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Brazil: migration and demographic change, 1800–1975

Migration A–Z


  1. Douglas Graham

Published Online: 4 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm076

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration

How to Cite

Graham, D. 2013. Brazil: migration and demographic change, 1800–1975. The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 4 FEB 2013


Brazil stands out – along with the United States – as one of the few countries in the world to have experienced both large-scale slave imports and substantial inflows of European immigrants – albeit at different stages of its history. Given its continent-sized territory, it is not surprising that major migratory eras would have impacted regional growth throughout Brazilian history. In the 17th and 18th centuries northeast Brazil dominated the Portuguese colony through the cultivation and processing of sugar cane. The indigenous population proved unable or unwilling to withstand the rigors of plantation labor; therefore colonial authorities promoted the use of slave labor from Africa. From the inception of the imports of slave labor in the early 16th century until the termination of the trade in 1851, shipping records show that approximately 4.8 million Africans were coercively sent to Brazil from Africa (Eltis 2002: 61–64). This high number grows out of the high slave mortality rates in Brazilian conditions combined with the elastic supply of imported slaves. These slave imports constituted the first and the largest migratory inflow in Brazilian history. Africans, with their direct and indirect (mixed ancestry) descendants, through manumissions and assimilation with other ethnic groups, made up a majority of the Brazilian population until the early decades of the 20th century.


  • South America;
  • immigration;
  • labor supply;
  • race;
  • cultural diversity