Barony of Methuen

Methuen Treaty

The Methuen Treaty was an offensive military and commercial treaty between Portugal and England signed in 1703 as part of the War of the Spanish Succession. As a result of the treaty, Portugal renounced further manufacturing development; it implicitly transferred to England the dynamic impulse created by Brazilian gold production. In this sense the deal was tremendously negative to Portugal, since it meant that the country would not develop its industrial infrastructures and other types of agricultural products. Some authors claim that Portugal lost the industrial race in part due to this treaty. Thanks to this treaty, however, Portugal retained a strong political position on a stage that revealed itself to be fundamental in preserving the territorial integrity of its most important colony, Brazil (as argued by the Brazilian economist Celso Furtado in his work "Brazilian Economic Foundation").


At the start of the War of Spanish Succession Portugal had allied with France. As part of this treaty the French had guaranteed the Portuguese naval protection. However in 1702 the British navy had sailed close to Lisbon on the way to and from Cadiz proving to the Portuguese that the French could not keep their promise. They soon began negotiations with the Grand Alliance about switching sides.

The Methuen treaty was negotiated by John Methuen (c.1650-1706) who served as a Member of Parliament; Lord Chancellor of Ireland; Privy Councilor; Envoy and then Ambassador Extraordinary to Portugal where he negotiated the "Methuen" Treaty of 1703 which cemented allegiances in the War of Spanish Succession.

The early years of the War of Spanish Succession, in Flanders, had been rather fruitless. The Tory party in England was concerned about the cost of the war and felt that naval warfare was a much cheaper option with greater potential for success. Portugal offered the advantage of a deep water ports near the Mediterranean which could be used to counter the French Naval base at Toulon.

The Treaty

There were three major elements to the Methuen Treaty. The first was the establishment of the war aims of the Grand Alliance. Secondly the agreement meant that Spain would become a new theatre of war. Finally, it regulated the establishment of trade relations, especially between Britain and Portugal.

Until 1703, the Grand Alliance had never established any formal war aims. The Methuen Treaty changed this as it confirmed that the alliance would try to secure the entire Spanish Empire for the Austrian claimant to the throne, the Archduke Charles, later Charles VI of Austria.

The treaty also established the numbers of troops the various countries would provide to fight the campaign in Spain. The Portuguese army was very poorly organized and equipped and so they had to depend on funding from England. The Portuguese also insisted that Archduke Charles would come to Portugal to lead the forces in order to ensure full allied commitment to the war in Spain.

In addition, the treaty helped to establish trading relations between England and Portugal. The terms of the treaty allowed English woolen cloth to be admitted into Portugal free of duty. In return, Portuguese wines imported into England would be subject to a third less duty than wines imported from France. This was particularly important in helping the development of the Port industry. As England was at war with France it became increasingly difficult to acquire wine and so port started to become a popular replacement.

Further reading

  • Francis, A.D. John Methuen and the Anglo-Portuguese Treaties of 1703. The Historical Journal Vol. 3, No. 2, pp. 103 - 124.

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