Portugal's empire was under Spanish domination, could almost be counted as a separate era. During that period, Portugal lost important parts of its Asian holdings to England and also sections of its colonies of Brazil, Angola, and West Africa to Holland's conquests. These various empires could be characterized by the geography of where Lisbon invested its greatest efforts and resources to develop territories and ward off enemies.
   The first empire (1415-1580) had two phases. First came the African coastal phase (1415-97), when the Portuguese sought a foothold in various Moroccan cities but then explored the African coast from Morocco to past the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. While colonization and sugar farming were pursued in the Atlantic islands, as well as in the islands in the Gulf of Guinea like São Tomé and Príncipe, for the most part the Portuguese strategy was to avoid commitments to defending or peopling lands on the African continent. Rather, Lisbon sought a seaborne trade empire, in which the Portuguese could profit from exploiting trade and resources (such as gold) along the coasts and continue exploring southward to seek a sea route to Portuguese India. The second phase of the first empire (1498-1580) began with the discovery of the sea route to Asia, thanks to Vasco da Gama's first voyage in 1497-99, and the capture of strong points, ports, and trading posts in order to enforce a trade monopoly between Asia and Europe. This Asian phase produced the greatest revenues of empire Portugal had garnered, yet ended when Spain conquered Portugal and commanded her empire as of 1580.
   Portugal's second overseas empire began with Spanish domination and ran to 1822, when Brazil won her independence from Portugal. This phase was characterized largely by Brazilian dominance of imperial commitment, wealth in minerals and other raw materials from Brazil, and the loss of a significant portion of her African and Asian coastal empire to Holland and Great Britain. A sketch of Portugal's imperial losses either to native rebellions or to imperial rivals like Britain and Holland follows:
   • Morocco (North Africa) (sample only)
   Arzila—Taken in 1471; evacuated in 1550s; lost to Spain in 1580, which returned city to a sultan.
   Ceuta—Taken in 1415; lost to Spain in 1640 (loss confirmed in 1668 treaty with Spain).
   • Tangiers—Taken in 15th century; handed over to England in 1661 as part of Catherine of Braganza's dowry to King Charles II.
   • West Africa
   • Fort/Castle of São Jorge da Mina, Gold Coast (in what is now Ghana)—Taken in 1480s; lost to Holland in 1630s.
   • Middle East
   Socotra-isle—Conquered in 1507; fort abandoned in 1511; used as water resupply stop for India fleet.
   Muscat—Conquered in 1501; lost to Persians in 1650.
   Ormuz—Taken, 1505-15 under Albuquerque; lost to England, which gave it to Persia in the 17th century.
   Aden (entry to Red Sea) — Unsuccessfully attacked by Portugal (1513-30); taken by Turks in 1538.
   • India
   • Ceylon (Sri Lanka)—Taken by 1516; lost to Dutch after 1600.
   • Bombay—Taken in 16th century; given to England in 1661 treaty as part of Catherine of Braganza's dowry for Charles II.
   • East Indies
   • Moluccas—Taken by 1520; possession confirmed in 1529 Saragossa treaty with Spain; lost to Dutch after 1600; only East Timor remaining.
   After the restoration of Portuguese independence from Spain in 1640, Portugal proceeded to revive and strengthen the Anglo- Portuguese Alliance, with international aid to fight off further Spanish threats to Portugal and drive the Dutch invaders out of Brazil and Angola. While Portugal lost its foothold in West Africa at Mina to the Dutch, dominion in Angola was consolidated. The most vital part of the imperial economy was a triangular trade: slaves from West Africa and from the coasts of Congo and Angola were shipped to plantations in Brazil; raw materials (sugar, tobacco, gold, diamonds, dyes) were sent to Lisbon; Lisbon shipped Brazil colonists and hardware. Part of Portugal's War of Restoration against Spain (1640-68) and its reclaiming of Brazil and Angola from Dutch intrusions was financed by the New Christians (Jews converted to Christianity after the 1496 Manueline order of expulsion of Jews) who lived in Portugal, Holland and other low countries, France, and Brazil. If the first empire was mainly an African coastal and Asian empire, the second empire was primarily a Brazilian empire.
