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date: 21 August 2019

Abstract and Keywords

The chapter deals with characteristics of the Brazilian colonial period (from 1500 to independence from Portugal in 1822) that have exercised a significant influence on later developments. Three aspects of the institutional framework of Portuguese colonization are emphasized: the relations between the colonial government and the private sector; the pattern of access to land by colonists; and the widespread use of slave labor. It is argued that colonial policies were detrimental to private initiative, hampering access to productivity gains from industrialization in the eighteenth century. Distribution of land, in large tracts, to privileged individuals was instrumental in establishing a pattern of inequality in wealth, power, and political influence; the landless majority helped to bring about an elastic supply of labor in later periods. Slavery, which dominated the labor market from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth, was an element of the inequality in income distribution that persists to the present.

Keywords: Brazil, colonial period, land distribution, slavery, development, productivity

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