The trafficking of enslaved human beings from Africa to Brazil began early in the 16th century. However, it was only in the mid-18th century that Portuguese America became the primary destination for the African victims of this infamous commerce. Between the mid-17th century and the first quarter of the 19th century, with gold mining extraction in evident decline, and before the coffee boom of the 1850s, close to 2.2 million enslaved Africans disembarked in Brazilian ports, especially those of Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Recife (FLORENTINO, 1997; VERGER, 2002; FERREIRA, 2012; MAMIGONIAN, 2017).
Such high demand for enslaved labor occurred within a particular historical context. The Haitian Revolution terrified the Brazilian slave-owning elites, but such fear did not curtail enslaved African imports. At the same time, an international campaign for the abolition of the slave trade gained momentum, leading, in the early 19th century, to the signing of treaties between Portugal and England to abolish the slave trade in Portuguese America. Not oblivious to the revolutionary war that swept Spanish America during the Napoleonic wars, Brazil became an Independent nation in 1822.
Such social and political upheaval did not lessen Brazilian demand for enslaved laborers – during this twenty-five that separated the Declaration of Independence and the definitive abolition of the transatlantic slave trade in 1850, Brazil would receive an additional 1.1 million enslaved African workers. Other global processes, such as the modernization of communication and transport infrastructure, intercontinental migrations, and transformations in the financial system, touched Brazil while slavery was still strong.
Enslaved men, women, and children were dispersed throughout Brazil and, even more importantly, allocated to various economic activities (small farms and large plantations, cattle-raising, fishing, mining, and urban and domestic services, among many others). A sharp quantitative rise in the enslaved labor force became noticeable by the end of the colonial era and in the first decades after independence, even when the transatlantic slave trade with Africa operated in blatant illegality. In such context, despite the coffee boom of the mid-19th, a large proportion of the Brazilian slave force was still employed in a myriad of different activities, some of which operated in connection with coffee plantations, an economic relationship still understudied by the scholarship. The province/state of Minas Gerais serves as an excellent example. Even while the region’s main economic activity – mining – declined. With only a small portion of its lands employed in coffee production, Minas Gerais remained a buyer of enslaved Africans to the degree of having the largest enslaved population among all provinces of the Brazilian Empire. A good proportion of those enslaved workers produced foodstuff for the domestic market (SLENES, 1988; MARTINS, 2018). Although in small numbers, several provinces from north to south of Brazil used enslaved labor to produce non-export crops and goods for domestic consumption. The southernmost province of Rio Grande do Sul continued to incorporate Africans after the prohibition of the trade in jerked beef plants (MOREIRA, 2019).
This special issue of Esboços: Histórias em Contextos Globais aims to investigate the changes and continuities in Brazilian slavery between the end of the 18th century and throughout the 19th century in both its local and global aspects. Did such global and local entanglements lead to the onset of a different and novel type of slavery, or, on the contrary, to the maintenance of a slave system that inherited and kept, even with some degrees of adaptations, the old structures of Brazilian slave society?
With that in mind, the special issue welcomes papers illustrating the continuities and changes in Brazilian slave society observed between the late 18th and 19th centuries. Such papers could focus on the slave trade (both transatlantic and domestic); the transition from slavery to freedom through manumissions; the composition of enslaved families; the different labor arrangements used to exploit enslaved workers; enslaved men and women’s agency, and strategies of resistance; the impacts of slave property on credit and banking activities; and also on the intertwined economic relationship between the different regions of Brazil (i.e., the use of enslaved laborers for domestic and export production and the existing ties between these economic sectors); abolitionism and the abolitionist movement; the material culture of slavery; the many legal aspects surrounding slavery and freedom; the uses of judicial courts by both slaves and slave-owners; and the arrival of novel non-free and compulsory labor arrangements. Among other aspects of the Brazilian slave society in the long 19th century.
This special issue also welcomes papers dealing with theoretical and methodological aspects of all the above subjects. Are there any advantages of an analytical approach focusing only on a local or a global level? How can we establish trans-local and temporal comparisons? What are the potential and possibilities of a global history of Brazilian Slavery in which the traditions and methods of economic, cultural, and social history scholarship are deliberately and directly intertwined? In other words, this Dossier welcomes papers showing how the entanglement of global and local questions and events could broaden our understanding of Brazilian slave society and the many political, cultural and economic Brazil experienced throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
Further information at https://periodicos.ufsc.br/index.php/esbocos/announcement/view/1863