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About me I am a Marie Curie Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences (ICS), University of Lisbon, Portugal, and author of A Igreja Católica e o Estado Novo Salazarista (https://www.wook.pt/livro/a-igreja-catolica-e-o-estado-novo-salazarista-duncan-simpson/15444493). For more information on my research interests and publications please go to: https://www.ics.ulisboa.pt/en/pessoa/duncan-alastair-simpson

About the blog The historiography of the Salazarist secret police (PIDE) has been marked by a heavily top-down approach to the subject, focusing on the PIDE’s methods of repression and on the minority of oppositionists these methods were applied to. In this blog, I propose to take a look at the PIDE ‘from below’, uncovering the various forms of spontaneous interaction between individual citizens and the secret police.

The project, of which this blog is part, has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie agreement No 842320.

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The ‘Sad Grandmother’ denunciation letter to the PIDE (1970)

In this anonymous letter, written by a ‘Sad Grandmother’ and received by the Salazarist political police on 26 February 1970, the author denounces the publication of a book entitled ‘Liberdade de Amar’ (original English title ‘The Freedom of Sexual Love’). She has caught her granddaughter reading it and, after browsing through it herself, equates its content to pornography. By writing to the secret police, the ‘Sad Grandmother’ is implicitly calling for measures to be taken against the publication and circulation of such books in Portugal. Note that the title of the book has been underlined in red by a PIDE agent upon reception of the letter, indicating that its content was taken seriously by the secret police. (Arch. ref.: ANTT, PIDE/DGS, SC, CI (1) 219, NT1177, Pasta 4).

New article in Open Access

My latest article on the PIDE, published in Contemporary European History (CUP), is now available in Open Access at the following address:

https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/contemporary-european-history/article/approaching-the-pide-from-below-petitions-spontaneous-applications-and-denunciation-letters-to-salazars-secret-police-in-1964/9E99309AFC9B3DFEF2812173DD0B2A8E

New articles just out

Two articles of mine have recently been published in academic journals. Both provide an in-depth analysis of some of the issues covered in this blog, and may therefore be of interest to you:

  • Duncan Simpson, ‘Approaching the PIDE “From Below”: Petitions, Spontaneous Applications and Denunciation Letters to Salazar’s Secret Police in 1964’, in Contemporary European History, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1017/S0960777320000612
  • Duncan Simpson, ‘The PIDE Between Memory and History: Revolutionary Tradition, Historiography, and the Missing Dimension in the Relation Between Society and Salazar’s Political Police’, in e-Journal of Portuguese History, 18.1, 2020, pp. 17-38, https://repository.library.brown.edu/studio/item/bdr:1161228/

Portuguese society through the prism of the Ministry of the Interior’s Correspondence Registers (1965)

O retrato da situação social no Portugal de 1965 pelo prisma do Registo de Correspondência Recebida do Ministério do Interior: pede-se casas em bairros sociais e autorizações para emigrar, faz-se denúncias, alista-se na PSP, e até há o inevitável pedido de “colocação na PIDE”.

Para a população, despolitizada e envolvida na sobrevivência quotidiana, a PIDE não era uma ameaça ao seu “bem-estar” ou “liberdade”, ambos limitados pela falta de condições materiais, mas sim um dos poucos recursos disponíveis. Uma forma de sobrevência como as outras, normalizada.

Prenuptial investigation

One of the most unusual cases of spontaneous interaction between Portuguese society and Salazar’s political police. In this letter received by the PIDE on 7 June 1963, a woman asks the political police to investigate the “moral, civil and political situation” of her husband-to-be. Indeed she senses that there is “something obscure in his life”. The PIDE replied that performing this type of “service” was not part of its mission.

The PIDE as instrument of private conflict resolution (1961)

The PIDE could also be instrumentalised from below by individual citizens eager to get rid of intrusive ex-lovers. As the above report indicates, this Portuguese emigrant in France wrote to the PIDE to inform it that his ex-companion, who had followed him there against his will, would soon be returning to Portugal for a few days. He hoped that the PIDE would “prevent her from returning” to France. In order to lend greater weight to his claim, he brought “politics” to the matter, accusing her of having “engaged in propaganda against Portugal and its Government” whilst in France.

Signals of resistance

Those who opposed the New State often found ways to externalize their political views, either publicly or privately, and with varying degrees of subtleness. According to the following denunciation, received by the PIDE in February 1961, this ‘leftist’ suspect kept the portraits of Salazar and Américo Tomás (the then President of the Republic) in his house, hanging on the walls of a special room reserved to ‘certain individuals’, and in a slightly modified version…

Cena de tasco

Paradoxalmente, as cartas de denúncia recebidas pela PIDE revelam muitas vezes um Portugal menos cinzento do que é costume realçar. Por exemplo, facilmente se pode imaginar esta cena de tasco onde, o álcool ajudando, Salazar é tratado, entre outras coisas, de ‘filho da p.’

De maneira geral, a PIDE mantinha uma certa tolerância relativamente a estes ‘desvios’ menores, desde que não resultassem de uma consciencialização política organizada, e que os seus efeitos não alastrassem à comunidade local.

Assessing ‘moral standards’

The PIDE did not limit itself to investigating the political ideas of the suspects being denounced. Part of its mission also included assessing their ‘moral standards’. To that end, PIDE agents discretely followed the suspects and sought to obtain information from neighbours or the local authorities. In the case of this ‘leftist’ militant in Porto (June 1970), the phrasing used by the PIDE agent to report on his alleged practice of ‘free love’ – based on hearsay and prejudice – is particularly noteworthy.

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