Welcome to Lagos, Luz & Sagres - Some Portuguese and Algarve History




The Algarve History Bit
Phoenecians, Greeks, Romans, Celts and Carthaginians were amongst the earliest settlers attracted to the rich soil, excellent climate and the bounteous ocean offered in the Algarve. In Greek and Roman times the area was called Cyneticum and was part of the Turtelandia centre of civilisation. The next invaders were the Visigoths, who stayed for around 300 years: and then the Moors, whose influence today can largely be felt through the architecture. The name Algarve is believed to be derived from the Moorish name for the region - Al-Gharb. The Moors were driven out by 1249 when Faro was conquered for the Christians and the Burgundy dynasty was later established. The oldest surviving treaty between nations was signed between Britain and Portugal on 16th June 1373 (The Treaty of London) and we've been drinking their port with relish ever since.

The Age of the Great Discoveries is a popular term for the golden period in Portuguese history that followed victory over the Castilians at the Battle of Aljubarrota in 1385. This epoch that created the basis for the Portuguese Empire centred upon the exploits of Prince Henry, third son of Philippa of Lancaster (daughter of John of Gaunt) and King João I. 'Henry the Navigator' established his nautical school at Sagres and sailed from Lagos. In 1415, Henry and his two brothers set sail in a fleet of over 200 ships and captured Ceuta which assured them control over the strights of Gibraltar. Madeira was discovered in 1419, the Azores in 1427 and in 1434 Gil Eanes rounded Cape Bojador. Henry died in 1460 but his spirit lived on as Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1488 and later Vasco da Gama landed in Mozambique and then India in 1498. In 1500 Pedro Alvares Cabral 'officially' discovered Brazil.

Algarve in the modern era has changed remarkably since the 1970s. After the 1974 revolution the government officially announced it was abandoning its overseas empire, with only the Azores, Madeira and Macao to remain attached. As a result the country was deluged with over half a million 'Retornados' (the Returnees) who poured back home from the colonies. To house many of them it was decided to put the hotels of the Algarve into use, since they were now often empty because of the impact of the revolution on tourist makers' sensibilities. It was an expensive solution (part bankrolled by the USA) but it also had the effect of dispersing a varied and enterprising group of people into the area. The next wave of development focused on the local infrastructure. Faro airport was modernised and significantly enlarged, connecting roads to Lisbon and Spain were turned into major motorways and sewage and water supply (not always available in 1980s Algarve) projects were completed. More and more people from other countries are now settling in the region, bringing their own skills and desires. Just like the Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans of yore, they seek the wonderful climate that makes it such a great place to live. The Algarve now accounts for a large percentage of Portugal's tourist trade which is itself a major contributor to the Portuguese economy. As long as the development is as discretely controlled as it has been, the Algarve should continue to be a thriving part of the Portuguese nation.
Historical Timeline
Ancient History The Moors The Burgundian Dynasty - Fighting Castilians The Age of Great Discoveries The Spanish The Napoleonic Wars, Losing Brazil, and then the Monarchy The Republic Modern Notes
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