Overseas province (Portuguese: província ultramarina; Spanish: provincia ultramarina) was a designation used by Portugal to describe its non-continental holdings and by Spain to refer to Spanish Sahara.
At the beginning of the 19th century, Portuguese overseas territories were referred to as overseas dominions; however, following administrative reforms, the term overseas province began to be used. This was in keeping with the idea of pluricontinentalism, or the idea that Portugal existed as a single, transcontinental country and therefore its territories were integral to the Portuguese state. By the 20th century, most of these territories were referred to as colonies, although the term overseas province was concurrently used.
The name was made official in 1951 by Antonio Salazar during the Estado Novo regime in order to retain the republic’s remaining colonies and appease anti-colonial demands from the United Nations. At the time, the following territories were reclassified:
The classification lasted until the 1974 Carnation Revolution which lead to the dissolving of the Estado Novo regime, rapid decolonization of Portuguese Africa, and the annexation of Portuguese Timor by Indonesia. The remaining overseas provinces of the Azores and Madeira had their constitutional status subsequently changed to autonomous regions. In 1976, the territory of Macau became known as a "Chinese territory under Portuguese administration" and was granted more of administrative, financial, and economic autonomy. Three years later, Portugal and China agreed to once again rename Macau, this time as "a Chinese territory under (temporary) Portuguese administration. This classification lasted until the Joint Declaration on the Question of Macau and transfer of sovereignty of Macau from Portugal to the People’s Republic of China.
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