Captaincy of Bahia de Todos os Santos - Settlement and Economy

Brazil as a Portuguese colony became the new India for the Iberian country. What at the time of its discovery was just a coastline that showed no signs of wealth turned out to be more than that.

Products such as wood, slaves, sugar in the first resort came to reveal the great economic potential of the territory and to create interest in the powers of the old continent.

The realization of this work is based on the interest in wanting to disseminate and improve matters little worked during the degree, in the context of the Portuguese maritime empire.

The choice of theme was especially due to the great importance that this captaincy had during the Portuguese overseas empire. If there is, in my opinion, a region to be highlighted during the time of discoveries, Bahia is one of those areas and in this work we will see why.

The subtitle shows above all the lack of time that this work had to carry out and as such it could not be very specific with the risk of its execution taking too long.

The date of approach between 1500-1697 was a temporal spacing that I arranged in the course of the work, 1500 because it is the date attributed to the discovery of Brazil, 1697 because it is the date attributed to the discovery of gold.

I thought it was good for 1697, not because I worked all the time until that date but because I wanted to put a brake on the triggering of this new economy and I didn't show interest in this work since it would lengthen the subject too much and because gold came to take great political centrality. to Bahia.

In this work we will see general features of several factors that have passed through the history of the region of Bahia during the period covered.

The interest is to try, whenever possible, to resort to sources of the time to be analyzed or already analyzed.

Captaincy of Bahia de Todos os Santos


Bahia, Recife, Rio, São Vicente, among other ports, are ports favored by reefs and coastal cords, granting them a distinct protection.

Recens Elaborata Mappa Geographica Regni Brasiliae in America Meridionali, Maxime Celebris Accuratae Delineata, Seutter, Matthias - 1730
Recens Elaborata Mappa Geographica Regni Brasiliae in America Meridionali, Maxime Celebris Accuratae Delineata, Seutter, Matthias – 1730

Bahia is a privileged center of maritime life, it is located in the middle of two coasts with different characteristics.1 The city is built as on the base of an isolated mountain in the region.

The port is one end of the city, a harbor protected by reefs, a bay that is an excellent way of communication between different lands, a true Mediterranean Sea in its ease of communication.

The Captaincy of Bahia de Todos os Santos at the time when it was attributed to the donee Francisco Pereira Coutinho (1534) it had fifty leagues of coastline, from the right bank of the São Francisco River to what is now Cabo de Santo António.

The capital of Bahia, the city of Salvador, it was built close to the old Vila do Pereira which, with the implementation of a general government, became its headquarters (when Tomé de Sousa arrived).


Bahia was one of the first points to be discovered by the Portuguese in Brazil.

The Todos-os-Santos Bay was discovered on November 1, 1501.

It was in this bay that the first European settlers settled, Diogo Álvares and his companions who were shipwrecked (first proven occurrence).

The division of Brazilian territory into captaincies adopted by D. João III of Portugal intended the settlement and colonization of this new territory.

It is well known that this was not easy, and this objective was not initially achieved.

At the beginning, what we can see are dispersed population centers along the Brazilian coast, some of which managed to develop (few) and others stagnated, with some disappearing due to various factors.

Bahia at its beginning was also just a set of settlements, a captaincy in theory and in the image of Portugal but that the donatary captains failed in its settlement and development, leaving Bahia and not only given over to the natives until 1549.

Accuratissima Brasiliae Tabula, 1633
Accuratissima Brasiliae Tabula, 1633

Moment in which Tomé de Sousa, the first governor-general of Brazil and the founder of the city of Salvador, arrived.

Read Foundation and the History of Salvador da Bahia

At the moment when the Government-General was established in Brazil, the population began to spread, quite possibly because of the security that the Governor-General's presence conveyed. Now we see a representative of the king in this colony.

The requests of the population, the grantees did not take so long to be answered, there is another type of response. This created conditions for Bahia to develop, the nucleus of inhabitants was structured, increased, became definitive.

The great obstacle of the Portuguese population in Brazil was the constant resistance of the Indians.

The search for resources was one of the objectives of the population, we saw earlier that Bahia had a lot of pau-brasil and that it was of quality, but this was something that was seen without great demand, the settlers were also interested in discovering other riches, as was the case of precious metals and stones, although in the case of Bahia it played a secondary role.

These searches mobilized large human contingents, which demographically increased the area and allowed the development of communication networks between Bahia and other areas.

Both Bahia and Brazil as a whole took time to develop but when they began to find economic interest in these new Portuguese lands, development grew a lot and competition with other European peoples also favored.

The growth of cities is one of the points where we can see this development as well as the population increase.

Now let's look at more specific demographic issues.

We start with a table that reflects the demographic values ​​of Bahia in various periods.
Settlement of the City of Salvador from 1549 to 1640

Settlement of the City of Salvador from 1549 to 1640.

According to Father Nóbrega, in 1549, the population of Francisco Coutinho had forty to fifty white residents.

As we have seen before, the settlement of Bahia was not easy, in fact, no land in Brazil was completely easy. The main case was tensions with the natives.

For example, the Tupinambá got into a big clash with the Portuguese when Francisco Pereira Coutinho implemented sugar production in Bahia (sugarcane production).

On July 28, 1541, Coutinho donated two sesmarias (one in the Pirajá estuary to the nobleman João de Velosa and the other in Paripe to Afonso de Torres, a Castilian nobleman).

In cooperation with Francisco Coutinho, sugar mills were established in these two locations.

The enslavement of natives around the sugar culture was not the only reason for the conflicts between the Portuguese and the indigenous people.

As Father Simão de Vasconcelos says, “peace with the indigenous people of Bahia only lasted as long as their patience also lasted, because there was no vile trade, barbarity, violence, extortion and immorality that the Portuguese did not practice against those they called savages, but who in this point exceeded in savagery.”

Also the Jesuit priest, Manoel da Nóbrega, reported on his arrival in Bahia in 1549 that there was no place where the Christians had not caused wars and conflicts, that all the first tensions in Bahia had been caused by them.

