Portugal and the Second World War

Portugal established its monarchy in 1128. In the 19th century there was a dramatic growth in republicanism as a result of royal extravagance, a reactionary Church and large-scale poverty. In February, 1908, Carlos I and his brother were assassinated. After a insurrection in October 1910, Manuel II fled to England. Manoel de Arriaga became Portugal's new leader.

In 1914 the Portuguese Army began skirmishing with German troops on the frontier between Portuguese East Africa (Mozambique) and German East Africa. German agents also attempted to incite a tribal uprising in Angola.

On 7th August 1914, Portugal's parliament decided to declare its support for the Allies. In February, 1916, the Portuguese government ordered its navy to seize German ships in its harbours. Germany responded by declaring war on Portugal. About 100,000 Portuguese eventually fought with the Allies on the Western Front and in Mozambique. The army suffered 21,000 casualties, including over 7,000 dead.

After the war the republican government introduced a liberal constitution but the country remained economically backward and vast numbers of the population lived in poverty.

General Antonio Carmona led a military coup in 1926. He became prime minister with dictatorial powers. In 1928 he was elected president for life by plebiscite. However, in 1932 he passed his power toAntonio Salazar.

In 1933 Salazar introduced a new constitution that contained similarities to the fascist system that existed in Germany and Italy. With the support of the army and the security police Salazar held power for over 35 years. Salazar's economic policies greatly enhanced the wealth of the ruling oligarchy. At the same time Portugal became the poorest country in Europe.

On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War Salazar decided to provide aid to the Nationalist Army. This included providing troops and supplies. His police also arrested supporters of the Popular Front government living in Portugal. He also sealed off the Portuguese frontier to Republicans.

Salazar, concerned about the effect the events in Spain would have on his country, established a new militia that could serve as an auxiliary police. This new police force arrested dissidents and removed politically unreliable people from educational and governmental institutions.

Portugal remained neutral throughout the Second World War. In December 1942, the Japanese Army occupied the Portuguese territory of East Timor in the Pacific. Salazar refused to declare war on Japan but in 1943 did allow the Allies to use its territories in the Azores as military bases.

Antonio Salazar gave up power in 1968 through ill health. He died on 27th July, 1970.