I highly recommend Disney's two volume history of Portugal! The writing is academic, however, it is not boorish or overbearing. Both the lay person and the student will enjoy reading it, especially the student for its abundant footnotes! Volume I begins with pre-historical Portugal and works its way through the political development of the nation state of Portugal right up to 1807, as the subtitle suggests. Disney does an excellent job in briefly detailing the physical environment and how it affected the evolution of its people/tribes. The main focus of the text, however, is the political evolution of the people and how they developed into the nation we see today. An absolutely wonderful history! I cannot recommend it highly enough. Although "Henry" the Navigator and others are detailed, it is only as part of the larger tapestry; Volume II focuses entirely on the "Age of Discovery."
I much enjoyed this history of Portugal to 1807 (when the royal family makes its way to Brazil). Disney writes in an easy-to-read style that is not at all academic and is simple to digest. This is very much a political narrative -- not too much on social history. I don't know enough about Portuguese history to evaluate the contents, but Disney seems to have considered the relevant sources and opposing points of view and drawn fair conclusions. As stated in the TLS review of a few months ago, Disney might have made a mistake in dividing his history into two volumes, since the history of Portugal is difficult to separate from that of her colonies. But in any case, I'm looking forward to reading Volume 2 on the overseas empire.
Having only a modicum of knowledge about the history of Portugal and on my way to a visit there, I chose this book to help fill in the gaps. It certainly did! A History of Portugal is extremely well-researched, authoritative, scholarly yet very readable.
I was a little worried about purchasing what is essentially a text book to learn about the history of Portugal before traveling there next spring. I'm about 1/3 of the way through Volume 1 and am happy to report that the book is very "readable." It's not like reading a novel, but it is well written, easy to understand, and does a good job of giving more detail about the history of Portugal than I've been able to find anywhere else.