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Russell Wood. The Impact of Gold Mining on the Institution of Slavery inPortuguese America.pdf

Russell Wood. The Impact of Gold Mining on the Institution of Slavery inPortuguese America.pdf

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Economic History Association
Technology and Society: The Impact of Gold Mining on the Institution of Slavery inPortuguese AmericaAuthor(s): A. J. R. Russell-WoodReviewed work(s):Source:
The Journal of Economic History,
Vol. 37, No. 1, The Tasks of Economic History(Mar., 1977), pp. 59-83Published by:
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Technologynd Society:The Impactof Gold Mining on the InstitutionofSlaverynPortuguese merica
3
HE "golden age" of Brazil was heralded by substantiatedre-
ports in the 1690s of placer gold deposits in the Rio das Velhasregion of the future captaincy of Minas Gerais. In Mato Grosso,strikesinCuiaba(1718) were followed by discoveries of alluvial goldintheRiverGuaporein 1734. By 1725, discoveries inGoia'salso auguredwell. Gold was foundinJacobina and Rio das Contas (Bahia)inthe1700s and in 1727 further strikes were made in Fanado andAraguahi.Although the initial exploratory impetus was not maintained, newsiteswere stillbeing reported fromas farafield as Cearat,Sergipe, andGoiasatmid-century.Allof these regions were subject to dramatic fluctuationsinproduc-tion. By1732themines ofCuiabai"offerednomorethanashadowofpastriches."Goiasenjoyedalongerlifespan,butby1770 bothcaptainciesfaced irreversiblecollapsesof themining economy.1In1730theprovedoroftheroyal exchequer lamentedthe declineofplacer mininginBahia.2 Even Minas Gerais, which made up74percentoftotal colonialproduction,didnotescapeeconomiccrises.In1735 the governor of Brazil's richest captaincywasforced byeconomicadversityto reformthe statutesfixingcivilandecclesiasticalfees;in1741pharmaceutical priceswere revised downwards becauseofthedecliningeconomic situation.Thetown council ofVila Ricareferred to the "greatest poverty" occasioned bylack of discoveries
59Journal of EconomicHistory,Vol. XXXVII, No.1(March1977). Copyright
?
TheEconomicHistory Association.All rights reserved.This article is basedon materialsinthefollowing Brazilian archives:National Archives,Rio deJaneiro (hereinafterabbreviated as ANRJ); Municipal Archives,Salvador(AMB);PublicAr-chivesof the State ofBahia,collection of Royal Orders (APB);Public Archives of theState ofMinas Gerais, registersof the MunicipalCouncil of Vila Ricado Ouro Preto (APMCMOP),registers of theDelegacia Fiscal (APMDF),and registers ofthe Secretaria doGoverno(APMSG). The namesof the followingjournals have been abbreviated:Hispanic AmericanHistorical Review (HAHR);Revista do ArquivoPiblico Mineiro (RAPM).Iwould like toexpressmy thanks toPhilip Curtin, Robert Forster,and Ray Kea, who commentedon earlier versionsofthis paper. The authoracceptsfullresponsibilityfor errors of content or interpretation.1JoaoPandiACalogeras,Asminas doBrasil esualegislagao(Rio de Janeiro,1904-5), I, 85,222.
2
Pedro de FreitasTavares Pinto's reportof 17 June 1730,APB, Vol. 26,doe.51.On thedesertion of Bahianmining zones for theDiamond District, seeAPB, Vol. 24, doc. 26;Vol. 29,doc.143.
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60Russell-Wood
and theexhaustionofgold deposits.3 Indicationsofdeclining goldproduction, largelyignored by DomJodoV(1705-1750), becameunmistakableduringthe reign of Dom JoseI
(1750-1777).4
The economic,political, demographic,and socialrepercussionsofBrazilian goldproduction were felt throughout thePortuguese-speakingworld. Thevolume, commodities,andpatternof tradeandthe prosperityof the southAtlanticeconomyinthe eighteenth cen-turywerelargelydeterminedbythechangingdemandsof goldmin-inginPortugueseAmerica. Slave labor wasthe hingeon which the Luso-Brazilian conomyturned,andslavery remainedthe onecon-stantina colony otherwisecharacterizedby socialmobility. Mypurposeisto examine theimpact ofBraziliangoldonslavery,aninstitutionwhich took adifferent ormn theminingareasthanitdidinthe plantationeconomiesof the Braziliannortheast. Mining technologywas mostrudimentary hroughouthecolonialperiod.In1700thekinginformed hegovernorof RiodeJaneiroofthe imminent arrival offour mining technocrats.Butthecrownrefused to send skilledminers from HungaryorSaxonyor fear thattheirknowledge of Brazilianmines mightbeputat the serviceofhostile powers andencourage nvasion.This policy waslamented byDom Pedro deAlmeida, later count of Assumar governorof MinasGerais, 1717-1721),andbythe Germanmining engineervonEsch-wegeinthe early nineteenthcentury.5Because of the lack of techni-calguidance, innovationwasvirtuallyimitedto thedevelopmentof
3
Economic straitsduring the 1730s and 1740swere illustrated bysuchcomments as"mizeravel estado destes povos, pella falta deextrapaode ouro" (1735reforms, APMSG, Vol.24,fols. 33-44v; \ol. 35, doc.133) and, in referenceto the pharmaceuticalregiment, "feyto emtempo queseachava nestasterras mais ouro quemedicinas;ecomo no prezenteha tantas comofaltasdecabedaes" (APMSG,Vol. 43, fols. 98v-99);Council to king, 5 July1741, APB, Vol. 52,fols.89-90v.In a letterof1March 1749 the CouncilofVilaRicaasked forroyal patience incollectingthe"fifths"nview of the"extremamizeriaedecadencia em que seachaestePahisemrezaodenaio haveremdescubertos."APMCMOP, Vol. 54, fol.177.
4
For estimates of colonialgold production, seeCalogeras, As minas, I,133-48; Roberto C.Simonsen, Hist6riaecon6micado Brasil,1500-1820, 4th ed.(SaoPaulo,1962), pp. 283-84;VitorinoMagalhaesGodinho, "Le Portugal, lesflottes du sucre et lesflottes de l'or (1670-1770)," Annales,Economies-Soci6tes-Civilisations,5(Apr.-June1950),especially 190-97;CharlesR.Boxer, TheGolden Age of Brazil,1695-1750. Growing Pains of aColonial Society(University of CaliforniaPress, 1969) pp. 57-60,157, 258-59, and appendices2and 3; WilhelmL.von Eschwege, PlutoBrasiliensis (Berlin, 1833).
5
Calogeras, As minas, I,112; Assumar to king,12 December 1717,APMSG, Vol. 4,fols.208v-209.In1729 DomJoaoVgranted permissionto mining expertsAlexandre Pichon andEstevaoAlierto gotoBrazil forthreeyears. APB, Vol.26, docs. 77,77a. Instructions(1733) toMartinhodeMendonpadePina e Proenga, onassuming acting governorshipofMinas Gerais,urgedhimto encouragethe development ofmachines to facilitatemining.-Colesam dasnoticiasdosprimeirosdescobrimentos das Minas naAmerica, que fez oDr.CaetanodaCostaMatoco, sendo OuvidorGeral das do ouro preto deque tomou posse emFevrOde1749,fols.102-106;thisfascinatingdocumentisintheMunicipal Library of SaoPaulo.
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