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During the first half of the 17th century, trade in Brazilian sugar was as a profitable enterprise, despite Maghrebi piracy and imperial rivalry between the Netherlands and the Iberian Crowns. Then, Brazil was the Western Hemisphere’s main producer of sugar, which attracted high prices in Europe. Trade profitability diminished in the second half of the century as competition from the Caribbean dropped prices in Europe while nominal prices in Brazil were fixed. Regulated shipping reduced price gaps further and increased transaction costs. Finally, French and English mercantilist policies closed their markets to Brazilian sugar, and credit grew increasingly risky in Brazil. To make this trade feasible and profitable, merchants developed of a wide range of maritime transportation strategies, risk mitigation methods, and payment and credit practices. The organization of shipping sought to make the most of the supply and demand along the route and reduce transportation costs with idle cargo space. By mixing more expensive goods along with cheaper products, merchants tried to keep many vessels sailing between those ports to increase the flow of information, to profit from arbitrage, and to spread the risk. Being a semi-luxury item, the value sugar in absolute terms afforded insurance premiums more than the products with lower value per volume traditionally traded by the Dutch. Yet the value of sugar was not as high as Asian spices or Spanish American bullion, therefore, the costs of concentrating shipping in convoys protected by well-armed vessels was burdensome to the sugar trade. Attempts to coerce sailing in convoys and establish monopolies on certain exports (and imports) to Brazil by the Dutch and the Portuguese found fierce opposition among most traders, particularly modest ones. Being quite fungible, easily priced, and widely traded, sugar roughly fit the modern concept of a commodity. As such, it was convenient means of payment and also functioned as commodity money in Brazil, where it was the main merchandise sourced in the colony. As planters grew increasingly indebted, they secured various legal hindrances to their properties’ foreclosure and compulsory acceptance of sugar as payment at officially tariffed prices unless otherwise stipulated, which increased merchants’ credit risk while reducing their gains.

Article

Adriana Barreto de Souza

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.

Article

Brazil had the largest population of free and freed Black people on the continent, starting in the early 19th century, despite being the last country in the Americas to abolish slavery. The 1872 General Census of the Empire reported that six out of every ten Black or brown people could claim a series of rights associated with citizenship by virtue of not being enslaved. These included some individuals who were literate and active in the cultural and political spaces in which plans for the country’s present and future were drawn up. Especially in the second half of the 19th century, a time of deepening crisis for the slaveholding system, individuals such as José Ferreira de Menezes, Luiz Gama, Machado de Assis, José do Patrocínio, Ignácio de Araújo Lima, Arthur Carlos, and Theophilo Dias de Castro, all of whom were born free and resided in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, invested in their individual aspirations but also joined groups that defended the citizenship rights of free, freed, and enslaved Black people. Facing daily experiences of “color prejudice,” they not only participated in debates waged in the abolitionist, Black, literary, and general press, but they also played leading roles in the creation of mechanisms and instruments of resistance, confrontation, and dialogue. Although this aspect has not received much attention in recent historical accounts that recognize their existences, these and other Black intellectuals developed bonds of affection and solidarity over the course of their careers. To reflect on the scope of this shared racial identity in the latter 19th century and the possible impact of these ties on public positions taken by Black intellectuals, the demonstrations of friendship and companionship experienced by these individuals are traced, as well as by some others. An exercise in approaching the traces of different practices surrounding the politicization of race is given, and paths for future research on the social history of ideas and antiracism in Brazil are suggested.

Article

Since its establishment in 1889, the history of the Brazilian republic was marked by the centrality of the armed forces, particularly the army, in political life. But between 1964 and 1985, the military was in direct command of the state, imposing indirectly elected generals as president. After overthrowing the reformist center-left government of João Goulart on March 31, 1964, the military installed a tutelary authoritarian regime to control civil society and the political system, serving as a political model for similar regimes in Latin America during the Cold War. The military passed arbitrary laws and severely repressed left-wing political groups and social movements while also seeking to accelerate capitalist development and the “national integration” of Brazil’s vast territory. They intended to modernize Brazilian industry and carry out bold infrastructure projects. On the other hand, they faced strong opposition from civil society, led by political groups, artists, intellectuals, and press outlets of diverse ideological backgrounds (Marxists, liberals, socialists, and progressive Catholics). These groups were divided between total refusal to negotiate with the military and critical adherence to the policies of the generals’ governments, composing a complex relationship between society and the state. Understanding the role of the military regime in Brazilian history requires a combination of historical research and historiographic criticism in light of the disputes over memory that continue to divide social and political actors.

