One city, a few territories and many cultures. Salvador da Bahia and the Atlantic world, from the Portuguese America to the Brazilian Republic



The CAPES project aims to turn Bahia into an observatory centre of political, socio-economic and cultural changes, which marked the history of the Atlantic world, especially focusing the colonial period, but also the later period of independent Brazil. It is a work linked to an ongoing project entitled «Salvador da Bahia: American, European, and African forging of a colonial capital city (BAHIA 16-19)», a joint initiative of UFBA and CHAM, financed by the Marie Curie Actions (PIRSES-GA-2012-318988). The project seeks to extend the scope of the investigation, focusing on the internal and external dynamics of construction of the Brazilian world, from its initial administrative creation – the State of Brazil – to the Brazil of the 19th-20th centuries. In addition, with the involvement of young researchers, in particular non-PhDs, this project will also contribute to their training in the field of history of the Atlantic world.

 The present project will develop its research around three main topics: City, territory and culture, especially focussing on the city of Bahia by itself and in its relation to other spaces. Bahia presents a convergence point for the various analyses to be undertaken by the research teams whose interests span over a fairly broad chronological horizon. Its starting point is the colonial period, in which the analysis fit a wider framework, given the importance and centrality of what was the head of the State of Brazil and the main centre of Portuguese America, thus necessarily implied in a complex network of relations with the rest of America and Africa. The end point turns to studies on the social and political restructuring which characterised Brazil from the last decades of the 19th century to mid-20th century, a period marked by both the end of slavery and monarchy and the advent of the Republic, with its alleged order and desire of progress. In that context, the distant colonial past, as well as slavery, just undone, were re-read by several social actors were: literati, black political leaders and rulers.

 The proposed topics enable the conjugation of institutional, social, political and cultural problems, providing a unique opportunity for the exchange of ideas in search of a more comprehensive and attentive perspective on the multiple interactions behind every aspect of this reality.

 Geographically located urban space, the city, the capital nonetheless, is a political, economic and religious centre, a stage for the representations of powers which, in festive celebrations, as well as architectural and artistic constructions, seek to display their strength and wealth. Within it, we find the growing tensions provided by the confluence of different peoples, fuelling the various expectations. These were especially heated tensions, given the large contingent of individuals brutally ripped away from their places of origin and their families, who will need to reinvent themselves in a hostile environment to endure slavery and search new meaning for their lives. The concentration of African and African descendent slaves will turn Salvador in particularly dangerous space, conducive to revolts, but also contribute to the birth of a society deeply marked by biological and cultural mixing processes that are at the core of its complex social and cultural divides.

The city has grown over itself, necessarily expanding its power far beyond its borders. Centripetally, it attracts trade flows from the hinterlands, but also from more distant areas, whether from within the Portuguese America - consider the cattle, brought the far Piauí to supply the city – or from the other side of the Atlantic, with the arrangement of the inhabitants of Angola and Costa da Mina. Because of its courts of appeal, both civil and ecclesiastical, it also attracts the flow of major disputes and also the dispute for offices and prestigious and profitable benefits. It becomes a convergence point of communication flows updating the General Government on the situation of the different spaces of the Portuguese America, reinforcing its ruling power and its role as advisor of the Crown. It releases normative models as the constitutions of the Archbishopric of Bahia, adopted even in non-suffragan dioceses, such as Maranhão and Pará. The city could issue important decisions for the repression of quilombos [slave hideouts] that threatened the slavocratic order, as well as resolutions which had a huge weight on the fate of numerous indigenous people, as in the conquest and colonization of the backlands of Bahia from the mid-17th century. Material aid could be dispatched to other regions whether to ensure the defence of the territory, or, for instance, to help support administrative structures of poorer regions, such as the financial assistance paid by the treasury office of Bahia to Amazon dioceses whose tithes and other taxes were momentarily insufficient to make ends meet regarding civil and ecclesiastical expenses.

The transfer of the capital of the State of Brazil to Rio de Janeiro did not have a significant impact on the importance of city of Bahia. The decline was slowly felt throughout the 19th century. In the 1930’s, the chronological end point of this project, the riches, glory and the power or influence in Brazil destinations were now just images of a distant past. But how did the various actors respond in the face of these new times? How did the mass of blacks and mulattos, formerly enslaved, sought to fit within the new framework created with the transition to the free work? The current project will also attempt to answer some of these questions.


The goal of this project is to study, from a global perspective, the circulations, the arrangements and the interactions between Brazil, West Africa and Europe. Based on the important historiographical renewal of the past few decades on the Portuguese America, marked by both the incorporation of an African perspective, and the overcoming the dichotomous relationship between Brazil and the metropolis, this research project connects several approaches, crosses cultural history with social history of the powers, while aspiring to contribute to the history of Brazil during the colonial and contemporary period and to bridge historiographies still apart. 

 Simultaneously, addressing Bahia as a study topic allows us to initiate a search with a strong comparative and cross-reference dimension, thus becoming possible to go beyond the narrow limits of the colonial national histories. Therefore, we intend to:

•put distinct historiographical traditions in contact;

•focus on the interactions and venture on an international demarche;

•develop a study that considers the variation of scales;

•look for a shift on perspective, combining – and confronting – the European view with the American and African view.

The research proposed here is based on three main axes:



•The institutional, political and ecclesiastical structures prevailing in the State of Brazil;

•Legitimisation strategies and relations with the indigenous and African populations;

•The role of the General Government of Bahia, the city council and local authorities;

•The issue of the capital status of Bahia and the processes of its construction over time;

•The interaction between the State of Brazil and the State of Maranhão and Pará;

•The interaction between the Archbishopric of Bahia and suffragan dioceses.



•The plurality of practices and cultures present in Bahia and their interrelationships;

•The relations and tensions between different cultures, their interactions and identity shifts;

•The symbolic meanings of the dialogue established between the different local actors expressed through the arts, but also upon the ephemeral architecture, the ceremonial, solemn entrances, the festivals and processions;

•The relationship with Europe and, in particular, with Portugal, as a creative process: the centrality of Salvador, either as a politico-religious capital, or as a crossroads of routes, turns the city into a very dynamic place for the reception, processing and redistribution of forms.

•The relations between the city of San Salvador, the Recôncavo and Bahia’s backlands.



•How slavery and the Ancien Régime world were closely linked and cohabitated in the Portuguese America;

•The process of abolition of slavery, its developments in Bahia, but also its Atlantic impact from the Bahia's society;

•The political and cultural strategies and actions of the enslaved and freed populations, the claims and processes of social rise as well as citizenship disputes led by people of colour during the 18th-20th centuries;

•The dynamics of miscegenation, the problem of race as an agent of differentiation, and also the racialisation of the political and social processes in Bahia between the 17th and 19th centuries.

The workers of Bahia and the creation of a working class in the post abolition.


Start: 2014


Duration: 20 months


Principal Investigators: Pedro Cardim (CHAM) / Evergton Sales Souza (UFBA)






- Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia


Host Institutions:

- Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas / Universidade Nova de Lisboa
- Universidade Federal da Bahia


Main Research Unit:

- Centro de História d'Aquém e d'Além-Mar / Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas/Universidade Nova de Lisboa | Universidade dos Açores