International Congress Bicentenary of the 1820 Revolution
The 1820 Revolution was the founding event of liberalism in Portugal and Brazil. It was part of a broader movement that spread across Southern Europe and the two Latin American empires of the Atlantic region. In all cases, the epicentre consisted of political constitutions, inspired by the Spanish model of the 1812 Cadiz Constitution. The Nation, understood as a new political pillar of the constituent power of parliament, lay at the foundations of the broad concept of national sovereignty that characterised the first Portuguese Constitution of 1822. National independence was an aim that was inscribed in the goals of the 1820 revolution, as was also the case in other southern countries. The parallel outbreak of the movement for independence in the colonies of Latin America resulted in conflicts that would subsequently reveal the imperialist nature of Iberian liberalism.
The liberal movement in Southern Europe was counter-cyclical in relation to the political situation of Central and Northern Europe, namely France and England, which were now incorporated into the Holy Alliance, formed to guarantee the political stability of Europe after Napoleon. It was against this unfavourable international background that the complex process of the independence of the South American colonies first began to unfurl. The programme of this Congress seeks to reflect upon this geopolitical perspective of the revolutionary movement.
One of the characteristics of the revolutionary movement was its formal prudence. Frequently, the word “regeneration” was preferred to the term “revolution”, since it suggested moderation. The spectre of the violence of the French Revolution hung over both sides, those who wished for a change and those who defended the conservation of the status quo. The desire for moderation and the fear of unleashing conflicts were visible features of all the activity of the Cortes of 1821-22. However, the mere proclamation of the Basis of the Constitution and the rights of citizenship represented a profound shock to the existing society. The very concept of citizenship was revolutionary in itself and represented a major innovation in the relationship between the individual and the State, calling into question the corporative society of orders. A constitution defining the newly-established powers also represented a rupture with the pre-existing concept of royal power. This was how its enemies immediately understood things. Revolution and counter-revolution were the two different faces of this time, within which the thematic axes that form the structure for the programme of this Congress are also to be found intertwined.
Different generations of essayists and historians have turned their attention to the 1820 Revolution. Despite the considerable bibliography already existing about this event and its time, the commemoration of the bicentenary represents a challenge for reviewing the subject in the light of present-day historiography, as well as providing a stimulus for the presentation of new approaches and new perspectives of analysis. Accordingly, we now present the academic community with the programme for the Congress, setting out the thematic panels that seem to us to be the most relevant. In each case, the presentation of the themes is the responsibility of the coordinators who were invited to organise the respective sessions.