Article

On January 7, 1835 a group of landowners, artisans, soldiers, and peasants stormed Belém, the capital of the Amazon region. Now known as the Cabanagem, this rebellion occurred during a time of social upheaval in not just Pará but also Brazil. On that first day a prominent landowner, Felix Malcher, was released from prison and declared the new president by popular proclamation. The administration in Rio refused to recognize him, despite his statement of allegiance to the Empire of Brazil. Soon factions erupted, aligned with differences between the local elites and their poorer allies; Malcher and a subsequent president were killed. After battles with imperial forces the third rebel president, Eduardo Angelim, was adopted by a victorious crowd in August 1835. The capital reverted to imperial hands on May 13, 1836; however, the rebellion had not been quelled as the rest of the region became embroiled in conflict. As it developed, ethnic and class alliances changed, and the battles continued for four more years. While rebels gradually lost towns and fortified rural encampments, they were never defeated militarily. Organized attacks continued until a general amnesty was granted to all rebels by Emperor Pedro II in July 1840. The Cabanagem, which involved indigenous people, was a broad and fragile alliance composed of different interests with an international dimension. Radical liberal ideas brought together those living in rural and urban districts and appealed to long-standing animosities against distant control by outsiders, the inconsistent use of the law to protect all people, and compulsory labor regimes that took people away from their families and lands. Yet the regency administration feared the break-up of the newly independent Brazil. The violent pacification of the region was justified by portraying the movement as a race war, dominated by “people of color” incapable of ruling themselves.

Article

The cangaço was a social phenomenon related to rural banditry in the backlands of the Brazilian Northeast (an area referred to as the sertão). Beginning in the nineteenth century, the cangaço reached its peak with the actions of Virgulino Ferreira, popularly known as Lampião, the most important and emblematic leader of these outlaws, during the 1920s and 1930s. Its demise came with the start of the dictatorial Estado Novo regime in 1937. The cangaço received widespread coverage in the local press and was amply depicted in the visual arts, literature, and cinema, enduring as one of the most distinctive and controversial subjects in Brazilian cultural history.

Article

Capoeira is a martial art that developed from combat games enslaved Africans brought to Brazil. It is systematically documented since the beginning of the 19th century in Rio de Janeiro and later in other port cities. During the 19th century capoeira was increasingly practiced by the poor free people, black and of mixed ancestry, and also by white immigrants. Capoeira gangs controlled their territories against intruders and allied with political parties until the Republican purge of 1890. Capoeira survived best in Bahia, where it remained more associated with other forms of Afro-Brazilian culture and acquired many of its features still extant in present-day capoeira. From the 1930s onward, capoeira masters such as Bimba and Pastinha modernized capoeira, leading to the emergence of the Regional and Angola styles. Bahian capoeiristas migrated to Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo in search of better opportunities during the 1950–1970s. There they and their students developed what later became known as “Contemporary capoeira” (Capoeira Contemporânea) which is the most practiced style today. Capoeira was and is practiced in various ways: as a friendly game or as a fight, as a combat sport, or as an Afro-Brazilian cultural activity. Since the 1980s, capoeira has undergone a process of globalization and is now practiced in many countries around the world. Capoeira is the only martial art of the African Diaspora that is known and practiced worldwide. Writing on Capoeira has rapidly grown in a number of disciplines, leading to the constitution of its own interdisciplinary field of study.