Jesuit Father Manuel da Nóbrega

The Portuguese occupation in the Bahia-Sergipe region only began to leave the coast and extend inland from the mid-XNUMXth century onwards. XVII.

The first reason for such an advance towards the interior was the need to find new land for the production of cattle, of products necessary for the work of the mills and to obtain food to support the population increase.

It was for these main reasons that the backlands of Bahia were occupied, as well as the reason for the excess of Bahian breeders to populate fields in other places, such as Ceará, Piauí and Maranhão.

Another reason for the population expansion was the donation of land to sertanistas (a measure to fight the revolted Indians who, around 1669, almost reached plantations such as those in Jequiriçá and Jaguaripe). 

In 1532, Martim Afonso de Sousa communicated to the king the risks that the French could offer to the Portuguese colony and this was also one of the reasons that led to the desire to populate Brazil in a more systematic way.

At an organizational level, especially from 1680 onwards, several parishes, towns, villages, such as the Parish of Santo António de Jacobina, the Parish of Maragogipe and other villages that in the following century would become

During the century XVII, Bahia shared its importance in Brazil with Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro, they were a kind of three capitals of the State of Brazil.

This was mainly due to the fact that they are one of the oldest colonial territories in Portuguese America,
but it is also due to the fact that they are among the cities that have had the greatest economic, political and cultural development. 

The other captaincies in comparison had a role at this time, annex, secondary.

When we talk about the settlement of Bahia, we cannot neglect the city of Salvador. The choice of location for the construction of this city came from a defensive perspective.

As we will see later, this city was divided (Cidade Baixa and Cidade Alta).

In part of it, in low city, there was only one street, where the warehouses related to the port and the chapel of N. Senhora da Conceição da Praia were located.

in the upper city there was the administrative part. The Governors' Palace, the Chamber Senate, the Ajuda and Sé chapels, the Misericórdia hospital, the Court of Appeal, the college and the Jesuit Church and the first residences were installed in this area (in August 1549 there were about than 100 houses and in 1587 the estimate pointed to 800 neighbors).

The original nucleus in the upper city ran from Porta de São Bento to Praça da Cidade. Later there were expansions of this nucleus. 

To the north, he took the direction to Portas do Carmo and then to Convento do Carmo

To the south, he headed towards the monastery of St. benedict (1584) and to the east we see the first occupation with the construction of the Capela do Desterro (1567).

In terms of defence, a fundamental part of the construction of the city, the fortifications came to be fundamental. In the beginning, the lower city was defended by two bulwarks and the upper city was protected by a fence and a rammed earth wall (1551) along with four bulwarks.

Later, two forts were built to protect the city, on the side of the bay, one in Barra (Santo António, 1583-1587) and another in Itapagipe (Montserrat, 1585-1587).

When the Dutch entered, they reinforced the two gates and built the first dike, in the current Baixa dos Sapateiros.

After the departure of the Dutch, two small forts were built in Barra, where the Dutch landed (Santa Maria and São Diogo) and two more forts to the north, one in Santo António beyond Carmo and another in Cidade Alta and São Diogo. Bartolomeu, in Itapagipe.

Urbs Salvador, Montanus, Arnoldus - 1671
Salvador da Bahia – Urbs Salvador, Montanus, Arnoldus – 1671

A major defense problem during this period was housing the 2000 soldiers who defended the city.

But as it is easy to understand, no matter how many defensive constructions there were, they were unable to neutralize the Dutch offensive and the city ended up suffering bombings, looting, homes were destroyed and the same happened in the recovery of the city by the Spanish troops together. with others.

Economy and Food

The initial economic development of the Portuguese colony was very difficult, as was the expansion of the settlers in these new lands.

At the beginning, the Portuguese witnessed a lack of resources, the human resources they had were also very limited, there were few residents, few Portuguese inhabitants, but worse than that were the great and continuous hostilities of the indigenous people, including the Tupiniquins, the Aimorés and especially the Tupinambás as we will see further on.

At the time of arrival of the first grantee captains, the first crops began, the first crops, possibly being mostly cassava production (according to Nóbrega upon arrival in Bahia, this root was the common foodstuff that came from the land, it was processed in flour as well as American corn). At this time, the first attempt to produce sugarcane began.

In 1538 there was already a mill in Bahia fed by resources from Lisbon capitalists/investors. Something that did not survive until the arrival of Tomé de Sousa, as we will see.

It was with the change in policy (implementation of a General Government based in Bahia) that economic activities expanded.

From this time onwards, the extraction of wood developed and with it came the development of shipbuilding, the production of lime began, the Whale fishing industry was increased and regulated, especially for the interest of their fat, the cultivation of cotton, tobacco, ginger began, cattle raising was established, the number of corrals increased and the sugar industry developed.

Below are brief notes on the main resources exploited in the captaincy of Bahia.


The first great Brazilian economic resource, or if we prefer to say, the first product to be exploited with great economic impact, was undoubtedly wood, more specifically the so-called pau-brasil.

Redwood is a wood that provides coloring material.

At the time that Brazil was discovered, the textile industry was in full development and, as the artificial anilines we use today were not yet known, pau-brasil was a highly appreciated and sought after raw material.

It was found on the Brazilian coast, in the forest area that skirts the coast to the Cabo Frio area, with relative density.

Afterwards, this extraction was decreasing and dragging on, always declining, for another 200 years, until the progress of chemistry allowed the production of synthetic anilines and, led to the lack of interest in pau-brasil.

The pau-brasil cycle was nothing more than rudimentary exploitation, nothing more than a simple collection, a typical extractive industry.

In the middle of the century. XVI, Brazil is still nothing more and nothing less for Europe than the country of colored wood, a
wood used for the transformation of precious furniture and other purposes.

The profitability of this business is such that timber dealers begin to emerge in this century.

The Portuguese crown itself reserves the monopoly of Brazilwood exploration.

In 1501 we see the first monopoly contract signed for three years with Fernando de Noronha. This is to briefly explain what wood is economically in Brazil.

As far as Bahia is concerned, we know that there was an abundance of pau-brasil, a quality wood, it is the governor-general of Brazil himself, Diogo Botelho, who in 1606 reminds the king of this fact.

The port of Bahia is one of the major ports and one of the main ports for shipping cut wood.

This wood is then usually unloaded in Lisbon, unless unusual conditions do not allow it, such as storms or encounters with privateers, this sometimes forces the route to be diverted to another port such as Porto, Viana, Peniche or even another .

The usual thing was to arrive in Lisbon and be stored at Casa da India.

Cristovam Pires was one of the many commanders, in this case commander of the ship Bretôa that in 1511 came from the Tagus to collect 5 redwood logs and various exotic animals in the Todos-os-Santos Bay and in Cabo-Frio.

Several charts and records allow us to trace typical values ​​of prices at departure from Brazilian ports, values ​​that could be close to those practiced in the port of Bahia.

In 1591 the quintal had a value around 900 to 1000 réis and in 1666 the value was around 610 réis, of course this was not a phase that was always decreasing, during this time there were some rises as it was in 1625 with prices around 1050 réis, this may have been influenced by the problem with the Dutch in Bahia.

As far as transport prices are concerned, we know that at least between 1602 and 1624 the quintal had a cost of around 300 réis (it is a tax).

The Dutch came to harm the Portuguese trade in Brazilian timber, especially around 1625, largely due to the effectiveness of the Dutch West Indies company and the direct supply from Amsterdam on Brazilian lands, namely in Pernambuco.

We have to take into account that the Brazilian wood market was the target of a lot of smuggling, the French even caused serious problems and as a measure to combat this irregular trade, so to speak, Abreu de Brito proposed in 1591 the creation of the craft of Guarda-Mor and the construction of five fortresses, one of them in Bahia.

There was so much smuggling that it was not difficult to hide the arrival of wood in unauthorized ports, or rather, in ports where the merchandise should not go directly.

We have a case denounced in Holland in June 1657 by a Hieronymo Nunes da Costa resident in Amsterdam who reports the arrival of a shipment of pau-brasil coming from Paraíba.

It is the governor of Bahia who is in charge of solving this problem. The problem of this traffic is quite difficult to solve, especially when certain Portuguese are complicit in these acts, but when these illicit acts are caught, wood and even ships can be confiscated and the accomplices are targets of punitive measures.

Now, if the wood coming from Pernambuco already arrives directly in Amsterdam, it does not pass through Lisbon, the wood that comes from other captaincies such as Bahia and that passes through Lisbon before going to Holland, is sold cheaper due to competition, unfair because it is not is authorized by Portugal but it is always competition that is reflected in prices and therefore, in the profits of the national crown.


When the Portuguese arrived in Brazil it became clear that the Indians would be enslaved, those beings with their shame in sight, did not seem to be of use for anything else, but it was not the question of their ability that was at stake, but the need
that the Portuguese had.

Human work was needed to explore Brazil and the Indian was a resource that was available and it is on this issue that we have to base ourselves.

Videos about Slavery in Colonial Brazil

Later the Portuguese came to the conclusion that it is a weak resource, largely due to the exploitation of sugar. The frequent deaths and lack of profitability leads to a search for a stronger human resource and there begins to bring slaves from various areas of Africa, most of them land in the captaincy of Bahia.

In fact, blacks from Africa were the main workforce of the Portuguese economy in Brazil and dependency was so great that when the Dutch entered Brazil and Angola, there was a time known as the Black Famine (1625-1650). ).

Bahia was taken in 1625, it was one of the main ports of entry for black slaves, Pernambuco was also important and was taken in 1630, not stopping there, in 1640 the Dutch took the Angolan coast from where a large number of slaves came.

These three points were crucial to affect the slave trade, to the point that in 1644 the Overseas Council receives a request from a certain Sebastião Araújo who wants to go to Guinea to exchange certain goods for slaves to bring to Bahia since in Angola the situation it's complicated.

It is curious that while the slave trade suffers problems, when the Dutch try to monopolize this business, the sugar cane culture is developing with particular incidence in Rio and Bahia. Therefore, within the economic spectrum, not everything is problematic.

In Bahia there was a very large mixture of Negroes, they were no longer pure Peuls or any other race, it was not a specific and immutable community, they were more an agglomeration of mestizos, many had come from Senegambia, Guinea and other African coasts.

There was the intention not to gather in one place, a certain group of African peoples, it was feared that if certain nationalisms were triggered, a native group together could cause revolts and other problems.

This, too, was only a much worked issue for the 1647th century, but already in XNUMX, in a letter sent by Henrique Dias to the Dutch, he reveals the virtues and problems of certain groups of Africans, which leads to the conclusion that the best was the fragmentation of the various communities. by the various captaincies.

Between 1580-1590, about 3000 to 45000 slaves arrived in Bahia, numbers that are widely dispersed in the sources.

Much because of the Dutch. Between 1630-1636 few slaves are seen entering Pernambuco, they begin to emigrate to Bahia in order to escape the Dutch.

But if we see this emigration in this period, it should be noted that between 1600-1630 more slaves entered Pernambuco than Bahia due to the greater number of mills that this captaincy had.

In the 20.000th century, about XNUMX slaves arrived in Bahia (estimate).

During these times the church itself made a distinction between the Indian and the black, justifying that the black should be the slave, thus defending the Indian.

The Church and orders have always played an important role in native communities.


Sugar is the great wealth of Brazil in the XNUMXth century. XVII. It comes to give the Portuguese empire a new source of wealth, making it forget, in a way, the riches that at another time came from India.

With the implementation of this new economic structure, focused on sugar, taking into account its production and its needs, such as slave labor and the use of the best lands in the northeast, it caused social inequalities, an accumulation of wealth by certain undue people and the invasion of Dutch (1624-1625) due to interest in controlling this business.

Brazil, more specifically the north as was the case of the Recôncavo da Bahia, was endowed with favorable conditions for the plantation of sugarcane. There are fertile, rich soils, some clayey, others made up of massapé (black earth), endowed with humus (decomposing organic materials).

Bahia, like Pernambuco, became one of the most important sugar producing centers of the Portuguese empire.

