Brazil was the last Western country to abolish slavery, which it did in 1888. As a colonial institution, slavery was present in all regions and in almost all free and freed strata of the population. Emancipation only became an issue in the political sphere when it was raised by the imperial government in the second half of the decade of the 1860s, after the defeat of the Confederacy in the US Civil War and during the war against Paraguay. In 1871, new legislation, despite the initial opposition from slave owners and their political representatives, set up a process of gradual emancipation. By the end of the century, slavery would have disappeared, or would have become residual, without major disruptions to the economy or the land property regime.
By the end of the 1870s, however, popular opposition to slavery, demanding its immediate abolition without any kind of compensation to former slave owners, grew in parliament and as a mass movement. Abolitionist organizations spread across the country during the first half of the 1880s. Stimulated by the direct actions of some of these abolitionist organizations, resistance to slavery intensified and became increasingly a struggle against slavery itself and not only for individual or collective freedom. Incapable of controlling the situation, the imperial government finally passed a law in parliament granting immediate and unconditional abolition on May 13, 1888.
Thomas D. Rogers
The Portuguese took sugarcane from their Atlantic island holdings to Brazil in the first decades of the 16th century, using their model of extensive agriculture and coerced labor to turn their new colony into the world’s largest producer of sugar. From the middle of the 17th century through the 20th century, Brazil faced increasing competition from Caribbean producers. With access to abundant land and forest resources, Brazilian producers generally pursued an extensive production model that made sugarcane’s footprint a large one. Compared to competitors elsewhere, Brazilian farmers were often late in adopting innovations (such as manuring in the 18th century, steam power in the 19th, and synthetic fertilizers in the 20th). With coffee’s growth in the center-south of the country during the middle of the 19th century, sugarcane farming shifted gradually away from enslaved African labor. Labor and production methods shifted at the end of the century with slavery’s abolition and the rise of large new mills, called usinas. The model of steam-powered production, both for railroads carrying cane and for mills grinding it, and a work force largely resident on plantations persisted into the mid-20th century. Rural worker unions were legalized in the 1960s, at the same time that sugar production increased as a result of the Cuban Revolution. A large-scale sugarcane ethanol program in the 1970s also brought upheaval, and growth, to the industry.
Diogo de Carvalho Cabral
Although it has received less scholarly attention than firearms, microbes, domestic animals and plants, market economy, and statecraft, alphabetic reading and writing was crucial in the European conquest and colonization of the Americas from the late 15th century on. Unlike the agrarian empires the Spaniards encountered in the Andes and the Mexican highlands, the Portuguese frontier advanced upon tribal peoples who relied exclusively on oral language, such as the Tupi of Atlantic Brazil. These were semi-sedentary horticultural villagers whose entire socio-ecology (myths and knowledge, territoriality, subsistence strategies, etc.) was conditioned by the face-to-faceness and fugacity of spoken words. In turn, their Portuguese colonizers—for a while rivaled by the French, who enjoyed short periods of stable settlement through the early 17th century—were urban-based, oceangoing merchants, bureaucrats, soldiers, and religious missionaries whose organization strictly depended on the durability and transferability of written texts. Even if most of the Portuguese who came to Brazil in the 16th century were themselves illiterate, colonization as a social enterprise framed their actions according to prescribed roles set down in writing (both handwriting and printed script). Thus, the Portuguese colonization of Brazilian native lands and human populations can be interpreted from the point of view of the imposition of an alphabetically organized way of life. Two major dimensions of this “letterscaping” can be discerned as to its impact on Amerindian bodies (human and nonhuman) and modes of understanding. Although the 16th century was only the introductory act in that drama, its historical record shows the basic outlines of the alphabetic colonization that would play out through the early 19th century: native decimation and enslavement, territory usurpation by sesmaria grants, forest recovery in former native croplands (then resignified as “virgin forest”), loss of native ecological knowledge not recorded in writing, disempowerment of native cultural attunement to the wild soundscape, among other processes.
