João Fragoso and Thiago Krause
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Latin American History. Please check back later for the full article.
Portuguese colonists carried their conceptions of how society should be organized to the Americas. Their ideal was to “live like a gentleman,” that is, to own land and command laborers in order to distance themselves from manual labor. Property was also essential, to provide them with time and resources to be active in local politics and to serve the Crown. They intended to reproduce in the New World the lifestyle of Portuguese provincial nobility. There were huge differences, however; in Brazil the elite lorded over enslaved persons, instead of peasants. The first elite families made their fortunes through the conquest and enslavement of Native Americans in the second half of the 16th century, but many of them did not manage to keep their power in the following decades, when the transition to enslaved African labor occurred. Above all, in the most dynamic areas, such as Pernambuco and Bahia, the first half of the 17th century was a period of flux in elite composition. By mid-century, though, a small number of families controlled most of the local offices, slowly fashioning themselves as local nobilities and wielding these claims to negotiate with the Crown and its representatives. Their preeminence was threatened by the rise of merchant power in the 18th century, boosted by the huge demographic and economic expansion derived from gold discoveries in the southeast and the development of an internal market. Nevertheless, the noble ideal didn’t lose its appeal—many rich merchants linked themselves to the old noble families through marriage and bought land and enslaved laborers to live up to the aristocratic model. Planter elites established wide patron-client networks to shore up their influence that encompassed even their enslaved property, but this strategy wasn’t always enough to withstand the test of time.
Lilia Katri Moritz Schwarcz
This article provides a larger panorama of the cultural politics of the Brazilian Empire during the 19th century and following the long Second Reign of Pedro II. The central figure of the emperor—as a kind of animator of cultural, scientific, and artistic life—and the conservative profile of the national movement are key issues. The article analyzes the development of the main professional schools of the country, which taught medicine (in Rio de Janeiro and Salvador) and law (in São Paulo and Recife), and also tells the story of the Historical and Geographical Institute and the origins of the museums of art in Rio de Janeiro, the former capital of the court, and scientific museums in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Belém.
European empires would have not existed absent private enterprise both licit and illicit. Private traders, in the first instance, sustained colonies by conveying the labor and merchandise that planters required in exchange for the exports that colonies produced. Moreover, those colonies would not have existed in the first place absent private initiatives since European states in the 16th and 17th centuries customarily lacked the administrative and fiscal resources and often the inclination to oversee such projects. Individual or corporate adventurers, though, did possess such resources and inclination; legitimate operators secured government authority for their activities pursuant to charters that drew upon medieval forms and granted extraordinary powers to their recipients. Under the terms of these documents, grantees pursued public purposes—as they would be called today—that their activities entailed in conjunction with their pursuit of profit. The results of this practice included the establishment of colonies that spanned the Atlantic basin from the Madeira Islands to Newfoundland to Brazil; the emergence of colonial leaderships who pursued their own agendas while they ingratiated themselves into trans-Atlantic political cultures; and incessant conflict over territorial and commercial agendas that involved indigenous people as well as Europeans. Other operators did not bother with legitimacy as they pursued smuggling, piracy, and colonizing ventures that also contributed profoundly to imperial expansion. The domestic and international friction generated by these activities ultimately brought increased state involvement in overseas affairs and increased state ability to direct those affairs.