Portuguese Empire: 1. Origins and development

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionarypeer-review


The history of the origins and organization of the Portuguese Empire has been bedeviled by some of the myths created in the past, of noble pioneers and Christian martyr evangelists carrying civilization to the outer regions of the globe. The other great myth has been of the Portuguese openness toward other cultures, not least in the form of miscegenation creating hybrid populations. A modern historiography has produced much more complex analyses involving the reorientation of the Portuguese economy toward the Atlantic coasts sparking explorations and trading opportunities stimulated by royal power, but usually breaking down into a sequence of more individual enterprises. In the process Portuguese political, social, economic, and religious institutions were invariably modified by interactions with local circumstances and peoples. Forms of exploitative violence, both in conflicts with other European empires and in respect of indigenous societies, are now emphasized, particularly regarding the growing significance of slavery and the slave trade. The decline (though far from complete) of the initial Portuguese enterprise in Asia was balanced by the shift in the center of gravity toward the West where slaving in Angola was crucial to the plantation economy of Brazil.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Encyclopedia of Empire
EditorsJohn Mackenzie
Place of PublicationNew York
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)9781118455074
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Portuguese Empire
  • Atlantic World
  • 15th–18th centuries
  • Cultural History
  • Imperialism and conquest
  • Exploration
  • Indian Ocean World
  • Commerce and trade


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