Portuguese Empire

gigatos | May 27, 2022


Portuguese Empire or Portuguese Colonial Empire in history, being considered the oldest of the modern European colonial empires, spanning nearly six centuries of existence, from the Conquest of Ceuta in 1415 to the devolution of sovereignty over Macau to China in 1999. The empire spread over a vast number of territories that today are part of 53 different countries. It is important to note that, whether during the monarchical or the republican regime, Portugal never officially called itself an “empire.

Portuguese sailors began exploring the coast of Africa in 1419, using recent developments in areas such as navigation, cartography, and maritime technology, such as the caravel, in order to find a sea route to the lucrative spice trade from the east. In 1488, Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and in 1498, Vasco da Gama reached India. In 1500, Pedro Álvares Cabral reached Brazil, on the South American Atlantic coast. In the following decades, Lusitanian sailors continued to explore the coast and islands of East Asia, establishing forts and trading posts. By 1571, a series of outposts linked Lisbon to Nagasaki, Japan, along the coasts of Africa, the Middle East, India and Asia. This trade network brought great wealth to the Kingdom of Portugal.

Between 1580 and 1640, the Kingdom of Portugal and the Spanish Empire shared the same kings in a personal union of the two countries” crowns. Although the two empires continued to be administered separately, the Portuguese colonies became the target of attacks by three rival European powers hostile to Spain that coveted Iberian successes abroad: the Netherlands, Great Britain, and France. With a smaller population, Portugal was unable to effectively defend its overburdened network of trading posts and the empire began to enter a long and gradual process of decline. Significant losses to the Dutch in Portuguese India and Southeast Asia during the 17th century brought an end to Portugal”s monopoly of trade in the Indian Ocean. Brazil, which had become Portugal”s most valuable colony, became independent in 1822 as part of a wave of independence movements sweeping America in the early 19th century. The Portuguese Empire then was reduced to its colonies on the African coast (which were expanded inland during the Partition of Africa in the late 19th century), East Timor, and enclaves in India (Goa, Daman, and Diu) and China (Macau).

After the Second World War, the then leader of Portugal, António Salazar, tried to keep what remained of the multi-continental empire intact, at a time when other European countries were already beginning to decolonize their territories. In 1961, the Portuguese troops in Goa were unable to stop the advance of the Indian troops that marched into the colony in greater numbers. Salazar started a war (the Portuguese Colonial War) to eliminate the anti-colonial forces in Africa, which lasted until the fall of the regime in 1974. The new government, installed after the Carnation Revolution, immediately made the principle of self-determination of peoples law, radically changing the policy by opening up the possibility of independence for all the colonies, effectively ending the “Portuguese empire.” The exception was Macau, a territory returned to China only in 1999, symbolically marking the end of the Portuguese Empire. Currently, the Azores and Madeira archipelagos are the only overseas territories that remain politically linked to Portugal, but it must be considered that they were uninhabited islands before the Portuguese occupation. The Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP) is the cultural successor of the Empire.

The origin of the Kingdom of Portugal lies in the Reconquista, the gradual reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula from the Moors. After establishing itself as a separate kingdom in 1139, Portugal completed its reconquest of Moorish territory by reaching the Algarve in 1249, but its independence continued to be threatened by neighboring Castile until the signing of the Treaty of Ayllón in 1411.

Free from threats to its existence and unchallenged by wars waged by other European states, Portugal”s attention turned abroad and to a military expedition to the Muslim lands of North Africa. There were several likely reasons for their first attack, on the Merínida Empire (for the military class, it promised glory on the battlefield and in the spoils of war; and finally, it was also an opportunity to expand Portuguese trade and address Portugal”s economic decline.

In 1415, an attack was made on Ceuta, a North African Muslim enclave strategically located along the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the terminal ports of the trans-Saharan gold and slave trades. The conquest was a military success and marked one of the first steps in Portuguese expansion beyond the Iberian Peninsula, but it was costly to defend against the Muslim forces that soon besieged it. The Portuguese were unable to use it as a base for further expansion into the interior and the trans-Saharan caravans merely changed their routes to bypass Ceuta and

The taking of Ceuta in 1415 and the discovery of the islands of Madeira in 1418 and the Azores in 1427, territories for colonization and agricultural exploration, mark the beginning of the Portuguese maritime territorial expansion. Initially driven by the quest for noble privileges won in battle, and later by private initiative in search of wealth outside the territory – achieved in the prosperous captaincies of Madeira and the Azores archipelagos – the voyages continued along the African coast, ever further south.

The Portuguese began to systematically explore the coast of Africa from 1419 onwards, with the encouragement of Prince Henry the Navigator and experienced navigators served by the most advanced nautical and cartographic developments of the time, perfecting the caravel. In 1471 they reached the Gulf of Guinea, where in 1482 was established the trading post of São Jorge da Mina to support a flourishing trade in alluvial gold. Leaving Mina Diogo Cão establishes the first contact with the Kingdom of Congo. After successive exploratory voyages southward, in 1488 Bartolomeu Dias doubled the Cape of Good Hope, entering the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic for the first time.

Christopher Columbus” arrival in America in October 1492 precipitated a negotiation between Dom João II and the Catholic Kings of Castile and Aragon. As a result, the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed in 1494, dividing the world into two exploration areas demarcated by a meridian between the Cape Verde Islands and the newly discovered Caribbean: Portugal was responsible for the “discovered and undiscovered” lands east of the meridian, and Spain for the lands west of the line.

Shortly thereafter, in 1498, the navigator Vasco da Gama reached India, inaugurating the Cape Route. In 1500, on his second voyage to India, Pedro Álvares Cabral strayed off course on the African coast and landed in Brazil. In Lisbon, the Casa da Índia was then established to administer all aspects of the royal monopoly of overseas trade and navigation. Six years after Gama”s voyage, the first viceroy was appointed based in Cochin, and his victory at the Battle of Diu drove away Mamluks and Arabs, facilitating Portuguese domination of trade in the Indian Ocean. In 1510, the Portuguese State of India was established with its capital in Goa, the first territorial conquest in India. Malaca was conquered in 1511 and the Portuguese continued the exploration and conquest of ports on the coasts and islands of eastern Asia, reaching the coveted “islands of spices” (the Moluccas) in 1512, and China a year later, settling on the island of Sanchoão. In 1529, the Treaty of Saragossa demarcated the Portuguese and Spanish explorations in the east: the Moluccas are assigned to Portugal and the Philippines to Spain.

During the expansion, from 1415 until 1534, when the colonization of the interior in the captaincies of Brazil was ordered by D.  João III, the Portuguese empire was a thalassocracy, spanning the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, defended by a chain of coastal fortifications protecting a network of trading posts, reinforced by a system of navigation licenses, the cartazes, supported by numerous diplomatic relations and alliances, including with the Kingdom of Siam, the Safavid Empire of Persia, the Kingdom of Bishnaga and Ethiopia, was completed by the action of religious missions on land under the Padroado, an agreement of the Portuguese crown with the Holy See.

In 1543, Portuguese merchants arrived in Japan, initially settling in Hirado. In 1557, the Chinese authorities authorized the Portuguese to settle in Macao, which soon became the base of a prosperous triangular trade between China, Japan and Europe via Malacca and Goa. By 1571, a chain of warehouses linked Lisbon to Nagasaki, the city then founded by the Portuguese: the empire had become truly global, bringing enormous wealth to Portugal in the process. In 1572, three years after returning from the Orient, Luís Vaz de Camões would publish the epic “Os Lusíadas”, whose central action is Vasco da Gama”s discovery of the sea route to India, immortalizing the Portuguese achievements.

This map represents the Portuguese Empire in 1573, discoveries and first colonizations, namely several discoveries that were made in 1500, discoveries that gave origin to provinces, that belonged to the Kingdom of Portugal until the end of the 16th century and some lasted until half of the 17th century, and others that we know today that lasted until the 19th century and until the end of the 20th century. We can also see, other claims such as the 3 Portuguese flags in Australia, and in many other places around the world.

Despite the formidable gains in the Orient, interest in Morocco remained. In 1578, King Dom Sebastião sought to conquer the interior territories, which ended in defeat at Alcácer-Quibir, followed by a succession crisis that resulted in a union with the Spanish crown in 1580. During the Philippine Dynasty, the Portuguese empire suffered major setbacks as it became embroiled in Spain”s conflicts with Holland, France and England, which were trying to establish their own empires.


The expeditions passed Cape Bojador in 1434. As the results proved more rewarding, measures were taken to protect Portugal”s interests. Attributed by the regent Dom Pedro to his brother Infante Dom Henrique “the Navigator”, and recognized by the bull Rex regum, the monopoly of navigation on the West African coast is decreed in 1443. The ships were licensed by Portugal in exchange for part of the profits made, which motivated investment in voyages of exploration by Portuguese and foreigners, such as the Genoese and Venetians. In 1444, as governor of the Algarve, the Infante establishes a shipping consortium in Lagos. And in 1445, the first trading post is established on the island of Arguim, off the coast of Mauritania, built on the Infante”s own instructions: it aimed to attract the routes taken by Muslim merchants in North Africa: he was trying to establish a market to monopolize the commercial activity in the area.

In 1453, Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, a blow to Christianity and to trade relations established in the Mediterranean Sea. Shortly afterwards, Pope Nicholas V issued the bull Romanus Pontifex in favor of King Afonso V of Portugal, reinforcing the previous Dum Diversas of 1452, declaring that the lands and seas discovered beyond Cape Bojador belonged to the kings of Portugal, and authorizing trade and conquests against Muslims and pagans, legitimizing the Portuguese policy of mare clausum in the Atlantic Ocean and the still incipient slavery.

