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

Grant number: 17/20669-3
Support Opportunities:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): February 20, 2018
Effective date (End): October 19, 2018
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - History of Brazil
Principal Investigator:Laura de Mello e Souza
Grantee:Luiz Alberto Ornellas Rezende
Supervisor: Maria Leonor Freire Costa
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Research place: Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal  
Associated to the scholarship:15/08303-8 - Gold elites, the regal agents and the control of the Municipal Council of Vila Rica, 1720-1789, BP.DR


The discovery of gold in large quantities within the Portuguese colony in America caused, along of the 18th century, a significant demographic growth in the colony and the flourishing of a new society in the region of the mines, more diverse, and that showcased the conflict between the outlying values of the former regime and the new reality in the mines. It was also a time when one used to live between the contexts of honor, guided by the ethics of the word and the contexts of wealth, guided by the ethics of circulation. This new society was living, within its genesis, a very turbulent period, ended in 1720 after the crackdown on Vila Rica's riot, and in the backwoods of the captaincy - members of the first generation of local elites, remaining from the War of the Emboabas. New significant unrest would only take place in 1789, on the occasion of the Minas Conspiracy. Both movements, from 1720 and 1789, were articulated by members of comrade cupolas. Meanwhile, regarding the timeframe of this research, the relationship between the local oligarchies and the regal agents was marked by an accommodation, which, paradoxically, did not mean stagnation for the local elites, but a resumption of their autonomy and the enlargement of the municipal councils' prerogatives, which conflicted with the general trend of reducing the power of those institutions through all the Empire. The second generations of Minas Gerais elites, which have consolidated themselves since 1730, in line with the regal interests in the region, were mostly of humble origins, quickly enriched by virtue of gold and trade, and had distinguished military ranks. Within the advance of the 18th century, another generation was born, bringing a new element to its dynamic: the offspring of this very second generation, graduated at the Universidade de Coimbra. It has commonly been assumed that - in addition to the promoted changes by Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo (Marquis of Pombal), that resulted in a greater opening of the colonial administration to the regal qualified elites - this apparent adjustment in the profile of the oligarchies of Minas would explain 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 resulting in an open confrontation, as occurred in the previous decades. 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 were manifested; and the prosopographical method, used mainly to identify the roots of the political action, and to 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. Aiming the fully-realized development of the prosopographical method, which would make possible the constitution of the collective biography of 18th century Vila Rica's political elites, the research internship in the Portuguese archives is mandatory, involving the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, the Biblioteca Nacional de Lisboa, the Arquivo Nacional da Torre do Tombo, and the Arquivo da Universidade de Coimbra. Information on the path of 298 individuals that, between 1720 and 1789, exerted the central stations of local administration would be collected. Among them, it would be held special attention to these main subgroups: a) the 53 individuals that occupied such function for four mandates or more; b) the 33 bachelors that graduated in Coimbra and that represented the Enlightenment Thought in Minas Gerais. Furthermore, there is a third subgroup of 33 regal agents (governors and ombudsmen), also originated from the kingdom and that, in thesis, were responsible for all the regal determinations accomplishments in the mines.

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