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PRINTED FROM the OXFORD RESEARCH ENCYCLOPEDIA, LATIN AMERICAN HISTORY (oxfordre.com/latinamericanhistory). (c) Oxford University Press USA, 2020. All Rights Reserved. Personal use only; commercial use is strictly prohibited (for details see Privacy Policy and Legal Notice).

date: 23 September 2020

Summary and Keywords

The Portuguese occupied the northern region of South America in the early 17th century. It constituted a separate province of the Portuguese possessions in South America. This province comprised several landscapes, including the vast Amazonian forest in the west and plains in the east. It bordered the other administrative province in Portuguese America, the State of Brazil and also the Dutch, French, and Spanish colonies in the Amazon region. For most of the colonial period, the region became heavily dependent on Indian labor force for agriculture and especially for the exploitation of forest products gathered in the vast Amazonian backlands (the sertão). The role played by Indian laborers (both free and slave), by forest products (known as drogas do sertão), and by the expansion of agriculture and grazing in the eastern plains shaped a centrifugal society and economy. Moreover, the fact that the region bordered Dutch, Spanish, and French colonies transformed the frontier into a central issue of Portuguese policies towards the region.

Keywords: Amazon region, Portugal, colonization, Indians, frontier, 17th and 18th centuries

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