What does Portugal have?

Geoffrey Ireland, Sagres, 1965


Afterword to the book Brief History of Portugal – The Contemporary Era (1807-2020)

“Last flower of Lazio”, “first global empire”, “hyper-late capitalism”, “the longest dictatorship of the 20th century”, “ultracolonialism” (Perry Anderson): it seems that only extreme adjectives could qualify Portugal’s place in modern history. The temptation is great, therefore, to consider the “Portuguese particularity” as a unique singularity in history. A certain nationalist historiography (it would be better to say ideology) falls squarely into this trap. This is the first obstacle that the book by Raquel Varela and Roberto Della Santa, which we have the honor of prefacing, manages to overcome brilliantly. For he starts, to expose and explain Portugal, from national contradictions, that is, from its place in the construction of the world of nations and imperialism, and class, which guided its contemporary history. Portugal's singularities appear as a product of the particular refraction, at the national level, of organic trends in world history, which informed its history practically from the beginning. And it goes without saying that the Carnation Revolution, which, for our generations, took Portugal from the margins of our “immediate history” in 1974-1975, putting Portuguese events in the headlines of newspapers around the world, closed in an extraordinary way ( and also unexpected) the revolutionary cycle of global reach that had begun in 1968, with the French May, the Prague Spring, and other events that announced the end of the “thirty glorious years” of capital. It seems, again, as if singularity haunted Portugal's role in world history. We could only complete the prefacer's task, not by explaining what the book explains in itself, but by summarily introducing the reader to the historical conditions and contradictions that presided over the creation of the specific material of this text, the contemporary history of Portugal.

Portugal was born from a defining event in European history. In the Iberian Peninsula, the war against the Moors was the foundation of the future Iberian States. In 1139, during the Christian reconquest, the Kingdom of Portugal was founded from the Portucalense county, between the Minho and Douro rivers. The reconquest, since the 1249th century, led its kings to cede power to the cities. Portuguese Christians eliminated the last Moorish kingdom in their region in 1297. The approximate stabilization of its borders in 1383 made Portugal the European kingdom with the oldest delimited territory on the continent. In Spain, the conflict with Islam led to the “War of Reconquista” led by Christian princes, which concluded at the end of the 1385th century. In Portugal, well before that, a first national unity was achieved with the “Avis Revolution”, in 1387, resulting from conflicts that resulted in the end of the Afonsina dynasty and the beginning of the Avis dynasty. This revolution resulted in the coronation of João, Master of Avis, as D. João I king of Portugal, in XNUMX. The victory over the kingdom of Castile established the country's independence, with the support of the Portuguese commercial bourgeoisie, which helped to provide the resources needed for the first Iberian “national army”. Portugal, in XNUMX, created the Sisa tax, of a “national” nature. The crisis of the XNUMXth century made overseas enterprise an economic and social alternative, and enabled the Portuguese Crown to strengthen the State, creating a network of dependencies through concessions of favors related to trade in the Atlantic.

This linked the fate of the new kingdom with European history and, soon after, with world history. Listing the succession of countries or blocks of cities whose economic, political and military dominance created the bases of the world market (Venice-Genoa-Pisa in the Low Middle Ages, Spain-Portugal at the beginning of the Modern Era, and soon after Holland, France and England ), Karl Marx identified the character of capital accumulation in each historical phase: each world domination summarized the character of an era. At the origins of capitalism, the first global mode of production, capital was forged in the circulation of goods. In Italian and Northern European coastal cities, first, in Spain and Portugal, later; later in the Netherlands and England, there was a great accumulation of capital generated in trade: in the commercialization of spices from the East (fabrics, pepper, cinnamon, cloves), then in American colonial production (precious metals, wood, paint, sugar , tobacco).

With the establishment of a regular flow of communication and trade with America, the centers of European trade moved to the Atlantic coast. Places emerged where most of the accumulated capital flowed, and peripheries where this capital increased in value, without yet breaking the old economic relations. Portugal's internal trade, even though it was a pioneering country in overseas expeditions, was still superior to the international spice trade (in which Portugal specialized), and was basically based on direct exchange, not through the intervention of money. Most peninsular producers continued to consume part of their production or exchange goods in limited markets for a long time. European economic development was uneven. The economic-social formation of Portugal, based on sesmaria, was not typically feudal, as its roots were not linked to an archaic past or resulting from servile relationships. The Portuguese Crown concentrated a large part of the land and granted its domain conditioned on use, without, however, opening gaps for the process of creating territorial property as a prerequisite for the formation of a free labor market.

The Iberian countries organized and financed expeditions and interoceanic journeys, carried out by Iberian or foreign sailors in the service of the new peninsular states. Initially the Portuguese limited their maritime activity to trade with Europe and Africa, but, in 1415, the conquest of Ceuta, on the Moroccan coast, was the beginning of an expansion that did not stop for more than two centuries, led by a small and poor in resources, largely mountainous and not suitable for agricultural crops. In Portugal, there was relative overpopulation and the impossibility of growing in neighboring territories, dominated by the powerful Castile, in addition to a shortage of grains, fish and spices (and also of precious metals to buy them abroad). Two centuries before the Portuguese, Genoa unsuccessfully attempted the circumnavigation of Africa; Italians and Catalans tried, in 1291 and 1348, to sail along the African coasts south of Cape Bojador, also without success – after these ventures, for almost a century, Europeans abandoned the exploration of the Saharan coast. When this was retaken, in 1415, it was not by Mediterranean merchants, but by men from a poor nation located on the edge of Europe: by Portuguese adventurers and sailors with Portuguese purposes.

Portuguese maritime expansion was preceded by a major internal crisis. The Black Death had decimated the country's urban and rural populations. In 1375, King Fernando regulated the distribution of abandoned lands among the Kingdom's privileged people through the Sesmarias Law. The concessions were free of charge, apart from the obligation to exploit them within a specified period. Once the worst phase of the plague had been overcome, the Portuguese went overseas. A pioneer in maritime exploration, Portugal expanded its territories in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, establishing the first “global empire” in history, with possessions in Africa, South America, Asia and Oceania.[I] By discovering the sea route to the Indies, Portugal took an important part of European trade from the Mediterranean, where Venice dominated, to take it to the Atlantic, where Lisbon took the initiative. In 1415, when the forces of King D. João I conquered Ceuta, they were driven both by the spirit of continuing the reconquest and by commercial interest.

As Muslims attacked and diverted Europeans' Mediterranean trade routes, Portugal invested in sea exploration along the West African coast. From 1419 onwards, experienced navigators, equipped with the most advanced nautical and cartographic developments of the time, explored the western coast of Africa, increasingly towards the South. In 1418 they reached the Madeira archipelago and in 1427 the Azores, where they established captaincies that they prospered from agriculture and a flourishing sugar industry. Gil Eanes crossed Cape Bojador in 1434, leaving behind a previously insurmountable geographical obstacle. The reasons for the Portuguese/Iberian oceanic primacy were the good seafaring tradition and maritime techniques, among which the caravela, a fast, small and easy-to-maneuver boat, the ship that made interoceanic travel possible. The Latin sail,[ii] already illustrated in a miniature from the 1479th century, in the 1482th century it spread throughout the Mediterranean and began to spread to Northern Europe. At this time the modern rudder appeared, which replaced the old side rudder. After perfecting the caravel in the mid-XNUMXth century, in XNUMX Portuguese sailors crossed Ecuador. The Portuguese intensified the search for a maritime route to the “Indies”, the desired East, an alternative to the Mediterranean – dominated by the Italian maritime republics, the Ottomans, the Moors and pirates – to participate in the lucrative spice trade. In XNUMX, Dom João II encouraged new efforts in the search for the extreme south of Africa, despite the previous failures of the endeavor.

