Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Portugal: A Traveller's History

Portugal: A Traveller's History

Harold Livermore
Copyright Date: 2004
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 200
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Portugal: A Traveller's History
    Book Description:

    Portugal, the 'ancient ally', is a country easily accessible, with an enviable climate, welcoming inhabitants and famous beaches. English and Spanish apart, Portuguese is more widely spoken than any other European tongue. This historical guide draws on personal experiences ranging from a residence of three years to regular visits since 1936. It combines introductory chapters on eight centuries of nationhood, and sections on the Roman and Islamic past, architecture, painting, music and birds, with visits to the great cities of Lisbon and Oporto, and to the country's varied regions. The author's aim is not merely to describe; rather to account for the emergence of what the visitor may expect to see. He avoids jargon, preferring clarity and moderation - although permitting himself an occasional expression of saudade (the nostalgia for Portugal which haunts all who have loved this land). Harold Livermore studied in Portugal in 1937 and taught there, in Cambridge and in Canada. He was educational director of the Luso-Brazilian Council in London and is a member of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences and of the Portuguese Academy of History. His first 'History of Portugal' was awarded the CamSes Prize and was followed by a 'New History' and a 'Shorter History'. He has also published a history of Spain and an account of the medieval origins of both countries. A selection of his articles, 'Essays on History and Literature', appeared in 2000.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-237-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)

    When I was invited to write this book some years ago, circumstances prevented me from accepting. I feared that arthritis would stop my travels. I first visited Portugal in May 1936 as a graduate working in Spain, but the outbreak of civil war obliged me to come home. Cambridge then kindly made an award, intended for study in Spain, available in Portugal. My wife and I went to Coimbra, and I was made headmaster of the English school near Lisbon. We returned to England in November 1942, and my earliest history of Portugal appeared in 1947; this will explain why...

  5. 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-8)

    Portugal is a land, its people, and their language. It is not one of the larger European states, comprising about a fifth of the Iberian Peninsula. Its population is about ten million, comparable with those of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland combined, Norway and Sweden combined, Belgium, or Greece. Yet its language is more widely spoken than French, German, or any other European tongue, except English and Spanish. This is due largely to the vastness and growth of Brazil, which exceeds in population any state of Europe, even Britain and France combined. Portuguese has also been implanted in a large...

  6. 2 Portugal in History
    (pp. 9-36)

    Portugal was a monarchy for eight centuries, and has been a republic since 1910. As every Portuguese schoolchild knows, its first king was Afonso Henriques, who was born in about 1109 and lived until 1185. He replaced his mother Queen Teresa in 1128, seized Santarém from the Muslims and took Lisbon after a long siege in 1147, thus carrying the frontier from the Mondego to the Tagus and beyond. He used the title of king from 1139 or 1140. Our pupil may or may not have been told that King Afonso I defeated five Muslim kings in the battle of...

  7. 3 Before Portugal
    (pp. 37-44)

    There were innumerable generations of inhabitants of Portugal before they recognised themselves as Portuguese, or even Lusitanians, the name given by the Romans to the people of central Portugal. The first Stone Age or Palaeolithic takes us back a hundred millennia, when the present climate and landscape did not yet exist. The range of primitive artefacts, from stone bludgeons to the refined laurel-leaf blade, can be seen in the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography at Belém and in numerous local collections. Although Portuguese archaeology goes back to 1865, new sites are constantly being revealed. A project for a hydroelectric scheme...

  8. 4 Islamic Portugal
    (pp. 45-49)

    The sudden collapse of the Spanish Goths in AD 711 arose from their own dissensions and from the dynamic expansion of Islam, which had conquered Egypt in 642, been held for a time at Carthage, and then at a bound reached the Straits of Gibraltar, reducing Eastern Rome, the Byzantine Empire, to a shadow of itself. The Greeks had occupied North Africa for less than two centuries and had revived the western church both in Lusitania and in the Suevic kingdom of Braga. They had been driven out by the Goths before 615, but rarely regarded the rulers of the...

  9. 5 Architecture
    (pp. 50-61)

    Architecture is undertaken by those who have the means to engage in it. There are two styles for which Portugal is famous, that called Manueline after King Manuel I, who disposed of great wealth resulting from the opening of trade with the East, and the baroque of John V, which arose from the profusion of Brazilian gold and diamonds in the eighteenth century. Both mingle innovation with forms and practices of the past. It is unwise to look for a purity of style which obeys only some imaginary text-book. Buildings may be secular or ecclesiastic or both. There is a...

  10. 6 Painting
    (pp. 62-65)

    Sacheverell Sitwell, who paid five visits to Portugal, says: ‘in Portugal there are no painters’, adding: ‘what is lacking in Portugal where decorative painting is nearly always bad is the brush of a Tiepolo. There are moments when one longs for even a third-rate Italian painter. But Italy is the land of painting, and Portugal is no more to be reproached for want of that than England, for here too it is no part of our native genius.’ I happen to be writing in the house of J M W Turner, R A and take these remarks for what they...

  11. 7 Music
    (pp. 66-69)

    In an age when recorded sounds are available everywhere, what is heard in Portugal may or may not be Portuguese music. Discounting international sound, which is easily industrialised, and in which Portugal doubtless has its place, we can only say briefly what is typically Portuguese. When Ann Livermore wrote herShort History of Spanish Musicin 1972, she remarked that she could not do a similar volume for Portuguese because you can’t write about music unless you hear it. Now much more Portuguese music is available, for which a debt is owed to the Gulbenkian Foundation, particularly in the field...

