Slavery and Development in Nineteenth Century Brazil

Abstract: This article brings new evidence on the legacy of slavery in nineteenth-century Brazil to bear on the history of economic development. Its conclusions contribute to the debate raised by the new history of capitalism about the critical role played by slavery in the industrialization of the United States. We argue that the new history of capitalism lacks a comparative perspective. Brazil imported more slaves than any other country in the world and slavery lasted longer and was more widespread there than in the United States South. Rather than promoting economic growth and development, the evidence shows that slavery held back industrialization in Brazil. We also discuss the role of slavery in agricultural productivity and show that, as in the United States, the use of violence does not explain increases in the productivity of cotton plantations.