The Trade in the Living

The Formation of Brazil in the South Atlantic, Sixteenth to Seventeenth Centuries

By Luiz Felipe de Alencastro

Subjects: Postcolonial Studies, Latin American Studies, History, Cultural Studies, Indigenous Studies
Series: SUNY series, Fernand Braudel Center Studies in Historical Social Science
Hardcover : 9781438469294, 642 pages, October 2018
Paperback : 9781438469300, 642 pages, January 2019

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations

Presentation of the English Edition
Patrick Manning

Author’s Preface to the American Edition

1. The Apprenticeship of Colonization

2. Africans, “The Slaves from Guinea”

3. Lisbon, Slave-Trade Capital of the Western World

4. Amerindians, the “Slaves of the Land”

5. Evangelization in One Colony

6. The War over the Slave Markets
photo gallery follows page 252

7. Brasílica Angola

Conclusion: Brazil’s Singularity
Appendix 1 Luís Mendes de Vasconcellos and His Offspring
Appendix 2 The Supply of Northern Captaincies by Southern Captaincies during the Dutch War 1630–1654
Appendix 3 The Salvador Correa de Sá e Benevides Family
Appendix 4 Notes on Some Portuguese and Brasilico Expeditionaries of 1648 Task Force that Recaptured Angola
Appendix 5 1600s Portuguese Atlantic Hand Firearms

Macro-level study of the South Atlantic throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries demonstrating how Brazil’s emergence was built on the longest and most intense slave trade of the modern era.


The seventeenth-century missionary and diplomat Father Antônio Vieira once observed that Brazil was nourished, animated, sustained, served, and conserved by the "sad blood" of the "black and unfortunate souls" imported from Angola. In The Trade in the Living, Luiz Felipe de Alencastro demonstrates how the African slave trade was an essential element in the South Atlantic and in the ongoing cohesion of Portuguese America, while at the same time the concrete interests of Brazilian colonists, dependent on Angolan slaves, were often violently asserted in Africa, to ensure men and commodities continued to move back and forth across the Atlantic. In exposing this intricate and complementary relationship between two non-European continents, de Alencastro has fashioned a new and challenging examination of colonial Brazil, one that moves beyond its relationship with Portugal to discover a darker, hidden history.

Luiz Felipe de Alencastro is Professor of Economic History at the Sao Paulo School of Economics, Director of the Center for South Atlantic Studies, and Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Paris, Sorbonne.


"Published in 2000 … Alencastro's work remains, in its scholarship, detail, and argumentative rigor, the benchmark for an integrated sixteenth- and seventeenth-century South Atlantic history. The relevance of the work twenty years on is indisputable." — H-Net Review (H-LatAm)

"The author's command of written and archival sources is impressive, the writing is sometimes brilliant and usually provocative … The Trade in the Living must be considered a major accomplishment that has changed the way that both Brazilian and Angolan history is conceived, and reconceptualizes the place and importance of the South Atlantic in the history of slavery." — Slavery & Abolition

"This is a long, detailed book, with many fascinating details and discussions outlining sea routes, the origins of the laws governing slavery, diplomatic relations Europeans developed with African and Native American societies, changes in banking practices and the transformation of capital investment to take advantage of the profits the slave trade offered." — Society for U.S. Intellectual History

"…an important contribution to Anglophone literature on Atlantic history and the history of the Atlantic slave trade … Highly recommended." — CHOICE