As we have already seen, the quality of the soil, the climate (hot and humid), the abundance of forest resources and the favorable condition of the port and the speed of communication with the metropolis were essential conditions for the elevation of the captaincy's status.

The lands for the production of sugarcane and not only were distributed in a system of sesmarias, with the priority centered on the concession of lands along the rivers and to those who had the capacity to install hydraulic devices.

By installing mills next to water courses, transport was facilitated (by boats) and the power of the water itself was also used as a force mechanism for the mill.

When this did not happen and the mills were far from a watercourse, animal and human force had to be resorted to. 

Brazil becomes the main producer of sugar in Portugal, it is even impossible to compete with it, since the mid-XNUMXth century it already showed signs of growth in production.

To have an idea, in the 80s of the same century, an arroba of white sugar in Brazil costs around 800 réis while in Funchal it costs 1800.

At the level of gadgets in Bahia, we initially have Francisco Pereira Coutinho (granted) trying to build two, something that was not possible because the natives/savages forced them to abandon them.

More specifically, it was the Tupinambá who united and with about 6 thousand men, burned the mills and killed many Portuguese. This war lasted about 5 to 6 years (it must have started in 1541). There were times of great famines, diseases and other misfortunes.

In 1587, Gabriel Soares de Sousa indicated 36 mills for Bahia (21 powered by water, 15 powered by animal power and 4 under construction).

Around 1610, but without a solid base of veracity, we can see the captaincy with 50 engenhos. Not counting Maranhão, we had 1628 sugar mills in operation in Brazil around 235.

In order to organize information about the sugar mills in Brazil, we can place the captaincy of Bahia in the central zone, which in 1570 had 1 mill which progressively increased until 1710 it reached 146 mills (the entire central zone).

The Centro zone was not the most profitable, it was the one in the south, it was not Bahia, it was Pernambuco. In Bahia we see an evolution of engenhos from 1570 to 1629 from 18 to 84 mills.

The increase in the mills was not much greater because of the Indians who killed the whites, the Europeans and destroyed the mills themselves, these internal problems were always a constant throughout Brazil.

Torrential rains, droughts, animals, are factors that harm the development of cane fields.

In 1665, Lopo Gago da Câmara asked the Overseas Council for a regulation to prevent the movement of herds in his mill so that the shoots and others would not be eaten.

Sugar exploitation is not only subject to taxes (to certain tithes), to make this worse, the captaincy of Bahia had to pay war compensation to Holland for 16 years, it was not the only one with these financial obstacles but it is what matters to our study.

Apparently, the first sugar mills began to be installed in Bahia during the government of Tomé de Sousa, but it was only years later, possibly during the government of Mem de Sá, that production managed to reach a point where it was possible commercially exploit the product and export in other proportions.

History of sugarcane in the colonization of Brazil

fishing and hunting

According to letters from the time, some of them written to the king by those who were in the captaincy (example of the Jesuit priest Nóbrega) mention that there was a lot of fish, a lot of shellfish, great varieties that served in the food of the local inhabitants.

There was also a lot of game that lived in the woods and birds like geese that were already raised by the Indians.

The port of Bahia, in terms of regulations on the sale of fish, is quite strict, it forces large fish to be sold by weight.

Weights differ depending on quality.

Bahia creates a fixed price for salted fish.

In the times following the arrival of Tomé de Sousa in Bahia, the exploitation of oysters for lime production began.

At the end of the century In the 33th century, there were many oysters to be removed from Ilha da Ostra which, according to Gabriel Soares de Sousa10, allowed the creation of more than XNUMX lime mills.

Gabriel Sousa also tells us: “And there are so many oysters in Bahia and in other parts that very large boats are loaded with them, to make lime from the shells, which is very and very good for the works, which is very white; and there is a mill in which more than three thousand millstones of lime from these oysters were spent in his works.”

At the turn of the century. XVII, freshwater fishing had great development. Frei Vicente says: “from there it is fresh water, where there are so many fisheries that in four days they load as many caravels as there are”.

This refers more specifically to the fishing carried out in the São Francisco River. For Gabriel Soares de Sousa it is the Whale that deserves great attention, he had already predicted that this industry would be successful at the end of the XNUMXth century. XVI and this came to be revealed with the regular establishment of this fishery and with the large number of whales that entered Bahia.

With the General Government of Diogo Botelho (1602-1608) assigned by King D. Filipe III, Pedro Urecha brought from Biscay (Spanish region) boats and people skilled in the craft of whaling and treatment (extraction of oil especially) in order to develop this industrial.

This development made it possible to export whale oil to the various regions of Brazil, facing the lack of this resource and allowing greater production of sugar since with lighting, some mills could work at night.



The French looked at Brazil with good eyes, they intended to create a pole of influence, above all commercial, where they could extract as much wealth as the Portuguese.

In 1591 Francisco Soares wrote that in 1504 the French arrived in Bahia and that the Portuguese rejected their entry and even held back three ships.

In fact, many of the corsairs that circulated through Brazilian waters were French, as the Jesuit in Bahia, Leonardo do Vale, says on June 26, 1562, “the new generations of all the land is to be very educated by French”.

On the other hand, we see the author Eduardo Bueno mentioning that the Tupinambá had more respect for the French than for the Portuguese.

For them, the French came to Bahia just to pick up pau-brasil in exchange for other goods, there were no major conflicts either on arrival or departure.

The Portuguese had already arrived to stay on their lands and were willing to enslave the natives for their own benefit.

History of Pernambuco and Recife is marked by conflicts


The Dutch caused a lot of destruction, they were quite troublesome invaders.

Accounts from the time resemble that of the French when they were invaded by the Vikings in the Middle Ages.

Frei Vicente do Salvador (1564-1635) reported that the Dutch, in the area of ​​Bahia (Red River), burned what they found along the way, stole it, forced the residents to flee to the bush, threatened and did other worse things.

You can get an idea that the Dutch caused as much or more damage than the French in Brazil.

Facing the conquest of Bahia by the Dutch, in 1625, a Portuguese-Hispanic fleet entered the captaincy, managing to evict the Dutch from the fort of São Filipe de Tapuype.

