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Pombal, Marquês de 1699–1782

MarquÊs de Pombal

Dom Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, the Marquês de Pombal, was the controversial autocratic Portuguese chief minister under King José I (1750–1777). Pombal's rationalist reform policies initiated an unprecedented period of modernization that profoundly shaped the economic and intellectual culture of his nation. Pombal strove to increase domestic manufactures and reduce the influence of foreign agents in the Portuguese economy, chiefly the British merchant community in Lisbon. As Portuguese ambassador to London (1739–1743) and Vienna (1745–1749), he absorbed principles of mercantilist economic theory and the Enlightenment (Pombal joined London's Royal Society in 1740). He returned to Lisbon determined to strengthen Portugal's position internationally through a program of rational reform. In 1750 Pombal oversaw the founding of the Royal Factory of Silks in Lisbon, an attempt to domestically produce traditionally imported luxury textiles. To encourage the growth of a Brazilian colonial merchant class (and thereby deter British encroachment on the imperial economy), Pombal instituted the monopoly trading company of Grão Pará and Maranhão (1755). In 1756 Pombal established the world's first demarcated wine region to regulate Port wine production, thus stabilizing the market for Portugal's most important export commodity. Pombal's steady, proactive leadership following the Lisbon earthquake (1755) allowed him to strengthen his influence over Portuguese society. Major social and intellectual reform initiatives ensued: the expulsion of the Jesuit Order (1759); a rationalist reform of the Coimbra University curriculum (1772); and curtailment of the Inquisition's power through a restructuring of that institution's bylaws (1774).

SEE ALSO Brazil; Empire, British; Empire, Portuguese; Lisbon; Mercantilism; Monopoly; Porto; Portugal; Wine; Wool.


Maxwell, Kenneth. Pombal: Paradox of the Enlightenment. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Timothy D. Walker

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