The country was linked with Spain until it became an independent kingdom in the 12th century. In the 15th and 16th centuries it emerged as one of the leading European colonial powers. Portugal became a republic in 1911, after the expulsion of the monarchy. A long period of dictatorship by Antonio Salazar (Prime Minister 1932–68) and his successor Marcello Caetano (1906–80) was ended in 1974 by a military coup, which led to Portugal’s rapid withdrawal from its African colonies and eventually to democratic reform. Portugal became a member of the EC in 1986
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