Welcome to my blog. Please feel free to roam around and learn a bit more about Portuguese History. To find your interests, please, have a look at the right side of the page, where you can find all the posts arrenged into labels, such as "Society", "Politics", etc. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Life in Portugal at late 18th century to early 19th century - Food habits I


Taken from the book “Portugal no século XVIII – de D. João V à Revolução Francesa” (Portugal in the 18th century - from D. João the 5th to the French Revolution) by the Sociedade Portuguesa de Estudos do século XVIII (Portuguese Society of 18th century Studies), in the International Congress of 1990, chapter “Apontamentos sobre a gastronomia do século XVIII” (Notes on the gastronomy in the 18th Century), by Virgilio Gomes

Many foreign authors, like William Beckford, have compared Portuguese cuisine with the European reality, mainly Paris which was the city which set the fashionable. William Beckford dedicated many pages of his personal journal to critiques to Portuguese cuisine. In his opinion, Portuguese food was abundant, coarse and it's presentation was debatable and old fashioned. To many spices, too salty and still served on huge silver plates (as a sign of Portuguese richness) and there were no restaurants. In fact taverns were a shifty place were gentlemen would not go in to.
In Portugal some traditions hadn't changed since the Middle Ages: Olive oil, wine, soups and dried cod were the most important, as were all other types of fish. In fact fish was so common in Portugal that the Nobility rather saw it as food for the poor. It was cheap and went along with all the religious rulings, like abstinence on Fridays and religious days.
But other recipes became noticeable during this time period and still today are the most traditional and known recipes from Portuguese cuisine: The Cozido à portuguesa (boiled meats and vegetables), Caldeirada (sort of a stew mainly done with fish varieties) and Sopa da pedra (a thick beans, vegetables, noodles and meat soup).
Bread was still the main dish garnishment, but potatoes, sweet maize corn and rice became more and more a expected presence at Portuguese tables.
One of Beckford's pass-times was to take part of religious celebrations in Portugal, where he could watch from up close the religious ceremonial of culinary traditions and this is what he had to say about the ceremonies of Santo Agostinho de Mafra: He had to decline the invitation to eat at the convents kitchen because «...then we would have to sacrifice at least two hours of our time and we would end up half-cooked of the vapours of the fatty braised veal and pork...».
In fact, the way food was presented on tables during celebrations and other similar days was the called Iguarias de Coberta (Covering Delicacies, roughly translated). It means that several dishes and recipes were put at the same time on the table and guests could choose from which one they would eat.
One other important aspect of Portuguese cuisine are the sweets. In the 18th century they have developed into one of the finest delicacies of Europe and with Moorish influences and the amounts of sugar that came from the colonies, Portuguese sweets were never the same, being still today a proud tradition.
Convents and nunneries had their part in this development: Novices would use their imagination to come up with original sweets like Papos de anjo (Angel's maw/goitre), Toucinho do céu (Heaven's bacon), Barrigas de freira (Nun's bellies), etc., and then seduce visitors with them, hoping to get some male attention and, therefore, marriage.
The curious fact is that William Beckord saw nothing wrong with Portuguese sweets but he critiques the lack of ability of Portuguese people to use cutlery.
With the French invasions new fashions appear, like drinking coffee after a meal and hot cocoa.

This is a small overlook on Portuguese food habits. Another chapter to come soon.

And here are some links with mentioned foods in the article (only in portuguese though...):




Thursday, November 17, 2011


"Female Opinions on Military Tactics", Sept. 30 1790 caricature engraved by Isaac Cruikshank. Despite the title, this doesn't really mock feminine ignorance of military matters, but instead derives its humor from situations involving inexperienced soldiers of the militia or volunteers -- and adds in a good number of double entendres:

Text in Image:
Rustic Couple:
"I have made good the Accident of last night, -- and now John, though thee dost not look very like a Soldier, there shall not be a man in the Regiment with a better Ramrod."
Old Couple:
"I can't conceive what is the matter with my Old Gun. I can't do any thing with it."
"It's owing to the Cock, my Dear; it has been so a long time!!"
Third Couple:
"Is not that very Gentlemanly and upright."
Young Lady:
"Yes, and I hope you will always continue so. I doat upon everything upright."
Fourth Couple:
"Oh -- had you but seen me Fire last night; I astonish'd every Lady on the ground. I don't think I wink'd once during the whole evening."
"I am happy to hear you improve in any thing -- I had almost given you up, I assure you.
Fifth Couple:
"A mere Flash in the pan, as I am a Gentleman and a Soldier!"
"That's nothing uncommon my Dear -- the only way is to try again."
Sixth Couple:
"Bring me the Hammer, Wife -- I want to make an improvement in my Tailpipe."
"That I will, my Dear; I love improvements of any kind."
Seventh Couple:
Young Man:
"This, Miss, is what we call the Cock -- and this is the Swell."
Young Miss:
"Well, I never knew so much of a Musket before -- how I should like to marry a soldier!"
Eighth Couple:
"That a Military tail? I would not give a farthing for a Cart-load of them! I am told it is his Majesty's orders that every Gentleman Soldier in this Village shall at least have a tail of nine inches, to set a good example."