Read History of the Forts and Lighthouses of Salvador

But going back, we have to understand why the Dutch have expressed interest in Brazilian lands.

We are looking at a period when the Twelve Years' Truces (1609-1621) had ended and disputes between Spaniards and Flemish had resumed.

On this issue alone, there were no longer any impediments for the Dutch. Then we have the Dutch interest in Portuguese salt and sugar, very important matters.

In this scenario, the solution for these dependencies was the Dutch occupation of Brazil, there was no need to buy and negotiate with the Portuguese when there was the possibility of getting what interests you right away from the source.

In this, the interest of the West India Company, a Dutch private entity with many rights, arises.

Bahia was the location, the key point for the company to start its influence in South America.

On May 9, 1624, a fleet of 23 ships and 3 yachts, prepared for the conquest, arrived in Bahia. This fleet was under the command of Jacob Willekens and Pieter Heyn and the 1700 men who landed were led by Johann van Dorth (governor of the
land to be occupied).

Who ruled Bahia at the time was D. Diogo de Mendonça Furtado.

At that time, Bahia did not have enough resources to resist an invasion and the said governor was even arrested by the Dutch.

Thus, power was handed over to the Flemish, the political center of Portuguese America.

On the advice of Bishop Marcos Teixeira or on their own initiative, many inhabitants fled to other places, namely to the village of Espirito Santo.

It was only in March and April of the following year that, as we have seen, a Portuguese-Hispanic fleet arrived to face the Dutch, with the collaboration of troops from Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro, as well as guerrilla fights carried out by the residents. (“Having on the twenty-ninth of March, the eve of Easter of Resurrection, launched our Armada at five in the afternoon into the Bay of the City”).

This collaboration was crucial to the surrender of the Dutch.

Being more detailed in this matter, we know that after the creation of the West Indies a document was written that planned the conquest of Bahia step by step. This document, known for: Reasons why the West India Company
must try to snatch from the King of Portugal the land of Brazil and all that Brazil can translate.

The Dutch aimed to attack three points of the Portuguese empire; Bahia/Salvador, Pernambuco and Angola that would allow control of the slave market.

The first point to be reached was S. Salvador because this city had a bay with very favorable conditions. It was an excellent point for controlling sugar production and for communicating with the slave market from Angola.

As we have already seen in another passage of this work, the Governor of the city was Diogo Mendonça Furtado (he had been in this position for three years).

He was warned of the arrival of the Dutch fleet and as such, ordered the reinforcement of the city walls and the construction of a fort on an islet in front of Salvador, where six cannons were mounted.

The curious thing is that when van Dorth ordered the landing on the 10th of May, there was no resistance. On the same day Pedro Heyn took the newly built fort and several ships moored in the bay.

The first friction with the locals was due to the effectiveness of the Bishop of Salvador in mobilizing the population against the Dutch. At this time, Matias de Albuquerque, Governor of Pernambuco and Governor-General of Brazil, sent a caravel with letters from the Bishop to Spain informing him of the Dutch taking of the city.

The news arrived in June 1624, leading D. Filipe III of Portugal to order the city's recovery operation and with it the necessary fleet to be prepared in the ports of Lisbon and Cádiz.

Referring again to Tamayo de Vargas, we can see that both the Spaniards and the Portuguese were in sync regarding the offensive that would have to be carried out against the Dutch.

“Not only did Portugal show its normal fidelity and courage in promoting what was necessary to remedy the affliction of the people of Brazil, massacred by the perfidy of the Dutch, who subjected them, to the orders of His Majesty in the fulfillment of the defense of the land, conspiring the most nobles to demonstrate their desires and efforts, all coming to this occasion so propitious to the demonstration of the nobility that set an example for the people to imitate them.

Because, with the exception of a company of about 50 soldiers aboard the ship N.ª Senhora do Rosário Maior, which sailed on part of the royal estate, everything else was due to the voluntary provision with which Portugal's loyalty served its King , from the ecclesiastics […] and other individuals […] the businessmen of the Kingdom, the Italians, the Germans and Flemish who traded with them […].

In addition to provisions for the army, ammunition and navigational implements, land fortifications and protections against the enemy, and twenty thousand cruzados for whatever was needed at any given time, all offered in such good order, that although these things were sometimes only matter for stories, in their relationships they were typical of the Kingdom of Portugal and an example for all.

His illustrious blood corresponded to the so heroic use of this Crown's fabric.

For all this, he warns the Council of Portugal, zealous for the service of its King, that the rewards for the services of all those who participated in this journey were already in his liberal hands, as well as, for the successors or for those who contributed to increase the their strength […].

The armada commanded by D. Manuel de Menezes, its Captain General, and chief chronicler of Portugal, was prepared, consisting of 18 ships and 4 caravels, with everything necessary for the journey and combat. […]

And many other nobles, out of love for their country, exchanged the comforts of idleness for the dangerous restlessness of the sea, as they considered it to be the service of God and his King.

With such brilliance, the Armada left the port of Lisbon on the 19th of November, 1624, with specific orders from His Majesty, so that, as soon as they left, as happened before the Armada de Castile, they would join forces as soon as they could. ”.

These fleets ended up joining on 4 February 1625 in Cape Verde.

We can find these descriptions and others that glorify the image that the Spaniards had at the time of the Portuguese in the work of D. Thomas Tamaio de Vargas, Restauracion de la Ciudad del Salvador, i Baía de Todos-Sanctos, en la Provincia del Brasi.

This work is dedicated to His Majesty D. Filipe IV, Catholic King of Spain and the Indies & c. It is really interesting to see this work from 1628, there is a great positive trait of the Portuguese people and its analysis is fundamental to understand these issues of the reconquest of Bahia.

Fradique de Toledo y Osório, Marquis of Villanueva de Valdueza, captain of the Navy of the Ocean Sea and of the war people of the Kingdom of Portugal was the Captain General of sea and land designated to take the city (responsible for the amphibious force).

The master general (chief of the landing forces) was D. Pedro Rodriguez de Santiesteban, Marquis of Coprani.

