ART: Global Territorialization and Mining Frontiers in Nineteenth-Century Brazil, T. Bartoletti (Comparative Studies in Society and History)

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Abstract

The rumors of Brazil’s mineral riches reaching London and Vienna in the first half of the nineteenth century, started by enslaved Africans mining clandestinely in unexplored regions and later through geological surveys by mining engineers from the Habsburg Empire, prompted aspirations to wealth which circulated fluidly in the transatlantic context. This article examines the distinct but convergent agencies of garimpeiros, enslaved miners and prospectors, and of Habsburgian mining engineers in the territorialization process of Minas Gerais during the nineteenth-century expansion of global capitalism. It analyses the degree of connectivity and cooperation across British and Habsburgian imperial spaces in Brazilian mining ventures, focusing on the case of the mining engineer Virgil von Helmreichen, who arrived in Minas Gerais in 1836, under contract to the British-financed Imperial Brazilian Mining Association. The Habsburgian expert elite of which Helmreichen was a part played a crucial role in the expansion of the commodity frontier in this region, providing proficient knowledge in mining and geology. This expert community collaborated with the logistics networks of British free-trade imperialism and the Brazilian slave system inherited from the colonial period. The territorialization of Minas Gerais shows the global dynamics at play between British interests in the discovery of new mines, the need to produce expert knowledge at the local level, and the Brazilian government’s desire to control the hinterland region and profit from its mineral wealth.

 

Bartoletti, T. (2022). Global Territorialization and Mining Frontiers in Nineteenth-Century Brazil: Capitalist Anxieties and the Circulation of Knowledge between British and Habsburgian Imperial Spaces, ca. 1820–1850. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 1-34. doi:10.1017/S0010417522000391 - Link to Full Text