It was the beginning of a series of interoceanic voyages, piloted by experienced navigators, in which small nobles embarked with the aim of suddenly becoming rich and returning to the metropolis in a new position in the social hierarchy. As for the crews, “when boarding a ship heading to the New World, Portuguese families, adventurers of all kinds, nobles, religious, exiles, prostitutes and sailors left behind everything that could be related with dignity. There was no privacy or guarantee of physical integrity on board – illness, rape, hunger and thirst were risks inherent to the trip, not to mention the danger of accidents.”[iii] The courage of the first interoceanic navigators was not a legend. Not only the commanders, but mainly the crews, were victims of enormous deaths, due to the dangers inherent in undertakings on unknown routes and lands, and also to diseases for which there was barely any known remedy, such as scurvy. Under these conditions, it was impossible to preserve the health of the crew, “especially given the difficulty of supplying the vessels with adequate food supplies capable of withstanding the long weather and antagonistic climates of inter-hemispheric voyages, often extended beyond what was planned in due to conditions that did not always fit into previous calculations of supplies made on land”, which made a soldier from the West India Company write that the South Atlantic had become a “large, wide and deep tomb”.[iv]

When, in 1486, the Portuguese king gave Bartolomeu Dias command of a maritime expedition, he did so with the explicit motive of meeting and establishing relations with the legendary African Christian king known as Prestes João,[v] but also to explore the African coast and find a route to the East. The two fifty-ton caravels and their auxiliary ship first passed through Spencer Bay and Cape Voltas. Finally, in 1488 Bartolomeu Dias rounded the southern cape of the African continent, entering the Indian Ocean from the Atlantic for the first time. Dias realized that he had passed through the southern tip of Africa, surpassing what he called the “Cape of Storms”: the Portuguese king, with a more precise idea of ​​what had happened, changed this name to “Cape of Good Hope” due to the possibilities that the domain of this new route opened to the Crown. The opening of the direct route between Europe and the Far East, through Cape navigation, ended the monopoly that Islamic Egypt had over this route. It was, not by chance, in Portugal that Columbus began to conceive his pioneering transoceanic travel project, inspired by the feverish environment of navigation, discovery, commerce and scientific development that transformed Lisbon, in the second half of the XNUMXth century, into a rich and active port of international dimension, and Portugal is the country of the best, most daring and experienced sailors, with the greatest nautical knowledge of the time.

After Columbus' arrival in the Americas, Portugal also carried out reconnaissance trips to the new continent, with Duarte Pacheco Pereira in 1498 and Pedro Alvares Cabral in 1500. And it wasn't long before Portugal ventured, at a dizzying pace, into the eastern latitudes: “Except for Japan, which was only visited in 1543, the remaining coasts of the Asian seas were recognized by the Portuguese, the protagonists of the first European expansion through these waters, in the very brief interval of fifteen years: between 1500 and 1509, exploration centered in the western Indian Ocean, up to Ceylon; the last of these years coincided with the arrival in Malacca of the squadron of the future governor Diogo Lopes de Sequeira, opening the 'South Seas' route, a process that was practically completed between the second and third years after the conquest of same city (1511). It was from Malacca that the eastern Indian Ocean and the China and Archipelago seas were systematically explored. In the order in which they were recognized: the ports of the Bay of Bengal (1511-1514); the ports of Siam (1511); the islands of Maluco (Maluku, or Moluccan islands) and Banda (1512); and China (1513). Previous exploration of the Atlantic took three quarters of a century. The rapidity with which progress towards the East is explained in good part by the use that the newcomers show that they know how to make of the experience of the routes, ports and monsoons that Asian commercial navigation used there regularly, especially that of long distances, led by the Muslims.”[vi]

As already noted, Portugal had taken the lead in the process of overseas expansion in African waters, reaching Guinea in 1460, the Ivory Coast in 1471, the Congo in 1482, and the Cape of Good Hope in 1488. Then, in 1498, he reached Calicut (Calcutta), with Vasco da Gama; in 1500 Brazil, in 1512 the Moluccas Islands; Portuguese ships expelled the Arabs from Sofala and Zanzibar, destroyed the Egyptian fleet, opening the Red Sea and Persian Gulf routes. Frédéric Mauro distinguished three “epochs” in the 1500th century. In the first (1530-1540), the decisive fact was that the Portuguese took control of the spice market, and the Mediterranean, dominated by the Turks, ceded its commercial space to the Atlantic. Charles R. Boxer defined Portugal as the first “global empire”: the first Portuguese oceanic expansion, however, had more of a commercial character (with enclaves and trading posts) than a colonial one. Still, by XNUMX, the Portuguese held the most important ports in India and the Far East. A kind of “degenerate” Portuguese became the lingua franca of the East not only among natives and Portuguese, but also among sailors of different European nationalities, and continued to be used until the second half of the XNUMXth century. The Portuguese sought to break Muslim and Venetian dominance in access to spices and the export of Asian luxury goods, and to establish their own hegemony in the maritime routes to Asia, which they almost achieved, through the establishment of friendly commercial relations with producers and Asian traders.[vii] In the 16th century, Portuguese ships crossed the Indian Ocean and transported almost half of the spices destined for Europe and the Ottoman Empire, a trade from which the Portuguese Crown derived a large part of its income.

Thanks to expeditions, firstly Portuguese, in Europe the idea of ​​a world that coincided with the Earth as it is was gradually consolidated: “The limits of the real world changed with each caravel that set sail to circumnavigate the coasts. of Africa and the Northeast, towards the Indies... The king of Portugal had already sent Jewish emissaries to seek out the kingdom of Prestes João, who was said to be a powerful Christian monarch from remote lands, who maintained contact with the Lost Tribes (of Israel)".[viii] Through the feverish desire to discover unknown places, or to verify the reality of legends, a historical process with deep roots was taking shape, certainly unconscious to the majority of its protagonists: “Portuguese expansion began under a classic Mediterranean model, although its consequences were destined to end the centrality of the Mediterranean (and 'Antiquity') forever”.[ix] For strength in the Mediterranean was no longer enough; commercial hegemony began to play itself out in another scenario. The discovery of routes to America and the success of Portuguese attempts to circumnavigate Africa caused world trade to shift in opposite directions: the oceans became the site of the main commercial role in Europe, displacing the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.

The state financing of the interoceanic company was preceded by private financing on the part of Italian commercial colonies located in Spanish-Portuguese cities – Charles Tilly referred to the decisive participation in this financing of leaders and Genoese businessmen, eager for “commercially viable colonies” – as well as Sephardic Jewish traders, from the first Atlantic expeditions, which opened the way for interoceanic travel, and had as a precondition the creation of state units in Portugal and Spain. Supported by still precarious geographic knowledge, the Iberian overseas enterprise was planned and politically (that is, religiously) legitimized. In the mid-1456th century, the sharing of the spoils of future Atlantic expansion, which was supposed to lead to unknown lands, was agreed in advance by the Iberian countries with the Church, with decrees such as that of Pope Nicholas V (in 1455) benefiting the king of Portugal , corrected by successive popes. In XNUMX, the Pope authorized the perpetual servitude of populations considered “enemies of Christ”, justifying the slavery of Africans (especially on Portuguese plantations in Madeira).

It was read in the papal bull Romanus Pontifex: “We, considering the deliberation necessary for each of the matters indicated, and since, previously, the aforementioned King Afonso of Portugal was granted by other letters, among other things, the full faculty, in relation to any Saracen and pagan and other enemies of Christ, wherever they may be found, kingdoms, duchies, principalities, lordships, possessions, movable and immovable property possessed by them, from invading, conquering, fighting, defeating and subduing; and to subject the members of their families to perpetual servitude, to take advantage of themselves and their successors, to possess and use for their own use and that of their successors, kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, lordships, possessions and other assets that belong to them.” Putting an end to the war of succession in Castile, the Treaty of Alcáçovas was signed on September 4, 1479, between Afonso V of Portugal and the Catholic Monarchs, Fernando II of Aragon and Isabel I of Castile. The treaty established peace between Portugal and Castile, as well as formalizing the Portuguese sovereign's renunciation of his claims to the Castilian throne. The Treaty also regulated the two countries' possessions in the Atlantic, recognizing Portugal's dominance over the island of Madeira, the Azores, Cape Verde and the Guinea Coast, while at the same time assigning the Canary Islands to Castile. As Castile also renounced sailing south of Cape Bojador, in practice a line was drawn to the North of which the lands would belong to Castile and, to the South, to Portugal. For the first time, the possession of undiscovered land was regulated. Religious motivations conditioned the conquests of Christian powers in the East, Africa and the new continents.

