Download Full Text (210 KB)


The Viceroyalty of Brazil (c. 1720–1815) refers to a polity that, at its greatest extent, roughly corresponded in geographic area to the modern nation-state of Brazil. Lying on the upper Atlantic coast of South America, it is bounded on the northeast by the Guyanas, to the northwest by the Viceroyalty of New Granada, to the west by the Viceroyalty of Peru, and to the southwest and south by the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. Northern Brazil is dominated by the densely forested basin of the Amazon River and its many tributaries, which include the Tapajó and Xingu rivers, which empty into the Atlantic at Marajó Island. The Atlantic forests stretched over 330 million acres of the eastern seaboard at the time of colonization, representing both the region of greatest cultural activity and the initial economic motivation for European engagements with Brazil: the brazilwood trade. The Cerrado, a region of tropical savannas, occupy much of the central and southern interior of Brazil. The arid backlands of Brazil’s northeastern regions form the Sertão. Salvador was the first capital of Portuguese America, and in 1700, with the exception of Philadelphia, was larger than any city in English colonial America. When the capital was moved to Rio de Janeiro in 1763, Brazil was elevated to the status of a Viceroyalty, though the colony, per the Portuguese Crown, officially retained the name, “The States of Brazil.” In 1800, the Viceroyalty of Brazil had a population of 2,424,641, with slaves accounting for 31 percent of all inhabitants (de Matos 2016, 276).

Publication Date



Oxford University Press


New York, NY


Ethnic Studies | Indigenous Studies | Latin American History | Latin American Studies | Latina/o Studies


In Thomas B.F. Cummins (Ed.), Grove Dictionary of Art Online.


Oxford University Press

Viceroyalty of Brazil