José Manuel Barroso was born in Lisbon on 23 March 1956. After graduating in law from the University of Lisbon, he moved to Geneva where he completed a Diploma in European Studies at the European University Institute, University of Geneva, and a Master's degree in Political Science from the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences, University of Geneva, earning an honours in both.
He embarked on an academic career, working successively as a teaching assistant at the Law Faculty of the University of Lisbon, in the Department of Political Science, University of Geneva, and as a visiting professor at the Department of Government and School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.). In 1995, he became Head of the International Relations Department of Lusíada University, Lisbon. In 1979, he founded the University Association for European Studies.
His political career began in 1980 when he joined the Social Democratic Party (PSD). He was named President of the party in 1999 and re-elected three times. During the same period, he served as Vice President of the European People's Party. As State Secretary for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation he played a key role as mediator in the signing of the peace accords for Angola in Bicesse in 1991, and as Minister for Foreign Affairs he was a driving force in the self-determination process in East Timor between 1992 and 1995. Under his leadership, the PSD won the general election in 2002 and he was appointed Prime Minister of Portugal in April of that year. He remained in office until July 2004 when he was nominated by the European Council and elected by the European Parliament to the post of President of the European Commission. In June 2009 the European Council unanimously nominated him for a second term as President of the European Commission, and he was re-elected to the post by an absolute majority in the European Parliament in September 2009.
José Manuel Barroso has been awarded honorary degrees by Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (2006), the University of Genoa, Italy (2006), Kobe University (2006), the University of Edinburgh (2006), the Sapienza University of Rome (2007), the Warsaw School of Economics (2007), the Catholic University of São Paulo (2008), the Nice Sophia Antipolis University (2008), the University of Chemnitz (2009), the University of Geneva (2010), the University of Ghent (2011) and the Technical University of Lisbon (2011), University of Haifa (2012).
He was named Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum in 1993 and declared "European of the year 2006" by the newspaper European Voice. He received the Gold Medal of the town of Lamego, Portugal in 2007 and the Honorary Keys to the City of Lisbon in May 2008. He is the author of numerous publications on political science, international relations and the European Union, including, "Le système politique portugais face à l'intégration européenne" (Lisbon and Lausanne, 1983), "Uma Certa Ideia de Europa" (1999), "Mudar de Modelo" (2002) and "Reformar: Dois Anos de Governo" (2004).
He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Military Order of Christ in 1996 and the Great Collar of the Order of East Timor in 2010. In 2011, he received the Grand Cross of the Royal and Distinguished Spanish Order of Charles III.
He is married to Margarida Sousa Uva. The couple have three children: Luís, Guilherme and Francisco.