In 1455, a flourishing sugar industry had begun on Madeira. The accessibility of the islands attracted Genoese and Flemish merchants interested in bypassing the Venetian monopoly, but the problem was the need for labor and heavy work: the “solution” was to bring slaves from Africa. In this trade, the Florentine Bartolomeu Marchionni prospered, who would come to invest in numerous Portuguese voyages. From 1458 on, Ceuta and Arguim, with their military garrisons, were key logistical and material support points for the Portuguese navigations and an obstacle to the piracy practiced by the Moors.

After the Infante”s death, and given the meager profits from the exploration, in 1469 King Afonso V granted the monopoly of trade in the Gulf of Guinea to merchant Fernão Gomes for an annual rent of 200 000 reals. He was also granted the exclusive right to trade the then called “malagueta”, the Guinea pepper (Aframomum melegueta), a popular substitute for black pepper, for 100.000 reals per year. Gomes had to explore 100 leagues of the African coast per year for five years.

With the collaboration of navigators such as João de Santarém, Pedro Escobar, Lopo Gonçalves, Fernão do Pó and Pedro de Sintra, Fernão Gomes went even further than contracted. With his patronage, the exploration of the West African coast advanced as far as Cape Santa Catarina, already in the southern hemisphere, and also found the islands of the Gulf of Guinea, including São Tomé and Príncipe and Elmina in 1471, where he found a flourishing alluvial gold industry.

With the profits from this trade, Fernão Gomes helped D. Afonso V conquer Arzila, Alcácer Ceguer and Tangier, playing a role of enormous influence on the kingdom”s economy. That stretch of coastline became known as the Gold Coast, arousing the greed of the Catholic Kings, who only ceased the pressure to take possession of the region after the signing of the Treaty of Alcáçovas-Toledo in 1479. The treaty recognized Portuguese ownership of the discoveries south of the Canaries, including rights to the coast of Mina and the Gulf of Guinea and continued exploration along the coast.

Shortly after ascending to the throne, in 1482, D. João II centralized exploration and trade in the crown, determining the construction of a trading post for the gold trade. Under the command of Diogo de Azambuja the “Castle of São Jorge da Mina” was quickly built with stone previously cut and numbered in Portugal, sent as ballast in ships, a construction system later adopted for numerous fortifications. The village of São Jorge da Mina was developed under the fortification-factory and received a charter in 1486. There wheat, cloth, horses and shells (“zimbo”) began to be exchanged for gold (up to 400 kg

Between 1472 and 1486, the Portuguese arrived in the Empire of Benin, a sophisticated society ruled by the Obá. Embassies were exchanged, which, according to Gaspar Correia, will have informed Dom João II about the possibility of reaching India. There, they established trade in European bronze and brass, in the form of bracelets (the manillas), in exchange for Guinea pepper, cloth, ivory, and slaves (giving rise to the name “slave coast”), coinciding with major local political and artistic changes: the bronzes of Benin bear witness to the Portuguese presence.

Since the signing of the Treaty of Alcáçovas the coasts of Guinea were carefully patrolled, being closed to Castilians and other Europeans. Between 1482 and 1486, Diogo Cão, who was invested by Dom João II in these patrols, left S. Jorge da Mina to explore the estuary of the Congo River and would have climbed 150 km upstream to the cataracts of Ielala. There he erected the first stone standard, replacing the usual wooden crosses, and sent a Portuguese embassy to the Kingdom of the Congo, initiating the first European contacts.

The first step was to establish an alliance with the influential “Manicongo” (from the Quicongo “mwene kongo”), which dominated the entire region: Diogo Cão took some nobles to visit Portugal and when he returned in 1485 he made an agreement with King Anzinga Ancua, who in 1491 converted to Christianity and was baptized, along with several nobles, assuming the name João I in honor of the Portuguese king.

Early Catholic priests and soldiers describe the capital Mabanza Congo as a large city the size of Evora. John I of the Congo ruled until about 1506 and was succeeded by his son Alfonso I, who established Roman Catholicism as the official religion of the kingdom. To the south of this kingdom there were two others, Dongo and Matamba, which eventually merged to give birth to the Kingdom of Angola (c. 1559).

Exploiting the rivalries and conflicts between these kingdoms, in the second half of the 16th century the Portuguese settled in the region of Angola. The first governor of Angola, Paulo Dias de Novais, sought to delimit the vast territory and exploit its natural resources, particularly slaves. Penetration into the interior was limited. In 1576 they founded São Paulo de Loanda, the current city of Luanda. Angola would later become the main supplier market of slaves for Brazil”s sugarcane plantations.

With Bartolomeu Dias” passage of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, scientific curiosity and mercantilism were added to the proselytism of the Reconquista. Vasco da Gama used the maritime charts drawn up by then to establish a sea route to India. After this discovery the 16th century would become the “golden century” for Portugal and its apogee as a new European power. From then on the explorations lost their private character and started to take place under the initiative of the Crown, with King Manuel I determining that every year, between February and March, an armada would sail to India.

On his second voyage in 1502, Vasco da Gama made the Arab port on the island of Quíloa (now Quilua Quisiuani) in Tanzania a tributary of Portugal, and also reconnoitered Sofala in Mozambique. To impose the monopoly of the spice trade in the Indian Ocean, the armada of D. Francisco de Almeida, first appointed viceroy of Portuguese India, set sail in early 1505. The Fort of São Caetano de Sofala was then established, through an agreement with a local chief and progressively reinforced.

In 1507 the Portuguese occupied the island of Mozambique, a strategic port of support for the route of India that linked Lisbon to Goa. As a navigation stopover, it was the meeting point of the ships that strayed on the outward journey and of those waiting for the monsoon. A powerful fortification was later built there, the Fortress of São Sebastião (1558) and a hospital. In the Azores, the Armada of the islands protected the loaded ships on their way to Lisbon from attacks by European pirates and corsairs.

In August 1507, the island of Socotra, at the entrance to the Red Sea, was conquered. There, Tristan da Cunha sent an expedition to Ethiopia, which was then thought to be closer. Unable to cross through Melinde, Afonso de Albuquerque managed to land them in Filuk, near Cape Guardafui. Following this expedition, the ambassador Mateus arrived in Goa in 1512, sent by the queen regent Eleni of Ethiopia to King Manuel I of Portugal and the pope, in search of an alliance to counter the growing Ottoman power in the region. Seen as the long-awaited contact with the legendary Preste João and Pêro da Covilhã, the king informed Pope Leo X in 1513 and Mateus traveled to Portugal in 1514, from where he returned with a Portuguese embassy, along with Francisco Álvares. The Portuguese only understood the nature of their mission when they arrived in Ethiopia in 1520, after Mateus” death, a fact that complicated contacts with the Ethiopian emperor. However started the first continuous relations of a European country with Ethiopia and in 1517 Portugal helped the emperor Lebna Dengel, sending weapons and four hundred men, which helped restore the government in the Ethiopian-Adal war.


Vasco da Gama”s voyage to Calicut was the starting point of the Portuguese settlement on the East African coast and in India. The first contact took place on May 20, 1498. After some conflicts with Arab merchants who had a monopoly of the spice routes, Vasco da Gama got an ambiguous letter of concession for trade with the samorim of Calicut, leaving some Portuguese to establish a trading post there. Shortly thereafter, the Casa da India was created in Lisbon to administer the royal monopoly of navigation and trade with the Orient.

Portugal”s goal in the Indian Ocean was to secure a monopoly of the spice trade. Playing continuously off the rivalry that opposed Hindus and Muslims, the Portuguese established, between 1500 and 1510, several fortresses and trading posts.

In 1500 the second armada to India that came from discovering Brazil explored the East African coast, where Diogo Dias discovered the island he named São Lourenço, later named Madagascar. This armada, commanded by Pedro Álvares Cabral, arrived in Calicut in September, where it signed the first commercial agreement in India. The Portuguese trading post there, however, was short-lived: attacked by the Muslims on December 16, several Portuguese perished, including the clerk Pero Vaz de Caminha. After bombarding Calicut, Cabral proceeded to Cochin.

Benefiting from the rivalry between the maharajah of Cochin and the samorim of Calicut, the Portuguese were well received and seen as allies in defense, founding in Cochin the fort (Fort Manuel) and trading post that would be the first European colony in India. There they built the Church of St. Francis in 1503. In 1502 Vasco da Gama took the island of Quíloa, off the coast of Tanzania, where in 1505 was built the first Portuguese fortification in East Africa to protect the ships of the career of India.

In 1505, King Manuel I appointed Francisco de Almeida as the first Viceroy of India for a three-year term. Based in Cochin began the Portuguese governance in the East. In that year the Portuguese took Cananor where they founded the fortress of Santo Angelo and Lourenço de Almeida reaches Ceylon – the legendary Taprobana – now Sri Lanka, where he discovers the origin of cinnamon. Finding it divided into seven rival kingdoms, he established a defense pact with the Kingdom of Cota and, exploiting the internal rivalries, he extended control to the coastal areas, where in 1517 the fortress of Colombo would be founded.

In 1506, the Portuguese, under the command of Tristão da Cunha and Afonso de Albuquerque, conquered Socotorá at the entrance to the Red Sea, in 1507 Muscat and temporarily Ormuz, where Albuquerque started the construction of the Fort of Nossa Senhora da Vitória, following the strategy that intended to close the entrances to the Indian Ocean. In that same year forts were built in Mozambique Island and in Mombasa, on the Kenyan coast.

In 1509, the battle of Diu is fought against a joint fleet of the Burji Sultanate of Cairo, the Ottoman Sultan Bajazeto II, the samorim of Calicut and the Sultan of Guzerate, with naval support from the Republic of Venice and the Republic of Ragusa. The Portuguese victory was decisive, marking the beginning of European dominance in the Indian Ocean. With the power of the Ottomans seriously shaken, the Portuguese quickly conquered coastal locations.

