Joaquim Pedro De Oliveira Martins - Encyclopedia

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JOAQUIM PEDRO DE OLIVEIRA MARTINS (1845-1894), Portuguese writer, was born in Lisbon and received his early education at the Lyceo Nacional and the Academia das Bellas Artes. At the age of fourteen his father's death compelled him to seek a living as clerk in a commercial house, but he gradually improved his position until in 1870 he was appointed manager of the mine of St Eufemia near Cordova. In Spain he wrote 0. Socialismo, and developed that sympathy for the industrial classes of which he gave proof throughout his life. Returning to Portugal in 1874, he became administrator of the railway from Oporto to Povoa, residing in Oporto. He had married when only nineteen, and for many years devoted his leisure hours to the study of economics, geography and history. In 1878 his memoir A Circulagao fiduciaria brought him the gold medal and membership of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Lisbon. Two years later he was elected president of the Society of Commercial Geography of Oporto, and in 1884 he became director of the Industrial and Commercial Museum in that city. In 1885 he entered public life, and in the following year represented Vianna do Castello in parliament, and in 1887 Oporto. Removing to Lisbon in 1888, he continued the journalistic work which he had commenced when living in the north, by editing the Reporter, and in 1889 he was named administrator of the Tobacco Regie. He represented Portugal at international conferences in Berlin and Madrid in 1890, and was chosen to speak at the celebration of the fourth centenary of Columbus held in Madrid in 1891, which gained him membership of the Spanish Royal Academy of History. He became minister of finance on the 17th of January 1892, and later vice-president of the Junta do Credito Publico. His health, however, began to break down as a result of a life spent in unremitting toil, and he died on the 24th of August 1894.

His youthful struggles and privations had taught him a serious view of life, which, with his acute sensibility, gave him a reserved manner, but Oliveira Martins was one of the most generous and noble of men. Like Anthero de Quental, he was impregnated with modern German philosophy, and his perception of the low moral standard prevailing in public life made him a pessimist who despaired of his country's future, but his sense of proportion, and the necessity which impelled him to work, saved him from the fate which befell his friend, and he died a believing Catholic. At once a gifted psychologist, a profound sociologist, a stern moralist, and an ardent patriot, Oliveira Martins deserved his European reputation. His Bibliotheca das sciencias sociaes, a veritable encyclopaedia, comprises literary criticism, socialism, economics, anthropology, histories of Iberian civilization, of the Roman Republic, Portugal and Brazil. Towards the end of his life he specialized in the 25th century and produced two notable volumes, Os fithos de D. Joao I. and A vida de Nun' Alvares, leaving unfinished 0 Principe perfeito, a study on King John II., which was edited by his friend Henrique de Banos Gomes.

As the literary leader of a national revival, Oliveira Martins occupied an almost unique position in Portugal during the last third of the 19th century. If he judged and condemned the parliamentary regime and destroyed many illusions in his sensational Contemporary Portugal, and if in his philosophic History of Portugal he showed, in a series of impressionist pictures, the slow decline of his country commencing in the golden age of the discoveries and conquests, he at the same time directed the gaze of his countrymen to the days of their real greatness under the House of Aviz, and incited them to work for a better future by describing the faith and patriotism which had animated the foremost men of the race in the middle ages. He had neither time nor opportunity for original research, but his powerful imagination and picturesque style enabled him to evoke the past and make it present to his readers.

The chief characteristics of the man - psychological imagination combined with realism and a gentle irony - make his strength as a historian and his charm as a writer. When some critics objected that his Historia de Portugal ought rather to be named "Ideas on Portuguese History," he replied that a synthetic and dramatic picture of one of those collective beings called nations gives the mind a clearer, truer and more lasting impression than a summary narrative of successive events. But just because he possessed the talents and temperament of a poet, Oliveira Martins was fated to make frequent mistakes as well as to discover important truths. He must be read with care because he is emotional, and cannot let facts speak for themselves, but interrupts the narrative with expressions of praise or blame. Some of his books resemble a series of visions, while, despite his immense erudition, he does not always supply notes or refer to authorities. He can draw admirable portraits, rich with colour and life; in his Historia de Portugal and Contemporaneo Portugal those of King Pedro I. and Herculano are among the best known. He describes to perfection such striking events as the Lisbon earthquake, and excels in the appreciation of an epoch. In these respects Castelar considered him superior to Macaulay, and declared that few men in Europe possessed the universal aptitude and the fullness of knowledge displayed by Oliveira Martins.

The works of Oliveira Martins include Elementos de anthropologic, As Racas humanas e a civilisarao primitiva, Systema dos mythos religiosos, Quadro das instituicoes primitivas, 0 Regime das riquezas, Politica e economia national, Taboas de chronologia e geographic historica, 0 Hellenismo e a civilisacao christa, Historia da Republica Romana, Historia da iberica, Historia de Portugual, Brazil e as colonias portuguezas, Portugal nos Mares, Portugal em Africa, Portugal contemporaneo, CamCes as Lusiadas e a renascenca em Portugal - a brilliant commentary on the physiognomy of the poet and his poem, Os Filhos de D. Joao I., the preface to whichgives his views on the writing of history - A Vida de Nun' Alvares; and A. Inglaterra de Hoje - the result of a visit to England.

See Moniz Barreto, Oliveira Martins, estudo de psychologia (Paris, 1887), a remarkable study; F. Diniz D'Ayalla, Os Ideaes de Oliveira Martins (Lisbon, 1897), which contains an admirable statement of his ideas, philosophical and otherwise; Anthero de Quental, Oliveira Martins (Lisbon, 1894) and Diccionario bibliographico portuguez, xii. 125. (E. PR.)

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