History of Brazil

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Location of Brazil in South America

The history of Brazil encompasses developments in the territory of the Federative Republic of Brazil from prehistory to the present. It begins with the settlement of Indian tribes of different origins thousands of years ago.

The Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral , who landed in northeastern Brazil in 1500, is widely regarded as a European explorer of Brazil. From the 16th to the beginning of the 19th century, the country was a Portuguese colony . In 1822 Brazil declared its independence and became a constitutional monarchy , the Empire of Brazil . In 1889, one year after the abolition of slavery , a military coup was followed by the establishment of a republic. After several phases of dictatorship in the 20th century, including a 21-year military regime from 1964, democracy was strengthened from 1985 onwards.

Pre-colonial Brazil

The oldest traces of human life have been found in the Serra da Capivara caves in the state of Piauí , which indicate an age of up to 20,000 to 30,000 years. The Paleo-Indians reached the southern tip of America probably around 10,000 BC. BC Skeletal finds show that the coastal areas of today's Brazil were around 8,000 BC. Were inhabited.

It is traditionally argued that the ecological conditions in the Amazon basin did not allow the emergence of high-population civilizations such as those in the Andean region and that one must therefore assume a thin population of nomadic or semi-nomadic groups of hunters and fishermen who also practiced agriculture to a small extent.

Recent researchers have hypothesized that the activities of the indigenous peoples before colonization went well beyond what has been previously assumed. According to this, the indigenous people created the ecosystem of the Amazon basin through systematic planting and distribution of plant species as well as soil improvement . Their settlements - for example on the huge river island Marajó - were therefore much larger than previously assumed.

The same applies to the far west of Brazil. In the province of Mato Grosso there were numerous planned places, the size of which is hardly inferior to the contemporary European ones, and in which fish farming and agriculture were carried out until around 1500. They were linked by a network of roads. It is believed that the population of these places has disappeared due to epidemics.

The time of discovery

After the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus (1492), the new world was divided in the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) between Spain (more precisely: the Kingdom of Castile and the Crown of Aragon ) on the one hand and Portugal on the other. The then still unknown Brazil fell into the Portuguese half. The prerequisite for legitimate rule was the consistent catholization of the locals, which the Jesuit order was officially commissioned with from 1587 .

Brazil was officially discovered on April 22, 1500 by the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral . However, which European really discovered Brazil is controversial. The Spanish navigator Vicente Yáñez Pinzón sailed as early as 1499 along the east coast of today's Brazil to the mouth of the Río de la Plata (today's Argentina ). The Portuguese navigator, geographer and astronomer Duarte Pacheco Pereira is said to have sailed the coasts of today's Brazilian states Pará and Maranhão and the mouth of the Amazon as early as the end of 1498 .

According to French records from the 15th century, the captain Jean Cousin was supposed to set out on a voyage to West Africa on board a ship belonging to the shipowner Jehan Ango from Dieppe , but was driven off by the equatorial current at the height of the Azores and after two months to a foreign coast and another might have reached a tremendous current which he called Maragnon . After a short stay, he crossed the Atlantic again, called West Africa and returned from there to Dieppe in 1489.

Cabral landed near present-day Porto Seguro on April 22, 1500 and took possession of the newly found land for the Portuguese King Emanuel I (Manuel I) . The Tupí Indians encountered on landing did not offer any resistance to the Europeans. Portugal initially kept the discovery a secret in order to maintain an advantage in the race for new colonies. The newly discovered continent became known in Europe at the latest since 1507 , when the German cartographer Martin Waldseemüller published a map of South America on which Porto Seguro is also drawn.

After rich deposits of Brazilian wood ( Portuguese : Pau Brasil / Pau Verzím ) were identified, the new country was named Brazil . Brazil wood is suitable for obtaining color and for producing fine furniture. This made it the first export product of the colony and formed the basis for the country's first economic use. Due to the massive deforestation, Brazil wood is now threatened with extinction and is under nature protection.

