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Between Empires:

Brazilian Sugar in the Early Atlantic Economy,

Atlantic World

Europe, Africa and the Americas, 1500–1830

Edited by

Benjamin Schmidt
University of Washington
Wim Klooster
Clark University

Between Empires:
Brazilian Sugar in the Early Atlantic
Economy, 1550–1630

Christopher Ebert

Cover illustration: ‘Ships Leaving the Port of Lisbon,’ from: Theodor de Bry, Americae
tertia pars memorabilē provinciæ Brasiliæ historiam. Apud Ionnem Wechelum, 1592.
Courtesy of the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Ebert, Christopher.
Between empires : Brazilian sugar in the early Atlantic economy, 1550–1630 / by
Christopher Ebert.
p. cm. — (Atlantic world ; 16)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-90-04-16768-1 (hardback : alk. paper) 1. Sugar trade—Brazil—
History—16th century. 2. Sugar trade—Brazil—History—17th century. 3. Sugar
trade—Europe, Northern—History—16th century. 4. Sugar trade—Europe,
Northern—History—17th century. I. Title. II. Series.

HD9114.B6E24 2008


ISSN 1570-0542
ISBN 978 90 04 16768 1

Copyright 2008 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.

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List of Maps, Tables and Figures ................................................ vii

Abbreviations. ............................................................................... ix
Acknowledgements ....................................................................... xi

Chapter One
Introduction .............................................................................. 1

Chapter Two
Portuguese Trade with Northwestern Europe ......................... 17

Chapter Three
Sugar, Institutions and Politics ................................................. 39

Chapter Four
Merchants and Merchant Networks ....................................... 61

Chapter Five
The Cost of Shipping .............................................................. 85

Chapter Six
Transactions and Risk Management ........................................ 109

Chapter Seven
Illegal Trade .............................................................................. 131

Chapter Eight
Supply, Demand, Prices and Profitability ................................ 151

Conclusion .................................................................................... 177

Appendix A
The Transatlantic System: Ports and Routes in Brazil,
Portugal and the Atlantic Islands ............................................. 181
vi contents

Appendix B
Portugal and the Dutch Republic in Baltic Trade .................. 187

Appendix C
Freight Charges ......................................................................... 191

Bibliography and Sources ............................................................. 195

Index ............................................................................................. 205



2.1 Principle ports in trade between Portugal, Portuguese

Atlantic colonies and northwestern Europe,
1550–1630 ........................................................................... 18


2.1 Freight contracts celebrated in Amsterdam involving the

Baltic Trade ......................................................................... 37
5.1 Ship types mentioned in the Lisbon and Porto notarial
archives according to tonnage ............................................. 91
5.2 Amsterdam freight contracts for the Baltic trade: Ships
intending to visit Portugal in 1618 ...................................... 92
5.3 Freight contracts from the Amsterdam notarial archives
for trips to Brazil: tonnage and manpower ........................ 94
5.4 Sales of ships revealed in Lisbon notarial archives,
1580–1630 ........................................................................... 100
5.5 Ship prices in the Netherlands—Brazil or Portugal
trade ..................................................................................... 101
6.1 Some records of maritime insurance policies in the
GAA, contracted for voyages to Brazil ............................... 123
6.2 Records for loans on bottomry conditions in the
GAA—trips to Brazil ........................................................... 127
8.1 Brazilian production in arrobas ............................................ 152
8.2 Lisbon sugar prices in 1624 and 1625 as quoted by a
merchant, reis per arroba ....................................................... 154
8.3 Price differences in Lisbon according to source: Prices of
Madeira, São Tomé and Brazilian sugar as quoted by a
Lisbon merchant house ....................................................... 155
8.4 Wholesale sugar prices in Brazil: reis per arroba ................. 157
8.5 Wholesale Brazilian sugar prices in Lisbon:
reis per arroba ........................................................................ 159
8.6 Wholesale sugar prices in Antwerp, groten per pound ........ 161
viii list of maps, tables and figures

8.7 Wholesale sugar prices in Amsterdam, groten per

pound .................................................................................. 163
8.8 Wholesale sugar prices in Hamburg: groten per pound ..... 164
8.9 Price margins less freight per 54-arroba ton of white
sugar shipped from Brazil to Lisbon in reis ....................... 170
8.10 Price margins less freight per 54-arroba ton of sugar
shipped from Lisbon to Amsterdam in reis ........................ 171
8.11 Royal revenues: Habsburg Portugal, cruzados ..................... 172


A.1 Lisbon and Porto notarial contracts mentioning Brazilian

ports of call, 1580–1630 .................................................... 181
A.2 Amsterdam freight contracts, including
Baltic-Portuguese trade, 1614–1619 ................................... 182
A.3 Voyages from Lisbon to Brazil in Lisbon notarial
contracts: return ports ........................................................ 184
A.4 Voyages from Porto to Brazil in Porto notarial contracts:
return ports ......................................................................... 184
A.5 Voyages from Portugal to Brazil in Lisbon and Porto
notarial contracts: Atlantic Islands ..................................... 185
B.1 Portuguese ports of call anticipated in Amsterdam
freight contracts involving Baltic trade, 1594–1600 .......... 187
B.2 Volume of shipping through the Øresund—Ships arriving
directly from Portugal by national origin .......................... 190
C.1 Freight charges: Brazil to Portugal, reis per ton ................. 191
C.2 Freight charges for sugar, Portugal to the Dutch
Republic .............................................................................. 193


2.1 Planned voyages from Holland to Portugal ....................... 37

5.1 Lisbon and Porto notarial contracts mentioning
Brazilian ports of call ......................................................... 89
8.1 Sugar prices in Brazil and Europe ..................................... 165
8.2 Freight charges, Brazil to Portugal ..................................... 167

AHU Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, Lisbon

ARA Nationaal Archief, The Hague (formerly: Algemeen
GAA Gemeentearchief Amsterdam
IANTT Instituto dos Arquivos Nacionais, Torre do Tombo, Lisbon
IC Inquisição de Coimbra
IL Inquisição de Lisboa
NA Notarieel Archief
RGP Rijksgeschiedkundige Publicatiën
RSG Resolutiën der Staten-Generaal
SG Staten-Generaal
WIC Dutch West India Company (West Indische Compagnie)

In the spring of 1997, I met with Herbert Klein for the first time over
coffee. This was not in his favorite haunt, the Hungarian Pastry Shop in
Morningside Heights in Manhattan, but at the Cafe de la Presse in San
Francisco. I was considering graduate work at Columbia and expressed
my interest in exploring early Portuguese colonialism in Brazil. At the
time we were wondering how I might make my German skills useful
in such a study, and Klein brightly suggested: “Why don’t you learn
Dutch?” That moment was the genesis of this project.
From PhD thesis to manuscript was not always a straightforward
path, and there were many people who offered help, advice and use-
ful criticism. Foremost among them was Professor Klein, who was
unstinting in his time, advice and encouragement. While I owe a debt
of gratitude to many other professors at Columbia, several in particu-
lar were instrumental in offering suggestions for this work, especially
Martha Howell, Pablo Piccato, and the late Wim Smit. I have also
received valuable encouragement and advice from Professors Alan Dye,
Johannes Postma and Wim Klooster. I greatly appreciated and—hope-
fully—took to heart the excellent advice of the two anonymous readers
of the manuscript.
In order to aid my research in Portuguese archives I received generous
support from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. While there I also
benefited enormously from conversations and advice from Professor
Leonor Costa of the Universidade Technica de Lisboa whose work has
had a profound influence on mine. Professor Pedro Cardim was also
a welcoming presence during my time in Portugal and helped me to
negotiate the archives there. I am also most grateful for the support and
warm friendship of my dear friends in Portugal: Keith Mason, Marcelo
Albuquerque, Jean Wallace, Carol Pearce and Lothar Bräutigam.
In my several stays in the Netherlands, I have benefited from con-
versations with Professors Pieter Emmer and Ernst van den Boogaart,
whose good advice helped guide my project at an early stage. Professor
Victor Enthoven was also a great help and very free with his time and
advice. To Dr. Raoul Hammers I owe many thanks for taking me into
his flat in Amsterdam on two occasions. Also to my friends Stephen
Keizer, Stephen Rodda and Jeffrey Sanders I owe many thanks for
helping to make my time in Amsterdam so enjoyable.
xii acknowledgements

Thanks to Professors Alan Stewart and Pedro Guibovich Perez for

enjoyable and useful conversations on sixteenth- and seventeenth-
century business and society. Christina Gehlsen and Dr. Peter König
have been true mentors to me, and most generously hosted me in
Berlin during part of the period that I was writing. Thanks to Chris
and Wendy Wark for logistical support during trips to archives. I offer
special thanks to my partner Jason Nu for his excellent proofreading
skills and companionship. I dedicate this work to my parents, Dick and
Shirlee Ebert.


If, in 1612, a merchant in the northern Portuguese port of Porto

freighted a ship for trade with Brazil, the journey would likely have
proceeded thus. A typical ship traveling from Porto to Recife in Per-
nambuco would have been about 70 tons. While the shape and con-
struction of ships varied during this period, this would have meant to
the captain and freighters in practical terms that the ship could hold
140 casks—pipas—of wine, a common cargo on a trip from northern
Portugal to Brazil. The ship would travel just under two months with
a crew of about fifteen. Once in Recife, the captain would meet with
a local correspondent of the Porto-based merchant, exchanging letters
and information about prices and markets. This correspondent would
sell the wine and purchase sugar with the proceeds, probably without
the exchange of any silver specie. Mutual debts would be set off in
the account books, and new ones indicated with letters of credit and
Within two months, the ship’s crew would have unloaded the wine
and replaced it with a cargo of sugar, already waiting in warehouses
on the wharf in Recife. In this case, each ton of cargo space—capable
of holding two pipas of wine—now carried four crates of sugar, each
marked to show its provenance and grade, and weighed-in at about
13.5 arrobas (198 kilograms). With a maximum cargo of 280 crates of
sugar, though probably less, the ship would set sail for Portugal. If all
went well—for a gauntlet of Barbary pirates infested the waters near
Portugal—the ship would arrive in about three months in the mouth
of the Douro. Now it would unload its cargo into the warehouses of
Porto’s Customs House, or Alfândega. Here officials checked the bills
of lading and weighed the cargo once again. Afterwards the freighters of
the ship would pay appropriate tolls and taxes and claim their cargo.

This is a hypothetical account, but documentation supporting my claims for how
trade was conducted will appear in detail in following chapters.
2 chapter one

From here sugar entered upon a new transaction, one that would
take it to another place in Europe. In 1612 there was a good chance
this would be Amsterdam. Probably sugar did not need to stay long in
the warehouse of a merchant from Porto, because a large number of
ships—mostly of Dutch origin—sailed every year from that Portuguese
town to northern destinations. One of these ships would have arrived
with instructions for the Porto merchant from his correspondent in
Amsterdam, asking to buy sugar. In this case, the hypothetical ship
that carried our sugar was larger, with two decks, a broad bottom and
a shallow draft. The ship had probably arrived in Porto with a cargo
of grain purchased in Danzig, and its owners measured its holding
space not in pipas-based tons, but in lasts, a unit of measure—based on
grain shipments—common in northern European shipping. The ship
measured 100 lasts, and the freighters reckoned that they could load
eight to ten crates of sugar per last. Even so, the Dutch crew of 25
only loaded 250 crates of sugar, and this shared cargo space with salt
from Aveiro. Loading time was two weeks and then the ship set sail
for Amsterdam, arriving there a month later. Here a similar process to
that seen at Porto was played out. Local officials taxed the transaction,
while wholesale merchants claimed the cargo and made adjustments
in their account books. At this point sugar was destined for one of
Amsterdam’s sugar refineries.
By the time Brazil become an important producer of sugar, Portugal’s
role as a supplier of sugar to elite households in Europe was well
established. A once medieval, domestic sugar industry had followed
ocean-going caravels during Portugal’s great age of overseas expan-
sion and discovery. By the end of the sixteenth century, the newly
discovered Atlantic islands—especially São Tomé and Madeira—were
producing sugar at a level that rendered European domestic production
inconsequential. This expansion of cultivation, processing and shipping
to areas distant from Europe required more capital than Portuguese
resources could provide. Merchant capital from Germany, Italy and
the Low Countries filled the gap. In its earliest phases, sugar was a
pan-European undertaking.
An initially unpromising colony, Portuguese Brazil achieved economic
importance in the middle of the sixteenth century when a combination
of capital, labor and political sponsorship created the right conditions
for an extension of cane cultivation to certain sections of the vast
introduction 3

Brazilian coastline. Cane grew very well in Brazil, and it was also a
propitious time for expansion. Sugar remained a luxury item, affordable
to only a few in Europe, but the sixteenth century saw the growth of
towns as well as the elite, urban populations that formed the market for
sugar. In the latter half of the sixteenth century, Brazilian production
increased to a level that dwarfed, in turn, the output of the Atlantic
islands. Around 1612, Brazil may have been producing 672,000 arrobas
(9,871,680 kilograms) per year. By that time in Europe, sugar was nearly
synonymous with Brazilian sugar.
Brazilian sugar was, in fact, not one, but three chief products. The
process of refining on the plantation created sugar in a range of purity
that, typically, was described as branco, or white; moscovado, essentially a
light-brown sugar; and panela, a dark brown sugar. The first two types
were known as machos, and they formed the greatest amount of exports.
Panela left Brazil in much smaller quantities, and usually commanded
about half the price of white sugar. Other products of refining on the
plantation—including molasses—made their way to Europe, but not
in appreciable quantities.
Needless to say, moving all of this sugar—as well as other Brazilian
products—to markets in Europe called for significant resources in ship-
ping. By 1611, this trade occupied at least 150 ships per year, and maybe
as many as 200 or more, depending on the size of the harvest and the
cargo space available at any given time in the merchant marine. These
were ships just for carrying sugar from Brazil to Portugal. Many more
ships moved sugar from there to other European markets. The spurs
to employment, naval construction, provisioning and finance were not
small. The requirements of moving Brazilian sugar placed it at the
center of the first age of trans-Atlantic shipping.
For all its importance, the Brazilian sugar trade in its earliest phases
remains poorly understood. Part of the reason for this is simply that
there is little information in European archives to support conclusions
with great certainty. Merchants’ account books for this period remain
extremely rare. For Portugal, there are virtually no detailed series of
data emanating from crown sources about imports and exports that have
survived for this period. When such information for the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries does survive, it presents difficulties of interpreta-
tion. Regarding sugar, contemporary descriptive sources are notoriously
imprecise about types and provenance, and they are sometimes prone
to exaggeration about quantities produced and shipped.
4 chapter one

The first scholarly works to treat Brazilian sugar did so through an

imperial framework.2 More recently, several Portuguese scholars have
investigated specific regional bases of the Brazilian sugar trade, looking
at local merchant communities and their associated maritime sectors.
These efforts have rested on the exploitation of previously unused
Portuguese archival sources, especially notarial documents.3 One of the
most impressive achievements in this area has come from Leonor Freire
Costa, who has contributed a meticulously researched and expansive
look at the shipping sector in the Portuguese-Brazil trade until 1663.4
Costa was the first to make extensive use of notarial records in Lisbon
and Porto to examine the economy of the transport sector in the sugar
trade. Another section of her long work examines the establishment
of the monopoly Companhia do Comércio do Brasil in 1663. Costa’s study
has had a significant influence on this work, and I have made ample
use of her wide-ranging research, including data series provided in
her appendices.
However, to one degree or another, previous work dealing with the
Brazilian sugar trade has continued to conceptualize it within either
a Dutch or Portuguese imperial framework. This perspective misses
a great deal of the story, for Brazilian sugar was traded in a wider
Atlantic system, and sugar shipped from Brazil to Portugal was not

Forty years ago, Vitorino Magalhães Godinho laid out the structure of the entire
Portuguese overseas empire in its earliest phases in Os descobrimentos e a economia mundial,
2 vols. (Lisbon: Editora Arcádia, 1965). This, however, focused mainly on Portuguese
expansion in the Indian Ocean region. A few decades later, Frédéric Mauro’s seminal
work, Le Portugal, Le Brésil et l’Atlantique au XVIIe siècle (1570–1670), filled in important
gaps in scholarly understanding of Portugal’s westward expansion (Paris: Calouste
Gulbenkian Foundation, 1983). I have used a recent Portuguese translation throughout
this work: Frédéric Mauro, Portugal, o Brasil e o Atlântico, 1570–1670, 2 vols. (Lisbon:
Editorial Estampa, 1997). Mauro provided a macroeconomic study of the entire Por-
tuguese Atlantic trading region, including a generalized sketch of the Brazilian sugar
trade. Both works were based on broad research in Portuguese archives and remain
important overviews—in the Annales tradition—of the Portuguese empire.
One such work was contributed by Manuel Antonio Fernandes Moreira, who
has documented the activity of merchants in Viana involved in the Brazilian sugar
trade in Os mercadores de Viana e o comércio do açúcar brasileiro no século XVII (Viana do
Castelo: Câmara Munícipal, 1990). In a recent doctoral dissertation, Amélia Polónia
has described the responses of a northern Portuguese town, Vila do Conde, to new
opportunities provided by the opening of trade with Brazil. Amélia Polónia, “Vila
do Conde. Um porto nortenho na expansão ultramarina quinhentista” (PhD Diss,
Faculdade de Letras, Universidade do Porto, 1999).
Leonor Freire Costa, O transporte no Atlântico e a Companhia Geral do Comércio do Brasil
(1580 –1663), 2 vols. (Lisbon: Comissão Nacional para as Comemorações dos Desco-
brimentos Portugueses, 2002).
introduction 5

destined to stay there long. A history of the trade in Brazilian sugar,

then, must incorporate the movement of sugar from Portugal to—pri-
marily—northern European markets. Here the historiography is thin,
and no study has dealt with this trade in any detail.5 In particular, no
scholarly work has appeared that examines Brazilian sugar exports to
the Dutch Republic—its largest market in the first half of the sixteenth
century. The scholars who have addressed it at all have mostly offered
unsubstantiated claims and generalizations. For example, there has been
a widespread repetition of the claim that Dutch ships were the main
carriers of Brazilian sugar to Portugal starting around 1580 and last-
ing until the establishment of the Dutch West India Company (WIC)
in 1621.6 Others have claimed that Portuguese merchants handled the

Amélia Polónia, “Descobrimentos e a expansão ultramarina portuguesa,” Anais de
História de Além-Mar 1 (2000): 9–32. The author laments the fact that little Portuguese
historiography of overseas expansion employs a larger European context. Neverthe-
less, two German historians who studied transnational merchant communities laid
important groundwork for this study. Hermann Kellenbenz wrote about the migrations
of merchant communities from the Iberian Peninsula to German towns, especially
Hamburg. Hermann Kellenbenz, Unternehmerkrafte im Hamburger Portugal- und Spanienhandel
1590 –1625 (Hamburg: Verlag der Hamburgischen Bücherei, 1954) and Hermann
Kellenbenz, Sephardim an der unteren Elbe (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1958). Also,
Hans Pohl contributed an excellent study of the Portuguese merchant community
in Antwerp in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen
(1567–1648): zur Geschichte einer Minderheit (Wiesbaden: Steiner, 1977). Both Kellenbenz
and Pohl took prosopographic approaches. While they did not focus primarily on the
Brazil trade, they showed the activities of merchants who sometimes traded there. Each
also contributed an article that discussed the role of Portuguese merchants residing in
northwestern Europe in importing Brazilian sugar: Hans Pohl, “Die Zuckereinfuhr nach
Antwerpen durch Portugiesische Kaufleute während des 80jährigen Krieges,” Jahrbuch
für Geschichte von Staat, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft Lateinamerikas 4 (1967): 348–73; Hermann
Kellenbenz, “Der Brasilienhandel der Hamburger ‘Portugiesen’ zu Ende des 16. und
in der ersten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts,” Portugiesische Forschungen der Görresgesellschaft,
Aussätze zur Portugiesischen Kulturgeschichte 1 (1960): 316–14. Another major contribution
was Eddy Stols’ magisterial, Spaanse Brabanders, which examined merchants from the
southern Low Countries in the Iberian Peninsula in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries. This work followed extensive research in archives in Antwerp, Spain and
Portugal, and demonstrated that merchants from the Low Countries lived, worked and
traded in significant numbers in Spain and Portugal. Eddy Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders
of de handelsbetrekkingen der Zuidelijke Nederlanden met de Iberische Wereld (Brussels: Paleis der
Academiën, 1971). See also: Eddy Stols, Os mercadores flamengos em Portugal e no Brasil antes
das conquistas holandesas (São Paulo: Separata dos Anais de História, 1973). Although
he did not study the Brazil trade per se, Stols has shown a keen appreciation of the
international dimensions of the early development of Brazil. As he has demonstrated
through several works, these were reinforced through merchant immigration and large
webs of correspondents, credit and finance.
Engel Sluiter seems to have been the first to make this claim in 1942, without
providing much evidence. See: Engel Sluiter, “Dutch Maritime Power and the Colonial
6 chapter one

‘primary routes’ of sugar imports, i.e. between Brazil and the Portuguese
metropolis, while the redistribution—or ‘secondary’—routes were in the
hands of foreigners.7 These views implicitly or explicitly credit mercantil-
ist-type state policies as a major force shaping international trade in the
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These arguments have considerable
merit but overemphasize, respectively, the supposed ethnic identity of
sugar traders and the role of the state in directing the trade.
In regard to the former, a common assumption has been to assign
responsibility for the movement of trade goods—especially sugar—from
Portugal to the Dutch republic to the Sephardim, i.e. a merchant ‘nation’
of Jewish ancestry.8 Some evidence supports these arguments, but it

Status Quo, 1585–1641,” Pacific Historical Review 11 (1942): 29–41. Since then historians
have repeated it frequently and uncritically, including Charles Boxer, Celso Furtado
and Pieter Emmer, to name just a few. Celso Furtado, The Economic Growth of Brazil
(Westport: Greenwood Press, 1984), 8–9. This work appeared originally in Portuguese
in 1959. Furtado sometimes confused the Dutch with Flemish. This conflating of Low
Countries merchants was also common in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,
during which nearly all Germanic-speaking northerners might fall under the Portu-
guese rubric of “Flamengos” or “Framengos.” This mistake has even continued in
contemporary discourse—at least in the popular media—as Evaldo Cabral de Mello
has recently lamented: Evaldo Cabral de Mello, “Uma questião de nuança,” Folha de
São Paulo, 1–23–2000. Furtado’s source for the early history of the Brazilian sugar trade
was mostly: Noel Deerr, The History of Sugar, 2 vols. (London: Chapman and Hall,
Ltd., 1949). Deerr’s work, while wide ranging is not based on detailed archival work
and—in regard to the early trade in Brazilian sugar—consists mostly of unsubstanti-
ated generalizations. See also: P.C. Emmer, The Dutch in the Atlantic Economy, 1580–1880:
Trade, Slavery and Emancipation (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1998).
In Portuguese overseas trade in general, Costa has seen structural inhibitions to
foreign involvement. According to this view there was an investment and informa-
tion-obtaining structure that discriminated against non-Portuguese investors. Costa,
O transporte no Atlântico, 1:116–22. Costa posits this but does not offer a convincing
explanation about how it might work. The example she offers pertains to the Africa
trade, considered a Portuguese monopoly. But crown correspondence dating from the
middle of the sixteenth century attests to the fact that other European interlopers
had already penetrated trade routes between Portugal and Africa. To offer but a few
examples: IANTT, Corpo Cronológico, Parte I, maço 103, no. 57; maço 104, no. 72;
maço 107, no. 4.
This approach can be seen in Jonathan Israel, who has claimed that Dutch involve-
ment in the Brazil trade was chiefly a result of Portuguese New Christian immigration
to the Dutch Republic, which fostered growing trade links between Brazil, Portugal
and Amsterdam after 1609. Jonathan Irvine Israel, Empires and Entrepôts: the Dutch, the
Spanish monarchy, and the Jews, 1585–1713 (London: Hambledon Press, 1990), 200–10;
Jonathan Irvine Israel, Dutch Primacy in World Trade, 1585–1740 (Oxford: Clarendon,
1989), 1–11. Similar arguments are made in the following works: Arnold Wiznitzer,
Jews in Colonial Brazil (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960); Anita Novinsky,
Cristãos novos na Bahia (São Paulo: Editôra Perspectiva, 1972); Daniel M. Swetschinski,
Reluctant Cosmopolitans, The Portuguese Jews of Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam (London: The
Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2000); P.C. Emmer, “The First Global War:
introduction 7

requires careful interpretation. No doubt Portuguese merchants seeking

refuge from the Portuguese Inquisition in the Dutch Republic helped to
foster deepening trade networks between the two countries. Nevertheless,
viewing the international sugar trade as a Sephardic preserve is a posi-
tion lacking in nuance. For one, New Christian or Sephardic identities
in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are very difficult to uncover
with any precision.9 But even more importantly, Both Old and New
Christians engaged in the sugar trade, both as rivals and partners.10 For
sure, kinship and a shared religious identity helped to cement early-
modern business partnerships, but scholars of Dutch-Portuguese trade
may have gone too far in privileging so-called ‘Sephardic’ networks in
explaining the sugar trade.11 This issue is important since it speaks to
the conduct of early modern trade in general, especially in the Atlantic
sphere. The research offered here challenges the assumption that any
ethnic ‘nation’ was the exclusive conduit for early Atlantic trade. Rather,
I see merchants in general as mobile, often fluid in their identities, and
prone to inter-imperial cooperation.
This is a challenge to the most common perspective in the schol-
arly literature. To give one example, some scholars have continued to
lump Atlantic trade in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries under

The Dutch Versus Iberia in Asia, Africa and the New World, 1590–1609,” e-journal of
Portuguese History 1, no. 1 (2003), 8–9.
There is a large literature on the subject of identity by now, but in reference to the
mutability of the identities of Portuguese New Christians, I strongly agree with: H.P.
Salomon, Portrait of a New Christian Fernão Álvares Melo (1569–1632) (Paris: Fundação
Calouste Gulbenkian, 1982).
As David Grant Smith has shown, there is little evidence that New Christian
business practices were different from those of Old Christians, or that these networks
were particularly exclusive or separated. David Grant Smith, “The Mercantile Class
of Portugal and Brazil in the Seventeenth Century: A Socio-Economic Study of the
Merchant of Lisbon and Bahia, 1620–1690” (PhD Diss, University of Texas, 1975);
David Grant Smith, “Old Christian Merchants and the Foundation of the Brazil
Company, 1649,” Hispanic American Historical Review 54, no. 2 (1974): 233–59.
I believe that these distortions have arisen where scholars have focused on Portu-
guese Sephardic communities in Amsterdam. Seeing that merchants in these commu-
nities were active sugar traders, they may have inadvertently assumed that they were
the exclusive traders of this commodity. Some of the theoretical issues surrounding
identity and business practices have been defined by: Avner Greif, “On the Interrela-
tions and Economic Implications of Economic, Social, Political, and Normative Factors:
Reflections from Two Late Medieval Societies,” in The Frontiers of the New Institutional
Economics, ed. John N. Drobak and John V.C. Nye (San Diego and London: Academic
Press, 1997), 57–94. This discussion continues in Chapter 4.
8 chapter one

the rubric of ‘mercantilism.’12 As Braudel has argued, definitions of

mercantilism are usually regarded as imprecise and fluid.13 There is no
doubt that some early modern states began to try to organize overseas
trade. The accumulation of these efforts may loosely be described as
mercantilism, but the term disguises an extremely ad hoc process with a
vast range of motivations and actual policies both within and between
early modern states. Seventeenth-century merchants themselves often
expressed flexible and ambivalent attitudes towards mercantilist policies
depending on how they affected their own interests at any given time.14
This complexity should indicate caution, but in practice scholars have
sometimes continued to use mercantilism as too rigid and analytical
category. This means that they have sometimes tended to interpret the
early Atlantic economy primarily in the light of both legal frameworks
regulating trade and imperial policy.15
One impetus to the imperial perspective is the abundance of evidence
promoting just such a view. Those who would employ mercantilism to

