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La gobernanza de los puertos atlánticos, siglos xiv-xx

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Amélia Polónia
, 
Ana María Rivera Medina

I. — POLÍTICAS PORTUARIAS

Harbour construction policies and funding agency in Early Modern Portugal (1400-1800)

The relationship between central and local government

Amélia Polonia et Sara Pinto

Texte intégral

THE CENTRALITY OF PORTUGUESE SEAPORTS (15th-18th CENTURIES)

  • 1 Polónia, 2011, pp. 379-409.
  • 2 To an approach of seaports’ models of functioning, see Id., 2010, pp. 17-39.

1Assembling tonnage, shifting cargoes, building and repairing ships, rope and sail making, ship chandlery and many other activities were essential components of shipping and variables which influenced naval logistics. Seaports are the centres where all these components come together and interact, in favour or against increasing efficiency1. Understanding the functioning of seaports is thus essential in order to comprehend the real dynamics which influenced the logistics of the European maritime projection in the Early Modern Age2.

  • 3 «Hisportos. A contribution to the history of NW Portuguese seaports in the Early Mod (...)

2This historical framework is expected to have had a significant impact on port infrastructure and harbour works. In the Portuguese case, this is not, however, totally confirmed by empirical evidence. An analysis of the data provided by Hisportos3, a research project centred on the Portuguese North-western seaports in the Early Modern Age, does not confirm any decisive interventions in seaports or significant structural changes before the 18th century, which might have drastically changed shipping conditions.

  • 4 Polónia, 2008, pp. 113-136.

3In fact, the data available for the Portuguese North-western seaports, from Caminha to Aveiro, reveal that this process of infrastructural improvement was not as prompt and structured as one might expect, especially in the 15th and 16th centuries. In addition, most of the technical works in those harbours were funded and executed by local authorities. Research shows that the complexity of the technical interventions increased in the 17th and the 18th centuries, as did the number of works funded by the central power4, even if not always in a direct connection with the overseas expansion process.

4The data on harbour works provided by local sources generally point to a series of technical interventions motivated by the aim of improving bar entrances and harbour accessibility. They would usually involve the building of quays, breakwaters, groins, jetties, banks, and dykes as well as the construction of sea marks such as channel markers, stakes, lighthouses, sails, buoys or flags. The number of projects dealing with the improvement of access to harbour entrances by creating navigable channels or destroying such geomorphologic obstacles as, e.g., reefs, is considerable, but many remained unaccomplished. The building of other infrastructure like bridges or channels also remained an exception. Many were planned during the 16th century, as one can point to the cases of Porto, Aveiro, Vila do Conde or Viana do Castelo. They were, however, rarely undertaken: the expenditure required and the complexity of the enterprise exceeded municipal budgets by far.

5The 16th and 17th centuries’ public projects effectively undertaken did not require major investments or technological complexity. They did not change harbour infrastructures radically, nor did the plans involve a new concept of public works. Difficulties of entrance into or exit from the harbour are the most usual reasons for promoting a public project in a seaport, or more specifically on harbours or wharves. Siltation processes are the most frequently mentioned as the reason for technological interventions. The need to protect the city from floods emerges as another frequent reason.

6Departing from this overview, this chapter will put forward an analysis of empirical data, in order to prove our argument. A systematic gathering of Hisportos database will provide the source material needed to this quest.

NORTHWESTERN SEAPORTS: EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE OF HARBOUR CONSTRUCTION

7The data distribution of the overall number of seaport interventions in the long term (14th to 18th centuries) according to the dimension of seaports should prove useful to the described approach (see table 1).

Table 1. — Seaport infrastructural interventions, a diachronic distribution

Seaport Seaport Dimension a 14 th-15 th centuries 16 th century 17 th century 18 th century Total
Caminha Small 2 0 4 4 10
Viana Castelo Medium 3 10 6 7 26
Vila do Conde Small 1 16 17 4 38
Porto Major 2 16 23 39 80
Aveiro Medium 0 0 6 37 43
Total 8 42 56 91 197
Total (in %) 4 21.3 28.4 46.2

a The classification of the seaport dimension as a small, medium or major port presumes a scale only applicable to NW Portuguese seaports. The criteria applied favoured demographic indexes, harbour commodities; regional and long-haul trade traffic, shipbuilding, transportation logistics, and financial power. To a discussion of the criteria of seaports classification and hierarchies, see Jackson, 2001, pp. 1-17; Id., 2007a, pp. 23-24; Jarvis, 1999.

Source: Hisportos databases (<http://web.letras.up.pt/​hisportos/​>).

8This general data should then be crossed with some variables related to seaport construction policies, in order to explain the previous scenario in the light of specific questions: did infrastructure construction arise from a policy emanating from the central power, or were other institutional or third party entities, to be identified, the main protagonists? Were there, over time, any developments in the institutional policies in terms of construction and intervention in port infrastructure and urban planning? Which were the main factors that led to the recorded works? Data distribution on the funding of works, whether by central or local entities, should provide a useful approach to these issues.