Already under Albuquerque”s rule, Goa was taken from the Arabs in 1510 with the help of the Hindu corsair Timoja. Coveted for being the best commercial port in the region, a trading post for the Arabian horses for the sultanates of the Deccan, it allowed the Kingdom”s wish not to remain an eternal guest of Cochin to be fulfilled. Despite constant attacks, Goa became the headquarters of the Portuguese presence, under the name Portuguese State of India, with the conquest triggering the respect of neighboring kingdoms: Guzerate and Calicut sent embassies, offering alliances, concessions and places to fortify. Albuquerque started that year in Goa the first minting of Portuguese currency outside the kingdom, taking the opportunity to announce the conquest.

In the early sixteenth century the Portuguese presence was felt first on the coast of Macron near the Arabian Sea, and along the coast of Sindh in order to control the sea routes to the Persian Gulf. In 1515 was the first phase of open warfare was from Afonso de Albuque who at the request of the Persian Emperor, attacked the Kalmati tribes that were a scourge for navigation and trade with the Persian Gulf.

The provinces of Sindh and Balochistan were the ones that had more direct contact under Portuguese military pressure. Already north in the interior of the Indian subcontinent, after the Mughal conquest of Lahore and with the displacement of the Mughal capital to the same city in 1589, the Portuguese maintained a regular presence at court as allies of the Mughals against the Persians.

Among the genetic heritage that is mentioned to be of Portuguese descendants, today can still be seen several structures built on the coast of Macron, such as the historic castle of Tis (Iran), defined as Portuguese Castle, however rehabilitated. 1581 saw a new raid happen on the coastal cities with a Portuguese fleet that left from the Portuguese city of Muscat, whose objective besides destroying the boats that served to piracy, was also to punish the localities that gave support to Turkish fleets that tried to break the Portuguese naval blockade in the Persian Gulf.

The historical city of Thatta, which already had a Portuguese presence in the early 16th century, was attacked and looted in 1555 after a contingent of 700 Portuguese went up the Indus River to give military aid to the local king Mirza Issa Cã I. After waiting several days and realizing that the king would not receive them, Pero Barreto gave the order and the city was sacked and destroyed. Diogo do Couto, the Portuguese chronicler describes the city as a rich city that lives from the commerce with the Persian Gulf.

Initially, Dom Manuel and the kingdom”s council tried to distribute power from Lisbon, creating three areas of jurisdiction in the Indian Ocean: Albuquerque had been sent to take Hormuz, Aden and Calicut, assuring dominion in the Red Sea; Diogo Lopes de Sequeira had been sent to Southwest Asia, with the mission of trying to reach an agreement with the sultan of Malacca; Jorge de Aguiar and, later, Duarte de Lemos presided over the area between the Cape of Good Hope and Guzerate. However, these posts were centralized by Afonso de Albuquerque, who became plenipotentiary, and remained so.

In April 1511, Albuquerque set sail for Malacca in Malaya with a force of about 1,200 men and 17 or 18 ships. A bypassing plate for trade with China and Southeast Asia, the Malacca peninsula then became the strategic base for Portuguese expansion in East India, under the Portuguese State of India whose capital was Goa. To defend the city a fort was erected whose gate, called “A Famosa”, still stands. Once the sultanate of Malacca was defeated, Afonso de Albuquerque immediately sent Duarte Fernandes on a diplomatic mission to the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand), where he was the first European to arrive, given the Siamese claims in Malacca. In November of that year, learning the location of the so-called “islands of spices” in the Moluccas, the Banda islands, he sent an expedition led by Antonio de Abreu to find them. Malaysian pilots guided them via Java, the Small Islands of Sonda and the island of Amboinus to Banda, where they arrived in early 1512. There they stayed, as the first Europeans to reach the islands, filling their ships with nutmeg and cloves. Abreu left via Ambão while his vice-commander Francisco Serrão went ahead to Ternate. That same year in Indonesia, the Portuguese took Macáçar, arriving in Timor in 1514.

In 1513, departing from Malacca, Jorge Álvares reached southern China, landing at the mouth of the Pearl River on Lintin Island. This was followed by the arrival in Canton and Sanchoon by Rafael Perestrelo. In 1517 Tomé Pires was sent as ambassador of King Manuel to China, in the fleet of Fernão Peres de Andrade, who managed to negotiate with the authorities of Canton to be sent to Beijing and a factory in Tamau. Initially successful, the embassy was held up. Portuguese merchants then settled on Sanchoão Island, bribing local mandarins, later on Liam Pó which would be destroyed, Tamau where in 1521 and 1522 they were fought by Chinese forces, and Lampacau, a small island in Canton Bay.

In the Persian Gulf, the Portuguese conquered Hormuz in 1515 and, due to the strategic position in the region, Bahrain in 1521. In 1522 the Hindu king of Sonda in Indonesia sought to seal an alliance with the Portuguese in Malacca to defend himself from the increasing Muslim power in Central Java, inviting them to build a fortress in the port of Calapa (now Jakarta). The Treaty of Sunda Kalapa (1522) was sealed with a standard, but the Portuguese could not keep their promise to return the following year: that year Duarte de Meneses became governor of India, who, after a disastrous administration, was sent under arrest to the kingdom and replaced by Vasco da Gama, who died in Cochin in 1524. Between 1522 and 1529, following Ferdinand Magellan”s voyage of circumnavigation, the Castilians disputed the eastern limit of the Treaty of Tordesillas, disputing the valuable Moluccas “cradle of all spices” and the Philippines with the Portuguese. In 1529 King John III and Charles I of Spain sealed the Treaty of Saragossa, which defined the continuation of the Tordesillas meridian in the opposite hemisphere, to the east of the Moluccas islands, which were ceded by Spain in exchange for 350 000 ducats of gold.

In 1533, Portugal conquered Baçaim, about 50 kilometers from Bombay. In 1534, Guzerate was occupied by the Moghuls and the sultan Bádur Xá de Guzerate was forced to sign the treaty of Baçaim, where he established an alliance to recover his country, giving in exchange Damão, Diu, Bombay and Baçaim. In 1535, Captain António de Faria, departing from Da Nang, where the Portuguese had landed in 1516, in what was then called Cochinchina (now Vietnam), tried to establish a trading post in Faifo, which failed.

In 1538, the fortress of Diu is again surrounded by 54 Ottoman ships. Another failed siege in 1547 would put an end to the Ottoman ambitions, confirming the Portuguese hegemony.

The Portuguese Empire in Africa and the Orient was essentially maritime and commercial, located in coastal regions. The vast network of trading posts and fortresses easily supplied by sea, reinforced by the action of religious missions on land, allowed the Portuguese to control and dominate the trade of spices, precious stones, silk and porcelain. Lisbon was the “emporium” of Europe.

In Lisbon, the “Casa da India” administered the monopoly of navigation and trade with the East, with the Crown as regulator. Created between 1500 and 1503, it was the successor of similar institutions, such as the House of Guinea and the House of Mina, to accompany the commercial expansion in the East. The Casa da India managed exports to Goa, center of the eastern empire, the unloading of eastern goods and their sale in Lisbon. The distribution in Europe was done through the Portuguese trading post of Antwerp.

Over a period of about 30 years, from 1503 to 1535, the Portuguese managed to overtake the Venetian spice trade in the Mediterranean, projecting Antwerp as a major European trading center. The Manueline style attests to the kingdom”s prosperity even today in works such as the Jerónimos Monastery, commissioned by King Manuel and begun in 1502, shortly after Vasco da Gama returned from India. Financed largely by the profits from the spice trade, much of its construction would take place by 1540, during the reign of King João III. In the east from 1510, the policy of Governor-General Afonso de Albuquerque encouraged mixed marriages, allowing the emergence of a Eurasian community in Goa, which in turn supported the administration and commercial and shipbuilding activities.

Revenue began to decline in the middle of the century, due to the costs of the presence in Morocco and wasteful spending. Portugal had not developed the domestic infrastructure to keep up with activity, relying instead on outside services to support its trading activities, causing much of the revenue to dissipate in the process. In 1549, after a speculative spike, the Royal Factory in Antwerp went bankrupt and was closed down. The throne relied increasingly on external financing, and by 1560, the revenue of the Casa da India was not enough to cover its expenses: the monarchy had broken down (the Portuguese policy of royal monopoly would be relaxed in 1570 and abandoned in 1642, with the succession crisis and after the Philippine dynasty, with the Casa da India becoming a customs house).

Between 1542 and 1543 a group of merchants, among them Francisco Zeimoto, arrived in Japan for the first time. According to Fernão Mendes Pinto, who participated in this voyage, they reached the island of Tanegaxima, where they frightened the natives with firearms and a watch. That same year arrived in Goa, traveling with the new viceroy, the Jesuit missionary Francisco Xavier to occupy the post of Apostolic Nuncio, under the Portuguese Patronage. He had been sent by King John III after successive appeals to the Pope asking for missionaries to spread the faith and help maintain order in Portuguese Asia, and enthusiastically recommended by Diogo de Gouveia, who advised the king to call the educated young men of the newly formed Society of Jesus.

After arriving in Japan, Portuguese merchants and adventurers engaged in lucrative trade on the island of Quiuxu, with no fixed port, in their own ships and Chinese junks. This trade became particularly lucrative after 1547, when the Chinese authorities banned direct trade between China and Japan due to piracy, resuming the isolationist Hai Jin (literally “maritime prohibition”) policy, but leaving the Portuguese as the only intermediaries: despite the ban, China, lacking silver, needed access to Japan”s reserves. In turn, the Japanese were major consumers of Chinese silks and porcelain.

