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, January 15, 2012



(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 “A arte médica em Portugal no século XVIII”, by Armando Santinho Cunha)

Portuguese dentistry was completely crude and hadn't changed since the 13th century. Removing teeth was the common practice to resolve tooth aches and it was done on the streets or in a shop where the owner would call himself a “dentist”. It was a profession ruled by swindlers and quacks.
It is during the Pombal Era and the Enlightenment period that the 1st rules of hygiene and praxis appear. The 18th century is known to have been the century were the 1st dentist are recognized as a profession, called dental surgeons.
Since Fauchard, dental hygiene was treated as a science. He was against the use of abrasive tooth pastes and the abundant use of sugar and he would advise his patients to visit a dentist regularly. Until then, in Portugal, the only form of generalized tooth cleaning were the toothpicks. The 1st toothbrushes used in Portugal came from china and were introduced as novelty used only by nobility.
The Portuguese queen D. Maria I, was the 1st portuguese ruler to built a school in 1781 to teach and give licences to this medical speciality, called Real Junta do Proto-Medicato and since then dentistry became a more honourable profession in Portugal. Several names emerge after then: Feliciano de Almeida, the most recognized national specialist, Manoel Lopes, a surgeon, João Vieira, who translated the book “La chirurgie anatomique complete”, Monoel da Cruz, who invented a new teeth extractor similar to a wrench and Joaquim José da Silva Xavier, who was a dentist who treated the poor for free in Brazil.

Toothbrushes made out of gold, late 18th century, (photo taken by me at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga)

Toothpick holder, Portuguese porcelain from the Darque factory, 1744 – 1855, (photo taken by me at the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga)

Monday, January 2, 2012


Picture of Amélia Ferreira, late 19th century.

For New Year I've decided to start this blog with some nice port wine and with the story of the one of the most renown person linked to port, A Ferreirinha.
1st things 1st: Even if it is said that port wine appeared from rotten brandy shipped between England and Portugal, the production of port (named after the Portuguese city of Porto) is lost in time. It came to History's attention in 1678 when the name appeared in trade registers of that city and then later in 1703 with the Methwen treaty (trade treaty between Portugal and England). But it was a lousily concept and everyone who made sweet liquorish wine in the northern region of Portugal called it port.
Only in the 18th century did the Marquês de Pombal (see previous article on him) started to control it's production and created a “região demarcada” (demarcated region) of the Douro to produce this particular wine in 1756, did the port we know today really existed. It was the Marquês who started in Portugal this concept of protected geographical goods. Even if he hanged everyone, and with this I mean men, women and children, who made or sold port wine that didn't belonged to this new monopoly , it was the initiative of the Marquês de Pombal that rose port to it's international status.

Map of the wine district of the Douro, by Baron Offley Forrester, mid 19th century.

Of course the British interest in this type of wine and the large presence of British families in Portugal at the end of the 18th century (see article on Portuguese economy) made it possible for these last ones to start businesses in that particular area. And there are several English names linked to port wine : Croft and Offley being two of them.
But one of the most known port producing “houses” is one that was always Portuguese and still today is known for its quality: The Ferreirinha.
Antónia Adelaide Ferreira, born in 1811, comes from a wealthy Portuguese port wine and grape producing family and took the family's cultures to start an improved port wine. She cretaceously selected the grapes and how they would be cultivated for the port she was now going to produce. Being a woman, she was one of the most know business people in the country and was called Ferreirinha (little Ferreira).
She introduced several new techniques too improve the production, gave a special attention tho the farmers and their families, which was unheard of, and even traveled to England to find a solution for a grape disease called phylloxera.

Phylloxera cartoon from the magazine Punch, September 6th, 1890.

One of the things the Ferreirinha was known best for, apart from the port wine, was the fact that she came up with a new way to plant the grapes on the slopes of the river Douro. Before, the “terraces” were just made into the the soil and the Lady Antónia Ferreira insisted on using schist to build them and linking them with rock staircases.
She was married to her cousin António Bernardo who took no interest in the family's business and spent all of the money. Other scandals related to politics, kidnapings and family problems brought the business close to end but the strong woman didn't let the name, properties or port production go down the drain.
Even a TV series was made about her life:


And now, as promised, for New Year some port.