9Some key ideas can be underlined from the analytical framework of table 1 and figure 1. The number, as well as the complexity, of the technical interventions rise in the 17th and 18th centuries. The occurrences registered in times prior to 16th century are notoriously low, even when considering the lack of documental sources for this period.

Fig. 1. — Harbour Works in Northwest Ports, 14th-18th centuries

Fig. 1. — Harbour Works in Northwest Ports,           14th-18th centuries

Source: Hisportos databases (<http://web.letras.up.pt/​hisportos/​>).

 

Fig. 2. — Funding and Financing Approvals, 14th-18th centuries

Fig. 2. — Funding and Financing Approvals,           14th-18th centuries

Source: Hisportos databases (<http://web.letras.up.pt/​hisportos/​>).

  • 5 The significant number of local authority interventions in Vila do Conde can only be (...)

10Concomitantly, the number of works funded by the central power increased notoriously during the 17th and 18th centuries in comparison with local power initiatives (see fig. 2). Even so, both seem to be significant, mostly in the 17th century5. Except in the context of the 14th and 15th centuries, the funding of works by third parties cannot be found in the sources. This is totally understandable considering the increasing complexity of the technical interventions. It does not exclude the involvement of third parties (seamen, tradesmen, technicians, etc.) in the projects during the following centuries, including the 18th century, when the pressure they brought to bear was essential in implementing the intervention projects. It just means the financial investments on harbour works were mainly if nor exclusively made by central and local governments. Last but not the least, in the 18th century investments by the crown increased in number, but they seem to be exclusive to the bigger ports: Porto and Aveiro.

11As for the kind of interventions identified, some ideas can be highlighted: the central power and its agents (purvoyers, corregedores) were mostly involved in ordering topographic surveys, maps and drawings of bars and watersheds and on sending specialized technicians (civil engineers, military engineers, hydrologists, cartographers) to the proposed work field. This is very noticeable in the 18th century, but not exclusively so. This is certainly because this sort of works became, in the 18th century, more complex and demanding, both from a technical and financial point of view. It called for the creation of new and specific administrative structures, such as the Junta de Obras Públicas (Public Works Office) in Porto that became the main management centre for the improvements of the Douro bar entrance. These structures became responsible for identifying problems, elaborating reports, as well as for the recruitment of technicians and the conduction and supervision of works.

  • 6 Valente, unpublished, pp. 23-31 and 135-167; Id., 2011, pp. 119-132.
  • 7 Amoung the many works involving this Company, see Sousa, 2007; Id., 2006, pp. 29-89.
  • 8 Amorim, 2008, pp. 83-109.

12The role of the central power became paramount, as a supervisor, and sometimes as a mediator in the on-going processes. The recognition of problems, most of the times addressed by city council appeals, led, as a rule, to the elaboration of studies and topographical surveys conducted by engineers and cartographers designated by the crown. For subsidizing those works, the Crown created or allowed specific funding, according to the extension of the projects: the ones created in Porto and Aveiro are the most relevant. The first were initially run by the City Council6, and afterwards by a monopolistic Company, the Companhia Geral da Agricultura das Vinhas do Alto Douro7. The second one was created in 1756, at a time when works leading to the building of a new bar entrance, and a new seaport, in Aveiro had begun8.

  • 9 Royal charter of 17th March 1667, in Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto, Próprias, (...)

13Other interventions of the central power, paramount for seaports, were the construction of fortifications along the coast line. In March 1667, a royal letter addressed to the Porto city hall relates the on-going works on the fort of São João da Foz, under the supervision of the Earl of Miranda, governor of the castle, and the general of artillery António de Almeida de Carvalhais. The expenses should be covered by the fortifications fund, a municipal structure, as well as by the local inhabitants, when taxed for that purpose. The earl of Miranda and the municipality were required to agree on the payment of the expenses9. By that time, a new council, the Council of War, had been created by the crown to supervise the needs of the on-going war against Spain. It was to consider, evaluate and decide on the works required to guarantee coastal defence.

  • 10 A arquitectura militar na expansão portuguesa. Catálogo de Exposição. See (...)

14The complexity of the problem is however noticeable. From at least 1562, during the regency of Cardinal Henry, on behalf of Sebastian, still a minor, decisions were taken to promote such coastal defence, in times of intense French, British and Moor corsair attacks on the coastline. However, the multiplicity of jurisdictions over coastal villages and coastal areas and the fact that the crown depended on extraordinary funding for those works, made the conclusion of those fortifications a never-ending task which involved an impressive number of conflicts, replacement of architects and heavy delays in the works10.

