P04


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The land issue in the early modern overseas empires 
Convenors:
Jose Vicente Serrao (ISCTE-IUL)
Location:
Sala 78, Piso 1
Sessions:
Wednesday 17 July, 14:00-15:45, Thursday 18 July, 9:30-11:15 (UTC+0)

Short Abstract:

This Panel aims to discuss, from a variety of perspectives, how land and land related issues were dealt with in the different imperial contexts.

Long Abstract

The 'land issue' arose as soon as Europeans started their expansion overseas. With the exception of a few purely merchant imperial ventures, the occupation, appropriation and (re)distribution of lands became a chief matter, for both individuals and authorities, in the process of colonization and empire-building promoted by the Europeans throughout the early modern period. Firstly, because land had a huge political relevance - occupying, mapping, surveying, taxing or granting land was an exercise of sovereignty and power. But land was also a matter of culture, economy, social relations and ideology, not to mention that the legal and factual regulation of property rights in land was a permanent ground for negotiation and conflict. THIS PANEL ACCEPTS PAPERS ADDRESSING THE COLONIAL LAND ISSUE FROM ANY OF THESE PERSPECTIVES AND FOCUSING ON WHATEVER IMPERIAL CONTEXT. Among the variety of questions that can be discussed, here are some examples: which were the main legal institutions regulating land tenure and land use implemented in each empire? What happened to the European institutional templates when transposed to the imperial spaces? How did they accommodate to the diverse colonial environments and to the existing indigenous regimes of land tenure and property rights, of a very different cultural background? How far were the native peoples deprived of their lands? What role did land play in the negotiation and conflict processes between imperial authorities, settlers and native communities? How did property rights serve economic or settlement purposes? How were they used for building sovereignty over colonial territories?

Accepted papers:

Author:

Antonieta Reis Leite (UNL/UAÇ e UC )

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposal aims to present the set of rules, regarding land ordinance, that were available during the settlement process of the Azorean islands and stress how they were applied to this new territory, namely in Angra and Ponta Delgada where the urban pattern resulted strongly geometrized.

Paper long abstract:

The goal of this paper is to bring out to discussion how the discovered and settlement of the Azores islands allowed to start an innovative settling program that was based in a simple but very efficient set of rules directed to the land regulation.

By law, the Lords (donatários), and their delegates the Captains (capitães), should distribute the land to the settlers according to the Lei das Sesmarias. This law ruled the distribution of unoccupied and not producing ground, either urban and rural, in the mainland Portugal since 1375, and served has a base to the occupation process in all the portuguese atlantic territories - but it was first tried and improved in Madeira and Azores the so called "near Atlantic islands".

Despite this law was already in use it needed to be added with new rules in order to be efficient in an unoccupied and remote territory, such as the islands.

In fact, in the first place this policy intended to guarantee that the settling process was conducted in a lucrative way. Meaning that, the agriculture production, as well as the tax system should be optimized to its potential level.

The land ordinance became a tool to accomplish that, as well as the donation of land was a way of attract population to this far-off islands.

In result of this regulation process, a rural and urban landscape devised and laid out according to geometrical principals emerged.

Author:

Hal Langfur (University at Buffalo (State University of New York))

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on an expedition in 18th c. Minas Gerais led by a rancher who became one of Brazil's largest landholders. His actions demonstrate how the crown became an accomplice of adventurers who did not always do its bidding in its drive to territorialize sovereignty over distant lands.

Paper long abstract:

This paper focuses on an expedition in 18th c. Minas Gerais led by a powerful rancher who was rewarded for his actions with multiple land grants, becoming one of Brazil's largest landholders. The Portuguese legal regime sought to prevent individuals from acquiring more than a single land grant. This rural potentate circumvented this standard by appealing to a longstanding compact forged between the crown and favored subjects engaged in territorial expansion. The rancher searched for gold, but none could be found. He sought Indians to conquer, but they escaped his armed lieutenants. He attempted to root out runaway slave settlements, but their occupants vanished into the forests. Eager to proclaim his accomplishments, he invited rural poets to sing his praise and recorded their crude stanzas for royal authorities to read. In short, to build his ranching empire, he enacted a series of conquest rituals, which the crown read as heroic and worthy of uncommon recompense, despite their modest results. His greatest achievement lay in his ability to enlist the colonial state in his campaign to seize land just beyond its effective jurisdiction. At such distances, formal legal authority became attenuated and gave ground to customary practices developed over the course of more than two centuries of inland exploration. The promise of acquiring treasure—in the form of gold, Indians, and productive slaves—turned the crown into an eager accomplice of shrewd adventurers who did not always do its bidding in the drive to territorialize colonial control over distant lands.