The importance of this trade led to the institution in 1550 of an annual voyage under Crown monopoly: the “Japan Voyage”. The right to undertake this voyage was given to a Captain-Major appointed by the Governor – as a reward for services rendered. Given the long distance between Goa and Japan, initially the so-called “tractor ship” sailed from Malacca. In 1554, after several attempts to create an intermediate stopover in China, Leonel de Sousa, Captain-Major of the Japan voyage, obtained an agreement to trade in Canton. Since 1535, following a shipwreck, they had been authorized to dock in the Macau peninsula and carry on their commercial activities, although without remaining on land. In 1549 Sanchoão”s annual trade missions were authorized. The Portuguese found a lucrative source of income in the China-Macau-Japan triangular trade.

By 1555 Macau had already become an important center of a triangular trade between China and Japan and Goa, and between these and Europe. In 1557, the Chinese authorities finally gave permission for the Portuguese to settle permanently, granting them a considerable degree of self-government in return for an annual payment (about 500 taels of silver).

In Japan the Portuguese initially settled in the port of Hirado, starting an intense interaction both economically and religiously, in what became known as the “Nanban Trade” period, (Japanese:南蛮貿易, nanban-bōeki, “Trade with the southern barbarians”). The arquebus was manufactured by the Japanese on a large scale and would play a determining role in the course of the Sengocu period battles they were then fighting between daimyo; refined sugar and Christianity would be other widely accepted novelties. Francis Xavier would travel in Japan in 1549, making numerous converts.

In 1571, after an agreement with the Christian daimiô Omura Sumitada (baptized “Dom Bartholomew”) the Portuguese would move to settle in Nagasaki, Japan, until then a small community, and thus create a commercial center that for many years would be Japan”s door to the world. In 1580, just before the beginning of the Iberian union, Omura Sumitada ceded jurisdiction over Nagasaki to the Jesuits.

Since its founding, Macau grew on the back of lucrative trade based on the exchange of Chinese silks for Japanese silver. In just a decade, it became the key intermediary in the trade between China and Japan, with the Portuguese pocketing huge profits. It would quickly become an important node in the development of trade along three main axes: Macau-Malaca-Goa


The term “Portuguese America” would include areas that were in fact under Portuguese rule, even some that today are not part of Brazil, such as the Colônia do Sacramento. The Portuguese de jure dominion over Barbados – a territory that was never Brazilian – is an example of an area of Portuguese America that is not part of Brazil. Areas that were formerly Spanish, located west of the Tordesillas meridian, were absorbed by Portuguese rule and are now part of Brazil. Currently, Portuguese America is in territories of the current Federal Republic of Brazil, the current Canadian provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador (both the island of Newfoundland and the Labrador region came under Portuguese rule) and Nova Scotia, the Central American country of Barbados, Uruguay and the French overseas department of French Guiana.

In 1499, in the second armada to India, the best equipped of the 15th century, Pedro Álvares Cabral sailed away from the African coast. On April 22, 1500, he sighted Mount Pascoal on the southern coast of Bahia. Officially regarded as accidental, the discovery of Brazil gave rise to speculation that it had been secretly prepared. The territory had managed to become part of the Portuguese dominions by renegotiating the initial demarcation of the Inter Coetera Bull of 1493, when King John II signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494, which moved the meridian separating the lands of Portugal and Castile further west.

By 1501, the Portuguese Crown sent two reconnaissance expeditions. Confirming the description by Pero Vaz de Caminha, that “In it until now we cannot find gold or silver, nor have we seen anything of metal or iron; but the land itself is full of good air, as cold and temperate as the air between Doiro and Minho”, it was found that the main exploitable resource was a reddish wood, valuable for European dyeing, which the Tupi called ibirapitanga and which was given the name pau-brasil. That same year, King D. Manuel decided to hand over the exploitation to private individuals, adopting a policy of three-year concessions: the concessionaires were to discover 300 leagues of land per year, install a fortress there, and produce 20,000 quintals of brazilwood.

In 1502, a consortium of merchants financed an expedition, to be led by Gonçalo Coelho, to deepen the knowledge of the land”s resources, establish contact with the Amerindians, and, above all, map the part of the country located beyond the Tordesillas Meridian, which belonged to the Portuguese crown.

In 1503, the entire territory was leased by the crown for brazilwood exploration to the merchants who financed the expedition, among them Fernão de Noronha, who would be the representative of the banker Jakob Fugger, who had been financing Portuguese voyages to India. In 1506, about 20,000 quintals of brazilwood were produced, with growing demand in Europe, whose high price made the voyage lucrative.

Traders from Lisbon and Porto sent boats to the coast to smuggle in brazilwood, birds of colorful plumage (parrots, macaws), skins, medicinal roots and Indians to enslave. The ships anchored at the coast and recruited Indians to work in the cutting and loading, in exchange for small goods such as clothes, necklaces and mirrors (a practice called “escambo”). Each ship carried an average of five thousand 1.5-meter-long logs weighing 30 kilograms. The lease was renewed twice, in 1505 and in 1513. In 1504, in recognition of this, King Manuel I donated to Fernão de Noronha the first hereditary captaincy along the Brazilian coast: the island of São João da Quaresma, today Fernando de Noronha.

The regions of Pernambuco, Porto Seguro and Cabo Frio had the highest concentration of brazilwood, and for this reason all three had Portuguese trading posts. Pernambuco, where the exploitation of the tree began, had the most coveted wood in the Old World, which explains why brazilwood has as its main name “pernambuco” in languages such as French and Italian. In 1516, the first sugar mill that is known in Portuguese America was built on the coast of Pernambuco, more precisely in the Feitoria de Itamaracá, entrusted to the colonial administrator Pero Capico – the first “Governor of the Parts of Brazil”. In 1526 there were already duties on sugar from Pernambuco at the Lisbon Customs House. The Brazilian coast also served as support to the Indian route, especially the Baía de Todos-os-Santos, where the fleets supplied themselves with water and firewood, and made small repairs. In Rio de Janeiro, near the mouth of the river a building was erected that inspired the name that the Indians gave to the place: “cari-oca”, house of the whites. However, in the first three decades Brazil played a secondary role in the Portuguese expansion, then focused on trade with India and the Orient.

The sugar cane culture was consolidated and the large plantations in Pernambuco and Bahia would require an increasing number of black slaves from Guinea, Benin, and Angola.

Since the expeditions of Gonçalo Coelho, French incursions to the Brazilian coast had been reported. From 1520 onwards, the Portuguese realized that the region was in danger of being disputed, given the contestation of the Treaty of Tordesillas by Francis I of France, which encouraged the practice of corsage. The increase in smuggling of brazilwood and other goods by corsairs, triggered an effort to effectively colonize the territory.

Between 1534-36, Dom João III instituted the regime of hereditary captaincies, promoting settlement through sesmarias, as had been successfully done on the islands of Madeira and Cape Verde. Fifteen longitudinal strips running from the coast to the Tordesillas Meridian were created. This system involved very large tracts of land, donated to captains-donatarios who could afford the colonization. Each donatary-captain and governor was to found settlements, grant sesmaries and administer justice, being responsible for their development and bearing the colonization expenses, although he was not the owner: he could transmit it to his children, but not sell it. The twelve beneficiaries were elements of Portugal”s petty nobility who had distinguished themselves in the campaigns in Africa and India, high officials of the court, such as João de Barros and Martim Afonso de Sousa. Of the original fifteen captaincies (a two-month journey from Portugal) only the captaincies of Pernambuco and São Vicente prospered. Both were dedicated to sugarcane cultivation and, despite problems common to the others, the donatários Duarte Coelho and Martim Afonso de Sousa”s representatives managed to keep the settlers and establish alliances with the natives.

Realizing the risk to the colonization project, the Crown decided to centralize the Colony”s organization. In order to “give favor and help” to the donatários, the king created in 1548 the General Government, sending as first governor-general Tomé de Sousa. He rescued from the heirs of Francisco Pereira Coutinho the Captaincy of Baía de Todos os Santos, transforming it into the first royal captaincy, seat of the General Government. This measure did not imply the extinction of the hereditary captaincies.

The governor general took over many functions previously performed by the donatários. Tomé de Sousa founded the first city, Salvador (Bahia), capital of the state. He brought three deputies to take charge of finance, justice and coastal defense. Jesuit priests also came to catechize the natives. In 1551, the first bishopric of Brazil was created. The City Councils were also installed, composed of the “good men”: landowners, members of the militia and clergy. Under the government of Tomé de Sousa a considerable number of artisans arrived in Brazil. At first, they worked in the construction of the city of Salvador and, later, in the installation of sugar mills in the region.

The next governors, Duarte da Costa (1553 – 1557) and Mem de Sá (1557 – 1572), reinforced the defense of the captaincies, made reconnaissance explorations and took measures to reaffirm the colonization, facing clashes with Indians and invaders, especially the French, who in 1555, brought by Nicolas Durand de Villegagnon, occupied the territory of Rio de Janeiro, where they tried to establish a colony, the Antarctic France. The French occupation lasted until 1567, the year in which they were definitively defeated, establishing Portuguese hegemony. Conflicts also arose with the bishop, and with the Jesuits themselves who were opposed to Indian slavery, and between old and new settlers.

At the beginning of the 17th century, Pernambuco became the largest and richest sugar-producing area in the world.

In the book Diálogos das grandezas do Brasil (Dialogues on the grandeur of Brazil), from 1610, the writer Ambrósio Fernandes Brandão praises the fearless and conquering spirit of the Portuguese discoverers:

Between 1595 and 1663, the Luso-Dutch War was fought with the Dutch East India (VOC) and West India (WIC) Companies, which were trying to take over the Portuguese trade networks for Asian spices, West African slaves, and sugar from Brazil. After the loss of numerous territories,

Portugal restored its independence in 1640. In 1654, it managed to regain Brazil and Angola, although it lost prominence in Asia forever. Brazil thus gained importance in the empire, reinforced by the discovery of large quantities of gold at the end of the 17th century. With the arrival of the Portuguese Court in 1808 protecting itself from the armies of Napoleon I, it came to be considered an associate to the Kingdom, with the designation of United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves.


Despite the formidable benefits generated by the colonial empire in the East, the crown”s interest in Morocco did not weaken. The 16th century is a succession of conquests and abandonment of coastal fortresses until King D. Sebastião (1557-1578) invested in the conquest of the interior territories, which resulted in the defeat at Alcácer-Quibir in 1578 followed by a succession crisis that ended in the union with the Spanish crown in 1580.

In the context of the Philippine Dynasty, the Portuguese empire suffered major setbacks as it became involved in the conflicts that Spain was waging with England, France and Holland, which were trying to establish their own empires. Portugal would be dragged along, with no funds and no ability to send armies to the regions attacked by well-prepared forces. The Dutch, involved in the Eighty Years” War with Spain since 1568, were attacking colonies and ships by sea. The Portuguese empire, consisting mainly of coastal settlements, vulnerable to being taken over one by one, became an easy target.

The Luso-Dutch War began with an attack on São Tomé and Príncipe in 1597. It was fought by the Dutch East and West India Companies, aiming to take over the Portuguese trade networks of Asian spices, slaves from West Africa and sugar from Brazil. After several confrontations in the East and Brazil, attacks began on trading posts on the West African coast, aiming to secure slaves for sugar production in conquered territories in Brazil. In 1638, the Dutch took the Fort of São Jorge da Mina, followed by Luanda in 1641 and Axim in the Gulf of Guinea in 1642.

In 1640, Portugal restored independence, reestablishing the alliance with England that would shortly thereafter come to challenge the Dutch. On April 6, 1652, VOC merchant Jan van Riebeeck established near the Cape of Good Hope a resupply post that would become Cape Town, enabling the Dutch to dominate the Cape route of trade to the East. Portugal lost prominence in Asia forever, but in 1654, Salvador Correia de Sá e Benevides” fleet managed to recover Brazil and Luanda. The Dutch, fearing the loss of the territories already conquered, would end up definitively sealing the peace of the Hague Treaty in 1663.

In 1622, an Anglo-Persian force took the fort of Hormuz, whose garrison was sent to Muscat (Oman). With the Omani victory over Muscat in 1650, they continued to fight the Portuguese on the East African coast, beating them at Zanzibar and Pemba until, after a two-year siege, Fort Jesus of Mombasa was taken in 1698 (Kenya), forcing them to retreat south to Mozambique.

In an attempt to consolidate positions in East Africa, it was determined that the land belonged to the crown and was leased by so-called terms, for 3 generations passed down through women. However through mixed marriages these properties became true Afro-Portuguese or Afro-Indian “states”, defended by large slave armies known as “chicundas”. Slavery was carried out among tribal chiefs, who raided warring tribes and sold the prisoners to the prazeiros.


The death of Dom Sebastian at Alcácer Quibir, without descendants, caused the crown to pass in 1580 to the Habsburgs of Spain. During this period, the empire of the East became involved in Spain”s wars with the English and the Dutch. Throughout the 17th century, in the Luso-Dutch war, the Dutch systematically seized Portuguese possessions, allying themselves in turn with local rulers, and dismantling the Portuguese trading monopoly in Asia.

In 1592, considering suspended the Luso-British alliance of 1373 and in full war with Spain, an English fleet intercepted off the Azores a fleet coming from India, capturing the Portuguese ship Madre de Deus of great tonnage. With 1600 tons (of which 900 were goods) it was 3 times the size of the largest English ship and had a crew of 600 to 700 men. Among the riches were jewels, gold and silver, amber, rolls of cloth and tapestry, 425 tons of pepper, cloves, cinnamon, cochineal, ebony, nutmeg, and benjamin. There was also incense, silks, damask, gold cloth, Chinese porcelain, and elephant tusks, among others. And the greatest treasure: a document printed in Macau in 1590, containing information about Portuguese trade in China and Japan. Richard Hakluyt reported it treated as the most precious of jewels. When Elizabeth I of England was informed of this, she sent Sir Walter Raleigh to claim his share. The estimated value of the cargo was equivalent to half of the English treasury at the time. By the time Raleigh restored the order there was only about a quarter left. The Madre de Deus was to be one of the greatest looters in history, galvanizing English interest in the region. That same year Cornelis de Houtman had been sent by merchants from Amsterdam to Lisbon, with the mission of collecting as much information about the Spice Islands as he could.

In 1595, the Dutch assisted the English in the Sack of the Reef, which represented the richest booty in the history of Corsican shipping in Elizabethan England. Also that year the Dutch merchant and explorer Linschoten, after having traveled extensively in Asia in the service of the Portuguese, published in Amsterdam the account “Reys-gheschrift vande navigatien der Portugaloysers in Orienten” (“Report of a voyage through the navigations of the Portuguese in the Orient”). The work contained letters and directions on how to navigate between Portugal and the East Indies as far as Japan. The interest aroused in the Netherlands and England by this information was at the origin of the commercial expansion movement that led to the foundation of the Dutch East India Company in 1602 and the British East India Company in 1600, allowing their compatriots to enter the then East Indies.

The clashes with the Dutch in the East began in 1603, when the Portuguese caravel “Santa Catarina”, loaded with valuable goods, was captured off Singapore by the newly created Dutch East India Company, or VOC. The feat, a plunder that doubled the VOC”s initial capital, generated international outcry but served as a pretext to challenge the Iberian policy of Mare Clausum, advocating “Mare Liberum,” an ideological underpinning for the Dutch to break trade monopolies by using their naval power to establish their own.

In 1605, VOC merchants captured the Portuguese fort of Amboina, followed by Ternate in the Molucca Islands. In 1619, they founded Batavia (now Jakarta) in Indonesia, making it the capital of their empire in the East. For the next twenty years Goa, under siege since 1603, and Batavia battled incessantly against each other, as rival capitals of the Portuguese state of India and the VOC. In the Middle East the Persians, with the help of the English, expelled the Portuguese from Bahrain in 1602 and from Hormuz in 1622.

The Portuguese in Macau watched with concern as Philip II took the throne, fearing the loss of their monopoly on trade or expulsion from the territory by the Chinese. In 1583 they created the Senate to guarantee autonomy and kept the Portuguese flag. Central to the trade between China, Europe, and Japan, Macau reached its “golden age” during the Spanish Union from 1595 to 1602. Due to growing prosperity it was elevated to a city in 1586 by Philip II.

Besides the Portuguese exclusivity of trade with Japan, its strategic position allowed it to benefit from Portuguese and Spanish trade routes, such as the Manila Galleon, the alternative route that had connected Manila to Acapulco and Spain since 1565, and had become pivotal when the Dutch began to disrupt the Goa and Malacca routes.

The Manila-based Spaniards tried unsuccessfully to break the privileged Portuguese position: in 1589, with the creation of a Macau-Acapulco trade route, they even called for the destruction of Macau and the transfer of the silver and silk trade between Japan and China to Manila. (Later, King John IV would reward Macau”s loyalty with the title There Is No Other More Loyal, and the city was renamed City of the Holy Name of God of Macau, There Is No Other More Loyal).

Macau suffered Dutch attacks from 1603 to 1622, the year it resisted a conquest attempt after two days of combat. Trade with Japan would end abruptly: confined to the island of Dejima in the port of Nagasaki since 1636, the Portuguese and Catholicism were seen as one of the causes of the Ximabara rebellion of 1638, being expelled from Japan in 1639, at the same time that Christianity in Japan went underground (the Kakure Kirishitan).

Suppressed with the help of the Dutch, who had settled in Hirado-the rebellion reinforced the Sakoku isolationist policies of the shogun Tocugaua Iemitsu, seriously affecting Macao”s economy, which went into rapid decline. Dejima passed to the VOC Dutch, who gained exclusive trading rights, seriously damaging Macao”s economy.

In 1640, the War of Restoration began in Portugal. With the end of the Habsburg rule, João IV of Portugal ascended the throne. The king sent ambassadors to France, England, and Holland, aiming to form partnerships in the fight against Spain. The Treaty of The Hague (1641) was signed, establishing a ten-year truce between the Kingdom of Portugal and the Netherlands. It was a Treaty of Defensive and Offensive Alliance between both parties. In practice, the truce signed for all the territories of both empires was limited to the European continent, being ignored by both parties in the rest of the world:

Malacca was conquered by the Dutch VOC in 1641, at the culmination of the war, constituting the biggest blow by depriving the Portuguese empire of control of the strait.

On April 6, 1652, VOC merchant Jan van Riebeeck established a resupply station near the Cape of Good Hope that evolved to become Cape Town, enabling the Dutch to dominate the Cape route, making direct navigation from the Cape of Good Hope to the Sunda Strait in Indonesia.

Ceylon was lost in 1658, Cochin in 1662 and the Malabar coast in 1663, breaking a second peace agreement, the Hague Treaty of 1661, the year Bombay and Tangiers were ceded to England as dowry for the marriage between Princess Catherine of Braganza and Charles II.

The outdated administration of the empire, the lack of human, economic and military resources for an effective occupation, the reorganization of commerce by the Turks and the Arabs, with new transportation routes for oriental products (the “Routes of the Levant”), piracy and corsairs, and, above all, the increase in economic, military and naval capacity of European powers such as England and Holland, which had established their empire over the territories conquered from the Portuguese with vast trade routes, dictated the Portuguese monopoly in the Orient.

Of its fragmented empire, Portugal only managed to retain not much more than Goa, Daman, Diu, Macau and Portuguese Timor. In India, several territories were meanwhile lost to the Marathas until 1739, keeping the so-called “Old Conquests”, four counties of Goa incorporated in the Portuguese State of India since the beginning of Portuguese rule. Between 1713 and 1788, the surface of Goa tripled with the incorporation of the New Conquests: Portugal took over Dadrá and Nagar-Haveli, in a group of seven counties, to the south, north and east, which were added to the Portuguese State of India.