Spain and Portugal, emerging powers, found themselves favored by papal decisions, their economies received a jolt of vigor from overseas trade before the rise of the bourgeoisie in England, under Queen Elizabeth I, and the consolidation of the continental power of France, under Henry IV. . The nascent economic power was, however, the Netherlands, destination of Venetian bankers' monetary flows. The Iberian powers (Spain and Portugal), however, defined a new stage in the expansion of world trade. Interoceanic Atlantic voyages changed the conditions of the Iberian division of new territories. When Dom João II of Portugal claimed them, the Spanish monarchs protested by appealing to the pope and invoking a Crusade statute that allowed Catholic rulers to appropriate pagan lands to propagate the faith. In May 1493, responding to Spain's demand, Pope Alexander VI issued a bull, addressed to all of Christendom, in which he recognized the rights of the two kingdoms over the discovered lands and undiscovered lands that did not belong, until Christmas 1492, to no other Christian sovereign. The leaflet Inter Coetera drew a fictitious line, from North to South, a hundred leagues west of the Azores and Cape Verde, Atlantic islands belonging to Portugal, through which all discovered and undiscovered lands located west of that meridian were attributed to Spain, and to Portugal the lands located to the East.

Thus, at the time of Columbus' arrival in American lands, Spain and Portugal were in dispute to gain rights over possible overseas discoveries. In 1481 Portugal had obtained from the Pope a bull that separated the new lands by a parallel at the height of the Canary Islands, dividing the world into two hemispheres: the North, for the Crown of Castile, and the South, for the Crown of Portugal. Two cycles of expansion were defined: the eastern cycle, through which the Portuguese Crown guaranteed its progress towards the South and East, bypassing the African coast, and the western cycle, through which Spain ventured into the Atlantic Ocean, towards the West. It was as a result of this Spanish effort that Columbus arrived in American lands. Iberian expansion displaced the world's economic and, therefore, geopolitical center of gravity from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic West. Unlike the previous Hanseatic expansion, the Iberian overseas expansion still brought with it the idea of ​​conquering territories; nobles associated themselves with merchants, using overseas travel to spread the Christian faith. Pope (1492-1503) Alexander VI, Spanish, issued a series of four bulls establishing a policy in favor of Spain. The first two bulls gave Spain title to the discoveries of Columbus and other western lands, as long as the native population was converted to Christianity. The third papal bull limited the western area to all discovered lands, beginning one hundred leagues west of the islands of Cape Verde and the Azores. This bull gave the Spanish the right to eastern lands through circumnavigation through the West. The fourth leaflet, the Dudum Siguidem, published in August 1493, annulled any previous orders from the pope that favored the Portuguese.

At the end of the 15th century, still without international diplomacy between States, the papacy's blessing was necessary for any international initiative: the line of the bull Inter Coetera It passed through the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and practically did not incorporate lands from the New World into Portugal's portion. As Pope Alexander VI undermined all the claims of the sovereign of Portugal with his bulls, the Portuguese pressed for a new negotiation with Spain with a view to reviewing the position of the newly drawn meridian. This reconfiguration was linked to the first attempt to divide the world through a contract between Spain and Portugal, finally carried out in 1494. Without interference from the papacy, the Treaty of Tordesillas, which amended the papal bulls, was the first document in which the interests of nations subordinated the interests of Christianity, it was signed by the King of Portugal and the Catholic Monarchs, redefining the distribution of the world. The Tordesillas meridian was stipulated at 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands, expanding the hundred leagues originally set out in the Bull Inter Coetera. The lands to the West would belong to Spain and the lands to the East, to Portugal: “The controversy over future discoveries was resolved by adopting the Castellan thesis, a meridian, instead of the parallel of Cape Bojador, as the Portuguese intended. This criterion prevailed in the treaty relating to the African question… These clauses annulled the peace of 1479 and the papal bulls of 1493.”[X]

For the first time, States imposed their will on the Vatican, nothing less than to divide the known world, and also the one to be known. The treaty was ratified by Pope Julius II in 1506, when it was also decided to proceed with the exact determination of the meridian. In practice, the Tordesillas meridian resulted in the incorporation of a large fraction of the New World territory into Portugal's domains. The Tordesillas line was never precisely demarcated during the colonial period, varying the interpretation of the cartographers who worked on the task. However, the discovery of the Moluccas Islands (the spice islands) raised a question about the extent of the Tordesillas line, which divided the orb in half, but whose route on the other side of the world (the Southern Hemisphere) remained undefined. As at the time there were no techniques for measuring longitudes, it was necessary to resolve the issue through bargaining, which resulted in the Treaty of Zaragoza, dated April 22, 1529, signed by D. João III of Portugal and Carlos V of Spain. Under this agreement, Portugal would pay Spain for possession of the Moluccas Islands, while the Zaragoza meridian would be drawn from the Sail Islands, close to the Moluccas.

As the 16th century progressed, Ottoman naval superiority in the known world was challenged by the growing maritime power of western Europe, particularly Portugal, in the Persian Gulf, Indian Ocean, and Spice Islands. The triangular Europe-Africa-America trade caused a great accumulation of money, which laid the foundations for financing European capitalism. Marx was among the first to establish the link between external violence in the colonies and the internal accumulation of capital in Europe: “Conquest, plunder, extermination; This is the reality of the influx of precious metals into Europe in the 16th century. Through the royal treasuries of Spain and Portugal, the coffers of merchants, the accounts of bankers, this gold was completely 'laundered' when it reached the coffers of financiers in Genoa, Antwerp or Amsterdam”:[xi] In Europe, “the use of precious metals was essential. Without them, Europe would have lacked the collective confidence to develop a capitalist system, in which profit is based on various deferrals of realized value.”[xii]

Other political processes, with geopolitical consequences, were taking place in Europe. Just like the Netherlands, England benefited from the migratory flow resulting from the religious persecution carried out in Spain and Portugal, in addition to developing a great ability to appropriate new technologies and improve them.[xiii] The broad development of European trade was hampered by Christian religious intransigence, which expelled Jews from much of Europe: from England in 1290, from France in 1306, then definitively in 1394, from Spain in 1492, from Portugal in 1496. The Inquisition (Court of the Holy Office) expelled hundreds of thousands of Jews until then concentrated in the Iberian Peninsula (favoring their spread across wider territories), many of them long-distance traders, spreading them in various directions, in Europe or outside it. They were responsible for creating some of the first worldwide commercial networks. This helped to move the international center of trade, initially located in the Iberian countries dominated by Catholic dynasties, to other directions, which favored the thesis, defended by Werner Sombart, that made the Jews responsible for the emergence of capitalism.

In Portugal, some Jews arrested and tortured by the Inquisition demanded freedom of thought: Izaque de Castro, in 1646, told his judges at the Court of the Holy Office: “Freedom of conscience is a natural law”. In a context dominated by the expansion of commercial and financial capital, “the Jewish diaspora favored networks of trust conducive to the development of banks and commerce. The expulsion that took place in Spain (1492) and Portugal (1496)[xiv] Of the Jews who refused conversion, he created a diaspora in Tuscany (Livorno), the Netherlands (Amsterdam), London, Hamburg, Venice, the Ottoman Empire (Thessaloniki, Izmir, Istanbul, Alexandria, Tunis), Morocco. In the 16th and 17th centuries, the Marranos[xv] they left Spain and Portugal, settling in Amsterdam and Leghorn, where a certain number of them freely re-Jewished; in Bordeaux, London and Hamburg they maintained their dual identity – publicly Christian and privately Jewish.”[xvi]

In the midst of these events, Portugal unfolded: in 1500, the Portuguese Pedro Álvares Cabral, captain-general of the fleet of the first Portuguese expedition to the Indies after the return of Vasco da Gama, arrived in Brazil with thirteen ships and 1.200 men (compare with less than a hundred men on three ships from the first Colombian expedition, just eight years earlier), the largest fleet ever organized in Portugal, with the mission of founding a trading post in “India”. Once installed, Cabral went to Africa and Calicut, where he captured Arab boats and loaded local products and spices, returning to Lisbon in June 1501. The “race for the world” was launched, with vast consequences. In the Iberian countries, “the enthusiasm for the discovery and conquest of the Indies gave way to the appreciation of modernity being imposed on that of classical Antiquity, profoundly transforming the aspect of Renaissance humanism” in these countries.[xvii] In Portugal “the discoveries brought a wealth of information and notions of the most varied order”. Through these sources, and the observation of things, “especially in those who saw or experienced them in action or thought, an intellectual, intuitive and practical consciousness emerged, which often affected theoretical culture”.[xviii]

