Neill Lochery’s new history of modern Portugal starts with the military coup of 25 April 1974. The coup overthrew the long-standing dictatorial regime, known as the Portuguese New State, which António de Oliveira Salazar had established in 1932 and ruled with an iron hand until he was incapacitated by a brain haemorrhage in 1968. Salazar, who lived on for another two years, was succeeded by Marcelo Caetano, his deputy for many years. The young officers who carried out the coup against Caetano were deeply frustrated by the seemingly endless wars they were fighting in the Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea (now Guinea-Bissau), with no possible victory in sight. They were intent on ending these conflicts and withdrawing as soon as possible the (largely conscript) Portuguese army that was then serving in Africa. They also aimed to establish a democratic and constitutional republican regime in Portugal, and were committed to a timetable of free elections, to freedom of the press and free expression, and to the immediate abolition of the Salazarist secret police and censorship.
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