Article

Color and race are important references for assessing the privileges and barriers that sustained or impeded the social ascension of New Christians, Africans, Indians, and mestiços in the Portuguese world. Questions of race and color had profound links with the Catholic faith and with social exclusion, especially of Afro-descendants. The ideas of race and racism are not static, but were forged over time. Initially, they were strongly influenced by Catholicism and later were incorporated into the scientific knowledge of the 18th and 19th centuries. Therefore, the terms “race” and “racism,” based on 19th-century biological determinism, are not suitable for discussing social relations in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Article

Brazil’s environmental history is often told as a tale of irresponsible exploitation and societal indifference. However, a broader perspective must consider the country’s diverging traditions of environmental thought and practice. During the 19th century, several naturalists wrote about the need for the rational use of natural resources, founding a conservationist cultural tradition. In the 1920s and 1930s, a group of naturalists from the National Museum produced various initiatives related to biological research and conservationism. In the 1950s, another group of scientists, agronomists, and journalists founded the National Foundation for the Protection of Nature, active until the 1980s. Although none of these initiatives led to a continuous environmental mobilization, they shaped public policies and cultural sensibilities toward the environment. Beginning in the 1970s, a new wave of environmentalism emerged in several cities—with protests against pollution, nuclear energy, and deforestation—but also in rural areas and forests, with demands from traditional peoples. Over the years, several conservation units and federal institutions were founded to implement environmental policies. Finally, the 1992 Earth Summit gave a special boost to these movements in an era of growing NGO activism. All of these fueled the feeling that environmental activism in Brazil had entered a golden age of dialogue and negotiation. Contrary to this view, some activists claimed that major political advances were still needed. Through the lens of socio-environmentalism and environmental justice, they denounced the displacement of communities by mining companies and the construction of hydroelectric plants, as well as the unhealthy and violent conditions faced by inhabitants of urban peripheries and areas where agribusiness was expanding. Skepticism toward gradual advances was warranted following the election of Jair Bolsonaro, whose administration threatened environmental legislation and institutions and prior achievements. To confront these perils, environmental activism must become a political, scientific, and cultural movement.

Article

The residents of the Captaincy of São Vicente, which would become São Paulo in the 18th century, were known in the late 17th century as “Paulistas.” Their reputation in the colonial period was ambiguous: on the one hand, they were viewed as crude and unruly enslavers of Indigenous people; on the other, they were known as skilled backwoodsmen and soldiers. This image derived mainly from a character that would later come to be known as the bandeirante, a member of the expeditions that forged into remote backlands mainly to capture Indigenous people for their own use, without waiting for orders from the Crown or church. This source of labor enabled the internal reproduction of enslaved labor in a region whose economy was based on subsistence and supplying other regions in the high plateau where São Paulo de Piratininga was established in 1554, first as a school, later as a town. As the occupation of the region advanced over the following decades, a network of chapels, parishes, and towns linked by river and overland routes grew up, forming the geographical area of the colonial captaincy. This occupation, which extended to the remote edges of the regions that would eventually make up Brazil and even into frontier lands contested by both Iberian empires, was motivated by a search for Indigenous peoples, a quest for precious metals, a demand for land, and the dictates of political disputes. In this sense, the backwoodsmen were not acting out of a strategic geopolitical motivation, as a certain school of self-congratulatory historiography would have it. In any event, the Paulistas played a role in shaping the internal and external frontiers of colonial Brazil through the 18th century in the context of the boundary treaties. The society formed under these circumstances was intrinsically tied to the Indigenous world, to the backlands, and to frontier living, and resulted in varied forms of crossbreeding and cultural interactions embodied in the mestizo type that became known as mameluco; the violent practices inherent in colonization, however, cannot be overlooked.

