Slavery in Brazil: The Sugar Boom (17th Century)

Brazilian slavery sugar boom
Figure 1.--Dytch artist Albert Eckhout (about 1610–65) painted this image of Brazilian slaves. He travelled in Dutch Brazil. It is one of the earliest paintings we have of Brazilian slaves. It is particularly interesting because it suggests that Brazilian slave owners allowed their slaves to contunue African cultural patterns. The female slave here wears African-styled clothing. This was bot allowed in the English colonies.

The Portuguese brought sugar cane to Brazil early in the colonial period, but the sugar industry developed slowly. It was a relatively new crop to the Europeans and it was a labor-intensive crop. This proved a problem because the Native Americans the Portuguese attempted to enslave did not prove suitable. Sugar would prove central to Brazilian economy aswell as to the history of Brazilian slavery. It was sugar that made Brzilian plantations really profitable and this fueled the demand for the large numbers of slaves needed to work them. The settlers first tried to enslave the Natives to work the developing plantations. The Native Americans proved unsuitable, primarily because the died in large numbers when exposed to European diseases. As a result, the settlers began to turn to Africans. The Portuguese ha begun to trade in captive Africanas, albeit in small numbers, as they began moving south down the coast of Africa (15th century). The first Brazilian sugar plantation was operating very early in the colonial era (1518). The industry grew very rapidly. Martim Afonso de SousaThe founded the first colony(1532). One report suggests that Santa Catalina Island had some 800 operating sugar cane mills (1540). The Brazilian sugar industry boomed and the colony became Europe's main supplier of sugar. Sugar at the time did not come from the Caribbean in any quantity. Until this the Arabs had been the main supplier, but a astronomical prices making it a luxury for the nobility and wealthier merchants. Brazil changed this. With the large quanities of Brazilian sugar reaching Europe at more reasonable prices, a much larger market began to grow. And Brazil, especially the northern coast, privided virtually perfect conditions for raising sugarcane. Planters cleared more an more land for sugar cane, Sugar production and exports began to reach large quantitirs (late-16th/early-17th centuries). The sugar cane was grown on plantation called 'engenhos' (factories). The Brazilian Nordeste became the core of the colony's economy and society. There were also plantations on Santa Catarina Island in the south which was originally founded by the Spanish. The modern states of Pernambuco, Paraiba, Bahia, and Sergipe became the center of Brazil’s sugarcane industry. Sugar turned the small Bahia settlements of Salvador and Olinda into some of the thriving ports in the world as theSugar Boom took hold. And this in turn significantly fueded the demand for slaves to work the plantations. Most of the slaves were brought fro Portuguese trading posts in western and southern Africa. Later the slaves for Brazil would come from the Portuguese-controlled areas of southern Africa (Angola and Mozambique). The Portuguese became leaders in the Atlantic slave trade and the major destination was Brazil. Over a third of all the slaves tranported to the Americas were landed in Brazil, the great majority to work on the sugar plantations.

Sugar

Sugar is not needed for proper nutition, but for some reason man is geneticall programed to seek out sugar. It is one of the five tastes (sweet, bitter, sour, salty, and umami (savory or mearty) that human taste buds detect. Sugar is found in small quantities in many foods. Man was not gentically engineered to consume large quantities of sugar. And doing so in our modern world has caused all kinds of health problems. For most of human existence, this is how sugar was ingested, supplement by occassion bee hive finds. It was the Polynesians who are believed to have discovered sugarcane. Indian traders operating in Polynsia brought it back to India where processes for manufacturing refined sugar were first developed. When the Persian Emperor Darius invaded northwestern India (6th century BC), the Persians encountered sugar bringing it further west. The Arab Islamic outburst resulted in the creation of a vast empire--the Caliphate (7th century AD). The Arabs encountered sugr in Persia and spread it througout their empire as far west as Spain. It was during the Crusades, however, that European elites first became aware of sugar. The Arabs continued to control the sugar trade for several centuries after the First Crusade. The word surgar (azucar in Spanish) is of Arab origins. Arab control meant that quantities were limited in Europe ad hugely expensive. Only a few areas in Europe were suitble for growinging sugar cane. This changed with Colunbus' discovery of the Americas ad the colonization of huge areas in the tropical zone that were suitable for growing cane. This set in motion both a sugar boom and the Atlantic slave trade. Large scale production began in Brazil (17th century), but soon spread to the Caribbean. The European sweet tooth made tiny Caribbean islabds some of the most valuable realestate in the world.

