The towns, cities and states of Amazonia and its border regions are home to complex societies. They have developed sophisticated technologies and elaborate built environments, characterized by complexes of earthen mounds and enclosures. The most spectacular examples of Amazonian civilization are located in the central floodplains of the Amazon and its main tributaries, but major states can also be found on the southern fringes of the Amazon basin, in what are now south-western Brazil and Bolivia. Here, powerful, multi-ethnic chiefdoms, originally founded by Arawak-speaking groups, have over time nurtured hybrid regional cultures. Massive and extensive earthworks, plazas, roads, and moats are integrated into a grid-like pattern across the landscape, testifying to well-organized, hierarchically-based state systems.
The Chimor empire is at the height of its powers, but the Inca empire will soon challenge itclick to view Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia 1453AD
Powerful chiefdoms have formed in this regionclick to view Venezuela, Colombia and the Guianas 1453AD
The Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral had touched the east coast of South America on his way to India (1500). He had claimed the country for Portugal, and several Portuguese expeditions were then dispatched to explore the region. The Portuguese, however, more interested in the East, neglected their American claims. The colonization of eastern South America was undertaken by leaders who established semi-independent fiefdoms, called "captaincies", under only loose control of the Portuguese government. This neglect let other Europeans, notably the Dutch, establish their own colonies in the area. However, with the rise of the sugar trade, the Portuguese have renewed their interest and by now have all but cleared the other Europeans from the country. The dearth of Indian labour has led to black labourers being forcibly imported into Brazil from Africa as slaves. Here they form the mainstay of a plantation economy, producing tropical crops – chiefly sugar - for the European market.
The first Europeans to travel along the river Amazon reported seeing many large towns and villages, housing a large population. When Europeans visited the region again, however, all this had vanished, almost certainly carried away by European germs.
To the south, the region of present-day Sao Paulo has become the centre for poor cattle-rearing settlers. Unable to afford African slaves, and with Indian labour in the vicinity scarce, they have organized raiding parties called "Bandeirantes", which penetrate ever-deeper into the interior in search of slaves. Interbreeding between the races produced a rough and energetic frontier society along this southern coast.
Peru now lies at the heart of the vast Spanish empire in South Americaclick to view Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia 1648AD
North-west South America remains comparatively under-developedclick to view Venezuela, Colombia and the Guianas 1648AD
The Spanish have been unable to subdue the indigenous peoples of central Chileclick to view Chile 1648AD
This region is an isolated backwater, thousands of miles from the main centres of Spanish ruleclick to view Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay 1648AD
Brazil’s sugar exports, once the mainstay of her economy, have been loosing ground to those of the British and French Caribbean, but coffee-growing is becoming more important. This is centred on plantations on the southern coast.
The bandeirantes based in the Sao Paulo area have continued their slave raiding activities, travelling further and further into the interior. In so doing they have explored western Brazil, and effectively opened up much of the interior to settlement. Their activities have pushed out the boundaries of Brazil far to the west of the line originally agreed between Spain and Portugal in the Treaty of Tordesillas, in 1494.
In the south, slave raiding has increasingly given way to gold prospecting, especially in the region of Minas Gerais; and to diamond mining. These activities, together with coffee-growing, have turned the south of the country into the wealthiest part, with Rio de Janeiro as Brazil’s chief city and seat of government.
In the grasslands of the interior cattle ranches are beginning to be established.
Peru has experienced administrative and economic declineclick to view Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia 1789AD
The north-west region of South America has seen much development during the 18th centuryclick to view Venezuela, Colombia and the Guianas 1789AD
Chile remains one of the most isolated regions of Spanish Americaclick to view Chile 1789AD
This region of South America has assumed much greater importance than beforeclick to view Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay 1789AD
Independence has come to Brazil in a very different way to any other country in the New World.
The Brazilians on the whole remained loyal to the Portuguese crown, with its mild (not to say ineffective) rule. The Portuguese royal family, however, was forced to flee from their homeland when Napoleon invaded Portugal in 1807. Evacuated from Lisbon by the British navy, the king and his court took up residence in the Portuguese empire of Brazil. They quickly grew to feel more comfortable here than in Portugal itself.
The presence of the royal family has led to the establishment of proper government throughout much of Brazil, including the founding of a postal service - an important step in so large a country. The king only returned to his homeland in 1821, but left his son, Pedro, to rule in Brazil. The following year Pedro declared Brazil an independent empire, with himself as emperor. His autocratic rule cost him much popularity, however, and he suddenly abdicated in 1831, leaving his five year-old son, Pedro II, on the throne.
Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia have fallen under the control of caudillosclick to view Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia 1837AD
Colombia and Venezuela are now independent countriesclick to view Venezuela, Colombia and the Guianas 1837AD
Chile has won its independence from Spain thanks largely to Bernardo O'Higginsclick to view Chile 1837AD
Since independence, Paraguay and Uruguay have split away from Argentinaclick to view Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay 1837AD
Emperor Pedro II has ruled Brazil for the past 40 years, since the age of five when his father suddenly abdicated the throne (1831). Under Pedro, the country has known political stability. The economy has greatly expanded, and thousands of miles of railroad laid down. In the political sphere, democratic institutions, such as a free press and parliamentary government, have developed, albeit under royal control.
Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador have been ruled by numerous caudillosclick to view Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia 1871AD
Colombia and Venezuela experience violent political instabilityclick to view Venezuela, Colombia and the Guianas 1871AD
Chile has experienced political stability and economic progressclick to view Chile 1871AD
Paraguay has been utterly ruined by a war with its neighbours
The late nineteenth century was a period of strong economic expansion, as Brazil found itself drawn more and more into world markets and received massive investment from Europe and, later, the USA. The most notable aspect of this expansion was the rubber boom, centred on the city of Manaus, deep in the Amazon jungle. This boom came to an abrupt end with the smuggling of rubber plants to Malaysia and the consequent ending of Brazil's monopoly in rubber cultivation.
The economic expansion led to the rise of a new middle class, which did not support the monarchical system of government of the emperor, Pedro II. Moreover, the abolition of slavery in 1888 was fiercely opposed by the plantation owners, and lost Pedro their support. He therefore abdicated the following year, 1889, leaving as a legacy a country that had a far higher level of economic and political stability then most South American states of the period.
Brazil became a federal republic in 1891, adopting a constitution modelled on that of the United States. Government is in the hands of politicians who represent a narrow group of rural landowners, who are nevertheless intent of modernizing the country.
Peru and Bolivia have been defeated in the War of the Pacificclick to view Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia 1914AD
Colombia and Venezuela experience unrest and chaos - but also economic expansionclick to view Venezuela, Colombia and the Guianas 1914AD
Chile has extended her borders in the War of the Pacificclick to view Chile 1914AD
Argentina has attracted European investment on a large scaleclick to view Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay 1914AD
Brazil’s economy was greatly affected by the Wall Street Crash of 1929, as massive foreign debts were abruptly called in. A revolution brought Getulio Vargas to power as dictator (1930). His dictatorship was comparatively tolerant of the people’s freedoms, and he presided over a period of economic recovery, despite the global downturn of the Great Depression. Brazil developed a larger home-grown industrial base than ever before.
After democracy was restored in 1946, Vargas was elected President by free vote (1951). His chaotic handling of government, however, led to his second abdication in 1954. The President is now (1960) Juscelino Kubitschek, whose regime has pursued modernizing economic policies.
This year sees the dramatic opening of Brazil’s brand new capital, Brazilia.
Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador have all experienced intense political instabilityclick to view Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia 1960AD
Both Colombia and Venezuela have become democraciesclick to view Venezuela, Colombia and the Guianas 1960AD
Chile has experienced social, economic and political turmoilclick to view Chile 1960AD
The charismatic figure of Eva Peron has added colour to Argentine politicsclick to view Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay 1960AD
In 1964 the military took power, on the grounds of the mishandling of the economy by the civilian politicians. This ushered in two decades of fairly tolerant military rule, ending in a return to civilian government in 1985. Since that time Brazil has been run along democratic lines, despite periods of hyper-inflation and economic crisis, which Brazil brought under control under the presidency of President Henrique Cardoso (served 1995-2002). Nevertheless, Brazil remained an extremely unequal society, and this helped bring the socialist Lula de Silva to the presidency in 2002. Under de Silva, a combination of shrewd economic policies and some of the most effective anti-poverty measures in the world have made Brazilian society more prosperous and more equal.
Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador have all become democraciesclick to view Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia 2005AD
Colombia has been troubled by drugs warsclick to view Venezuela, Colombia and the Guianas 2005AD
Chile is now one of the most prosperous countries in South Americaclick to view Chile 2005AD
Argentina has experienced continuing economic upheavalclick to view Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay 2005AD
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