Barter: what it is and how it was practiced in Brazil

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THE barter it is a transaction model that was very common in antiquity and was established as soon as civilized life was organized. In this model, the two parties involved negotiated the exchange of goods and services in order to satisfy both sides. In Brazil, the best-known case of barter was that carried out between Portuguese and Indians during the exploration of the redwood.

accessalso: Pre-Colonial Period time course in which there was great exploitation of pau-brasil

barter summary

  • Barter is a transaction in which goods or services are exchanged between two parties.
  • This form of transaction was established with the rise of civilization.
  • It was very common in antiquity and Middle Ages, although it still exists today.
  • In the history of Brazil, barter was present in the relationship between Portuguese and Indians, in the exploitation of pau-brasil.

What is barter?

Currently, we live in a society that has a monetized economy, that is, we can buy any commodity we need through money, that is, banknotes and coins. The banknote and the coin are nothing more than paper and metal units used to quantify the value of a commodity and even of our own work.

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It turns out that this was not always the case, as money only consolidated itself as a form of payment for most transactions in the West very late. Some scholars consider that this was due to Roman influence, especially in large cities, while others point to the commercial revival in the Late Middle Ages. Before the monetization of the economy, man carried out his commercial transactions through barter.

Barter is nothing more than a transaction between two parties in which no money is involved. Thus, barter is a transaction carried out through the exchange of:

  • goods;
  • services;
  • service for a particular commodity and vice versa.

know more: What was the economy like in the Middle Ages?

Why was barter used?

This form of commercial transaction was the basis of humanity's economy in THEseniority and it still exists today, but in a very restricted way. The barter took place mainly because there was no consolidation of a monetary system and the use of coins. Thus, when a particular person or community needed a commodity, another product was offered in exchange.

The commercial transaction only took place through negotiation and when both parties were satisfied with the business presented. So, in this model, two farmers could trade and exchange, for example, an amount of wheat for an amount of corn.

This model could also lead to a certain disproportion in the negotiated exchange, but in the end, what mattered was the satisfaction of both parties with the conclusion of the deal. Over time, the model has improved. Thus, for the exchange of goods considered rarer, a greater quantity of products was demanded.

The fact that barter was the predominant form of trading in antiquity does not mean that there was no circulating currency. It turns out that many people did not have access to the currency because they lived in remote places or because they did not have good material conditions. In this way, barter was given as a way of carrying out trade.

Barter has been present since the dawn of human civilization, being a means of transaction in different places, such as:

  • Mesopotamia;
  • Egypt;
  • Phoenicia;
  • Greece;
  • Pomegranate.

In addition, it was common in the Middle Ages, including the period when trade began to gain strength in late middle ages.

But anyone who thinks that this system was restricted to the Antiquity and Medieval periods is wrong. In the 20th century, for example, in United States, at people hardest hit by the Great Depression bartered, as, most of the time, they did not have enough money to purchase basic items, such as food. So the solution was to exchange goods.

Also know: Crisis of 1929 — the context that started the period of the Great Depression

barter in Brazil

Barter in Brazil follows international logic. This modality was very important a while ago and today it has been replaced by the monetization of our economy. Still, the barter still exists, carried out as a socialization option, a situation in which a certain group gathers to exchange low-value goods, such as:

  • clothes;
  • books;
  • other objects of personal and domestic use.

Throughout Brazilian history, barter proved to be an important modality and its most symbolic use took place through the implementation of the first Portuguese exploration activity here: the pau-brasil trade.

At the beginning of the 16th century, this tree existed in abundance on the Brazilian coast and was seen with market potential due to the resin that existed in the wood, which was used for the production of dye. In this scenario, the Portuguese carried out a barter operation with the Indians:

  • You indians they carried out the work of locating the trees, felling them and transported the pau-brasil logs to the factories built by the Portuguese on the coast of Brazil.
  • The Portuguese, in return, gave them products such as axes, hooks, knives and other metal objects that were of great importance to their daily lives.

→Video lesson on the exploitation of pau-brasil
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