  12. 8 Birds
    (pp. 70-71)

    Travellers who are also bird-watchers will find much to admire in Portugal. While the ‘British list’ has a little over two hundred varieties, the Portuguese exceeds three hundred, named by W C Tait in 1924, or two hundred and eighty named in 1973 by R Carey, who deals only with the south. The difference of nearly fifty per cent is partly because Portugal lies on a main migration route, receiving passengers from continental Europe on their way south and some African species on their way north. It is also due to the absence of any large industrial area and the...

  13. 9 Fishing
    (pp. 72-73)

    Fish forms an important part of the Portuguese diet. Lampreys are found in the Lima and shad (sável) in the Tagus and Douro, and trout are bred in the numerous new reservoirs oralbufeiras.But the sea is by far the greatest source. In ancient times the most important catch was the tunny. The Romans also relishedgarum,made of preserved fish. The chain of tanks and industrial plants of Phoenician times can be traced from Lisbon to the Algarve, and also extends to North Africa. After the discovery of America, the great fishery was the Newfoundland Banks, and a...

  14. 10 Portuguese Wines
    (pp. 74-76)

    The name Portugal is indissolubly associated with that of Port-wine. Both words derive from the city of Oporto, which does not itself produce wine, but stores and exports the justly esteemed vintages of the Upper Douro valley, beginning some fifty miles to the east and continuing as far again to the Spanish frontier. It has enjoyed its reputation since the beginning of the eighteenth century and is still the most beautiful vineyard in the world. Port-wine became the country’s leading export, and was widely consumed in Britain, serving even to restore the energies and spirits of university dons after the...

  15. 11 Lisbon
    (pp. 77-101)

    Lisbon has a magnificent setting on hills at the mouth of the Tagus, which broadens into an inland sea, the Mar de Palha, before passing through a channel to reach the ocean. By convention the hills are seven, like those of Rome, but in fact the slopes ar e many and some very steep. On the height to the east stands the castle of St George, formerly regarded as the true seat of authority. It is separated from another height, the Alto, by a cleft, once an arm of the sea, and the city grew up between these and the...

  16. 12 North from Lisbon
    (pp. 102-123)

    In early times the Castle of St George and the mosque/cathedral were the centre of Lisbon. The eastern side was cast in a secondary part by the epic of the Discoveries and the growth of Atlantic trade. King John V, the Most Faithful, wishing to have a permanent Portuguese cardinal, erected Occidental Lisbon as the see of his Patriarch: in the nineteenth century the trend was continued with the opening of the Avenida and the central station of the Rossio. To the east, there was no Oriental Lisbon: Pombal seems to have thought of the iron foundries as a potential...

  17. 13 Oporto
    (pp. 124-132)

    The city of Oporto is the undisputed capital of the north, second only to Lisbon and metropolis for the province of the Minho, the source of Portuguese nationhood and the most populous rural region. It is about half the size of Lisbon, but has enveloped the surrounding townships without obliterating them. It is the port of entry and interchange for the teeming countryside to the north and for the valley of the Douro. One may still be aroused in the middle of the city by the crowing of cocks, even if the creaking of wains has given way to traffic-jams....

  18. 14 North of Oporto
    (pp. 133-143)

    Beyond the Foz, the Atlantic coast has a string of sandy beaches. Next to Leixões, the ocean port for Oporto, comes the fishing-town of Matosinhos, which has a baroque church and a Franciscan convent. The small river Leça gives its name to Leça da Palmeira and a few miles inland Leça do Balio. The coast continues to Vila do Conde, passing a prominent obelisk rising above the sands to commemorate the place at Mindelo where Dom Pedro and his liberal army landed in 1832 from the Azores to take Oporto where they were besieged. The dunes and pools are now...

  19. 15 Interior Portugal
    (pp. 144-158)

    The high road to the east from Oporto strikes out for a very different Portugal which the writer Miguel Torga (1907–95), who was born there, called a ‘marvellous kingdom’. It is not a kingdom, and has no name but that bestowed on it from outside, Trás-os-Montes, ‘beyond the mountains’. The range in question is the Serra do Marão, rising to 4,250 feet. The pass at the Espinho commands a vast panorama. Those who dwell beyond are their own masters: ‘Para cá do Marão, mandam os que cá estão’. It is a large land-locked province whose capital Bragança is far...

  20. 16 Alentejo
    (pp. 159-175)

    Lisbon is a famous seaport, but it is not on the open ocean. A channel half a mile wide and twenty miles long leads into an inland sea several miles across and broad enough to hold all the world’s navies. It is the Straw Sea, Mar de Palha. The name has nothing to do with straw, but suggests a false ocean, rather as the False Creeks explorers used to find, a ‘man of straw’, a dummy. The rim of this expanded river or miniature sea is the Outra Banda, or Other Side.

    At the narrows ferries take about twenty minutes...

  21. 17 Algarve
    (pp. 176-183)

    Algarve is Portugal’s ‘other kingdom’ which is in many ways different from the rest of the country. Its name recalls that it was once the Far West, as seen from Egypt or Syria. In late Muslim times, its capital was Silves, but it was only a kingdom dependent on the Abbadid rulers of Seville. In 1471, Afonso V ‘the African’ assumed the title of ‘ King of Portugal and of the two Algarves, on this side and on that’, thus stressing its ancient connection with Morocco, the Magrib. His son, the great John II, came to take the waters of...

  22. Afterword
    (pp. 184-186)

    The first reader of this script remarked that I might have said more about contemporary Portugal. The thought had occurred to me, but it was not my intention to be involved in the complexities of today’s world scene, of which future historians will take care. Nor can I pretend to be an expert on the night-life of cities, of which any hotel porter knows more than I. The entry of Portugal into the Euro-zone has been smoothly done, but its economic consequences can hardly be measured. It is no more difficult to travel in Portugal than in any other part...

  23. Index
    (pp. 187-192)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-193)