Author:

Junia Furtado (Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais)

Paper short abstract:

The objective is to investigate the collaboration established between the Portuguese diplomat Dom Luís da Cunha and the French cartographer D'Anville for the Carte de l'Amérique méridionale (1748) and how it was important to create Brazilian territory after the XVIII century.

Paper long abstract:

The objective of this paper is to investigate the collaboration established between the Portuguese diplomat Dom Luís da Cunha and the French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon D'Anville for the Carte de l'Amérique méridionale (1748). The map was meant to serve the purposes of the Portuguese court in the negotiations of these boundary-lines between Spanish and Portuguese America that were taking place in Madrid since 1746. The Treaty of Madrid was finally signed in 1750, but D'Anville's map was not used in the negotiations. Although the Portuguese deliberated hide it, the map was a fundamental key to create the new borders of the Portuguese America, very similar as they are today. In fact, the map invented Brazil`s frontiers and was not a simple mirror of the territory. It reflected Dom Luís da Cunha's vision with regards to the Portuguese geopolitics that needed to be formulated for the Americas during the first half of the 18th century, and his view reflected in compiling the map. For him, it is important to notice, the establishment of a policy for the area was inseparable from the development of geographic knowledge of the region and he also gave the cartographic documents that the geographer used to draw the Carte de l'Amérique méridionale (1748).

Author:

Nadeera Seneviratne (University of Leiden)

Paper short abstract:

Through mechanisms such as registration and a court, and despite the complexities of the local land tenure system, the VOC in Sri Lanka attempted to create a neat, circumscribed system that followed specific legal procedures and written forms on land matters.

Paper long abstract:

During its administration of parts of Sri Lanka the Dutch East India Company (VOC) set up the Landraad, a court composed of European and native officials, in the eighteenth century. Its primary task was to hear civil cases and its primary tool the thombo or land register. The VOC wished to set down who could do what in which piece of land and what it could extract in return. This paper is a study of land rights in southern Sri Lanka, providing a quantitative and qualitative analysis of the types of possession recognised in the thombos. Local terms relating to land tenure such as paraveni, malapalu and nilapalu were adopted in the thombo, the Landraad and other official discussions. The thombo and the Landraad were in effect the legal mechanisms by which the conversion of land, whether collectively or individually held, into alienable title was sought to be consolidated. Dutch practices of surveying, indigenous land tenure, and existing and new practices of registering lands combined with a new institutional legal framework in which to settle disputes. Despite the complexities of the local land tenure system, the VOC attempted to enforce regulations that would create a neat, circumscribed system that followed specific legal procedures and written forms. The important role of the non-elite actors who appear in this study for the first time can also be seen. Their priorities and claims encountered those of foreign and local elites.

Key words: colonial law, land tenure, registration, land law, VOC, Sri Lanka

Author:

Rafael Chambouleyron (Universidade Federal do Pará)

Paper short abstract:

The aim of this paper is to discuss the manifold actions undertaken by the Crown to foster economic activity in the colonial Amazon region related to agriculture, such as the cultivation of sugar, tobacco, as well as the development of native local products like cacao, indigo, and bark-clove.

Paper long abstract:

The development of colonial Amazon region's economy during the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries was precarious and strongly dependent on Crown incentives. There existed many policies for the increase of economic activities - such as grants of privileges for producers, land grants, exemption from taxes, financing and granting the supply of the labour force. These policies consisted not only in incentives to assist production and commerce, but also they were means for the Crown to maintain royal power and administration in the region. For the Portuguese crown, therefore, the development of Amazonian precarious economy was intimately linked to the financing of its own bureaucratic and military apparatus in the region. Indeed, one could assert that, in a certain measure, Crown intervention was triggered by its own fragile financial situation in the Amazon region. The development of agriculture and the gathering of the Amazonian spices were continually connected to the possibility of increasing the royal treasury's revenues, in order to cover the costs of troops, fortresses, bureaucracy, and hence, to guarantee the Portuguese dominion. The aim of this paper is to discuss the manifold actions undertaken by the Crown to foster economic activity in the colonial Amazon region, especially the one related to agriculture, such as the cultivation of sugar, tobacco, as well as the development of native local products like cacao, indigo, and bark-clove.