João III of Portugal (1502–1557)

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João III of Portugal (1502–1557)

João III of Portugal, born on June 6, 1502, was king from 1521 to 1557. Also known as John the Pious, he was the great-nephew of João II, son of Manuel I, and the sixth ruler of the Aviz (Avis) dynasty.

Under João the Portuguese development of Brazil began in earnest. He divided the Brazilian coastline into twelve captaincies that he awarded to hereditary proprietors (donatarios). He sent Tomé de Sousa to Bahia to establish a government there so as to end the threat of French invasion and Indian revolts. Jesuit priests were sent to pacify, convert, and acculturate the Indians. At home, João established the Inquisition and permitted the entry into Portugal of the Jesuits, whose influence on education became marked during his reign.

Despite the fact that Portugal was at the height of its powers at João's ascension, during his reign the country began its decline. The French and English challenges to the Portuguese monopoly of trade, the falling prices of Asian goods, the tremendous expense of maintaining the fleets and overseas posts, and the burden of crown debt caused by wasteful spending all contributed to the waning of the Portuguese empire that was to culminate under his successors. He died on June 11, 1557.

See alsoBrazil: The Colonial Era, 1500–1808; Captaincy System; Jesuits; João II of Portugal; Manuel I of Portugal; Sousa, Tomé de.


Burns, E. Bradford. A History of Brazil, 3rd edition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Johnson, H.B. "The Portuguese Settlement of Brasil, 1500–1580." In The Cambridge History of Latin America, vol. 1, edited by Leslie Bethell. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984, pp. 249-286, especially pp. 261-262, 267-268.

Livermore, H. V., ed., Portugal and Brazil. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1953.

Lockhart, James, and Stuart B. Schwartz. Early Latin America: A History of Colonial Spanish America and Brazil. Cambridge, U.K., and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1983.

McAlister, Lyle N. Spain and Portugal in the New World, 1492–1700. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.

                                            Lesley R. Luster

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João III of Portugal (1502–1557)

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