“Whatever is more alive in the present is the past - images of the Middle Ages in the Portuguese dictatorship (1926-1940)

The definition of a national collective memory has undoubtedly been one of the most important ways to legitimize authoritarian regimes . The Portuguese dictatorship was no exception and in this process the Middle Ages were one of the most important

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  “Whatever is more a live in the present is the past" - images of the Middle Ages in the Portuguese dictatorship (1926-1940) The definition of a national collective memory has undoubtedly been one of the most important ways to legitimize authoritarian regimes 1 . The Portuguese dictatorship 2  was no exception and in this process the Middle Ages were one of the most important historical periods in order to create an image of the national past from which the new regime would be legitimate successor. Since the first Romanticism, the medieval period had been a major source of inspiration for various Portuguese political tendencies. If the first generation Liberals considered the Middle Ages the source of the national constitution and freedoms, for the authors of the ‘1870s generation’ 3  the medieval period (until roughly the beginning of the 16 th  century) represented the period of the nation’s greatness, in contrast with the decadence of the following centuries. This dichotomous view (rise/ decline) indelibly influenced Portuguese historiography during the following decades, including authors of distinct intellectual and political fields. The establishment of the Republic (1910), and in particular the effects of the participation in the Great War (1916-18), contributed to the idea among integral monarchists and Catholics that it was necessary to return to whatever in the past had made Portugal’s glory , eliminating the mistakes of past centuries and in particular those committed by the demo-liberal regimes. As stated by the historian David Lowenthal, the recovery of missing and subverted values or institutions from the past usually happens in ‘hard times’ and it is often a remote past that better legitimizes and strengthens the present against a subsequent drift or corruption 4 . The establishment of the military dictatorship in 1926 echoed the concerns of several of these right-wing political and intellectual sectors with connections to integral monarchism and Catholicism. The Integralismo Lusitano, one of the groups that had been heavily shaken by the death of its chief ideologue António Sardinha in the previous year, had already risen as an ideological movement in early 1926 and 1  Arlindo Manuel Caldeira, 1995, p.121. 2  In 1926, a military coup overthrew the Republican liberal regime and instituted a military dictatorship which would last until 1933, when the Constitution of the Estado Novo was promulgated. The Estado Novo, in which António Oliveira Salazar (1889-1970) was the prominent figure as Prime-Minister, would last until 1974, thus becoming one of the longest-surviving right-wing dictatorships of the 20 th  century. 3  The so- called ‘70s generation’  (because these authors studied at Coimbra University during the 1870s) was a group of authors from different fields (literature, history, social sciences), whose aim was to modernize Portuguese society according to European standards. Following the failure to implement most of their proposals, they would adhere to different political fields, from republicanism (Teófilo Braga, for instance, became the head of the Provisional Government of the Republic in 1910-11) to integral monarchism (Ramalho Ortigão at the end of his life). 4  Lowenthal, 1985, p.41.  shortly after would resume its political activism, suspended since the Pact of Paris 5 . António Sardinha’s ideas , apologist of a corporatist and monarchical medieval Portugal, were central to the process of historical revisionism undertaken by the integralists. The assumption, shared by many historians, that the historical memory of the Estado Novo in its early stages was deeply influenced by monarchist and legitimist currents linked to Integralismo Lusitano 6 , will serve as the starting point for this presentation. Since 1914 the integralists, through their official periodical Nação Portuguesa , explained their political alternative to a demo-liberal Republic that threatened institutions like the Church and Monarchy, embraced a French-influenced parliamentarism and allegedly turned away from the values of national tradition. These values had, according to the integralists, reached their highest purity and srcinality at the late Middle Ages, when the municipalist and corporatist monarchy reached its peak and started the overseas expansion. According to the Integralist thought, the parting of these values was the result of a long historical process initiated by humanism, aggravated by the Protestant Reformation and 18 th  Enlightenment, culminating in liberal, socialist and anarchist disorders of the 19 th  and early 20 th  centuries, which caused the political, moral and social decadence of Portugal. It is my aim in this paper to demonstrate how the Middle Ages were politically exploited during the first years of the Portuguese dictatorship. Writers, historians, scholars, thinkers and politicians of integralist and Catholic background, or influenced by these, took part in this exploitation, divulging a vision of the medieval period with great impact on national memory and on the establishment of ideological values supported by the Estado Novo. The celebrations of the double centenary of the Foundation and the Restoration of Independence in 1940 represent the zenith of this nationalist construction of historical memory, as has been emphasized by several historians who have studied the event. To study this process , I used a range of sources of integralist authors, in particular articles by João Ameal 7  and Manuel Múrias 8  in 5  Agreement signed in 1922 between the Portuguese king in exile Manuel II and D. Duarte Nuno de Bragança, descendant of King Miguel I (the absolutist king who was defeated in the civil war of 1832-34). With this treaty, all monarchical fields agreed to support Manuel II as the legitimate heir of the Portuguese crown and, in the case of his death without descendants, to support D. Duarte’s line.   6   Arlindo Manuel Caldeira, 1995, p.123; Maria Isabel João, 2002, p.93.   