By the beginning of the eighteenth century, Portugal had declined to a third-rate power. Its population numbered fewer than three million, mostly poor peasants burdened by feudal obligations. The nobility possessed much land and wielded considerable power along with the clergy, who numbered 200,000 and were among the most conservative in Europe. The ruling Braganza dynasty relied mostly on revenues from Brazilian gold and colonial trade and paid little attention to the development of the domestic economy. Portugal had very close economic and strategic relations with Britain. British merchants purchased much Brazilian cotton, while a treaty between the two countries, signed in 1703, granted Britain the right to use Portuguese ports.
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