She graduated in History, in 1977, in the Faculty of Letters, University of Lisbon. In 19990, she finished her Ph.D, in History, in the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences, New University of Lisbon, where, in 1997, she also got her degree of “Agregação”.
In 1978, she began working in the Social Reseach Department and later, in 1981, in the Institute of Social Sciences of the University of Lisbon, where she currently has the position of researcher-coordinator. From 1980 to 2006, she taught in the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences of the New University of Lisbon.
The beginning of her research career was framed by the domestic historiographical agenda, dominated, at the time, by the New History and by different structuralisms. In her Ph.D. dissertation ( The protectionist way of Portuguese liberalism: politics and economy in the Portuguese-British relationships, 1834-43), she distances herself from the theses then highly considered about the sociology of “chartism” and “septembrism”, showing that both “parties” were dogmatically protectionist, either by conviction or pragmatism, and that the so over-praised free trader interests just limited themselves to the production and trading of Port wine, exclusively based in this city and in the region of Douro, and in contradiction with the (protectionist) interests of the remaining national whole.
From there on, she distanced herself from the dominating models of history writing at the time, and took naturally the path of narrative history, being interested in recovering the freedom and autonomy of individuals and giving them back a role as conscient actors of History. All her subsequent work, from the book History of Patuleia Civil War (1846-47) to the biography of D.Maria II (1819-1853,) can and should be read as a rehabilitation of the “old history”, that is, as an inquiry into the virtualities of narrative to make intelligible the actions of men in the context of the constraints they were subject to. In an essay published in 1999, Apology of the political history, M. Fátima Bonifácio explained in detail her option for narrative political history – its epistemological statute and its disciplinary legitimacy.