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A Forced Hand: Natives, Africans, and the Population of Brazil, 1545-1850*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 July 2013

Justin R. Bucciferro*
Affiliation:
Department of Economics, Eastern Washington University, 013 Hargreaves Hall, Cheney, WA 99004, USA. jbucciferro@ewu.edu

Abstract

The settlement and expansion of the Portuguese colonies in South America were made possible by slave labour; however, the historical size of enslaved Native and African groups is largely unknown. This investigation compiles extant statistics on the population of «Brazil» by race and state for the pre-census period from 1545 to 1850, complementing them with headcount estimates based on sugar, gold, and coffee production; pre-contact indigenous populations; and trans-Atlantic slave voyages. The resulting panel of demographic data illustrates national and regional racial transitions encompassing the colonial era. Brazil's population was of Native descent but became predominantly African in the 18th century; people of European ancestry remained a minority for another 200 years.

Resumen

El establecimiento y la expansión de las colonias portuguesas en Sudamérica fueron posibles gracias al trabajo de los esclavos; sin embargo, el tamaño histórico de los grupos nativos y africanos esclavizados es desconocido. Esta investigación compila las estadísticas existentes sobre la población de «Brasil» según raza y estado para el periodo pre-censo 1545-1850, complementándolas con estimaciones basadas en la producción de azúcar, oro, y café; poblaciones indígenas precolombinas; y viajes transatlánticos. El panel resultante de datos demográficos ilustra transiciones raciales nacionales y regionales, a lo largo de la era colonial. La población de Brasil era nativa pero se volvió predominantemente africana durante el siglo XVIII; gente de origen europeo siguió siendo una minoría por otros 200 años.

Type
Articles/Artículos
Copyright
Copyright © Instituto Figuerola de Historia y Ciencias Sociales, Universidad Carlos III de Madrid 2013 

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Footnotes

*

The author is grateful to Ann Carlos and David Bunting for their comments on earlier versions of this article; two anonymous referees for their suggestions, as well as Antonio Tena and William Summerhill (editors); and, Luis Dopico and participants in the «Economics of Ethnicity and Race» session at the 37th Annual Meeting of the Economic and Business Historical Society (Las Vegas, April 2012).

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