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Although the Regency period is one of my favourites in terms of fashion, what I found didn't helped me at all in my own personal re-enactment, socially speaking, and just to take for granted what other re-enactors do and copying them is not what I call re-enactment. It then all becomes a vicious cycle and suffers from the same evil as the bible: A load of interpretations of what really happened.
And now that I'm starting to re-enact a new time period and knowing myself the way I know, all sorts of questions started to rise, being one of them the understanding of female clothing in Portugal during the French invasions.
It wasn't easy to find books that would have information just on 20 to 30 years of Portuguese history, specially on lower class' clothing and yet I found one that took away my doubts. I wished only that it had patterns but life isn't perfect.
The book I'm talking about is sort of a relic from 1924 and I had to ask for special permission to view it and couldn't take scans, pictures or copies of it. So, I took notes and, thank the gods, some of the pictures are in one of the books I have at home. The name is “Trajo popular em Portugal nos séculos XVIII e XIX” (Popular Costume in Portugal from the 18th and 19th centuries) by Alberto Souza and the pictures I took from “História da vida privada em Portugal na Idade Moderna” (History of private life in Portugal in the Modern Ages) by José Mattoso.
As I said a few lines back, my wish was to find examples of clothing of lower classes, but what I got was a whole different range of knowledge of Portuguese fashion: the typical regency dressing, the one that we automatically think of, the high waisted dressing, isn't what the big majority of Portuguese population wore!
What I found out that even some entitled people, some nobles from the countryside wore exactly the same as the rest of the folk, only in better quality fabric and brighter and richer colours and accessories. That was the case of some of the Fidalguia (please read earlier post on this social class) that I was writing about on an earlier post.
So, what this means is that only high status people wore what was fashionable in England – the regency fashion.
One interesting detail that I found out is that with the French invasions a new trend appeared: women would start to use top hats embellished with plumes that the British soldiers would have. And even after the French invasions, this trend became a very fashionable for some ladies to wear.

Lithography from a Portuguese Fidalga from North of Portugal, 1828.

Another thing that was characteristic of the pictures and explanations I saw was about Portuguese culture: Regionalism affected certain aspects of fashion and what you would see in the Minho region, for example, you wouldn't find in Alentejo.

Portuguese peasants: On the left from Alentejo; on the right from the Beiras., by James Murphy in "Travels in Portugal, 1797. Same picture found in the book I've mentioned.

And last but not least, fashion hadn't changed much in the coming years. Even in the 1820's (what many would describe as the romantic era) Portuguese women would still be wearing what they did before, with few changes. That's why I'll be posting some lithographies of that decade to exemplify better some of the topics written below.
The following descriptions are generalized ones, of what everyone would wear, not taking in account a lot of those regionalisms and specially nothing to do with classical regency.

Skirts would be, broadly speaking, made in one colour, preferably dark, and yet we can find some variables, like using a different colour fabric at the bottom, or as personal taste or to save money on fabric.
Stripes, called de indiana (this meaning from India and not Indians) were also used, just as skirts embellished with all sorts of ribbons sewn in or just embroideries, both at the bottom of the skirt.
It was very common, fashion or work wise to lift the front of the skirt and tuck it under the skirts waistband.
Women would also use use a pocket, a bag at the side to keep money and other items.

Washerwoman, by Henry L'Évêque in "Portuguese costumes", 1814. One can see that her skirt is striped and that she wears a pocket.

Made out of white fabric, mostly linen, or cotton and flannel but I could find one shift with stripes. They were always buttoned up until the neck line, not revealing to much. The shift we see being used in other countries like France or England weren't used by Portuguese women, at least not on the images I saw, always linked to the catholic puritan notions of what popper was.
What I couldn't find out is the length of the shifts, but I assume that, opposite of a chemise, the woman's shift would come as far as the ankles.

From 1790 onwards, these were the bodices used, short-stays and similar. Most of them didn't had a low neckline. If they would be a bit more revealing the shift or scarf would cover it up. Not to forget, Portugal was very catholic!
Laced, buttoned or with hooks&eyes. The buttons commonly used were little ones made out of the rests of fabric.
One of the pictures of the book had a woman in a pink bodice.
And even slaves used bodices.

On the left, picture of a slave taking out the "night vase", drawing by Félix Doumet, and on the right a lithography by João Palhares, 1820's, of a fishseller from.

Came in all shapes, colours and sizes. With long sleeves, fitted and in one colour. If the front would be deep, the same happened as with the bodices, it would be covered up.
The collars would also vary: round, edged, short, wide, etc. The length of the jacket would hit the waist or could be a bit longer, with tabs.
In all the pictures I could find there seems to be one common idea. 3 different colours would be used at the same time: Skirt in one colour, bodice in a different one and the jacket in a 3rd.
Even if they would be made of one strong, preferably dark, colour their sleeve edges and collars could be different. I found a description of a sleeve ending with a canhão (cannon), but couldn't find out what that means.
I also found a striped jacket in this book.

Peasants dancing, drawing in James C. Murphy's book "Travels in Portugal", 1797. Same picture found in the book I've mentioned.

Not only white linen petticoats were used but also cotton and flannel ones in very bright colours in contrast of the colour of the skirt. Yellow, red, blue, blue stripes,etc.
Women that worked would usually lift the skirt so it wouldn't get dirty but soon it became a way to show-of the petticoat (an undergarment!) and that's why these would be made out of strong colours. Some were plain when it comes to sewing techniques but others had pleats, embroideries or were embellished with ribbons. Ribbons would also be used for embroidery on the petticoats. I'm not sure about this but I had the impression that there would be 2 petticoats used to give more volume.