Article

Sueann Caulfield and Cristiana Schettini

Over the past forty years, increasing attention to gender and sexuality in Brazilian historiography has given us a nuanced understanding of diverse ways in which women and men in Brazil’s past experienced patriarchy, racism, and other forms of oppression. As gender historians have shed light on how racialized and patriarchal gender and sexual roles have been reconstituted in different historical contexts, empirical studies in the field of social history have focused primarily on the historical agency of women, particularly non-elite women, who lived within or pushed against the confines of prescribed gender roles. Pioneering histories of sexual minorities have accompanied this trajectory since the 1980s, although this subfield has grown more slowly. A few nodal themes help to explain transformations in gender relations during each of the major periods of Brazil’s social and political history. Under the empire (1822–1889), honor is the entryway for analysis of gender and sexuality. Gendered standards of honor were critical tools used to mark class and racial boundaries, and to traverse them. Historians of the imperial period also stress the centrality of gender to the social, cultural, and economic networks built by members of various occupational, familial, and kinship groups. During the First Republic (1889–1930), the focus shifts to state vigilance and social control, together with debates over modernization of sexual and gender norms, particularly regarding urban space and prostitution. In the Vargas era (1930–1945), patriarchy and racialized sexuality formed the core of intellectual constructions of the nation’s history and identity, at the same time that homosexuality and women’s and worker’s rights generated intense debate. A new emphasis on domesticity emerged in the context of developmentalism in the 1950s, helping to spur a reaction in the form of the counterculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s and 1970s. The dictatorship (1964–1985) went to great lengths to suppress challenges to gender and sexual norms as part of its broader strategy to demobilize society and repress oppositional political movements. These challenges reemerged in the 1970s, when feminists and sexual minorities gained much greater visibility within a new wave of social movements. The 1988 constitution articulated these movements’ aspirations for social justice and equality through its foundational principal of human dignity. Significant legal changes followed over subsequent decades, including recognition of equal labor rights for domestic and sex workers, affirmative-action policies, and the legalization of same-sex marriage, in 2011. Despite notable setbacks, the momentum toward gender and sexual equality at the start of the 21st century was remarkable. This momentum was halted by the political coup that ousted the first woman president in 2016. The anti-feminist mood that accompanied the impeachment process underscored an overarching theme that runs through the historiography of gender and sexuality in Brazil: the centrality of gender to the major legal and political shifts that mark the nation’s history.

Article

In 1817, and again in 1824, radical liberals took power and proclaimed a republic in Pernambuco. These movements were violently repressed by imperial troops who landed in Alagoas and were supported by large landholders, who mobilized allies while they advanced on Recife and Olinda, where the rebels had most support, including among the black and mixed population. The fall of Pedro I in 1831 reopened these wounds and rekindled the dispute for land in the forests between Alagoas and Pernambuco, where the Cabanos rebels lived—also known as the “people of the forests.” Armed by those who fought against the republicans in 1817 and 1824, the Cabanos defended their right to own the land they held and fought for the return of Pedro I. The people of the forests were a mix of posseiros, Indians, and quilombolas, and in 1833 under the leadership of Vicente de Paula, a poor pardo with an uncertain past, they totally escaped the control of landholders. The Cabanada defeat (1835) coincided with the beginning of the regresso in court, which strengthened the conservatives of Pernambuco, guaranteeing the hegemony of those led by the Cavalcanti clan and by the Marquis of Olinda. This faction only left the Pernambuco government in 1845, during the “liberal quinquennium” (1844–1848), when the Praieiro Party rose to power, bringing together rebels from 1817 and 1824 and rural landholders whose demands had not been met by the hegemonic conservative alliance, which would only return to the provincial government in 1848, after the fall of the Liberal cabinet in Rio de Janeiro. However, the Praieiros refused to give up their positions and their posts in the national guard and civil police, starting the Praieira Rebellion, which had the support of various rural landholders and the free poor urban population mobilized by radical liberals around a nativist demand: the “nationalization of retail trade.” The crushing of the Praieira Rebellion sealed the destiny of the liberal opposition, confirming the conservative dominion in Pernambuco and in the capital of the empire.

Article

Japanese immigration to Brazil started in 1908 as a replacement for European immigrants to work for the state of São Paulo’s expanding coffee industry. It peaked in the late 1920s and early 1930s, in the face of growing anti-Japanese sentiment in Brazil. The Japanese migrated to Brazil in mandatory family units and formed their own agricultural settlements once they competed their colono labor contracts and became independent farmers. Under Getúlio Vargas’s nationalistic policies, a 1934 immigration law severely limited the entry of the Japanese. Strict legal restrictions were also imposed on them during Vargas’s Estado Novo (1937–1945). Japanese immigration was eventually terminated in 1942. Then the number of Japanese immigrants reached 188,986. At the end of the war, the Japanese were sharply divided among themselves over the defeat of Japan, and Sindō Renmei’s attacks on other Japanese factions terrified the nation of Brazil. Having given up their hope of returning to their homeland, the Japanese and their descendants began to migrate on a large scale to the cities, especially São Paulo City. Japanese immigration resumed in 1953 and peaked in 1959–1960. A total of 53,657 postwar immigrants, including many single adult men, arrived in Brazil before 1993. By 1980, the majority of Japanese Brazilians had joined the urban middle class, and many were already mixed racially. In the mid-1980s, Japanese Brazilians’ “return” labor migrations to Japan began on a large scale, due to Brazil’s troubled national economy. More than 310,000 Brazilian citizens were residing in Japan in June 2008, when the centenary of Japanese immigration was widely celebrated in Brazil. But the story does not end there: the global recession soon forced unemployed Brazilians and their Japanese-born children to return to Brazil.