  • 11 See, for instance, the repair works promoted by Porto city hall in the custom’s hous (...)
  • 12 See, for instance, the process of building the new quay of Ribeira, in Porto, that b (...)
  • 13 Sisa was the most general tax imposed over all the transactions. From Manuel I onwar (...)
  • 14 Corpus codicum latinorum et portugalensium corum, vol. 4, p. 33.

15Searching the database for 15th to the 18th century initiatives led by the local powers, mostly promoted by the municipalities, yields examples of completion of works and repair of existing structures (docks, canals, fortifications, torches)11, along with the conception of new plans like building bridges, opening navigation channels, requesting the building of new quays12. All these operations involved expenses, for which the city had frequently to appeal to the Crown, requesting permission either to use part of the existing taxes (e.g. the sisas’ remainings—the amount of money available after paying the yearly amount due to the crown13) or to launch new specific taxes (e.g., tax on wine or salt), as it happened in 1542, when the king recognized the need to build a new wharf in Porto, and granted the city four more years of the salt tax to be used for that purpose14.

16The role of the municipalities was, however, even more conspicuous in the management of port areas, and naval operations related to the port approaches and use: places and conditions for anchorage and mooring; definition of the limits of the bar entrance, from where on custom duties were due are just some of the identified interventions on the use of seaports.

17Legislation on coastal management and protection of rivers and estuaries (rules forbidding the removal of stones or sand, regulations on shipbuilding activities and waste launching in the bars and rivers) were also part of the local powers’ interventions. Regulations concerning the monitoring of the coastal area (the placement and handling of signals, torches and tags that allowed safe navigation to the moles), and coastal defence are still part of their extended area on intervention.

18The kind of activities, the number of technical interventions and their complexity depended, during this period and at least until the 18th century, more on casuistic circumstances than on a planned policy. The kind of the works delivered sustains this assumption.

  • 15 Dias et alii, 1997, pp. 53-66; Araújo, 2002, pp. 73‐91.
  • 16 See for instance the flows that occured in 1526 (see Manuscrito: Obras da Barra do D (...)
  • 17 See for instance the siltation in Rio Ave in 1510 (see Processo sobre o derrube dos (...)
  • 18 See for instance the siltation of Aveiro’s seabar in 1575 (see Mendes, (...)

19In the 16th century, the Portuguese northwest seaports were severely affected by climate changes15 which led to phenomena such as siltation and floods, mentioned for the Douro river16, Vila do Conde17 or Aveiro18. They caused constant fluctuations on the bars’ accessibility and led even to their relocation, as in Aveiro. Some records are very detailed about these processes, such as the ones concerning a lawsuit involving the municipality of Vila do Conde and the owners of the watermills in the river Ave, in the middle of the 16th century. In this long litigation the custom house officers complain about the siltation caused by the watermills that blocked the navigation, as they caused economic and financial ruin. In this particular case, human action, i.e. the building of watermills was assumed to cause the disruption in the port traffic.

  • 19 Polónia, 2007a, t. I, pp. 131-159.

20Contemporaries did not have the notion of climatic and geomorphological dynamics, but tried to effect immediate solutions, such as deepening the bar entrances, moving quays and shipyards, creating navigation channels, or demolishing human structures like the above-mentioned watermills19. Many planned 16th century projects, even if most of them were never accomplished, with some of them important and others just surgical, reflect such dynamics. One cannot forget that this was also the time in which the tonnage of the seagoing vessels increased significantly due to long-range overseas trade favoured by the Portuguese overseas expansion, and movement in the harbour intensified correspondingly, leading to an urge to intervene in access and anchorage structures.

21The records included in the database reflect both the local and central power responses to these constraints and challenges. The improvement of navigation conditions, the control of the river mouths or the enlargement of the port capacity are some of them. In terms of security, during the 16th and 17th centuries piracy activity resulted in a need to implement warning systems and rescue support to boats under attack. As coastal defence was one of the main concerns of the crown, many of those works were promoted by the central power.

  • 20 Alvará Régio de 25 de Abril de 1570, in Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto, Própri (...)
  • 21 Silva, 1979 and Polónia, 2007a, t. I, pp. 177-180.
  • 22 The fortress of Ínsua, in Caminha, was built in 1649 (see Santos, 1981); the (...)

22In 1570, the king urged to «fortify all the cities with a seaport due to the need that my kingdom has for defence»20. In this sense, a process of coastal survey was undertaken, which resulted an increasing number of charts and sketches of river mouths, bars and watersheds. By 1618, a system of torches placed along the coast all the way to Galicia was in place21. In the following years, the fortification of the coasts progressed, with the building of fortresses such as Caminha, Viana, Esposende, Vila do Conde and São João da Foz, in Porto22.

  • 23 In the winter of 1788 the flows in rio Douro damaged a buoy considered one of the be (...)

23At the same time, it was crucial for the crown to control the maritime cargoes brought into seaports, which should be properly unshipped and taxed. Custom houses’ regulations, marks of customs and building of quays near custom warehouses are some of the infrastructure recorded for that period23.

  • 24 Lopes, 1987, p. 36.
  • 25 Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Convento de Santa Clara Vila do Conde, cx. 37, m (...)
  • 26 Polónia, 2007a, t. I, pp. 149-159.

24However, compared with central power regulations, the documentation produced by the local authorities is paramount. Frequently its preparation was urged by the seamen themselves. If these regulations reveal concrete concerns with seaports logistics, it reflects as well the challenges of everyday life to early modern Portuguese ports and harbours, such as the ones resulting from navigation constraints. As an example, in 1564, the inhabitants of Viana do Castelo appealed to the king complaining about the diminishing of the river flow, which they saw as responsible for the diminishing traffic and the impossibility of building big vessels in their shipyards24. Very similar complaints came from their neighbours in Vila do Conde25. During the 16th and 17th centuries, they conducted very effective lobbying, pressuring local and central powers to intervene in seaports26. At a time of maritime overseas expansion, when the mainstay of the Portuguese economy was maritime and overseas trade, this lobby seems to have worked, according to the number of records in which they are mentioned as promoters and contenders for harbour works and harbour regulations.

  • 27 See Alloza Aparicio, 2006; Id., 2009.

25The 17th century was, for Portugal, a time of formal and informal wars. Privateering, active all over the late 16th and the 17th centuries, authorized by Portugal’s colonial competitors (first France, then The Netherlands and eventually Britain), times of war left their mark on the Portuguese coast and overseas territories. The wars of Spain, with which Portugal was associated during the Iberian Union (1580-1640), against the British (1585-1604) and against the United Provinces (1568-1648) and finally the Restoration War (the war of Portugal against Spain from 1640 to 1668) brought specific needs for coastal defence, with which seaports’ policy makers had to deal with. The Spanish blockades against Dutch vessels and merchants were also imposed on Portuguese seaports, with consequently decreasing levels of navigation and trade. The increase of Dutch privateering along the Portuguese coast created a need for more intense coastal patrols, both to ensure the blockade and to provide coastal defence27.

  • 28 Costa, 2002, t. I, pp. 53-57.

26The measures undertaken reflect both crown policies of navigation and military control, and local policies oriented towards the defence of the population of the coastal cities, or even the circumvention of the adverse local effects of crown policies28. In fact central policies and local government did not always converge in terms of seaports administration and coastal management. The way complex networks of traders circumvented, with the acknowledgement and the consent of local authorities, central policies, is well known.

27If logistic requirements and warfare seem to have guided seaport policies in Portugal across the 16th and 17th centuries, in later years those policies seem to have been oriented by other trends and priorities. Economic and technical concerns seem to have prevailed within a set of actions undertaken more and more by central power initiative. This had to do with two converging features: an increasing technical complexity required by seaports interventions and the arising of a centralized state, informed by the principles of the Enlightenment, with concrete impact in political programs. Portugal was not an exception.

TECHNOLOGICAL COMPLEXITY OF HARBOUR WORKS AND HARBOUR CONSTRUCTION POLICY

28During the 17th and the 18th centuries, the volume and the complexity of the works increased. The Hisportos database provides a significant amount of data which can highlight the first of these trends: the evolving technical complexity of seaports works and the correspondent technological demands. This can be seen both from the number and the quality of the projects, as much as by the presence of foreign engineers, responsible for the application of foreign models of harbour construction and the introduction of new technological inputs.

  • 29 See, among others, Jackson, 1983; Id., 2007b; Fischer, Jarvis (eds.), 1999.
  • 30 See Memória sobre o Plano d’Abertura e Restauração da Barra do Porto, Luis Gmes (...)
  • 31 See Planta do projecto e estado presente das Obras de Encanamento do Rio (...)

29In fact, in the 18th century, the technical complexity of the projects demanded specialized knowledge of a kind provided only by technicians and engineers. Those works were no longer confined to the removal of a rock or the enlargement of a quay. Instead, in some cases, they dealt with the reformulation of a watershed, as observed in Aveiro. During the 19th century, in Europe, a centralized policy of public works rationalized the intervention in seaports. Hydraulic engineers tried to recover land from the sea, or to manage the plumbing of water lines, open channels and waterways, and adapt small and large seaport structures to the new steamships29. This, however, did not only happen from the 19th century onwards. Even in 1790, the Portuguese Crown sent the engineer Luís Gomes de Carvalho, along with Major Martinho José Pirré, to lead an inspection of the navigability of the river Douro river from Barca d’Alva downstream, hoping to start a technical collaboration with British engineers already there30. In 1794, in order to improve the navigability and harbour entrance of Lima, José Aufdiener ordered the construction of a breakwater and the closing of several channels that divided the river and cut the south sand bank. Also in the 18th century, Custódio José Vilas Boas was responsible for channelling the Cávado river to make it navigable, and he also authored a plan for Viana’s port and for the improvement of the maritime bar31.

