Several millions of people lived scattered in
today's Brazil when the Portuguese arrived in the 16th
century. Large sections of the indigenous population
were killed or died of diseases brought by Europeans.
The Portuguese colony declared itself an independent
empire in 1822, but after a military revolt in 1889,
Brazil became a republic. A 1930 revolt brought Getúlio
Vargas to power. During his dictatorial and populist
rule, Brazil was modernized. Vargas was deposed in a
military coup in 1945.
Comprehensive guide to and popular abbreviations of Brazil, covering history, economy, and social conditions.
In 1494, the Spanish and Portuguese regents, under
the supervision of the Pope, signed a treaty, the
so-called Tordesillas Treaty, which gave Africa and
India to Portugal, while the newly discovered continent
of America would fall to Spain. But the boundary between
the two spheres of interest was drawn in the middle of
the Atlantic along a line that cuts straight across the
then undiscovered South America, roughly from the mouth
of the Amazon River and south. The eastern part of Latin
America therefore came by chance to end up on the
When the Europeans came to Brazil, there were no
formations of state equivalent to the Incas on the west
side of the Andes or the Aztec civilization in
present-day Mexico. The Brazilian indigenous people
lived partly in the Amazon and partly along the coasts,
which were then completely forested. They lived as
nomads or semi-nomads and their estimates vary between 5
million and 12 million.
Sailor Pedro Álvares Cabral from Portugal is believed
to have been the first European to reach the coast of
Brazil in 1500. He then believed that he had come to an
insignificant island. However, there are scientists who
claim that a Spaniard was there before Cabral.
On the newly discovered continent's coast, there did
not appear to be gold or other riches that attracted
Europeans. In Portugal, rumors also spread about how
whites ended up in indigenous pans. The only desirable
raw material seemed to be a dye-rich type of wood, which
in Africa was called "Brazil wood" and was named for the
area. The colony lived a thinning life until the French
took an interest in the Brazil tree. In order to
discourage the French, Portugal strengthened its grip on
the area and in 1549 appointed a general governor of
Salvador da Bahia, which became Brazil's capital.
The first European settlers in Brazil were
Portuguese-made prisoners. They were followed by Jews,
who were converted to Christianity and moved to freely
exercise their true faith. With the help of Dutch
capital, Jews in northeastern Brazil built up profitable
sugar crops. In 1600 there were over 100 factories
supplying Europe with sugar.
The indigenous people had helped with tree felling
but did not want to work on the sugar plantations. When
the Portuguese tried to enslave them, the groups came
into closer contact with each other and many urinals
died in European diseases. The colonizers then began to
fetch slaves from Africa. The African west coast is
relatively close to Brazil's northeastern corner and
over 4 million people were shipped as slaves to Brazil.
More than a third of all Africans were brought to the
American continents from the 16th century to the 19th
When Portugal joined Spain in 1580, the Tordesillas
Treaty lost its importance and the Portuguese could
continue west in Brazil, across the assigned border. The
Union was dissolved in 1640 and a little over a century
later, after many disputes, Portuguese and Spaniards set
the boundaries of today's Brazil. When Europeans invaded
the country during the following centuries, most of
Brazil's people were exterminated (see Population and
In 1693, gold was discovered in the current Brazilian
state of Minas Gerais and during the 18th century Brazil
was the world's largest gold producer, but sugar
remained the largest export commodity. Rio de Janeiro
was the export port for the gold and became the capital
In 1808, the Portuguese regent, João VI, fled to Rio
de Janeiro from the Napoleonic Wars in Europe. João VI
then ruled Portugal for 13 years from his exile in
Brazil. Portugal's commercial monopoly was abolished,
Rio de Janeiro opened to all shipping and Brazil raised
to the kingdom, equivalent to the mother country of
Portugal. When João VI returned to Portugal in 1821, he
left his son Pedro as regent. Lisbon again wanted to
make Brazil a colony, but Pedro declared Brazil
independent in 1822 and made himself an emperor. This
construction satisfied both the Republican groups
'demands for independence and the conservatives' desire
to maintain the monarchy.
The Constitution of 1824 allowed Emperor Pedro I to
distribute land and political records. He thus tried to
balance the interests of different groups and regions,
but nevertheless experienced several regional uprisings
before he abdicated in 1831 in favor of his son Pedro,
who was only five years old. A guardianship took over
until the younger Pedro was declared in 1840 and the
following year crowned to Emperor Pedro II. Pedro
reigned for over 40 years and his reign is usually
referred to as a golden age in Brazil's history. He was
personally popular and the country's economy progressed.
During the 19th century, large livestock farms
emerged in southern Brazil. Coffee was also grown there,
which became an important export commodity. In the
north, rubber tapping provided huge revenue, and Manaus
in the Amazon became one of the world's richest cities.
Sugar exports increased as the population grew in the
Europe of industrialism and cotton exports gained a
boost as the civil war in the United States stopped
shipping of cotton from there. Tobacco, leather and
cocoa also became major export goods. But above all, it
was coffee that brought success. Brazil accounted for
more than half of the world's coffee production since
That year largely ended the slave trade, although
Brazil formally abolished slavery only in 1888.
Gradually, many European immigrants came to the coffee
districts. Republicans grew in number. After a military
revolt in 1889, a republican regime was established and
Pedro II abdicated. São Paulo was the nation's richest
state and required extensive regional self-government in
the new federal constitution that was adopted in 1891.
In practice, the wealthiest states also governed federal
policy. The right to vote was limited to a few percent
of the population.
In the early 1900s, wealth grew even more. Coffee
income was invested in textile factories and laid the
foundation for industrialization in the São Paulo area,
while sugar plantations were merged into larger units.
However, prosperity reached only a small part of the
population. The farm workers became poorer. Drought
haunted the country and protests in poor states led to
several riots. In 1930, when there was economic
depression in the world, Getúlio Vargas led a major
revolt and ended the so-called First Republic. With
Vargas as president, a new era began in Brazilian
politics. The power of the states was cut, communists
were persecuted and the union was put under state
control. Industrialization was accelerated and a social
insurance system was introduced. Brazil was partially
inspired by Europe's fascist regimes, and Vargas gave
himself dictatorial power. At the same time, he sent
soldiers to Italy to fight against Nazi Germany in World
War II and had the Allies build military bases in
Eventually, coffee prices fell and the state budget
went into deficit. Vargas invested even harder on
industrialization and attracted foreign capital.
However, under growing popular dissatisfaction with the
single-government regime, the military forced Vargas to
resign in 1945.
Brazil is awarded the Summer Olympics
The International Olympic Committee, the IOC, gives Rio de Janeiro the task
of organizing the Olympics in July 2016.
Settlement of Itaipú
Brazil and Paraguay, which have long disputed the cost of the energy
generated by the giant Itaipú hydroelectric plant at the common border, conclude
an agreement that will end the conflict.
Local election setback for the Labor Party
Despite President Lula da Silva's popularity, the Labor Party (PT), among
others, is losing the mayor's post in São Paulo to the Democratic Democratic
The Minister for the Environment is leaving
Environment Minister Marina Silva, who belongs to the Labor Party (PT)
resigns, among other things, with reference to difficulties in implementing the
government's environmental goals.