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The PIDE and Portuguese Society under the Salazar Dictatorship 1945-1974: Fear, Self-Policing, Accommodation.

Project description

The connections between secret police and the people

Long-lasting dictatorships that emerged during the interwar period is a phenomenon widely associated with 20th century European politics. The Salazar regime in Portugal was no exception. It was actually the longest-running dictatorship in Europe (1926-1974). Among the institutions of the regime was the secret police infamously known as PIDE. The EU-funded secretPOL project will study the role PIDE played in Portugal and examine how the Portuguese society reacted. The project challenges the existing knowledge of the relation between PIDE and Portuguese citizens. It also proposes an interpretation based on interactivity. It supposes that the Portuguese society, except for the oppositionists, had adapted to the opportunities for stability that the regime offered.


The Salazar regime was the longest-lasting dictatorship in Europe in the Twentieth Century. If the Military Dictatorship from which it emerged is taken into account, it lasted 48 years, from 1926 to 1974. Like the other dictatorships born in the inter-war years, it relied heavily on its secret police (PIDE) for stability. This research programme aims to reconceptualise the relation between the PIDE and Portuguese society in order to reach a more complete understanding of the regime’s exceptional durability. By drawing on developments in the international bibliography of totalitarianisms, of everyday life under a dictatorship, and of denunciatory practices, it challenges the established interpretative paradigm which sees the relation between the PIDE and society almost exclusively as one of top-down repression imposed upon a nation of passive victims. Its core argument is that the relation between the PIDE and Portuguese society was far more multi-facetted, dynamic and interactive than has been acknowledged until now. This research project posits as its main underlying thesis the notion that the Salazarist system was normalised by many Portuguese citizens as part of the structure of everyday life. Society adapted to the institutional framework imposed by the regime - including the secret police -, acting on the opportunities that opened up rather than remaining dependent or passive. If the role of society in the perpetuation of the Salazarist order is to be duly assessed, the framework of interaction between society and the secret police must be apprehended with recourse to a novel analytical prism (focusing on ordinary citizens instead of on the small minority of oppositionists who have monopolised the attention of historians so far), new research methodologies (oral history and opinion surveying) and original archival material (the letters of denunciation held at the PIDE Archives in Lisbon).


Net EU contribution
€ 147 815,04
Av prof anibal de bettencourt 9
1600 189 Lisboa

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Continente Área Metropolitana de Lisboa Área Metropolitana de Lisboa
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00