Sousa, Tomé de (c. 1502–1579)

views updated

Sousa, Tomé de (c. 1502–1579)

Tomé de Sousa (b. c. 1502; d. 1579) first governor-general of Brazil. Of noble birth, Sousa was the illegitimate son of a prior. A descendant of King Afonso III, he spent his youth at the royal court under the patronage of his cousin, the count of Castenheira, Antônio de Ataíde. As a soldier he fought in Morocco and participated in the spice trade with India. Appointed the first governor-general of Brazil, he arrived in Brazil in 1549 with six ships and one thousand settlers, including sailors, soldiers, six Jesuit missionaries, artisans, carpenters, stone masons, and criminals. His job was to centralize royal control over Brazil, defend the territory from French pirates, and pacify and Christianize the Indians. The Portuguese settler Caramurú met the new governor and promised an Indian alliance.

Sousa purchased land from the heirs of Francisco Pereira Coutinho, the Donatário of Bahia for the seat of a new capital and center of royal government in Brazil. Salvador, the new capital, was built on a location more suitable for defense. The governor provided a good example by helping personally with the construction. He then sent the chief justice and treasurer to the other captaincies to check on abuses and regularize administration, but he also went on an inspection tour of all the captaincies except Pernambuco. The new governor made land grants to settlers and expelled hostile Indians to make the settlement more attractive for European colonization. Livestock was introduced from the Atlantic islands, while engenhos (sugar mills) were built and fortified. Market days were established to facilitate trade with the Indians. A customhouse was erected in Salvador. Sousa fortified unprotected towns and patrolled the coastal waters to keep them free of foreign interlopers.

Tomé de Sousa had a close relationship with Manuel da Nóbrega and the Jesuits. He relied on Jesuit reports for information and sent Jesuits on inspection tours of the captaincies. During his governorship, forts and courts were established, new towns were laid out, and missions, churches, and schools were founded.

See alsoBrazil: The Colonial Era, 1500–1808; Caramurú; Jesuits; Nóbrega, Manuel da.


Pedro De Azevedo, "Documentos para a história do Brasil—Thomé de Sousa e sua familia," Revista de historia 3-4 (1914–1915): 68-81.

Ruth Laphan Butler, "Thomé de Sousa, First Governor General of Brazil, 1549–1553," Mid-America 24, no. 4 (1942): 229-251.

E. Bradford Burns, A History of Brazil (1980).

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

Additional Bibliography

Mariz de Moraes, José. Nóbrega: O primeiro jesuita do Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Relume Dumará, 2000.

                                      Patricia Mulvey

About this article

Sousa, Tomé de (c. 1502–1579)

Updated About content Print Article