The ones used on the head would usually be white or whitish (always in a very light colour). They would fall off the shoulders and would be tied in a knot at the ends or wrapped around the neck. I found descriptions of head scarves being made out of white muslin.
The way scarves would be tied up on the head was also a way to see from which region that women came.
When there wasn't a head scarf then other scarves would be used to cover it, like the ones that would be rapped around shoulders and torso. These came in all lengths and colours (strong colours) and would be tied in all forms and fashions. The most usual way would be around the shoulders, crossing at the front and tucked under the skirt's waistband. Also striped fabric was used for scarves and one of the pictures of the time had a woman with light pinks stripes on her scarf.

(the scarves are not Regencyanymore but can give a good idea of how prints were)

Used mostly to spare the skirt from dirt but what I could also see in the images is that the skirt would be lifted, as described earlier, and the apron would cover the petticoat. And they came in different colours. I believe that the idea was to impress through colour.
Shoes and stockings
The pictures showed shoes with heels and some had big satin bows, with a strap over the foot that would fasten at the side with a button or shoes with buckles. This doesn't mean that every Portuguese woman had shoes, in fact many would walk barefoot specially related to the type of work they did, like fishmongers. Others would use slippers (specially in North of Portugal, the Minho region) or Portuguese clogs or had wooden soles on their shoes.
Even fishmongers would wear stockings that came as high as the thighs, some that didn't had a knitted foot (only a tube that would end at the ankle), but hard work and warm weather would mean that many lower class people wouldn't wear stockings.

Capes, hats and hoods
Big hooded capes in black felt, like the ones still used today in the folklore of the Azores islands, simple cloaks and other capes were used to keep rain or the cold away. Some of the hats used were also made of black felt with round brims that would slightly fold inwards and I found this extraordinary hat/hood that I've never seen before (picture below) made of black velvet and lined with coloured linen.
Of course, with the invasions several hat fashions emerged, being the most famous one the stove pipe hat worn by women from North of Portugal many time embellished with a plume from English soldiers. How they got it, you can use your imagination.

A city woman from Porto, 1828.

Religious items
As said before, Catholicism integrated Portuguese society. So, to wear religious items was not only common but also expected. Rosaries or golden crosses hanging from golden necklace around the neck. Women would make rosaries out of pinions and sell them on the streets.
As a conclusion of all what was said above I'll post an image of Racine'ts Book “Le Costume Historique” that shows how Portuguese fashion was like. It even shows a partisan (2nd woman of the left).

Different depictions of the Portuguese population: Peasants working and going to religious festivities, middle class women and clergimen. "Le Costume Historique" by Auguste Racinet.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


(Taken from the book “Negociantes, mercadores e traficantes no final da Monarquia Absoluta”, by Carlos Guimarães da Cunha )

From the end of the Middle Ages until the French Invasions in the early 19th century Portugal lived a prosperous economy with the trade of it's colonies. And it was not only the national trade that gave the Portuguese economy a boost but also the trade that other countries, like England, Germany and the Netherlands, had with this country. Everyone who had a slight interest in commerce had, even if so slightly, contact with Portuguese harbours. It was the era of commercial splendour.

Drawing of the city of Lisbon before the earthquake of 1775.

We mustn't forget that Portugal had commerce with everything and everyone between India and Brazil, including the United States, North of Africa and Russia, and that this was the basis of the growth of business, and therefore businessmen, in this country. Lisbon had a high presence of foreign traders (much less in Porto), even since the Middle Ages, but the existence of constraints of trade with the colonies in the 18th centuries which gave Portugal absolute control in the signing of commercial treaties, increased even more the presence of other nationalities in Portugal.
The English, specially after their rise in maritime trade and after some trade treaties with Portugal like the treaty of Methuen, had, only in Lisbon, about 90 commercial establishments. The British community was seen not only in Lisbon but also in Porto and in both cities they had some judicial privileges, which made them the most influential trade community in Portugal. Clubs like the “Longroom” or businesses named John Bulkeley&Son, Offley, or even already 2nd generation enterprises like Duarte Power&Companhia were a regular site in Porto and Lisbon before the invasions. Some even exist today. Also the Germans, specially from Hamburg, Italians, Dutch, Swedes, Danes, French and even South Africans left their mark: Brothers Robello, Schindler, Lindenberg, Lecussan Verdier, Van Zeller, Kantzow, Ayres, Meimon Jullei, etc., are a few names.
In fact the nationalisation of many foreigners and their children was a common practice in Portugal, not only to help with taxes but also because Portugal had one of the easiest nationalisation laws. The Portuguese Crown made it easy for other nationalities to become Portuguese and also to return to their original nationality if desired.
Not only wholesale traders enjoyed the prosperous economy but also everyone linked to transportation, insurances, banking, agricultural and industrial entrepreneurs and retail merchants. And all of this rose with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Continental blockade, which made it harder to trade by land and therefore, trade with the Baltic or the North Sea became stronger.
But all of this that could show that Portugal had a strong economy, in fact is quite the opposite since the rest of the country didn't enjoyed anything of this. Portugal suffered from a strong economical asymmetry. Although the Portuguese harbours were busy and the main commercial cities had a high input, other regions of Portugal, further away of the sea front, didn't experienced the same flow of richness. To understand this better, Portugal could be divided into 3 geographical and economical categories:
The coastline linked to maritime commerce (Porto and Lisbon, Setúbal, Figueira da Foz, Faro);
The industrial cities from the interior (like Guimarães or Coimbra);
The agriculture and pastoral based interior, off the routes of international commerce and internal trade.

The city of Porto at the turn of the 17th century.

