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Gold elites, the regal agents and the control of the Municipal Council of Vila Rica, 1720-1789

Grant number: 15/08303-8
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): November 01, 2015
Effective date (End): October 31, 2018
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - History of Brazil
Principal Investigator:Laura de Mello e Souza
Grantee:Luiz Alberto Ornellas Rezende
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Associated scholarship(s):17/20669-3 - Gold elites, the regal agents and the control of the Municipal Council of Vila Rica, 1720-1789, BE.EP.DR


The discovery of gold in large quantities within the Portuguese colony in America caused along of the 18th century, a significant populational growth in the colony and the flourishing of a new society in the region of the mines, more diversified - composed of merchants, miners, slaves and many free and poor men, the disqualified - and that was felt, more than in any other colonial society the conflict between the outlying values of the former regime, and the new reality imposed by everyday life in the mines. It was also a time when it used to live between honour, guided by the ethics of the word and the wealth, guided by the ethics of circulation. The 18th century society was living its genesis, in a very turbulent period, ended in 1737 after the crackdown on riots in the backwoods of the captaincy. New significant unrest would only take place in 1789, on the occasion of the Minas Conspiracy. In this between, the timeframe of this research, the relationship between the local oligarchies (in front of city halls) and the regal agents (mainly governor and ombudsman) was marked by an accommodation, which, paradoxically, did not mean stagnation for the local elites, but mainly, from the 1750 decade, a resumption of their autonomy and prerogatives enlargement of the municipal councils. It was underway in the colony, since the beginning of the 18th century, a process of increased administrative complexity, which did not mean an increase of the autonomy of municipalities, given that, since the last decades of the 17th century, these institutions, many autonomous in the 16th and 17th centuries, suffered gradual emptying of its prerogatives in favour of other administrative bodies, like the Real Fazenda. In the mid-18th century, local institutions in the colony, in general , were in decline. In Minas Gerais, however, the councils seemed to be the exception to the rule. During the decades of 1720 and 1730, there was a significant reduction in the institutional prerogatives. However, from the 1750, history indicates a resumption of autonomy and prerogatives of these institutions, without, however, establishing the factors that caused this restoration. The mining elites - in particular - the Vila Rica´s - which consolidated themselves from the 1730, in line with such interests in the region, were mostly of humble origins, quickly enriched by virtue of gold and trade, and had military ranks. With the advance of the 18th century, there was a gradual transformation in the composition of the dome part of Vila Rica; there was a reduction of the military and an increase in the so-called "doctors", former of the Coimbra University, who worked, in Minas Gerais, as lawyers. It is believed that - in addition to the changes promoted by Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo (marquês de Pombal), that resulted in a greater opening of the colonial administration at regal qualified elites - this apparent change in the profile of the oligarchies of Minas explains the resumption of autonomy of local powers in Minas Gerais, because, prepared in the kingdom, they would have been able to reduce the effectiveness of the mechanisms of regal control, that acted on them from the 1750 decade, without that resulted in an open confrontation, as occurred in the decades of 1710, 1720 and 1730. The relationship between such agents and local oligarchies, during this period, is the object of research; the Vila Rica city council, the privileged space where the contradictions of this relationship manifested; and the prosopographical method, used mainly to identify the roots of the political action, and perceive the functioning of the administrative machine, the tool that will make it possible to unravel the complex relationship between local elites, regal agents and king.

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Academic Publications
(References retrieved automatically from State of São Paulo Research Institutions)
REZENDE, Luiz Alberto Ornellas. Local power, royal officers, and council control in Vila Rica, 1711-1789. 2020. Doctoral Thesis - Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH/SBD) São Paulo.

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