Carnation Revolution Volume 1: The Road to the Coup that Changed Portugal, 1974

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Review Author(s)
Book Author(s)
Book Author(s): José Augusto Matos and Zelia Oliveira
Illustrators: Paulo Alegria, David Bocquelet, Luca Canossa, Tom Cooper, and Anderson Subtil
Company: Helion & Company - Website: Visit Site
Provided by: Casemate Publishers - Website: Visit Site
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This is the second book about Portuguese forces that I have read, authored by José Augusto Matos (he co-authored Sanctuary Lost, Portugal’s Air War for Guinea 1961-1974, Volume 1, with Matthew M. Hurley). Having read both books, I now better understand the author’s style and attention to detail. This is Zelia Oliveira’s first book in the series. As the title states, this book is the road to the Portuguese Coup of 1974 and covers primarily the period from 1961 to 12 March 1974 in amazing detail (there are ten pages of sources, bibliography, and notes).

This is comprehensive book really focuses on the key figures in the Carnation Revolution, with ancillary information on the Portuguese Ultramar(overseas empire), primarily its colonies of Guinea, Angola, and Mozambique. The colonies are noted and referenced to put the coup d’etat in perspective as Portugal stood at the crossroads in history. While the causal reader might find the book tedious, there is a lot of backed up facts that explain the desperate situation Portugal faced in the early 1970s as African colonies gained independence, often using Soviet and Warsaw Pact aid, set among the other conflicts of the time, including the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

The Carnation Revolution occurred on 25 April 1974 and was centered around military captains against the authoritarian Estado Novo (New State) government established in 1933. The catalyst for the revolution was the declining prestige of Portugal, its military fighting unpopular wars in its African colonies (it had already lost their three colonies in India in the early 1960s), its economy, and other factors.The almost bloodless revolution got its name from the citizens taking to the street to celebrate the end of the dictatorship by placing carnations in soldiers’ weapons and their uniforms. A big catalyst for this revolution was the publication of the book “Portugal E O Futuro” (Portugal and the Future) by the General António de Spínola in February 1974, which outlined the unpopular colonial wars were not military winnable, and that a political solution was required.The fact that General Spínola’s book was published at all is a mystery well documented in this book; this book really is the history of the that seminal book, its author, and the outcome to be described in the next volume.

The book is complete with extensive photographs, technical details and specifications, and detailed illustrations, composing the following ten chapters:

  • Abbreviations
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1 – Portugal and the Future
  • Chapter 2 – Tortuous paths
  • Chapter 3 – The situation in the colonies
  • Chapter 4 – The birth of the MFA
  • Sources and bibliography
  • Notes
  • About the Authors

As mentioned earlier, this book covers the Road to the Coup and ends abruptly on 12 March 1974. Volume 2 – April Surprise, 1974 is scheduled to be released in March, so we will have to wait until then to see if there will be a Volume 3. For the casual reader, this series could probably have been truncated to one volume. For those who crave more detail, then this series will work for you.

Modelers will appreciate the few black and white photographs of troops in the field and armaments, but most of the photographs are of the key players. The color profile section is great for aircraft modelers with Portuguese Air Force (Força Aérea Portuguesa-FAP) Allouette III helicopters, Dornier Do-27, Lockheed P2V-5 Neptune, Fiat G.91s; Rhodesian Air Force (RhAF) Aermacchi AL-60B-2 light utility aircraft, Percival Provost T.52, Hunter FGA.9; South African Air Force (SAAF) MB-326 Impala Mk I, English Electric Canberra B(I), and Mirage IIICZ. Armor modelers have olive drab (prevalent at the time in most militaries) profiles of the Hugh MIM-23 HAWK (Homing All the Way Killer), R.440 Crotale SAM (Surface to Air Missile), and BRDM as used by the PIAGC (Partido Africano para a Independência da Guiné e Cabo Verde - African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde) forces. Figure modelers have Portuguese and African (terrorist or freedom fighters, depending on the view) forces in black and white photos and color profiles.

While not an easy book to digest, it is a detailed English language text on this pivotal moment in Portugal’s history and its place in NATO and the European Community deserves attention to better understand our current world.

Profuse thanks to Casemate and IPMS/USA for providing the review sample.


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