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Creating Colonial Brazil: The First Donatary Captaincies, Or The System Of Private Exclusivity (1534–1549)

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Chapter Summary

In Brazilian and Portuguese historiography, the short-lived experiment with hereditary captaincies has long been neglected, overshadowed by both the earlier age of discovery and later colonial developments such as the General Government and the sugar economy, or else reduced to a debate over the nature of the system. Curiously, this Portuguese experiment has attracted little interest from historians of the other colonial powers, whether French, Dutch, Spanish, or English, who could have used it to help define and delimit the specificity of their own nations’ colonial experiences. The charters of donation included juridical provisions designed to avoid an overlarge concentration of land in the hands of the same individuals. The lack of coordination and existence of personal rivalries, together with the difficulties encountered by the grantees in an often hostile and immeasurably large territory, constitute the background to the decision to break with the model of “private exclusivity.”.

Keywords: Brazil; colonial powers; donatary captaincies; personal rivalries; Portuguese historiography



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