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Viceroy of Brazil

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Portuguese colonial official.

With many coastal regions of Brazil exposed to occupation by other Europeans, the Portuguese crown sought to protect its sovereignty by establishing royal government in 1549.

Brazil was originally colonised by the crown granting members aristocracy and wealthy entrepreneurs were given hereditary titles to large tracts of land together with wide ranging governmental and judicial power. These titles were called capitços (captaincies). After 1549, capitços were either replaced by or subordinated to regional royal governors called captain-generals, who exercised extensive judicial, fiscal and military powers. Most of the men who secured these appointments were military officers.

From the 1670s the structure of royal government was progressively reorganised, the most significant change being the crown also bestowed the formal title of governor on regional captain-generals.

These dual titled officials formed a body called an estado (estate) charged with advising and obeying a governor–general, the king’s principal representative in the colony.

From 1720, the governor-general of Brazil enjoyed the more elevated and financially rewarding status of ‘Viceroy of Sea and Land of the State of Brazil’.

Until 1763, the viceroy also held the office of captain-general of the Bahia region, although in 1763 the viceroyship was transferred to the captaincy-general of Rio de Janeiro.

While in theory the viceroy was the crown’s principal servant, he actually had limited power to intervene in regional affairs, as the Portuguese crown saw its best interests were served by curtailing the power of its colonial officials through having individual captain-generals receive instructions directly from Lisbon.

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Places: Brazil
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Structure based on ISAAR(CPF) - click here for an explanation of the fields. Prepared by: Turnbull, P.l
Created: 15 October 2001
Modified: 1 December 2001

Published by South Seas, 1 February 2004
Comments, questions, corrections and additions: Paul.Turnbull@jcu.edu.au
Prepared by: Paul Turnbull
Updated: 28 June 2004
To cite this page use: http://nla.gov.au/nla.cs-ss-biogs-P000083

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