In 1787, the so-called “Conjuração dos Pintos” took place, an attempt to overthrow the Portuguese regime in Goa, with several clergymen and military men from the region who felt discriminated against in their career promotions, due to racial reasons. The group of conspirators was led by priest José António Gonçalves de Divar, and included the name of José Custódio Faria, known as “Abade Faria”. Once denounced, the conspiracy was repressed by the Portuguese authorities. Father Divar managed to escape and died in Bengal. Abbot Faria escaped to France, where he would achieve fame.


With the Iberian union under Habsburg rule, resulting from the 1580 succession crisis in Portugal, the limits of the Tordesillas meridian ended, allowing Brazil”s territory to expand westward. Expeditions to the interior were then undertaken both by order of the Crown, the “entradas”, and by private individuals, the “bandeirantes”. These exploratory expeditions lasted for years, in search of mineral wealth, especially the abundant silver in Spanish America, and Indians for enslavement. However, this brought the Portuguese empire into conflict with European powers that were Spain”s rivals, such as Holland. In 1595, the Luso-Dutch War broke out.

A great development of agriculture then began. The colony”s economy gradually shifted to the production of sugarcane in large properties, with the sugar mill as the mainstay, especially in Pernambuco, Bahia, São Vicente (now São Paulo) and later Rio de Janeiro. With a much higher production than in the Atlantic islands, the Brazilian sugar supplied almost all of Europe and in the beginning of the 17th century was exported to Lisbon, Antwerp, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Hamburg. Gabriel Soares de Sousa commented on the luxury that reigned in Bahia, with magnificent chapels and meals in Indian dishes, which served as ballast in the ships. To sustain production from the middle of the 16th century on, Africans began to be imported as slaves. Until then the Portuguese had a monopoly on the slave trade, but with the growth of their colonies the French, Dutch and English entered the business, weakening the Portuguese participation. Captured between tribes in Africa, sometimes with the connivance of rival chiefs, they crossed the Atlantic in slave ships in terrible conditions. In the senzalas their children were also enslaved, perpetuating the situation.

In 1621, Brazil was divided into two independent states: the State of Brazil, from Pernambuco to present-day Santa Catarina, and the State of Maranhão, from present-day Ceará to Amazônia, resulting from its prominent role as a foothold for the colonization of the north and northeast. In both states, the so-called “Portuguese from Brazil” were subject to the same laws that governed residents in Portugal: the Manueline and the Philippine Ordinances.

In 1624, the newly created Dutch West India Company, or WIC, conquers the city of Salvador, capital of the state of Brazil. The Governor is captured and the government passes into the hands of Johan van Dorth. Portuguese resistance is reorganized from the Arraial do Rio Vermelho. In 1625, the Spanish Crown sends a powerful Luso-Spanish armada, known as Jornada dos Vassalos. It blockaded the port of Salvador, achieved the Dutch surrender and the recovery of Bahia.

In 1630, the Captaincy of Pernambuco is conquered by the WIC. The occupied territory is renamed New Holland, encompassing seven of Brazil”s nineteen captaincies at the time. João Maurício de Nassau-Siegen is appointed Governor of the colony. The Dutch advance on both South Atlantic coasts from the end of the 16th century strongly threatened the Portuguese possessions. The Dutch successively seized Recife, capital of Dutch Brazil, in 1630, São Jorge da Mina (1637), Arguim (1638), São Tomé (1641) and São Luís (1641), capital of the state of Maranhão. However, most of Brazil remained in Portuguese hands, which were a constant threat to Dutch rule.

At this time, quilombos were founded, such as the Quilombo dos Palmares, led by Zumbi, which gathered thousands of blacks escaped from the sugar cane mills in the Brazilian Northeast and some poor or undesirable Indians and whites. This “underworld” was destroyed by Portuguese bandeirantes commanded by Domingos Jorge Velho.

In 1640, a Luso-Spanish armada failed to land in Pernambuco and was destroyed near Itamaracá. The war restarted. In the same year, the War of Restoration began, ending the period of Habsburg rule, and João IV of Portugal ascended the throne. In 1642, Portugal granted England the position of “most favored nation” in colonial trade.

In 1645, the Pernambuco Insurrection of Portuguese-Brazilians unhappy with the WIC administration breaks out. In that year Brazil was elevated to a Principality. Between 1648-1649 the Battles of Guararapes are fought, won by Luso-Brazilians in the state of Pernambuco. The first battle occurred on April 19, 1648, and the second on February 19, 1649. The forces led by the engenho lords André Vidal de Negreiros and João Fernandes Vieira, the African Henrique Dias, and the Indian Filipe Camarão, ended the Dutch invasions of Brazil, although the war continued in other parts of the empire. Between 1645 and 1654, the Luso-Brazilian settlers of the Capitania of Pernambuco expelled them from Brazil and recovered Recife.

In 1648, in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador Correia de Sá e Benevides prepared a fleet of 15 ships under the pretext of bringing help to the Portuguese besieged by Queen Nzinga”s warriors in Angola. He left Rio de Janeiro on May 12 and, through contacts with Jesuits, managed to recapture Luanda on August 15. The campaign lasted from 1648 to 1652, recovering Angola and the island of São Tomé for the Portuguese.

By mid-century, sugar produced in the Dutch Antilles began to compete heavily with sugar from Brazil. The Dutch had perfected the technique in Brazil, and dominated transportation and distribution throughout Europe. In 1649, following an idea already put forward by Padre Antonio Vieira, King João IV authorized the creation of the Companhia Geral do Comércio do Brasil to foster the recovery of sugar agribusiness. Its main function was to supply, on an exclusive basis, African slaves to the northeastern region of Brazil and to guarantee the safe transportation of sugar to Europe, to help resist the invader.

On January 26, 1654, the Dutch capitulation in Brazil is signed, the Capitulation of Campo do Taborda, in Recife, from where the last Dutch ships departed. Portugal was forced to turn to England and in that year increased English rights, which could directly negotiate various products from Brazil with Portugal and vice versa.

In 1661, England undertook to defend Portugal and its colonies in exchange for two million cruzados, also obtaining the possessions of Tangiers and Bombay, given as dowry from the marriage between Princess Catherine of Braganza and Charles II of England. In that year the second Hague Peace Treaty is signed with the Dutch: Portugal accepted the losses in Asia, committing to pay eight million Florins, equivalent to sixty-three tons of gold, as compensation for the recognition of Portuguese sovereignty of the Brazilian Northeast, former New Holland. This amount was paid in installments, over forty years and under the threat of invasion by the Navy.

At the end of the clashes with the Dutch, although it managed to recover Brazil and territories in Africa, Portugal forever lost its prominence in the East. Thus, throughout the 17th century, Brazil began to gain increasing importance in the empire, to which it exported brazilwood and sugar.

From 1693 on, attention was focused on the Capitania of Espírito Santo, in the region that would become known as Minas Gerais, where Paulista bandeirantes had discovered gold. The first important discoveries in the Sabarabuçu mountain range and the beginning of exploration in the gold producing regions (Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso and Goiás) provoked a true “gold rush”, with great migration to these regions. In 1696 the settlement was founded and became the village of Minas Gerais in 1711, the new economic center of the colony, with rapid settlement and some conflicts.

The gold rush considerably increased the revenue of the crown, which collected one fifth of all ore extracted, which became known as “the fifth”. Detour and trafficking were frequent, so a control bureaucracy was instituted.

In the correspondence of the French ambassador in Lisbon, Rouillé, there is the first mention of the gold that arrived in the fleet in 1697 – 115.2 kilos. There is a lack of information to judge the gold that entered the Kingdom from 1698 to 1703, but Godinho, without citing the source, mentions 725 kilos in 1699 and 1,785 kilos in 1701. Gold production is said to have increased from 2 tons per year in 1701 to 14 tons in the 1750s, but then began to decline sharply until it was exhausted before the end of the century. Gold surpassed in profit the other products of trade and allowed the prosperity of Rio de Janeiro. The economic importance of Brazil for Portugal, would have led D. João IV to refer to Brazil as the “milk cow of the Kingdom”.

In the late 1720s, diamonds and other precious gems were also discovered. The abundant gold in the creeks was exhausted and began to be more painfully sought in veins within the land, with the living conditions of the enslaved in the mining region particularly difficult. Precious metals appeared in Goiás and Mato Grosso in the 18th century.

The treaty of Madrid (1750) defined the borders between Brazil and the rest of the Spanish territories, but conflicts remained frequent regarding the colony of Sacramento, until Portugal renounced it in the Treaty of Santo Ildefonso (1777). The 18th century was marked by greater centralization and increased royal power throughout the Portuguese Empire; the power of the Jesuits, then protectors of the Indians from slavery, was brutally suppressed by Marques de Pombal with the dissolution of this Catholic religious order under Portuguese soil in 1759.

In 1761, Portugal pioneered the abolition of the slave trade in the metropolis, declaring slaves entering Portugal free and forros. It was a first step towards the abolition of slavery. The Kingdom of Portugal, by the hand of the Marquis of Pombal, Prime Minister of King Dom José, abolished slavery in the Metropolis on September 19, 1761, but not in the rest of the Empire, where slavery continued to be practiced and the transport and sale of slaves continued.

In 1774, the two states of Brazil and Grão-Pará and Maranhão merged into a single administrative entity. The settlers began to manifest a certain dissatisfaction with the authorities in Lisbon.

Ten years later followed the Conjuração Baiana in Salvador, a movement that came from the humble layer of Bahia society, with great participation of blacks, mulattos and tailors, which is why it is also known as Revolta dos Alfaiates, which preached the liberation of the slaves, the establishment of an egalitarian government with the installation of a Republic in Bahia, which would be stopped on August 12, 1798. These two movements were already manifesting their intention to proclaim independence, inspired by the Enlightenment ideals of France and the recent American independence.