The 1922 Modern Art Week is considered the initial landmark of artistic vanguards in Brazil. However, before it was held, Anita Malfatti’s 1917 exhibition, which presented expressionism to Brazilians, and the articles of Oswald de Andrade announcing in the local press the poetry of Mário de Andrade and futurism caused significant polemics and opened the way for renovation. In the middle of the 1920s, the contacts of various artists with European vanguards—especially cubism—and the reinterpretation of the national element and popular culture with the incorporation of this repertoire, with an emphasis on cosmopolitism, established and solidified modernism in various artistic areas. In the 1930s, social commitment, the revalorization of the regional, and adhesion to leftwing ideologies changed the focus of artistic production, leading to the reorganization of groups and the emergence of new protagonists: Patrícia Galvão and Flávio de Carvalho, among others.
The return to classic forms and new experimentalisms marked the 1940s and 1950s, characterized by the reappearance of the sonnet, with Vinicius de Moraes, Cecília Meirelles, Murilo Mendes, and Jorge de Lima; renovations in language that reached a peak with Guimarães Rosa; photomontages by Jorge de Lima. Concrete art and poetry, notably the National Concrete Art Exhibition (1956) and neo-concretism, returning to the strategy of the manifestos and journals of the 1920s, revived the same polemical reception and bitter rivalries.
In the following decade, the revisiting of Oswald de Andrade’s work, especially the idea of anthropophagy, gave a strong impulse to tropicalism, Cinema Novo, and a greater renewal in Brazilian theater, with the staging of O Rei da Vela by the Teatro Oficina group (1967), the culminating point of a fifty-year cycle of artistic vanguards in Brazil.
The population of African descent in Brazil has always maintained vibrant associative communities, whether in the form of mutual aid societies, confraternities, and religious brotherhoods that existed since the time of slavery or in the form of other voluntary associations that appeared later, such as recreational societies, civic centers, literary guilds, musical groups, carnival blocos, and the black press. For Afro-Brazilians, the associative experience throughout the 20th century contributed to a sense of group belonging and a consciousness of a shared identity and experience of racial discrimination. Furthermore, these relationships enabled Afro-Brazilians to begin claiming rights as citizens, protesting against what afflicted them as a community. These joint efforts fueled collective acts of resistance and self-determination that, while evident for centuries, acquired new meanings and manifestations following the abolition of slavery in 1888. Black associations did not limit themselves to denouncing problems or detecting their causes and consequences. They tried to point out ways to overcome them by proposing several solutions: the moral elevation of Afro-Brazilians, which implied a preoccupation with their image in the various sectors where they acted; improving their educational and instructional level; valorizing their race and, by extension, black identity; and emphasizing the need to react to injustices, and even to act politically. However, the main solution was the union of black Brazilians, a sine qua non for this segment of the population to strengthen and thus be able to claim and gain space in society, improve living conditions, and even overcome persistent challenges. Understanding the history of black associative life in Brazil during the 20th century is necessary in order to grasp the struggles and challenges Afro-Brazilians have faced around common interests, particularly since these collective actions are an integral part of the black experience and, in some respects, overlap with it.
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.
José Jobson Arruda
The development of the Brazilian economy during the colonial period resulted from foreign inducements exercised by Portuguese colonialists under the auspices of the Portuguese Crown. Over the course of three centuries, responsibility for Brazil’s economic destiny was gradually transferred to Luso-Brazilians, a process by which both the flow and accumulation of income became naturally internalized. This topic must necessarily be contextualized within a decades-long process of historiographical confrontation in which distinct analytical perspectives have sought to assert themselves. Some arguments are linked to the label of the old colonial system (Antigo Sistema Colonial, or ASC) and others to the old regime in the tropics (Antigo Regime nos Trópicos, or ART). While both schools recognize the primacy of slavery in determining the character of colonial society, the former emphasizes colonial identity and the exploitative status that entailed, while the latter focuses on the empire and the endogenous accumulation of wealth.
Despite the friction between these hegemonic currents since the 1980s, a third analytical perspective is possible that while incorporating elements present in the two established outlooks also rejects the exceedingly long periodization and calcified three-century focus they share. This different strain of scholarship distinguishes between specific moments in colonial economic development during which external and internal accumulation fueled one or the other, serving as complementary forces responsible for the gross and per capita growth of the colonial economy, as well as granting Brazil the profile of a modern colony.