Portugal, above all, played a central role in the emergence and establishment of modern slavery, which assumed the dimensions of a demographic catastrophe in Africa. The Portuguese capture of African slaves began in 1441, when Afetam Gonçalves kidnapped a couple on the western coast of the Sahara to present to the king of Portugal, who received him with a commercial vision of the potential of the feat. In 1443, Nuno Tristão brought the first important contingent of African slaves, selling them at a profit in Portugal: “In command of the assault on communities on the African Atlantic coast and the search for a route to the Indies, the Portuguese Crown received the monopoly from Rome over those seas and the right to enslave the inhabitants of the coast, in payment for the expenses and effort with the extension of Christianity. In 1444, the royal chronicler Eanes de Zurara described in Guinea Chronicle, the first significant landing in the Algarve, in southern Portugal, of Berber and black-African captives captured on the northern Atlantic coast of Africa. He recalled that, despite being desperate, the captives were favored by the new situation, as they would obtain, in exchange for the imprisonment of their bodies, the eternal liberation of their souls. The Portuguese mainly justified the slavery of black Africans by their proposed physical and cultural inferiority, expressed in the black body and in the low cultural level of the prisoners, arrived from the African coast. Non-functional explanation for the slavery of the Moors, with a cultural level equal to or greater than the Lusitanians. Black Africans were called 'black Moors' and, when they outnumbered Muslims, simply 'blacks' and 'blacks'. For the first time in history, a community became the dominant seedbed of captives.”[xx]

In 1444, six Portuguese caravels were sent in search of slaves and, in 1445, 26 expeditions headed for this and other purposes to the western African coasts. In the middle of the XNUMXth century, large-scale slave trafficking began with a European center. Initially the product of individual initiatives, which were limited to the offspring (forced adoption) of isolated women and children, or the capture of the population of small coastal villages, in the second half of the 15th century, African slavery promoted by the Portuguese began to take on new contours: “They incited the black chiefs and kings to start wars among themselves ; They bought prisoners of war from the winner, with which they financed the costs of new battles. Slavery was no longer a secondary phenomenon or consequence of wars, but their objective. The Portuguese allied with Mohammedans against Mohammedans, with pagans against pagans; the booty of prisoners of war was passed on to them as slaves, under a prior contract. This merchandise was sent, in chains, to distribution stations in Portugal. Long chains hung from them, tied around their necks.”[xx] From 1450 onwards, more than a thousand slaves began to arrive in Portugal annually. In the period 1469-1474, the Portuguese arrived in the Gulf of Biafra, finding a larger and better organized local slave trade, as well as other tempting riches: chilli pepper, ivory and gold, which opened new commercial opportunities and allowed the Portuguese to penetrate markets Europeans, even far from their country, where they were previously unknown. In 1479, Castile recognized that western Africa was an exclusively Portuguese sphere of action. In the following century, Portugal consolidated itself as a great maritime, commercial and slave power, having a near monopoly on African trafficking.

The transfer of slaves was carried out in the holds of overcrowded boats (where Africans traveled in chains), which caused immense deaths. The average number of slaves killed during the Atlantic crossing on slave ships was estimated, for the period 1630-1803, at almost 15%, although higher estimates exist. Even with these losses, eight times more Africans than Portuguese made up the future Brazil, called in Portugal “the colony that worked” (and for good reason), the main American destination for the slave trade. From 1600 onwards, the Portuguese suffered competition from the English and Dutch, not only in matters of slavery: “It was precisely the nations of Northwest Europe that developed the most fully (and also most cruelly) the African-American slavery system. . In other words, those 'people' who supposedly most hate the very idea of ​​slavery were those who most systematically practiced it with their 'others'. And this is far from being the only paradoxical phenomenon of modernity, if we remember that, for example — and contrary to what a very common sense incarnate tends to think — the worst persecutions and executions of the Inquisition and the most systematic 'witch hunts' do not they occurred in the Middle Ages, but from the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries onwards, and their most concentrated forms did not occur both in Spain and in Northern Europe (in Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands and partially in France)”.[xxx]

The total figures for American slavery are imprecise: Katia de Queirós Mattoso pointed out that more than 9,5 million Africans were transported to the Americas between 1502 and 1860, with Portuguese Brazil being the largest importer (around 40% of the total trafficking ). The slave trade reached its peak in the 14th century, well into the “age of capital”. According to estimates that accounted for all forms of trafficking, between the end of the XNUMXth century and the second half of the XNUMXth century, African slavery involved the capture, sale and transfer of approximately thirteen million individuals (Eric Williams even estimated a figure greater than XNUMX million ).[xxiii] Just for comparison, “white European” emigration to the Americas, between the initial discovery and 1776, barely exceeded one million individuals. During the 1660th century, the slave trade was a Portuguese monopoly. It was only well after Portugal that England founded, from XNUMX onwards, African warehouses to capture slaves for American plantations. The Dutch, in turn, imported slaves from Asia to their colony in South Africa. In Brazil, the cultivation of sugar cane in Pernambuco, Bahia and Rio de Janeiro generated the need for more and more slaves, only later did gold exploration took the most important place, however, the import of Africans destined for agriculture did not cease.

Between 1500 and the mid-1,2th century, colonial Brazil was the American region that imported the most slaves, more than two million people, followed, by far, by the British West Indies, with just over 1810 million. According to Mário Maestri “Perhaps five million captives arrived in Brazil [until the second half of the 200th century], taken from multiple regions of Black Africa, with emphasis on the Gulf of Guinea and the current Angolan and Mozambican coasts. In addition to sporadic concentrations of captives of the same origin in some regions and periods of colonial and imperial Brazil, a myriad of Africans with different languages, cultures and traditions dominated”. The profits from this slave trade were a substantial part of capital accumulation for several centuries: “A tumbeiro's journey between Bahia and Sierra Leone in the XNUMXs could generate a return of more than XNUMX% on the capital invested... The second Banco do Brasil was born with capital from trafficking and lived off loans to slave owners… The large slave owners made huge profits because they exercised monopoly power. They held the best lands, as they obtained their credit in the form of stocks of slaves. Thus they flooded the world markets with tropical items. In the case of traffickers, some families controlled more than half of the slave market in Rio de Janeiro.”[xxiii] The economic exploration of the New World would have been impossible without massive African slavery. It was already sacralized in its initial stages by the Christian Church: already in the bull dum miscellaneous, in 1452, Pope Nicholas V granted the king of Portugal, D. Afonso V, and his successors, the ability to conquer and subjugate the lands of the “infidels” and reduce them to slavery.

Slave labor was first used in mining in the New World. Europe's need for precious metals was determined by its low productivity, especially agricultural, in relation to the East, a productivity whose increase was the first necessary step to guarantee food for all members of society and, subsequently, to provide existence of many people fed by agricultural surpluses and employed in administrative, military, priestly, commercial, artisanal and industrial activities. It was based on these sometimes pressing needs that the economic drive of the Ibero-American colonial system initially developed. In the Portuguese case, its policy allowed a “poor Crown, but ambitious in its undertakings (and which) sought support from its vassals, linking them to the networks of power structures and the bureaucracy of the patrimonial State”,[xxv] build a colonial empire. These vassals were the settlers, who assumed, on their own, the risks of the colonial enterprise, receiving advantages and privileges ,.

The slavery system was also, from the beginning of the colonization of America, linked to the large farm: “Slavery and large-scale farming constituted in many areas the basis on which the colonial system was built, which was in force for more than three centuries.”[xxiv] In fact, almost four centuries. In the case of the future Brazil, the American lands received and occupied by Portugal seemed to lack precious metals and indigenous cultures developed enough to provide sufficient labor, as was the case in some important areas in Spanish America. The problem for the Portuguese Crown consisted of finding the type of exploration that would contribute to financing the expenses resulting from the possession of such extensive and distant lands. Special factors led to the establishment of sugar production: mastery of its production technique, learned from the Italians and which had already been used in the Azores islands; rupture of the European commercial sugar monopoly, held until then by Venice in collaboration with the Dutch, which opened the North Atlantic markets to the Portuguese. The enslavement of indigenous people allowed the establishment of the first devices. The “lord of the mill”, an authority above all in Portuguese Brazil, did not accept orders, not even from representatives of God. He was therefore identified with the feudal lord. In villages and workplaces, the crossing of the Portuguese language with Tupi, the majority indigenous ethnic group, gave way to the “general language”, based on the historical evolution of ancient Tupi, used in daily life in the colony until well into the 18th century.

