This is a short description I found in the book mentioned below, that helped me understand quite a bit about the Portuguese economy early 19th century, not speaking why this country never got really rich with the colonies, of course. I hope it will help you too.
Taken from the book “Condições Económicas da Revolução Portuguesa de 1820”, Julião Soares de Azevedo, Básica Editora, 2ª edição, Lisboa, 1976 (?)
1 - From the Middle Ages to the maritime discoveries:
There seemed to be a lack in numbers in terms of population, even for such a small country. Since the time of the “Re-conquista” period (the war against the Moorish) the territory North from the Mondego river always had more population then the remaining territory. In fact, the far South was strategically populated.
It is here that the monasteries have large properties in which they install their own agricultural system (and also personal income which wouldn't be part of the national one) and while the territory kept expanding, the Nobility assured their rights over the land and establishing, besides everything, large hunting grounds (areas where there would be no farming!). Alongside with this, there would be large grazing grounds and lot of land inhabited and not worked at.
Of course, the Nobility by owning new land and rights, would make new taxes appear, which would oppress the farmer to a point of practically of no income. Farming, therefore, became extraneous, slowly becoming a profession not much sorted after, leading to the abandonment of the land by it's workers, which searched for better jobs in the cities. High salaries, begging and robbery, of course, increased here. Period descriptions say that men, because they had no income, weren't interested in marrying soon or establishing family and many lived on the streets. But not only them, also women. There were so many that they looked like armies.
With the maritime discoveries, a new period starts where trade becomes the new focus, making people drop their interest in agriculture. New taxes on trade, of course, to guarantee the State's income. The maritime trade gave people hope for a quick income and richness and so rural exodus happened. Even the nicknames of our Kings changed, who in the past where called “The Farmer” (for trying to install agricultural reforms). They now became traders, establishing monopolies in the new colonies.
The slave trade starts and rises quickly, since slavery guarantees not only a work force where there was non, but also a cheap one, specially the African. It seems that the South American indigenous rather starved to death then be forced to work, so texts say.
A big effort is put into the maritime expansion, leaving investment on the national territory at a blank. Now the exodus is from the cities to the new colonies in search of easy richness (the crown promises land ownership for those who dare enough into “wild” territory). Big loans are made for each expedition, which are never fully returned. As the author says «all trade now went into the decay» and in his opinion, studying the period demographics doesn't show the how the economy evolved, but studying the exodus does, specially to the city of Lisbon.
Imports rise: people dress with foreign fabrics, naval construction is made abroad, grain comes from abroad too (industry was left behind too, not only agriculture). The income made with the maritime trade or went to pay the loans, or to pay the imports, who mostly came through the harbors of North of Portugal (this small info is very valuable to understand the revolution of 1820!).
In the meanwhile, Portugal and Spain have the same King – the “Filipine” period (a succession of marriages between the 2 crowns throughout the centuries made it possible) – which kept everything the same and even with the Restoration period, the new reforms couldn't correct the evil that had set already.
"Praça do Comércio" of the city of Lisbon, 18th century.
2 – From the late 1700's to the French Invasions:
As seen before, the nation's agriculture and industry came to a halt, making it necessary to import goods. With these imports came treaties, like the ones we made with Great Britain. The author gives the example of the Methuen treaty about wool and fabrics, by stating that it wasn't the treaty that ruined our industry, but the fact that there wasn't a national interest in it anymore, in comparison the the maritime trade.
Even in the time of D. João, the fifth, it is spoken that properties should be taken away from the Church, that Nobility should be obliged to embrace new reforms, that lust and luxury should be decreased, that rivers should be made more navigable and industry and commerce increased. Ideas that later the Marquês of Pombal (one of the most important figures of Portuguese History) tries to implement, by adding the prohibition of the export of our gold and coins, since English banks took advantage of the Portuguese gold using the same coins in London for a short period of time. The Marquis also agreed with the crown's protections over trade, building more and better roads to ease trade inside the territory, remove the hereditary rights of those who refused to work the land, even-out the different laws and taxes that existed in each town and location and also reform the fishing industry, which suffered as much as agriculture. But it all remained the same.
During the years of the French Invasions, trade only happened in the colonies (don't forget that the King changed the capital and trade rights to Brazil) and imports sky rocketed, even for such a simple thing like bread – in this case cereals for flower. The new “Colonial pact” guarantees that the new capital holds all the rights over trade, such as taxes and concessions. The maritime routs change from Portugal to Brazil and the few products from the Portuguese Industry doesn’t sell. Between 1796 and 1807 exports had fallen already, but the changing of the capital makes everything worse.
With the arrival of the French, the small and able work force became now prisoners and later the men are formed into the “Leal Legião Lusitana”, that would be sent of to fight the French War in Eastern Europe.
In the early 19th century loans and debts are payed through a lottery system (surprisingly we're doing it again!!!)
"View of the town and harbor of Porto", Lévéque.
3 - The “Revolution”:
The author states that according to some sociological theories a revolution is never made by the poor, but by a wealthy middle class unhappy with power. And the truth is that the revolution of 1820 was started by by the rich middle class of the North, more so the city of Porto.
Tired of being a “colony” to Brazil, there were 2 factions: one wanted to restore the Royal Court in Lisbon (which in fact happened with the return of the king, D. João, the sixth) and other wanted a representative government, even if agreeing with the return of the king. The later didn't agreed with both.
The “Junta” of Porto was formed, with over 30 people representing it, mostly traders, industrialist, high public officers, but few military. There are no lower classes representatives in the first protests, only later. This liberal Portuguese liberal revolution was an agreement that the Portuguese economy had fallen since the transfer of trade to the newly liberalized Brazilian harbors, because it has had a negative effect on the Portuguese Bourgeoisie. And it not by chance that the movement starts in the Northern regions, as said before. Porto, with an economical growth more stable then the rest of the country (because of the wine production), had seen a demographic growth and subsequent growth of new fortunes too. There was a return of 10 to 12% in the investment in the regions attached to wine production and the wine export was still growing.
It is in a context of an “English occupation” (after the last French Invasion the Portuguese King had asked the British Crown for help in administrating Portugal, hence Beresford staying here until 1820) that liberal ideas of a Constitution appear and too a propaganda in it's favor. There was a rich class with investment capabilities which sees itself barred form the world markets when the royal court moves to Brazil and liberalizes this country's trade and turns it's negativity to the government – in this case whether it was the absent king or the British representatives. There was a whole new movement that the public opinion should be heard and should be represented by elected embers. It is the birth of the 1st Constitution and, therefore, a representative government.
«The Revolution of 1820 is not only the search for political power by the introduction of a constitution, in other words, it was less of a public victory, then the return of commercial and industrial prosperity, that would happen after the re-inclusion of Brazil's economy.» according to the author. We cannot forget that many of these “capitalists” had important places in the national political scene. Without Brazil Portugal could not subsist and never against a French, Spanish or even British threat.
On another post I will describe the 1st steps of the Portuguese Constitutional movement wich started with the people stopping Beresford from entering the Lisbon harbor after a trip to Brazil.
Aclamation of the Portuguese King in Rio de Jaeiro in 1818, Jean Debret, 1834.