Northern Economic History

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The main feature of the Northern region of Brazil is the presence of the Amazon, with its combination of forest, flowing rivers and great biodiversity, which makes it a unique area throughout the planet. The occupation of the forest was carried out right at the beginning of the Spanish and Portuguese occupation, but very limited due to technical problems in crossing its rivers and transposing the dense forest.

The 1st recorded expedition towards the Amazon took place at the end of the 15th century, by the Spaniard Vincent Pizarro, who called the region the Santa Maria de la Mar Dulce, referring to the Amazon River, which, due to the large volume of water at its mouth, was confused with a sea, being called the Maranon, which means “sea or not”.

In the 16th century, the brothers Francisco and Gonçalo Pizarro, who commanded the destruction of the Inca Empire, organized several expeditions to explore the region from the sources of the Amazon River in the Andes in search for El Dorado, legendary city of gold. During this period, the exploration of the region was consolidated through the extraction of wood, oil seeds and dyes, with emphasis on the exploration of pau-brasil. In addition, it promoted the enslavement, acculturation and genocide of thousands of indigenous people.

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After the effectiveness of the Treaty of Madrid, in 1750, an agreement that replaced the Treaty of Tordesillas in the sense of dividing the territories that belonged to Spaniards and Portuguese, Portugal intensified the occupation of Amazonian lands with the creation of the Companhia Geral do Commerce of Grão-Pará and Maranhão, in order to organize the production of drugs from the hinterland carried out in the region and traded with the Europe.

During the 19th century, the Rubber Cycle (1870-1910) began in the North region. The latex extracted from the rubber tree was always known by the Indians, who used it for waterproofing materials and for making fuels and torches. With the advance of industrialization in central countries and the discoveries of the vulcanization process and the pneumatic, increased the demand for rubber, whose extraction, even in 1840, began to prosper. region.

The process attracted a large contingent of population from the Northeast region, in general immigrants fleeing from the drought, at the same time as there was great international pressure to increase production. In 1876, some rubber tree seedlings were smuggled to England, which were planted in English colonies Asian companies, highlighted India, Malaysia and Ceylon – currently Sri-Lanka, exerting enormous competition with rubber produced in the Brazil.

In 1912, the decline of rubber production in the Amazon began, causing unemployment and capital flight. In the interwar period (1929-1946) there was a reflux, due to US interests, made possible in the construction of Fordlândia, which was intended to supply tires for the factories of Ford. In general, the rubber cycle had the following results:

  • Purchase of Acre from Bolivia (1903);
  • Construction of the Madeira-Mamoré (1903) and Belém-Bragança (1908) railways;
  • Increased migratory movements to the region (Spanish, French, Azoreans and mainly Cearenses fleeing the droughts);
  • Consolidation of predatory logic and deforestation.
  • Urban growth in the cities of Manaus and Belém.

Julio César Lázaro da Silva
Brazil School Collaborator
Graduated in Geography from Universidade Estadual Paulista - UNESP
Master in Human Geography from Universidade Estadual Paulista - UNESP

Source: Brazil School -

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