The earliest pottery ever found in the Western Hemisphere, radiocarbon-dated 8,000 years old, has been excavated in the Amazon basin of Brazil, near to-day’s Santarem, providing evidence that the tropical forest region supported a complex prehistoric culture; the region was inhabited by hundreds of different native tribes, the earliest going back at least 10,000 years in the highlands of Minas Gerais. The territory of current day Brazil had as many as 2,000 tribes, mostly semi-nomadic who subsisted on hunting, fishing, gathering, and migrant agriculture.
The indigenous population of Brazil was divided into large indigenous nations composed of several ethnic groups among which stand out the large groups like Tupis, Guaranis, Gês and Arawaks. The former were subdivided into Tupiniquins and Tupinambás, among many subdivision of the others. The boundaries between these groups and their subgroups, before the arrival of Europeans, were marked by wars between them, arising from differences in culture, language and moral. These wars also involved large-scale military actions on land and water, with ritual cannibalism on POWs. While heredity had some weight, leadership status was a more subdued over time, than allocated in succession ceremonies and conventions. Slavery among the Indians had a different meaning than it had for Europeans, since it originated from a diverse socio-economic organization, in which asymmetries were translated into kinship relations.
When the Portuguese arrived in 1500 they saw the natives as noble savages, and miscegenation of the population began right away. Tribal warfare, cannibalism and the pursuit of Amazonian brazilwood for its treasured red dye convinced the Portuguese that they should civilize the indigenous population. But the Portuguese, like the Spanish in their South American possessions, had unknowingly brought diseases with them, against which many indigenous groups were helpless due to lack of immunity. Measles, smallpox, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and influenza killed tens of thousands. The diseases spread quickly along the indigenous trade routes, and whole tribes were likely annihilated without ever coming in direct contact with Europeans.
Tensions between Portuguese and Brazilians increased, and the Portuguese Cortes, guided by the new political regime imposed by the 1820 Liberal Revolution, tried to re-establish Brazil as a colony. The Brazilians refused to yield, and Prince Pedro decided to stand with them, declaring the country’s independence from Portugal on 7 September 1822. This is now celebrated as Brazil’s Independence Day.
On 12 October 1822, Prince Pedro was declared the first Emperor of Brazil and crowned Dom Pedro I on 1 December 1822. A subsequent Brazilian War of Independence spread through northern, northeastern regions and in Cisplatina province. With the last Portuguese soldiers surrendering on 8 March 1824, Portugal officially recognized Brazil on 29 August 1825.
In 7 April 1831, worn down by years of administrative turmoil and political dissensions with both liberal and conservative sides of politics, including an attempt of republican secession, as well as unreconciled with the way that absolutists in Portugal had given to the succession of King John VI, Pedro I went to Portugal to reclaim his daughter’s crown, abdicating the Brazilian throne in favor of his five-year-old son and heir (who later became Dom Pedro II).Brazilian forces (in blue uniform) engage the Paraguayan army (some in red uniform and other shirtless) during the Paraguayan War. As the new emperor could not exert his constitutional powers until he reached maturity, a regency was set up by the government. In the absence of a charismatic figure who could represent a moderate face of power, during this period a series of localized rebellions took place, as the Cabanagem, the Malê Revolt, the Balaiada, the Sabinada, and the Ragamuffin War, which emerged from the dissatisfaction of the provinces with the central power, coupled with old and latent social tensions peculiar of a vast, slaveholding and newly independent nation state. This period of internal political and social upheaval, which included the Praieira revolt, was overcome only at the end of the 1840s, years after the end of the regency, which occurred with the premature coronation of Pedro II in 1841. During the last phase of the monarchy, internal political debate was centered on the issue of slavery. The Atlantic slave trade was abandoned in 1850, as a result of the British’ Aberdeen Act, but only in May 1888 after a long process of internal mobilization and debate for an ethical and legal dismantling of slavery in the country, was the institution formally abolished. The foreign affairs in the monarchy were basically related issues with the countries of the Southern Cone with which Brazil has borders. Long after the Cisplatine War, that resulted in independence for Uruguay, Brazil won three international wars during the 58-year reign of Pedro II. These were the Platine War, the Uruguayan War and the devastating Paraguayan War, the largest war effort in Brazilian history. On November 15, 1889, worn out by years of economic stagnation, in attrition with the majority of Army officers, as well as with rural and financial elites (for different reasons), the monarchy was overthrown by a military coup.