Traces of paleo-Indian collectors have been found together with the bones of giant angels in Rio Grande do Sul in southwestern Brazil and dated to around 13000–6000 BC. Cultural warehouse older than 20000 BC is suggested by carbon-14 dating from a cave in Soquerão in the Pedra Furada region of northeastern Brazil. Kitchen matings, sambaquis, indicate maritime adaptation about 4000–2000 BC, possibly earlier.
The oldest known finds of ceramics in America to date, dating to about 6000-5000 BC, were reported in 1991 by American archaeologist Anna C. Roosevelt from Taperinha, a kitchen mooring at Santarém on the southern shore of the Amazon River. Cultivation of mainly cassava, hunting and rich fishing led to the development of the chief communities with monumental settlement mounds and burial mounds. Large settlements from the first millennium have been found in the delta area (Marajo Island) and along the Amazon River and its tributaries. At the Santarém at Rio Tapajós, about 1300 ceramics were formed as human and animal figures. At the European contact in the 16th century, the Spaniards and the Portuguese encountered dense settlements along the larger rivers in the Amazon.
Brazil was discovered in 1500 by a Portuguese fleet headed for India under the leadership of Pedro Álvarez Cabral. See abbreviationfinder for geography, history, society, politics, and economy of Brazil. Then it could be stated that the eastern tip of South America was within the part of the world that the Treaty of Spain and Portugal had reserved for Portugal in 1494. At present, Brazil’s coastal country was mainly populated by scattered Tupi-speaking tribes. They were simple farmers, fishermen and collectors, who could hardly constitute trading partners for the Portuguese. Precious metals were also not found during this time. After an initial period, dominated by Brazilian exports, the colony was organized around large sugar plantations, mainly located in Brazil’s northeastern region. In 1549 Salvador was built, which until 1763 was the capital of the colony. The enslaved Indians did not suffice as a labor force for the expansive sugar economy, and the main workforce came to consist of black slaves, imported from the Portuguese possessions in Africa. So began a process that brought more than 3.5 million Africans to Brazil and which basically came to characterize the country’s ethnic and cultural composition.
During the last half of the 17th century, a large part of northeastern Brazil was occupied by the Dutch. These were definitely driven away from Brazil in the 1650s, but like later English and French, they started competing plantations in the Antilles, which pushed back the Brazilian sugar. However, the stagnation was changed in expansion thanks to a new export product. In 1695, the so-called gangirantes, still Native American hunters from the São Paulo region, discovered a significant gold deposit in Rio das Velhas. In the 1720s, diamonds were also discovered. Most of the gold deposits were located in the area still known today as Minas Gerais (‘General Mines’), but also more remote inland areas such as Mato Grosso and Goiás were affected.
This meant the beginning of the colonization of Brazil’s vast interior. The gold attracted thousands of Portuguese. The slave trade was also intensified, especially via Rio de Janeiro. The population of Brazil increased from about 300,000 residents in 1700 to just over 3 million in 1800. The increasing importance of Brazil and Rio was confirmed in 1762, when the colony was elevated to the Viceroy and Rio was made the capital.
The decline of gold production, important administrative and economic reforms, agricultural diversification and exploitation of new areas in the north and south came to characterize the last decades of the colonial period. An important factor in Brazil’s history has been the increasing English influence since the 17th century. It was formalized in 1703 by the Methuen Treaty, which in many respects turned Portugal into the only intermediary between Brazil and England. The bond to Britain would be strengthened during the post-colonial period until the First World War.
Independence and the empire
Brazil’s path to independence was unique in America, and to a large extent it explains both that the country remained united and that it became an empire. When Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807, the entire court (just over 10,000 people) left the country and, thanks to the British fleet, reached Brazil. In doing so, the otherwise colossally administratively and politically ill developed colony had all the institutions that an independent state needed. In a few years, Rio’s population tripled, and in 1815 Brazil was elevated to a kingdom, united in a personal union with Portugal. The Portuguese royal house thus marked its decision to increasingly base its power on the American empire. When King Johan VI In 1821, returning to Portugal, where a liberal revolution broke out, he left his son, Pedro, as Brazil’s regent. On September 7, 1822, this Brazil declared independence, and on December 1 of that year, Pedro I was crowned Brazil’s first emperor. This peaceful transition ensured unprecedented social continuity in America.
