Bento Almeida d’Eça: Hydraulic Agriculture under the umbrella of Engineers in Nineteenth Century Portugal
In mid-nineteenth century Portugal, the practice of irrigation was deemed to be completely backwards in comparison with the prevailing European standards. Distant were the times of Al-Andalus, when a so-called green revolution occurred on the Iberian Peninsula. Within this context, Agricultural Hydraulics gained momentum as a scientific field. Although water governance had a long run, the ‘politicisation’ of water issues clearly intensified in the Regeneration political regime. From 1851 onwards, the stability required for national material progress was ensured. The country had been struggling to build roads, railways, telegraphs, ports and, therefore, the Ministry of Public Works was established in 1852 to undertake these architectural and engineering projects. This paper argues that not only due to rivers’ manipulation for agriculture, but also to the rising status of engineers, Agricultural Hydraulics was under the Ministry of Public Works and, consequently, on the sphere of engineers rather than agronomists. Focusing on the making of a military engineer as an expert on Agricultural Hydraulics by sending him abroad and fostering his literary education, this paper reveals how this knowledge was appropri- ated and transformed into new projects for the Tagus River. Moreover, contrary to recent review that Hydraulic Services were launched in Portugal by 1884, based on the “Plan for Organization of Hydrographic Services on the mainland of Portugal”, this paper highlights the crucial role played by the Portuguese engineer Bento Fortunato Almeida d’Eça through his work as Superintendent of the Tagus River and its Tributaries, twenty years earlier.