7  Historian, journalist, politician and author João Francisco de Barbosa Azevedo de Sande Ayres de Campos, 3 rd  Count of Ameal (1902  – 1982), was a founding member of the Acção Realista Portuguesa (a monarchical organization created in 1923). Later he would become member of the Portuguese Legion’s Central Junta, deputy at the National Assembly between 1942 and 1957 and procurator at the Corporative Chamber between 1957 and 1961. He is renowned for his História de Portugal   (History of Portugal), published in 1940. 8  Manuel Maria Múrias Júnior (1900-1960), was a school teacher, philologist, director of Nação Portuguesa and several other nationalist journals, member of the National Syndicalist Movement and one of the first supporters o f Salazar’s dictatorship. He wrote about the Portuguese overseas expans ion and was general-secretary at the organizing committee of the Congress of the Portuguese World (1940).  Nação Portuguesa , as well as other historiographic (the works of Alfredo Pimenta 9  and Manuel Cerejeira 10 ), pedagogic (Antonio Mattoso ’s schoolbooks ) or openly political works, such as speeches and conferences. I was especially interested to know which main ideas these texts contained about the Middle Ages as a historical period and about their role in Portugal’s history.  The concepts defined by German historian Ulrich Müller of “Mittelalterrezeption" ( the tendency to use the Middle Ages for modern purposes), "academic medievalism" (how medieval authors, works, events, objects or concepts are studied and explained using the methods of relevant academic disciplines) and "political-ideological medievalism" (how they are used for political purposes of legitimization or condemnation) are here of great importance 11 . These concepts are often closer than we suppose, as authors such as Norman Cantor or David Matthews have stressed. Despite the alleged scientificity of medieval studies, today it is accepted that many assumptions made by medievalists were, in fact, a product of their ideological assumptions or of other cultural and political constraints. One of these assumptions was the very image of the Middle Ages as a historical period, a topic which generated some ambiguities (many of them inherited from 19 th  historiography) among the authors that I have researched. If we observe an almost romantic (although all authors deny this characterization) compliment of the Middle Ages as a time of progress and as the founding period of modern Western civilization, there is also a critical underlying of some aspects of medieval society considered to be “barbarian” or “uncivilized” . In general however, the balance was very positive. In 1927 the young integralist philologist and historian Manuel Múrias, at the time director of the Nação Portuguesa  journal, stated in an article ent itled “ O génio português" that the "black legend" about the Middle Ages was today abandoned - this period appeared nowadays "as an admirable meeting of talents where the deepest Later he would become deputy at the National Assembly between 1942 and 1957, director of the Colonial Historical Archive and member of the National Education Junta and of the Portuguese Academy of History. 9  Historian, poet and writer, Alfredo Augusto Lopes Pimenta (1882-1950) was a school teacher, director of the Municipal Archive of Guimarães (1931-1949) and of the Portuguese National Archives (1949-50) and founding member of the Portuguese Academy of History (1937) and the Portuguese Institute of Archaeology, History and Ethnography (1953). Initially a militant anarchist, he later moved toward republicanism and became an active monarchist supporter in 1915. Jointly with João Ameal, he was a founder of the Acção Realista Portuguesa and a great admirer of Salazar, praising both fascist and Nazi regimes. 10  Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira (1888-1977) served as cardinal-patriarch of Lisbon from 1929 to 1971. Jointly with Salazar, he became a leading figure of the Academic Center of Christian Democracy. An old friend of Salazar since their student years in Coimbra, Cerejeira endorsed many of the Estado Novo’s policies, signing the Concordat of 1940 between the Portuguese State and the Catholic Church. He obtained a PhD in Historical Sciences at the University of Coimbra (1919), where we would lecture until he was appointed bishop in 1928. 11  Müller, 1986, pp.507-510.  