In 1503 an expedition led by Gonçalo Coelho discovered that the French were also preparing to land in Brazil. The French king had commissioned Binot Paulmier de Gonneville in July 1503 to find the "southern land" ( Terra Australis ). His ship, the L'Espoir , reached the Brazilian coast. De Gonneville was amazed at how naturally the indigenous people approached the ship, used European tools that were unknown to them and knew the purpose of the ship's guns. In 1530 a new expedition was sent to Brazil by Martim Alfonso de Souza to fight the French and found the first colonial cities. In 1625 the French were finally expelled from Brazil.


Sugar cane

King John III had the Brazilian coast divided into twelve zones, capitanías hereditarias (also capitanías donatárias ). He awarded these to nobles and people from the middle class. For economic development, the main focus was on the cultivation of sugar cane , since sugar was an expensive commodity at that time. In order to get workers for the plantations, Indians were captured in the closer hinterland.

Not all of the settlers who came to Brazil from Portugal were volunteers: at that time, the Portuguese code had 200 offenses that were punishable by exile. In addition, the colonial power allowed immigrants from all countries, the only requirement was that they belong to the Catholic faith.

Since many of the Indians on the plantations took their own lives or died of European diseases, the first African slaves were imported in 1538 . The Africans were forcibly baptized after they were abducted, but in fact retained their traditional religions. This was the reason for the emergence of the typical Brazilian syncretistic cults Candomblé and Umbanda .

By 1600 Brazil was the largest sugar producer in the world. A few years later the triangular trade was in full swing: Manufactured products were sold in Africa for slaves, the slaves were exchanged for precious metals, sugar, cocoa and spices in South and North America and these were brought to Europe.

Colonization and Development

In 1549 São Salvador da Bahía de Todos os Santos (today's Salvador da Bahia ) was declared the capital of all the Capitanias of the colony of Brazil and a governor general (who was sometimes allowed to call himself viceroy ) was installed. From 1565 to 1567, Mem de Sá , a Portuguese colonial officer and the third governor general of Brazil, destroyed the ten-year-old French colony of France Antarctique in Guanabara Bay . He and his nephew Estácio de Sá then founded Rio de Janeiro in March 1567 .

The hinterland was explored from the beginning of the 17th century by Bandeirantes expeditions looking for slaves and mineral resources (especially gold ). Although the Portuguese tried to seal off the country with fortresses on the coast and not allow any competition, a fleet of the Dutch West India Company under the command of Jacob Willekens and Piet Pieterszoon Heyn captured the city of Bahia with 26 ships in 1624 , which they took over the following year however lost again to the Portuguese. With this action began the Dutch-Portuguese War , which lasted until 1661 . In 1629 the Dutch settled in "Mauritsstad", today's Recife ( Pernambuco ). The north-east flourished briefly under the rule of the West India Company under the leadership of Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen . With the help of the General Society of Brazilian Trade (Companhia Geral do Comércio do Brasil) founded in 1649, the fight against the Dutch was to be supported and the overseas trade between Brazil and Portugal, which was becoming increasingly important for the motherland, was to be secured. The Portuguese won a major victory in the Second Battle of Guararapes in February 1649. In 1654 the Netherlands gave up and control of all of Brazil was returned to the Portuguese.

During the 17th century, escaped slaves founded settlements in northeastern Brazil, which were managed in an exemplary manner and defended by an army. It was not until 1699, after numerous defeats by the colonial troops, that the last of these Quilombo dos Palmares was destroyed.

In 1696 gold was found in the hinterland of Rio de Janeiro, a little later also diamonds and other mineral resources. This became the basis for the development of rich baroque cities like Ouro Preto . Since the end of the 17th century, the economic focus shifted more and more to the south of Brazil. This was taken into account in 1763 when the capital was moved from Salvador to Rio de Janeiro.

At the end of the 18th century, uprisings against Portuguese rule increased. The most important uprising was the " Inconfidência Mineira " in Minas Gerais , whose leader Tiradentes was executed in 1792. At the same time one came in the south in the area of ​​today's Uruguay , where the Bandeirantes pushed the western border of the colonial empire beyond the line of the Treaty of Tordesillas, with Spain and the viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata .

Coffee was grown in Brazil from 1805 after the first coffee beans were smuggled into the country by Francisco de Mello Palheta in 1727.

