In the 17th Century Brazil found itself the centre of contesting and warring European powers. The Portuguese colonization of Brazil was followed by the invasion from Holland as well as by French attempts to establish a presence in the country. Historians however describe the Dutch invasion of Brazil in the 17th century as one of the most damaging, imposing and far-reaching occupations of the country. This was mainly due to the well-organized and well-planned nature of the Dutch intrusion.
The Dutch invasion was an attempt not merely at establishing some fortuitous harbors for trade but was colonization in the true sense of the term. One of the obvious reasons was export of natural resources such as sugar.
The Dutch occupation of Brazil presents a number of pertinent and important questions that will form the fulcrum of the discussion in this paper. These are - the reasons for the Dutch invasion; the short as well as the long-term impact on Brazil and the reasons why the Dutch left Brazil. Furthermore, in the analysis of the historical data and sources a central aspect tends to manifest itself. This refers to the question as to whether the invasion by the Dutch was just another manifestation of colonization with the concomitant detrimental and negative effects, or whether the Dutch occupation had a more positive and beneficial impact on the country in some senses. This question relates to the central thesis of this paper which refers to the question of short-term as well as long-term effects of the Dutch invasion and occupation. In the final analysis was this historical event beneficial or detrimental?
This paper will attempt to show that there is a certain ambiguity in the historical response to the event of the Dutch invasion of Brazil. On the one hand there are those critics and commentators who see the events through the prism of post - colonial discourse and the view the Dutch intrusion and occupation as essentially negative. On the other hand there are those who argue that the invasion of Brazil had positive outcomes, even precipitating nation building. This ambiguity of responses and views will be explored through the historical data and sources.
The reasons for the invasion of Brazil are complex and inextricably tied to the political, maritime and economic situation in the Seventeenth Century. The European colonization of Brazil begins with the Pedro Alvares Cabral, a Portuguese navigator, who is credited as the first European to reach Brazil, on April 22, 1500. He was allegedly attempting to discover a new route to southern Asia. The Portuguese subsequently settled and colonized the country with a colonial and administrative model based on the feudal system. The major export for Brazil was "brazil wood." Sugar also became a major export for Brazil in the 17th century. This relates to an increasing demand for sugar in Europe.
The potential of Brazil in terms of resources and trade also attracted other European powers. In defiance of the Papal Treaty of Tordesillas, which had divided the New World between Portugal and Spain, France proceeded to invade Brazil for a share of the lucrative dyewood trade. In 1504 the French captain Gonneville of Honfleur traded goods with natives on the coast. The French refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the Treaty of Tordesillas and considered Brazil as an open area for trade and exploration.
This was to lead to incursions by European countries, such as Holland. The French created a settlement near Rio de Janeiro in 1555. This was to last from 1555 to 1567 -- and was known as the France Antarctique episode; but they were later expelled by the Portuguese.
Likewise the Dutch colonized parts of Brazil from 1630 to 1654 when they invaded Pernambuco. They established their colonial capital in Recite, which came known the Nieuw Holland episode.
During the period between 1638 and 1649 the Dutch were to control nearly half of the country. The influential and important Dutch West India Company had its headquarters in Recife. An important aspect of this colonization and one which will be embroidered on is that the Dutch also brought artists and scientists to Brazil. However, in 1649 the Portuguese won an important victory against the Dutch at the Battle of Guararapes. The Dutch eventually left Brazil in 1654 the colonized land became the property of the Portugal.
The history and reasons for the Dutch colonization of Brazil and the impact that it had on that country are best understood against the background of the economic status of Holland and the particular organizational skill and planning abilities that the Dutch showed. In the Seventeenth Century Holland was well organized in economic terms. They were also well aware of the economic wealth and trade viability of Brazil. A remark in the " dialogos da Grandezza do Brasil " ( 1618) states that the whole Brazil possesses more wealth than India.
The lucrative sugar plantations of Pernambuco and Bahia were central factors in the decision of the Dutch to invade Brazil in the 17th Century.
The Dutch expanded on their success in the Baltic trade and extended their sphere of influence. This expansion was to continue and by the Seventeenth Century the Dutch set their sites on the American markets. With these goals in mind they created a powerful new company - the Dutch West India Company which was established in 1621. The ostensible reason for the establishment of the company was to trade with Brazil and the South American countries; yet there was also the underlying motivation to establish a powerful international trading monopoly. The Brazilian prospects of trade in sugar, dye wood and salt were extremely inviting to the Dutch merchants.
An important factor leading to the Dutch decision to invade Brazil was that Dutch enterprise was " ... trapped in a vice of Iberian power, bureaucracy, and trade restrictions. What was needed if the mould was to be broken, the merchants realized, was for the companies to pool their resources and advance Dutch interests in tropical America by deploying overwhelming force."
This was one of the central factors that led to the establishment of a Dutch West India Company.
In 1624, the West India Company undertook an expedition of twenty-six ships and 3,300 men aimed at conquering Bahia in Brazil. After one year they were driven back by the Portuguese. The sugar from Bahai still remained a strong incentive for the Dutch
A further motivational and causative factor for the Dutch invasion was that the differences between Spain and the Netherlands increased, especially in terms of religious disagreements. As a result of this the Portuguese severed their ties with the Dutch. In response Holland attacked the Portuguese possessions.
This was to result in the aforementioned attack on Bahia. Later the Dutch were to take possession of Pernambuco, one of Brazil's most productive sugar areas. This occupation was to extend later to most of northeastern Brazil.
From 1620 to 1654, Holland continued to maintain and administer northeastern Brazil from the capital Pernambuco. Recife was developed into an important port and city which imitated Amsterdam in many ways. One of the central factors in the maintenance of this colonial stronghold was the capable leadership of the governor, Johan Maurits, count of Nassau. Under his leadership the colony prospered. An important aspect of this colonial period was the introduction of a " ... entourage of artists, scientists, architects, and engineers, who were to record, analyze, and build."
While science and the arts were encouraged, the economic foundations which centered on the sugar economy were also well established by the governor. Nassau also encouraged a policy of religious tolerance which added to the stability of the colony.
One of the central characteristics of the invasion of Brazil was that, realizing the economic and strategic importance of the country, there was detailed and careful planning before the invasion. The Dutch were careful to avoid the errors made by the French who sent too few ships and colonists to firmly establish themselves. Instead the Dutch planned for a much larger number of colonists and there colonial intentions were more long-term than the French.
As Stefan Zweig, and Andrew James state in their study Brazil, Land of the Future, nothing showed the importance of Brazil in terms of world trade at this time than the effort and extent to which the Dutch went to in the preparation of their invasion.
While the French used only four ships in the conquest of "France Antarctique," the Dutch on the other hand had twenty-six ships with seventeen hundred trained soldiers and sixteen hundred sailors.
After the initial defeat of Bahia, the Dutch succeeded in capturing it in 1635. This again emphasizes the importance of sugar in the battle for world trade dominance. The important town of Recife and Salvador were also occupied and eventually the entire northern coast is in the hands of the Dutch. This resulted is an occupation that continued for the next twenty-three years. Historians point…