Herbert S. Klein and Francisco Vidal Luna
The 20th century represents a crucial period in Brazil’s economic history, when an agrarian, rural-dominated society became an urban, industrialized country with a complex financial sector and a large service sector. This economic transformation fueled by coffee exports led to profound demographic and social changes as millions of European and Asian immigrants were integrated into Brazilian society, followed by a massive shift of native-born migrants from the northeast to the dynamic southeast of Brazil, particularly for the state of São Paulo, which became the richest, most industrialized, and most populous state of the nation. The second half of the 20th century saw the creation of a modern industrial sector and the modernization of national agriculture, which in the 21st century made Brazil one of the most important producers of grain and animal protein in the world.
João Paulo Pimenta
Stemming from an accelerated and tumultuous process unleashed by European wars in the first decade of the 19th century, Brazil and Portugal split politically in 1822. In a sense, Brazil’s independence reflects a number of peculiar characteristics within the context of the time due, in part, to three centuries of Portuguese colonization and to changes within the colonial system beginning in the second half of the 1700s. In other ways, however, Brazilian independence is linked to external events like the French Revolution, the independence of Haiti, and, above all, the wars of independence in Spanish America. The most profound and lasting consequences of the break with Portugal were the emergence of a Brazilian state and nation that until that point did not exist and that was consolidated over the course of the nineteenth century, as well as the nationalization of certain colonial institutions that were partially maintained. Historiography and national memory would later imbue independence with supreme importance as the foundational moment of the nation such that it has become a recurring theme in historical studies of Brazil.
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.
Rodrigo Patto Sá Motta
Recently Brazil reached the mark of eight million university students, which represents around 4 percent of the population. Although this level is less than those in developed countries, it signifies an advance in relation to the country’s starting point.
Unlike Spain, the Portuguese Empire did not create university institutions in its colonies. Following the Independence of Brazil in 1822, the new governing elite established some higher-level courses (initially medicine, law, and engineering), but these functioned in isolation, in other words, university institutions were not created. The first universities emerged only in the 1920s and were regulated during the Getúlio Vargas administration (1931). Since then, higher-level education has been the object of greater public attention—as well as political conflicts—due to both its role in development projects and its capacity to produce leaders. Between the 1940s and 1960s, university students became a relevant political force, having engaged in debates for university reform and also in favor of social changes, contributing to the process of political radicalization abruptly ended by the 1964 military coup. The dictatorship led by the military implemented an authoritarian modernization of the universities, repressing and purging the “undesirables” at the same time that it increased investment in research and graduate studies. The results were paradoxical, since although the dictatorship created a better structured university system, it was a more authoritarian and socially elitist one.
The first post-dictatorial governments maintained the university structure inherited from the previous period, but they deteriorated due to a lack of public resources caused by hyperinflation and also by the intention of reducing public expenditure on higher education.
The country managed to improve its higher-level institutions during the 20th century, which became strategic spaces for political battles and, for this reason, targets of constant state intervention. Despite the reforms and the expansion, universities were marked by elitism and social inequality, like Brazilian society itself, problems that only recently have started to be addressed. Only in the 21st century did Brazilian universities undergo a new expansionist phase, led by the center-left Brazilian governments which, in addition to expanding the public system, also invested in the inclusion of social sectors that previously had no access to higher education. It appears that this process may be interrupted, thanks to the “right turn” experienced by Brazil since 2016–2018.
José Luiz de Andrade Franco and José Augusto Drummond
The rich variety of the tropical ecosystems and wildlife native to the current territory of Brazil has captured the attention of several groups of observers since the early 1800s. Wildlife and landscapes in particular generated a continuous stream of appreciation of their uniqueness and concern about their integrity. This perception affected government officials and foreign traveling naturalists of the 19th century, when dozens of French, German, Austrian, English, Belgians and North American naturalists traversed the immense territory of the former Portuguese colony that had been virtually closed to trained scientists. Throughout the 20th century, newly trained Brazilian scientists and again foreign scientists, besides government officials and activist citizens, continued to explore species, ecosystems, and landscapes of what now recognized as the largest tropical country of the world. More recently, the growing amount of information about the global distribution of biodiversity placed Brazil at the top of the ranking, as a truly “megadiverse” country. As a consequence, Brazil has engaged, through environmental non-governmental organizations (NGOs), government agencies, and foreign and locally trained scientists, in a remarkable series of successful projects aimed at the identification and protection of endangered species. The country has only recently built a cadre of wildlife and ecological scientists trained to initiate and manage these types of projects. Despite the fact that these efforts are still far from being a priority in terms of its national environmental policies, Brazil has been quite active and successful in the protection of some of its most endangered animal species and their habitats.