There were six armadas involved in this recovery. We have the Armada de Portugal (22 ships commanded by D. Manuel de Meneses), as we have already seen, we also have the Armada do Mar Oceano (11 ships, between galleons and urcos, commanded by D. Fradique de Toledo), followed by the Armada da Guarda do Estreito (4 galleons commanded by D. João de Fajardo), then there is the Squadron of the Four Cities (6 galleons commanded by D. Francisco de Acevedo, finally we have the Fleet of Biscay and the Armada of Naples, the the first composed of 4 galleons and commanded by General Martin de Vallecilla and the second composed of 2 galleons and 2 patachos under the guidance of D. Francisco de Ribera and also composed of the Viceroy-Duke of Osuna.

The plan for the city's recovery was simple and straightforward. “To unite the Spanish fleets and fleets with that of Portugal, embark in Salvador da Bahia, recover that square and expel the Dutch definitively from Brazil”.

Apparently it was on the 1st of April 1625 that the disembarkation took place and that the order to attack was given and also that the siege artillery was put into practice.

Days after the siege was mounted (April 30), the capitulation was signed, thus leaving the city 1.912 Dutch, English, German, French and Walloons.

Much had already been taken from the Dutch during the siege, but with the effective victory over them, 18 flags, 260 artillery pieces, 500 quintals of gunpowder, 600 black slaves, 7200 silver marks and other goods with a value rounded to 300.000 ducats.

Six ships were also detained and control of the captaincy was resumed.

The Dutch, although they had lost this battle for the city, may have thought that the war was not yet lost.

When D. Fradique was planning his return to Spain, he knew that a Dutch fleet was about to come to contest the Iberian takeover.

On the 22nd of May, 34 sails appeared at the entrance to the Todos-os-Santos bay.

In fact, the Dutch tried several times to penetrate Bahia but without great success. Lack of effectiveness is also due to the Iberian fleet under the command of D. Fradique, who did not know how to neutralize the offensives and this allowed the Dutch to go to Pernambuco.

Another answer could possibly have prevented this happening.

The Dutch invasion of Salvador in 1624

Politics and Social Organization

Bahia, specifically Salvador, was the first capital of Brazil as a Portuguese colony. He had privileges due to this situation, as happened in Lisbon and Porto.

Map of Brazil 1707 - Brasiliaanze Scheepvaard, door Johan Lerius Gedaan uit Vrankryk, in't Iaar 1556, Aa, Pieter van der
Map of Brazil 1707 – Brasiliaanze Scheepvaard, door Johan Lerius Gedaan uit Vrankryk, in't Iaar 1556, Aa, Pieter van der

São Salvador was a city within the captaincy of Bahia, founded by Tomé de Sousa when he arrived on March 29, 1549 with the status of the first Governor-General of Brazil (given by D. João III of Portugal).

The said governor arrived on the aforementioned date with about 1000 men and one of the purposes was to establish a political-administrative center, a pole that could serve as the capital of the great Portuguese colony.

Along with Tomé de Sousa, the architect Luís Dias came with the responsibility of designing this city that once, together with the rest of the captaincy of Bahia, belonged to the donee captain Francisco Pereira Coutinho (hereditary captaincy) until it became a
royal captaincy.

This new city was structurally inspired by the configuration of Angra do Heroísmo (Azores). There was an interest in it following the architectural and structural assumptions of the important cities that the Portuguese were creating along the coasts.

With this, there was an obligation for this new city to have a good port (it already had natural conditions for this), to have hills that favored the defense of the city, to have fresh water courses as well as land suitable for cultivation, among other resources.

Salvador was the first city of great political-administrative importance in Brazil, due to this importance, since its creation, it has become an authentic fortress city that only succumbed during the arrival of the Dutch.

In the foreground of the formation of the city was the construction of a main square where the governor's residence, the senate, the pillory and even the jail would be inserted.

The growth of the city wall, largely due to the progressive increase in monastic-conventional houses of the orders that settled in Bahia and the constitution of several poles of population settlement, created a kind of division in the city (division into two parts, one being called the lower city and the other the upper city).

In Cidade Baixa, the majority of mercantile and port activities were represented, while in Cidade Alta what marked the administration, political, judicial, religious and financial powers.

This urban morphology of the city of Salvador changed with the Dutch occupation in 1624.

When Mem de Sá, in 1558, assumed the general government, he was already faced with a Bahia larger than the old fortress.

In 1600 he communicated to the king that “the city is going in a lot of growth”.

In the development of the captaincy, the Indians were incorporated as slaves, as service providers or captives of Europeans. On a higher level were the Portuguese who came to Brazil, we speak of overseers, mechanical officers, sugar masters with a certain prominence since the great income came from their hands. Among the rural landowners, farmers and small cattle ranchers occupied a somewhat ungrateful position.

Standing out from everything and everyone were the planters (rich landowners with their own farm).

The city of Salvador was the first to be created in all of Portuguese America.

From the beginning it had well-established avenues of communication. Until very late, most of the houses were of the primitive type, simple dwelling places covered with palm trees in the image of the first houses to be built in Brazil.

Between 1549 and 1551, a Santa Casa da Misericórdia was installed in Salvador with the main objective of healing and treating the poor and the poor.

This institution, according to Gabriel Soares, did not have large workshops and infirmaries, it was poor, quite possibly because it had no real contribution nor from individuals, the only support they had was alms from the local inhabitants.

In 1556, a college was also created in Bahia by the Jesuits that had three courses: letters or elementary, arts and theology for ecclesiastics and higher students.

As a consequence of the demographic expansion to the hinterland, the development of agriculture and livestock, new social typologies began to be defined, which in Brazilian Portuguese terminology, the Vaqueiro and the Farmer, appear.

We begin to differentiate more clearly the privileged (mostly planters) from free men without resources and from captives, namely slaves. 

If we go further and look at the administration, we will see the representation of mechanical officers in the sessions of the Senate of the Chamber as well as the creation of positions of attorneys for the masters, which also allowed the election of a judge of the people and
slavery (regional charter of May 28, 1644) was an example of this.