Change of Court and Independence of the Kingdom of Brazil (1807-1822)

In November 1807, taking refuge from the troops of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, the Portuguese crown moved to Brazil. Dom João VI arrived in the city of Rio de Janeiro in 1808 with an entourage of 15,000 people, after a secret alliance with Great Britain, which agreed to put the royal family and the Portuguese government safe by escorting the ships on the way. They settled in the Paço da Cidade, the governors” residence since 1743.

Four days after his arrival, still in Salvador, Bahia, the Prince signed the first royal charter with the Decree Opening the Ports to Friendly Nations, ending the colonial pact, which established Brazil”s trade monopoly with Portugal. The Brazilian ports were then opened to friendly nations – such as Great Britain). The importation of “any and all goods, farms and merchandise carried in foreign ships of the powers that were in peace and harmony with the Royal Crown” or in Portuguese ships was allowed, in an attempt to decrease, by opening the ports, Portugal”s total dependence on Great Britain. This opening was accompanied by a series of improvements, decreed by royal charter: after trade, came “freedom for industry”, the creation of the National Press and a Gunpowder Factory, which since 1540 had been manufactured at the Barcarena Gunpowder Factory. On October 12, the Banco do Brasil was founded to finance the new initiatives and undertakings.

In retaliation against France, Dom João ordered the invasion and annexation of French Guiana in the far north and the eastern bank of the Uruguay River in the far south. The former territory would be returned to French sovereignty in 1817, but Uruguay was kept under the name Cisplatina Province.

On December 16, 1815, in the context of the negotiations at the Congress of Vienna, Brazil was elevated to the status of a Kingdom within the Portuguese State, with the designation “United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves”. Rio de Janeiro became the imperial court and capital, and the former captaincies were renamed provinces. In this year Queen Maria I died and D. João VI was crowned king. He gave Brazil the Manueline sphere with the quinas as its coat of arms, already present on coins from Portuguese Africa (1770).

In January 1821, after the (Portuguese liberal revolution of 1820), the “Cortes Gerais, Extraordinárias e Constituintes da Nação Portuguesa” (General, Extraordinary and Constituent Courts of the Portuguese Nation) were established in Portugal, charged with drafting a constitution. In February, King João VI ordered deputies from Brazil, as well as from the Azores, Madeira and Cape Verde to participate in the assembly. In Rio de Janeiro, a decree announced the king”s return to Portugal and ordered that, “without loss of time,” elections of deputies to represent Brazil in the “Cortes Gerais” convened in Lisbon be held.

Brazil elected 81 representatives to the Constituents in Lisbon. In April, Maciel Parente and Francisco Moniz Tavares, deputies of the Junta of Pará and Pernambuco, arrived in Lisbon, the first Brazilians to officially address the Assembly, in a lively debate with Portuguese deputies Borges Carneiro and Ferreira Borges e Moura, against sending more troops to Pernambuco and the uncomfortable presence of the numerous Portuguese military garrison in the province. In Rio, Brazil”s first voter assembly resulted in a confrontation with deaths, with Portuguese troops dissolving the demonstration. The next day, cariocas posted a poster outside the Paço with the inscription “Açougue do Bragança”, referring to the King as a butcher. D. João VI left for Portugal five days later, on April 16, 1821, leaving his firstborn Pedro de Alcântara as Prince Regent of Brazil. In August 1821 the Cortes presented three projects for Brazil with measures that they refused to accept.

In January 1822, the secession of Brazil would be pushed forward and announced informally by the crown prince D. Pedro, with the declaration that he would remain in Brazil, on the “Day of Fico”, with the following words: As it is for the good of all and the general happiness of the nation, I am ready: tell the people that I am staying. Now all I have to recommend is union and tranquility. This would be declared on September 7th, the date of the romanticized “Ipiranga shout”.

On September 7, 1822, Dom Pedro proclaimed independence and reigned until 1831, as Dom Pedro I, when he was succeeded by his heir, Dom Pedro II, who was only five years old. At the age of fourteen in 1840, Dom Pedro II came of age, and was crowned emperor the following year. At the end of the first decade of the Second Reign, the regime stabilized. The provinces were pacified, and the last great insurrection, the Revolta Praieira, was defeated in 1849.

With the recognition of Brazil”s declaration of independence in 1825, Portugal accentuated its territorial expansion into the interior of Africa, and from 1870 would have to face the European powers to preserve the rest of its fragmented Empire. Brazil”s independence, however, created an immense emotional and material shock wave in Portugal, since it was the bulwark of the Empire, a symbol of national pride. During the Estado Novo period, when the Colonial Act was in force (1930 – 1951), the Portuguese Overseas Empire was officially called the “Portuguese Colonial Empire”, then composed of the African colonies of São Tomé and Príncipe, Cape Verde, Portuguese Guinea, Angola, Cabinda, Mozambique and São João Baptista de Ajudá, the Asian colonies of Macau, the Portuguese State of India and Portuguese Timor. In 1951, the designation “Portuguese Colonial Empire” was abolished, as a policy to avoid being considered a colonial power in international forums. In the hope of preserving an intercontinental Portugal, the Estado Novo began to designate the colonies as overseas provinces, considering that these territories were not colonies, but rather an integral and inseparable part of Portugal, as a “Multiracial and Pluricontinental Nation”.

Resistance to Portuguese domination manifested itself in the context of European decolonization. In 1954, the Indian Union annexed the territories of Dadrá and Nagar Haveli, and in 1961 widespread clashes began in the East and in Africa: independent India conquered Goa, in an armed action with little resistance and soon after the island of Angediva. In 1961 the confrontations of the Portuguese Colonial War in Africa also began, which would last until the Carnation Revolution (1974), resulting in the independence of the colonies in 1975.

The de facto “end” of the Portuguese Empire was in 1999, when Macau, the last territory under its administration, was returned to the People”s Republic of China. The history of the Portuguese empire can be divided into distinct periods:


After the loss of Brazil, with independence in 1822, Portugal had to face the European powers to keep the rest of its fragmented empire: the possessions in the Indies, Macau and East Timor, the islands of Cape Verde and São Tomé and Príncipe, the coasts of Portuguese West Africa (later Angola and Guinea) and East Africa (later Mozambique), where protection agreements with local rulers were in force and whose interior had not been occupied. In 1842 Portugal put an end to the slave trade in the Empire and in 1869 abolished slavery under pressure from Great Britain. This decision would quickly be counterbalanced by labor legislation insisting on the necessity of indigenous labor in the cotton fields or on public works.

During the so-called “partition of Africa”, Portugal claimed vast areas of the African continent based on “historical right”, founded on the primacy of occupation, entering into collision with the main European powers. The growing British, French and German presence on the continent threatened Portuguese hegemony, as witnessed by Silva Porto, a merchant based in the Bié Plateau. From the 1870s it became clear that historical right was not enough: intense European scientific and geographical exploration was often followed by commercial interest. Between 1840 and 1872 David Livingstone explored central Africa, where the British South Africa Company was to be established. In 1874 Henry Morton Stanley explored the Congo River basin and was funded by King Leopold II of Belgium, who in 1876 created an association to colonize the Congo, ignoring Portuguese interests in the region. In 1875 seventy-four subscribers founded the Lisbon Geographical Society to support the exploration, as did its European counterparts.

They then prepared the first scientific-geographical expeditions, financed by national subscription, of Hermenegildo Capelo, Roberto Ivens and Serpa Pinto, who mapped the territory between 1877 and 1885. They intended to reconnoiter the Cuango, Congo and Zambezi rivers, completing the map of central and southern Africa (the famous Pink Map) to maintain Portuguese “civilizing stations” in the interior.

Meanwhile, the foreign minister João de Andrade Corvo reaffirmed the traditional Luso-British alliance, proposing to open Mozambique and Goa to British trade and navigation in exchange for recognition in the Congo. In 1883 Portugal occupied the north of the Congo River and the following year signed an agreement with the British recognizing the right to both banks. The agreement was immediately denounced by the other powers, leading to Bismarck”s convening of the Berlin Conference (1884-1885) to direct the conflicts – including the Luso-British opposition to Leopold II”s expansion. However the alliance disappointed: under pressure from Germany and France, Portugal lost control of the mouth of the Congo, keeping only Cabinda, whose notables signed the Treaty of Simulambuco in February 1885, by which they agreed to be a protectorate of the Portuguese crown.

The demand for effective occupation determined by the Berlin Conference forced Portugal to act. The Portuguese state then diversified its international contacts, giving in to France in Guinea, and to Germany in southern Angola, which it then named a colony, in exchange for recognition of the interior lands. Thus was born the Pink Map, made public in 1886, claiming a strip of territory from Angola to the counter-coast or Mozambique. In order to support this claim, campaigns of exploitation and devastation were carried out against the people of the interior, whose resistance was fought by the Conquest and Pacification Campaigns conducted by the armed forces.

In 1887, upon learning of the Portuguese plans, British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury warned that he would not recognize territories “not occupied with sufficient forces to maintain order, protect foreigners, and control natives.” While the British created Southern Rhodesia, Portugal attempted to close the Zambezi River to navigation and claimed the Niassa valley in a strip that isolated the British colonies. In January 1890 Paiva Couceiro stationed 40 soldiers in Bié, Angola, on his way to Barotze to try to obtain the “avassalamento” of the soba Levanica. Simultaneously, near Lake Niassa, in Mozambique, Serpa Pinto”s forces harnessed the British flags, in a space monitored by the United Kingdom.