Bernardo Buarque de Hollanda
Football appeared in Brazil in the end of the 19th century, among a favorable environment for the practice of English sports. These sports were initially practiced not professionally by English migrants and young students of Law, Engineering, and Medicine. Fluminense was the first club from Rio de Janeiro, at that time the capital of the country, to be dedicated exclusively to practice football. In the beginning, football represented nobility for the local elite. The social profile of people who attended matches at Fluminense’s field was very near to that of the players, be it for family reasons, friendship, or other motivations. Young women who went there desired to see their distinguished idols, and from this practice many relationships started. While this idyllic image of the past was produced, a historical point of view can notice a decisive enhancement in social segments interested in football. In the decade of 1910, a collective enthusiasm arose for football, mainly due to the fact that it was easy to practice and watch football in any kind of open space. This allowed it to spread out of clubs and the National Team. Far from the spatial and economic restriction of performance arts, football could be practiced and watched freely, in most diverse situations. The clubs’ lack of structure to allocate players and fans contributed in making football a popular game, since they needed to seek public spaces to practice. At this point, the club that opposed to Fluminense has been Flamengo, which until then was not more than a regatta club. When it opened a football department, it practiced in open fields near the beaches. Many passersby started to look out their training and matches, and some of them adopted Flamengo as their club even if not participating of its internal sphere. The players became idols, first in the neighborhood and then in the whole city. This encouraged the talk about football in bars and cafés, with reflections on the increasing number of people to attend matches. Historian Leonardo Pereira says that in a few years football has become a mania. The making of the first national team to dispute friendly matches against England and Argentina has also stimulated football’s repercussion. Noticing public interest over matches with teams from different cities or countries, sports press left its poor attitude about football and began to carefully pay attention to this kind of rivalry and the consequent emotions each fan is able to express for his team, especially the National Team.
Luiz Bernardo Pericás
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.
Matthias Röhrig Assunção
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.
Júnia Ferreira Furtado
Cartography in the administration of Portuguese America can be related to three major processes—first, to allow the exploration and occupation of territory from the coast to the interior; second, to improve the organization of the colonial administration system; and third, as a basis for diplomatic negotiations of territory with other European nations. Between the 16th and 17th centuries, during the Atlantic maritime expansion through which new lands and new worlds were unveiled to Europeans, the Portuguese constructed a solid cartographic mapping of Brazil—a process in which they were the pioneers. The objective was to allow their vessels to cross the ocean and afterward to guarantee their dominion over the newly discovered lands, which resulted in a progressive increase of geographic knowledge of the world that was being unveiled to the Europeans. For these reasons, maps produced during these two centuries showed the increasing expectations and knowledge of the New World and reflected the manner of how the Americas, particularly Brazil, were gaining visibility among the European public; the maps satisfied the public’s curiosity about the recently discovered lands, with information related to geography and nature.
Initially, as Spanish, Portuguese, and even French explorers began to reach the west coast of the continent, parts of the coastline began to appear on Portolan charts, which were used at that time for maritime sailing and are very rare today. Later the cartographers started portraying the interior of Brazil. Representations of local geography began to progressively replace images of natives and local flora and fauna. It became common on 17th-century maps to design a chain of rivers that allowed Brazil to be portrayed as an island. It was not by chance that this representation appeared in Portuguese maps at the same time as the Spanish and Portuguese crowns were unified, from 1580 to 1640. In the 17th and 18th centuries administrative cartography was mostly performed and supervised from Portugal by the Portuguese Crown or the Overseas Council, which handled all colonial policy.
