cover image The Portuguese: A Modern History

The Portuguese: A Modern History

Barry Hatton. Interlink, $15 trade paper (278p) ISBN 978-1-56656-844-9

"Clamped into a corner [of southwestern Europe] by Spain," Portugal is perhaps Europe's most isolated country. This brief history begins with Portugal's glory in the Age of Discovery, when it was a world power. Hatton, a longtime foreign correspondent in Lisbon, then focuses largely on the country's decline. He cites a famous 1871 analysis attributing this decline to religious conservatism, political centralization under an absolute ruler, and the economic boom "spawned by the Age of Discovery" that discouraged "prudent financial management." Hatton devotes almost as much space to the April 1974 Carnation Revolution that overthrew reactionary dictator Ant%C3%B3nio Salazar as to the entire 19th century. Still, he reveals a myriad of fascinating facts, including that in 1761 the Portuguese were the first to outlaw slavery in their own country but among the last to outlaw it in their colonies (1869), and that in 2008, only 27% of people ages 25 to 64 had completed secondary school. The author has many interesting observations about the character of the Portuguese, whom he praises for their "adaptability, resilience and resourcefulness." Hatton clearly loves Portugal and has written an engaging, often delightful history that should interest "Europeanists," Portuguese-Americans, and all those who have visited the country or want to. Illus. (July)