Period of the kingdom

Brazil's departure for independence began with the relocation of the entire Portuguese court from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro . After the failure of his rocking policy between France and England, the Portuguese regent Dom João fled from Napoleon's troops in November 1807 with his court and treasury to Brazil, where the British fleet rendered him helpful and not entirely unselfish service. With the royal family, the entire court (all in all about 15,000 people) settled in Rio in March 1808 (after a stopover in Bahia) - a not inconsiderable increase in the population of the city and the entire country. Above all, however, its status changed from that of a dependent colony to an equal part of the motherland - a development that could no longer be reversed.

The country's ports were opened to friendly nations, which was of particular benefit to the British, who also had to be granted tariff concessions. Businesses, universities and banks were founded, and the printing of newspapers and books was permitted. With the Austrian Princess Leopoldina , who married João's son Pedro, scholars and artists came to the country who made a considerable contribution to the upswing of intellectual life.

Gaining independence

At the Congress of Vienna (1815), Brazil was formally equated with the mother country as part of a “United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and Algarve”. The royal court could have returned to Portugal after Napoleon's final defeat. Prince Regent João, who in 1817 after the death of his mentally ill mother Maria as João VI. ascended the throne, but always hesitated to return. Growing unrest in the motherland finally forced him to leave in 1821. His son, who remained as regent in Brazil, is said to have given his father's advice: "Pedro, ponha a coroa na cabeça, antes que alguns desses aventureiros o faça". ("Pedro, put the crown on your head before any adventurer does.")

During this time, the other states of South America achieved their independence under the leadership of Simón Bolívar and other freedom fighters. With the cry of Ipiranga: "Independência ou morte" ("Independence or Death"), the prince sat at the head of the independence movement on September 7, 1822 after the Portuguese Cortes had demanded a return to colonial status. On October 12th, Brazil was declared an empire. Portuguese troops were still in the country, and Brazilian armed forces were just being set up. Nevertheless, the Brazilians managed to push the Portuguese out of the country step by step by the end of 1823.

First empire

Brazilian Constitution of 1824.

Pedro I. soon disappointed the high expectations that the Brazilians had placed of him. Independence began brilliantly with the first coronation of the emperor on South American soil, Brazil received a liberal constitution and became a constitutional monarchy , but the quarrels over the Constituent Assembly and the increasingly autocratic demeanor of the young emperor did not bode well for the future.

In the following years, Brazil was recognized by many states under international law ( USA 1823, Great Britain 1825, Portugal 1825). With its Monroe Doctrine , the United States made it clear that it was unwilling to accept the restoration of colonial order in Latin America .

The young Brazilian state immediately began to encourage the immigration of European settlers to the south of the country from 1824, not least from Germany .

Uruguay split from Brazil in 1825 and declared independence after being part of Brazil as Provincia Cisplatina for only four years . Under British pressure, Brazil had to agree to Uruguayan independence.

Rainy season

The emperor was finally isolated in his own country and abdicated on April 7, 1831 in favor of his still underage son, Pedro II , and returned to Portugal.

On the day of the abdication, Parliament met and set up a three-member provisional Regency Council. Through an additional provision to the constitution (Ato Adicional of August 6, 1834), some reforms were carried out: more autonomy for the provinces in legislation and tax collection, and finally the establishment of a single ruler who took the place of the Regency Council and was elected by general election should.

The "Cabanagem" uprising in the north

The "Cabanagem" uprising, which broke out in 1835, was the most violent rebellion of the reign. Its name refers to "cabanagem", the local name for the poor dwelling of the river residents in and around Belém , derived from "cabana" (hut). Because it was mainly its inhabitants, the "cabanos" (hut dwellers) and other groups of the lower classes of the province of Grão-Pará (which includes the present-day states of Pará , Amazonas , Roraima , Rondônia and Amapá ) who led the uprising against the predominantly white upper class carried. The rebels were able to conquer the capital Belém and hold it until March 1836. But finally, until 1840, they were completely wiped out by the government troops in changeable battles. Historians estimate that a quarter of the province's residents were killed in the course of the fighting.