  • 32 Vérin, 1993; Rodriguez-Villasante, 1988; Araújo, 2006; Silva Suárez (e (...)

30In Portugal, the process of 17th century coastal defence is perhaps the first moment in which the presence of technicians and engineers, working along with the crown and the municipalities, is noticeable. This trend gains another expression in the 18th century. Among those, a considerable number of the technicians recorded are military engineers, drawn to Portugal by the challenges of the Restoration War (1640-1668); the War of the Spanish Succession (1703-1715) and the French Revolutionary Wars (1793-1814). Portuguese engineers are almost absent from the records until the late 18th century. The effective lack of technicians and/or the late recognition of their professional status are among the possible explanations32.

  • 33 Costa, Pinto, 2009.

31Instead, Italian, French, British, and German engineers are recorded in the 18th century, mostly in Porto and Aveiro. Their presence can also be seen in Viana do Castelo, and even in Vila do Conde. Names such as Filipe Tércio, Charles Lassart, Miguel Lescol, Filipe Neri, Giovanni Iseppi, Carlos Mardel, José Aufdiener, Guilherme de Valleré, Louis d’Allincourt, Reinaldo Oudinot, José Champalimaud de Nussance, François Hacinte Polchet, Martinho José Pirré, Adam Wentzel Hestek, or Guilherme Edsen, appear in the Hisportos database from the 16th to the 18th centuries. But it is during the 19th century that they were dominant, mostly in Porto, where the Scottish and British engineers are prevalent33.

  • 34 See, among others Cheke, Dictator of Portugal; Maxwell, 1995; Macedo, 1987; Id., 1982; Ramos, 1987 (...)

32If we cross the results obtained until the 18th century with the initiatives of seaport construction in which the central power played the major role, we can also establish a fundamental connection between central policies sustaining seaport technical interventions and the presence of foreign engineers, mostly during the 18th century — namely in the period of the government of the Marquis de Pombal in Portugal, well known as a foreign-minded minister, sensitive to other European approaches on technical knowledge in all sectors, ranging from public works, urbanism, trade and finance to industry34.

33As for the chronological distribution of the technicians mentioned, mostly foreigners, figure 3 provides a general overview of their presence in Portugal.

Fig. 3. — Portuguese and Foreign Engineers in the Northwest seaports in the 17th and 18th centuries

Fig. 3. — Portuguese and Foreign Engineers in           the Northwest seaports in the 17th and 18th centuries

Source: Hisportos databases (<http://web.letras.up.pt/​hisportos/​>).

34The presence of French engineers, summoned by the Crown for the construction of strongholds during the 17th century, was followed, during the 18th century, by a commission of engineers from other nationalities, including Portuguese. The transmission of technical knowledge became unavoidable, promoted by the mobility of these men throughout different places in Europe.

35In the 17th and the 18th centuries, military engineers produced, to a large extent, technological knowledge associated with the conception, construction or maintenance of infrastructures, both related to defence facilities and harbour logistics. Seaports frequently assimilated that technological knowledge, in terms of both defence infrastructures (bulwarks, fortifications) and harbour structures (quays, dykes, wharves, levees, thick walls, sea beacons, lighthouses, etc.).

  • 35 Alegria, Garcia, 1995; Polónia, 2002.

36A study of the projects recorded in the Hisportos database reveals the presence of technological models resulting from active dynamics of knowledge transfer. This circulation of technicians and technology in maritime spaces seems responsible for a «globalisation» of knowledge and technology all over Europe. The same occured with cartographic representations. A significant number of their authors, particularly in the 18th century, were foreigners. Most would have been engineers who needed cartography and topography as work tools35.

  • 36 See, amoung others, Reguera Rodríguez, 1993, pp. 7-10; Rollo, 2002, pp. 40-55.

37Navigation requirements and infrastructural operations led to the production of maps, especially in the 18th century, as well as projects, accessibility studies and hydraulic engineering schemes. Both the cultural factors and the reforms resulting from the Enlightenment were responsible for a clearer understanding of the world and, thus, of the coast. This understanding was associated with the growing need for planning, which constituted an encouragement for cartography and statistics. Their connection with territorial planning and the reinforcement of power all over Europe is paramount36.

38The 18th century is in fact also marked by the increasing importance of cartographical production, which gained technical precision and craftsmanship. The multiplication of cartographical representations of seaport precincts and coastline profiles, intersected with planned operations on seaports, whose number is, as we have underlined, more significant in this period, can also be corroborated in our database, by the number of maps and plans recorded for each seaport (see fig. 4).

Fig. 4. — Cartographical representations: diachronic and geographical distribution

Fig. 4. — Cartographical representations:           diachronic and geographical distribution

Source: Hisportos databases (<http://web.letras.up.pt/​hisportos/​>).

