Of the estimated 4.9 million African captives disembarked in Brazil, 70 % were shipped from Central Africa, 24 % from West Africa, and the remaining 6 % from the East Coast of the continent. Despite their diverse political and cultural backgrounds, Africans were classified by slavers with a discrete number of generic categories often referred to as “nations.” The enslaved appropriation of such external labels, like Mina and Angola—distinguishing Western and Central Africans respectively—resulted in the formation of new collective identities. The novel ways of colonial belonging and behavior shaped and expressed themselves as distinct forms of Afro-Brazilian culture when organized around social institutions such as Catholic lay brotherhoods or other African-inspired associative dynamics. Religious practice, including music, language, bodily performance, cooking and dress, became a privileged domain for African cultural production, subsequently irradiating into other secular manifestations. The colonial calundu, concerned with healing and oracular functionalities, greatly influenced by the Bantu-speaking people, coexisted and intermingled with the more ecclesiastical West-African traditions of initiatory ritual dedicated to the worship of multiple deities. Despite common elements of celebration, healing and mediumship, Afro-Brazilian religious pluralism was historically marked by an extraordinary eclecticism. Different local interactions with the hegemonic Iberian Catholicism, Amerindian healing practices and French Spiritism, together with the circulation of people and ideas between Africa and Brazil after the end of the Atlantic slave trade, led to a wide range of regional variation. This heterogeneous Afro-Brazilian religious field, prone to continuous discrimination and selective tolerance by the authorities, is stressed by a discursive contrast between the alleged traditional pure African forms and the mixed syncretic Brazilian ones, all claiming their share of legitimacy and ritual efficiency.
Luis Nicolau Parés
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.
Carole A. Myscofski
Women in colonial Brazil (1500–1822) were affected by the presence of the Portuguese Roman Catholic Church in nearly every dimension of their lives. The Catholic Church dominated the colonial religious and social world and, with the imperial government of Portugal, set and transmitted gender expectations for girls and women, regulated marriage and sexuality, and directed appropriate education and work lives. Even with the harshest restrictions, women were able to develop an independent sense of self and religious expression both within the Catholic Church and outside its reach. Native Brazilian women felt the impact of the new faith from the earliest days of conquest, when their opportunities for religious influence expanded among the early colonists and missionaries. After the 1550s, however, new rules for belief and behavior gradually replaced indigenous culture. Offering the Virgin Mary as the ideal woman, the Church expected that indigenous women convert to Catholicism, work for the colonists, and marry according to traditional canon law. Portuguese immigrant women also faced the constraints of the early modern gender roles, with chastity, modesty, and submission deemed essential to their feminine nature, and marriage, domestic labor, and childcare their fate. Enslaved African women were compelled to accept Catholic teachings alongside the expectations of servile work and marginalization in colonial society. For each segment of colonial society, religious rules barely acknowledged the real abuses that afflicted women through the personal and sexual domination of colonial men, and women found little consolation in the ideals set for elite women. Religion itself presented women with opportunities for personal development, and women found spiritual expression through votive prayers, cloistered convents, membership in religious brotherhoods, and covert religious and magical practices. European women used magical rites in defiance of Catholic teachings, while indigenous women preserved elements of their own healing traditions, and African women and their descendants created charms and celebrations that secured their separate religious identity.
Between the arrival of Columbus and the last slave voyage to Cuba in the 1860s, over 12 million enslaved Africans were carried and sold in the Americas. Brazil received almost half of all these captives, most of them during the colonial period. An efficient slave-trading system allowed slavery to become a major force in the development of Portuguese America. The institution became pervasive throughout the colony in the three centuries comprising the colonial era, with important differences across time and space. Some of the major exports produced by African slaves in Brazil, such as sugar, tobacco, and gold, had various global impacts. They also stimulated important domestic developments, such as the creation of internal markets and the growth of cities like Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, with African slaves playing essential roles everywhere. Moreover, the history of African slavery became intertwined with the history of native Brazilians in peculiar ways.
Evergton Sales Souza
For many years Brazil was a mission land, a space for evangelization mostly occupied by non-Christian peoples and targets of the conversion work of Catholic missionaries. Furthermore, the slowness of the colonizing—and missionary—advance toward the vast sertões of Portuguese America meant that a large part of the territory remained outside the principal organizing institutions of the colonial space, among which was the diocesan church. However, by confusing the space effectively occupied by colonization with what would eventually form the extension of the territorial possessions of the Portuguese monarchy, the field was opened to mistaken perceptions about the presence and importance of the diocesan Church in colonial Brazil. Since 2000, the proliferation of studies about the episcopacy and different aspects of the structures and actions related to episcopal power has contributed to a change in the understanding of its role and relevance in the development of the Church and the Luso-American colony. Contemporary historians, more attentive to documentary sources related to diocesan administration, have sought to show that the diocesan geography of Portuguese America had greater complexity and importance than has been attributed to it by incautious researchers convinced they were aware of the limitations of the role played by secular clergy in the construction of the Church and Catholicism. Emerging out of recent 21st-century studies is a better knowledge of diocesan structures—bishoprics, ecclesiastic administrations, parishes, chapels—and the functioning of the mechanisms of pastoral vigilance and the punishment of deviants, whether they were clerics or simple believers. This demystifies the idea that the royal Padroado was a nefarious obstacle to the development of the diocesan church in Brazil and shows the importance of the study of diocesan geography not only for the understanding of the history of the Church and Catholicism but also for the development of colonial society.
