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date: 03 December 2022

The Balaiada War, 1838–1841locked

The Balaiada War, 1838–1841locked

  • Adriana Barreto de SouzaAdriana Barreto de SouzaUniversidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, Department of History


Between 1831 and 1840, the Brazilian Empire was ruled by regents. Pedro I, who became Brazil’s first emperor in 1822 on the occasion of the country’s independence, was forced by a popular political movement to abdicate his throne on April 7, 1831. This episode set off a series of revolts that involved broad segments of society: slaves, Indians, the urban and rural poor, liberal professionals, and large and small landholders.

Not all of the revolts, however, counted such diverse social groups among their ranks, and fewer still included common people in leadership roles. The Balaiada War, or simply the Balaiada, waged in the provinces of Maranhão and Piauí, was one such revolt. Albeit in different phases, this multifaceted movement drew in landholders, slaves, and quilombolas (members of a community formed by escaped African slaves and their descendants, usually in inaccessible regions of the forest or backlands), and was led by caboclos (a term used in northern Brazil to refer to those who work the fields and forests) and a black leader who headed an army of more than 3,000 quilombolas.

These men fought their freedom and civil rights, values widely invoked by the literate elite since the time of Brazil’s independence.

The successful repression (“pacification”) of this movement, beginning in 1840, employed two strategies: by sowing intrigue, it sought to relegate each group to its original place in society and reconstruct social hierarchies; and at a symbolic level, it sought to disparage the war and its leaders, portraying the movement in historical accounts as one of vicious and bloodthirsty barbarians.


  • History of Brazil
  • Social History
  • Revolutions and Rebellions

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