The creation of these posts increased in number and more and more these judges acquired competences that until then belonged to the councilors.

The appearance of representatives of mechanical officers in the administration changed the mentality of the people towards power, creating greater popular resistance to the central power. These political changes and the rise of mechanical officers elected by class to the Chamber of Aldermen of Bahia are part of the demands of the people that in the future, particularly in the XNUMXth century, XIX, came to have a reaction
nationalist and collaborate with the pressure for the independence of Brazil.

At the level of courts, the first was created in Bahia in 1603 by King D. Filipe II of Portugal, under the title of ”Relação do Brasil”.

In 1626, by the will of D. Filipe III of Portugal and with the creation of the “Relação de Rio de Janeiro”, the Bahian court becomes known as the “Tribunal da Relação da Bahia”, being under its control, under its term if we prefer that way, the captaincy of Bahia itself but also that of Sergipe, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Ceará, Maranhão, Pará and Rio Negro.

Analyzing the changes in policies in Brazil, we can conclude that the implantation of the Hereditary Captaincies was a failure which led the Portuguese crown to implement a General Government and the creation of the city of Salvador next to the Todos-os-Santos bay as a
political center.

In an initial period and with the entry of 1000 inhabitants together with Tomé de Sousa, the Portuguese crown intended to create a new and fortified city, where these inhabitants who moved, officials, religious, military, builders and
others could establish institutions to administer Brazil.

One of these institutions was the General Government, which was the crown's representative in the colony and was primarily responsible for its defense, another of the most important institutions was the first Court of Appeal established in 1609 and extinguished by the Spaniards in 1625.

Captains and other prominent political figures Let's start with Diogo Álvares Correia, better known to the indigenous people as Caramuru.

He was not a captain but was probably the first Portuguese lord in Brazil. According to the account of Juan de Mori, pilot of the Spanish ship Madre de Dios which was wrecked on the outskirts of the Todos-os-Santos Bay and who was helped by Caramuru and also according to a statement by a certain D. Rodrigo de Acuña (July 1st) of 1526) which was the first to mention the presence of Diogo Álvares in Bahia, confirm that the Caramuru was in Brazil since the end of 1509, when it was wrecked in the lowlands of the Rio Vermelho in a possible French ship.

Although Caramuru traveled to France in 1528, he returned to Bahia to continue his involvement in trafficking and smuggling.

In practice, he revealed to be a type of “commercial agent for the French smugglers of the paude-inta”. The time of Diogo Álvares as lord of those lands that were never his ended effectively when Francisco Pereira Coutinho arrived in Bahia around November 1536 with seven ships and with the title of legal owner of those lands.

This did not prevent that on December 20, 1536, Francisco Pereira Coutinho donated a sesmaria to Caramuru.

Francisco Pereira Coutinho was, son of Afonso Pereira, mayor of the Portuguese city of Santarém, he was the first donee captain of Bahia55 (April 5, 1534) and the second donee to receive a lot in Brazil.

He arrived in Brazil, as we have seen before, in 1536. Upon arrival at his captaincy, he slept for days on the ship until a settlement was built capable of housing the rest of the crew.

Everything suggests that Francisco Pereira Coutinho was excited about these new lands, as we can see in the letter he wrote to the king in 1536.

“This is the best and cleanest land in the world… It is bathed by a river of fresh water the size of Lisbon, which as many ships as there are in the world can enter, and there has never been a better or safer harbor. The land is very peaceful and, a league from here, there is a village with 120 or 130 very meek people who come to our houses to offer food and the beginning of them, with their wife, children and people, already want to be Christians and they say that they will no longer eat human flesh and they bring us groceries…The fish is so much that it goes for free and they are 8 palms fish…The coast has a lot of coral…The land will give you everything you throw at it, the cottons are the most excellent in the world and sugar can be given as much as they want.” Bahia, like other captaincies, did not always remain prosperous.

Francisco could not adapt to the demands and there was a lot of friction between him and Diogo Álvares. 57 It was at the height of tensions between the Portuguese and the natives that Francisco Coutinho fell from his post.

On December 20, 1546, Duarte Coelho, responsible for the captaincy of Pernambuco, sent a letter to King D. João III talking about the problems that were happening in Bahia. João Bezerra was a Portuguese cleric who greatly contributed to the movement against Francisco Coutinho.

A despicable cleric who deserved correction to the king by Duarte Coelho and Father Manoel da Nóbrega. During this time of high tensions, the French and Diogo Álvares continued their strong efforts in the pau-brasil trade. Francisco Coutinho ended up being captured along with other elements by the Tupinambá where they were killed and the donee captain himself was even eaten by the indigenous people.

As we have already said, Francisco Coutinho was the first to be named captain of the captaincy of Bahia. At this time, when it came to appointing governors for captaincies, it was normal to name an old nobleman who had distinguished himself since the times of King D.

Francisco Coutinho was an example of this, he was a “very honored nobleman, of great fame and knighthood in India”. In fact, he served with Count Admiral Vasco da Gama, with Viceroy D. Francisco de Almeida and with Afonso de Albuquerque.

As we have seen, Coutinho had no lack of experience, he had a hectic life, but even so he was powerless to maintain the captaincy of Bahia. Francisco Coutinho was one of the last captains to arrive, it took about two years to separate the donation letter from his actual arrival in the colony.

Finally, let's see Tomé de Sousa, he was not a donee of the captaincy of Bahia, nor governor of the Chamber nor was a pioneer in the colonization of the territory, but he was responsible for the construction of the city of Salvador and therefore deserves this highlight.

Tomé de Sousa, a member of noble lineage, served in Arzila between 1527 and 1532, went to India (1544) and in December 1548, at the request of King João III, became the first Governor-General of Brazil with broad powers to govern. the colony.

With him came a detailed regiment to administer the lands. He ordered the construction of the city of S. Salvador in the Todos-os-Santos bay.

In 1550 the city already had a town hall where Tomé de Sousa's rank as Governor-General was registered there.