This was posited some years ago during the Twelfth International Economic
History Congress, which characterized the international trading economy as evolving
through four eras of mercantilism (1415–1846), liberalism (1846–1914), neo-mercantil-
ism (1914–48) and decolonization (1948–74). Patrick K. O’Brien and Leandro Prados
de la Escosura, “The Costs and Benefits for Europeans from their Empires Overseas,”
Revista de Historia Económica (Madrid) 16, no. 1 (1998): 29.
Fernand Braudel, The Wheels of Commerce, Civilization and Capitalism 15th–18th
Century, vol. 2 (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 542.
An excellent exposition of the ad hoc assembly of mercantilist policies and their
selective reception among colonial merchants can be seen in Cathy Matson, Merchants
& Empire: Trading in Colonial New York (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press,
1998), 44–49.
A good example of the state approach is in: Jorge M. Pedreira, “‘To Have and
to Have Not’ The Economic Consequences of Empire: Portugal (1415–1822),” Revista
de Historia Económica (Madrid) 16, no. 1 (1998): 93–122. There have been at least two
important impetuses to the continued use of the mercantilist/imperial point of view.
One has to do with disciplinary structures. Alison Games has recently pointed out
that “fundamental organizing schemes of graduate programs in history” have led to
the division of the Atlantic into linguistic and imperial units that are “clumsy and
counterproductive.” Alison Games, “Atlantic History: Definitions, Challenges, and
Opportunities,” American Historical Review 111, no. 3 (2006): 750. Few scholars have
been able to overcome the linguistic and logistical obstacles that arise from an inquiry
framed in trans-national or inter-imperial terms. The result has been the persistence of
imperial perspectives, or, in the case of Atlantic history, the categories of the “Dutch
Atlantic,” the “Portuguese Atlantic,” the “British Atlantic,” etc. Some recent authors
have effectively revised and de-centered traditional imperial history, notably Henry
Kamen who has shown that the supposed “Spanish” empire was more of a mas-
sive multi-ethnic collaboration. Henry Kamen, Empire: how Spain became a world power,
1492–1763 (New York: Harper Collins, 2003).
introduction 9

describe Atlantic trade—at least in the seventeenth century—have a

point. European governments in the seventeenth century wrestled with
the desire to subordinate the activities of their merchants to the inter-
ests of a national economy. As Braudel also notes about mercantilism,
“with all its faults, this label does conveniently cover a whole series of
acts and attitudes, projects and ideas and experiences which mark the
first stand of the modern state against the concrete problems facing
it.”16 The seventeenth century—for economic historians—was veritably
launched by the founding of the Dutch East India Company (Vereenigde
Oostindische Compagnie, hereafter VOC), an unprecedented partner-
ship between merchants and the nascent Dutch Republic. With greater
relevance for the topic of sugar was the establishment of the WIC in
1621. This was nothing if not an attempt to organize the sugar trade
under mercantilist principles. Other countries—including France,
England and Portugal—followed suit later in the century, linking the
sugar trade explicitly with the fortunes of the state.
Furthermore, much of the contemporary early-modern discussion
of trade and economies—seen in tracts, treatises and petitions—is of a
proto-nationalist or proto-mercantilist nature. Writers generally assumed
that Atlantic trade was a zero-sum game and encouraged competition
between kingdoms or states. Positing a ‘state’ interest in trade served
their arguments that states should become more involved in directing
and controlling local merchants. Mercantilist-type works are abundant,
especially starting in the seventeenth century. One need only look as far
as the works of Willem Usselincx, an early advocate for the creation of a
Dutch West India Company, or the Spanish memorialists who influenced
Spanish economic policy under the Count Duke of Olivares.17
But these sources are prescriptive rather than descriptive. Seventeenth
century discussion about the normative role of the state in directing
merchant activity should not be confused with reality. This is not to say
that states did not act, and from about the middle of the seventeenth
century they began to do so more aggressively. Various royal adminis-
trators and advisors such as Olivares in Spain, Colbert in France, and

Braudel, Wheels of Commerce, 542.
Henk den Heijer, “The Dutch West India Company,” in Riches from Atlantic Com-
merce: Dutch Transatlantic Trade and Shipping, 1585–1817, ed. Johannes Postma and Victor
Enthoven (Leiden: Brill, 2003); for an analysis of Spanish economic thinking under
Olivares see: Daviken Studnicki-Gizbert, A Nation upon the Ocean Sea: Portugal’s Atlantic
Diaspora and the Crisis of the Spanish Empire, 1492–1640 (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2007), especially chapter 5.
10 chapter one

Vieira in Portugal tried to convert mercantilist discourse into actual

policy, sometimes with concrete results. In Britain, 1651 saw the birth
of the Navigation Acts. However, the truth is that through the early
seventeenth century and beyond, early modern states had limited roles
in directing merchant activity.
Recent scholarship has emphasized the porosity of supposedly closed
imperial systems in the Atlantic World, although it has tended to focus
on the period after 1650.18 Even when early modern states did try to
channel and control merchant energies through mercantilist policy, their
efforts were often ineffective. This may have been especially so in the
Atlantic sphere, where geography militated against effective control. The
European routes to Asia were long, logistically complicated and often
dependent upon strategic bottlenecks, such as the Straits of Malacca,
whose control could spell success or failure in trade. By contrast, the
Atlantic was wide open and easily traversed. Settlement and economic
activity were widely dispersed and very difficult to control effectively. As
David Hancock has pointed out, “transatlantic trade, both legal and
illegal, among the British, Portuguese, Spanish, French, and Dutch
across imperial boundaries was commonplace.”19 When the logic of
markets transcended that of imperial rules, widespread evasion was
the result.
The present work mines this new vein in Atlantic scholarship through
its inter-imperial approach. But it also goes further and suggests that
an interpretation that is increasingly common for the late seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries may apply to the earliest phases of Atlantic
trade. Given the overwhelming importance of Brazilian sugar in Atlantic
trade before 1630, it suggests that the Atlantic was an integrated,

An abundance of recent monographs and edited collections point in this direc-
tion. See for example the essays in Peter A. Coclanis, The Atlantic Economy during the
Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries: Organization, Operation, Practice, and Personnel (Columbia:
University of South Carolina Press, 2005).
David Hancock has found just such a decentralized, inter-imperial trade facilitated
by a motley group of international traders in the Madeiran wine trade: “L’émergence
d’une Économie De Réseau (1640–1815): Le vin de Madère,” Annales, histoire, sciences
sociales 58 (2003): 649–72. See also: Claudia Schnurmann, “Atlantic Trade and Regional
Identities: The Creation of Supranational Atlantic Systems in the 17th Century,” in
Atlantic History, History of the Atlantic System 1580–1830, ed. Horst Pietschmann (Göttingen:
Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2002). Wim Klooster’s study of Dutch and Spanish illegal
trade interactions in the Caribbean and on the Wild Coast offers good examples of
this process. Wim Klooster, Illicit Riches: Dutch Trade in the Caribbean, 1648–1795 (Leiden:
KITLV Press, 1998). For contraband trade and interloping in the British North Atlantic,
see Matson, Merchants & Empire, especially 203–14.
introduction 11

trans-imperial community already in the sixteenth century and well

into the seventeenth. The integrated mercantile community that had
developed to move bulk commodities between northwestern Europe
and the Iberian Peninsula by the fifteenth century simply extended
its network to the Portuguese Atlantic islands and then to Brazil. This
fact offers an important corrective to the reigning interpretation of the
seventeenth century as a century of ‘mercantilism.’ Mercantilism was
not born with the Brazilian sugar trade, but rather was a response to
it—whether or not effective—dating mostly to the middle part of the
seventeenth century.
What follows in this work is a descriptive and quantitative economic
analysis of the commercial and financial operations of the Brazilian
sugar trade in all of its wholesale phases. On the most fundamental
level, I have tried to demonstrate how Brazilian sugar functioned in
international markets during the first eighty years of its history. In
order to do this, I have gathered evidence about international prices,
identified shipping and insurance costs, and interpreted price changes
over time in a historical context. In my final chapter I explain the sugar
trade in terms of supply and demand.
As this work shows, the trade in Brazilian sugar remained a highly
inter-imperial affair, characterized by the mobility of merchants and
their capital as well as a high degree of cooperation through the corre-
spondent system. Powerful evidence for this cooperation and mobility is
the large number of merchants from northwestern Europe in Portugal,
and Portuguese merchants in northwestern Europe. This allowed mer-
chants to overcome institutional and political obstacles to trade as they
arose. Consequently sugar from Brazil continued to reach markets in
northwestern Europe via Portugal in the period to 1630. The trade
was not completely free, in that there were restrictions in the transport
sector. But it was not a monopoly, and it was not mercantilist, to the
extent that mercantilism defines the successful subordination of trade
to a national economy or interest.
Examining the wholesale market for sugar led inevitably to an exami-
nation of the group of individuals who bought and sold it. I have drawn
here on an excellent and growing literature of merchant communities
in early modern Europe. Still, I have not written a prosopography.
For one thing, sugar trading was not a particularly specialized activ-
ity, but usually just one aspect of a merchant’s portfolio. Also, it was
a very widespread activity, and the merchants who engaged in it were
geographically dispersed and very heterogeneous culturally. Rather
12 chapter one

than identify the group characteristics of sugar traders, I have tried to

examine their networks and to look at the financial and business tools
at their disposal.
My choice of periodization came easily. 1550 marks, more or less,
the beginning of sustained and successful saccharine production in
Brazil. In fact, the industry grew by fits and starts and its origins often
remain murky. Brazilian sugar appears to have gained increasing
notice in international markets after about 1570, and its ascendancy
from that time on is indisputable. Growing markets for sugar lured
entrepreneurs, and a system of Atlantic shipping evolved in the latter
half of the sixteenth century that largely persisted—with some modi-
fications—for decades. The establishment of the WIC in 1621 was a
planned and well-financed assault on this system. Nevertheless, in spite
of the short-lived occupation of Bahia by the WIC in 1624–1625, the
real watershed was the successful WIC occupation of the sugar-pro-
ducing regions in the Brazilian northeast starting in 1630. The basic
markets for sugar did not change as a result of this event, but shipping
patterns were severely disrupted as intermittent war engulfed Brazil
and Atlantic shipping lanes. In spite of this, free Atlantic trade was
not eliminated. Within a decade of 1630, the attempt of the WIC to
control the Brazilian sugar trade through a monopoly company had
ended. Ultimately, the whole Dutch project in Brazil proved a failure,
but, restored to Portuguese control, Brazilian sugar was no longer the
dominant trade item in the Atlantic. Brazilian sugar during an age of
Caribbean competition is another story.
There were a number of markets for Brazilian sugar, including
France and Italy. This work does not examine them all. Inevitably
there were constraints on my time and resources. However, I believe
that my focus on the Dutch Republic, and Amsterdam in particular, is
warranted. Amsterdam probably absorbed half or more of Brazilian
sugar imports after 1609. At the same time, Dutch investment in the
Brazilian sugar trade was significant, and much of the sugar exported
elsewhere in Europe—including Italy—moved in Dutch ships, at least
before 1621. Furthermore, I have included in my analysis sugar exports
to the towns of Antwerp and Hamburg, since they were the next
largest importers during this time, and they were also closely linked
to Amsterdam through merchant and shipping networks. These three
towns probably absorbed at least 75% of Brazilian sugar imports dur-
ing the period under scrutiny.
introduction 13

Following the documentary trail left by a single commodity allowed

me to question some common scholarly biases. The trade in Brazilian
sugar was subject to rules within the Portuguese empire that ensured
its taxation for the benefit of the crown. However, its markets were
not in Portugal. This situation prompted me to ask to what extent the
trade in Brazilian sugar—perhaps the most important trans-Atlantic
trade—might invite either transnational competition or cooperation
before 1630. I discovered that neither the perspective of a national
economy nor mercantilism explained how this trade developed and
flourished in its first eighty years.
The driving force behind this trade was its profitability, which waxed
and waned, but never disappeared, either on primary or secondary
routes of distribution.20 The promise of profits kept the trade going,
in spite of obstacles. The state taxed the sugar trade, and to ensure
revenues Portugal imposed restrictions on the transportation of Brazilian
sugar, especially after 1605. However taxation in Portugal seems never
to have been onerous, reaching a level that would depress the trade or
drive it deeply into contraband. In the Dutch Republic, taxes on sugar
were even lighter.21 Furthermore, Portuguese ports were entrepôts for
a whole range of bulk and luxury commodities that were shipped with
sugar to northwestern Europe.
A more serious problem was that the sugar trade developed during a
time of intermittent military conflict between suppliers—Portugal—and
one of the chief markets for Europe—The Dutch Republic. This clearly
affected the shipping sector. At various times vessels from the Dutch
Republic were seized in Portuguese harbors, and—as noted above—all
foreign shipping was eventually barred from Brazil. Surprisingly, this did
not greatly disturb the investment structure of the trade. That this was
so had much to do with the persistence of the merchants that traded
sugar and the resilience and flexibility of their networks. Following is
a brief outline of my chapters.

Braudel, Wheels of Commerce, 190–4. Braudel makes this point for the sugar trade
in general throughout its history.
Frederic C. Lane, “The Role of Governments in Economic Growth in Early
Modern Times,” Journal of Economic History 35, no. 1 (1975): 8–17. Costs imposed by
the government did not reach the level of “tribute” discussed by Lane, which would
have put a brake on the development of the trade. Chapter Eight will show that after-
tax profits in the sugar trade remained high.
14 chapter one

In the second chapter I look at the structural dimensions of the trade

in terms of the trade routes and networks that linked Portugal and
northwestern Europe. I show that these were well established before
the appearance of Brazilian sugar, and that, when this commodity first
appeared, it logically moved along these same routes. Also, around
the time sugar appeared there was a significant shift from the role of
Antwerp as a near-monopoly trading partner with Portugal to a more
decentralized system of northwestern European markets, albeit one
which favored Amsterdam.
In the third chapter I examine the institutional and political context for the
Brazil trade. This looks at how sugar was taxed at various stages of
export and the institutions that controlled trade. I consider taxes on
sugar as transaction costs and attempt to quantify them. Additionally,
I look at the complex and protean political context spawned by the
union of the Iberian crowns in 1580 and the consequent involvement
of Portugal in the wars between Spain and the Dutch Republic. This
chapter takes the view that institutional constraints and military policies
coming from the Dutch Republic and the Habsburg crown did affect
the sugar trade but did not amount to a mercantilist system.
The fourth chapter looks specifically at the merchant networks that
invested in Brazilian sugar. Portugal and various northwestern European
cities had already exchanged groups of merchants as early as the thir-
teenth century, but—partly as a result of the possibilities available from
Brazilian sugar—these international merchant networks intensified in
the latter half of the sixteenth century. During this period, the family
firm remained a basic unit of merchant organization, and successful
families had members in a variety of trade centers, both in Europe and
the Portuguese colonies. Nevertheless, merchant cooperation was also
strong through the correspondent system, and showed a pronounced
inter-imperial dimension.
The fifth chapter identifies and quantifies transaction costs in the
trade in Brazilian sugar in the shipping sector. The first theme treated
here is the port system and travel and turnover times in ports. Next I
look at the operating cost of shipping, because this plus the length of
trading journeys formed the bulk of overall expenses. Finally I consider
how the costs of ships affected the trade, since these costs were reflected
in the costs of transportation in general. This chapter does not consider
the profitability of ship-owning per se, but I have posited that the cost
of shipping on Brazilian routes was affected at times by supply from
the Dutch Republic, probably leading to lower overall shipping costs.
introduction 15

This demonstrates another inter-imperial dimension of the trade in

one of its closely related sectors.
In the sixth chapter I look at financial transactions and risk manage-
ment. Here I explore how a marked expansion in the supply of credit,
new financial tools and the greatly expanded negotiability of paper
money helped to fuel trans-Atlantic investment. These very elements
also allowed distant investors to participate in the trade, contributing,
again, to its inter-imperial character. Here I also explore commercial
risk-management practices such as insurance and bottomry contracts.
These I view both as financial instruments as well as transaction costs
to the sugar trade. They helped to broaden participation in a trade that
was characterized by both high risk and good profitability. Insurance
markets also drew in the capital of northwestern European capitalists
who were not directly involved in the wholesale movement of Brazilian
The seventh chapter examines the illegal economy of Brazilian
sugar, i.e. that of contraband, privateering and piracy. These activities
had contradictory results. Contraband trade generally resulted when
Spain enforced embargoes against trade with the Dutch Republic. In
this case, a well-established trade showed continuity even though it was
declared illegal. Often this led to the modification of trade routes as
shippers sought to avoid detection by authorities. Contraband trade
by its nature is difficult to assess, but when embargoes were lifted, it
appears that merchants preferred to work through the legally prescribed
system, since this was less risky and offered them sufficient profit. Piracy
and privateering, on the other hand, were attempts to control the trade
through violence. Various groups practiced them at different times, but
there was no period in the Brazilian trade when shipping was not under
threat. This raised the cost of shipping and sometimes caused sharp
shifts in the price of sugar on European markets. Nevertheless, ‘illegal’
trading contributed to commodity flow and operated as a clandestine
part of the inter-imperial merchant network.
Chapters 2 through 7 provide an important context for understanding
how supply and demand worked in the sugar trade, since the political
and institutional contexts of the trade had important effects for the trade
over time. Subsequently, in Chapter 8, I provide a microeconomic look
at Brazilian sugar. Here I offer a comparison of sugar prices at various
points along the export routes of sugar. My conclusions, while tenuous,
hint at price integration at various links along the commodity chain. This
is consonant with the larger story of inter-imperial merchant integration.
16 chapter one

Next I examine price margins in the trade and speculate on likely profit
levels, considering the transaction costs of trading. Finally, the chapter
examines the effects of sugar income on state revenues and assesses its
economic significance comparatively in parts of Europe. Sugar, I show,
was consistently profitable before 1630, and taxes on it made a major
contribution to the revenues of the Portuguese crown.
This study draws upon a wide range of sources. In Lisbon I have
looked at the records kept by the Concelho da Fazenda, the crown
body responsible for regulating trade in Brazil before 1630. I have
also examined trial transcripts of the Holy Office in order to glean
information about the investment activities and family networks of
New Christian merchants ensnared in the Inquisition. In Amsterdam
I have explored the extensive notarial archives in the Gemeentearchief.
As do most researchers, I have relied on the card index to navigate
through these archives, and have sometimes used just the summaries
on the card indices themselves.22 I have also read in various sections
of the Nationaal Archief in The Hague.23
I have also made extensive use of printed primary sources, many
originating from notarial collections. I have also read relevant printed
primary works from other sources, including merchants’ correspondence
and descriptions of trade or trading voyages. The excellent series pub-
lished over decades by the Rijks Geschiedkundige Publicatiën has been
particularly helpful. Needless to say, this work rests on the scholarship
of others, many whom are mentioned above. Their works have often
had a strong influence, even when I have not always agreed with their

The sheer number of records in this archive is quite daunting, and so I have
followed a research methodology also used by recent researchers. See, Arjan Poelwijk,
‘In dienste vant suyckerbacken.’ De Amsterdamse suikernijverheid en haar ondernemers, 1580–1630
(Hilversum: Verloren, 2003).
Before June 2002 it was called the Algemeen Rijksarchief.


This chapter describes Portugal’s foreign trade before and as Brazilian

sugar was introduced. One of the factors influencing the direction of
the sugar trade was the existence of previously established trade routes.
I begin by looking at the trade relationship between Portugal and the
southern Low Countries, especially Antwerp, Portugal’s most important
trading partner until the middle part of the sixteenth century. As the
function of Antwerp as the redistribution entrepôt par excellence dimin-
ished, several northwestern European states might have benefited, and,
in fact, the sugar trade did become somewhat decentralized. But some
places were more promising for sugar imports than others. For example,
an old trading relationship existed between Portugal and England, but
England did not attract large numbers of sugar imports. Subsequently
I explore trade relations between Portugal and three parts of Germany:
northern Germany, Bavaria—especially the rich towns of Nuremberg
and Augsburg—and finally Cologne. These proved to be significant
secondary markets for Brazilian sugar, but sometimes only temporarily.
The last trade route I discuss was between Portugal and the northern
Netherlands, especially the provinces of Holland and Zeeland. In the
second decade of the seventeenth century, this route became the most
important for Brazilian sugar.
Political events were partly responsible for the decentralization of
markets for Portuguese products in northwestern Europe. Antwerp
suffered repeated financial crises from the 1550s onwards, relating to
the economic problems of the Habsburg Empire. Subsequently, the
religious and political revolt in the Habsburg Netherlands against the
crown compounded Antwerp’s problems. Emigration from the metro-
pole began from mid-century. The closing of the Schelde by the Sea-
beggars of Zeeland hastened the city’s decline.1 Finally, the siege of the
city by the Duke of Parma in 1585 was a nadir, after which merchants

The Schelde was ‘closed’ in 1585 and not ‘opened’ until 1795: Jan de Vries
and A.M. van der Woude, The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and Perseverance of
the Dutch Economy, 1500 –1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 371.
18 chapter two

London Amsterdam

Azores Lisbon


The Canary

At la n t ic

São Tomé
O ce a n


Espirito Santo
Rio de Janeiro

Map 2.1 Principle ports in trade between Portugal, Portuguese Atlantic

colonies and northwestern Europe, 1550–1630
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 19

left the city in droves, to set up shop in the northern Netherlands,

Germany or England.2
But political events only partly explain the course of trade, which
had an important structural component. An essential background is
Portugal’s overall role in the European trade networks before Brazilian
sugar entered European markets. The development of a colonial
empire starting in the fifteenth century was a major departure for the
Iberian kingdom, but given its small population and under-developed
agriculture, it never promised to be a major market for the trade items
that flowed from its African, Asian and American trade. Fortunately
for Portugal, it had developed—by the time of its spectacular overseas
initiative after 1415—strong and durable trading relationships with
the most economically advanced parts of Europe: northern Italy and
northwestern Europe, particularly Flanders. Lisbon enjoyed a spectacu-
lar rise as an entrepôt for overseas luxuries in the sixteenth century, but
the redistribution routes taking them to the north—where demand was
strongest—were already well traveled.3
By the time Brazilian sugar appeared, these routes had expanded
in response to the chronic shortage of grain in Portugal, especially
acute after the middle of the sixteenth century. Dearth of grain was a
common situation for urban populations in the Mediterranean and the
Iberian Peninsula, since the weather could be capricious, and large cities
were not always adequately supplied by their hinterlands. The grain
trade was a major spur to inter-Mediterranean shipping in general, and
Portugal sometimes took supplies from Mediterranean sources. By the
end of the sixteenth century a structural shift in the grain trade was
taking place: Baltic supplies increasingly replaced Mediterranean ones,
both for Portuguese, Spanish and Italian cities.4 In Portugal, the trade
link was strengthened since it supplied salt that was indispensable in
northern fisheries.
The trade in grain and salt—or ‘bulk trades’—were easily distin-
guished from more lucrative types of trade in luxury commodities known
as the ‘rich trades,’ which were distinguished by a very high ratio of

Merchandise continued to reach Antwerp through French harbors such as Calais. See:
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 294–5.
de Vries and van der Woude, The First Modern Economy, 362–6.
For a general treatment see: Bailey W. Diffie and George D. Winius, Foundations of
the Portuguese Empire, 1415–1580 (Minneapolis: Univerisity of Minnesota Press, 1977).
Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II,
2 vols. (New York: Harper & Row, 1966), 1:586–7.
20 chapter two

value to volume. By the time Brazilian sugar became a viable commod-

ity, the most valuable long distance routes for luxury commodities were
between Europe and Asia. This trade involved mainly Asian spices, and
the Portuguese had easily outstripped the Venetians in imports by the
early part of the sixteenth century through their discovery of a direct
sea route to the Indian Ocean. Although valuable, this trade operated
in a relatively small number of—admittedly large—ships. In the thirty-
year period between 1590 and 1619, Portugal sent only 168 ships to
India, averaging little more than five per year.5
Grain and salt carried far less value per volume than luxury goods
such as silk or pepper, but required far larger resources of shipping. In
Portugal, after around 1550, hundreds of ships from France, Germany
and the Low Countries were involved annually in bulk trades.6 Thus the
trade route between Portugal and the North and Baltic Seas became
one of Europe’s most important by the end of the sixteenth century.7
The value of the cargo of a typical vessel on this route would have
been miniscule compared to the cargo of a Portuguese Indiaman, but
the cumulative value of this trade was not insignificant. Portugal’s Asian
commodities in the sixteenth century have been valued at between 7,000
and 7,500 tons of silver. In the same period the Mediterranean grain
trade was probably worth 9,000 tons of silver.8 Towards the end of the
sixteenth century, the Dutch grain trade eclipsed the Mediterranean
grain trade, with 700 Dutch ships devoted to the Baltic grain trade
alone in operation by 1565.9 This means that the total annual value
of the bulk cargoes traded to and from Portugal at the end of the
sixteenth century was probably higher than the value of Portugal’s
Asian imports.
This fact establishes an important context for the sugar trade. With so
much bulk traffic on pre-existing routes, there was a large cargo capac-
ity available to transport sugar from Portugal to northern destinations.
Consequently, no single northern European market monopolized the
wholesale trade in sugar. The grain trade was not centralized, although
much of it was organized out of a few large ports, including Amsterdam.

M.N. Pearson, The Portuguese in India (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1987), 62.
See tables and figures at the end of this chapter.
Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World, 586–7.
Pearson, The Portuguese in India, 42.
de Vries and van der Woude, The First Modern Economy, 358.
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 21

Likewise the wholesale market for sugar, and refining industries that
served the retail trade, flourished in a variety of towns.10 There was
a hierarchy of scale among northern wholesale sugar importers, but
in every case the towns that eventually imported Brazilian sugar had
a pre-existing trade relationship with Portugal. So while the flow of
sugar from Portugal to northwestern Europe was unimpeded, the rela-
tive strength of different towns in attracting sugar depended on specific
economic and political factors.
One of Portugal’s oldest and most significant trading relationships
was with Flanders, dating from the end of the twelfth century. There
are mentions of Portuguese merchants in Bruges as early as 1212, and
by 1308 they congregated on their own street in that town. The Duke
of Burgundy granted them privileges in 1386, and a Portuguese trade
house existed in Bruges by 1387, combining the functions of a ware-
house, hostel and meeting place. Portuguese privileges were extended
in 1411, 1421 and 1438, and in the latter year the Portuguese mer-
chant community received some rights of self-government embodied
in the election of consuls.11 These merchants organized themselves into
a voluntary association known as a bolsa, similar to other merchant
groups active in Flanders.12 This type of association, adapted from
Italian models, served to provide cohesion to the merchant community
and could be used to police and enforce contracts.13 Still, the bolsa was
not autarchic. Portuguese merchants interacted extensively with their

Lisbon was not without its own refineries, probably serving a domestic market only.
Fr. Nicolao de Oliveira, Livro das grandezas de Lisboa (Lisbon: 1804), 181, 183. Oliveira
noted several in Lisbon in 1620.
Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 23–4.
The most recent treatment is: Ivana Elbl, “Nation, Bolsa, and Factory: Three
Institutions of Late-Medieval Portuguese Trade with Flanders,” The International His-
tory Review 14, no. 1 (1992): 1–22. See also: A.H. de Oliveira Marques, “Notas para a
história da feitoria portuguesa na Flandres no século XV,” in Ensaios da história medieval,
ed. A.H. de Oliveira Marques (Lisbon: Sá da Costa, 1965) 217–67; and Virgínia Rau,
“Feitores e feitorias portuguesas do século XVI,” Brotéria 81, no. 5 (1965): 458–78. The
bolsa or factory organization continued to characterize the Portuguese merchant com-
munity in Flanders—especially Antwerp—through the seventeenth century. Although
it had social consequences for the merchants involved and offered opportunities for
integration of new arrivals, it did not primarily affect how trade was prosecuted, i.e.
it did not supercede the company, usually family based.
Elbl, “Nation, Bolsa, and Factory,” 11. See also: Frédéric Mauro, “Merchant
communities, 1350–1750,” in The Rise of Merchant Empires. Long-distance Trade in the
Early Modern World, 1350 –1750, ed. James D. Tracy (New York: Cambridge University
Press, 1990), 262–3.
22 chapter two

