In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Brazilian Independence

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works
  • Journals
  • Anthologies
  • Biographies
  • Late Colonial Portuguese America
  • The Joanine Period
  • The Politics and Institutions of the 1820s
  • The Press, the Public Sphere, and the Practice of Politics
  • The Provinces
  • Popular Participation
  • International Dimensions
  • Commemorations and Representations of Independence

Atlantic History Brazilian Independence
Hendrik Kraay
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 July 2023
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0392


In the 1820s, Emperor Pedro I’s so-called Grito do Ipiranga (7 September 1822) was constructed as the proclamation of Brazilian independence, and thus the country celebrated its bicentennial in 2022. While some historians have sought the origins of Brazilian nationhood and independence in the late colonial period, scholars now emphasize that the transfer of the Portuguese monarchy from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro in 1807–1808, in flight from the French invaders, set off the processes that led to independence. Prince-Regent João (João VI after 1816) opened Brazilian ports to trade with friendly nations, thereby effectively ending colonial economic relations. He established institutions of governance for the Portuguese empire in Rio de Janeiro, created the Kingdom of Brazil in 1815, and cultivated close ties with the elite of merchants, planters, and slave traders in the new capital’s immediate hinterland. In 1817, the monarchy repressed a liberal conspiracy in Portugal and a liberal-republican rebellion in Pernambuco, but victorious Portuguese liberals established a constitutional regime in 1820 and recalled João VI. As provincial elites declared their loyalty to the new regime, João VI accepted the constitution and departed for Lisbon, leaving his eldest son, Pedro, as regent in Rio de Janeiro. While the Portuguese Cortes (parliament) sought to establish a unitary government for the Portuguese empire, those who had benefited from the institutions of governance created in Rio de Janeiro threw their support behind Pedro, who consolidated his power over the course of 1821–1822 and increasingly defied Lisbon. He gradually drew support from more distant provinces and formally broke with Lisbon in the second half of 1822 (he was acclaimed Emperor Pedro I on 12 October). Fighting between supporters of Lisbon and Pedro’s allies continued in many of the northern provinces, especially Bahia, until well into 1823, and elites in Pernambuco resisted the new regime until 1824. Pedro convened, then closed, a constituent assembly in 1823 but subsequently granted a constitution for the new empire. Significant popular mobilizations and important changes in political culture characterized these years. Since the 1820s, the history of Brazilian independence has been written largely by Brazilians, with very few contributions by foreign historians, an indication of the Brazilian academe’s autonomy and vibrancy. The new political history of this period, dominant since the turn of the millennium, moves away from the Marxist structuralist approaches that characterized Brazilian scholarship in the second half of the twentieth century.

General Overviews

The earliest overviews of Brazilian independence date to the 1820s and 1830s and were written by men either directly involved in the independence process or closely connected to them. Subsequent 19th-century histories formed part of the Brazilian empire’s project to create a national history for the new country, but there was also a critical tradition, antimonarchical and republican by the 1870s and 1880s, of writing about independence. Scholars in the first decades of the twentieth century established a narrative that emphasized the importance of the monarchy in securing a peaceful independence; the monarchy, they argued, eventually paved the way for the republic, proclaimed in 1889. A critical Marxist and structuralist approach can be dated back to the 1930s and came to dominate Brazilian scholarship in the second half of the twentieth century, although major synthesizers of the 1970s and 1980s eschewed this approach. The new political, cultural, and social history of independence that dates back to the 1990s has yet to find its synthesizer.

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