- Brazil, a country of some 3.3 million square miles on the eastern coast of South America, is by far the largest country on the continent. In the sixteenth century, the first Europeans settled in the land now known as Brazil, the Dutch in the northeast and the Portuguese in the southeast. Archaeological evidence is accumulating that indicates that a thriving, advanced civilization in the Amazon collapsed at the approximate time of the European arrival, possibly because of pandemic disease. By the nineteenth century, the Portuguese had expelled the Dutch and established a slave-based economy along the coast, focusing on farming and mining. In 1808, the Portuguese royal family, escaping from Napoleon Bonaparte ’s invasion of Portugal, established Brazil’s capital, Rio d Janeiro, as capital of the Portuguese Empire. When Napoleon was defeated, the family returned to Lisbon, leaving the Crown Prince, Pedro, as regent for Brazil. The Peninsular War opened Brazil to trade when Britain demanded trading access as the price of its support for Portuguese independence. In 1821, when Portugal attempted to tighten control over Brazil, Pedro, urged on by the Luso-Brazilians, Brazilians of European ancestry, declared Brazilian independence and became Pedro I of the Empire of Brazil.The independent Brazil fought several border conflicts in the nineteenth century, notably with Argentina over Uruguay - after a compromise peace established an independent Uruguay in whose politics both sides meddled freely - and Paraguay. The Paraguayan War in the late 1860s was started when the Paraguayan dictator, Francisco Solano Lopez, simultaneously declared war on Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil. Paraguay was crushed, and the Brazilians and Argentineans between them claimed about 25 of the country’s territory.Throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the other South American countries generally mistrusted Brazil’s expansionist tendencies, which included interventions in the governments of its neighbors, notably Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia, and the occasional outright land grab. The best example of a land grab is the Brazilian State of Acre. The region, a nominally Bolivian province in the upper Amazon, was experiencing a rubber boom in the 1890s as Brazilian settlers and entrepreneurs flooded the region. In 1899, a Brazilian journalist denounced a nonexistent agreement between the United States and Bolivia to reclaim the region, and set himself up as presidente of the Independent State of Acre. By 1904, the Brazilian military had marched in to restore order, and the state was annexed.Until the late nineteenth century, most of the interior of Brazil was unexplored, and almost all of the population was located along the Atlantic Coast or in isolated settlements such as Acre. Nevertheless, the Indians suffered from the occasional slaving raids - slave trading was banned in 1850, but slavery was not completely abolished until 1888 - and epidemics. In 1890, the first serious governmental effort to open up the interior was begun under Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, a military officer. Under his command during the next 20 years, thousands of miles of telegraph lines were laid linking the wilderness to the central government. Rondon considered himself a champion of the Indians - his motto was “Die if need be, but never kill” - but the government’s efforts weren’t to preserve them but to peacefully assimilate them. The Indian Protective Services (SPI), set up in 1910, was officially charged with protection of the Indians. The SPI and its successor organization, the National Indian Foundation, conducted a highly paternalistic campaign to find the Indians and “aid” them, which meant bribing them onto de-facto reservations and making them dependent on handouts from the government. In taking this path, the government often found itself in conflict against the mining companies, railroads, and farmers, who often favored extermination, or at least expulsion.See also <
>; < >.FURTHER READING:Barman, Roderick. Brazil, The Forging of a Nation, 1798-1852. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1988;Rabben, Linda. Brazil ’ s Indians and the Onslaught of Civilization: Yanomani and the Kayapo. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004;Smith, Joseph. A History of Brazil. New York: Longman, 2002.JOSEPH ADAMCZYK
Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.