39The number and chronological distribution of technical interventions in North-western seaports (table 1 and fig. 1) and the distribution presented in figure 2, also underline the distinct pattern throughout the entire period under consideration. If the 16th and 17th centuries expressed a comparable investment in all the North-western Portuguese seaports, from small to major ports, the 18th century confirmed a preferential, if not almost exclusive, interest in two of those ports: Aveiro and Porto. Those are the ones that drew the attention and the investments of the crown (see fig. 2) and those which motivated a more significant number of engineering projects and harbour interventions.

40As the purpose of this essay is an analysis of the connection between central and local power policies and technical interventions in seaports, the understanding of contextual and political frameworks is paramount to a comprehensive interpretation of the trends presented so far.

HARBOUR CONSTRUCTION POLICIES: POLITICAL AND ECONOMIC TRENDS

41All the trends presented above concerning the construction of seaports and harbours should be explained within their political, military and economic contexts. Most interventions in the 16th century, in particular in Vila do Conde and Porto, were mostly designed to improve the navigability of harbour entrances and to create additional quays and docks, are connected with the importance and prominence of the trade movement in these ports, in direct connection with overseas trade and navigation due to Portugal’s maritime expansion. As opposed to that, most of the 17th century projects were directed at the building and maintenance of fortifications and other defence structures. They were associated above all with naval warfare and the Restoration War (1640-1668) between Portugal and Spain.

42The 18th century interventions must be understood in yet another context and according to new variables. Even though the economic dynamics undoubtedly still counted, now strategic planning, in terms of central power policies, increasingly came into play.

  • 37 Capela, 1983; Amorim, 1997.

43The number of interventions reflects other demographic or economic factors, and illustrates to the decline of small ports such as Vila do Conde and Caminha, or even Viana do Castelo, at a national and international level37, which started in the 17th century, but became more obvious in the 18th. This reality is connected not only with their internal dynamics, but with a funding policy which selected the main seaports and seems to have excluded the smaller communities and small economic agents dominating those peripheral spaces, from their economic strategies. The economic policy of the Marquis de Pombal (1750-1777), which favoured the Porto and Lisbon merchant communities, launching trade, fishing and agricultural monopolies (like the case of the Brazilian trade companies; the Algarve Fisheries Company, and the Port wine viticulture and trade company), is one of the key features responsible for this tendency, which reflects on seaport logistics maintenance and construction.

  • 38 Polónia, 2008.

44Since these structures depended on direct funding or indirect approval by the central power, as we have seen, their maintenance, even when justified at a regional level, was not supported by the requisite infrastructural investments. This tendency led to changes in the interregional port system in North-western Portugal, disrupting the logistic complementarities between smaller and bigger ports observed in previous times38, and diminishing the relevance of small seaport towns in relation to their hinterlands, through a variety of infrastructural conditions necessary to support maritime traffic, guaranteed by bigger vessels, adequate warehouses and custom houses.

  • 39 Jackson, 2001. On the importance of small seaports see Le Bouëdec, 2008a.

45It presumes the transformation of relatively important seaports, even on a small or medium scale, into «unimportant ports», in the sense proposed by Gordon Jackson39. The evolution of the infrastructural investments analysed in the long term (16th to 18th centuries) seems to determine the irreversible loss of centrality and economic capability of the smaller ports of North-western Portugal.

  • 40 Costa, 2002.
  • 41 Sousa, Alves, 2002.
  • 42 Barros, Pereira, 2001.

46The result seems clear: by the 18th century, the small ports of Caminha, Vila do Conde and Viana do Castelo were destined to become «unimportant ports», despite their internal and hinterland importance during the 16th century, associated with overseas trade and navigation, and the 17th century. This is obvious in the case of Viana do Castelo, which had been associated with the Brazilian sugar trade, even though in connection with Lisbon’s merchant community40. On the opposite, the pivotal seaport of Porto, with a sustainable economic growth, based on the promising Port wine trade and the export trade of Brazilian products, obtained crown attention and investments. The navigability of the Douro River was by then paramount, and significant investments in the Porto harbour multiplied, even though the geomorphological constraints of the harbour entrance might have deterred significant investments, and imposed, at the end, the inevitable transference of the harbour, in the 19th century, to Leixões41. The centrality of the town was at stake, and this depended, in the long term, on the centrality of its harbour, and the navigability of the Douro River42. In fact, Porto dominated the national and international Port wine trade from the 18th century onwards. The Douro River and the entrance to the Douro harbour figure as pivotal factors at a regional and international level, facilitating the connection with regional and international markets. The development of these port logistics, and the concern with the viability of the access to its harbour are, in this context, understandable and justified.

  • 43 Amorim, 2008.