This governor, unlike the donated captain Francisco Coutinho, knew how to relate to the Indians, he strengthened relationships with Diogo Álvares Correia, a Portuguese with great prestige among the Tupinambás (the largest Indian nation on the coast and surroundings).

With Tomé de Sousa also came Father Manuel da Nóbrega with his Jesuit co-religionists who initiated a mass Christianization of South America.

Tomé de Sousa was a supporter of the Jesuits and a protector of the newly converted Indians. Returning to Portugal in 1533, receiving honors from D. João III, he became overseer of his house and farm, lasting until the government of D. Sebastião. He died in 1579.


Before talking about the Church itself and its foundation in Brazilian lands, we have to understand that there were several religious orders that entered Brazil, either by royal initiative or by initiative of the order itself.

With the arrival of Tomé de Sousa, the first Jesuits also arrived, headed by Manuel da Nóbrega and who created a chapel and a boys' college. In 1582 the Benedictines settled and in 1665 the Discalced Carmelites. 

Between 1514 and 1551, several churches and parishes were founded in different captaincies, with their own vicars, curates and chaplains.

In 1551, there was still no church in the city of Salvador that would become a cathedral. On July 31, 1550, D. João III, begged the head of the Catholic Church to create the first bishopric.

A brief passage from the document follows:

“In the lands that are called Brazil, there are many Christian populations, and there are churches where divine offices are celebrated and the sacraments are administered. And there is hope that many of the unfaithful and barbaric people will convert to our holy Catholic faith, of which there is a long beginning. And because for a good government of the spiritual it is necessary that there be bishops in those parts who will govern the clergy and people, and indoctrinate and teach said people in matters of our faith, I ask Your Holiness to again create in your cathedral the church that is called the Saviour, in the city otherwise called the Saviour...

On February 25, 1551, Pope Julius III created the Bull Super Specula Militantis Ecclesiae which allowed the creation of the diocese of S. Salvador da Bahia, the first in Brazil.

At this time the Spanish church in America was much more developed than the Portuguese one.

In the general panorama of America (including Portuguese and Spanish territory), the city of Salvador was the 23rd diocese and the 5th archbishopric of America in 1676.

Salvador was only the first city and the first diocese in the Brazilian context.

The Bishopric created by the aforementioned Bull was the Bishopric of S. Salvador da Bahia and not of Brazil.

The territories of the other captaincies did not belong to the Diocese of Bahia. D. João III on December 7, 1551 in the presentation of D. Pedro Fernandes Sardinha to Tomé de Sousa and others, confesses to having asked the Holy Father that until other bishoprics were created, that the Bishop of Salvador could have the powers and jurisdiction over the rest of Brazil.

The city of Salvador did not have the title of Diocese of Brazil but was effectively the central city. It was the capital of the Archdiocese of Brazil from 1676 until 1892, when the Archdiocese of Rio de Janeiro (second in Brazil) was created.

Several religious orders came to Brazil, some on their own initiative and not at the request of the Portuguese king. The missionaries of the Society of Jesus were among the first and most present.

The first ones arrived with Tomé de Sousa having as main character, or superior of this group if we prefer, Father
Manuel da Nobrega. In 1570, they already had convents in Baia de Todos-os-Santos as well as in Ilhéus and Porto Seguro.

In 1552 Bishop D. Pêro Fernandes Sardinha arrived. There were several villages ruled by the Jesuits in this captaincy, villages very much in contexts of survival. Villages such as Espirito Santo (1556), Vera Cruz or Santa Cruz (1560), Nossa Senhora da Assunção de Macamamu, São Tomé do Paripe and Porto do Tubarão.


This work, although not very in-depth or selective in certain aspects due to the lack of time that its elaboration had, is enough to show the centrality, the importance of Bahia for the Portuguese maritime empire and beyond.

We conclude in the first point that the first Portuguese permanent presence in the region was not organized, in fact, we see a man called Caramuru by the indigenous people plus his crew who settled in the region after a shipwreck. This Portuguese was the first to create sustainable relationships with the Tupinambás and beyond.

These Indians and even Caramuru himself were responsible for the failure of the government of the Donato Captain Francisco Pereira Coutinho and for the constant destruction of sugar mills.

Secondly, we conclude that this area had one of the most favorable ports for navigation and communication with other places, it maintained very favorable routes both to the metropolis and to other places, such as Angola, where the black slaves came from, both in Portuguese and Dutch and also on clandestine trade routes (we saw that resources such as pau-brasil arrived in Amsterdam without going through Lisbon first).

Thirdly, at an economic level, we see the great development compared to other captaincies in the evolution of plantations, for the extraction of Brazilwood of various species.

Bahia had a large forest. Its proximity to the ocean and fresh water courses favored the region in fishing.

Fourth, we have seen an administration with several changes.

After Francisco Coutinho's failure, we see Tomé de Sousa with the title of Governor-General founding the city of Salvador and developing not only Brazil but Bahia specifically, much under the guidance of his regiment. We see the church taking its developments, forming its structures and having its primary nuclei in Bahia.

Finally, it is worth noting the French and Dutch invasions. The French privateers from an early age tried to acquire for themselves some profits from the traffic of Brazilian goods; but it was the Dutch who had the worst connotation, it was they who created the most
ravages, who looked at Bahia not as a trading post but as a post of fixation.

These intended to control everything from the production of sugar to its trade through the slave market in order to retain all profits for themselves.

At this time, Portugal is integrated into the Spanish monarchy, we have the Philippine dynasty in force and it was with attacks by joint forces, Portuguese and Spanish, and even with the support of other allies, that it was possible to recover the city of Salvador and beyond. There are those who think that the bad strategy taken with the Dutch, has led the Dutch, instead of giving up on Brazil completely, have tried other poles of fixation as was the case of Pernambuco.

In the absence of this work, there was no mention of colonial taxation, taxation and financing, the Royal Treasury, the Chamber and the Treasury, among other issues, as expected.

Captaincy of Baía de Todos os Santos – Settlement, Economy and Politics between 1500-1697 – History of Brazil

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Museums in Salvador keep varied collections - Tourism Guide - videos

Leave a message

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your feedback data is processed.

Hide picture