The uprising of the Gauchos in the south

Even better known was the Farrapen Revolution (Revolução Farroupilha), the longest and most dangerous uprising in Brazil for territorial cohesion. It has mainly economic reasons. The cattle breeders in the province of Rio Grande do Sul demanded protective tariffs from the government against imports of meat from Uruguay and Argentina . In fact, the Argentines and Uruguayans were able to produce cheaper because they worked with free wage laborers instead of slaves. The rebellion broke out on September 20, 1835 when the Gaúchos, led by Bento Gonçalves da Silva and Antônio de Sousa Neto, drove out the provincial governor. On September 11, 1836, the Republic of Rio Grande do Sul was proclaimed. The rebels achieved great success, especially after the Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi had joined them: in 1839 they penetrated into the neighboring province of Santa Catarina and proclaimed the daughter republic República Juliana there.

In contrast to the “Cabanagem” uprising, this time it was the leading layers of the province who were more involved, although the name Guerra dos Farrapos (“War of the Ragged”) suggests the opposite. This explains the reluctance of the central government to suppress the uprising. In 1842, Luís Alves de Lima e Silva, who later became Duke of Caxias, was appointed military governor of the province with the task of "pacifying" them. In 1845 an agreement was finally reached with the rebels. They laid down their arms in exchange for substantial concessions from the imperial government: integration of the Farrapen troops into the army, general amnesty and the release of the slaves involved in the uprising.

Minor uprisings in Maranhão and Bahia towards the end of the reign were suppressed fairly quickly.

Second empire

Emperor Peter II of Brazil

In 1840 Pedro II was declared of age prematurely and crowned Emperor of Brazil.

In the 1860s, Brazil developed into the leading export nation of rubber . The export of beef, precious woods, coffee and sugar also flourished. There was hesitant industrialization (mainly due to immigrants from Europe ); the north-east, economically overtaken by the south, slowly became impoverished.

Brazil supported the successful revolutionary struggle against the dictator of Argentina Juan Manuel de Rosas and from 1864 to 1870, allied with Argentina and Uruguay, waged a victorious war against Paraguay . This war, which killed about 100,000 Brazilians, resulted in territorial gains at the expense of Paraguay.

Fight for the fate of the slaves

Lei Áurea , 1888.

The most important domestic challenge arose from an extensive movement for the abolition of slavery. The "importation" of African slaves was outlawed in 1853 after Great Britain took military action against Brazil's coasts and threatened a blockade in 1852 .

An organized campaign for the emancipation of the 2.5 million slaves in Brazil began a few years later. The abolitionists won their first victory in 1871 when parliament declared all children born to female slaves to be free (“ Lei do Ventre Livre ”). Around the same time a republican movement emerged, which in the following years became more and more popular. In 1885 all slaves over the age of 60 were declared free. In 1888 the regent Crown Princess Isabel finally signed the Lei Áurea , the Golden Law, which abolished slavery. This made Brazil the last country in the western hemisphere where slavery was banned. In numerical terms, slavery was now of little concern: there were still 500,000 slaves out of a total population of 13.5 million. The liberation of slaves, however, deprived the imperial government of its last hold on the landowners and prepared the ground for the proclamation of the republic in November of the following year.

"Military Question " ( Questão Militar )

As a result of the war with Paraguay , the army was modernized not only technically but also socially. As a result of the increased need for personnel, members of the middle class increasingly found officer positions that were previously reserved for members of the rural upper class; Slaves could gain freedom through military service. This encouraged abolitionist tendencies within the officer corps and brought it into opposition to the rural aristocracy . The naval leadership , however, remained conservative and a pillar of the monarchy.

After the war, most officers were trained at the capital's military academies , where they came into contact with modern European and North American administrative methods and the ideas of positivism . Benjamin Constant Botelho de Magalhães (1836–1881), a follower of Auguste Comte , taught at the Escola Militar during this time and prepared about his students, a. a. Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca , the military coup of November 15, 1889. Fonseca - although personally loyal to the emperor - became a symbol and figurehead of the uprising. Paradoxically, he initially believed that the coup was directed against the ministry of the liberal Prime Minister Ouro Preto, not against the monarchy itself. It was not until the evening of November 15 that he was won over to the goal of establishing a republic.

Putsch and proclamation of the republic

On November 15, 1889, Emperor Pedro II was overthrown by the military and had to leave the country with his family. Manuel Deodoro da Fonseca proclaimed the Republic of the United States of Brazil ( República dos Estados Unidos do Brasil ). The country kept this name until 1946.

