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Early History

Within the context of Reconquista wars and northern Iberian Christian kingdoms expanding southward at the expense of Moors, Portugal was born as a western offshoot of León. Territories between the Minho and Douro Rivers were captured with the help of Burgundian crusaders and subsequently granted to them as vassals, obtaining ever-growing autonomy. Independence came in 1143 through the Treaty of Zamora, with papal recognition coming in 1179. Portuguese kings next pursued southward expansion, culminating in the conquest of Algarve during the 13th century. Reconquista wars and peripheral geography induced an early prominence of kings and a hypertrophy of clergy, notably the “military orders,” plus a downscaling of nobility’s relative social weight.

The late-14th-century’s dynastic shift from Burgundy to Avis implied warfare with Castilian suitors, spreading ...

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