| Portugal's independence dates back to the 12th century, although its tribal roots extend back beyond Roman times. The borders of Portugal as they are today were already in place by 1267. The Spanish monarchy managed to retain its independence into the 20th century (except for a 60-year period when the country was ruled by the Spanish Habsburgs. A nation with a deep connection to the sea, Portugal attained an empire for itself thanks to the exploits of its explorers. Regions under the control of Portugal included the Azores, the west African coast, parts of southern Asia, Brazil. What checked the Portuguese empire was the rise of two other great powers: the Netherlands and Spain. In 1910, the Kingdom of Portugal took the then-unusual step of becoming a republic. But changing the political status of the country has some devastating consequences: a succession of 8 presidents, 44 governments, and a reeling economy. The military responded with a takeover and the ensuing dictatorship endured for decades. Antonio Salazar, the civilian dictator chosen by the military, ruled Portugal with little leniency but with enough skill to keep his country out of World War II as a neutral country, although he supported Britain. Post-war, Portugal joined NATO and helped found the European Free Trade Association. But strains were felt in the mother country when Portugal's last colonies -- Portugal, Mozambique and Guinea -- began nationalist agitation and full-fledged revolt against it. Salazar's passing was hastened by the wars and political turmoil. Between 1974 and 1987, there were 16 governments formed. Under a Socialist constitution adopted in 1976, Portugal attempted to create economic changes to such a degree that a recession resulted. In the 1980s, attempts made to annul some of those 1970s changes (like the nationalizations of certain large industries and banks, for example) were blocked. From the mid-1980s to the early 1990s, Portugal has managed to make economic progress such that it no longer held the dubious distinction of being the poorest country in Europe.