Article

In 1863 and 1864, historical and political contradictions in the River Plate region led to civil war in Uruguay, creating tensions with neighboring nations in the region. The Brazilian government intervened both politically and militarily in Uruguay to address the interests of ranchers in its province of Rio Grande do Sul, to distract the attention of the Brazilian citizens from domestic problems, and to preserve the political influence of the Empire of Brazil on Uruguay. This action by the Empire clashed with the new Paraguayan policy of political interference in the River Plate region and resulted in the declaration of war against Brazil by Paraguayan dictator Francisco Solano López. This conflict broadened into the Paraguayan War.

Article

The Second Reign (1840–1889), the monarchic times under the rule of D. Pedro II, had two political parties. The Conservative Party was the cornerstone of the regime, defending political and social institutions, including slavery. The Liberal Party, the weaker player, adopted a reformist agenda, placing slavery in debate in 1864. Although the Liberal Party had the majority in the House, the Conservative Party achieved the government, in 1868, and dropped the slavery discussion apart from the parliamentary agenda. The Liberals protested in the public space against the coup d’état, and one of its factions joined political outsiders, which gave birth to a Republic Party in 1870. In 1871, the Conservative Party also split, when its moderate faction passed a Free Womb bill. In the 1880s, the Liberal and Conservative Parties attacked each other and fought their inner battles, mostly around the abolition of slavery. Meanwhile, the Republican Party grew, gathering the new generation of modernizing social groups without voices in the political institutions. This politically marginalized young men joined the public debate in the 1870s organizing a reformist movement. They fought the core of Empire tradition (a set of legitimizing ideas and political institutions) by appropriating two main foreign intellectual schemes. One was the French “scientific politics,” which helped them to built a diagnosis of Brazil as a “backward country in the March of Civilization,” a sentence repeated in many books and articles. The other was the Portuguese thesis of colonial decadence that helped the reformist movement to announce a coming crisis of the Brazilian colonial legacy—slavery, monarchy, latifundia. Reformism contested the status quo institutions, values, and practices, while conceiving a civilized future for the nation as based on secularization, free labor, and inclusive political institutions. However, it avoided theories of revolution. It was a modernizing, albeit not a democrat, movement. Reformism was an umbrella movement, under which two other movements, the Abolitionist and the Republican ones, lived mostly together. The unity split just after the shared issue of the abolition of slavery became law in 1888, following two decades of public mobilization. Then, most of the reformists joined the Republican Party. In 1888 and 1889, street mobilization was intense and the political system failed to respond. Monarchy neither solved the political representation claims, nor attended to the claims for modernization. Unsatisfied with abolition format, most of the abolitionists (the law excluded rights for former slaves) and pro-slavery politicians (there was no compensation) joined the Republican Party. Even politicians loyal to the monarchy divided around the dynastic succession. Hence, the civil–military coup that put an end to the Empire on November 15, 1889, did not come as a surprise. The Republican Party and most of the reformist movement members joined the army, and many of the Empire politician leaders endorsed the Republic without resistance. A new political–intellectual alignment then emerged. While the republicans preserved the frame “Empire = decadence/Republic = progress,” monarchists inverted it, presenting the Empire as an era of civilization and the Republic as the rule of barbarians. Monarchists lost the political battle; nevertheless, they won the symbolic war, their narrative dominated the historiography for decades, and it is still the most common view shared among Brazilians.