As agricultural and mining operations gained greater profitability, indigenous labor was replaced by the work of black Africans. The sugar plantation, using slave labor, formed the basis of the colonization of Northeast Brazil, reaching its peak at the end of the 16th century and the beginning of the following. Sugar stood out as the most important product and regulator of other colonial agricultural crops; The work of black slaves was the basis of this economic expansion. The colonist was one who promoted “mercantile devastation and the desire to return to the kingdom, to display the glories of opulence”.[xxv] And there would be no limits to his actions. The spaces dedicated to subsistence farming for slaves were reduced as the demand for sugar in European markets increased. The productive space was regulated according to the economic needs of the moment, with the least concern being ensuring survival conditions for the Indian or black slave. In the simple and blunt formulation of Alberto Passos Guimarães: “Under the sign of violence against native populations, whose congenital right to land ownership was never respected, much less exercised, latifundium was born and developed in Brazil. From this stigma of illegitimacy, which is his original sin, he would never redeem himself.”[xxviii]

With colonization based on the production or extraction of primary goods for export, the foundations of Brazilian latifundia were laid. When Dom João III, king of Portugal, systematically divided the Portuguese colonial territory in America into large estates called captainships, there were already captains-mores appointed for them. What was done then was to demarcate the land, assign or declare their respective rights, and establish the duties that the colonists had to pay to the king or grantees, with the sum of the powers conferred by the Portuguese Crown authorizing them to dispatch charters, a type of contract by virtue of which the sesmeiros or colonists constituted themselves as perpetual tributaries of the Crown and its grantees or captains-major. The land divided into lordships, within the lordship of the State, this was the general outline of the administrative system in the first phase of Brazil's colonial history. The public and private spheres were intertwined: there was a confusing relationship between the State and individuals. The Crown passed on public tasks to individuals: the administration of territories and collection of taxes and, on the other hand, people who carried out administrative tasks, directly or indirectly linked to the State, used them for their own benefit. A high-ranking official who intended to return rich to the Portuguese metropolis would only have problems if he touched the Crown's money or if he clashed with the most important groups of colonists.[xxviii] The Portuguese Crown made use of private initiative, and relied on it to develop its colonial project, but always under its control: it used private human and financial resources to achieve its colonization projects, without bearing any burden, although giving in, in exchange for this support, lands, positions, income and noble titles.[xxix]

The Portuguese Crown only acted directly when the situation required it or when the benefits were clear in advance. At the beginning of the American colonization process, the Crown reserved for itself the pau brazil, even if it leased its exploration and ceded the exploration and extraction of metals, still unknown, keeping for itself the possibility of charging the fifth. The general government of the colony was created at a time when indigenous resistance threatened the continuity of the Portuguese presence from São Vicente to Pernambuco. In this way, the relationship was established between the Crown, mediated or not by its representatives in the colony – grantees, general governors – and the colonists. The Crown used private initiative and resources, and the colonists sought rewards for their services, the “honors and mercy”, common in colonial documents.[xxx] The Crown made wide use of this policy of concessions in exchange for services: a particular project approved by the Crown always contained promises of honors and favors. The king himself encouraged such a policy by requesting information about the settlers and also directing the governors to inform the settlers of the Crown's satisfaction or not with the services provided.[xxxii]

The main objective of the Spanish or Portuguese who undertook the conquest was to extract a surplus that could be transferred to Europe. The parasitic character of the colonial system lacked the characteristics that gave historical support to feudalism or capitalism in Europe. Slave labor in the Americas was directly related to the consolidation of the commercial infrastructure necessary for export. There would, therefore, be a strict separation between masters and slaves, which implied rules of conduct and respect, under penalty of punishment: the black man was the property of his master, and he did whatever he wanted of him. Black people became the main productive and working element of Portuguese America because the colonist had no interest in working (he wanted to show off wealth and titles of nobility) and also because the Indians, good hunters, fishermen and extractivists, did not adapt or resist the methodical work that large farming required. The African slave thus constituted a productive necessity in the colony, from the point of view of the colonizers.

For the colonialist powers, overseas possessions should, above all, provide the metropolis with a market for its products; provide employment to its unemployed producers, artisans and sailors; provide him with a certain quantity of the items (exotic or essential) he needed, as well as products for export to other countries. The colonies should be, and were for a long period, factors in the economic enrichment of the metropolis. In the different stages of the colonial system, only in the last one did colonialism definitively configure itself as the organic foundation of metropolitan capitalism: “The different stages of original accumulation have their centers, in chronological order, in Spain, Portugal, Holland, France and England. It is there, in England, where, at the end of the 17th century, the public debt system, the modern tax system and the protectionist system were systematically summarized and synthesized in the colonial system”.[xxxi]

Although the Americas were the “jewels in the crown”, Portuguese colonial expansion also reached Asia. In 1513 the Portuguese arrived in China and in 1543, using the route opened at the end of the previous century by Bartolomeu Dias, Portuguese ships, on a commercial trip to China, arrived, thanks to a detour caused by a storm, in Japan, where they found “ the best of the people discovered to date, and we will certainly not find better among the infidels. They are of pleasant trade; generally good, they lack malice and are proud of their honor, which they value more than anything else.” The Jesuit missionary Francisco Xavier arrived in the great archipelago of the Far East in 1549, opening an important commercial contact. In his wake, hundreds of thousands of Japanese subjects converted to Christianity. The Portuguese (called “southern barbarians” by Japanese authorities) discovered the opportunity to act as Europe's main intermediaries in Asian trade.[xxxii]

The Portuguese settled in Nagasaki in 1570, at the same time that the Spaniard Miguel López de Legazpi began the Spanish colonization of the Philippine Islands, followed soon after by the founding of Manila. In Japan, the Portuguese “hit the jackpot in relation to the spice trade; In 1571, the (Portuguese) state established permanent facilities in the Jesuit-run port of Nagasaki to exploit it. In the beginning, the Crown granted, for merit in service, licenses for travel from India not only to Japan, but also to Macau, as gifts for Portuguese employees or officials. Portugal quickly appreciated the potential of the Japan-China trade in silver and silk, and fought to extract the maximum advantage... It was estimated at 200 thousand ducats the return of a single round trip, more than half of what Portugal had paid to Spain to permanently renounce its claims to the Spice Islands.”[xxxv] The Portuguese Crown began to regulate trade with Japan by selling the annual “captaincy” to Japan to the highest bidder, granting exclusive trade rights to a single ship to carry out the activity.

This trade continued with some interruptions until 1638, when it was prohibited due to the fact that Portuguese ships were smuggling Catholic priests into Japan. Portuguese trade was already facing increasing competition from Chinese smugglers, Spanish ships from Manila, the Dutch from from 1609, and the English from 1613. The Dutch first arrived in Japan in 1600, dedicated themselves to piracy and naval combat to weaken the Portuguese and Spanish, becoming the only Westerners to have access to Japan from from the small enclave of Dejima after 1638 and for the next two centuries. In 1614, the Tokugawa Shogun's anti-Christian decree closed the country to European influences and contacts, which lasted for two and a half centuries: “The comparison between the scarce role obtained by the Portuguese in China and Japan, in relation to successes achieved in the Indian Ocean, reveals one of the reasons for this success. Both in India and in the West, the Portuguese took advantage of the multiplicity of political systems that existed there, which interacted with each other, and used the spaces left empty by local adversaries engaged in continuous conflicts”.[xxxiv]

Portuguese trade with the Japanese, which even included the exchange of words (the arigato Japanese or sha, or xá, Portuguese) lasted until the end of the 1590th century, and was accompanied by Christian evangelization, which acquired aggressive tones, criticizing Japanese Buddhism for its lack of belief in life after death, and its permissiveness towards “the vice of Sodom ”. In 300, according to the Jesuits (already constituted as global guardians of the papacy), there were already XNUMX Christians in Japan, recruited both from the caste of great lords and from the people. At the end of the century, Portuguese-Japanese commercial relations began to decline, thanks, first, to the arrival of the Dutch, “modern” traders who did not insist on mixing trade with religious proselytism, and then to the unification of the country under the aegis of the shogun Tokugawa, which put an end to Japan's “Christian century.” In addition to its Asian incursions, the Dutch West India Company, created in 1621,[xxxiv] obtained a quarter-century monopoly on trade and navigation on the west coast of Africa, a region partially occupied by the Portuguese, from whom the Dutch also tried to steal the sugar regions on the other side of the Atlantic. The Portuguese presence in the Far East continued on the island of Macau, granted for commercial use by the Chinese emperor. Portuguese traders settled on an island in southwestern Japan, introducing firearms to the country. In their overseas expeditions, the Portuguese rarely advanced far beyond the coasts, but they began to control twenty thousand kilometers of coastline on three continents.

