Brazil is the largest country in the South American continent, with an area of 8,511,965 sq km. The country's capital is Brasilia, and other important cities include Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The Amazon rainforest covers the northern half of the country, and Brazil has large uranium reserves. It also benefits from hydroelectric power in the form of the Itaipu and Tucurin dams.

Brazilian history

Brazil was first settled around 8000 BC, and European explorers from Spain and Portugal arrived in 1500. The new territories,known as Vera Cruz (True Cross), had been allocated to Portugal by the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494.

Jesuits from Sao Paulo began converting the indigenous natives to Christianity in 1554. The country's mineral wealth became apparent when gold was discovered in 1694 and 1718, and diamonds in 1699. Native Indians were used as slaves in the mines.

Spanish claims to Brazil were ended by treaty in 1777, and Spain was given lands in Uruguay. The Portuguese King John VI came to Rio in 1808 when Portugal was occupied by Napoleonic troops. In 1815 Brazil became a kingdom associated to Portugal, and in 1820 John VI's son Dom Pedro became regent. He became emperor of Brazil in 1822 when he accepted Brazil's proclamation of independence. His son, Pedro II, helped expand Brazil's economy and coffee trade, granting universal suffrage and abolishing slavery. The authoritarian style of Pedro II proved to be his downfall, however, and a military-led revolution led to the proclamation of a republic in 1889.

Twentieth-century Brazil

The new constitution of 1891 established Brazil as a secular, federal, and democratic state. The country's entry into World War I in 1914 on the side of the Allies bolstered its production of wheat and rubber, making it a powerful force in Latin America. Production of rubber by south-east Asian countries, the world economic crisis of 1929, and falling coffee prices in 1930 led to recession and dictatorship under Getulio Vargas. Vargas committed suicide in 1954.

A new capital was officially founded at Brasilia in 1960, and in 1964 the military took control. Political parties were suppressed in favour of ARENA (National Renewal Alliance), the official party. Free elections did not return until 1982. Universal suffrage continued to be suppressed by the military. Democracy was eventually restored by Jose Sarney in 1988. In 1989 Fernando Collor was elected president, but he was accused of corruption in 1992 and 1993, and Fernando Henrique Cardoso became president in 1994.

Chronicle of the World, Jacques Legrand SA International Publishing, 1989
Hutchinson Encyclopedia, 1997 ed., Helicon Publishing, 1996

This concludes my brief history of Brazil. The following e2 nodes may also prove useful: