Rio de Janeiro (Province and State)

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Rio de Janeiro (Province and State)

The present state of Rio de Janeiro was settled in the sixteenth century by Frenchmen who traded with the indigenous Tupinambá. In 1565 the city of Rio de Janeiro was founded. Two years later, after the Portuguese defeated the French, the coast and inland became the royal captaincy of Rio de Janeiro. As in the Northeast, but on a smaller scale, its economy was based on the production of sugar with slave labor. In the late seventeenth century the captaincy's proximity to the new mining region of Minas Gerais and the emergence of the city of Rio de Janeiro as Brazil's primary southern port gave it strategic importance. In the eighteenth century the captaincy's economy grew, and in 1780 its population was recorded to be 167,760.

The captaincy of Rio de Janeiro became a province in 1815, when Brazil was raised to the status of "kingdom." In 1835, after the city of Rio (now the capital of independent Brazil) and its hinterland were separated from the province, Niterói was named provincial capital. In 1889, with the proclamation of the republic, the province became a state.

Throughout the nineteenth century coffee cultivation expanded in the Paraíba Valley, giving Rio's landowning elite an important role in national politics. In the 1880s, however, Rio de Janeiro's economic and political prominence waned. São Paulo surpassed Rio as the leading producer of coffee. In the twentieth century, the state developed as one of several important agricultural and industrial centers.

In 1975, with Brasília as the federal capital, the city of Rio and its hinterland (the state of Guanabara) were merged with the state of Rio de Janeiro, and the city of Rio became the state capital. Currently, the state's economy is based on agriculture, manufacturing, commerce, and services. In 1991, most of the state's almost 12.6 million inhabitants live in the city of Rio. As a consequence, the city's politics and economy dominate those of the state.

See alsoCaptaincy System; Coffee Industry; Tupinambá.


Jean De Léry, History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil (1577), translated and introduced by Janet Whatley (1990).

Auguste De Saint-Hilaire, Viagem pelas províncias do Rio de Janeiro e Minas Gerais (1830), translated by Vivaldi Moreira (1975).

Dauril Alden, Royal Government in Colonial Brazil (1968).

Stanley Stein, Vassouras, a Brazilian Coffee County, 1850–1900 (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Arias, Enrique Desmond. Drugs & Democracy in Rio de Janeiro: Trafficking, Social Networks, & Public Security. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.

Castro, Ruy, and John Gledson. Rio de Janeiro: Carnival under Fire. Translated by John Gledson. New York: Bloomsbury, 2004.

De A Abreu, Mauricio. Rio de Janeiro: Formas, movimentos, representações: Estudos de geografia histórica carioca. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil: Da Fonseca Comunicação, 2005.

Kent, Deborah. Rio de Janeiro. New York: Children's Press, 1996.

Kreimer, Alcira. Towards a Sustainable Urban Environment: The Rio de Janeiro Study. Washington, DC: World Bank, 1993.

St Louis, Regis. Rio de Janeiro. Oakland, CA: Lonely Planet, 2006.

                                           Kirsten Schultz