Several factors contributed to the overthrow of the monarchy: the growing republican movement, which increasingly perceived a Brazilian empire as anachronistic and un-American; the conflict with parts of the clergy and finally the liberation of slaves , which alienated the great landowners from the crown.

The new Brazilian constitution of October 5, 1988 remedied the republic's “birth defect” by making the form of government the subject of a referendum.

The old republic 1889–1930

The period between 1889 and 1930 is commonly referred to in Brazil as the República Velha (German: old republic). The years after 1889 were marked by political stability. Floriano Peixoto became president in 1891 and Prudente de Morais Barros in 1894 . Some of the first steps taken by the Republican government included a large-scale census , the introduction of the metric system , compulsory schooling, and approaches to separating church and state , e.g. B. the introduction of civil marriage , which met resistance in rural areas. The war of Canudos in the tenure of Prudente de Morais should also be seen in this context , when the Brazilian army attacked the Christian messianic movement in the city ​​of the same name in the state of Bahia in four campaigns in one of the bloodiest internal Brazilian conflicts , and Canudos finally attacked the ground equalized. The elections of 1898 were won by Manuel Ferraz de Campos Sales , that of 1902 by Francisco de Paula Rodrigues Alves and that of 1906 by Afonso Augusto Moreira Pena . After his death in 1909 Vice President Nilo Peçanha followed into the presidency. Hermes Rodrigues da Fonseca won the 1910 elections .

Prosperity was assured by the great demand for coffee and the economy was concentrated in this branch. In 1914, Venceslau Brás won the presidential election. In the First World War , Brazil officially entered on the side of the Allies against Germany, but did not take an active part.

In the war years, the demand for coffee fell sharply, which decisively weakened Brazil's economy. In 1918 Rodrigues won the presidential election a second time, but did not take office due to illness.

Instead, Delfim Moreira became president, who resigned in 1919. He was followed by Vice President Epitácio da Silva Pessoa . Arturo da Silva Bernardes won the 1922 elections , Luís Pereira de Sousa won the 1926 election , and Júlio Prestes won the 1930 elections .

The Vargas Era (1930–1954)

When coffee prices collapsed again in 1930, dissatisfaction with the oligarchical system, which was based on electoral manipulation and de facto excluded large parts of the population from participation , grew . At the head of a "coalition of the discontented" Getúlio Dornelles Vargas , the "father of the poor", led an uprising and thus became president. In the first months of his reign, Brazil's economy grew noticeably. A constituent assembly worked out a new constitution by 1934, which Vargas accepted. When he couldn't be sure of winning the upcoming elections, however, Vargas launched a coup under the pretext of a fictitious communist overthrow and suspended the constitution. In 1937 the Estado Novo , the "New State", was proclaimed and the rule of Vargas was established as a "benevolent dictator". His authoritarian government pushed the industrialization of economically backward Brazil, introduced social benefits for workers for the first time and thus found great support among the population. Vargas put down both communist and fascist uprisings.

American propaganda film about the Brazilian declaration of war against the Axis powers

In the 1930s, Brazil oriented itself economically to Nazi Germany, which was the most important trading partner after the USA. Since these relations declined from 1939 and German submarines attacked Brazilian ships, Vargas declared war on the Axis powers on August 22, 1942 . In 1944 he sent the 25,000-strong Força Expedicionária Brasileira (FEB) and a squadron of airplanes to Italy , which were used, among other things, in the Battle of Monte Cassino . 500 Brazilians were killed in World War II.

Vargas allowed political parties again at the end of the war and announced his resignation after the upcoming elections. But then a citizens' movement demanded that he remain in office, which is why Vargas was deposed from the army. This initially appointed José Linhares as president, who was replaced by Eurico Gaspar Dutra in the course of elections in 1946 . Also in 1946, a directly elected constitutional commission drafted a new constitution (the fifth in the history of Brazil). The country was renamed the United States of Brazil (Estados Unidos do Brazil), a slight change from the previous name of 1889. This constitution guaranteed full political freedoms for the first time.

In 1951 the people of Vargas re-elected as president when they ran for office regularly. The US and the political right opposed the increasingly socialist policies of Brazil. After the assassination attempt on the opposition politician Lacerda by Vargas loyalists in August 1954, the military unanimously demanded Vargas' resignation. His vice-president declared Vargas' resignation on August 24 and took over his post; Vargas committed suicide the following day.