and strongest roots of modern civilization were found" 12 . Similar opinion had the future bishop of Lisbon and then professor of Historical Sciences at the University of Coimbra, Manuel Cerejeira. In his articles published in the same year in the Biblos   journal of that university, Cerejeira argued that the Middle Ages had organized the "triumphant march of civilization" over the ruins of the ancient world, and that modern society had truly began in the medieval period. "Whatever is more alive in the present is the past - I will say, the Middle Ages,” he claimed 13 . For Cerejeira, medieval times were responsible for a number of moral, philosophical, artistic and scientific advances in human history: the improvement of women's social status, the concept of human person (unknown to the ancient world, and revealed by Christianity), a profoundly srcinal art (the gothic), Thomism, theology, etc 14 . Even feudalism was regarded as "the natural expression of the social needs of the time", created by the necessity to ensure social defense and based on affection ties capable of generating "beautiful individual, domestic and social virtues" 15 . However, Cerejeira warned of the danger of looking at the past in the perspective of modern judgments: as much as one recognized the Middle Ages as a time which “ remarkably served human progress", this did not meant that one should return to it, recalling also its disadvantages: the lack of social discipline, the fevered imagination dominated by fear, the roughness and hardness of customs 16 . Other authors such as António Mattoso, high-school teacher, father of the historian José Mattoso and author of several textbooks during the Estado Novo, would point out the warlike and barbarian excesses of the feudal regime, which were only tempered by the action of the Church 17 . For integralist and Catholic writers, the Middle Ages, more than an age of progress, were especially valuable for their essentially Christian character, echoing many voices of the first Romanticism that contrasted a mystical and authentic medieval period with a materialistic and artificial modern age. Cerejeira, for example, considered that the medieval period had fashioned a grand “international  synthesis ”,  in which Christianity was a kind of "republic of all Christian peoples under a collective ideal, a common consciousness, an effective unit ", with Rome as heart of the world; likewise, it had created a “within synthesis” , whose most perfect expression was Thomism, allowing the Christian faith to inspire all institutions, and public concern to prevail over private interests 18 . The Middle Ages constituted themselves as the Catholic era par excellence. 12  Múrias, 1927, p.348. 13  Later published with the title  A Idade Média na História da Civilização , 1953, pp.61-63. 14  Ibid., pp.50-53, 107,162, 185-187. 15  Ibid., pp.126-132. 16  Ibid., pp.71-72, 175. 17  Mattoso, 1933, pp.70, 74, 116-117, 137. 18  Cerejeira, 1953, pp.50-53.  The young monarchic journalist João Ameal also regarded medieval thought as "essentially Catholic ", since it had allowed divine omnipotence to subjugate temporal order, as he wrote in an article published in Nação Portuguesa  in 1929 19 . For Ameal, the Middle Ages were characterized by a "perfect and disciplined unit" which could serve as model, hope and solution to the "inner crisis of modernity", according to his work No Limiar da Idade-Nova , awarded with the SPN essay prize in 1934 20 . In the same year he was a founder of the Acção Escolar Vanguarda (the first attempt of the Estado Novo to create a youth organization), and wrote an article entitled "Integral nationalism before the dictatorship" 21 . In this piece, he quoted the French political essayist Henri Massis about an alleged "nostalgia of the Middle Ages " which then raged across the world and expressed itself, for example, in the return of several authors to Thomistic philosophy or in the praise of medieval times from the point of view of progress and social order 22  - to Ameal, we were at the dawn of the "New Middle Ages" or a "New Age", as he preferred to call. This is an idea that, according to the German medievalist Otto Gerhard Oexle derives from the Romantic poet and philosopher Novalis, for whom the "New Middle Ages" would be a time of unity and completeness 23 . It is clear that Ameal wrote these texts in a time when Italian Fascism and German National Socialism were acquiring a great prestige among the European right-wing politics, assuming themselves as political alternatives to both liberal regimes and the Soviet Union, and seeking to impose a new international order. For many thinkers, as was the case of João Ameal, this could really be the beginning of a new era based on new values for Europe. The essentially spiritual character of the Middle Ages was one of the main ideas in the criticism of the Modern Era made by these authors. Inspired by the ideas of António Sardinha, Manuel Múrias, in the aforementioned article published in 1927, considered the Renaissance of the 16 th  century a "disturbed and disturbing” era, saying that it were not Iberian nations which have strayed from their "natural way", but Europe as a whole, when it adhered to humanist thought and sought to denigrate medieval spirit 24 . Cerejeira had already characterized the Renaissance as "a frankly individualistic movement" which had led Europe to two fatal extremes: anarchy and tyranny 25 . Also João Ameal wrote in his History of Portugal  , published in the context of the double centenary celebrations of 1940, that after a profoundly theocentric time as the Middle Ages, in the Renaissance man had dedicated himself to the "cult of his own reason, of his own power, of his own curiosity, in a narcissistic and ignorant egotism" 26 . 19  João Ameal, 1929, p.334. 20   Id., No Limiar da Idade-Nova , 1934, p.238-239. 21  Id. , “O nacionalismo integral perante a Ditadura”, Nação Portuguesa , vol.IX, Fasc.I, 1934. 22  Ibid., p.18. 23  Otto Gerhard Oexle, 2009, pp.33-38.   24  Múrias, 1927, p. 348. 25  Cerejeira, 1953, p.195. 26   Ameal, 1940, p.199.  
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