However, the years leading up to the mid-19th century were marked by recurring regional revolts against the new and stronger central power. In 1824, the northern provinces revolted, but it was quickly wounded. Next year, the Cisplatin province rose in the southern tip of the kingdom. This led to war against the United Provinces (Argentina) and the formation of an independent Uruguay in 1828. In the 1830s, it was Rio Grande do Sul’s turn to revolt with separatist and republican demands. The uprising lasted for ten years and was resolved with a compromise. Pedro I had abdicated in 1831, after years of severe political conflicts, in favor of his minor son. In 1840, at the age of 14, it was crowned under the name of Pedro II. Until 1847 he was regent only to the name but then led Brazil for 40 years of internal stability and development. However, the country was brought into two wars: first against Argentina (1851–52) and later, in alliance with Argentina and Uruguay, against Paraguay (1865–70). This war became extremely costly both financially and humanly.
An important stage in Brazil’s history began in 1850, when the Brazilian parliament gave in to Britain’s pressure and passed a law that effectively halted slave imports. The slave economy was doomed, but it was not until 1888 before it was finally abolished. It was necessary to find new manpower for the expansive export agriculture. The São Paulo area, a peripheral area in which the classical colonial society was less established, showed a greater ability to innovate. After a few unsuccessful attempts, working conditions were created that attracted a significant number of European immigrants to coffee production. More than 900,000 immigrants came to the area between 1887 and 1900. About half of these came from Italy. A workforce of about 400,000 people made São Paulo’s fertile inland into the world’s coffee center. These workers formed a market for locally made goods, which together with massive investments in urbanization and infrastructure provided great opportunities for local and immigrant entrepreneurs to start workshops and industries. Coffee exports thus became the starting point for an industrialization process that eventually transformed the São Paulo region into Latin America’s foremost industrial area.
Republic and Vargas
On November 15, 1889, Emperor Pedro II was overthrown in a coup, led by Marshal Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca (1827–92). Brazil, according to a constitution of 1891, was transformed into a federal republic and given the name Brazil’s United States. During the “Old Republic” (1889-1930), the various regional oligarchs were given great freedom of action. The central government was dominated by the two powerful states of São Paulo and Minas Gerais. During the old republic, the country diversified both socially and economically: new social groups emerged, mainly urban middle classes and industrial workers, and with them new political ideologies. The Socialist Party was formed in 1916 and the Communist Party in 1922. The economic expansion was hit by certain problems. The natural rubber collection, which had been a dynamic feature of the Amazon region since the mid-19th century, could not withstand competition from British and Dutch plantations in Asia. The coffee had constant overproduction problems. Finally, the Old Republic could not survive the collapse of the export economy in 1930. In October this year, the military,1869–1957) and led the opposition candidate for the 1930 election, Getúlio Vargas, to power. At this point in time, few have any idea of its future significance for the design of modern Brazil.
Vargas spent his first years as president to put the states under tighter control and to weaken both the militant left and the extreme right. He showed great skill, and his personal power gradually increased, although in some cases he was forced to retire, for example by a 1932 revolt in the mighty state of São Paulo. Vargas was re-elected in 1934, and his regime became increasingly authoritarian. This development culminated in 1937 when the state state itself through a military intervention changed in a corporatist direction. Brazil entered World War II in 1942 and participated in combat alliances with the Allies. Varga’s politics during the 1940s were characterized by what was later called populism. In this case it meant a mix of nationalism, social reform, anti-oligarchic rhetoric,
Vargas was deposed in a military coup in 1945, but his popularity was not shaken. He won the free democratic elections in 1950 and ruled until 1954, when he committed suicide in protest of what he regarded as a stubborn and dishonest opposition. The populist features grew during this second reign, when much inspiration was drawn from Perón’s Argentina. Consistent with Varga’s long holdings of power was the quest to transform Brazil into an industrial nation. The chosen method placed the state at the center, but without excluding the Brazilian or foreign private companies. This state interventionist industrialization policy has become Varga’s most enduring legacy, and it has been further developed by all subsequent governments, not least by the military between 1964 and 1985.