Portugal, although highly developed at its coastline, had almost no evidence of development in communication within the borders: almost no roads and the many rivers weren't used either. All Portuguese trade is done by sea and the internal trade of Spain stops at the border.
To accentuate this, many of the goods traded, like salt, had the monopoly of foreigners and Portugal had to buy from these the same products it produced. And not to speak of the several taxes and legal constraints applied to internal trade, different to each city. It seems that it was easy to be a foreign company in Portugal and to trade abroad but internally the Portuguese hadn't it as easy. And so, therefore, the further inland we go the poorer and scarcer the population is (bad for a starving and invading French army).
The Portuguese economy can be described as a duality between the small Portuguese trader and the big foreign trader. But this doesn't mean that this country hadn't its share of prosperous national businessmen. What distinguishes these from the foreign entrepreneurs is that they didn't rely on import-export but more so on baking and insurance and the Lisbon stock exchange market. With a strong international market and with a stable national trade (and by this we say colonial trade), the Portuguese investor had nothing to loose. In fact large sums of money made through banking and investment were the basis of a lot of personal wealth. Only the American Revolution and the French Revolution were the know fluctuations. And, of course, if the return of the money invested is high then opening new offices in other European harbour cities is inevitable.
If we take in account that 1801 was the year with the highest trade registered, then we can also imagine all the credit given to the shipping business, all the insurances given to the trading business and all the capital inflow that this small percentage of the Portuguese population had. Although Portugal hadn't official banks, this didn't stopped the banking business of flourishing.
And with money coming in, a secondary activity started for these businessmen: agriculture. It may have started as only buying some property on the outskirts of the main trade centres for recreational purposes only, but soon it became, for many nationals, and also English, a way to expand their commercial interests, having many participated in the growth of quality grapes to produce port wine.
If firstly the Portuguese economy was influenced by an absolutist and protected set of rules, induced by the industrialization policy by Marquês de Pombal (that, not to interpret this wrongly, gave Portugal, yet so far away from the industrial revolution, a boost in technology), the growing liberalism in trade gave a chance to many businessmen to become entrepreneurs always on the look for business opportunities. Many, specially in Lisbon, started several factories and manufactures, like printing fabrics, silk, wool and cotton weaving, hat making, china and tableware making and sole making for shoes.
The Peninsula Wars changed that whole scenario and the flight of the Portuguese Crown to Brazil mad it worse. Even if Portugal recuperated from the astonishing fall of it's economy with the French invasions, the same economy never became as it once was. And the swap of Portugal as the trade post of Europe to Brazil didn't helped because now the Portuguese King could sign commercial treaties from here instead of Lisbon That is what happened with the treaty of 1810 with the United Kingdom, which made the “new capital” the receiver of all that trade and left Portuguese harbours almost empty. Portugal only recuperated from this after the the Peninsula Wars and had some growth between 1812 and 1817 but nothing like the former years. So, as seen, several factors made this downfall happen and still today it is seen as a national trauma surfacing all the hatred towards not only the French but also English and the former Portuguese Crown.

Decreat by D. João VI of Portugal to open all Brasilian harbours to trade after the royal family established the new Empire's capital in Rio de Janeiro.

As soon as the Portuguese market realized that it was inevitable that the French would invade, and as soon as the Crown forced the Portuguese Population to stand still and not to defend itself, the national economy started to decrease and prices got higher. And, of course, a country with a serious lack of technological development and relying only on maritime trade, nobody could expect it to return to it's former glory.
Not only was there a change of power to Brazil (which for future generations meant Brazil had it's own Noble lineage and, therefore, trading power) and all the subsequent shift in trade, also the French invasions provoked a tremendous loss of population in result of war and famine, a loss in trade, the ceasing of agriculture and the destruction of most of the Portuguese infrastructures.
The 1st Invasion was the only one where the whole territory was occupied by French (and Spaniards) and this translated into a serious of looting and crimes in all social layers. Soon the French realized how important Lisbon was and soon they underlined their role as new power. Therefore, they demanded a payment to the army, what they called a “loan”. Junot demanded on December 3rd of 1807 the presence of all the richest traders at their local governments to be told to pay this “loan” of 2 million cruzados «in order to satisfy the urgent need of the French army» and that they had 18 days to do so. As impossible this measure was to comply, it became even more difficult after the maritime blockade which stopped all trade. And although it was first called a loan, as soon as it entered the French state's savings it was considered an “extraordinary war contribution”.
Later that month Napoleon Bonaparte demanded further one hundred million francs to serve as ransom to all the occupied properties. The same decree allowed that all the belongings and properties of the royal family and nobles that left for Brazil and wouldn't return until February the 15th of 1808, belonged now to the French Army.
In March, the Portuguese Commerce Junta was forced to collect 6 million cruzados to all mercantile corporations, and this means not only traders but also shop owners and others. The French fiscal decision was clear: the”loan” turned into a “contribution” made it possible to ask for another “loan”.
It is only evident that soon the merchant and entrepreneur part of society offered resistance. So, the “fiscal evasion” was common practice and no threats or demands from the French army made it possible to get the whole amount and they soon changed tactics: instead of getting the money this way they decided to keep all the profit from taxes and trade directly. But what they hadn't foreseen is that with all English merchandise being forbidden to enter the country, made the profits, which upon the French relied, disappear. Then they changed it to allowing the sale of English products but by then it was to late since this measure only brought more crime and corruption. Portuguese merchants then went on refusing to supply the army with various goods instead of money. It is known that Junot and others hadn't bed linens and furniture to sleep upon.
But of all the above what hurt more the economy, specially in cities like Lisbon and Porto, was the decrease of maritime trade, of course. Not only did the French army controlled the rivers but also the English army. What this would do to trafficking and illegal trade , and therefore to the decrease of profits, goes without saying. And even with the departure of the French in 1808 and the demand of the restitution of the initial 2 million cruzados, all what Portugal got was the return of some private belongings.
The 2nd and 3rd invasions weren't as harsh, since they didn't occupied the whole country but by then the Portuguese economy was irrecoverable, specially after the chaotic times that Porto lived at the 2nd invasion and what the blockade at the Linhas de Torres Vedras caused at the 3rd. Lisbon was swamped with homeless people that had to be taken care of on the streets because there was no room for the high amount of people travelling into the capital. All agriculture stopped on the borders and the land became almost infertile after it's burning by the armies. So, the import of essential goods rose and the Portuguese economy became more and more dependant of foreign help.
The state that the Portuguese economy was left in after the retreat of the French army was the perfect condition for English traders to establish commerce with this country. Many authors say that the Methuen Treaty was responsible for the national economy not being able to become independent and for the British government to take advantage of low taxes and getting the monopoly of many trades. So, in 1811, Lisbon was transformed into a big English “warehouse”. The subsequent bankruptcies were inevitable and many merchants were absolved for their inability to pay their taxes; others were taken their properties. And now without a protectionist market and all the cause brought by war, the Portuguese mercantile splendour was long gone.

