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Antonio de Oliveira Salazar
Antonio de Oliveira Salazar is the most significant leader of modern Portugal and he served as Prime Minister from 1932 through to 1968. His leadership brought stability to Portugal after the turbulent era directly after the disposition of the monarchy but as with many long established rulers, he relied heavily on fear and persecution towards the end of his rule to maintain order.
The Portuguese as a nation generally consider the rule Salazar as a difficult period, with many of the social problems that plague Portugal today being traced back to the failed regime. Antonio de Oliveira Salazar’s Estado Novo (New State) government was religiously conservative, nationalistic but bitterly against communism and socialism.
Salazar's authoritarian state policies led to economic, political and social stagnation, which in turn forced emigration of the most able. The Estado Novo was able to remain in power for surprisingly long period as it was primary funded by the wealth and exploitation of the African colonies.
This dependency on Africa trade forced Portugal to bitterly crush any independence movements by the colonies and this resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Portuguese soldiers and thousands of Africans.
Antonio Salazar was born in Vimieiro, near Santa Comba Dão in central Portugal. Antonio Salazar’s father was a modest landowner who had begun as an agricultural labourer and worked his way up to become a farm manager for a wealthy landowner.
Salazar’s family were far from rich but earned enough to fund a good education, initially Salazar studied at the Viseu Seminary between 1900 through to 1914. At the end of state education Antonio considered becoming a priest but was convinced to study law at the prestigious Coimbra University.
These strong religious convictions are what initially drove Salazar into politics. The early stages of the First Republic were heavily anti-Christian and blamed the powerful religious orders with many of the failings in the country. Salazar in response started to write for Catholic newspapers and organise protests that supported the interests of the church and its followers.
The Portuguese First Republic (1910-1926) was a turbulent time for Portugal with multiple short lived governments, vying leaders with opposed views. In this era Salazar was asked to join the government of Sidónio Pais whose dictatorship controlled Portugal for a single year in 1917 but he declined. Salazar officially entered the Portuguese world of politics with his membership to the Catholic Centre Party but only stayed for one year.
Salazar moved onto teach political economy at the University of Coimbra. After 10 years of university teaching, his brilliance with figures and diverse views for the economy allowed him to return to politics as the minister for finance. Some of Salazar’s finest decisions were in this role and this aligned him to become a future ruler. Continue to Page 2