The Captaincy System: Differences Between Portuguese Rule and Local Authority in Colonial Brazil

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The Captaincy System: differences between Portuguese rule and local authority in Colonial Brazil

The discovery of Brazil came about in the first half of 1500, when a Portuguese commander named Pedro Álvares Cabral landed on a beach in what is now the state of Bahia. King Manuel of Portugal had commissioned an ocean fleet larger than any of its predecessors, able to carry over a thousand people, and had then offered Cabral the caravels so he could set off with an experienced crew and head to the East Indies. The king expected great riches, since just a year before Vasco da Gama, another Portuguese explorer, had travelled to India and back and brought with him many exotic goods that had marvelled the court. Almost as soon as Cabral’s fleet set out to sea, however, the lead ship, commanded by Cabral himself, swung off course and into the Atlantic, sailing westwards. Cabral and his crew eventually reached the Brazilian coast. The fleet’s scribe, Pero Vaz de Caminha, wrote to King Manuel depicting a realm in which endless resources were available for the taking, and described the native people they encountered. The Portuguese crew preferred to solidify trade rather than impose formal political authority over the Indians they came across, and soon were trading simple objects such as hair combs and mirrors for precious metals such as gold. For the first thirty years after its discovery, Brazil was treated as merely another set of trading posts. Portugal had the background of experiences needed for the colonization of Brazil. The century of exploration and settlement in the Atlantic islands and Africa evolved the two systems that were instituted in Brazil, the feitoria (trading post) and the capitania (proprietary grant or captaincy). The feitoria was both a trading post and a fortification for the protection of the colonists, and required a going trade system with political control remaining in the hands of the nationals. In Brazil, however, where the Indians



Bibliography: De Abreu, J. Capistrano. Capítulos de História Colonial (1500-1800). 4th ed. Rio       de Janeiro: Livraria Briguiet, 1954 Diffie, Bailey W. A History of Colonial Brazil, 1500-1792      Krieger, 1987. Print.  Skidmore, Thomas E. Brazil: Five Centuries of Change. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.       Print.  [ 3 ]. Bailey W. Diffie, A History of Colonial Brazil, 1500–1792 (Florida: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1987), 27. [ 4 ]. Thomas E. Skidmore, Brazil: Five Centuries of Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 10. [ 5 ]. J. Capistrano de Abreu, Capítulos de História Colonial (1500–1800) (Rio de Janeiro, 1954), 95. [ 6 ]. Bailey W. Diffie, A History of Colonial Brazil, 1500–1792 (Florida: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1987), 54. [ 7 ]. Bailey W. Diffie, A History of Colonial Brazil, 1500–1792 (Florida: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1987), 54-5. [ 8 ]. J. Capistrano de Abreu, Capítulos de História Colonial (1500–1800) (Rio de Janeiro, 1954), 92-4. [ 9 ]. Bailey W. Diffie, A History of Colonial Brazil, 1500–1792 (Florida: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1987), 53. [ 11 ]. Bailey W. Diffie, A History of Colonial Brazil, 1500–1792 (Florida: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1987), 19. [ 12 ]. J. Capistrano de Abreu, Capítulos de História Colonial (1500–1800) (Rio de Janeiro, 1954), 94-5. [ 13 ]. Bailey W. Diffie, A History of Colonial Brazil, 1500–1792 (Florida: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, 1987), 63. [ 15 ]. J. Capistrano de Abreu, Capítulos de História Colonial (1500–1800) (Rio de Janeiro, 1954), 103-4. [ 16 ]. J. Capistrano de Abreu, Capítulos de História Colonial (1500–1800) (Rio de Janeiro, 1954), 104. [ 17 ]. Thomas E. Skidmore, Brazil: Five Centuries of Change (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 16.

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