Arrival of the Portuguese Royal Family in Rio de Janeiro in March 7th 1808, by Geoff Hunt.

Sunday, September 11, 2011


The Devassas

(Taken from the book “História da vida privada em Portugal – A Idade Moderna”, by José Mattoso)

Portugal, during the Modern Ages, is considered to have been a Religious State, this meaning that religion had not only a big importance in people´s lives, like believes, ceremonials and traditions but also that the Catholic Church controlled every aspect of the private, social and political life of each Portuguese.
Portuguese Church had several means to identify each singular person from a civil perspective, it was the singular responsible for documenting parenthood and the nations geographical/political administrator. Still today a freguesia is the last administrative unit in Portugal, having the word an origin in this time-period. Every year, around Easter, there would be local census all over the country and the information would be kept in the parishes' registers. In this way, the Catholic Church didn't had only a role in people's believes but also in the social infrastructures of the time.
Other parts of Europe, like Bavaria and Italy, also very Catholic, weren't as extreme. Portugal, the closer it came to the 18th century the least secular it became, in opposition to the rest of the Continent. Other countries suffered a separation of State and Church and had several social and political functions removed from the control of Church, having these become entirely State affairs, as seen in the liberal and republican movements in France, for example. But not Portugal. Law, order, justice and other similar were believed to belong entirely to Church. Everybody agreed on it, it wasn't an imposed thing. So, social management “techniques” like, inquires done by the local parishes, Inquisition (Portuguese Inquisition lasted almost 300 years, officially from 1531 to 1821), military orders, charity, ancestry, justice, are a few examples how real power (the Crown) and religious power intertwined.

Women in Church, by Félix Doumet, 1806.

One of the best ways that the Portuguese Church had to control the population was through the so called Devassas, inquests (today this Portuguese word is used to describe women of bad reputation/intention). It was sort of a preventive inspection that wasn't necessarily provoked by suspicion or complaints. It was a supervisory activity to control the population's morals that happened regularly all over the country. Religious representatives would organize local “courts” were everybody could talk or accuse neighbours, family and friends alike about everything that we today consider private, from who-looked-to-much-at-whom to who-had-children-out-of-wedlock. And not only sexual affairs were discussed but also petty crime. These inquests would last a few days and the Church would apply punishment like penitence, fines or imprisonments. In fact, many prisons in Portugal were controlled by Church. Since confession was protected by secrecy, the Devassas were a good way to turn the private into public and these inquiries were a good way to avoid a long judicial process, since the accused would confess publicly the sins and sign a document. Canonic law before secular law (which didn't existed in Portugal).
So, Church had a great impact in the way people interacted with each other, like marriage, sex, reproduction, population growth control,etc. In fact, unlike other countries, the time between sexual matureness and marriage was immense (over ten years) in Portugal. People married late and it wasn't uncommon for young men not to have any sexual experience until then. The average age people married in Portugal in the 18th century was about the age of 28 years. Within wedlock, not many children were born, since women became mothers late and not in their prime any more and many women didn't even married at all. But one thing is to do what religion told you (which was completely anti-natural), the other thing is what really happened in Society. In fact Portugal was the country, in Europe, that had the most baby hatches.
Not only was there a religious aspect that controlled marriage but also an economical one. Young people were economical dependant from their parents and only married when they inherited the family property. Many young women and female orphans were granted dowries by charity to ensure they had a less “sinful” life and could marry. And since 2nd born sons almost didn't inherit, male migration inside the nations borders was common. Young men would travel to the big cities to look for work and to learn a new trade.

Marquês de Pombal, Earl of Oeiras, drawing by C. Legrand.

Some changes in society appeared with internal and external influences, mid 18th century. The French Revolution and, internally, a man that had more power then the king D. José the 1st: Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis de Pombal, Earl of Oeiras, Minister of the Kingdom. He was a declared secularist that tried to install in Portugal the different modern fashions that emerged in Europe during the Age of Enlightenment. He tried to control the power of Church, by imposing many secular laws like to minimize the number of young men and women (mostly noble) to enter religious orders, by abolishing many orders and by founding secular schools. And some change happened in fact. But the earthquake of 1755 made the people return to their old ways and to look at any change with suspicion.
This was the social life in Portugal in one, and the most important, aspect but if here social conformity about morals was taken to extremes, the opposite happened in the colonies, mostly in Brazil, where puritanism hadn't much success but that would be a whole different chapter.

