On 8 August 1064, after a gruelling six-month siege, the Muslim defenders of Coimbra surrendered to forces led by King Fernando I of León-Castile. This strategic riverbank city was to become the Portuguese capital for much of the medieval period, and its capture marked a critical juncture in the long struggle between Christendom and Islam for possession of the Iberian Peninsula — the Reconquista — which in Portugal came to an end with the fall of the last Muslim enclaves on the Algarve coast in 1250. The reconquest in Portugal has frequently been subsumed into more general accounts of the reconquest in Spain. Yet during the period between the mid-eleventh and mid-thirteenth century Portugal developed from a small, embattled county under the authority of the neighbouring monarch of Leôn-Castile into an independent kingdom with stable borders that have remained largely unchanged until the present day. The successful prosecution of the reconquest appears to have been intricately interconnected with a process of national formation and the achievement of political independence from Spain. The Portuguese historian Joaquim Veríssimo Serrão thus reflected an opinion commonly held among his compatriots when he insisted: ‘Portugal was, above all, a product of the reconquista.’1


Iberian Peninsula Medieval Period Critical Juncture Political Independence Successful Prosecution 
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  1. 1.
    J. V. Serrão, Historia de Portuga., 15 vols (Lisbon: Editorial Verbo, 1977 ), vol. 1, p. 13.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    R. Menéndez Pidal, The Spaniards in Their Histor., trans. W. Starkie ( London: Hollis and Carter, 1959 ), p. 188.Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    R. Bartlett, The Making of Europe. Conquest, Colonization and Cultural Chang., 950–135. ( London: Penguin, 1994 ), pp. 243–55.Google Scholar
  4. 8.
    D. Lomax, The Spanish Reconques. ( New York: Longmans, 1978 ), p. 6.Google Scholar

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© Stephen Lay 2009

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