Anglo-Portuguese Relations Since 1900

World wars, dictatorship and the tensions of empire tested, but not to breaking point, the alliance in the twentieth century. Tom Gallagher outlines how economic and strategic considerations made Portugal a focus for Allied concern in the Second World War.

Down the centuries the sheer durability of the Anglo-Portuguese alliance has caused more than one historian to describe relations between the two countries in romantic and inflated terms. It is easy to forget that hard-headed commercial, strategic, and territorial considerations lay behind the pact and that there have been times when the spirit and even the letter of the treaty have been disregarded, especially by the stronger partner.

At first glance it also seems strange that an alliance encompassing so much history has had little discernible impact on the culture and institutions of either country. For anybody who values the alliance it is an uncomfortable fact that France (the last country to occupy Portugal) has played a much greater role in shaping its institutions and national life than Britain. Since the beginning of the nineteenth century France has been a magnet for the intellectuals, politicians, and wealthier classes in Portugal attracted by its political thought, literary forms, and stylish way of life. A British visitor can expect to be made very welcome in Portugal but a Frenchman often feels more at home and, until recently, French was the second language.

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