Visiting female convents was very fashionable in the late 18th to early 19th century. Here's a drawing by Thomas Rowlandson in "Pastimes in Portugal or a visit to nunneries", 1811.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The trauma of the French Invasions

(Taken from the book “Portugal no século XVIII – de D. João V à Revolução Francesa” by the Sociedade Portuguesa de Estudos do século XVIII (Portuguese Society of 18th century Studies), in the International Congress of 1990, chapter “Portugal e as invasões francesas – aproximação à anatomia de um medo”, by Mário de Carvalho Cardoso

The French Invasions are one of those subjects in Portuguese History that bring up, still today, the most emotions. It is still a collective and spontaneous fear where the invaders are demonized.
The general feel of impotence before the cyclic invasions, before the clear instructions of non-resistance and before the flight of the Portuguese crown to Brazil, left the population with a sense of abandonment.
Although the arrival of the French army in Lisbon and the way they looked (in starving and miserable conditions) was seen in big awe, soon that sense of abandonment was transformed into a revolt, mainly because of the so called “Loans” that the French army demanded. The economical oppression, the abuse and the violence had an opposite result from what was expected of the Portuguese. There was a growing sense of national solidarity that legitimized the violence against the French (a.k.a. “dogs” because it was the only thing that many French soldiers had to eat).
Even the forced signing of documents by Portuguese religious high representatives that forbid the population to uprise and forced them to show their obedience to Napoleon had a different outcome. It was the 1st sign that the Portuguese became more independent of the catholic church.
Many authors agree that the norm of violence seen by any invading military force was enlarged because the famous mobility of the French army only brought months and months of walking and lesser and lesser provisions and, therefore, made that each individual soldier had to provide for itself for food, clothing and other interests alike. Looting and murder when there was nothing to loot, violence against nuns and clergymen were something linked to French soldiers only. Even if they would be punished by death by their own regiments, the situation was now out of control.
The 1st invasion was so traumatic that on the other 2 the Portuguese population lost it's shyness and took justice into it's own hands, fighting alongside the English army. Soult described the hatred that the French army felt and the atrocities that they suffered in Évora during the 2nd invasion.
Even the people from Galiza, North of Spain, along the northern Portuguese borders, are known to have joined the Portuguese cause by informing the closeness of the French army. It is with this help that the population of Porto was able to organize themselves, into militias, so well.

Portuguese military and civilians fighting the French army, C. Alberto dos Santos.

On another account, as soon as the invaders crossed the river Minho, the church bells rang and the river margins were filled with light and during the morning, the French saw an immense population of peasants waiting for them to disembark with all sorts of weaponry in their hands. They were all covered in their capotes (long cloaks made of straw) that made them almost unrecognisable in the local vegetation. Some even went into the water by foot or by boat in their rage and despair.
Populations would run away from the advancement of the French army but would kill and burn everything what they would leave behind , leaving the soldiers with nothing.
To fight against the invaders became a national duty. The religious obsession was replaced by another form of obsession even supported by church, not only with the excommunication of Napoleon by the Pope Pious the 7th, but also by the link that the Portuguese priests made in their sermons of holy punishment with resistance (the French invasions were explained of being a punishment against sins and therefore the more the Portuguese fought against it the easier they would be forgiven). It soon became David against Goliath.
“KILL HIM, HE'S FRENCH!” was the Portuguese response to the French brutality and soon the victims became more brutal then the invaders themselves. In some towns it even became a bloodbath not only against the invaders but also against all that were mixed up with supporters. And in fear of being accused of being such the general population became even more “patriotic”.
When Soult arrived in Braga the town was almost deserted and anarchy was installed. The town inspector had been accused of being a French partisan and the population killed him and left his body to be eaten by pigs. In Soult's opinion it would be easier to exterminate the Portuguese population then to overtake it militarily.
At the withdrawal of the troops the French army became the target of all sort of violence:From the 1800 soldiers that in 1809 left Chaves only 200 arrived alive in Lisbon.
The Portuguese population used all types of atrocities to revenge themselves. They used to hide in abandoned villages waiting for lonely French soldiers searching for food, to attack them and torture them to death. The cries and screaming were such that it stopped the remaining soldiers to help the captured companion.
The outrage, the sense of abandonment, the suffered violence felt by the population made it become the judge and executioner at the same time, to the point that still today the Portuguese think in anger and grudge of this part of History and having no regrets.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Women and the war

Yes........ yes.......... The subject is being brought up again.......... Women and the war..........
By this I don't mean those women that stayed at home waiting for their husbands, fathers, brothers, lovers, etc to come home. That must be one of the most ungrateful things to do in life, poor things!
I'm talking about those women that walked, fought and lived alongside the army (whatever side!) during the Napoleonic Wars, the so called camp-followers. And please.... You all know that these women existed......... DON'T YOU??? Or are you still in denial?
If you are, here's some more historical proof.

