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UNIT 20: Imperial Designs

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VIDEO SEGMENT: Imperialism in Portuguese Brazil

This segment uses the Portuguese colony of Brazil to explore early imperial strategies as well as the ways those strategies could prompt change over time. Between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, the Portuguese government sought to treat Brazil as an extension of the nation, and to integrate the two economies into a larger national framework.

The government gave large tracts of land to Portuguese nobles, called captaincies, for the purposes of development and colonization. Initially, this strategy proved extremely profitable for the Portuguese government-first because of the success of sugar plantations on Brazil's northeastern coast, and then because of the gold that was discovered in 1693. By the 1700s, Brazil was producing large amounts of gold-much of which was appropriated by the Portuguese government to pay its own debts. These debts were substantial as a result of an unequal alliance Portugal had made with Britain in 1703 (the Methuen Treaty), and thus the gold was seen as critical to the Portuguese economy.

Over the next century, the Portuguese government increasingly tried to direct Brazil's economy toward the benefit of Portugal. These policies led to conflicts with the captaincies-many of whom wished to limit their dependence on both Portugal and Britain by establishing their own industries. By 1788, a movement for Brazilian independence had begun, and by 1822, the nobles who had once been under the thumb of the Portuguese government became the leaders of an independent Brazil.

SELECTED IMAGES AND MAPS


Anonymous, MANNER OF WASHING GOLD IN THE MOUNTAINS, BRAZIL (1820). Image donated by Corbis - Bettmann.

Anonymous, PORTUGUESE SHIP USED FOR TRADING BETWEEN CHINA AND THE WEST (n.d.). Courtesy of The Image Works.


Henry Coster, SUGAR MILL, BRAZIL (1816). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Edward Finden, GATE AND SLAVE MARKET AT PERNAMBUCO (1824). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.



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