Larger than life nationalism

TitlePortugal Is Not a Small Country
CreatorPortugal. Secretariado da Propaganda Nacional
Dimensions10 × 14 cm
LocationLeventhal Map & Education Center at the Boston Public Library
View full Digital Collections record

Comparing the territorial size of one country to another is one method used to demonstrate power and importance. For Portugal's right-wing Estado Novo government, which ruled the country from 1933 to 1974, projecting a world-spanning might was a crucial part of a popular narrative that situated Portugal as a maritime empire. In exhibitions and propaganda texts, the Salazar government sought to link Portuguese identity to the navigators and explorers who had made the nation famous for its seafaring expeditions from the fifteenth century onwards.

Maps as political propaganda are very common. See how the U.S. promoted the New Deal in 1935.
Wander across the exhibition →

The slogan “Portugal is not a small country” ("Portugal não é um pais pequeno” in Portuguese) was coined by the colonial administrator and propagandist Henrique Galvão. It was first shown at the 1934 Colonial Portuguese Exhibition in Porto in 1934, and showed the Portuguese colonies overlaid atop Europe. Galvão reproduced the map in a book titled In the Course of Empire, using it to prove that Portugal's total area was greater than that of the European holdings of Spain, France, England, Italy, and Germany combined. ()

The reverse side of this postcard makes the same claim, noting that Portugal “contributed more than any other country in the world to the discoveries and to the extension and predominance of Christian civilization.” This nakedly imperialistic claim, putting Portugal in center stage in a blatantly aggressive version of history which celebrated European conquest, was a key cultural claim for the Salazar government. Similar claims about national “greatness” have been used in many contexts to promote nationalistic political programs.

Many variants of this cartographic illustration exist, though other versions were directed more towards a Portuguese audience, touting Portugal’s strength over the rest of Europe. This particular version was produced in 1951 and was aimed at American tourists. ()


Cairo 2006
Heriberto Cairo, “‘Portugal Is Not a Small Country’: Maps and Propaganda in the Salazar Regime,” Geopolitics 11, no. 3 (September 2006): 367–395. doi:10.1080/14650040600767867
Cornell 2017
P. J. Mode, Katherine Reagan, et al., Persuasive Cartography: The PJ Mode Collection, Cornell University Library, Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections (2017).