Antonio Salazar: Did his leadership lead to the development of Portugal or did it lead to a state of poverty and need?
History is the study of the past, but more often then not it appears to be the study of opinions rather than facts. Historians paint a picture of the past, but what they incorporate, what they forget, how they do it and why is a question we all must wonder before we willingly accept the history they present.
One’s background can have an effect on who they become. The society in which we grow up in, our lifestyle, education even how many siblings we have and our gender are what influence our identities. For Antonio de Oliveira Salazar born on the 28th April 1889 it was being the only boy to five children that allowed him to receive a good education and a perspective on the world, a path his sisters would not have followed. Paul H. Lewis reflects on the effect this had on him when he states “It is easy to imagine that, as the only male child, he was somewhat spoiled, which would account for his strong ego and lifelong attitude of always being right.” He believes it is this background that gave rise to his relentless style of governing and hostility toward opposition. Being a Professor of Political Science at Tulane University Lewis’ opinion is one to take note of.
Salazar became one of the longest serving dictators of Europe whose fascist and corporate regime has been compared to Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. We are lead to wonder how he remained in power for over four decades despite rising opposition? Was his background a large contributing factor as Lewis suggests or was it an accumulation of factors instead? Did his leadership lead to the development of Portugal or did it send his people into a state of poverty and need? Historian’s, writers, authors, and members of Portuguese society all portray Salazar differently. So what do we believe? To paint our own picture of Salazar we must address a number of sources, determine their reliability and usefulness then come to a judgment of our own.
Eric Solsten editor of Portugal: A Country Study implies Antonio Salazar was a factor in the improvement of the depleted Portuguese economy. He wrote “For forty years, first as minister of finance and then as prime minister, Salazar’s political and economic doctrines were to shape the Portuguese destiny.” He indicates later that Salazar’s actions had a positive effect on the economy, which is reinforced by the United Nations Statistical Yearbook, which indicates that from 1950-1968 Portugal saw its GDP rise at an average of 5.7% annually. Written for the Library of Congress one can assume Solstens study must be to some level accurate, his words have been correlated with other sources that suggest his statements have truth to them therefore his view is valid. The Milwaukee Journal, a daily newspaper for the state of Wisconsin refers to Salazar as Portugal’s “indispensible man” stating “Salazar’s proudest achievement is that he balanced the Portuguese budget a year after taking office-it had shown a deficit for 68 of the previous 70 years- and paid off the countries foreign debt in the depression year of 1932.” However “Despite Salazar’s vaunted genius for economics, the fact remains that Portuguese living standards are no better now than when he took office 30 years ago.” Written in 1958 it is a primary source that reveals his skills as an economist, which coincided with his lack of care of his people. TIME Magasine offers a contemporary perspective both agreeing and disagreeing with Solsten’s views in its cover. The image of the perfect apple rotten on the inside alongside Salazar as can be seen is related to his regime that appears good on the outside but is not as it seems. This theme is reflected in both articles when the effects of the government both positive and negative are revealed. Magazines are not an accurate source for politics as they provide unreliable statistics in...
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