Flemish counterparts in Bruges, and the latter served as partners, hos-

tellers, and brokers in Portuguese transactions.14
The Portuguese crown sent occasional emissaries to Bruges, and
from 1456 the position of royal factor became permanent, although the
crown factor acted in a somewhat separate sphere from the bolsa and
its consuls. The crown’s representative characteristically sold produce
from royal estates in Flanders in exchange for luxury commodities such
as clothing, jewelry and jousting equipment. But in the course of the
fifteenth century, he increasingly sold and a bought as a consequence
of crown involvement in overseas trade, facilitating the king’s interests
in Africa. As a result the receipts of the royal factory rose dramatically,
climbing from 1,200 Flemish pounds in 1456–65 to 8,200 in 1491–5.
Paradoxically, just as this trade began to show enormous growth, the
royal factory moved to Antwerp in 1498–99.15
This shift in the center of economic activity was generalized. Unstable
political conditions after 1477 accelerated a movement of the merchants
of the Portuguese bolsa from Bruges to Antwerp. By 1477, Portuguese
merchants were already present at the Pentecost market in Antwerp,
and, by the last two decades of the century, they moved there in increas-
ing numbers, although they never abandoned Bruges entirely. By 1511,
the preference for Antwerp was established and confirmed by the city
in a new set of privileges, patterned on those enjoyed previously in
Bruges. These were renewed throughout the century.16
The refocusing of Portuguese merchant activities from Bruges to
Antwerp did not owe entirely to the conflicts at the end of the fifteenth
century between Maximilian of Austria and the Flemish towns. The
city on the Schelde represented a new pattern in trade in northwestern
Europe, one in which Portugal figured significantly. The seasonal fairs
in northern Brabant increasingly drew central European merchants
from Bohemia and from German towns such as Nuremberg. With them
emerged a capital market in Antwerp, offering exchange services and
finance from the large German banking families. These two financial
services had a particular attraction for Portuguese merchants. Portugal’s
emerging Atlantic empire required new types of trade and finance, and
its needs were moving far beyond the modest trade in luxury goods for

Elbl, “Nation, Bolsa, and Factory,” 16–17.
Ibid., 8–9.
Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 26–27.
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 23

the crown and grandees that had been satisfied in Bruges. Portugal’s
lucrative Guinea trade depended on iron and copper manufactures,
none of which were produced in Portugal, but which could be supplied
by the German merchants in Antwerp. Additionally, Antwerp allowed
Portugal to exploit new and large sources of finance, which were nec-
essary to promote trade and settlement along the African coast and in
the Atlantic archipelagos, not to mention the crown’s daring ambitions
for direct trade with Asia. This symbiosis was cemented as Portugal’s
colonial products found an ideal market in Antwerp.17
One such product was sugar, which was rapidly increasing in output
just at the time that Portuguese trade activity assumed its Antwerp
orientation. Although Madeiran sugar had been sold on the market
in Bruges, production in São Tomé began to accelerate around 1500,
and Antwerp proved to be the ideal entrepôt for the second phase of
European redistribution of sugar from both São Tomé and Madeira.
Sugar became a veritable Portuguese monopoly as competition from
Mediterranean plantations withered. And yet, although Portuguese kings
from the beginning envisioned sugar as a commodity whose trade should
benefit the crown, the exploiting of new lands for sugar was an activity
that drew merchant capital, and even direct participation, from a wide
range of European sources.18 Unsurprisingly, Flemish merchants to a
significant extent became partners with the Portuguese in this enterprise,
and capital from the great German banking families also played its
part. Consequently, the Antwerp sugar market was the largest for much
of the sixteenth century, and remained a significant market into the
seventeenth century for sugar produced in the Portuguese colonies.
Northern Europe’s newly dominant entrepôt embraced new forms of
doing business along global trade routes. The institutional participation
of Portugal in this system, however, reflected—at least outwardly—old
norms. As in Bruges, the Portuguese bolsa in Antwerp received privi-
leges, exemptions and limited rights of self-government. The Portuguese
merchants would elect from among themselves a consul and officers,

Herman van der Wee, “Structural changes in European long-distance trade,
and particularly in the re-export trade from south to north, 1350–1750,” in The Rise
of Merchant Empires. Long-distance Trade in the Early Modern World, 1350–1750, ed. James
D. Tracy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 21–8; Niels Steensgaard,
“The growth and composition of the long-distance trade of England and the Dutch
Republic before 1750,” in The Political Economy of Merchant Empires, ed. James D. Tracy
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 103.
Pohl, “Die Zuckereinfuhr nach Antwerpen,” 349–50.
24 chapter two

and a house was designated in 1511 for use of the Portuguese resident
merchants as well as new arrivals. Here the community met and resolved
disputes.19 The institutions and privileges of the Antwerp bolsa persisted
into the seventeenth century, even as Antwerp’s Portuguese ‘nation’
became more fluid, attracting more and more transient members. The
royal factor also survived, although his role increasingly resembled that
of a representative of a powerful trading house. Between 1495 and 1521
the royal factors in Antwerp arranged the import of 150,293 arrobas
and 6,068 crates of sugar from São Tomé. Royal factors—once busy
in Bruges with exporting luxury items to the Portuguese court—were
now sugar traders, sending this valuable commodity from Portugal’s
new Atlantic empire to northern Europe’s redistribution hub.20
Toll data from the Portuguese factory in Antwerp gives an idea of
the scale of trade in the mid-sixteenth century. Between July, 1535
and May, 1551 at least 342 Portuguese vessels delivered goods from
Portugal or Portuguese possessions to Antwerp. The vast majority of
these ships carried at least some sugar in their holds, virtually all of it
from Madeira and São Tomé.21 By 1567 Portuguese sugar moving to
Antwerp may have been worth around 250,000 guilders (36,363,636
reis). This was a respectable amount, but still small compared to the
value of other trade items belonging to the ‘rich trades.’ In the same
year, spices from Portuguese Asia may have been worth 2,000,000
guilders (290,909,090 reis).22 Other valuable commodities moving back
and forth were fabrics from Low Countries textile centers, and pearls,
coral and gems from the Portuguese and Spanish colonies. Antwerp’s
merchants also imported brazilwood, indigo and other dyestuffs, and
wool and leather from Spain and Portugal. The list concludes with
metal manufactures from Germany, Scandinavia and the Netherlands,
and even books and paintings.23
A different category of commodities assumed increasing volume and
importance as the sixteenth century progressed. This was the bulk trade

Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 59.
Pohl, “Die Zuckereinfuhr nach Antwerpen,” 348–9.
The bolsa taxed this trade, which was mainly directed through Portuguese ports.
Officials kept records of the ships and listed consignees of sugar shipments. IANTT,
Feitoria de Flandres, “Livros de Avarias.” See also, Virgínia Rau, Estudos sobre a história
do sal Português (Lisbon: Editorial Presença, 1984), 208–21.
Wilfred Brulez, “The Balance of Trade in the Netherlands in the Middle of the
Sixteenth Century,” Acta Historiae Neerlandica 4 (1970): 20–48.
This trade is described in detail in Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 177–211.
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 25

in northern European grain, and Iberian agricultural products such as

wine, fruit and oil. Although Antwerp was never an important grain
exporter in its own right, its merchants were deeply involved in trans-
actions to bring grain from North Sea and Baltic ports to the Iberian
Peninsula, North Africa and Italy. Carrying grain was a decentralized
business, involving fleets from many different shipping centers and
supply from a variety of ports from London to Danzig (Appendix B).
Especially in the latter half of the sixteenth century—with populations
rising—the demand for grain in Iberian harbors grew enormously.
Antwerp’s merchants competed to satisfy this market because of their
excellent webs of relatives and correspondents in diverse ports.
As trading expanded and evolved, so did the groups that facilitated it.
The Portuguese merchant community in Antwerp remained relatively
small in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, perhaps numbering
around 20 merchants at any given time. However, it grew apace through-
out the century. It reached its sixteenth century zenith in the years
around 1570–2, perhaps numbering around 80–95 households. Later
in the decade, as Antwerp suffered from confessional turbulence and
Spanish reprisals, perhaps about 50% of the city’s Portuguese merchants
emigrated, mostly to Cologne. By the end of the century, however, the
Portuguese community had recovered, showing Antwerp’s continued
resilience and importance as a trading partner to Portugal.24
The Portuguese nation in Antwerp had found a counterpart with the
Flemish nation in Lisbon. Trade connections blossomed in the twelfth
and thirteenth centuries between Portugal and textile towns, especially
Bruges, but a Flemish presence in Portugal was not apparent until the
fifteenth century. After 1550, dozens of merchant families relocated to
Portugal and this movement increased in the sixteenth century.25 Among
the migrants were musicians, artists and artisans, although merchants did
not likely comprise more than a few dozen families during the sixteenth
century. Problems in Antwerp accelerated immigration to Iberian cities
such as Lisbon and Seville.26 In the seventeenth century merchants from
Antwerp resident in Portugal, such as Pedro Clarisse, busied themselves
with, among other things, importing sugar from Brazil.

Ibid., 64–7.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 49–51.
Ibid., 54–6.
26 chapter two

Antwerp’s émigré merchants were not the only northern Europeans

living in Portugal. Portugal’s trade with the northern German Hansa
cities was on a sure footing by the fourteenth century, and by the fifteenth
century Hansa merchants trading in Portugal received privileges from the
crown.27 Large merchants from the bigger Hansa towns dominated the
Baltic-Portugal trade, and a German factory appeared in Lisbon by
the fifteenth century.28 By the sixteenth century there were regular visits
of ships from Danzig, Riga and Reval at Lisbon to collect salt, wine,
fruit and cork. Of these, salt was prized the most. Merchants from the
eastern Baltic sought salt from Portugal (and France) because it was
cheaper and of better quality than that produced in Lüneburg, and
this allowed them to break the hegemony of Lüneburg and Lübeck.
In return, the Hansa cities provided Iberian and Mediterranean
regions with a number of basic bulk commodities lacking in their
own economies. These included, most typically, Scandinavian timber
and grain from estates east of the Elbe. But the Hansa relationships
were especially strong with Portugal, owing to a propitious political
climate and mutually advantageous trade products.29 Already in the
fifteenth century the regularity of this trade led to the development of
a Hanseatic ship type, the ‘hulk’ (Portuguese: urca), to carry commodities
back and forth. This was generally a very large ship by the standards
of the time, carrying three masts. Some hulks boasted up to 1,000 tons
of cargo space, although most were smaller. Numbers of these ships
built to carry grain would bring sugar from Brazil during the last two
decades of the sixteenth century.30
Initially the most common sailing route was directly between Danzig
and Lisbon, but by the middle decades of the sixteenth century, other
European intermediaries had penetrated the trade between Portugal
and Hansa cities. This showed in a shift in the ports used and the pre-
dominance of shipping. Ships still often sailed directly between Baltic
ports and Iberian harbors, but by the middle of the sixteenth century
several North Sea harbors had emerged as trans-shipment centers han-
dling grain from northwestern Europe and the Baltic. The new stop-

Jürgen Pohle, Deutschland und die überseeische Expansion Portugals im 15. und 16. Jahr-
hundert (Münster: Lit Verlag, 2000), 18; Kellenbenz, Unternehmerkrafte, 15.
Pohle, Deutschland und die überseeische Expansion Portugals, 21–2.
Ibid., 18–19.
José Antonio Gonsalves de Mello, “Os livros de saídas das urcas do porto do
Recife, 1595–1605,” Revista do Instituto Arqueológico Histórico e Geográfico de Pernambuco 58
(1993): 21–143.
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 27

ping points were Hamburg and Amsterdam. By the early seventeenth

century Hamburg captains rarely sailed directly between Danzig and
the Iberian Peninsula, as evidenced in the registers of the Øresund toll.
Rather, trade items were trans-shipped in Hamburg.31 Smaller ports and
satellites such as Emden, near Hamburg, took part in this business as
well.32 At the same time, the Dutch gained an important competitive
advantage in overall Baltic trade, and their ships increasingly supplanted
those of the Hansa cities. While the Baltic-Portuguese trade remained
vigorous, it grew to be dominated by a few cities. The growing role of
these cities as redistribution centers in the sixteenth century extended
to Brazilian sugar, which was entering European markets just as they
moved towards preeminence in trade.
Although in the second half of the sixteenth century Amsterdam
began to dominate the Baltic bulk carrying trade, the interdependence
of a variety of North Sea and Baltic ports remained strong. This is
perhaps best illustrated by the response of German and Hansa merchant
communities to Spanish trade embargoes during the Eighty Year War.
The best efforts of Spanish authorities to bar the Dutch Republic from
the bulk carrying trade between the Baltic and Iberian ports could not
stop the cooperation of Dutch and German port towns. Although the
Hansa cities stood to benefit from the elimination of Dutch competition
in these routes, they were loath to give up their neutrality and side explic-
itly with the Spanish, especially since they were heavily integrated into
the Dutch trading economy, sharing many correspondents and relatives
in Dutch cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Middleburg.33
To a large extent, weather conditioned the sailing seasons for ships
from Hamburg, as with those from the northern Netherlands. The
westbound journey, or Westfahrt, might begin as soon as seasonable
weather and winds permitted, and those ships that left northern German
harbors with the thaw of the Elbe could still return in the late spring
and make another voyage to an Iberian destination. A direct journey
through the English Channel lasted around forty days and was always
favored except for those times when the threat of English or Dutch
privateering prompted merchants to direct ship’s captains to take a much
longer detour around Scotland and Ireland. Autumn was another typical

Kellenbenz, Unternehmerkrafte, 49.
Ibid., 50.
28 chapter two

time for departure as German ships loaded lasts of grain for delivery in
southern ports.34 German ships leaving in the fall would winter in the
Iberian Peninsula. Significantly, however, the ships could be employed
during this time on trips to the Atlantic Islands, the Mediterranean
or even to Brazil, where sailing was far less restricted by weather. 35
These trips sometimes involved transport of sugar, which thus moved
to European markets on ships designated for the ordinary trade in bulk
commodities (see Chapter 4).
Germany’s Baltic and North Sea ports dominated trade relation-
ships with Portugal, but other German cities—such as Nuremberg
and Augsburg—also played a part. Portugal’s need for German copper
manufactures in its West Africa trade led to links with the German cit-
ies that marketed these items. This demand prompted the appearance
of merchants from Nuremberg in Portugal at the end of the fifteenth
Once arrived, these merchants from Oberdeutschland diversified their
economic activities. The great German banking families played a
significant role in facilitating Portuguese expansion, and they had an
early presence in Portugal. Along with Genoese and Flemish bankers,
these German houses helped to provide the capital that underwrote
the creation of the Iberian overseas empires, and they were specifically
involved in the early expansion of sugar cultivation in various Atlantic
islands. In the early sixteenth century, Lucas Rem was present in Lisbon
as the Welser factor, along with other merchants from Augsburg. Rem
marketed grain, German metals, cloth and manufactures in Portugal.
His interests extended to Portugal’s new overseas colonies and during
these years he sailed to Madeira. Additionally he sent ships to the
Azores, Cabo Verde, and North Africa. By 1509 there was a Welser fac-
tory in Madeira, but it did not exist for long. Increasingly, the German
bankers turned toward investment in the Carreira da India as a source of
profit. Rem, along with a consortium of Fugger and Venetian banks,
financed a voyage of three ships with Portuguese crews to India in