47If the implementation of infrastructural interventions in Porto can be understood in this context of economic growth, the case of Aveiro is quite distinct, and explains another dimension of seaport construction. Aveiro suffered, at that time, from the decline of the salt trade, its traditional trade basis. No other product appeared to substitute for it, in a setting in which the seaport also presented serious geomorphological problems. The port was sliding to the South, very far from the town of Aveiro. The urgency of rebuilding the seaport was a persistent claim of the local authorities and economic agents. Between 1759 (when the port was first closed) and 1808 (the date of its final re-opening), a long list of military engineers (Portuguese, German, French and Italian) passed through Aveiro. Even though actual measures only began in 1802, with the construction of a dyke that conducted and constrained the waters so as to open the port, the multiple interventions by the central power are reflected in the numerous technical operations, paid by the crown, or with its approval, during the 18th century43, a period when the customs and other trade and economic revenues could not support the cost of maintaining the open harbour. Nevertheless, the works and the engineering planning persisted, in association with other proposals that aimed to promote the Aveiro port, despite all the geomorphological and economic restrictions.

  • 44 Id., 2006.

48In fact, dating from the late 18th and early 19th centuries, there is an interesting collection of papers that discussed the standing and the growth of the port, and defended fiscal advantages, aiming to promote Aveiro as a «free port», with an administrative and political status justified by a propagandistic dissertation about the theoretical and visionary promise to extend trade benefits. This model is thus a construction, based on political and economic theories44. The port of Aveiro seems in fact to be constructed based on theoretical assumptions and technical experiences rather than on its national or international relevance or even on its local or regional dynamism.

49Different forces, some of them more political or scientific rather than economic, imposed themselves from the 18th century onwards, giving leeway to a reinforced central power and diminishing municipalities’ centrality with regard to long-term technical interventions in seaports.

  • 45 Pinto, unpublished; Moreira, 1984; Id., 1987; Id., 1995; Id., 1990; Po (...)

50The analysis of the issue under discussion would require a broader understanding of the local and regional historical dynamics, research which has been done for almost all the seaports under evaluation45. The straightforward exercise of this chapter is designed to integrate individual case studies and highlight some long-run transversal tendencies of Portuguese harbour construction policies for the period between the 15th and the 19th centuries. This undertaking was made possible only by the historiographical potentialities of the Hisportos database. Its usefulness to many other research projects, however, is as yet far from being exhausted.

Notes

1 Polónia, 2011, pp. 379-409.

2 To an approach of seaports’ models of functioning, see Id., 2010, pp. 17-39.

3 «Hisportos. A contribution to the history of NW Portuguese seaports in the Early Modern Age» was a research project developed in the Instituto de História Moderna da Universidade do Porto research unit (IHM-UP). It has been funded by the Portuguese Foundation of Science and Technology (FCT) [POCTI/HAR/36417/2000]. The project was centred on the northwest Portuguese seaports in the early modern period. Among Hisportos scientific aims was the discussion involving geomorphologic features of the ports and their interaction with changing circumstances over time, the installation and subsequent changes in seaport infrastructure, the relations between port areas and both the hinterland and vorland, the application of technological innovations associated with hydraulic engineering, among others. Further information can be found in Id., 2007b. Results of the project are available at < http://web.letras.up.pt/hisportos/ >. The interdisciplinary nature of the project can be checked in Polónia, Osswald (ed.) [2007], pp. 28-40.

4 Polónia, 2008, pp. 113-136.

5 The significant number of local authority interventions in Vila do Conde can only be explained because of its manorial jurisdiction, which transferred certain attributes to the lordship authority, represented by local agents, which were accomplished in other sea towns by the crown.

6 Valente, unpublished, pp. 23-31 and 135-167; Id., 2011, pp. 119-132.

7 Amoung the many works involving this Company, see Sousa, 2007; Id., 2006, pp. 29-89.

8 Amorim, 2008, pp. 83-109.

9 Royal charter of 17th March 1667, in Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto, Próprias, Livro 6, 1656-1670 das Provizões e Cartas, f. 480.

10 A arquitectura militar na expansão portuguesa. Catálogo de Exposição. See all the registers related to the Consultations of the Council of War, in Torre do Tombo, the national archive, only a part of them being recorded in Hisportos database.

11 See, for instance, the repair works promoted by Porto city hall in the custom’s house dock in 1590 (Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto, Vereações, 1590, f. 81), or the successive repairs in the river Ave piers, Vila do Conde, led by the municiplality see Polónia, 2007a, t. I, pp. 165-173.

12 See, for instance, the process of building the new quay of Ribeira, in Porto, that began in 1525 (see Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto, Vereações, 1525).

13 Sisa was the most general tax imposed over all the transactions. From Manuel I onwards a «cabeção das sisas», a fixed amount to be yearly was imposed in each municipality. The leftovers of the tax collected were kept by the municipality, but its uses depended on ten crown approval. They became during the period under scritiny on eof the most important . Examples of these occurences in Hisportos database are, for instance, the rebuilding of a dock in Vila do Conde from 1618 to 1629 promoted by the municipality but paid with the «sobejos das sisas» (see Polónia, 2007a, t. I, pp. 167-169).