   Portugal's third overseas empire began upon the traumatic independence of Brazil, the keystone of the Lusitanian enterprise, in 1822. The loss of Brazil greatly weakened Portugal both as a European power and as an imperial state, for the scattered remainder of largely coastal, poor, and uncolonized territories that stretched from the bulge of West Africa to East Timor in the East Indies and Macau in south China were more of a financial liability than an asset. Only two small territories balanced their budgets occasionally or made profits: the cocoa islands of São Tomé and Príncipe in the Gulf of Guinea and tiny Macau, which lost much of its advantage as an entrepot between the West and the East when the British annexed neighboring Hong Kong in 1842. The others were largely burdens on the treasury. The African colonies were strapped by a chronic economic problem: at a time when the slave trade and then slavery were being abolished under pressures from Britain and other Western powers, the economies of Guinea- Bissau, São Tomé/Príncipe, Angola, and Mozambique were totally dependent on revenues from the slave trade and slavery. During the course of the 19th century, Lisbon began a program to reform colonial administration in a newly rejuvenated African empire, where most of the imperial efforts were expended, by means of replacing the slave trade and slavery, with legitimate economic activities.
   Portugal participated in its own early version of the "Scramble" for Africa's interior during 1850-69, but discovered that the costs of imperial expansion were too high to allow effective occupation of the hinterlands. After 1875, Portugal participated in the international "Scramble for Africa" and consolidated its holdings in west and southern Africa, despite the failure of the contra-costa (to the opposite coast) plan, which sought to link up the interiors of Angola and Mozambique with a corridor in central Africa. Portugal's expansion into what is now Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe (eastern section) in 1885-90 was thwarted by its oldest ally, Britain, under pressure from interest groups in South Africa, Scotland, and England. All things considered, Portugal's colonizing resources and energies were overwhelmed by the African empire it possessed after the frontier-marking treaties of 1891-1906. Lisbon could barely administer the massive area of five African colonies, whose total area comprised about 8 percent of the area of the colossal continent. The African territories alone were many times the size of tiny Portugal and, as of 1914, Portugal was the third colonial power in terms of size of area possessed in the world.
   The politics of Portugal's empire were deceptive. Lisbon remained obsessed with the fear that rival colonial powers, especially Germany and Britain, would undermine and then dismantle her African empire. This fear endured well into World War II. In developing and keeping her potentially rich African territories (especially mineral-rich Angola and strategically located Mozambique), however, the race against time was with herself and her subject peoples. Two major problems, both chronic, prevented Portugal from effective colonization (i.e., settling) and development of her African empire: the economic weakness and underdevelopment of the mother country and the fact that the bulk of Portuguese emigration after 1822 went to Brazil, Venezuela, the United States, and France, not to the colonies. These factors made it difficult to consolidate imperial control until it was too late; that is, until local African nationalist movements had organized and taken the field in insurgency wars that began in three of the colonies during the years 1961-64.
   Portugal's belated effort to revitalize control and to develop, in the truest sense of the word, Angola and Mozambique after 1961 had to be set against contemporary events in Europe, Africa, and Asia. While Portugal held on to a backward empire, other European countries like Britain, France, and Belgium were rapidly decolonizing their empires. Portugal's failure or unwillingness to divert the large streams of emigrants to her empire after 1850 remained a constant factor in this question. Prophetic were the words of the 19th-century economist Joaquim Oliveira Martins, who wrote in 1880 that Brazil was a better colony for Portugal than Africa and that the best colony of all would have been Portugal itself. As of the day of the Revolution of 25 April 1974, which sparked the final process of decolonization of the remainder of Portugal's third overseas empire, the results of the colonization program could be seen to be modest compared to the numbers of Portuguese emigrants outside the empire. Moreover, within a year, of some 600,000 Portuguese residing permanently in Angola and Mozambique, all but a few thousand had fled to South Africa or returned to Portugal.
   In 1974 and 1975, most of the Portuguese empire was decolonized or, in the case of East Timor, invaded and annexed by a foreign power before it could consolidate its independence. Only historic Macau, scheduled for transfer to the People's Republic of China in 1999, remained nominally under Portuguese control as a kind of footnote to imperial history. If Portugal now lacked a conventional overseas empire and was occupied with the challenges of integration in the European Union (EU), Lisbon retained another sort of informal dependency that was a new kind of empire: the empire of her scattered overseas Portuguese communities from North America to South America. Their numbers were at least six times greater than that of the last settlers of the third empire.

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

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