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Local power, royal officers, and council control in Vila Rica, 1711-1789

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Luiz Alberto Ornellas Rezende
Total Authors: 1
Document type: Doctoral Thesis
Press: São Paulo.
Institution: Universidade de São Paulo (USP). Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH/SBD)
Defense date:
Examining board members:
Laura de Mello e Souza; Angelo Alves Carrara; Iris Kantor; Fernando Antonio Novais
Advisor: Laura de Mello e Souza

From the establishment of the first city council in Minas Gerais until the dismantling of the Minas Gerais separatist movement (Conjuração Mineira) in 1789, many conflicts of interest and alliances occurred between local rulers, royal officers, and the monarch. During the colonial period in Minas Gerais, local councils played a double role: whilst they brought together the interests of different sectors of the local elites, they were closely controlled by royal officers, magistrates (ouvidores), and governors, reinforcing royal power in the region and, most of the time, carrying out the policies planned by the monarchy. This study aims to explain this seemingly contradictory double function in the municipality of Vila Rica, which favoured the expansion of institutional prerogatives without threatening royal sovereignty in the region. For this purpose, a systematic analysis of institutional daily life was undertaken, based on the information extracted from the minutes of council meetings, and records of revenues and expenses of the institution. In addition, four generations of Vila Rica\'s most influential council officers were examined in a prosopographical study. It was thus possible to observe that there was no decreasing tendency in the council prerogatives throughout the 18th century, but rather a fluctuation in periods of greater or lesser power of the institution, which did not result from its tax collection capacity, or the improvement of the local ruling sector, and were instead due to political changes in the centre of the Portuguese Empire that reduced the participation of local mineiro councils in colonial politics. At Vila Rica between the 1720s and the 1770s, the stable coexistence of conflicting interests allowed the institution to meet the wider needs of the Portuguese colonial project for the region, systematically avoiding to counteract the fundamental interests of a significant portion of Minas Gerais\'s elites and ruling sector, which directed 40% of the council\'s tax collection to themselves. Such adjustment was only possible thanks to a close control over the local council and its ruling sector by local royal officers, the governor, and the magistrate (ouvidor), who made use of a series of preventive, palliative, and corrective mechanisms in order to ensure that the interests of the king prevailed. (AU)

FAPESP's process: 15/08303-8 - Gold elites, the regal agents and the control of the Municipal Council of Vila Rica, 1720-1789
Grantee:Luiz Alberto Ornellas Rezende
Support type: Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate