Vitorino Magalhães Godinho
1991 Balzan Prize for History: The Emergence of Europe in the 15th and 16th Centuries
Vitorino Magalhães Godinho was born in Lisbon in 1918 (*1918 -†2011). He completed his studies in the University of that city, in the Faculty of Arts, graduating in 1940.
One of the essential characteristics of his life was to repeatedly have to go into self-imposed exile, in particular to France. Of a free spirit, the dictatorships of Salazar formerly and Marcelo Caetano latterly were, for him, insufferable. One of his best friends, Mario Soares, now the President of the Portuguese republic, seven years younger than he, reveals that in 1943, “only one professor had what it took to become a real Maestro… The students made him a cult figure. He was the first to spread the historic methods of Marc Bloch, Lucien Febvre and Fernand Braudel in Portugal. Fascism was not for this studious man, just as this intellectual was not for Fascism. In 1943 he was removed from his post with the school year still in full flow”.
He stayed 13 years in Paris, at the National Centre for Scientific Research, then at section VI of the Practical School of Higher Studies. In 1959 he obtained his State doctorate of Arts at the Sorbonne. The title of his main thesis was: The Economy of the Portuguese Empire in the XVth and XVIth centuries.
In 1960, he was called back to Portugal to teach at the Higher Institute of Overseas Studies. But he stayed only two years. He was removed from his position by the University and lived on his writing until 1971. He then returned to France and taught at Clermont-Ferrand University where, above all, he gained a doctorate honoris causa. He returned to Portugal in 1974, as soon as the dictatorship was ended and became Minister of Education in the second and third provisory governments (July-November 1974). This post was due to his friendship with Mario Soares,
with whom he wanted to prevent, with all his might, a communist dictatorship succeeding a Right wing dictatorship. He did not join any party, preferring to draw up many educational programs at University.
Professor at the new University of Lisbon, Emeritus in 1988, director of journals, he published in 1990 one of his masterpieces: Mito e mercatoria, utopia e prática de navegar, séculos XIII a XVIII. It is to be noted that he also contributed to work on the New Cambridge Modern History.
Godinho’s originaiity derives from the inteiligent and passionate way in which he united political history in a truiy g!obal way, the discoveries and conquests, the immense effects these had on mentalities, humanism, sciences and, in particular, cartography; all this is blended together with admirable soda! and psycho!ogical description. The obstacles met during his career cannot in any way obscure his greatness and spectacular character.