Early Colonization

The Portuguese brought sugar cane to Brazil early in the colonial period, but the sugar industry developed slowly. It was a relatively new crop to the Europeans and it was a labor-intensive crop. This proved a problem because the Native Americans the Portuguese attempted to enslave did not prove suitable. Sugar would prove central to Brazilian economy aswell as to the history of Brazilian slavery. It was sugar that made Brzilian plantations really profitable and this fueled the demand for the large numbers of slaves needed to work them. The settlers first tried to enslave the Natives to work the developing plantations. The Native Americans proved unsuitable, primarily because the died in large numbers when exposed to European diseases.

Atlantic Slave Trade

As a result, the settlers began to turn to Africans. The Portuguese had begun to trade in captive Africanas as explorers moved south along the coast of Africa (15th century), albeit in small numbers, as they began moving south down the coast of Africa (15th century). Most of the slaves were brought from Portuguese trading posts in western and southern Africa. Later the slaves for Brazil would come from the Portuguese-controlled areas of southern Africa (Angola and Mozambique). The Portuguese became leaders in the Atlantic slave trade and the major destination was Brazil. Over a third of all the slaves tranported to the Americas were landed in Brazil, the great majority to work on the sugar plantations.

Brazilian Sugar Mills

The first Brazilian sugar plantation was operating very early in the colonial era (1518). The industry grew very rapidly. Martim Afonso de SousaThe founded the first colony(1532). One report suggests that Santa Catalina Island had some 800 operating sugar cane mills (1540). The Brazilian sugar industry boomed and the colony became Europe's main supplier of sugar. Sugar at the time did not come from the Caribbean in any quantity. Until this the Arabs had been the main supplier, but a astronomical prices making it a luxury for the nobility and wealthier merchants. Brazil changed this. With the large quanities of Brazilian sugar reaching Europe at more reasonable prices, a much larger market began to grow. And Brazil, especially the northern coast, privided virtually perfect conditions for raising sugarcane. Planters cleared more an more land for sugar cane, Sugar production and exports began to reach large quantitirs (late-16th/early-17th centuries). The sugar cane was grown on plantation called 'engenhos' (factories). The Brazilian Nordeste became the core of the colony's economy and society. There were also plantations on Santa Catarina Island in the south which was originally founded by the Spanish. The modern states of Pernambuco, Paraiba, Bahia, and Sergipe became the center of Brazil’s sugarcane industry. Sugar turned the small Bahia settlements of Salvador and Olinda into some of the thriving ports in the world as theSugar Boom took hold. And this in turn significantly fueded the demand for slaves to work the plantations.

Dutch Portuguese War

The Dutch incursions into Brazil proved the greatest threat to the Portuguese. The Portuguese became involved with the Hapsburg attmpt to supress the Reformation in Germany and the related rebellion of the Dutch. A succession crisis in Portugal led to a personal union under the Habsburg rule after the War of the Portuguese Succession, Spanish King Philip II of Spain thus controlled Portugal as part of the Iberian Union (1580). This meant that Portugal and Brazil became involved in the Dutch War of Independence (1581-1648). Philip II prohibited trade with the Dutch (1581). The Dutch were at a disadvantage in land warfare with the Spanish, but their expanding naval fleet gave them the ability to strike at the colonies. The result was the Dutch–Portuguese War (1602-61). The War was waged by the Dutch East India Company and the Dutch West India Company against the Portuguese Empire. The War primarily involvedDutch privateers attacking Portuguese colonies in the Americas, Africa, India and the Far East. The war was essentially an extension of the Dutch War for Independence, sometimes called the Eighty Years War, fought in the European Low Countries by Spain. The conflict provided the opportunity for the Dutch to gain an overseas empire and weaken the Portuguese. English forces aided the Dutch to an extent, but also fought a series of naval wars with the Dutch. Spanish forces aided the Portuguese. And the sugar wealth of Brazil was an attraction. Brazil did not have a navy as such, but they conducted naval war with privateers. Queen Elizabeth in England did the same, but focused more on the Spanish. The Dutch, an important 17th century naval power, seized Bahia for a brief period. Dutch privateers began plundering the largely unprotected Brazilian coast. They sacked Bahia and even captured the capital Salvador for a brief period (1604). The Dutch also attacked the Portuguese African possessions.







CIH






Navigate the Children in History Website:
[Return to the Main Brazilian slavery page]
[Return to the Main American slavery page]
[Return to the Main Brazilian history page]
[Return to the Main working page]
[About Us]
[Introduction] [Biographies] [Chronology] [Climatology] [Clothing] [Disease and Health] [Economics] [Freedom] [Geography] [History] [Human Nature] [Ideology] [Law]
[Nationalism] [Presidents] [Religion] [Royalty] [Science] [Social Class]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Glossaries] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Children in History Home]





Created: 3:22 AM 9/28/2012
Last updated: 1:40 AM 10/1/2012