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date: 24 June 2022

Economy and Society in Southern Portuguese Colonial Americalocked

Economy and Society in Southern Portuguese Colonial Americalocked

  • Fábio KühnFábio KühnAssociate Professor, Department and Graduate Program in History, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (Porto Alegre, Brazil)


A general overview of the economy and society in the southern part of Portuguese America from the late 17th century to the early 19th century (c. 1680–1820) must address three interconnected areas of colonization: the commercial and military settlement of Colonia de Sacramento, located on the banks of the La Plata River within the borders of modern-day Uruguay, and the captaincies of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande de São Pedro, Brazil. Originally founded as a Portuguese effort to penetrate the mercantile markets of Spanish America, the La Plata settlement was highly disputed until it was definitively conquered by the Spanish in 1777. In contrast, the Portuguese were able to effectively colonize the southern captaincies, which became relatively stable by the end of the 18th century, reflecting the Crown’s relatively successful implementation of a policy of targeted settlement.

The economic formation of the southernmost areas of Portuguese America underwent a change in pattern at the turn of the 19th century. The original economy, centered around the export of livestock, hides, and precious metals, was replaced by a new model based on food production to supply the markets of Brazil’s Southeast and Northeast. At one end of the spectrum lay Colonia de Sacramento, which focused on the smuggling and export of hides; at the other lay Santa Catarina and Rio Grande de São Pedro, linked to the export of manioc flour, dried meat, and wheat to the rest of Brazil.


  • History of Brazil

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