Portugal/ 1. Historical perspective: cultural policies and instruments  

Author: Rui Telmo Gomes, Cristina Farinha, Sara Martins, Compendium of Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe

There have been four key periods in the development of cultural policy in Portugal over the last 60 years.

Up until the revolution of 25 April 1974, Portugal had an authoritarian regime. In addition to restricting democratic rights and enforcing censorship, it was a regime which limited both cultural and artistic endeavour and contact with cultural trends and experiments taking place in other countries, particularly those in Europe.


Following the democratic revolution of 1974, the Constitution of the Portuguese Republic enshrined (in chapter III, Article 73) the state's duty to promote the democratisation of culture. As other rights such as health and education were gradually consolidated, constitutional governments increasingly turned their attention to culture, albeit in a still rather unsystematic fashion, and with culture not being an independent area of ministerial responsibility.

The Thirteenth Constitutional Government established the Ministry of Culture in 1995, with autonomous departments assigned to defining policies for the sector. There were five main aspects to this Ministry's strategy: books and reading; heritage; creative work in the arts; decentralisation, and internationalisation. All six governments in office after 1995 (there have been 8 ministers of culture to date) followed a trend of establishing partnerships between central and local government, with a view to setting up cultural facilities - libraries and cinema-theatres - throughout the country. At the same time, and after a period of more vigorous activity, governments gradually began to disinvest in the field of culture, in terms of both funding allocations and the development and implementation of integrated strategies for the sector.

In 2006, as part of the reforms which took place under PRACE (the Seventeenth Government's Programme to Reform the Central Government Administration), the Ministry of Culture underwent significant reorganisation. This reorganisation was implemented as a rationalisation of resources, and basically involved a reduction in the number of departments through the merging or abolition of some of them - with a resulting loss of independence for sectoral policies. The Nineteenth Government (in office since June 2011) took this trend further, downsizing the administrative structure of the Ministry of Culture to a Secretary of State.

Chapter published: 13-07-2011