Troubled times

Vargas' Vice President João Café Filho took office and reshuffled the cabinet. However, he fell ill in November 1955, which is why the office was temporarily held by Carlos Coimbra da Luz and then Nereu Ramos , who did not allow Café Filho to return to office after his recovery. Only the elections of 1956 brought temporary stability with the victory of Juscelino Kubitschek . With the help of the Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (PTB), he attracted new, foreign investors who boosted the Brazilian economy in the late 1950s. In 1960 Jânio da Silva Quadros was elected President. After taking office in 1961, he tried to break the dependency on the USA and to rehabilitate the disastrous national budget. After only a few months in office, he resigned and was succeeded by the previous Vice President João Goulart , shortly after the new capital Brasília was inaugurated after three years of construction. Goulart was also controversial among the population, which is why his powers were only limited in the first three years of the presidency.

Military dictatorship (1964–1985)

In 1964 the military , supported by covert operations by the US secret service CIA , carried out a coup and forced Goulart into exile. The new regime under General Humberto Castelo Branco suppressed the left opposition and deprived around 300 people of their political rights. A law passed in 1965 restricted civil liberties, gave the national government additional powers and determined the election of the president and vice-president by Congress.

Former War Minister Marshal Artur da Costa e Silva , candidate of the ruling party ARENA ( Aliança Renovadora Nacional ; German: Alliance for National Renewal) was elected President in 1966. The Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB, Movimento Democrático Brasileiro ), the only legal opposition party, refused to run a candidate in protest because the government had refused to accept any serious opponent. In 1966 the ARENA also won the national and parliamentary elections.

AI-5, 1968.

In 1967 a new constitution was enacted, the sixth constitution since the state was founded. This legitimized the actions and laws of the military since 1964 and also changed the country's name: the former United States of Brazil became the Federative Republic of Brazil (República Federativa do Brasil). With constitutional amendments in 1969, the power of the military junta was significantly strengthened.

1964 military coup: tanks on the Avenida Presidente Vargas in Rio de Janeiro on April 4th

The year 1968 was marked by student unrest and strikes. The military regime responded with political purges and censorship. Through the Ato Institucional Número Cinco (AI-5), Legislative Decree No. 5 of the Military Government of December 13, 1968, the government authorized itself to revoke fundamental and civil rights for a period of up to ten years, and this “without those of Constitutional restrictions ”must be observed (Art. 4). This meant that there were no longer any limits to the persecution of opposition members - now also legally.

In August 1969 Costa e Silva was ousted. The military appointed General Emílio Garrastazu Médici as his successor, and Congress elected him President. Under Médici, the repression was intensified and as a result revolutionary activities increased. The Roman Catholic clergy raised their critical voice more and more often and denounced the conditions of the poor population. On March 25, 1970, Médici expanded the Brazilian territorial waters from 12 to 200 nautical miles by decree.

In 1974 General Ernesto Geisel , after his military career president of Petrobras , the state oil monopoly, was elected Brazilian president. Due to the relative political stability and targeted promotion of industry, the early days of the military rulers were also a time of economic boom; many investors invested in Brazil in the 1970s.

In 1979 General João Baptista de Oliveira Figueiredo became the new president. At the beginning of the 1980s, the military government significantly weakened the repression, until finally, in 1985, due to a lack of options from the military cadre and in the midst of an economic crisis with galloping inflation, free elections were allowed.

According to human rights groups, state murder, state death squads, torture and disappearances of opposition activists were the order of the day during the military dictatorship. Brazil was involved in Operation Condor , a plot by several Latin American dictatorships whose aim was to help each other in the murder of unpopular citizens.

In 2010, President Lula da Silva launched an initiative for a Brazilian Truth Commission to investigate the crimes of that time. The official opening ceremony took place in November 2011 under President Dilma Rousseff . The final report was presented in December 2014 and describes the human rights violations committed between 1964 and 1985. He names perpetrators and victims.