On January 11, 1890, under the pretext of the Serpa Pinto incident, the British Ultimatum demanded the immediate withdrawal of Portuguese military forces in the territory between Mozambique and Angola (present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia). Portugal then immediately ended the African colonial expansion that Lord Salisbury had considered based on “archaeological arguments” for occupation. The ultimatum caused serious damage to the image of the Portuguese monarchical government. A year later the Barotze Question, concerning the establishment of the borders of Angola, was settled between Portugal and Great Britain with the arbitration of Victor Emmanuel III of Italy.

Following the British ultimatum of 1890, the Portuguese colonial administration hardened its actions, investing in “armed pacification campaigns” and in overthrowing the less cooperative rulers. In 1885, it allied itself with Gungunhana, emperor of the Gaza Empire in East Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers, who accepted the agreement in a precarious balance between Portuguese and British forces and the threat of the pretenders to the throne. The Gaza province and the port of Lourenço Marques (now Maputo) were coveted by the British British South Africa Company and Cecil Rhodes for the flow of raw materials from the Transvaal. After the ultimatum three major concessionaires were authorized to exploit immense territories in Mozambique: the Niassa Company (1890), the Mozambique Company (1891) and the Zambezia Company (1892): all sought to attract Gungunhana to their interests. In October 1890 Cecil Rhodes obtained an alliance to grant exploration and access to the sea contrary to the agreement of 1885, but playing in the conflict between London and Lisbon, Gungunhana was surprised when, in asking for British protection, he got no answer: the governments had agreed on the delimitation of the territories in June 1891, and Gaza was in the interior of Mozambique. He is summoned to assume his place as a subject of Portugal.

In 1890 António Enes decreed a revision of the Rural Labor Code of 1875 – which established the “moral” obligation of the settlers to produce goods for commercialization – that the peasant no longer has the option to pay the “mussoco” in kind: “…The lessee is obliged to collect from the settlers in rural labor, at least half of the capitation of 800 réis”. Between 1891-1892 Mouzinho de Albuquerque, governor of the district of Lourenço Marques (Maputo) toughened relations with the surrounding people. Forced labor, payment of taxes such as the palhota tax, and violence against the people led to revolt. Among the increasingly frequent incidents, in June 1894 a German naval force occupied the Quionga triangle at the mouth of the Rovuma River on the German East African border (in August, and by 1895, a rebellion gathered thousands of warriors and besieged Lourenço Marques (Maputo) for more than two months. The city was sacked, the fall being prevented by warships. In Lisbon the rebellion was attributed to Gungunhana and British interests, alarm was great. The government reacted strongly, reinforcing the military presence in Mozambique. On 28 December 1895, Gungunhana was arrested by Mouzinho de Albuquerque. Known to the European press, he was sentenced to exile in the Azores.

In 1911, after the end of the monarchy, borrowing from the British a method of indirect administration, but also influenced by the French, the Republicans gave the overseas possessions the name of colony, to which they attributed a certain financial and administrative autonomy. The Quionga Triangle was reoccupied in 1916, during World War I, by Portuguese forces, and was officially reintegrated into Mozambique in 1919 by the Treaty of Versailles, which again defined the border along the Rovuma River.

The centralizing Colonial Act passed in 1930, during the Military Dictatorship (1926-1933) that preceded the Estado Novo, redefined the forms of relationship between the metropolis and the colonies, restricting the already limited financial and administrative autonomy. From 1926, those affected by the Indigenous Statute were excluded from the category of citizens to which integrated Africans and European settlers belonged until 1961. The set of administered territories was then called the Portuguese Colonial Empire. This Act defined for a long time the Portuguese overseas concept and was revoked in the revision of the Constitution made in 1951, which modified and integrated it in the text of the Constitution.

From 1946 onwards, as a political way to avoid Portugal being considered a colonial power in international forums, and in the hope of preserving an intercontinental Portugal, the Estado Novo began to designate the colonies as provincias d”além-mar or províncias ultramarinas, considering that these territories were not colonies, but rather an integral and inseparable part of Portugal, as a “Multiracial and Pluricontinental Nation”.


In 1961, an anti-colonial movement manifested itself in Angola with the emergence of two armed struggle parties, the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) and the Union of the Peoples of Angola (UPA), starting the Portuguese Colonial War. In Mozambique, guerrilla operations began in 1964. After Salazar”s death, Portugal agreed to grant limited autonomy to Angola and Mozambique in 1972. After the Carnation Revolution in the mainland (1974), the Portuguese agreed to grant independence to their colonies in 1975. In Mozambique, the Front for the Liberation of Mozambique (FRELIMO) took control of the country, but faced armed resistance from RENAMO for years. In Angola, a civil war between four liberation movements lasts until 2002 and leads to a deterioration of the situation in the country.

The decolonization process is close in Guinea, where the Portuguese are unable to stop the rising hostilities and quickly recognized the independence of Guinea-Bissau (1974) and Cape Verde (1975). In the same year, the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe also acceded to independence.

In the early 1960s, the Portuguese colonial war begins in the face of Portugal”s refusal to grant independence to its African territories. The remaining Portuguese State of India is annexed in December 1961 by the Indian Union. At the time of the Carnation Revolution, a revolutionary process that dictated the end of the New State and Portuguese colonialism, the independence of Guinea-Bissau (September 10, 1974) was recognized and independence was granted to Mozambique (June 25, 1975), Cape Verde (July 5, 1975), São Tomé and Príncipe (July 12, 1975), and Angola (November 11, 1975).

The de facto “end” of the Portuguese Empire occurred in 1975, when its colonies proclaimed their independence en masse and

In the East, resistance to Portuguese domination manifested itself in the context of European decolonization. After Indian independence was granted by the British in 1947, Portugal refused to accede to India”s request to rescind its possession. The attitude was condemned by the International Court and the United Nations Assembly, which ruled in favor of India. In 1954, after the French decolonization Pondicherry, the Indian Union annexed the territories of Dadrá and Nagar Haveli, which had been part of the Portuguese State of India since 1779. India prevented Portugal from deploying military personnel to defend it, and eventually formally annexed the enclaves after several peaceful protests, with the Portuguese government led by António de Oliveira Salazar refusing to negotiate. In December 1961, the Indian Union invaded the territories of Goa, Damão and Diu. From the 18th to the 19th of December 1961, a force of 40 000 soldiers from independent India conquered Goa, in an armed action – made by land, air and sea, which lasted about 36 hours – ended the 451-year Portuguese rule in Goa, meeting little resistance, and integrated the Portuguese State of India in its territory. And the following year it took the island of Angediva. At the time, the UN Security Council considered a resolution condemning the invasion, which was vetoed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Most nations recognized India”s action, however, Salazar refused to recognize Indian sovereignty over the territories, keeping them represented in the National Assembly until 1974, when the Carnation Revolution took place. From then on Portugal was able to re-establish diplomatic relations with India, starting with the recognition of Indian sovereignty over the former State of India. However, its inhabitants, who wished to do so, were given the possibility to maintain their Portuguese citizenship.

Portuguese Timor, now East Timor, unilaterally proclaimed its independence in 1975, but was annexed the same year by Indonesia, becoming the province of Timor Timur on July 15, 1976. Consequently, it was under Indonesian administration until the 1999 referendum, followed by UN interim administration until 2002, when Portugal recognized its independence.

One can consider the official or de jure “end” of the Portuguese Empire in 1999, more precisely on December 20, 1999, when Macau, the last territory under its administration, was finally returned following the 1987 joint declaration and passed to the sovereignty of the People”s Republic of China as a special administrative region, which has always maintained that Macau was, since ancient times, an inalienable territory of China, but gradually occupied by Portugal since the 16th century.

The decolonization of Macau was done in a different and special way and began after the Carnation Revolution, when its immediate return to the People”s Republic of China was proposed, but rejected by that great communist country. In 1976, this colony officially acquired the special status of “Chinese territory under Portuguese administration. In 1987, after intense negotiations, in the Sino-Portuguese Joint Declaration Portugal accepted China”s recovery, on December 20, 1999, of sovereignty over Macau. In return, China promised to retain Macau”s specificities, including its capitalist economic system, and to grant a high degree of autonomy for the people of Macau, following the principle of “one country, two systems. After the return to China, Macao became a Special Administrative Region, administered by its people, but more specifically led by a Chief Executive (who has since been indirectly elected) and a Legislative Assembly (only less than half of its members have since been directly elected, thus giving pro-government and pro-Beijing forces a great deal of room for maneuver and control).

Today, Portuguese is one of the world”s major languages, being the 6th most widely spoken language, with about 240 million speakers worldwide. It is the third most widely spoken language in the Americas, mainly due to Brazil, although there are also significant Lusophone communities in countries such as Canada, the United States and Venezuela. In addition, there are numerous Portuguese-based creole languages, including the one used by the people of the Cristang Community in Malacca. It is also the lingua franca in many former colonial possessions in Africa and the official language in 8 countries, and is also the co-official language along with Cantonese in the administrative region of Macau. It left its influence in Japan, with several words of Portuguese origin in the Japanese lexicon. Its presence in Malacca, Malaysia, gave rise to the Cristang community. In Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, the so-called Portuguese Burghers who, like many other peoples, keep alive one of several Portuguese-based creoles.

In cyberspace, Portuguese is estimated to be the fifth most used language on the Internet, and on Wikipedia, it currently has the ninth most articles published.

Because of its international importance, Portugal and Brazil are leading a movement to include Portuguese as one of the official languages of the United Nations.

The Portuguese presence also left a vast human, gastronomic, cultural, and architectural legacy on several continents, an extraordinary legacy, given that the total Portuguese population in 1527 was only 1.2 million.



  1. Império Português
  2. Portuguese Empire
Ads Blocker Image Powered by Code Help Pro

Ads Blocker Detected!!!

We have detected that you are using extensions to block ads. Please support us by disabling these ads blocker.