Last=two tons. The volumetric standard in the Baltic trade was based on grain
transport, unlike the southern ton, which was a measurement of casks of wine. See
Frederic C. Lane, “Tonnages, Medieval and Modern,” Economic History Review 17, no. 2
(1964): 213–33.
Kellenbenz, Unternehmerkrafte, 34–5.
Pohle, Deutschland und die überseeische Expansion Portugals, 44.
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 29

1505–6 at a cost of 65,400 cruzados. They made a handsome profit

on the returns.37
The Fugger family bank also extended its reach to Portugal, and
Fugger money helped to fund colonial ventures in the Atlantic sphere
as well. Like the Welsers, Fuggers were present in Lisbon in the first
decade of the sixteenth century and obtained privileges from the crown.
Their orientation was also towards the pepper trade, and copper was the
return commodity par excellence, while Antwerp served as the intermedi-
ary port. As Antwerp continued to grow in importance, the Bavarians
no longer perceived the necessity of direct representation in Portugal.
After the first few decades of the century they had largely vanished
from Lisbon.38 However, the Fuggers remained important creditors to
the Portuguese crown from their new base in Seville, where they con-
tinued to invest in Atlantic trade. The Fugger inventory of 1553 lists
Portuguese debts amounting to 216,778 ducats. Among the borrowers
was the royal treasurer, at 137,000 ducats. Other debtors were officials
from the monopoly Casa da Mina who owed nearly 49,000 ducats, about
twice as much as the crown’s gold income from São Jorge da Mina that
year. Clearly German trade formed a vital link in Portugal’s overseas
trade, fostered especially by the upper German banking families.39
The final important German town to trade with Portugal was
Cologne. Before 1578, merchants from Cologne played a fairly small
role in Portuguese trade and few of them traveled to Portugal or to
Portuguese colonies.40 Nevertheless, merchants from Cologne indirectly
entered Portuguese trade through Hansa intermediaries. As with Low

Ibid., 99–102. Probably in the first half of the sixteenth century the total value
of exports from Portugal to the East—mostly specie—did not exceed 80,000 cruzados
in most years: Godinho, Os descobrimentos, 1:270. This shows the extent to which the
Portuguese crown was dependent on foreign capital to finance its earliest trading ventures
in the Indian Ocean. For Rem’s activities in Madeira, see IANTT, Corpo Cronológico,
Parte I, maço 7, no. 85; Parte II, maço 14, no. 119; maço 16, no. 105, maço 16, no.
150, maço 17, no. 138, maço 18, no. 128, maço 29, no. 189, maço 29, no. 194.
Pohle, Deutschland und die überseeische Expansion Portugals, 104–7, 255–6.
Hermann Kellenbenz, ed., Die Fugger in Spanien und Portugal bis 1560: Dokumente,
vol. 34, Schriften der Philosophischen Fakultäten der Universität Augsburg (Munich:
Verlag Ernst Vögel, 1990), 490–4. It is probably impossible to reconstruct the total
debts of the Portuguese crown at this time. In the case of the Casa da Mina, Fugger
loans represented a substantial investment. In 1553 the Lisbon Mint (Casa da Moeda)
reported gold receipts from Mina at 25,679 cruzados, although in 1555 it reported 98,406
cruzados received from Mina: Godinho, Os descobrimentos, 1:192. 1 ducat = 1 cruzado.
Gertrud Gramulla, Handelsbeziehungen Kölner Kaufleute zwischen 1500 und 1650 (Köln:
Böhlau Verlag, 1972), 311–20.
30 chapter two

Countries merchants, they became intermediaries in the bulk trades.

Cologne’s Hermann Quackart, for example, traded Setubal salt and
Baltic grain in the 1570s.41
If, however, its direct trade with Portugal was small, from early times
Cologne dominated redistribution routes of Portuguese colonial products
moving into southeastern Germany. Merchants from Cologne bought
pepper, other spices, and especially sugar in the Antwerp staple. Sugar
import is documented as early as 1488 and reached considerable lev-
els in the first few decades of the sixteenth century. Documents from
Antwerp and Cologne refer to 145 sugar shipments from Antwerp
between 1502 and 1513, of which 113 were directed towards Cologne.
This sugar, mainly from plantations in São Tomé and Madeira, did not
reach Cologne in raw form but rather bore names such as “broitzuker”
and “zuckercandis.” That is to say, it was the product of Antwerp
refineries.42 Cologne merchants, in turn, employed Rhine and Mosel
shippers to send this sugar towards Frankfurt, Nuremberg and other
upper-German markets. Not surprisingly, Cologne merchants married
into the Flemish merchant houses that handled Portuguese sugar, and
they maintained agents in Portugal. Thus Cologne was an important
way station in the flow of Portuguese colonial sugar into north-central
Cologne’s commercial importance made it a frequent destination for
political and religious refugees from Antwerp. From the 1560s, as confes-
sional and political strife racked Antwerp, many merchants sought refuge
in Cologne. These included the very top level of Antwerp’s Portuguese
merchants such as the Ximenes and D’Evora families, who arrived in
1578. All at once, Cologne could benefit from a group of merchants
with outstanding European and overseas trade networks.
Nevertheless, this benefit was to prove short lived. Many of these
merchants did not intend to stay in Cologne, and few of them remained
by 1600.44 As calm returned to Antwerp, Portuguese merchants did
likewise. Others moved on to Hamburg and the northern Netherlands,

Ibid., 337.
Ibid., 319–20.
John Everaert, “Les barons flamands du sucre à Madère,” in Flandre et Portugal,
ed. John Everaert and Eddy Stols (Antwerp: Fonds Mercator, 1991), 108–9.
Gramulla, Handelsbeziehungen Kölner Kaufleute, 342–5.
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 31

where the economy was booming.45 While Cologne was to maintain

its status as an important center of trade, linking Portuguese colonial
products with central European manufactures, it could not compete
with Amsterdam for primacy as an entrepôt. Subsequently, Cologne’s
Iberian trade continued to be mediated mainly through Antwerp and
Across the Channel, England had an early trading relationship
with Portugal dating from the thirteenth century, cemented by strong
political ties and easy ocean access. Complementary products fed the
trade. Portugal sent oil, wine, fruit, dyestuffs and salt to the North. In
return it received mainly cloth, but also small manufactures. London,
Southampton and western ports such as Bristol benefited from this
trade, while Lisbon maintained an English factory, which was granted
privileges and protection in the fourteenth century.46 Commodities
moved in English, Portuguese and Italian ships, and distinctions about
the origins of the merchant capital spawning these voyages were often
unclear. Nevertheless, the English appeared to provide the greater
capital investment through the end of the fifteenth century, which
showed in their control of the shipping from Lisbon to England.47 The
volume of the trade in the fifteenth century waxed and waned accord-
ing to political circumstances, but in busy years a dozen or so ships
from Portugal might visit English harbors. Fewer English ships visited
Portuguese harbors, but English cargoes were characterized by much

Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 68–9. This process of merchant migration has
received its best explanation to date from Oscar Gelderblom, Zuid-Nederlandse kooplieden
en de opkomst van de Amsterdamse stapelmarkt (1578–1630) (Hilversum: Verloren, 2000). His
ideas are also synthesized in English in Oscar Gelderblom, “Antwerp Merchants in
Amsterdam after the Revolt,” in International Trade in the Low Countries (14th–16th Centuries)
Merchants, Organization, Infrastructure, ed. Peter Stabel, Bruno Blondé, and Anke Greve
(Apeldoorn: Garant, 2000), 228–30. Gelderblom echoes Jan de Vries and Ad van der
Woude in believing that Amsterdam’s rise was a result of its own maturation, inde-
pendent of the chaos in Antwerp in the last two decades of the seventeenth century.
As Gelderblom indicates, by the time Parma took Antwerp, 100 merchants from the
southern Low Countries had already settled in Amsterdam. Between 1578 and 1630,
over 400 such merchant families immigrated to Amsterdam. See also: de Vries and
van der Woude, The First Modern Economy, 366–9.
For the Bristol trade with Portugal, which was not insubstantial in the sixteenth
century, see David Harris Sacks, The Widening Gate: Bristol and the Atlantic Economy,
1450–1700 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991), 27–48, 66–7. At least a
few ships from Bristol made their way directly to Madeira during this century.
Wendy R. Childs, “Anglo-Portuguese Trade in the Fifteenth Century,” Transactions
of the Royal Historical Society 6, no. 2 (1992): 206–7.
32 chapter two

higher value, while bulk commodities dominated the routes northward.48

Portuguese commodities as a percentage of total British imports were
not high—they were outstripped by goods from Castile—but satisfied
a significant niche in British markets.
By the end of the fifteenth century, the growing importance of
sugar as a Portuguese export changed the nature of the Luso-English
trade. Sugar made its first appearance in English customs accounts in
the middle of the fifteenth century and was counted in crates, hun-
dredweights, quantities of powdered sugar, sugar loaves and barrels
of molasses. Most came from Lisbon, probably of Madeiran origin.49
Sugar helped drive an increase in trade with England in the 1490s.
In 1494–5, nineteen Portuguese ships arrived in London. These car-
ried 120 tons of wine and 1,081 crates of sugar. An Italian, Giovanni
Batista, arranged for the import of much of this sugar, but Portuguese
merchants actually owned much of it, and Portuguese ships carried it.
Portuguese cargoes held much more value than previously. Additionally,
other semi-luxury goods now appeared amongst cargoes in Portuguese
ships. The expanding Atlantic trading empire allowed Portuguese mer-
chants to acquire more capital and export more valuable products. The
balance of trade was changing.50
Nevertheless, in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, direct trade
between Portugal and England was relatively modest, no matter how
propitious the circumstances. Castile, in spite of endemic political fric-
tion with the English crown, remained the chief exporter of Iberian
products to England. Although Portuguese merchant capital was clearly
growing by the end of the sixteenth century, its merchant community
probably did not have the means to trade directly in two large northern
markets. Given their limitations, Portuguese merchants were forced to
specialize. As we have seen, they chose the Low Countries entrepôts,
initially Bruges, and, by the end of the fifteenth century, Antwerp.51
Indeed, the city on the Schelde drew merchant energies from every-
where. From 1480–1582, English trade also primarily went to Antwerp,
especially that of the large London merchants.52

Ibid., 204–5.
Ibid., 200.
Ibid., 209, 212.
Ibid., 215, 219.
Kenneth R. Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement: Maritime Enterprise and the Genesis
of the British Empire, 1480–1630 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), 63.
Pohl also mentions a large English nation in Antwerp. In 1560 there were 300 to 500
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 33

The limitations of Portuguese trade with England extended to the

shipping sector. As Portuguese trade grew in the sixteenth century, the
English were ill equipped to take advantage of it, at least as carriers.
The British merchant fleet was small throughout most of the sixteenth
century. In 1582 no more than 250 ships of greater than 80 tons were
reported in a government survey; of vessels larger than 200 tons, fewer
than 20 existed.53 From this period on, the number of ships—especially
large ones—increased, but this advance was spurred by the attractions
of privateering, brought on by the English war with Spain. Right up
to 1603, large quantities of Portuguese commodities reached English
ports, though not through legitimate channels. These goods arrived in
the holds of privateering vessels.54
Even after James I made peace with the Spanish crown in 1604,
English shipping was ill suited to the needs of Portuguese trade. By
1629, the number of private vessels of 100 tons had doubled, and
now there were about 150 of 200 tons and more.55 However, even as
the British merchant marine grew, it failed to remain competitive with
Dutch shipping. An English preference for large and heavily armed
and manned ships was due to the threat from Dunkirk privateers and
Barbary Corsairs. Furthermore, the crown encouraged the building
and equipping of these large vessels, which might also be used for
maritime defense. Before 1630, then, the distinction between the royal
navy and the merchant marine remained somewhat blurred. The result
for commerce was not altogether favorable. In the early decades of the
seventeenth century, English freight charges remained stubbornly high
compared to those of the Dutch.56 A golden age of trade between
England and Portugal only commenced later in the century.
Dutch advantage over English traders at this time was not unique.
In the second half of the sixteenth century, the maritime towns of

English in Antwerp involved in trade. In 1574 there were said to be 300. See: Pohl,
Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 73.
Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, 22.
Pauline Croft has argued for a considerable continuity of trade with England
during the war, but this is not supported by a large amount of evidence. Some trade
undoubtedly survived through the Atlantic Islands. Nevertheless, the volume of ship-
ping was small compared to that supplied by Dutch and Hansa fleets. Pauline Croft,
“Trading with the Enemy,” The Historical Journal 32, no. 3 (1989): 289–30. See also:
G.V. Scammell, “The English in the Atlantic Islands, c. 1450–1650,” Mariner’s Mirror
72, no. 3 (1986): 295–317.
Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, 24.
Ibid., 25.
34 chapter two

Holland and Zeeland squeezed out other competitors as well, with

important consequences for Portugal. By 1600 the northern Netherlands
dominated the exchange of bulk commodities—particularly salt and
grain—to and from Portugal. Dutch merchants initially entered this
business indirectly. Grain transactions could be organized in any cen-
ter of capital and credit, although by mid-century merchants tended
to employ cities in Holland and elsewhere as trans-shipment centers.
Unlike the ‘rich trades’ which were associated with monopoly and
which utilized a narrow range of ports, the trade in bulk commodities
was decentralized. Antwerp’s merchants continued to organize this kind
of traffic in considerable quantities, but essentially it was open to any
merchant with appropriate connections linking Iberian demand with
German and Baltic ports. A very early record for this kind of traffic
shows the pattern. A Portuguese merchant, Andrea Diaz, along with
two Hansa merchants based in London, freighted a ship from Danzig,
David, with grain and flour in Amsterdam for a trip to Lisbon in 1560.
When it called in Weymouth, authorities there confiscated the cargo
since there was a grain shortage in the area.57
Clearly there was little bar to entry in the bulk carrying trade, and
Dutch merchants took rich advantage. Just as Hamburg rose above its
Hansa competitors in the sixteenth century, Dutch ships in their turn
began to dominate the traditional Hansa Westfahrt linking the Baltic
Sea and the Iberian Peninsula. At the same time, towns in Holland
and Zeeland emerged as finance and trans-shipment centers, with
Amsterdam as the clear primus in this commerce.58 Dutch ships con-
tinued to make direct journeys between Baltic ports and the Iberian
Peninsula, forming a trade triangle when they returned to Dutch ports.59
Nevertheless, it was common—at least as early as 1560—for merchants
to load grain in Amsterdam or other Dutch ports as well.60 Aside from
the dynamism of its ship-building sector, which introduced the highly
competitive fluit in the last part of the sixteenth century, the Netherlands
were strategically located halfway between Baltic and Iberian markets

