Noronha, Fernão de (c. 1460–1505)

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Noronha, Fernão de (c. 1460–1505)

Fernão de Noronha (b. ca. 1460; d. after 1505), a Portuguese nobleman of Jewish descent who held the first royal concession to develop trade with Brazilian Indians. A wealthy merchant, he was an important investor in Portugal's far-flung empire, operating outlets in Africa, India, and Belgium. In 1502, he headed a group of financiers who leased a three-year monopoly contract to exploit Brazil. The consortium sponsored at least two voyages to Brazil, the second of which built the first European settlement there. The fortified trading post (feitoria) was located on an island near Cabo Frio; stories of the island's inhabitants are said to have inspired Thomas More's Utopia. The venture also inspired Portuguese Jews, then suffering from persecution, to envision the establishment of a safe haven in the Brazilian northeast. In 1504, Noronha was made captain of the coastal islands near Natal, which were later named for him. Although his contract expired in 1505, the trade in brazilwood, Indian slaves, and exotic animals was profitable enough to entice his continued investment.

See alsoBrazilwood; Explorers and Exploration: Brazil; Slave Trade.


Bailey W. Diffie, A History of Colonial Brazil, 1500–1792 (1987).

H. B. Johnson, "Portuguese Settlement, 1500–1580," in Colonial Brazil, edited by Leslie Bethell (1987), pp. 1-38.

Additional Bibliography

Lourenço, Elias José. Judeus: Os povoadores do Brasil colônia. Brasília: ASEFE, 1995.

                                            Cliff Welch