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Europe, Portugal

Portugal, nation in southwestern Europe, occupying the western portion of the Iberian Peninsula. It is bordered on the north and east by Spain, with which it shares the Iberian Peninsula, and to the south and west by the Atlantic Ocean. The Azores (Acores) and the Madeira Islands, both located in the Atlantic, are autonomous regions of Portugal. The total area of metropolitan Portugal, including the Azores (2,247 sq km/868 sq mi) and the Madeira Islands (794 sq km/307 sq mi), is 92,345 sq km (35,655 sq mi). The capital and largest city of Portugal is Lisbon (Portuguese Lisboa).

The area that is now Portugal became part of the Roman Empire in the 2nd century bc. The name Portugal is derived from Portus Cale, a former Roman settlement at the mouth of the Douro River. After the collapse of Roman rule in the 5th century ad, Portugal was colonized by Germanic tribes, who came overland from Europe. Portugal was then conquered by Muslims from North Africa, before coming under the control of Spanish kings. Portugal became an independent kingdom in the 12th century. In the 15th century Portugal, aided by its location on the western edge of continental Europe, emerged as the foremost center of maritime navigation in Europe. Over the next century Portugal built the first great European overseas empire, with holdings in Africa, Asia, and South America. By the late 16th century Portugal's power and resources were exhausted, and most of the country's Asian colonies were lost. Portugal kept its largest colony, Brazil, until the 19th century and its vast African empire until the late 20th century. Despite its extensive possessions, Portugal remained one of Europe's least developed nations.

Portugal was a monarchy until 1910, when the first Portuguese republic was proclaimed. A period of great instability followed. In 1926 a coup d'etat installed a dictatorship that ruled Portugal for nearly five decades. A series of costly colonial wars in Africa beginning in the 1960s drained Portuguese resources and weakened the national economy. Partly as a result of these wars, a revolution occurred in Portugal in 1974, and a military junta came to power. The next year Portugal granted independence to all of its African colonies. A new constitution in 1976 established a democratic system of government. Macau, the last remnant of Portugal's colonial empire in Asia, was returned to China in 1999.

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