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A Historic Timeline of Brazil part I

A Historic Timeline
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The history of Brazil is an exciting, highly interesting subject that is also fraught with tragedy. In this and the following articles we will present the most important milestones from the discovery of Brazil and its colonization to our current time.

The following article starts in the year 1500 and goes up to the year 1548.

Shortly before that, in 1494, the Treaty of Tordesillas had redefined the domains of Portugal and Castile in the Atlantic.

Demarcation line

The border between the two territories was established on a line from the North Pole to the South Pole. 

The border runs about 2282 kilometers west of the westernmost Cape Verde Islands. All islands and countries in the Atlantic Ocean west of this line should belong to the territory of Castile. All islands and countries in the Atlantic east of this line should belong to Portugal.

However, the ships of Spain were allowed to pass through the Portuguese territories in order to reach the areas west of the demarcation line that belonged to them.

Click on the title of each timeline  marker and you will be directed to more content!

Timeline 1500-1548

Vicente Pinzon & Pedro Cabral

  • 1500
  • Vicente Pinzon arrival in Brazil. Exploring the coast till the Orinoco River mouth. Brings the first batch of Palo Brazil to Europe.
  • Pedro Cabral discovers Brazil

More explorers on behalf of the crown

  • 1501

Gaspar de Lemos, as well as Amerigo Vespucci and Coelho, undertake voyages to the New World on behalf of the Crown. They explore the coasts of Brazil.

Declaration America as a new separate continent

  • 1503

Coelho and Vespucci conclude that America is a new continent and does not belong to Asia


Slaves in America

  • 1500-1888
  • In the 16th century, the Portuguese begin using slaves to work on plantations in America
  • The Portuguese begin to monopolize the slave trade.

Merchant Fernando de Norona

  • 1504

The Portuguese crown cedes an island off the Brazilian coast to the merchant Fernando de Norona. This island is today the island of Fernando de Noronha.


First Slaves from Sierra Leone

  • 1505
  • Slave traders from Portugal send first slaves from Sierra Leone to the New World.
  • Vespucci's letters about his travels are published

The new world called America for the first time

  • 1507
  • Martin Waldseemüller mentions the name America on his planisphere.
  • Congo falls victim to the Portuguese slave traders after the search for ivory, copper and slaves.

Fernando de Norona explores Brazil

  • 1511
  • In the process, he brings captured Indians, animals, fruits and the Pau Brasil with him to Portugal

Gold Rush

  • 1513
  • Large loads of gold and silver from America trigger the gold rush in Europe.


  • 1516-1532
  • It is believed that the first cachaça was distilled by African slaves in Bahia. But have  a look on this post to find out more

Explorer Cristobal Jaques

  • 1517
  • The explorer Christobal Jaques travels to Brazil on behalf of the King of Portugal

French explorers

  • 1518
  • The first French explored the coast of Brazil and traded with the natives.

Cristobal Jaques

  • 1526
  • Explores 2nd time Brazil on behalf of the king of Portugal

French explorers

  • 1528

Frenchmen explore the coast of Brazil.

See also 1518: The first French Explorers in Brazil


The Contract of Saragoza

  • 1529
  • The Treaty of Saragossa between Spain and Portugal to define the areas of influence in the Pacific is concluded. It is based on the Treaty of Tordesillias of 1494 and adds the demarcation line in the Pacific.
  • The reason for this is climate change, associated food shortages and famine.

Martin Afonso de Souza

  • 1530
  • Start of the exploitation of Brazilian wood resources especially Pau Brasil

Foundation of St. Vincent

  • 1531
  • Souza founds St. Vincent in Brazil and fights French scouting parties

Colonization of Brazil

  • 1533
  • The Portuguese Crown divides the coast of Brazil into 15 captain's districts of 50 nautical miles each.
  • The colonization of Brazil begins.

Introduction of hereditary captaincy

  • 1534
  • This system is introduced by the Portuguese Crown

Duarte Coelho

  • 1535
  • arrives in Pernambuco and Olinda is founded.
  • Vasco Fernandes Coutinho founds the Espirito Santo captaincy district.

Foundation of Recife

  • 1537
  • Through Duarte Coelho Pereira

Cabeza de Vaca

  • 1540
  • Discovery of Iguazu falls

Amazon discoverer Orellana

  • 1541-1542
  • Orellana explores the Amazon and reaches the Atlantic Ocean after several months of river travel

The first capital of Brazil

  • 1548
  • John III of Portugal establishes General Government of Brazil with Bahia as its capital.
  • Centralization of the colony
  • Deportation of Portuguese Marrano Jews to Brazil

Want to know more about the History of Brazil?

Then click towards the next timeline of 1549-1613

A Historic Timeline of Brazil part II

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