The Marquedse Pombal was without doubt one of the most important figures of the eighteenth century. As a mere minister, he set out to reform Portugal in a way only achieved elsewhere by powerful monarchs such as Joseph II of Austria or Frederick the Great of Prussia. He has been called the Portuguese Colbert, but comparisons with Bismarck also spring to mind.
He had plenty to do. Portugal's golden age had come to an end in 1580 after the death of the last of the Avis lungs, when the country was swallowed up by the Spanish. The Portuguese rebelled in 1640, but it was not until 1668 that their independence was recognised