The most documented woman during the Napoleonic wars was the Vivandière that was employed by the French army. She was the sutler for goods like food, alcohol and tobacco, providing the regiments with these comforting things. She would be known having a little barrel with a measuring-beaker and cup at her side with cognac or other beverage of the sort and gave a dominant male and aggressive environment that feminine flair. A Vivandière would wear the colors of the regiment she would work for, wearing breeches under her short skirt and a military jacket.
It is said that this was a way to calm the feminist movement that had appeared in France after the Revolution, by giving women that wanted to fight in wars just as men did a “controlled purpose” by being sutleresses and washer-women (blanchisseuses).
Anyway, they were there.

Detail from a painting of the Battle of Chiclana by Baron Louis-François Lejeune

Vivandiére, from the book "Uniforms of the retreat of Msocow 1812", by Philip Haythornthwaite and Mike Chappel.

Take a look at the end of the page of book 11 of the Napoleon Series.


For more information on vivandìeres I recommend reading the text below from the the book "Military Dress of the Peninsula War", by Martin Windrow and Gerry Embleton.

Vivandière, French 15e Léger, 1809-10
«To close this book we have decided to show a single representative of the thousands of women who followed the armies of both sides of campaign, suffering great hardships and danger; in an age lacking the most elementary welfare services for the troops, it was to theses staunch camp-followers that the men looked for some touch of comfort or compassion. Officers were often accompanied by their wifes, who traveled on mules or ponies and each night attempted to set up a little camp which would provide some echo of the comforts of home life. Some of the more dashing, particularly among the French, were accompanied by charming mistresses tricked out in saroual trousers and suitable modified forms of trousers or dragoon uniforms. In the ranks life was harsher. Only six men per British company were allowed to take wifes on the ration strength, and the other camp-followers had to shift themselves. On retreats or forced marches their fate was pitiable but it must be also be said that they were often of unmitigated nuisance, blocking the roads and accepting no sort of discipline. One cannot fail to be moved, however, by the accounts of their sturdy courage. More then one exhausted redcoat would have been left in the road if his wife had not carried him on her back, firelock and all. In the aftermath of the battle the wifes of titled captains an illiterate privates could be seen together, searching among the piles of dead and wounded for their men, while the local peasants stole from cover, knife in hand, and casual plunderers of both armies stripped the corpses and rifled pockets all around them.
A French regiment was usually accompanied by a vivandière, a woman who sold liquor, tobacco and the small luxuries from a cart. They had semi-official status, and were often given a form of uniform to mark their allegiance to the regiment. Some 19th Century prints show trim and jauntily costumed girls but in reality most of them probably looked more like Mother Courage. Nevertheless they were sometimes married to a string of NCO's, according to the chances of war - for on campaign they were as eligible as any brewery heiress! The 15e Léger, who apparently had a vivandière dressed in this braided red jacket faced light blue, served under Loison at Vimeiro, and with Clausel at Bussaco.»

Vivandière of the French 15e Léger, 1809-10

But not only sutleresses accompanied the military. There where all sorts of other camp-followers that where part of a the daily lives in war. I don't need to mention those who had the oldest job in the world (because that goes without saying and a good deal is a good deal!) but I'm going to mention the wives and the partisans.
Here's a good website of the National Army Museum in the UK that dedicates some pages to the subject and that shows wonderful etchings by W. H. Pyne (“Camp Scenes”). My favorite one is the scene with the cart/wagon.


On more details on the women that accompanied the military, please read this amazing resume at this address. Please note, that even if only 6 or 4 wifes were allowed per british company, some made a difference, like:

- The wife of the Quartermaster of the 14th Foot Alexander Ross, who fought at his side on the battle field;
- The Sergeant Major's wife of the 7th Hussars that was expected by her husband to join the fight;
- Jenny Jones' tombstone reminds everyone that she fought at Waterloo with her husband of the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers;
- Elske van Aggelin a dutch sutleress that died at the end of the century;
- Barbara Moon that was born during the Peninsula Wars and died in 1903;
- Private Peter McMullens' wife of the 27th Foot carried him of the battle field after he was wounded;


There were also those women, specially during the Peninsula Wars and more particularly in Portugal (given the traumatic experience being invade by the French while the army and King were fleeing), that went into war carrying weapons, alongside with all the militia groups that were formed at the time.
Here's a drawing of one of them, by Auguste Racinet in his book “Le Costume Historique”:

And last but not least, I would like to remind the reader of other women that made it into European History and that you can google about. Here are some examples:

- Francesca Scanagatta, that served in the Austrian Army as a Lieutenant and was only discovered to be a woman when she received a granted pension by the Kaiser;
- Madame d'Oettlinger, who was a Napoleon's spy;
- Jane Townsend, that served at the Battle of Trafalgar;
- Agostina de Aragón, that launched an attack against the French occupying forces at Zaragossa;
- Joanna Zubr, who was the 1st woman to be granted the highest Polish military award;
- Anna Lühring and Friederike Krüger that served in the Prussina army;
- William Brown, a british sailor discovered to be a woman.

To all of the women witnesses of the Napoleonic War, participating or not in the battles, whatever background or activity they had, I salute you!