Relations between the Dutch and the Indigenous peoples of North and South America can be divided into two periods. From 1621 to 1674, Dutch-Indigenous relations were shaped by the attempt of the West India Company to build a transatlantic empire. In Brazil, the Dutch established military alliances with multiple Indian groups. In Guiana (or Guyana), Suriname, the Caribbean, and New Netherland in North America, relations were also shaped by war and trade. From 1675 until 1815, the Dutch presence in the Americas was limited to Guiana (Essequibo, Berbice), Suriname, and a few small Caribbean islands. During this period, Dutch-Indigenous relations were largely shaped by the plantation-slavery system. Indigenous peoples were frequently employed by the Dutch as slave catchers. Christian missions played a limited role in the Dutch Atlantic, with the exception of the Calvinist mission in Dutch Brazil and the Moravian missions in 18th-century Suriname.
The native populations of Portuguese America were essential for the implementation of the Portuguese colonial project. Their labor was indispensable in constructing the colony, and political alliances with native peoples ensured the success of the conquest at several crucial moments, and only with the aid of native knowledge it was possible to occupy the land and advance the conquest of the immense territory that became known as Brazil. In this sense, peace was a necessity. Yet, in highlighting the centrality of Indians in the settlement of the Portuguese colony in the Americas, it must also be recognized that the relations established there between Portuguese conquerors and native populations were also historically marked by tension and violence. A war of extermination, often masquerading as a “just war,” and slavery became inseparable parts of colonial strategy. Moreover, access to land and the use of indigenous labor could both constitute secure indicators of success in the conquest of Portuguese America. In the process of colonization the Portuguese Crown was confronted by various forms of native resistance and by the differing interests of diverse colonial agents. During the 17th and 18th centuries the Crown faced tensions, disputes, and contradictions in relation to the slavery and freedom of Indians and the way it solved these conflicts revealed the configuration of its indigenist policy.
Between 1624 and 1654, the Dutch West India Company occupied part of the northeast of Brazil. A private company, in 1621 it obtained from the Republic of the United Provinces of the Netherlands a monopoly on trade and the authorization to conquer land and operate in waters on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It was created as a weapon against the Habsburg Monarchy, contrary to whom the Republic waged a long conflict: the Eighty Years War (1568–1648). The primary objective of the Company was to undermine the foundations of the Iberian overseas economy, which was of vital importance to the Spanish empire, and open the ports of the Spanish and Portuguese colonies to the Republic’s merchant vessels. Interest in Brazil was principally related to the possibly of making profits from sugar, tobacco, and wood for dyes, products already distributed in the Republic through direct negotiations of the Dutch in Brazilian ports and indirectly through a trade route that connected Dutch cities and Portuguese ports. Incorporated in the Spanish crown as a result of the 1580 Portuguese dynastic crisis, Brazil became the target of a military assault when trade between Brazil and the Netherlands was affected by the various embargos imposed by the Habsburg Crown. The first great attack of the Company against Brazil resulted in the capture of Salvador, seat of the general government of Brazil in 1624, but their control of the city only lasted one year, resulting in a loss for the Company. After an incredible financial recuperation due to capture of the Spanish silver fleet in 1628, the Company devised a new plan. Pernambuco was the new target. A long conflict continued until January 1654, when the government of the Company of Brazil capitulated to the Portuguese.
Isabele de Matos Pereira de Mello
In early modern societies, the duty of enforcing justice was one of the principal tasks of the monarch. Judicial power could be exercised both directly by the monarch—the supreme magistrate—or by those he delegated it to—judges or his courts. In the vast territory of Portuguese America, different institutions were created to ensure access to justice, to help govern the people, to assist in long-distance administration, and to maintain control over the crown’s dominions. Ouvidorias-gerais, judges, and courts were established with their own institutional officials, intermixing lower- and higher-level jurisdictions and exercising justice over distinct territorial spaces. To understand the functioning of judicial institutions in colonial society, it is important to analyze the universe of magistrates, their careers, judicial practices, and complex relations in the social environment. Magistrates, as an important professional group recruited by the Portuguese monarchy, had multiple overseas possibilities. They could serve at the same time as representatives of royal power and allies of local groups. These men faced a colonial reality that allowed them a wide sphere of action, the exercise of a differentiated authority, and a privileged position as intermediaries between local elites and the king. Even though all magistrates were subject to the same rules of selection, recruitment, appointment, and promotion, the exercise of justice in the slaveholding society of Portuguese America demanded a great capacity for adaptation and negotiation, for the application of law in the mosaic of local judicial situations. Magistrates circulated in different spaces, creating and working in different judicial institutions in the difficult balance between theory and practice, between written law and customary law.
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.