Brazilian Amazonian peasantries have attracted relatively little scholarly attention, and even with the opening up of Amazonia via the TransAmazon Highway (c. 1970) and a significant expansion of social science research in the region, recent frontier colonists and environmental crises have been the major foci. This article examines some of the factors contributing to the relative invisibility of historical peasantries in the region and tries to show the relevance of such peasantries to debates concerning agrarian structure, economic transformation and state-led modernization efforts. A key feature in the portrayal of Amazonian peasantries (and Amerindians) has been the unique role attributed to the neo-humid tropical landscape in restricting the possibilities for an elaborated social landscape. Drawing on anthropological, archaeological and historical studies, the article advances the notion that these simplifying assumptions are unwarranted and are impediments not only to a more accurate understanding of the legacy of colonial society in Amazonia, but also to efforts to mitigate social conflict and environmental depredation.