It seemed that the Iberian powers, masters of the world, would clash for world power in the Asian theater. The “Iberian Union” avoided this: it ruled the Iberian Peninsula from 1580 to 1640, as a result of the dynastic union between the monarchies of Portugal and Spain after the war of the Portuguese succession, which began in 1578, when the Portuguese Empire was at its height . The predation of Portuguese trading posts in the East by the Dutch, English and French, and their intrusion into the Atlantic slave trade, undermined the profitable Portuguese monopoly in the oceanic spice trade and slave trade, beginning a long decline of the Portuguese empire. During the union with Spain, however, Portugal benefited from Spanish military power to keep Brazil under its rule and prevent Dutch trade, but events led the Portuguese metropolis to a state of increasing economic dependence on its colonies, on India and then Brazil. The Iberian Union resulted in control by the unified peninsular kingdoms of a world-wide expanse: Portugal dominated the African and Asian coasts around the Indian Ocean; Castile, the Pacific Ocean and the coasts of Central and South America, while both shared the Atlantic space.

The joining of the two crowns, however, deprived Portugal of an independent foreign policy, and led the country into conflicts against Spain's enemies. The Portuguese war against the Dutch led to their invasions in Ceylon and, in South America, in Salvador, in 1624, and in Olinda and Recife in 1630. Without autonomy or strength to defend its overseas possessions in the face of the Dutch offensive, the Portuguese kingdom lost much of its former strategic advantage. In the metropolis, the new situation, which also affected the internal situation of the Kingdom, culminated in a revolution led by the Portuguese nobility and high bourgeoisie in December 1640. The subsequent “Portuguese Restoration War” against Philip IV of Spain concluded with the end of Iberian Union and the beginning of a new Portuguese dynasty, after a war marked by the depletion of the public treasury, troops, and the discontent of the populations after a long conflict.[xxxviii] Portugal's old international position was not recovered, although the country's independence was restored under the Bragança dynasty.[xxxviii] The decline of the “first global empire” marked the end of a first phase of primitive capital accumulation in European metropolises. Others would come, surpassing it, but maintaining its slave base.

The new world relations conditioned the new European order, consecrating the regression of the Iberian power. At the end of the 16th century, the beginning of a change in the balance of power and the change of the economic axis towards the North Sea were evident; the occasion for the decline of Spain, Portugal and Italy and the emergence of the “Northern Netherlands” (the Netherlands) and England. The clashes between European powers in the 16th and 17th centuries were of such scope that Charles R. Boxer did not hesitate in classifying them as the “first war of global scope”. In The capital, Marx referred to “the commercial war between European nations, with the globe as the stage. It was inaugurated by the uprising in the Netherlands against Spanish domination (and) assumed gigantic proportions in the English anti-Jacobin war”. For various reasons, linked to its internal economic structure, “the Mediterranean area (Portugal, Spain, Italy, the Ottoman Empire), on economic rise in the 16th century, suffered a decline that, in many ways, was absolute, and also involved northwestern Europe”.[xxxix]

From the second half of the 16th century onwards, “the most notable fact was the progress of the maritime powers of the West and Northwest of Europe, taking the place of Spain and Portugal. France had a role of secondary importance, although honorable. Its foreign trade developed mainly with Spain, which needed its products and could only pay with cash, and with England, where French agricultural products were in great demand... It was also in the second half of the 16th century when the English began to take part in the great maritime trade, driven by the Tudors who, having great need for money, strove to develop the nation's economic forces and inaugurated, under Elizabeth's reign, an intense nationalist policy”.[xl] While England resolved its problems of internal unification and external security, Holland rebuilt the network of world finance and trade, reaching as far as India. The Dutch military navy had been conceived and organized to defend its eastern and Atlantic commercial sea routes, where the Netherlands faced competition from France, England, Portugal and Spain, in addition to the corsair war.

Portugal began to be threatened in its most extensive and prized possessions. From 1626 onwards, the French definitively established themselves in the North of South America, in the territory of Guiana, later generating border conflicts with Portugal. The new international situation of the 1630th century, with the emergence of new maritime powers and the contestation of Iberian dominance, and the crisis in relations between metropolises and colonies, was the backdrop to the “sugar wars”, which began with the Dutch invasion of Brazilian Northeast in XNUMX. The struggle between Portuguese-Brazilians and the Dutch had a driving factor: sugar. Both sides sought to monopolize the production and trade of the product, as it continued to be in intense demand in Europe. The Dutch occupation of the Brazilian Northeast in the XNUMXth century had this intention: with the West India Company (WIC), the Netherlands strengthened its naval power, thus being able to invade the northeastern coast, take Olinda and Recife, sustain a war and dominate the main oil-producing regions. sugar. The defense of the Portuguese-Brazilians was financed mainly by taxes arising from the clandestine sugar trade, which they carried out in areas not controlled by the Dutch, aiming to expel the invaders and regain access to the main sugar-producing areas.

The Dutch objective was to dominate monoculture agriculture and its trade: recovering such positions became a matter of survival for the Portuguese-Brazilians. At first, the Dutch policy was to combat slavery, but as soon as it realized its economic advantage, it began to adopt it, including establishing its monopoly on the part of the WIC. Initially, conditions inside Dutch slave ships were worse than those on Portuguese ships. Only later did they start to use better conditions, which allowed better profits with less mortality among transported black people. The preference of Dutch labor exporters was for Angolans, who were “better adapted to slave labor”. Despite this, the treatment given to slaves by the Dutch was better than that offered by the Portuguese. The Dutch's greater tolerance towards indigenous people was motivated by the Indian revolts in Maranhão and Ceará, which led them to promote, in April 1645, a unique event in the history of colonial Brazil: the call for a democratic assembly of all indigenous peoples. that were within its territory, held in Tapisserica (Goiânia), with representatives from twenty indigenous villages and two official representatives from the Netherlands. The assembly demanded, for the first time in the colonized Americas, the end of slavery for the Indians and the freedom of their people.[xi]

The years from 1630 to 1654 in the Brazilian Northeast were characterized by Dutch domination in Pernambuco and by two wars, the Resistance (in which the mill owners lost control over the area) and the Restoration (when the Portuguese-Brazilians recovered the command and, mainly, the main sugar mills in the locality).[xliii] The first war, “of resistance”, lasted from 1630 to 1639, causing the defeat of the main Portuguese-Brazilian landowners and aristocrats in the region and the Dutch conquest of a territory that included Pernambuco, Paraíba, Itamaracá, Rio Grande do Norte and Sergipe. As a result, the Dutch, through the West India Company, obtained a monopoly on the production, distribution and trade of Brazilian sugar: the mills, abandoned by their former owners, were negotiated with new owners; Resources and loans were invested to increase production, as the product reached high prices on the European market.

