10th June

1793 the Jardin des Plantes opens in Paris, later becoming the first public zoo – so read zoo books:

What about making…. an edible zoo for lunch? (Use animal crackers?)

Portugal Day:  Portugal comes from Portus Calle, or Celtic Port. It began as a society of tribes, mainly the Gallaecians and Lusitanians, but also North African Carthaginians and Syrian Phoenicians along the coast.

The Roman Empire took 200 years to defeat Portugal, eventually bribing the allies of their rebellious leader Viriathus to kill him.

There are still a lot of Celtic ‘Castro’ hillforts in Portugal and a lot of Roman structures like baths, temples, bridges, roads and houses.

In the 5th century Germanic Goths and Suebi invaded, and Portugal became the Kingdom of the Suebi. In 585 this was annexed by the Visigoths who then owned the whole of the Iberian Peninsula.

In 711 it became part of the Umayyad Caliphate, whose capital was Damascus and which stretched from Pakistan to France. The western half of this split and became the Emirate of Cordoba, later the Caliphate of Cordoba.

In 868 a central part of Portugal wasn’t really ruled by anyone and became its own County of Portugal.

In 1031 this dissolved into 23 Taifa kingdoms. Then the Almoravids from Morocco in 1086 invaded and the Almohads from Marrakesh in 1147.

During the Reconquista period, when Spanish Christians were taking back land from Muslims, the County of Portugal became the Kingdom of Portugal.

The first king was Alfonso Henriques (he had to defeat his own mother in battle to get the title) and he slowly drove the Muslim rule southwards and out of the country.

In 1373 Portugal allied with England, the oldest alliance in the world.

From 1415 Portugal was in the Age of Discovery, setting up colonies all over the place. Patronised by Prince Henry the Navigator, Portuguese explorers travelled around the Atlantic Ocean, the African coast and new routes to India and Asia, discovered Brazil and sent the first European missions to China and Japan.

In 1494 the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed between Spain and Portugal dividing the new world between them, as Portugal had a papal bull saying it owned all land south of the Canary Islands, even the bits it didn’t know existed!

In 1500 Portugal colonised Canada, long before the English arrived.

In 1580 Philip II of Spain became king of Portugal because its last two kings hadn’t left an heir, and dragged Portugal into the Eighty Years’ War with the Netherlands (of which Philip was also king).

When the Dutch gained their independence they started invading Portuguese colonies, so then there had to be a Dutch-Portuguese War.

In 1640 John IV decided he was king of Portugal, and then there was a Portuguese Restoration War with Spain to regain independence. About 600,000 Portuguese emigrated during the Brazil gold rush.

In 1755 a man called Sebastião de Melo, 1st Marquis of Pombelo, was made Prime Minister. He abolished slavery and regulated commerce.

When Lisbon was struck by an earthquake, he said “What do we do now? Bury the dead and take care of the living.” They tried new earthquake-proof buildings, testing models by letting troops march around them. You can still see them today in the Pombaline city centre.

After the king, Joseph I, was wounded in an attempted assassination, Melo went a bit power-crazy, expelling the Jesuits and prosecuting every man, woman and child suspected of involvement. But when Queen Maria I came to the throne she took away Melo’s powers and that was the end of that.

In 1807 Napoleon invaded. Britain helped Portugal expel his troops, while the royal family went to live in Brazil. Because the kingdom was now technically in Brazil, Portugal renamed itself the United States of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves (a coastal bit of Portugal that was its own country at the time).

When the king, João VI, had to return to Portugal, he left his son, Pedro, in charge of Brazil, and Pedro thought he was so good at it he declared Brazil independent.

In the 19th century Portugal took part in the Scramble for Africa, expanding its port towns into whole countries. Britain threatened war with Portugal if it didn’t move out of the way of its ‘Cape to Cairo’ railway.

In 1908, the king, Don Carlos I (who had twice caused Portugal to declare bankruptcy) and his heir were assassinated. This led to the 1910 revolution when Portugal became a republic.

The right-wing Estado Novo taking over in 1933, but even though you may assume (I did) this put them on Hitler and Franco’s side, they actually stayed out of WWII.

Gradually the rest of Portugal’s empire in India and Africa gained independence, but not without a battle: in 1961 Portugal fought India to keep Goa, Daman and Diu, and they fought against independence in Angola, Mozambique and Guinea in the Portuguese Colonial War, 1961-74.

On 25 April 1974, the Carnation Revolution toppled the right-wing government and Portugal withdrew from its colonies. In 1975 Portugal held its first democratic elections in 50 years.

Learn about the Rooster of Barcelos. Portugal loves its football, its folklore around the appearance of ‘Our Lady of Fatima’, fado, its national music style, and ‘pasteis de nata‘ (custard tarts).

2003 Spirit Rover launched (to explore Mars)

Other events today:

  • Reconciliation Day (Congo) – see 30th June

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