Daniel Halliday
Jan 24 · Last update 22 days ago.
What led to the fall of the Portuguese Empire?
The Portuguese Empire arose from a period of European exploration that started with the discovery of the island of Madeira in 1419 under the direction of Prince Henry the Navigator. Portuguese sailors and merchants went on to circumnavigate the globe and establish one of the longest lived and furthest reaching Empires in the history of the world. But how did one of the first global empires and one of the most dominant European colonial powers lose its overseas territories and end up, geographically, where it started in the 15th century?
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Napoleon’s invasion laying the foundation for Brazil’s independence
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Napoleon’s invasion laying the foundation for Brazil’s independence

In 1807 Napoleon invaded Portugal, marking the beginning of the Peninsular War for control over the Iberian Peninsula. This almost bloodless conquest of Portugal caused the Portuguese royal family to flee to Brazil, and establish all the institutions needed to rule their empire from this overseas territory. The royal family returned to Portugal following Napoleon’s defeat, leaving Prince Dom Pedro to govern Brazil in their absence, however following seven years of dissatisfaction with Portugal’s Constituent Assembly Dom Pedro declared independence from Portugal in 1822. This represented the largest loss of foreign territory in the history of the Portuguese Empire and marked the gradual decline of Portuguese colonial influence.