Civil and military regimes
After Varga’s death came three populist presidents: Juscelino Kubitschek (1956–61), Jânio Quadros (1961) and João Goulart (1961–64). Kubitschek’s time was marked by rapid economic growth, large investments and the construction of the new capital, Brazil (1957-60), which was intended to open the hinterland for development. These projects, however, led to economic imbalance and rising inflation. The popular Quadros retired from power after only a few months, and his vice president Goulart was allowed to resign.
A time of growing confrontations and polarization followed. Parts of the middle class, industrial workers and now also poor peasants and farm workers demanded thorough social reforms. Concerns also spread to the armed forces. The country became increasingly difficult to control. In March 1964, Goulart announced a series of radical reforms. The opposition, with the support of the US, went into fierce counter-attack. An extensive military revolt began on March 31, and on April 2 the president left the country. This military intervention brought news to those who had previously taken place in Brazil: for the first time, the military remained in power, and it ruled the country for 21 years. Brazil was led by Generals Humberto de Alencar Castelo Branco (1964-67), Arturo da Costa e Silva(1967–69) and Emílio Garrastazú Médici (1905–85; President 1969–74) with very harsh methods and later by Generals Ernesto Geisel (1907–96; President 1974–79) and João Baptista Figueiredo (1918–99; President 1979 –85), which led to a more liberal policy with a gradual dismantling of the dictatorship.
The military’s long holding of power marks a crucial element in Brazil’s economic development. Discipline of the workforce, increasing exploitation of Brazil’s vast natural resources, cheap international credit, abundant foreign investment, gigantic government investments (energy, communications, mining, military industry) and purposeful central government provided Brazil with extremely rapid economic growth for several years. Between 1965 and 1980, the growth rate was almost 50 percent higher than Japan’s, the fastest growing industrial nation.
However, this “economic miracle”, which turned Brazil into a real industrial power, had many dark sides. Although most of them got materially better, the distribution of income became even slimmer than ever before, the predation of nature assumed alarming proportions, one indigenous tribe per annihilated in Brazil’s vast hinterland, the decline grew around the major cities and the countryside remained much in decline. But it was not only these social aspects that were alarming. The price of growth also became severe economic imbalance and a record debt to both foreign and domestic lenders. At the beginning of the 1980s, in connection with the international recession, the wonder came to a snowy end. More than 40 years of economic growth was interrupted. In three years, per capita income fell by just over 10 percent. The government was forced, facing a declining inflow of capital and a growing interest burden, to desperate austerity measures aimed at creating a large trade surplus. Domestic consumption was pushed down, with growing social unrest as a consequence.
It was this troubled country that civilian politicians had to take over in 1985. Tancredo Neves (1910–85), the president-elect, died before he had the presidency. In his place came the more conservative Vice President José Sarney (born 1930). His reign was dominated partly by the major economic and social problems inherited from the military era and partly by the writing of a new constitution. Various stabilization plans failed. The recovered economic growth was short-lived and led to very high inflation. The criticism of Sarney grew stronger. The December 1989 presidential election was won by Fernando Collor de Mello, a center-right politician of populist type.
However, Collor was forced to step down in 1992 after only three years in power due to a major scandal and was succeeded by Vice President Itamar Franco (1930–2011). This turned out to be a capable administrator who managed to win voters’ sympathies, including through a large-scale economic reform package in March 1994, the so-called Real Plan, which put an end to one of Brazil’s biggest hostages in decades, inflation. In 1995, the South American Customs Union Mercosur was created with Brazil as its most important member. In recognition of Realplanen’s success, its architect, Finance Minister Fernando Henrique Cardoso, was elected new president later that year, and in 1998 he also became the first president of Brazil to be re-elected for a new term.