The electoral victory of Tancredo Neves over the dictator João Figueiredo in 1985 marked the end of 21 years of Brazilian military rule. The election winner Tancredo Neves died in 1985 due to an illness before he took office, after which his vice José Sarney took over the office. In 1985 the right to vote for illiterate people was introduced. In 1988 a new federal constitution was passed, the seventh in the history of Brazil. In the aftermath of the military dictatorship, the constitution-makers turned their attention to personal freedoms and their protection. Furthermore, a reference to God and welfare state benefits were anchored. Land reform or the protection of the indigenous population were not planned. As a result, numerous amendments and constitutional additions were made, especially from 1995 onwards.

In 1987 gold was found on Yanomami land in the state of Roraima , which caused many illegal gold diggers to act. In 1988 the trade unionist and environmentalist Chico Mendes was also murdered. In 1989 a first environmental protection plan was adopted. Inflation in those years was up to 1000%. Mercosur (Mercosul in Portuguese) was founded on April 26, 1991 . This common market of the south, which the states Argentina , Paraguay and Uruguay founded together with Brazil, is a single market with more than 230 million inhabitants, which should strengthen the economy of the member countries and thereby the position of Latin America in the world.

In 1992 the UN Environment Summit took place in Rio de Janeiro . In addition, President Fernando Collor de Mello resigned after allegations of corruption, his Vice-President Itamar Franco took over the office. In 1993 the people of Brazil could decide in a referendum on the reintroduction of the monarchy. The choice fell clearly on the republic. In 1994 a comprehensive currency reform was decided. With the new currency ( Plano Real introduced by Fernando Henrique Cardoso ), the hyperinflation ended for the time being, the popular Cardoso was therefore elected president. In order to reorganize the budget, the parliament decided to privatize state monopolies, but the national debt rose from 28.1% to 55.5% of the gross domestic product under Cardoso's presidency, which lasted from 1995 to 2002.

From 2003 to 2011 Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the Labor Party Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) was President of Brazil. He prioritized a reduction in national debt, but also implemented social programs such as “Zero Hunger” ( Fome Zero ) and Bolsa Família . In 2004, Brazil led UN peacekeeping forces for the first time in its history , with the military sending 1,470 soldiers to Haiti .

In 2011 Dilma Rousseff became the first woman President of Brazil. In June 2013, nationwide protests broke out against the hosting of the 2014 World Cup, corruption and social injustice. President Rousseff reacted to the greatest unrest since the end of the military dictatorship with the promise of a “great pact” for a better Brazil. After impeachment proceedings ( Portuguese impeachment ), Rousseff lost the government office on August 31, 2016.

The deep crisis of confidence in the political system was not resolved with the impeachment of Rousseff in 2016, but intensified, since the impeachment itself was a conspiracy to sabotage investigations into the Lava Jato corruption scandal in one's own favor by changing power. Roussef's successor, Michel Temer , lost six of his ministers to corruption charges within six months, while the country was stuck in recession for the second year in a row . In May 2017, the Supreme Court began investigating President Temer for the Lava Jato corruption scandal. Not only the state oil company Petrobras , but also the construction company Odebrecht and the world's largest meat trader JBS were involved in the corruption. Under the leadership of President Jair Bolsonaro , who was elected in 2018 , the human rights situation in Brazil has deteriorated further.

See also


  • Stefan Rinke, Frederik Schulze: Brief history of Brazil (= Beck'sche series 6092), CH Beck, Munich 2013.
  • Bradford E. Burns: A History of Brazil. 3. Edition. Columbia University Press, 1993, ISBN 0-231-07955-9 .
  • Hartmut-Emanuel Kayser: The rights of the indigenous peoples of Brazil - historical development and current status. Shaker Verlag , Aachen 2005, ISBN 3-8322-3991-X .
  • Teresa Pinheiro: Appropriation and Rigidity. The construction of Brazil and its inhabitants in Portuguese eyewitness accounts 1500–1595. Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2004, ISBN 3-515-08326-X . ( Contributions to colonial and overseas history, Volume 89)
  • Anita Hermannstädter (Red.): Germans on the Amazon - researchers or adventurers ?: Expeditions in Brazil 1800 to 1914: Book accompanying the exhibition in the Ethnological Museum, Berlin-Dahlem in cooperation with the Brazilian Cultural Institute in Germany (ICBRA) . National Museums in Berlin - Prussian Cultural Heritage, Ethnological Museum, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-88609-460-X . ( Publications of the Ethnological Museum Berlin. New Volume 71)
  • Walther L. Bernecker , Horst Pietschmann , Rüdiger Zoller: A Brief History of Brazil. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2000, ISBN 3-518-12150-2 . ( Edition Suhrkamp Volume 2150)
  • Heinrich Handelmann : History of Brazil . Manesse, Zurich 1987, ISBN 3-7175-8118-X ( Manesse Library of World History ) ( first edition: Springer, Berlin 1860).
  • Arthur Dürst : Brazil in the early map. In: Cartographica Helvetica. Heft 6 (1992), pp. 8-16 (full text).