Monday, July 18, 2011


Portuguese society, during the early 19th century monarchy, was an intrecate one. It still lived by many old noble titles from centuries past that gave some people priveliges and importance by heritage, without necessarly being true when it came to property or wealth. And in this case we have the example of Fidalgos.
Fidalgo, which in Portuguese comes from the expression filho de algo is a term that means “son of something or someone” and used to be a noble title brought to Portuguese society in the 15th century. Until then the same title was infanção or homem-livre (free man) and it used to describe juridically all of those who had lineage and social status but could or not be (more the later one) the direct successors on heritage of property.
Having the name it's origins in Castille it doesn't necessarily means the same in Spanish. In fact the spanish term Hidalgo, although with the same etymological origin, means only a lower noble while in Portugal they where part of the higher nobility, even in some cases be part of the King's Council.
The Fidalguia was a social class on its' own and every king since the 15th century classified them differently. But one thing that they all had in common was the fact that these fidalgos where men and women (Fidalgas = filhas de algo, “daughters of something”) of importance specially in rural Portugal and people to turn to, just like in a classical feudalistic society, whenever there would be issues or disputes to be resolved. A person which such a title would always have his or her opinion taken in account and would be respected members of society.
Having said that, it is necessary to understand this in the light of the early 19th century where the Fidalgo could assume different categories.
There would be the Fidalgo, just like the ones from the 15th century, that had that title given to them by lineage, inherited by the father's or mother's side. On the other hand there were the Fidalgos that where given this title, even being common people, for exemplar services recognized by the Crown. For these to be recognized as Lineage Nobility they had to proof that the same title was given 4 successors back (Fidalgo de solar conhecido).
There would be Fidalgos that would take part of the King's Council, as said before, chosen by the ruler himself to be advisors on political matters and State Affairs..A close group of men with enormous influence and who's rank would be coveted by many, since to them would be given the same privileges as Earls. Every Fidalgo chosen to be part of this restricted “club” would see automatically the title being inherited by their descendants and , thus, being part of Portuguese nobility.
All of this changed when King João the 6th returned from his self imposed exile in Brazil in 1821 and the King's Council was remodeled to State Council after the Constitutional Assemblies of 1820.

Now, the fun part! There's also a recipe called Fidalguinhos (little Fidalgos). Pictures of this and more you can find it under:


Fidalguinhos de Braga:
- 300g of flour
- 100g of sugar
- 50g of butter
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg iogs
- 1 tea spoon of cinnamon
- Lemon zest

Mix everything together and let the doe rest for 1 hour. Then you make little thin roles with the doe that you curve in the middle. Take them into a preheated oven, in medium temperature, for a few minutes until they are golden.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Portuguese soap-opera

With the declaration of his mother's mental illness (Queen Maria, the 1st) in 1799 by the Junta Médica, João Maria José Francisco Xavier de Paula Luís António Domingos Rafael de Bragança became officially Prince-Regent Dom João the 6th of Portugal. He became one of the most important characters in Portuguese history from the early 19th century.
It was he who in the attempt to make Greeks and Trojans happy, as we say in Portuguese (by that we mean everyone, and in this case, Spain, France and England), made a continual strike of decisions that would send this country in downward spiral of misfortunes.
After signing an alliance with the Spaniards (before becoming regent, he was already signing all documents on behalf of his ill mother since 1792) to fight revolutionary France in 1793 and in participating in the Rossilhão Campaign (1793-95), he never could have guessed that Bonaparte would be so powerful in Spain and, therefore, turning past allies into enemies in the Guerra das Laranjas in 1801.
Our king then tries to minimize such impact by declaring England as enemy and keeping France and Spain at bay, respecting Napoleons ultimatum of 1806 to close Portuguese harbours to any British trade (which would have been a fatal decision on our national economy if it had been respected by the individuals, since we were so dependant on it).
On the other hand, his wife Carlota Joaquina de Bourbon, who was told to be ugly and nymphomaniac, was planing to overthrow her husband in alliance with the Spanish nobility from where she descended. It wasn't her only attempt. In fact, it is believed that she tried inumerous times to kill her husband and that many of the couples children couldn't been of the king, since they lived separated.

The portuguese king, Dom João VI and his wife Dona Carlota Joaquina.

And so France invaded Portugal with the kings promise not to retaliate. It must have been quite a sight for the people on the Lisbon streets seeing starving French soldiers “settling in” and no one had the permission to do anything against it. The year, 1807; the event, 1st French invasion.

The French army entering Lisbon, 1807.

As if this wasn't bad enough (remember, I said that D. João the 6th was an important character!) the king and all of his court, the government alongside with the creme-de-la-creme of Portuguese military fled to Brazil in 1807, thus leaving the country without a Ruler and army! And in 1810 he transfered the nations capital Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro (which later made the independence of Brazil possible).

The royal family embarking for Brazil at Belem, Francisco Bartolozzi.

On this November morning many of the more important people of the kingdom, clergymen and anyone who had money tried to get in one of the 36 ships available. On the docks the remaining people booed the fugitives and even some tried to stop them by force. Chaos had installed itself. 15.000 people left the country and with them valuable currency.
But what Junot wasn't expecting was the willingness of the Portuguese people to fight back. And fighting back they did!
Even though D. João promised in October to keep the continental blockage and declare war on England, he signed a secret treaty with the later to keep the Portuguese royal crown safe and grant them safe passage. a few months later, in may 1808, he declares all treaties with France null and, therefore, making England a new Allie. This was all that the Portuguese people and the British crown needed to hear.
In Portugal the people organized themselves into militias, in Porto a Junta was formed with the purpose to organize the fight against the French, called Junta Provisional do Supremo Governo do Reino (Provisional Junta of the Kingdom's Government) with D. António de Castro, Bishop of Porto, at it's front. And it was this Junta that will work closely with General Arthur Wellesley, another important character of Portuguese history of the early 19th century.
And so, therefore, the plot of this soap-opera is complete. More on some of the details such as the participation of the civilians, the economy and other matters, will be talked about on further posts.
I hope that this blog of mine will bring you some insight, specially a different one, of this 1st decade and a half of the 19th century.