Project Goals

Some of the most important sources for analyzing nineteenth-century Brazilian social history are the 1830s regional manuscript censuses. Created by local justices-of-the-peace by request of the provincial governments, these documents recreate households by parish, identifying the name, relationship to the head of household, race, age, marital status, civil status (free, freed, or slave), place of birth, and occupation of all the individuals united in a fogo, literarily hearth, or household. They are a goldmine for any researcher, allowing analysis of economic orientation, the distribution of slave and free labor, spouse selection, patterns of maternity the possibilities are endless.

During my 2003 archival research at the Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia, I spent over a month transcribing the 1835 manuscript census for the parish of Santiago do Iguape. Located in the township of Cachoeira, Santiago do Iguape was home to many of the Reconcavo’s most extensive sugar plantations. Previously, accessing this vital information required a trip to Brazil, fluency in Brazilian Portuguese, paleographic skill, and a high tolerance for tedious work. I hope that making this valuable data source more readily accessible will be a great contribution to the scholarly community.

There is a scholarly divide between scholars of slavery in the United States, Spanish America, and Brazil that originates largely from linguistic training. I hope that making the Santiago do Iguape manuscript census accessible will encourage re-examinations of the nature of Brazilian slavery among students and scholars who do not speak Portuguese and encourage scholarly dialogue. I also hope this will be a valuable source for college students, providing students who do not read Portuguese with the primary sources necessary to draw their own conclusions about Brazilian history.

About Santiago do Igaupe Parish

A small but influential network of families who owned the immense sugar plantations ringing the northern Bahian Recôncavo dominated local economic and social life in the nineteenth-century. These plantations occupied most of the fertile land as well as containing the mill complexes necessary for the transformation of cane into refined sugar. Such Senhores de Engenho, as the mill owners were known, dominated the local social hierarchy by virtue of their social prestige and economic prowess. This monopolization of resources gave them near total control over those dependent on them for survival. Lavradores, sharecroppers who grew cane on Engenho lands, came next in the social hierarchy. Plantations also housed numerous artisans working as carpenters, blacksmiths, and masons as well as the skilled technicians required to transform cane juice into sugar. The majority of the free population, however, lived on the margins of the sugar plantations growing foodstuffs for plantation residents or working as seamstresses, washerwomen, and fishermen.

At the base of a Senhor de Engenho’s economic success and prestige was their ability to mobilize free and enslaved dependents as laborers. In 1835 in the sugar parish of Santiago do Iguape, most residents – 53.7 percent of the population – were enslaved. Enslaved men and women dug trenches in the thick mud to plant cane seedlings, hoed the cane shoots under the hot sun, and cut and transported the cane stalks to the mill during the harvest. Slave life on the sugar plantations was arduous, and the lifespans of enslaved workers short. Slave deaths outpaced births on Iguape’s plantations, making sugar production directly dependent on a constant influx of enslaved Africans. Most of the slaves working on Iguape’s plantations in 1835 had been born in Africa.

Although slaves comprised the majority of the local population, slaveholding was extremely concentrated: in 1835, only 21.6 percent of Iguape households contained slaves. A further 15.2 percent contained agregados, free dependents linked to landholders by ties of patronage and protection, coercion and necessity. Rule by an entrenched minority depended on the maintenance of a rigidly defined social hierarchy that privileged European descent, free birth, and masculinity.  The detailed attention paid to recording racial category, age, marital status, and occupation in the 1835 census reflect the social priorities of local officials.

The original of the Santiago do Iguape Household census can be consulted at the State Archives of Bahia in Salvador:

Arquivo Público do Estado da Bahia.  “Relação de Fogos e Moradores da Freguesia de Santiago Maior do Iguape, da comarca da Vila da Cachoeira,” Seção Provincial e Colonial, maço 6175-1.