17th and 18th century Portuguese Nobilities in the European Context: A historiographical overview

Nuno Gonçalo Monteiro
15 páginas

As a result of a genuine explosion in historiographical studies on the subject over the last two decades, the various European nobilities can now be considered to have been studied in some depth. A general tendency to be noted in the above-mentioned works relates to the idea highlighted by various researchers seeking to attenuate the early modernisation of noble values, who have taken the French case, in particular, as their benchmark. It should be stressed immediately that none of the descriptions just quoted can be applied to the kingdom of Portugal, to which almost no reference is made in these texts. On the one hand, the noble groups were constantly increasing in number, which seems to have run contrary to the general trend in eighteenth-century Europe. On the other hand, the high nobility of the Portuguese court did not grow, instead remaining extremely stable and crystallising from the mid-seventeenth century to the end of the eighteenth century, contrary to what was happening in the neighbouring monarchies. Finally, the central core of family values, expressed in the discipline of the aristocratic house, an essential secular aspect of the “ethos” of the fidalgo (nobleman), was maintained until the end of the eighteenth century. The extremely closed society of the court of the new Portuguese dynasty of the Braganças only promoted a very limited spread of a cosmopolitan culture within its circles.

Palavras-chave: Nobility, Aristocracy, Elites, Enlightenment, Family, House, Bragança, Seventeenth Century, Eighteenth Century, Fidalgo, Nobleman