The Portuguese First Republic has, over the course of the recent past, lost many historians to the New State. As a result, it is difficult to attempt a global synthesis of the republican period in view of the important gaps that still persist in our knowledge of its political history. As far as the October 1910 Revolution is concerned, a number of valuable studies have been made, first among which ranks Vasco Pulido Valente’s polemical thesis. This historian posited the Jacobin and urban nature of the revolution carried out by the Portuguese Republican Party (PRP) and claimed that the PRP had turned the republican regime into a de facto dictatorship . This vision clashes with an older interpretation of the First Republic as a progressive and increasingly democratic regime which presented a clear contrast to Salazar’s ensuing dictatorship.
A republican Constitution was approved in 1911, inaugurating a parliamentary regime with reduced presidential powers and two chambers of parliament. The Republic provoked important fractures within Portuguese society, notably among the essentially monarchist rural population, in the trade unions, and in the Church. Even the PRP had to endure the secession of its more moderate elements, who formed conservative republican parties like the Evolutionist Party and the Republican Union. In spite of these splits the PRP, led by Afonso Costa, preserved its dominance, largely due to a brand of clientelist politics inherited from the monarchy. In view of these tactics, a number of opposition forces resorted to violence in order to enjoy the fruits of power. There are few recent studies of this period of the Republic’s existence, known as the ‘old’ Republic.