Article

Several voices inside and outside Brazil define it as a racial democracy—that is, a nation without segregation or rigid boundaries separating the different groups of race and color. This understanding interacts with issues like nationality and a positive image that this nation conveys for itself worldwide as a land of cordiality, happiness, and racial integration. More than origin, personal appearance is the basis of social interactions. Society can identify a continuum of hues of skin color among its individuals who are racially classified according to their social class and the social spaces in which they interact. However, it does not mean that the social prestige assigned to an individual’s skin color is neutral. The literature shows that the pattern of race relations in Brazil is characteristically ambiguous, based on constant racial prejudice and discrimination against the Afro-Brazilian population while systematically denying its existence. As such, Brazil’s individuals have an asymmetrical standard of social acceptance and access to economic, political, and symbolic power, based on their physical features, including their skin color, their hair type, and the shape or size of their lips and nose. Despite methodological complexities, several research pieces from 1990–2020 confirm that a racial hierarchy system exists in Brazil and that racial injustice, violence, and inequality are prevalent. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Brazil has implemented comprehensive social policies to combat poverty and affirmative action policies that target Afro-Brazilian individuals in an effort to improve the quality of the lives of Brazil’s poorest citizens. Nevertheless, these endeavors were not enough to overcome the consequences of a long historical period of slavery, discrimination, and racial injustice.

Article

Paulo Cruz Terra and Marcelo de Souza Magalhães

The city of Rio de Janeiro underwent profound changes between 1870 and the early 20th century. Its population grew dramatically, attracting migrants not only from abroad but also from other regions of Brazil. It also expanded significantly in size, as the construction of trolley and railway lines and the introduction of real estate capital powered the occupation of new areas. Meanwhile, urban reforms aimed at modernization transformed the social ways in which urban space was used. During this period, Rio de Janeiro went from being the capital of the Brazilian Empire to being the capital of the Brazilian Republic. It nevertheless maintained its position as the cultural, political-administrative, commercial, and financial center of the country. Against this backdrop of change, the city was an important arena for the political struggles that marked the period, including demonstrations in favor of abolition and the republic. Rio de Janeiro’s citizens were not inert during this period of transformation, and they found various ways to take action and fight for what they understood to be their rights. Protests, demands, petitions, and a vibrant life organized around social and political associations are examples of the broad repertoire used by the city’s inhabitants to gain a voice in municipal affairs. Citizens’ use of public demands and petitions as a channel to communicate with the authorities, and especially with city officials, shows that while they did not necessarily shun formal politics, they understood politics to be a sphere for dialogue and dispute. The sociocultural history of Rio de Janeiro during this period was therefore built precisely through confrontations and negotiations in which the common people played an active role.

Article

Belief in the power of feitiçaria or black magic has both endured and continually changed over time in Brazil. However, black magic is a peculiar and protean thing. Rather than defining a specific set of ideas, practices, and objects, or a systematic body of knowledge, black magic is better understood as a type of discourse the social function of which is to stigmatize its referent as maleficent, immoral, or evil. Because of its negative connotations, black magic typically is a discourse of accusation rather than self-affirmation: People accuse others of practicing black magic rather than describing their own practices this way. Nevertheless, the dangerous potential attributed to black magic means that some people openly claim it as a source of power in certain circumstances. Focusing on the various intersections of black magic and sexuality in Brazilian history reveals aspects of social life and categories of persons that elite authorities, in the effort to civilize and reform Brazil, identified as problematic. Because these shifted over time, different constellations of black magic and sexuality emerge as especially salient in different historical periods. In the colonial period (1549–1822), women’s love magic troubled ecclesiastical authorities as the Catholic Church struggled to establish its patriarchal vision of social and moral order over an unruly colony. Under the empire (1822–1889), black magic was associated particularly with the threat of black sorcerers whose perceived promiscuity and primitivity threatened the civilized society that elites envisioned. During the first Republican period (1889–1930), public officials used black magic as a catchall designation for a broad range of popular spiritual practices deemed illicit by the state in its struggle against social degeneracy and other ills. The first few decades of the 20th century saw the consolidation of the Afro-Brazilian spirit entities Exu and Pombagira as distinctive apotheoses of black magic and sexuality in the Brazilian cultural imagination. Forged in the conjuncture of African and European traditions, these controversial yet extremely popular entities are said to work with both the “right hand” and the “left hand” and are called upon in situations marked by moral ambiguity. Their prominence in Candomblé and Umbanda is one reason that evangelical Protestant churches like the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD) consider Afro-Brazilian religions to be instruments of the devil and target Afro-Brazilian religious practitioners, objects, and spaces in their campaigns of spiritual warfare. More recently, discourse about black magic among evangelical Christians has centered on the violence and sexual immorality associated with the drug trade that has flourished in many Brazilian cities. As a moral discourse that defines the licit by identifying the illicit, black magic is used in situations marked by struggles for social legitimacy and the access to resources and influence that such legitimacy enables. The protean nature of black magic means that it is endlessly adaptable to different social realities, from the struggles of Portuguese colonists in a new land to the urban violence associated with contemporary drug trafficking. And because questions of power are deeply embedded within the term, accusations of black magic seem to burgeon precisely in moments of social transformation when the status quo is in flux, centers of influence are being formed, and new patterns of social division or alignment are being established.