  • A Guerra dos Pelados , BRA 1970, directed by Sylvio Back.
  • On the Edge of Democracy , BRA 2019, directed by Petra Costra

Web links

Commons : History of Brazil  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files

Individual evidence

  1. 1491 . the Atlantic. March 2002. Retrieved October 2, 2009.
  2. See "Lost towns" discovered in Amazon , in: BBC News August 28, 2008.
  3. ^ A b Rüdiger Zoller: Religion in Brazil, published in: Markus Porsche-Ludwig, Jürgen Bellers (ed.): Handbook of Religions of the World. Volumes 1 and 2, Traugott Bautz, Nordhausen 2012, ISBN 978-3-88309-727-5 . P. 509.
  4. Stefan Rinke, Frederik Schulze: Small history of Brazil . CH Beck, Munich 2013, p. 19.
  5. Stefan Rinke, Frederik Schulze: Small history of Brazil . CH Beck, Munich 2013, p. 22.
  6. ^ Richard Konetzke : The Indian cultures of old America and the Spanish-Portuguese colonial rule (= Fischer-Weltgeschichte, Vol. 22: South and Central America I ). Fischer, Frankfurt am Main, 52. – 56. Tsd., 1971, ISBN 3-436-01213-0 , p. 73.
  7. ^ Mark Harris: Rebellion on the Amazon. The Cabanagem, race, and popular culture in the north of Brazil, 1798-1840 . Cambridge University Press, 2010. ISBN 978-0-521-43723-3 . P. 16. In publications of the 19th century the proportion of fatalities in the population was even given as 40%.
  8. ^ Abu Alfa Muhammad Shareef bin Farid: The Islamic Slave Revolts of Bahia, Brazil. A Continuity of the 19th Century Jihaad Movements of Western Sudan. ( Memento from January 31, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 1.5 MB) Sankore. Institute of Islamic-African Studies, Pittsburgh 1998 (English).
  9. Historical documents published under the Freedom of Information Act and edited by Peter Kornbluh .
  10. Wording of the Ato Institucional N. 5 , website of the Grupo de Estudos sobre a Ditadura Militar (Portuguese), accessed on February 16, 2019 (PDF; 29.96 kB).
  11. Beverly May Carl: Latin American Laws Affecting Coastal Zones. In: Lawyer of the Americas , Vol. 10 (1978), Issue 1, pp. 51-86 (English).
  12. Klaus Hart: Brazil and Argentina - From dealing with the dictatorship past . In: From Politics and Contemporary History . No. March 12 , 2010 ( archive.org [accessed March 30, 2018]).
  13. ^ Greg Grandin: Kissinger's Shadow. The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman . Metropolitan Books, New York 2015, ISBN 978-1-62779-449-7 , p. 151.
  14. ^ Gerhard Dilger: Petrified face in the military. In: the daily newspaper . November 21, 2011, accessed November 22, 2011 .
  15. Kai Ambos, Eneas Romero: Brazil's democracy must learn lessons from the horror of the military dictatorship . In: D + C development and cooperation . February 20, 2015 ( dandc.eu [accessed March 30, 2018]).
  16. ^ Geisa Maria Rocha: Celso Furtado and the Resumption of Construction in Brazil: Structuralism as an Alternative to Neoliberalism. In: Latin American Perspectives. Vol. 34, No. 5, Brazil under Cardoso (Sep., 2007), pp. 132–159, here: p. 139.
  17. Bolsonaro puts anti-human rhetoric into practice. Retrieved July 14, 2019 .
  18. Review