António de Oliveira Salazar Biography

António de Oliveira Salazar, the prime minister of Portugal from 1932 to 1968, is remembered for his reformative financial policies and for establishing the ‘Estado Novo.’ With heavy tones of conservatism, authoritarianism, nationalism, and Catholicism, Salazar’s political thoughts shaped his governing style, which has been regarded differently by various critics. While some consider him a savior of interwar Portugal, others view him as a fascist dictator. Despite his staunch opposition to Nazism and his abolition of discrimination against Jews, the ‘Estado Novo’ could only survive for 4 more years after his death, leading to the collapse of the government.

Quick Facts

  • Died At Age: 81
  • Family: father: António de Oliveira; siblings: Elisa Salazar de Oliveira, Laura Salazar de Oliveira, Maria do Resgate Salazar de Oliveira, Maria Leopoldina Salazar de Oliveira
  • Born Country: Portugal
  • Dictators
  • Economists
  • Died on: July 27, 1970
  • Place of death: Lisbon
  • Cause of Death: Stroke
  • Founder/Co-Founder: National Union
  • Education: University of Coimbra
  • Awards: Collar of the Order of Isabella the Catholic‎

Childhood & Early Life

António de Oliveira Salazar was born on April 28, 1889, in Santa Comba Dão, to António de Oliveira (1839–1932) and Maria do Resgate Salazar (1845–1926). He had four older sisters. Salazar attended the seminary in Viseu and later graduated from the University of Coimbra with a law degree in 1914. He specialized in finance and economic policy and went on to teach economic policy at the Law School. In 1918, he received his doctorate degree. Before entering politics, Salazar considered becoming a priest and had a close relationship with Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira, who later became the Cardinal-Patriarch of Lisbon.

Political Career

Salazar began his political career as a member of the Academic Centre for Christian Democracy. In 1921, he established the Catholic Center Party and entered the parliament. However, he only stayed for one session before returning to his job at the university. In 1926, Salazar was offered the position of Minister of Finance, but he declined due to lack of autonomy. When General Óscar Carmona became the president in 1928, Salazar accepted the offer and became the finance minister with full control over the government’s income and expenditures. He brought financial stability to Portugal by ending the tradition of public debts, introducing fiscal surpluses, stabilizing the currency, and implementing a balanced budget. Salazar also reduced the state budget, introduced a new tax structure, and abolished the import of foreign goods. He received several honors and awards for his contributions to Portugal’s financial stability and colonial policies.

Prime Minister

In 1932, Salazar became the 100th prime minister of Portugal. He introduced a new constitution that restructured the political system according to his authoritarian ideas. Most of Salazar’s policies were influenced by Catholicism, conservatism, and nationalism. Despite his close association with the Catholic lobby, Salazar did little to bring major religious reforms during his regime. He established the National Union, a political organization consisting exclusively of government supporters, and curtailed political freedom in Portugal. Salazar’s premiership years were marked by economic programs based on autarky and interventionism policies. He also established the State Defence and Surveillance Police to suppress rebels and focused on Portugal’s economic recovery. Salazar’s regime attracted both support and opposition, and he kept Portugal neutral during World War II. Portugal became a founding member of NATO in 1949. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Salazar continued his economic policies, attracting foreign investments and promoting industrial development. However, his colonial policies faced criticism both domestically and internationally.

Final Years & Legacy

In 1968, Salazar suffered a brain hemorrhage and was replaced by Marcelo Caetano. He recovered unexpectedly but remained out of public life until his death on July 27, 1970. Salazar’s regime ultimately ended in 1974 with the Carnation Revolution. Despite the controversy surrounding his rule, Salazar left a lasting legacy in Portugal. The bridge over the Tagus River has been named after him, and he introduced the HCESAR keyboard layout.

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