Rudolf Häpke, ed., Niederländische Akten und Urkunden zur Geschichte der Hanse und zur
Deutschen Seegeschichte, 2 vols. (Lübeck: Gebrüder Borchers, 1923), 2:50.
Israel, Dutch Primacy, 48–52.
Christopher Ebert, “Dutch Trade with Brazil Before the Dutch West India
Company, 1587–1621,” in Riches from Atlantic Commerce, ed. Victor Enthoven (Leiden:
Brill, 2003), 49.
Häpke, ed., Niederländische Akten und Urkunden, 1:50.
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 35

and therefore privy to the most up-to-date information about supply

and demand.61
The structural shift in Baltic-Iberian trade towards Dutch carriers
and trans-shipment centers was bolstered by two major rises in demand:
the Portuguese demand for grain, and the Dutch demand for salt. Luís
Mendes Vasconcelos wrote in the early part of the 17th century that
3,000 ships, most carrying grain, entered the Lisbon harbor every year.62
While this was a manifest exaggeration, it pointed towards an important
reality: Lisbon was growing larger and hungrier. Largest by far of the
Portuguese cities, Lisbon’s population increased from around 100,000
in the middle of the sixteenth century, to 165,000 by 1620.63 Never
capable of sustaining its population on the resources of its hinterland,
Lisbon’s growth drove trade with the cities that marketed the harvest
of the breadbasket east of the Elbe to new levels. This phenomenon
brought the Dutch to Portugal in the first place, and it was so important
that even in times of Habsburg trade embargoes against Dutch shipping,
the crown was forced to face reality and allow exceptions for Dutch
vessels carrying grain. During the Twelve Year Truce (1609–1621) this
trade exploded (See Table 2.1).
At the same time, Portuguese salt came to play a vital role in the
Dutch fishing economy. Nearly submerged in salt water, the Netherlands
nevertheless lacked the climatological conditions to produce salt through
evaporation. Just such conditions existed abundantly in various parts
of Portugal, particularly at the mouths of several rivers in Setubal Bay,
not far south of Lisbon. The Dutch were not restricted to Portuguese
markets for salt; there were also important saltpans in France. But
they preferred Setubal salt for its better quality and price. It supported
the Dutch herring fisheries in the North Sea, which itself provided a
major export commodity for the Dutch Republic. When Dutch access
to Portuguese salt was denied during embargoes, the Dutch went far
to find new sources of supply, and, in fact, it was an embargo that led
the Dutch to seek salt on the ‘Wild Coast’ of South America in the
early part of the seventeenth century. Again, the Setubal-salt trade
boomed during the Truce. So important was trade in Baltic grain and

Israel, Dutch Primacy, 48–52.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:37.
Ibid., 1:35.
36 chapter two

Portuguese salt to merchants in Zeeland and Holland that it fell under

the category of moedernegotie, or ‘mother trade.’64
Not all Dutch harbors benefited equally at this time. The distribution
of customs receipts in the Dutch Republic show Amsterdam’s inexorable
rise to preeminence among the Republic’s ports. From 1589–96, Zeeland
collected 39% of total customs revenue, leaving 25% to Rotterdam and
Amsterdam. By the 1620s, Amsterdam and other Zuider Zee ports
collected 58% of customs revenues, while Zeeland and Rotterdam col-
lected each about 20%.65 Much of this income derived from trade with
Portugal. In the first few decades of the seventeenth century, Amsterdam
consolidated its leading position among Dutch towns.
The volume of shipping that the bulk trade generated in the Dutch
Republic should not be underestimated. As Table 2.1 indicates, in a
seven-year period, at least 680 ships were contracted in Amsterdam
for back and forth trips between the Baltic and the region commonly
referred to as Spain, but actually encompassing the area from the
French coast to the Straits of Gibraltar. And these are only the surviv-
ing recorded contracts for what had become an extremely common
shipping route. The actual volume of shipping was undoubtedly much
higher. Of these contracts, 437 (64%) stipulated ports of call in Portugal,
chiefly Setubal. The fall in number of these contracts after 1598 was
due to a Spanish embargo on Dutch shipping, which affected a very
hardy trade.
As Table 2.1 and Figure 2.1 show, Portugal’s export economy was
moving decidedly into the sphere of Holland, which was becoming
one of Portugal’s biggest trading partners at the end of the sixteenth
century. The data from these tables also show the continued strength
of the trade in bulk commodities—such as salt—that had character-
ized Portuguese trade since the middle ages. But the implication for the
Brazilian sugar trade is obvious. Portugal was an established port of call
for merchants and seamen from many cities in the northeast of Europe.
The introduction of new colonial products, including sugar, into the
Portuguese trade economy did not necessitate a major restructuring of
trade routes, at least not in the re-export phases. Amsterdam—grown

de Vries and van der Woude, The First Modern Economy, 368, 370, 419–20. For a
description of the early efforts of the Dutch to retrieve salt in America, see: Cornelis
C. Goslinga, The Dutch in the Caribbean and on the Wild Coast 1580–1680 (Assen: Van
Gorcum, 1971).
de Vries and van der Woude, The First Modern Economy, 406–7.
portuguese trade with northwestern europe 37

Year Total Baltic-‘Spain’ ‘Spain’-Baltic

1594 114 10 (9%) 74 (65%)

1595 194 11 (6%) 148 (76%)
1596 81 11 (14%) 47 (58%)
1597 134 36 (27%) 68 (58%)
1598 127 42 (33%) 46 (36%)
1599 102 1 (1%) 93 (91%)
1600 114 3 (2%) 88 (77%)
Total 866 114 (12%) 564 (55%)
Table 2.1 Freight contracts celebrated in Amsterdam involving the Baltic
Source: Winkelman, ed. Bronnen voor de geschiedenis van de Nederlandse oostzeehandel in de
zeventiende eeuw, 6 vols., RGP, grote ser. no. 133, 161, 178, 184, 185, 186 (The Hague:
Nijhoff, 1971–83), 2:XXIII.

Number of Ships

100 Porto
1594 1595 1596 1597 1598 1599 1600

Figure 2.1 Planned voyages from Holland to Portugal

Source: Winkelman, ed. Bronnen voor de geschiedenis van de Nederlandse oostzeehandel, vol. 2.
These represent voyages with a Baltic leg as well (see Appendix B).

strong on the trading of bulk products with Portugal—soon began to

attract Portugal’s higher value colonial products, including Brazilian
sugar. Refineries blossomed in Amsterdam after 1580, rising from one
in that year to fifteen in 1600 and 30 in 1620.66
The trajectory of the trade in Brazilian sugar followed Portugal’s
overall trade with northwestern Europe to a large extent, as pre-existing
networks incorporated new colonial products. A significant develop-
ment in the sixteenth century was the rise of Antwerp as the northern
staple par excellence for Portuguese domestic and colonial products. A

Poelwijk, ‘In dienste vant suyckerbacken’, 102.
38 chapter two

considerable Portuguese merchant immigration attested to Antwerp’s

importance. It also became a favored center for Portugal’s merchants
to do business in various other parts of northern Europe, including
England, southern Germany and the Baltic Region. Not surprisingly,
much of the early Brazilian sugar re-exported from Portugal entered
and was refined in Antwerp before it traveled to markets elsewhere.
Political woes in Brabant at the end of the century did not completely
put a halt to Antwerp’s importance for Portugal’s trade. However,
increasingly after 1550, political and religious turmoil and the closing
of the Schelde by the Sea-beggars of Zeeland diminished Antwerp’s
dominance and decentralized the northern market for sugar. Dutch and
German ports—bolstered by a vigorous merchant marine—benefited
from Brazilian sugar imports. But during the Twelve Year Truce the
Dutch undoubtedly became the largest importers, followed by Antwerp
and Hamburg.
But if the Dutch became increasingly involved in the sugar trade,
both as investors and shippers, this fact should be understood in the
context of their increasing dominance as carriers in Portugal’s traditional
bulk-goods trade. This success in bulk trades developed independently
of Antwerp’s problems. Nevertheless, Antwerp’s decline eventually
did benefit Amsterdam through immigration. In the first decades of
the seventeenth century, Portuguese merchants in Antwerp began to
move—in ever increasing numbers—into the northern Netherlands,
especially to Amsterdam. Partly as a result of this relocation of human
capital, Amsterdam showed a clear advantage as a location from which
to trade with the Iberian Peninsula, particularly during the Twelve-Year
Truce. Amsterdam’s importance for Portugal rested initially on its domi-
nance in the bulk carrying trades. Later, the ‘rich trades’—including
sugar—strengthened this relationship. However, as the next chapter
shows, this strong relationship was subject to political interference.


Various institutions and organizations affected Portugal’s Brazil trade,

from the level of the crown to municipal authorities. The institutional
setting was far from static and responded to the increasing volume of
trade as well as to political, military and fiscal exigencies. This chapter
examines the institutional context of the Brazilian sugar trade with
several goals in mind. First it seeks to describe the institutions that
governed the trade, and the costs that they imposed on it. The system
of taxation that affected sugar is essential for an eventual understand-
ing of the profitability of the trade, considered in Chapter 8. But also,
the political context is important since it led to periodic attempts to
restrict or otherwise control the sugar trade. Although I argue that
the trade was relatively free and continuous from its inception until
the third decade of the seventeenth century, there is no denying that
patterns of trade were sometimes disrupted as a result of political and
military events.
Two major factors emerged early in the history of sugar production
in Brazil that would significantly affect the structure and rhythms of the
trade. The first was that the trade was initially free. In Portugal, the
earliest framework for facilitating, regulating and taxing trade emerged
mostly under the Aviz dynasty and underwent significant transforma-
tions, especially after the Habsburgs gained the Portuguese crown in
1580. Brazil never organized on the principle of a factory system such
as the Portuguese trading endeavors on the West-African coast and in
the Indian Ocean. Even though there was an early attempt to estab-
lish a factory near Cabo Frio, the crown neglected it. At least initially,
officials deemed the captain-donatary system to work better than direct
crown exploitation.1 Consequently, the trade in sugar was also open to

Diffie and Winius, Foundations of the Portuguese Empire, 316. For general information
on the ancient regime in Portugal see: Vitorino Magalhães Godinho, Estrutura da antiga
sociedade portuguesa (Lisbon: 1977); as well as a very good summary by the same author
in English: Vitorino Magalhães Godinho, “The Portuguese Empire 1565–1665,” The
Journal of European economic history 30, no. 1 (2001): 49–104; also: Veríssimo J. Serrão,
40 chapter three

anyone, i.e. it was ‘free trade,’ although this was not the situation for
the brazilwood trade, which was organized as a crown monopoly. The
main restriction was in the area of transport. Here the crown required
that ships returning from Brazil should call in Portugal so that cargoes
could be taxed. Nevertheless, the main purpose of this legislation was
to ensure that some of the profit from sugar would enter crown coffers,
not to restrict the trade to a particular group.
The second major factor affecting the sugar trade was the involve-
ment of Portugal in the dynastic struggles of the Spanish Habsburgs
following the union of the Iberian crowns in 1580. Subsequently,
Portugal’s trade with previously friendly regions, especially England and
the Dutch Republic, came into conflict with the political objectives of
successive Spanish-Habsburg rulers. These northern European nations,
in turn, responded in belligerent ways. This did not mean that trade
was broken off entirely. Merchants in both regions continued to trade
during periods of prohibition. But increasingly, laws in both regions
affecting the Brazilian sugar trade were promulgated for purely political
and military reasons. As a result, free trade in Brazil came increasingly
under threat, disrupted as a result of policies resulting from the Eighty
Year War between the Spanish Habsburgs and the Dutch Republic.
In the period up to 1621, however, this was an ad hoc process, and
not a result of the conscious application of mercantilist principles.
The establishment of the WIC in 1621 marked a turning point for
the Atlantic trade in Brazilian sugar, since the leaders of the Dutch
Republic attempted to incorporate this trade into a monopolistic, partly
state-organized system. Nevertheless, even then, many merchants were
not ready to abandon the system that had prevailed before.2
Various institutions governed the sugar trade in the Portuguese king-
dom. The original function of administration of trade and finances in
both Portugal and Brazil belonged to the Vedores da Fazenda, a body of
three governing from Lisbon. This function was somewhat subsumed
under the Concelho da Fazenda, formed in 1560, although the role of
Vedores did not die out entirely. The Concelho increased in power over time.

