The early history of Portugal, whose name derives from the Roman name Portus Cale, is shared with the rest of the Iberian Peninsula.

A Celtic tribe, the Lusitanians, is believed to have been the first inhabitants of Portugal. The Romans conquered the region in about 140 B.C. Toward the end of the Roman Empire; the Visigoths had invaded the entire Iberian Peninsula.

Portugal won its independence from Moorish Spain in 1143. King John I (1385–1433) unified his country at the expense of the Castilians and the Moors of Morocco. The expansion of Portugal was brilliantly coordinated by John’s son, Prince Henry the Navigator. By the middle of the 16th century, the Portuguese empire extended to West and East Africa, Brazil, Persia, Indochina, and the Malayan peninsula.

Henry and the navigators in the monument to the Portuguese discoveries

Henry and the navigators in the monument to the Portuguese discoveries - source

The corrupt King Carlos, who ascended the throne in 1889, made João Franco the prime minister with dictatorial power in 1906.

In 1908, Carlos and his heir were shot in the streets of Lisbon. The new king, Manoel II, was driven from the throne in the revolution of 1910, and Portugal became a French-style republic.

Revolution in 1926 brought Antonio de Oliveira Salazar (minister of finance and prime minister). Salazar ruled Portugal as a virtual dictator. He kept Portugal neutral in World War II but gave the Allies naval and air bases after 1943.

In fact, the bloodiest and most protracted wars against colonialism in Africa were fought against the Portuguese. Also in the early 1960s, independence movements in the Portuguese overseas provinces of Angola, Mozambique, and Portuguese Guinea, in Africa, resulted in the Portuguese Colonial War (1961-1974). In 1974, a bloodless left-wing military coup in Lisbon led the way for a modern democracy as well as the independence of the last colonies in Africa shortly after.

Portugal was a founding member of NATO, OECD and EFTA. In 1986, Portugal joined the European Union (then the European Economic Community). It is also a co-founder of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries.