Start date: 1/9/2008

Date of completion: 1/8/2011

Modernizing Ambitions – Proposals to transform Portuguese agriculture in the second half of the 20th century

The impacts of the agricultural modernization model after the Second World War are well known. The social sciences, together with their contribution to broadening the recognition of the high costs and enormous risks of this model, have demonstrated that the changes in European agriculture have not followed a single path but rather different rhythms and itineraries. It is therefore still relevant to proceed with the identification of the geographical and sectoral configurations assumed by these changes. This will help to find sustainable alternatives for the development of European rural areas.

In order to contribute to these evaluations, this project aims to analyze the contents, the mechanisms of reception and the modalities of diffusion of the modernizing proposals in Portugal, from the 50’s to the 80’s. In this research the activities developed by the Center for Economic Studies Agrarian, a scientific research unit that operated at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation between 1957 and 1986. The EAEC existed during the crucial decades for expansion in Western Europe of what has been termed industrial agriculture or the green revolution. Evidence from various sources suggests that in Portugal the EAEC played a very important role in actively defending these modernizing proposals. Among other issues, the extent to which the EAEC has influenced the debates and policy decisions, technical solutions and, in general, Social Sciences and economic thinking on agriculture and rural society in Portugal will have to be assessed.

It is recognized that in the second half of the twentieth century Portuguese agriculture is a declining sector. This behavior, which contrasts with what happened in previous decades and with what was happening in neighboring countries, makes the studies on this period still more opportune. This research project starts from the problematic of economic and social history. However, clarifying the various issues involved requires the adoption of interdisciplinary methodologies and tools for analysis. It will be necessary to call, in particular, the contributions of the history of science, sociology, institutional and political history and political science that in recent years have been providing new perspectives on contemporary Portugal.