In early 1449, this island was the third of the archipelago to be known by the Portuguese Navigators, and it was first named The Island of Jesus Christ. The reason why it was later re-baptised Terceira (Third Island) is because the order of the Discoveries was taken into account. The settlement set off faster than that in the Eastern Group of islands. In 1450, Prince Henry ordered Jácome de Bruges, a Flemish national, to settle the island. Porto Judeu and Praia were chosen by the first settlers, however, settlements quickly spread out all over the territory.
Initially, the economy was dominated by the production of cereals and the export of dyeing plants.
During the 15th and 16th centuries, the island became more important as an inter-continental stop over for the carrack ships sailing between Europe and the distant America and India. The harbours of Terceira were filled with precious metals and exotic spices that made the island a privileged and continuous target for the English, French and Flemish privateers.
In 1580, at the time when the Spanish King Phillip II took over the Portuguese throne, the local population supported the aspirations of António, Prior of Crato, who used to live on the island. Spain tried to contain the rebellion, but the first landing of the troops, in 1581, ended in a heavy defeat at the famous Battle of Salga. Two years later, the Spanish returned in greater numbers and managed to take over the island after many violent clashes. In 1640, with the Portuguese Restoration, Portugal recovered its independence and the island of Terceira solidified its position as the economic, administrative and religious centre of the Azores.
The brave spirit of the local population was, once again, tested during the Liberal Wars. The majority of the population supported the liberal ideals and rebelled against absolutism, which was comfortably installed in other locations. In 1829, a fierce naval battle ended with the defeat of the troops of King Miguel I, while they attempted to land on the sandy beach of Praia. For this reason, the town was renamed as Praia da Vitória (Victory Beach). Throughout these unsettling times, the island of Terceira operated as a base for King Pedro IV to organise the repossession of the throne. Angra was named the capital of the Realm of Portugal and, in addition, it also earned the second name of “Heroísmo” (Heroism). In 1832, the Armada left for Portugal landing on Mindelo, which became the peak moment of the victory of the Liberal Idealism.
During World War II, the British were allowed to set up a military base near Praia da Vitória, which later was taken over by the American Air Force. The well known, and still functional, Lajes Air Base brought new influences to the local population. Proud of its historic past filled with great deeds, the island of Terceira is still a dynamic island within the context of the Archipelago.