The Origins of the Pioneer Cotton Mills in Minas Gerais, Brazil, 1868–1879: A Reassessment

The Brazilian economy before the First World War has been generally characterized as an economy specializing in the production of primary goods for the international market—chiefly coffee for export. The emergence of the first industrial factories has been seen as closely connected to the performance of the export sector. The first cotton mills established in one province of Brazil, Minas Gerais, were not connected to the export sector, however. Minas Gerais was different in key respects from other regions. This article describes the peculiarities of the Mineiro economy during the 1870s and investigates the establishment of the first cotton mills there. It considers the location, size, and financing of the mills, as well as the structure of ownership and relations between partners. The results show that the emergence of the textile industry in Minas Gerais was independent from the performance of the foreign sector of the Brazilian economy.