Brazil, 1630-1720: territorial expansion, slavery, economic booms and busts

  • Territorial defense and expansion

    • Exploration up the Amazon to Quito, 1637-39
    • Dutch seize North/Northeast Brazil, 1624-1654
  • Slavery

    • slave trade increased in 17th c; boomed in 18th
    • slavery as foundation of Brazilian colonial economy: sugar, gold and diamond mining, agriculture, textiles, crafts and transportation
    • resistance: Palmares and the martyrdom of Zumbi
  • Booms (gold, diamonds in Minas Gerais) and busts (sugar to 1720)

    • Gold (Ouro Preto, MG), 1693-1770
    • Diamonds (Diamantina, MG), 1725-

Pedro Teixera expedition, 1637-39: from mouth of Amazon to Quito

  • Union of Spain and Portugal, 1580-1640 encouraged exploration and contacts between Sp. & Port. America

  • Teixera expedition broke the Treaty of Tordesillas; basis for Treaty of Madrid, 1750

3 centuries of expansion

  • 16th c: cling to coast

  • 17th c: penetration in NE and south

  • 18th c: pockets of settlement: Amazon, N, NE, Minas Gerais, S

    1500 1600 1700



    Treaty of Madrid, 1750


Paulista bandeirantes hunting Indians (continued into the 19th century)

  • Expansion also due to slaving expeditions by Bandeirantes from Sao Paulo; high mortality

  • Indian slaves used for agriculture and domestic economy

Indians in a fazenda

  • Mixed Indian and Black work forces were common throughout colonial period, into the 19th century

  • “Lo, the vanishing Indian”

Father Antonio Vieira, S.J. (1608-1697)

  • Preached to black slaves and King João VI

  • Favored ceding Pernambuco to Dutch

  • Headed Jesuit missions in Amazon (1653-61)

  • Castigated slaving settlers, indolent clerics

  • Expelled by settlers; jailed by Inquisition

Franz Post, “Plantation scene” in Brazil, 1636-1644; ~140 paintings Dutch presence in Brazil

    Tropical skies, verdant trees, brightly attired men and women--Brazil as seen by a trained artist

Franz Post painted many engehnos like this one. Note river in background for transporting sugar to port.

  • Three wheel press remained common into the 19th century

  • Dutch took it to the Caribbean

Slavery: traffic, role in colonial economy and resistance

  • Slave trade increased in 17th c; boomed in 18th, and continued into 19th century (3 graphs, 2 pictures)

  • Slavery as foundation of Brazilian colonial economy: sugar, gold and diamond mining, agriculture, textiles, crafts and transportation

  • Resistance: Palmares and the martyrdom of Zumbi

17th century slave traffic: Brazil (600 thousand) was main destination (of 1.3 million total)

18th c., the height of the slave trade: Brazil 33%, French 23, British 23, Spanish 10, Dutch 7, N. America 6% of 6.1 m. total

19th c. (1801-1865): Brazil (6/10) and Cuba (1/3) are principal destinations for almost 2 million slaves

Cargo hold of a slave ship--30 days to Bahia, 40 to Rio

  • The short route to Bahia (~30 days) reduced mortality to “only” 5%

  • Rio de Janeiro and the Caribbean (~50 days) had even higher mortality

  • Typically males outnumbered females 2:1

Slave market in Bahia, early 19th century

  • In Brazil, African slaves filled all niches of the economy: engehnos, transportation, mining, urban households, artisanry, etc.

  • Was labor scarce or slavery simply less costly?

  • Tannenbaum thesis: Catholic slavery more benign than Protestant (see Mattoso)

Slaves clearing forest for cultivation

  • Buy vs. breed mentality

  • Slave mortality high, fertility low, families discouraged

  • Labor was expended rapidly, rather than conserved

Senzala (shanty slave quarter)

  • “Plantation was never used by Portuguese or Spaniards of this period. …[E]ngenho referred to the mill for grinding the sugar cane, [but] the term [described] the whole unit: mill, buildings, … fields, slave quarters, estate house, cattle, etc.

Festival of Our Lady of Rosario

Enghenos, the worst work for slaves

  • “A sugar mill is hell and all the masters of them are damned” --Father Andres de Gouvea, Bahia, 1627

Climate permitted 9 month safra (sugar harvest) in Bahia

  • Harvest: August-April

  • Planting: February-April, June-August

  • May, month of heaviest rain, was month of “rest”

  • Note holy days (solid) and down time (dashed)

“Refining” sugar was labor intensive

  • Sugar placed in clay cone

  • Sealed with porous top

  • Water trickled over sugar in cone

  • Coarse, darker sugars settle to bottom

  • Cone removed

  • Sugars separated by color

  • White sugar crushed

Public whippings

Palmares, the most famous quilombo in Brazil survived for a century (-1695)

  • Interior provided refuge for runaway slaves

  • During Dutch occupation Palmares grew

  • Expeditions in 1676 and 1694

  • After Palmares, attempted to nip quilombos in the bud




    Río de Janeiro


    Sao Paulo

    Ouro Preito

1640: “It was surrounded by a double palisade with a spike-lined trough inside. This settlement was half a mile long, its street six feet wide. There was a swamp on the north side and large felled trees on the south. We might guess that the clearing was for cultivation or for defensive reasons.” [view in 1997]

Palmares, contradictory symbols of nationhood

  • Defeat of Zumbi, constructing Portuguese Brazil

  • Martrydom of Zumbi, resistance to social and racial oppression

    Statue of Zumbi at Palmares

    Webzine with Zumbi article: /cvroct95.htm

Zumbi (d. Nov. 20, 1695), ex-slave, King of Palmares Quilombo symbol of Afro-Brazilian identity

  • National Black Consciousness Day in Brazil (since 1978)

  • Carnaval Theme, Bahía 1995

    Washington DC, 1995


Home Page