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Comarca, a judicial district. A territorial subdivision within the Brazilian captaincies, the comarca was a judicial district composed of two or more counties. Ordinarily the comarca incorporated a district larger than a municipality. Usually there were two comarcas per captaincy. In the colonial period and the early empire, they were often sizeable. The comarca of São Francisco represented more than half of the territory of Pernambuco before it was ceded to Bahia. In 1720 Brazil was divided into three comarcas, with centers in Paraíba, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro, each of which was headed by a corregidor. Pernambuco and all of Brazil north of it was under the jurisdiction of Paraíba, which served as a court of appeals for all the cases before the judges and ouvidores of Pernambuco, with further appeals and matters outside of Paraíban jurisdiction going to the Relação (High Court) in Lisbon. After the discovery of gold and diamonds in the interior, new comarcas were set up in Minas Gerais, Goías, and Mato Grosso to see that the king's justice moved westward. Sudden shifts of population as a result of new mining discoveries made a visible judicial presence desirable. By the nineteenth century juizes de direito—district judges—were under central control. As instruments of royal justice and control, the comarcas brought law and order to frontier areas and contributed to the administrative incorporation of Brazil.

See alsoPernambuco .


Dutra, Francis A. "Centralization vs. Donatorial Privilege: Pernambuco, 1602–1639," in Colonial Roots of Modern Brazil, edited by Dauril Alden (1973).

Fragoso, João Luís Ribeiro, Maria Fernanda Bicalho, and Maria de Fátima Gouvêa. O Antigo Regime nos trópicos: A dinâmica imperial portuguesa, séculos XVI-XVIII. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2001.

Levine, Robert M. Historical Dictionary of Brazil, translated by Suzette Macedo (1979), p. 59; The Cambridge History of Latin America, edited by Leslie Bethell, vol. 2 (1984).

Prado, Caio, Jr. The Colonial Background of Modern Brazil (1967).

                                        Patricia Mulvey