Senior Honors Theses
History Department Honors Program

Caught on the Periphery: Portuguese Neutrality during World War II and Anglo-American Negotiations with Salazar

Melissa Teixeira, University of Pennsylvania

Document Type Thesis or dissertation

A Senior Thesis Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for Honors in History.
Faculty Advisor: Jonathan Steinberg


On 1 September 1939, after the German invasion of Poland and the formal outbreak of World War II in Europe, António de Oliveira Salazar addressed the National Assembly and declared Portugal’s neutrality. Salazar, the stern and fastidious Prime Minister of the Estado Novo regime in Portugal from 1932 to 1969, adhered to strict neutrality in order to keep this underdeveloped nation on the periphery of the grueling conflict. But the Açores Islands in the Atlantic and the critical stocks of wolfram made Portugal an immense strategic concern for the Allied Powers. The Anglo-American negotiations with Salazar for the use of facilities on the Açores Islands and a complete embargo on the sale of wolfram to Germany were empowered by the fourteenth-century Luso-Anglo Alliance, which obliged Salazar to concede to Britain’s requests. But while the concessions to the Allies were guaranteed in principle, Salazar needlessly protracted the negotiations in an attempt to further Portuguese interests in the post-war period. It was clear that the outcome of the conflict would decide the status of Portugal’s oversea empire and the survival of Salazar’s regime. This thesis explores the various motivations and consequences of Portugal’s neutrality during World War II and how Salazar’s post-war anxieties impacted the tone and outcome of his negotiations with the Anglo-American Powers. Yet, the question that remains unsettled is whether neutrality was a justifiable course for Portugal, or whether it should be interpreted as an act of tacit collaboration with Nazi Germany.


Date Posted: 09 May 2008