ABSTRACT

Brazil was a sleepy colony of secondary interest to Portugal until sugar turned the northeastern coastal strip into a rich plantation region in the second half of the sixteenth century. With significant development of a new commercial crop, Brazil’s developers increasingly talked about ways to find reliable labor for expanding estates in the area of Pernambuco and Bahia. Settlers tried to put Amerindians to work, but these plans failed because of the sparse Indian population and the natives’ lack of experience with organized, collective labor in agriculture. Since Europeans did not come to Brazil in sufficient numbers, and since many of those who did preferred to give orders to others rather than work themselves, a new source of labor had to be found. Africa quickly became a popular source of manpower. Settlers in Brazil found that Africans brought over by Portuguese traders made good workers and could be purchased as slaves for very low prices.