In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Early Modern Amazonia

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Indigenous Communities of the Pre-Columbian Atlantic Amazonia
  • European Conquest and the Atlantic Amazonia
  • Frontiers and Interactions through the Atlantic Amazonia
  • The Portuguese Atlantic Amazonia
  • Slavery and Slave Trade
  • Atlantic Trade
  • Settlers from the Atlantic
  • Primary Sources

Atlantic History Early Modern Amazonia
Rafael Chambouleyron
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0398


A bibliography on the Amazon and the Atlantic has to take into account a double perspective. First, and frequently forgotten, the fact that the Amazon region has an Atlantic shore that spreads over thousands of kilometers, encompassing four modern countries—Brazil, Suriname, Guyana, and Venezuela—and an overseas territory of a European nation—French Guiana. Atlantic Amazonia has an old history of occupation by several Indigenous peoples; a complex process of European conquest, including the vast Amazon Delta; and a long history of Atlantic interactions, including the Caribbean, especially in its western counterpart. Second, the connections of the Amazonian region and its immense hinterland with the Atlantic world. These networks were not necessarily intertwined through the generally studied transatlantic slave trade. In the case of Portuguese Amazonia, they involved the commercialization of Amazonian goods in Europe obtained through the use of an Indian enslaved workforce (and the use of a compulsory free Indian labor force), thus they were disconnected from the traditional Atlantic circuits stressed by historiography. In fact, the transamazonian slave trade connected towns and cities of the Atlantic shore (such as Portuguese Belém and São Luís) with the vast Amazonian rainforest, where enslaved Indians were traded and captured through networks that involved several Amerindian nations as well as Europeans (such as Portuguese and Dutch). Brazilian scholars of the early modern Amazon region have concentrated on the vast Amazonian hinterland (called sertão in colonial times). Thus, the Luso-Brazilian Amazonian coast remains barely understood, except for the conquest period. In the case of the early modern Guianas, scholars have focused on the occupation of the Atlantic coast and its several connections with the Caribbean. Contrary to the internal Amazonian frontiers, which have been the focus of many recent works, the relationship between the different Atlantic “Amazonias” is less studied. References will concentrate on the lesser-known Iberian Amazonian Atlantic, especially the Portuguese counterpart, since the Guianas have been treated in other Oxford Bibliographies articles. See Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History The Guianas, The Dutch Caribbean and Guianas, Slavery in Dutch America and the West Indies, Dutch Atlantic World, Maroons and Marronage, French American Port Cities, The French Lesser Antilles, French Atlantic World, and Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation Walter Raleigh.

General Overviews

General overviews on the early modern Amazonia (as a whole) are almost nonexistent. The Atlantic Amazonia and the Amazonian Atlantic have received even less attention. That is not the case for the Guianas, though. See the separate Oxford Bibliographies in Atlantic History articles The Guianas and The Dutch Caribbean and Guianas. For a general history of the region during colonial times (mostly Iberian) in English written by a specialist, see Hemming 2009.

  • Hemming, John. Tree of Rivers: The Story of the Amazon. London: Thames & Hudson, 2009.

    A comprehensive introduction to Amazonia in general. The first four chapters deal with colonial times, from the first Spanish expeditions in the sixteenth century up to the beginning of the nineteenth century.

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