Brazil history timeline
Colonial Era (1500–1822)
The Treaty of Tordesillas divides the non-European world between Portugal and Spain. Portugal gets
Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral is the first European to set foot in Brazil, which he names
Ilha de Vera Cruz.
Amerigo Vespucci sails along the Brazilian coast, naming places after the saints on whose days they were first sighted.
The colony is divided into 15 captaincies, each governed by a Portuguese courtier.
A central administration based in Salvador oversees the capitanias. Colonists and Jesuit missionaries argue about the treatment of Amerindians. Royal decree gives Jesuits control over Christianised Amerindians; colonists are allowed to enslave those captured in war. Colonists import slaves to boost workforce.
The French build a garrison on the site of present-day Rio de Janeiro, but are driven out in 1565 by governor general Mem de Sá, who founds a city.
Sugar cane, grown on huge plantations worked by African slaves, is the most important crop, supplemented by tobacco, cattle and, later, cotton and coffee.
Portugal and Spain are united.
Expeditions (bandeiras) of settlers delve into the interior in search of gold and slaves. Many Amerindians are wiped out by European diseases, enslavement and massacres.
The Dutch West India Company conquers much of the northeast. A Dutch prince, Maurice of Nassau, rules
Pernambuco, in the heart of the sugar cane-growing region, 1637–44.
Discovery of gold in Minas Gerais leads to the growth of gold-rush towns in the interior.
After years of disputes with colonists and Portuguese government, Jesuits are expelled.
Rio de Janeiro becomes the capital city.
An independence movement, the Inconfidência Mineira, springs up in Ouro Preto. In 1792 its leader, Joaquim José da Silva Xavier (Tiradentes) is hanged and the movement collapses soon afterwards.
King João VI flees Portugal to escape Napoleon, and establishes his court in Rio. He introduces many reforms; Brazil is allowed to trade freely.
João returns to Portugal and names his son, Pedro, as prince regent and governor of Brazil.
The Empire (1822–89)
Pedro I?proclaims independence from Portugal, and establishes Brazilian Empire, which is recognized by the US and, in 1825, by Portugal.
Pedro I abdicates in favour of his five-year-old son (also Pedro). Political leaders run the country, and face revolts and army rebellions.
The reign of Pedro II sees the population increase from 4 million to 14 million. Wars with neighboring countries strengthen the military, while the emperor’s opposition to slavery makes him enemies among the landowning class.
Importation of slaves ends.
Manaus becomes prosperous from Amazonian rubber trade, but declines when Asia starts producing the crop, using seeds smuggled out of Brazil.
All children born to slaves are declared free.
The last slaves are freed.
Republican Brazil (1889–1963)
Pedro II overthrown by the military and sent into exile.
Coffee makes São Paulo the country’s commercial center and dominant power base.
Prudente de Morais becomes first elected civilian president.
After riots, the army installs Getúlio Vargas as president. He assumes total power, brings in social security and minimum wage.
Brazil declares war on Germany – the only Latin American country to take an active part in World War II.
Vargas again made president, this time in a democratic election. In 1954, on the brink of a military coup, he commits suicide.
Founding of national oil company, Petrobras.
President Juscelino Kubits-chek unveils a five-year plan aiming to achieve rapid industrialization.
With Pelé in its side, Brazil wins World Cup in Sweden.
The new capital city, Brasília, is inaugurated.
President Jânio Quadros resigns, after only seven months in office.
Brazil retains the World Cup in Chile.
Military Dictatorship (1964–84)
General Castelo Branco rules as president after a successful military coup.
General Arthur da Costa e Silva closes Congress and institutes a program of repression.
Under General Emílio Garrastazu Medici, state terrorism is used against insurgents, but the economy soars.
In Mexico, Brazil wins the World Cup for third time to win Jules Rimet Trophy outright.
Emerson Fittipaldi becomes the first Brazilian to win the Formula One drivers’ championship. He wins again in 1974, becoming CART champion in 1989 and two-time winner of Indianapolis 500.
General Ernesto Geisel begins a gradual relaxation of the military regime.
João Baptista Figueiredo becomes military president. Political rights restored to the opposition.
Nelson Piquet is Formula One World Champion. He wins again in 1983 and 1987.
Latin American debt crisis – Brazil has the largest national debt in the Third World.
1.5 million Brazilians demonstrate in São Paulo for the return of democratic rights, “Direitos Já”.
Tancredo Neves becomes presi-dent, but dies six weeks later; José Sarney succeeds him. Rock in Rio, Brazil’s largest rock festival takes place; he crowd is estimated at 1.5 million. Further festivals are held in 1991, 2001 and 2011.
Sarney’s economic package, the Cruzado Plan, attempts unsuccessfully to curb rampant inflation.
A new constitution is introduced. Chico Mendes, defender of the rainforest, is murdered. Ayrton Senna is Formula One World Champion; he wins again in 1990 and 1991.
Fernando Collor de Mello is elected president.
UN Earth Summit is held in Rio, at the time the largest-ever gathering of heads of state and government.
Collor resigns amid corruption scandals.
National hero Ayrton Senna dies after a crash at the San Marino Grand Prix.
Brazil wins the World Cup in the US.
Fernando Henrique Cardoso is elected president. His Plano Real brings inflation under control and he is re-elected
Brazil celebrates its 500th anniversary as a country.
Such is the potential of Brazil, Russia, India and China to be the dominant global economies by 2050, they become known as the “BRIC” countries.
Brazil wins World Cup for a fifth time in Japan and Korea. Financial markets in Brazil and abroad panic at the prospect of victory of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He becomes the country’s first left-wing president for 40 years.
21 people killed when a space satellite explodes at the Alcântara space center.
Brazil, with Germany, Japan and India, launches a bid to become a member of the UN Security Council. Brazil’s first space rocket launched.
Senior figures in Lula’s Workers’ Party resign after serious allegations of corruption.
A private executive jet en route to the US collides with a Gol Boeing 737 over Mato Grosso; 154 passengers and crew are killed. In the second round of voting in the presidential elections, Lula is re-elected to a second four-year term.
Government recognizes human-rights abuses carried out under the military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985. Rio de Janeiro hosts the Pan American Games. Awarded the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Environment minister Marina Silva resigns from the government and joins the Green Party. She is the party’s presidential candidate in 2010. Brazil turns down an invitation to join Opec.
Brazil offers $10 billion to the IMF to improve the availability of credit in developing countries. President Obama says at the G20 in London that President Lula is “most popular politician on earth”. Rio de Janeiro awarded the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Massive “Pré-sal” (pre-salt) oil and gas fields discovered off the coast of Brazil.
Dilma Rousseff is elected as Brazil's first female president, with 56% of the vote.
Brazil to host the FIFA World Cup Tournament.
Rio de Janeiro to host the Olympic and Paralympic games.