14 Corpus codicum latinorum et portugalensium corum, vol. 4, p. 33.

15 Dias et alii, 1997, pp. 53-66; Araújo, 2002, pp. 73‐91.

16 See for instance the flows that occured in 1526 (see Manuscrito: Obras da Barra do Douro, Projecto de Melhoramento, Relatório nº 1, 1902, in Arquivo da Administração dos Portos do Douro e Leixões, Obras da Barra, Documentos Avulso).

17 See for instance the siltation in Rio Ave in 1510 (see Processo sobre o derrube dos açudes do rio Ave, Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Convento de Santa Clara Vila do Conde, cx. 37, maço 7).

18 See for instance the siltation of Aveiro’s seabar in 1575 (see Mendes, 1972-1974).

19 Polónia, 2007a, t. I, pp. 131-159.

20 Alvará Régio de 25 de Abril de 1570, in Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto, Próprias, Livro 2 de Cartas e Provisões de D. João III, 1540-1575, f. 377.

21 Silva, 1979 and Polónia, 2007a, t. I, pp. 177-180.

22 The fortress of Ínsua, in Caminha, was built in 1649 (see Santos, 1981); the fortress of Santiago da Barra, in Viana do Castelo was built between 1589 and 1596 (see Reis, 1987); the fortress of São João Baptista, in Espodende, was built in 1699 (see Amândio, 1996); the fortress of São João Baptista, in Vila do Conde, was built in 1570 (see Polónia, 2007a, t. I); in 1567 the engineer Simão Ruão was sent to Porto to project the fortress of São João da Foz (see Moreira, 1994).

23 In the winter of 1788 the flows in rio Douro damaged a buoy considered one of the best and very needed to navigation. Seamen appealed to the king refering that the repair works were crucial to assure that boats docked safely, and consequently, promptly taxed (see Arquivo Histórico Municipal do Porto, Cofre das Obras Públicas, Livro 2302, f. 21v).

24 Lopes, 1987, p. 36.

25 Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, Convento de Santa Clara Vila do Conde, cx. 37, maço 7, Processo sobre o derrube dos açudes do rio Ave.

26 Polónia, 2007a, t. I, pp. 149-159.

27 See Alloza Aparicio, 2006; Id., 2009.

28 Costa, 2002, t. I, pp. 53-57.

29 See, among others, Jackson, 1983; Id., 2007b; Fischer, Jarvis (eds.), 1999.

30 See Memória sobre o Plano d’Abertura e Restauração da Barra do Porto, Luis Gmes de Carvalho, 1820.

31 See Planta do projecto e estado presente das Obras de Encanamento do Rio Cávado, com a Sonda da Costa, Rumos ou marcas que se devem seguir para entrar na Barra de Espozende e na Anceada dos Cavallos de Fão Porto de Vianna do Castelo: Projecto do Engenheiro Custódio José Gomes Villas Boas. See also Amândio, 1994.

32 Vérin, 1993; Rodriguez-Villasante, 1988; Araújo, 2006; Silva Suárez (ed.), 2005; Guerra, 1995; Mendonça (ed.), 1997.

33 Costa, Pinto, 2009.

34 See, among others Cheke, Dictator of Portugal; Maxwell, 1995; Macedo, 1987; Id., 1982; Ramos, 1987; Serrão, 1982; França, 1983.

35 Alegria, Garcia, 1995; Polónia, 2002.

36 See, amoung others, Reguera Rodríguez, 1993, pp. 7-10; Rollo, 2002, pp. 40-55.

37 Capela, 1983; Amorim, 1997.

38 Polónia, 2008.

39 Jackson, 2001. On the importance of small seaports see Le Bouëdec, 2008a.

40 Costa, 2002.

41 Sousa, Alves, 2002.

42 Barros, Pereira, 2001.

43 Amorim, 2008.

44 Id., 2006.

45 Pinto, unpublished; Moreira, 1984; Id., 1987; Id., 1995; Id., 1990; Polónia, 2007a; Barros, 2016; Amorim, 1997.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. — Harbour Works in Northwest Ports, 14th-18th centuries
Légende Source: Hisportos databases (<http://web.letras.up.pt/​hisportos/​>).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cvz/docannexe/image/208/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 29k
Titre Fig. 3. — Portuguese and Foreign Engineers in the Northwest seaports in the 17th and 18th centuries
Légende Source: Hisportos databases (<http://web.letras.up.pt/​hisportos/​>).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cvz/docannexe/image/208/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 25k
Titre Fig. 4. — Cartographical representations: diachronic and geographical distribution
Légende Source: Hisportos databases (<http://web.letras.up.pt/​hisportos/​>).
URL http://books.openedition.org/cvz/docannexe/image/208/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 23k

Auteurs

Universidade do Porto

CITCEM

© Casa de Velázquez, 2016

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