Two features characterized this activity: the impact of Portuguese colonization as it moved toward the western and central regions of the continent; and technical changes to cartographic practice that began at this time, characterized by Enlightenment rationality. The discovery of gold in the southeastern and central-west regions of Brazil, the Portuguese exploration of the Amazon basin, and the incessant disputes between the Spanish and Portuguese over Colonia del Sacramento in the south demanded better definition of both internal and external frontiers. Internal frontiers included divisions between captaincies, comarcas (a subdivision of captaincies originally of an ecclesiastical nature), bishoprics, and various other administrative divisions. External frontiers, by contrast, usually represented borders with Spanish American colonies.
Marcia Guedes Vieira
The International Labour Organization estimates that there are 12.5 million children and adolescents under the age of fifteen currently working in Latin America and the Caribbean. Of these, 9.6 million (77%) perform tasks that pose a risk to their physical and psychological health. This article presents a brief comparative analysis of child labor in Brazil and Uruguay in order to discuss the challenges of confronting this phenomenon in two very different countries that have embraced divergent strategies to deal with similar problems. To do this, the article presents an overview of the incidence of child labor in Brazil and Uruguay and seeks to demonstrate how far the category of labor is from a universal definition in the academic world, which is also repeated in the debate on the definition of child labor. It is possible to identify different moments of the debate in Latin America regarding the concept of child labor. Some approaches have been more contextualized than others, but all remain controversial and are sometimes considered incomplete. It will also consider the changes in the world of labor and how they interfere in this phenomenon. Despite advances in the fight against child labor overall, Brazil is starting to stagnate in its efforts to reduce the number of child and adolescent workers, and its challenge is to find new political solutions to address this problem. Uruguay still needs to place the issue more centrally on the nation’s political and social agenda in order to guarantee consistent research on the problem that can guide its policy responses.
Brasilio Sallum Jr.
In December 1989, Fernando Collor was elected President of Brazil, in the first election after the 1988 democratic Constitution. The election occurred under the threat of hyperinflation. The winner did not have strong parliamentary support, but the urgency for fighting high inflation gave to the President some time to govern without Judiciary and Legislative resistance. Soon after his inauguration, on March 15, the President launched heterodox stabilization measures—the Collor Plan—to “liquidate inflation.” This plan froze prices, changed the currency, and retained part of checking and saving accounts and other financial assets in Central Bank accounts, to be returned to the owners from September 1991 on. The government also started liberal reforms, privatizing state-owned enterprises and reducing barriers to international trade. The Collor Plan reduced the high inflation, but prices soon increased. On March 31, 1991, the government launched the Collor Plan II, once more against inflation. Having had bad results with the original plan, the government adopted economic orthodoxy, but high inflation remained. The center and left-wing party opposition grew, claiming legal protection for lower salaries and other demands for a substantive democracy. The conservatives pressed for more participation in the Executive in exchange of parliamentary support. President Collor resisted these pressures but finally made a ministerial reform in April 1992, to please the conservative parties and to strengthen his power. However, in May, a magazine published two interviews where the President’s younger brother accused him of corruption. In reaction, the center and left opposition parties made a coalition, and the Congress decided to organize a Mixed Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (CPMI) to investigate the accusation. After three months of inquiry, the CPMI approved, on August 26, a report saying that the President had committed crimes that allowed Congress to impeach him. Since August 16, the CPMI had been supported by a huge mass mobilization for impeachment. The mobilization continued until the Chamber of Representatives decided, on September 27, to allow the judgment of the President by Senate. This decision was achieved because conservative parties were included in the alliance around Vice President Itamar Franco. In December 1992, the Senate voted for Collor’s impeachment.
João Fragoso and Thiago Krause
Portuguese colonists carried their conceptions of social organization 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 and exercise patriarchal authority over a large household. Their property also allowed them the time and resources to be active in local politics and serve the Crown. They intended to reproduce in the New World the lifestyle of the Portuguese provincial nobility. There were, however, huge differences, since 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 maintain their position during the transition to enslaved African labor in the following decades. Especially 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, however, a small number of families controlled most local offices, slowly fashioning themselves into local nobilities and wielding these claims to negotiate with the Crown and its representatives. Planter elites also established broad patron-client networks that included even their enslaved property. Nevertheless, 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 the internal market. Nevertheless, the noble ideal did not lose its appeal, and many rich merchants linked themselves to old noble families through marriage and the adoption of an aristocratic lifestyle.
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.