Worker Lula da Silva becomes president
Deregulation, extensive privatization and increased free trade strengthened the confidence of foreign lenders, while domestic purchasing power increased. However, the social situation continued to be critical with large income gaps, poverty and high crime rates. It formed the backdrop to the Workers’ Party’s progressively increased support in municipal and state elections during the 1990s and the historic presidential election in 2002, when the party’s candidate, the former metal worker and union leader Lula da Silva, won.
This was the first time a former worker became Brazil’s highest political leader. Business initially expressed some concern for the former radical strike leader, but Lula da Silva promised a policy of economic growth as the best recipe for reducing poverty and unemployment. Despite promises to the contrary, the new government party was also shaken by corruption scandals.
Lula da Silva was re-elected in 2006 to a second term in office. His popularity was largely based on the Bolsa família program, which gives poor families cash subsidies for children’s schooling and food, household gas and more. In addition, minimum wages had been raised and good economic growth gave way to many other social reforms.
Despite adversities in the form of corruption scandals and internal quarrels in the government coalition, Lula da Silva remained very popular and is probably the president with the most popular support to date. During his time, Brazil not only became the great power of Latin America, but also took up considerable space in international forums such as the G20, WTO and the UN. Increased private consumption, thanks in large part to the social action programs, and strong investments in the oil and gas industries as well as soybean and ethanol production led to strong economic growth.
Female president and major corruption armies
Lula da Silva was not allowed to stand for re-election in 2010, and then presented his Chief of Staff Dilma Rousseff as the party’s candidate, who after his election victory took office as the country’s first female president. Rousseff’s fight against corruption made her very popular with the population but at the same time unpopular with parts of the political elite.
Economic growth fell sharply during her first years in power. Dissatisfaction with the government led to demonstrations in several parts of the country. The President presented a comprehensive reform package that included increased investments in public transport, healthcare and education as well as measures to combat corruption. Rousseff’s popularity remained high enough for her to be re-elected in 2014.
At the end of 2014, a very large corruption legacy was revealed within the state oil company Petrobras. Millions of dollars had been diverted to political parties and individuals in a systematic looting of the company. Several employees of the Labor Party and former President Lula da Silva were indicted. The scandal and the shrinking economy with subsequent rising unemployment led to mass demonstrations against Rousseff and the government. This grew when it was later revealed that the conglomerate Odebrecht Group paid bribes to contract Petrobras. Both Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva claimed that they were without blame and believed that the opposition was trying to conduct a coup d’état in order to oust a democratically elected president.
In 2016, a majority voted in Parliament’s House of Commons to initiate a judicial process against President Rousseff. She was accused of using revenue from state banks to cover budget deficits, which is contrary to the country’s budget rules. When a majority of senators voted to initiate the process, the president was forced to leave his post. As the investigation into the charges against Rousseff continued, Vice President Michel Temer ruled the country.
Rousseff was ousted by the Senate in August 2016 and Temer was sworn in as president immediately. Brazil, which previously boasted of having one of the world’s few female heads of state, was thus granted a government consisting solely of men.
Ahead of the October 2018 election, the ever-popular Lula da Silva was named the Labor Party presidential candidate, but his candidacy was halted because he was convicted of corruption and sentenced to prison. In his stead, the Labor Party launched Fernando Haddad (born 1963), former Minister of Education and Mayor of São Paulo. Conservative Jair Bolsonaro was named candidate for the Social Liberal Party (PSL) and received strong support in opinion polls for his pledges to stop corruption and violence in the country. Bolsonaro, a former army officer who has served in the country’s parliament since 1991, has also paid tribute to the former military dictatorship.
During the election campaign, Bolsonaro was knife-cut during an election meeting and was forced to lie in hospital for three weeks. The attack caused his popularity to increase even more. In the first round, Bolsonaro got the most votes (46 percent of the vote) while Haddad got 29 percent; in the decisive round, Bolsonaro won with 55 percent of the vote.