This period of glory lasted from 1641 to 1645 (a phase in which Maurício de Nassau governed Dutch Brazil); In that last year, the Restoration War began, promoted by plant owners linked to the Portuguese crown and former owners, Indians and blacks, in order to expel the “Batavos”. Their final defeat was conditioned by several factors, among which one seems to have been decisive: “The majority of the WIC soldiers were not Dutch, but had a varied geographical origin, with a large presence of men coming from the German States, followed by those from the Spanish Netherlands, England, France, Scandinavia and Scotland... (There was) a fundamental role played by the living conditions of these soldiers in the downfall of the Dutch in Brazil. The troops were, as a rule, poorly fed, sick, poorly paid and generally mistreated both by their superiors in Brazil and by the WIC authorities in the Netherlands, who did not respond to their demands with the necessary speed and efficiency”.[xiii] The Dutch were not a “progressive colonization”, compared to the Portuguese.

The decline of Portuguese international power had a strong impact on its (scarce) internal economic development. Portugal (including its colonial system) was not only an important client for English manufacturers, whose growth they stimulated at a time when the European market still tended to reject them, but they also supported their development. Brazilian gold, in addition to lubricating the wheels of British wealth during the period preceding the Industrial Revolution, financed large portions of the British revival of Eastern trade, through which the country imported lighter cotton fabrics for re-export to the climes hottest in Europe, Africa, the Americas, and for which there was no other means of payment other than Brazilian gold. The discovery of gold, at the end of the 17th century, inaugurated a new cycle of the Brazilian colonial economy, that of Minas Gerais colonization (sugar exports were in crisis due to competition from the Anglo-French Antilles). Unlike the Hispanic colonization of Upper Peru (Potosí, in present-day Bolivia), mines were not explored in Brazil using complex techniques and abundant labor. It was artisanal work: removing alluvial metal, deposited at the bottom of rivers, and few slaves were used (however, many white settlers arrived, whose population surpassed the African population for the first time). This new colonization cycle expanded the colonized area by penetrating the Brazilian interior in search of gold-bearing rivers.

Certainly, since the beginning of Portuguese colonization in America, the colonial government has always been concerned with the discovery of precious metal mines. But only after the “entrances and flags” were the first large deposits of gold discovered in Portuguese America. Entering the continent, they mainly sought out Indians who were absorbed by the growing consumer market. However, there was also always an interest in precious metals and stones. In 1696, the first considerable deposits of gold were finally located. The news spread throughout the colony and the Kingdom and large waves of migration emerged from Portugal, the Atlantic islands, other parts of the colony and foreign countries. From 1700 to 1760, it is estimated that around 700.000 people migrated to Brazil with Minas Gerais as their destination, apart from African slaves. An enormous number, given that the total population of the Kingdom of Portugal was no more than two million inhabitants. At first, the Portuguese government welcomed immigration to the mining area, as there was a population surplus in certain areas, such as the Atlantic islands, and mining growth was desired as soon as possible. It was soon observed that it was necessary to stop the population flow, which led to the abandonment of the fields in Portugal.[xiv] The product from the mines was subject to the real fifth, that is, one fifth [1/5] of the production was automatically considered property of the Crown. This condition was part of the “Colonial Pact”.

“Metropolitan exclusivity” meant that the Crown reserved for private companies designated by it the monopoly of colonial trade, both in the manufactures and products that the Colony purchased (imports), and in the raw materials that it supplied to Europe (exports). The imposition of other conditions (the prohibition of trade between the colonies among themselves, even if they depended on the same metropolis) completed the Pact, which was summarized in: – Imposition by the Crown of heavy tributes and taxes on all economic activities of the colonies, reaching up to the prohibition of colonial industries; – Private monopoly on colonial trade, both internal and external, imposing high prices on import products and low prices on export products. In this way, the European crowns got their share of the “colonial cake”. To guarantee this, the colonial powers reserved the right to appoint the highest authorities in the colonized territories (Vice-Reigns or Captaincies General in Spanish America, Captaincies in Portuguese America, Royal Colonies in English America).

From the second half of the 1703th century, naval hegemony gave the English control of the seas. England, on the other hand, had a monopoly on the slave trade following the Treaty of Utrecht. The country pursued an international economic policy: the Treaty of Methuen, in 1713, gave preferential rates for its products on the Portuguese market; Portugal further increased its debts with England. To pay its debt, Portugal was forced to use precious metals taken from its colonies (especially Brazilian gold). Precious metals of American origin filled the chests of English banks. The “Treaty of Utrecht” comprised two documents, which put an end to the war of Spanish succession and changed the map of Europe and the Americas, mainly to the advantage of England. In the first Treaty, in XNUMX, Great Britain recognized the Frenchman Felipe de Anjou as king of Spain. For its part, Spain ceded Menorca and Gibraltar to Great Britain.

As Marx recalled, “in the Peace of Utrecht, England snatched from the Spaniards, through the Treaty of Asiento, the privilege of also exploiting the black trade between Africa and Spanish America, which until then it had only exploited between Africa and the Indies. English Westerners… This provided, at the same time, an official cover for British smuggling.” The agreement also established the borders between Portuguese Brazil and French Guiana, as well as the limits of Amapá, the extreme north of the Portuguese colony in South America. The second Treaty of Utrecht, signed in 1715, this time between Portugal and Spain, reestablished the possession of the Colony of Sacramento for Portugal. The Dutch secured, from the Austrian government, the right to garrison fortresses in the Southern Netherlands. England obtained significant naval, commercial and colonial conquests, such as the monopoly on the slave trade.[xlv]

The English and Dutch rise, as well as the French, signaled the decline of the Iberians, especially the Portuguese, in the fight for global political and economic supremacy. The Iberian colonial systems, however, survived (in the Portuguese case, until the second half of the 20th century), increasingly as producers of genres of which their metropolises were used as intermediaries with the emerging European powers, which they progressively transformed into , in commercially taxed economies. Before that, the Portuguese uniqueness consisted in having been the first European political unit with delimited borders and “national” characteristics, the vanguard of Europe's global expansion, the pioneer in long-distance European oceanic voyages, the initiator of hunting and interoceanic trade on a large scale of African slaves, the protagonist of the largest European population migrations, in percentage relation to its total number of inhabitants, of the first modernity, and other similar peculiarities.

These peculiarities, however, can only be understood and make full sense in a global context, marked by the gestation and global rise of capitalism, involving the whole of Europe, its colonial system and its area of ​​commercial expansion. Portuguese singularities do not exclude it, on the contrary, they imbricate it in these larger processes. In Portugal's modern trajectory, on the other hand, its global rise and subsequent decline increasingly outline the contours and struggles of internal classes, which reach their full force in the so-called contemporary era, also redefining both Portugal's economic profile and its place in world politics and economics. It is the contemporary journey of this nation full of extraordinary peculiarities that the following magnificent text deals with, in an exemplary way, the product of the fruitful pen of two historians who honor their profession, one, Raquel Varela, from the Portuguese metropolis, and the other, Roberto Della Santa, from the (former) “colony that worked”, but also militants, both, from our true common homeland, the international socialist workers movement.

*Osvaldo Coggiola He is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Marxist economic theory: an introduction (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/3tkGFRo]


Raquel Varela; Roberto dela Santa. Brief History of Portugal – The Contemporary Era (1807-2020). Bertrand Editora, 536 pages. [https://amzn.to/4cv5Liz]


[I] Martin Page. The First Global Village. How Portugal changed the world. Lisbon, Casa das Letras, 2002. Although the British only incorporated Australia into their colonial domains in the 1770s (after the voyages across the Indian Ocean led by James Cook, which began in 1766), the Portuguese already knew it thanks to the first voyage of circumnavigation of the globe, carried out under the command of Fernão de Magalhães, which reached Australia in 1522. According to some authors, before Magalhães, four caravels commanded by the Portuguese Cristóvão de Mendonça reached the Australian and New Zealand coasts, on the way to Goa, India (Peter Trickett. Beyond Capricorn. How Portuguese adventurers secretly discovered and mapped Australia and New Zealand 250 years before Captain Cook. Sidney, East Street Publications, 2007). In any case, other Portuguese soon afterwards explored the region; in 1525, Gomes de Sequeira discovered the Caroline Islands, and the following year Jorge de Meneses arrived in New Guinea. The Dutch arrived much later in the region; Abel Tasman passed the coast of Australia in 1642 and discovered what is now called Tasmania.

[ii] Triangular shaped sail, designed to allow navigation against the wind, enabling navigation close to the wind line. It was initially introduced to the Mediterranean by the Arabs, having originally appeared in India. In the 15th century, this sail was adapted to the Portuguese caravel, making large interoceanic expeditions possible: Vasco da Gama was one of the first to use it on long journeys (Lionel Casson. Ships and Seamanship in the Ancient World. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995).