Article

Despite moral criticism of the institution of slavery from the second half of the 18th century, slavery, racism, and liberalism would be mutually defined throughout the 19th century. The slave economy in the Americas grew in the 19th century as a result of the expansion of the world market, sustained by constitutional states, including two national ones: the Brazilian Empire, a constitutional monarchy, and the United States, a republic. In these national states, representative systems would shape the legitimacy of the institution of slavery, relating the adoption of citizenship rights to processes of racialization. In Brazil’s late colonial period, more than one-half of the free population was defined as “black” or “brown,” and manumission rates were as high as 1 percent per year. Under Portuguese colonial rule, this population of color was denied access to public offices and ecclesiastical positions, but allowed to own slaves. The rallying cry of “equality for people of all colors” served as a cornerstone of popular nationalism in the liberal uprisings of the late Brazilian colonial period. Popular liberalism also called for the passage of laws that would recognize the Brazilian-born sons and daughters of enslaved people as free persons. After independence, the Brazilian Empire experienced more than twenty years of political struggles and localized civil wars around the construction of representative political institutions. The Brazilian coffee production boom inaugurated in 1830, allowed the consolidation of the monarchical order in Brazil with the rise to power of a conservative party, the Party of Order, in 1837. From 1837 to 1853, this conservative party consolidated a slave-based national identity. During these years of conservative pro-slavery leadership, political strategies to legitimate the continuation of the Atlantic slave trade were developed and illegal enslavement was tolerated and even encouraged. Liberalism, race, and slavery shaped the history of the Atlantic world in a very interconnected way. Despite the non-race-based legitimation of slavery in a Catholic and constitutional monarchy, race was a central issue in 19th-century monarchical Brazil. Slavery was legitimated as a historical institution in the Brazilian Constitution of 1824 in the right to own property. The same constitution guaranteed civil rights to the freedmen born in the country and their descendants, denying, however, Brazilian citizenship for free Africans and political citizenship to former slaves born in Brazil. Eventually, after the end of the transatlantic slave trade in 1850, the state bureaucracy adopted a norm of racial silence for the free population, racializing slave experience and reinforcing the precariousness of freedom of the Brazilian citizens of African descent. These practices shaped crucial aspects of structural racism still present in 21st-century Brazilian society.

Article

War played a crucial role in the political and administrative development of colonial Brazil. The adoption of different government solutions, from the initial naval expeditions and proprietary captaincies to the establishment of a general government, were, in part, a response to the military challenges the Portuguese faced in the New World. In the 17th century, the leading municipalities in Brazil expanded their political prominence and reinforced their autonomy precisely when they assumed the commitment to feed the troops and pay for the army’s wages. War and military conflicts also played an important role in the formation of the colonial society in Brazil. There was a natural overlay between the hierarchical structure of the military institutions created in, or transplanted to, the colony and the hierarchical society the Portuguese established in America. The armed forces consolidated the social status of local elites; while they provided opportunities for the more marginalized groups of blacks, mixed-race, and Indians—active participants in the defense of Brazil from the outset—they also helped colonial administrators organize society along racial lines. Regulars, militias, ordenanças, and other military units filled different functions in the territory. They often took part in different military operations in a territory that was hardly suitable for large-scale operations, prolonged siege warfare, or coordinated deployment of mass infantry formations. In Brazil, similarly to other colonies in America, a distinct kind of warfare emerged, marked by a synthesis of European, Indian, and African military knowledges. It was called Guerra Brasílica, and it was both admired for its effectiveness and disparaged for not fitting nicely in traditional European military orthodoxies and for being undisciplined and supposedly “uncivilized.” The negative imageries attached to military campaigns in Brazil persisted in the minds of colonial administrators for a long time, underpinning the territory’s undeserving military status (when compared with India and North Africa)—a status that the colony seldom escaped.