[iii] Fábio Pestana Ramos. The plight of sailors. Living History nº 68, São Paulo, June 2009.

[iv] Jaime Rodrigues. A big, wide and deep tomb: dietary health in the Atlantic, 16th to 18th centuries. History Magazine nº 168, São Paulo, Department of History, FFLCH-USP, January/June 2013.

[v] With his supposed domains located alternatively in the East Indies or in the Horn of Africa, “the obsession, dream and hope of the West for several centuries”, in the words of Jacques Heers, Prester John was an imaginary king who was thought of as a potential and powerful ally against the “infidel” kingdoms of the East. The myth of Prestes (or Prester) John had been amplified, in the 562th century, by the German bishop Oto Babenberger, supported by Emperor Frederick I, “who needed spiritual support superior to the pope, a mental support that would give legitimacy to his claims to a great empire against papal power.” The mythological king was attributed XNUMX years of age, the possession of enormous armies that fought Islam and wonders such as the fountain of eternal youth, in addition to an ancestry that went back to the Three Wise Men, that is, to the birth of Christ (Ricardo Costa Toward a mythological geography: the medieval legend of Prester John. History nº 9, Vitória, UFES History Department, 2001).

[vi] Francisco Roque de Oliveira. The Portuguese and maritime Asia, c. 1500-1640. Scripta Nova, vol. VII, nº 151, University of Barcelona, ​​October 2003.

[vii] Blair B. King and Michael N. Pearson. The Age of Partnership. Europeans in Asia before domination. Honolulu, University Press of Hawaii, 1979.

[viii] Simon Schama. La Historia de los Judíos. Barcelos, Penguim Random House – Debate, 2018.

[ix] Jairus Banaji. Theory as History. Essays of modes of production and exploitation. New York, Haymarket Books, 2011.

[X] Diego Luis Molinari. Discovery and Conquest of America. Buenos Aires, Eudeba, 1964.

[xi] Karl Marx. Misery of Philosophy. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2017 [1847].

[xii] Immanuel Wallerstein. The Modern World System. Capitalist agriculture and the origins of the European world economy in the XVI century. Mexico, Siglo XXI, 1979.

[xiii] Carlo M. Cipolla. Economic History of Pre-Industrial Europe. Lisbon, Editions 70, 1984.

[xiv] In December 1496, Dom Manuel of Portugal signed the decree expulsion of the “heretics”, giving them until October 31, 1497 to leave the country. The Portuguese king allowed the Jews to choose conversion or exile, hoping that many would be baptized in the Christian rite. D. Manuel I signed the edict of expulsion of the Jews due to a condition imposed by Spain for him to marry Dona Isabel.

[xv] Portuguese and Spanish Jews forcibly converted to the Christian religion in the late 15th and subsequent centuries.

[xvi] Edgar Morin. The Modern World and the Jewish Question. Rio de Janeiro, Bertrand Brasil, 2007.

[xvii] José Antonio Maravall. Ancient and Modern. Vision of history and idea of ​​progress towards the Renaissance. Madrid, Alianza, 1986.

[xviii] José Sebastião da Silva Dias. The Discoveries and Cultural Problems of the 16th Century. Lisbon, Presence, 1982.

[xx] Mario Maestri. The enslaved worker in Brazilian historiography. the earth is round, São Paulo, May 6, 2023.

[xx] Georg Friederici. The Character of Desubrimiento and Conquest of America. Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1987 [1926], vol. II.

[xxx] Eduardo Grüner. The “original accumulation”, the critique of the colonial reason and modern slavery. Hic Rhodus nº 8, University of Buenos Aires, Facultad de Ciencias Sociales, June 2015.

[xxiii] Herbert S. Klein and Ben Vinson. African Slavery in Latin America and the Caribbean. New York, Oxford University Press, 2007; Marcel Dorigny and Bernard Gainot. Atlas of Esclavages. Traites, sociétés coloniales, abolitions de l'Antiquité à nos jours. Paris, Autrement, 2006.

[xxiii] Alexandre de Freitas Barbosa and Tâmis Parron. The cruel rhetoric of denialism. the earth is round, São Paulo, February 23, 2023.

[xxv] Florestan Fernandes. Closed circuit. Sao Paulo, Hucitec, 1977.

[xxiv] Emilia Viotti da Costa. From Senzala to Colonia. Sao Paulo, Difel, 1966.

[xxv] Raymundo Faoro. The Owners of Power. Porto Alegre, Globo, Volume 1, 1976.

[xxviii] Alberto Passos Guimaraes. Four Centuries of Latifundia. Rio de Janeiro, Peace and Land, 1989.

[xxviii] Evaldo Cabral de Mello. The Fronde of Mozambos. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 1995.

[xxix] Part of the property confiscated from the Jesuits in the XNUMXth century was used as a favor to the settlers. Ciro FS Cardoso. Economy and Society in Peripheral Colonial Areas. French Guiana and Pará (1750-1817). Rio de Janeiro, Graal, 1984.

[xxx] Rodrigo Ricupero. “Honors and favors”: the relations between settlers and the crown and its representatives (1530-1630). In: Osvaldo Coggiola (org.). History and Economics: Issues. Sao Paulo, Humanitas, 2002.

[xxxii] Robert Simonsen. Economic History of Brazil. Sao Paulo, Company. National Publisher, 1978.

[xxxi] Karl Marx. The capital, Book I, Volume I, chapter XXIV.

[xxxii] Xavier de Castro. La Découverte du Japon par les Européens (1543-1551). Paris, Chandeigne, 2013.

[xxxv] William J. Benstein. An Extraordinary Change. How trade revolutionized the world. Rio de Janeiro, Elsevier, 2009.

[xxxiv] Wolfgang Reinhard. Storia dell'Espansione Europea. Naples, Guida Editori, 1987.

[xxxiv] A West-Indische Compagnie or WIC, was founded on the initiative of Flemish Calvinists who sought to escape religious persecution. The Company received a charter that granted it a monopoly on trade with the western colonies of the “Seven Provinces”, the Caribbean, as well as on the slave trade in Brazil, the Caribbean and North America. The company could also operate in West Africa and the Americas, including the Pacific Ocean. Its aim was to eliminate Spanish and Portuguese competition in overseas trading posts established by Dutch merchants. The Spanish and Portuguese accused the New Christians of Amsterdam of being the lever of the company, but, of the total of three million florins subscribed to the company, only 36 thousand were contributed by the Sephardim (Roberto Chocon de Albuquerque. The Dutch West India Company: a joint stock company? Faculty of Law Magazine, vol. 105, University of São Paulo, 2010).

[xxxviii] David Martín Marcos. Recelos Peninsula. Portugal and Spain, 1668-1715. Madrid, Marcial Pons, 2014.

[xxxviii] John H. Elliot. Imperial Spain 1469-1716. New York, Penguin Books, 2002; António Henrique R. de Oliveira Marques. History of Portugal. From empire to corporate state. New York, Columbia University Press, 1972.

[xxxix] Andre Gunder Frank. World Accumulation 1492-1789. Rio de Janeiro, Zahar, 1977.

[xl] Henri See. Origin and Evolution of Modern Capitalism. Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1952.

[xi] John Hemming. Red Gold. The conquest of the Brazilian Indians. London, Macmillan, 1978.

[xliii] Evaldo Cabral de Mello. Restored Olinda. War and sugar in the Northeast 1630-1654. Rio de Janeiro/São Paulo, Forense Universitária/Edusp, 1975; Wolfgang Lenk. War and Colonial Pact. Bahia against Dutch Brazil (1624-1654). São Paulo, Alameda/Fapesp, 2013.

[xiii] Mariana Françozo. People of war: new perspectives on Dutch Brazil. History Magazine nº 174, São Paulo, University of São Paulo – Department of History (FFLCH), January-June 2016.

[xiv] Virgilio Noya Pinto. Brazilian Gold and Anglo-Portuguese Trade. São Paulo, National Publishing Company, 1979.

[xlv] James Watson Gerard. The Peace of Utrecht. London, The Classics, 2013.

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