O tempo dos Filipes em Portugal e no Brasil (1580–1668) (Lisbon: Edições Colibri, 1994);
and, not least: Antonio Manuel Hespanha, As vésperas do leviathan: instituições e poder
político Portugal-Séc. XVII (Coimbra: Livraria Almedina, 1994).
In subsequent decades the Portuguese crown did attempt to control the sugar
trade—also unsuccessfully—through a government granted monopoly. This receives
detailed treatment in Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 477–586.
sugar, institutions and politics 41

In 1604 another council with somewhat-overlapping functions came

briefly into power. This was the Concelho da India, which had authority
of nearly the whole empire. This, however, only survived for ten years.
A separate permanent council supervising overseas affairs did not come
into existence again until 1643 with the Concelho Ultramarino.3
One of the institutions answering to the Conselho da Fazenda was the
Alfândega, or customs house, with a staff that regulated the flows of
commodities in and out of the kingdom’s ports at home and abroad.
The usual structure incorporated a factor and guards, judges ( juízes),
who arbitrated in matters concerning customs duties, with appeals going
to the Conselho. There was also a whole apparatus of scribes, officials
and porters who watched for contraband, supervised payment, sealed
merchandise that had paid duties, and generally attended to disputes
regarding duties and payments.4
The principal of taxation on sugar was firmly in place by the early
16th century in Madeira, then the largest producer of sugar, although
the tax regime was different from that which would eventually govern
Brazil. In 1530, taxes paid in Madeira averaged about 25% for branco.
This involved a 20% tax known as the quinto and another known as a
dízima de saída, usually less than 8%.5 Sugar from Madeira in this early
period was also sent directly to various export markets, especially in
Flanders and Italy. This was different from the Brazilian norm.6
In Brazil the dízima was the principal tax, and fell on producers.
Here it was a 10% tax collected by the crown on the value of sugar in
Brazil. It was often paid in sugar, and its collection was farmed out to
merchants in Brazil. Exemptions were granted in certain cases, especially
for newly constructed engenhos, which were free from taxes for ten years.
This exemption, in particular, appeared to result in widespread fraud,
as false certificates of exemption passed through customs houses in the

Godinho, “The Portuguese Empire,” 70–2.
Hespanha, As vésperas do leviathan, 216–17.
Fernando Jasmins Pereira, “O açúcar madeirense de 1500 à 1537, produção e
preços,” Estudos Políticos e Sociais: Instituto superior de ciências sociais e política ultramarina 7,
no. 1 (1969): 136–8.
Virgínia Rau and Jorge de Macedo, “O açúcar na Ilha da Madeira: Análise de
um cálculo de produção dos fins do século XV,” Actas: Congresso Internacional de Historia
dos Descobrimentos 5, no. 1 (1961): 193. The “Livro do almoxarifado dos açuquares
das partes do Funchal,” mentioned here, gave export quotas, which probably were
much higher than actual amounts of export achieved. They limited export to 120,000
arrobas total, of which: 7,000 to Portugal, 40,000 to Flanders, 13,000 to Genoa and
15,000 to Venice.
42 chapter three

decades following 1590. In some cases, the provenance of sugar was

disguised under complex financial transactions, facilitated by letters of
exchange.7 Other taxes paid in Brazil were usually of an exceptional
nature, levied in the context of war.8
Most taxation, however, fell on merchants and was levied in the
metropolis. One form of taxation, of medieval origin, was the marco dos
navios, which envisioned a surcharge on shipping for the maintenance
of port facilities. By the beginning of the sixteenth century, the prin-
ciple of maritime taxation had extended to the creation of a board of
12 Corretores de Mercadorias, who were appointed by the Câmara (town
council) from among the merchant community, and whose functions
included overseeing the freighting process and collecting tax. As with
the brokers’ guilds in northern cities, they helped to ensure transparency
in commodities pricing and to collect taxes for the Câmara. Their take
in 1512 could amount to 10% of the value of transactions, but from
this time on, a steadily declining portion of the value of trade went
to the Corretores, as trade became more regularized and their specialty
function seemed ever less essential.9
Other taxes were higher. Tax structure was not uniform in Portugal
in the early modern era, so the burden could vary from port to port.
Most goods, including sugar, were assessed upon arrival in the Alfândega.
Here the usual taxes fell under the categories of dízima, the sisa, a sales
tax, and tolls (portagem).10 The principle was that goods paid the dízima
upon entrance and the sisa upon resale. Since it was difficult to collect
the sisa once goods had passed through customs, it was customary to
collect it upon entry in the Alfândega, at least in Lisbon, Setubal and the
Algarve. These practices led to a blurring of the distinctions between
different taxes over time.11 Another tax affected Brazilian sugar if it
passed first through Madeira or the Azores. Here a total of 20% was
levied—in Lisbon, if it had passed through the Azores—or otherwise
in Madeira itself.12

This was instituted at the behest of the first governor of Brazil, Tomé de Sousa,
in order to encourage the industry. Mauro, Portugal, o Brasil e o Atlântico, 1:300–1.
Ibid., 1:304.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:39–42.
Mauro, Portugal, o Brasil e o Atlântico, 1:305.
Hespanha, As vésperas do leviathan, 121.
Mauro, Portugal, o Brasil e o Atlântico, 1:305. Also: “Preço do açúcar em Lisboa” in
the appendix (there are no page numbers in the appendices in this edition).
sugar, institutions and politics 43

New taxes arrived with the Spanish-Habsburg monarchy. Upon his

ascent to the throne in 1580, Philip II had promised not to impose
extraordinary revenues in the kingdom of Portugal without consulting
a Cortes. In 1593 he reneged, imposing a 3% tax on seaborne trade, the
consulado. In 1606 this tax yielded 55 million reis.13 Like most taxes, this
one was farmed to merchants and its collection by the Rendeiros do Tres
Percento was sometimes the source of contention between traders.14
Given the lack of uniformity in the practices of various ports, it is
difficult to say with precision what the tax rate on sugar was in the
metropolis. In Lisbon where the tax rate was probably highest, the dízima
and sisa alone accounted for 20%.15 Combined with other taxes, the
total rate was higher. In 1602, the States General of the Dutch Republic
reported after an investigation that the tax on sugar in Lisbon was
rarely 20%, but usually 23% to 30%, including the consulado.16 Mauro
reports that in 1614, the tax burden on sugar was calculated at 280 reis
per arroba. According to his estimate of a 1614 price of 1,000 reis per
arroba of white sugar, this would represent about 30% of the value of
the sugar in the Lisbon market.17 This corresponds with the estimate
of a Dutchman in 1624 that taxes on sugar in Portugal represented
about 30% of its value.18 Since most sugar moved through Lisbon, it
seems fair to say that a 30% rate was not atypical.
Among Portugal’s ports Viana was a bargain. In regard to sugar,
Viana possessed the right to apply sisa to crates of sugar as opposed
to arrobas. Considering that around 1615 a typical crate of sugar con-
tained around 13.5 arrobas, the reduction of taxes was significant, and

Peter Thomas Rooney, “Habsburg Fiscal Policies in Portugal 1580–1640,” The
Journal of European Economic History 23, no. 3 (1994): 553.
Or at least this was claimed by at least one defendant in an Inquisition trial,
Marcos de Góes. He said that one of his accusers, who had been the Rendeiro in Porto,
bore him a grudge since Marcos and his partners frequently unloaded shipments of
Brazilian sugar in Vila do Conde instead of Porto, depriving the tax collector of
income. Other officials of the Alfândega disputed this. IANTT, IL, Processo de Marcos de
Góes, no. 3148.
Hespanha, As vésperas do leviathan, 121.
(“dat tot Lisbona voir het recht van de suyckeren, die aldair werden ingebracht, betaelt wordt
an den coninck van Spaignen, van elcke aroba, niet bedragende over XX ten hondert, daer nochtans
wel rekeninge gemaect was van XXIII ofte XXX ten hondert, darinne begrepen het recht van het
consulaet . . .”) N. Japikse, ed., RSG, 1600 –1601, RGP, grote ser. no. 85 (The Hague:
Nijhoff, 1941), 215.
This price for sugar in Lisbon, however, is far too low! It may be that merchants
contrived to undervalue sugar in the Lisbon Alfândega in order to reduce their taxes.
See chapter eight for a range of prices for this decade.
Mauro, Portugal, o Brasil e o Atlântico, 1:305.
44 chapter three

the good value afforded through the use of Viana as a trans-shipment

port was not lost on Portuguese or foreign traders.19 These privileges
regarding customs payments led to continued conflict between the city’s
merchants and royal authorities. After 1624 the crown decided to end
the sugar exemption and ensure that “sugar is weighed in arrobas and
not by the crate and that it is levied by the arroba just as is done in
all of the other customs houses in the kingdom.”20 Nevertheless, the
privilege was eventually extended in 1628 for ten more years. The
Concelho da Fazenda gave as reasons the services provided by the city in
the restoration of Bahia and the extra costs the city faced in unloading
cargoes owing to the silting of the harbor.21
Once it left Portuguese harbors, sugar was subject to the fiscal
administration at its destination. Before 1580 this was most likely to be
Antwerp. Here importers of sugar paid a special tax—an avaria—that
benefited the Portuguese nation there.22 Other charges—for weighage,
broker’s fees, etc—accrued at points of sale and probably were shared
by wholesale merchants, refiners and retailers23
In Holland and Zeeland, the principle customs tolls were called con-
vooien en licenten. Originally, the convooigelden were a toll on imports and the
licenten on exports. But, after 1582 they were often levied as taxes on both
imports and exports, although the licenten retained the sense of special
licenses to trade with enemy lands, which included Portugal after 1580.
Their rates varied from time to time depending on the circumstances.
In this way they were a flexible tool for the state to direct trade policy
but also supplied money for the war effort by levying taxes on trade
with enemies.24 They were collected by the admiralties, of which there
were a total of five: three in Holland (Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the

See chapter eight for a discussion of crate sizes.
“o peso dos asuqres se despachem por arrobas e não por caixa e pague-se à rezão das ditas
arrobas como se ffaz em todas as mais allfandeguas do reyno.” Quote in: Moreira, Os Mercadores
de Viana, 137.
The term avaria is closely linked with maritime usage in Portugal. It could mean
damages to a ship or cargo, as well as the sum of incidental expenses incurred on
a voyage, including port fees, tolls, etc. These costs could be collected by captains
alongside freight charges, although they formed, comparatively, a small portion of the
revenues of a voyage. Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:372–3.
Donald J. Harreld, “Antwerp Sugar Prices from the Hundredth Penny Tax Records
(1543–45),” Journal of European Economic History 31, no. 3 (2002): 611–17.
Johannes Hermann Kernkamp, De handel op den vijand 1572–1609, 2 vols. (Utrecht:
Kemink en Zoon N.V., 1931), 1:146.
sugar, institutions and politics 45

West Friesian cities) and Zeeland and Friesland.25 Although duties were
supposed to be applied evenly throughout the Republic, the structure of
collection allowed for variations in practice.26 Unfortunately, few records
of these duties remain, although it is known that Brazilian sugar was
taxed with the convooien en licenten as early as 1597.27
Other taxes that were levied on wholesale shipments of sugar
included charges for the use of municipal scales, although various
towns organized them differently. In Amsterdam only foreigners paid
weighage taxes in transactions with citizens. The fees were very low in
comparison to the value of sugar, probably less than 1% in most years.
Nevertheless, in 1622, Portuguese merchants in Amsterdam claimed
to the States General that 35,000 to 40,000 guilders (5,090,909 to
5,181,818 reis) entered the state’s coffers each year in weighage fees
from Brazilian sugar.28 There were also broker’s fees, which although
not paid directly to the state, amounted to a tax on merchants. These
costs were also very small compared to the value of the sugar.29 Taxes
in Amsterdam were far lower than in Lisbon.

de Vries and van der Woude, The First Modern Economy, 98–101.
Ibid., 129.
The States General set these in that year. The document shows that not all sugar
was not synonymous with sugar from Brazil by the end of the sixteenth century since it
mentions: “St. Thomas zuyvers suyckers hondert vijfftich ponden; Brasilie-kisten zuyver twee hondert
vijftich ponden; Canarie-, Madere-, Barbarie-brootsuycker.” N. Japikse, ed., RSG, 1596–1597,
RGP, Grote Ser. No. 62 (The Hague, Nijhoff, 1926), 587. Taxes were probably in the
range of 5%.
J.W. IJzerman, “Deductie vervaetende den oorspronck ende progres van de vaart
ende handel op Brasil, 1622,” in Journael van de reis naar Zuid-Amerika (1598–1601) door
Hendrik Ottsen, Linschoten Vereeniging, grote ser. no. 16 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1918),
103. The original was sent to the States General and later distributed to the repre-
sentatives of the provinces. There is a copy in the ARA, SG (liassen admiraliteiten),
5486 (26 January, 1622). This is the same document that claims that Dutch-based
merchants moved two-thirds of the Brazilian sugar. It remains, however, a politically
motivated document and is therefore very unreliable as a source for quantifying Dutch
trade with Brazil.
J.J. Reesse, De Suikerhandel van Amsterdam van het begin der 17de Eeuw tot 1813 (Haar-
lem: Kleynenberg, 1908), 14–7. Documents provided by Reesse show the waaggeld
figured in 1605 as “Allerley suycker, de 100 ponden: 5 stuyvers.” In 1620 it was “Allerley
suycker, de 100 ponden: 6 stuyvers.” This would have been a charge on wholesale sugar
of all types. In 1620, white sugar in Amsterdam may have cost about 20 groten per
pound, so this represents a charge of 12 groten on a volume of sugar that was worth
around 2,000 groten, i.e., a nominal fee. The broker’s fee was unequivocally meant to
refer to wholesale prices since it was a sale per crate: “Van alle Brasilische ende Maderische
suyckeren per kiste 10 st.” This was also nominal, since in a year of high prices, a crate
may have been worth 3,800 stuivers. (see chapter eight for prices and measures) Quotes
are from CV–CVI.
46 chapter three

The fiscal regime for sugar, described above, though subject to modi-
fications over time, derived from the traditional taxing authority of the
state and municipalities. Merchants perceived them as ordinary costs
of doing business, although they might complain or otherwise make
efforts to evade taxes. As we will see in a later chapter, the ordinary taxes
on sugar did not prevent merchants in the Brazil trade from making
a profit. But aside from these various fiscal policies, political consid-
erations affected the sugar trade. When ruling elites acted to regulate
the Brazilian sugar trade in extraordinary ways, they proceeded from
a variety of motives. One was to maximize revenue. Another was to
punish the trade of another state, or to protect the integrity of a dynasty.
These motives, sometimes tangled together, can be seen in the follow-
ing discussion of the changing political contexts of the sugar trade and
their concrete results in policy.
Before the outbreak of the Eighty Year War between Spain and
the Low Countries, trade on the Iberian Peninsula was free for all
West European lands, and not subject to a regime of monopolies or
privileges.30 The ascension of Philip II to the Portuguese throne in
1581 threw Portugal and its commercial empire into Habsburg Spain’s
complex web of European conflicts. Philip II and his advisors seized
immediately upon the idea of using Portuguese commerce as a lever
against the ‘rebellious provinces.’31 Here sugar exports to the Dutch
Republic were of minor consideration. The sixteenth-century embar-
goes did include bans on Portuguese exports to the Dutch Republic,
and Brazilian sugar was affected. But foremost in the minds of Philip
and his advisors was to deny Zeeland and Holland—with their thriv-
ing herring industries—access to Portuguese salt.32 In 1578 and 1579
around 130 Dutch ships per year delivered Portuguese salt to the Baltic
region alone, so this trade was very considerable.33

Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 1.
An emissary of Philip II to Portugal, fray Hernando del Castillo, stated clearly
the importance of Portugal to Philip’s hegemonic ambitions: the Portuguese succes-
sion was a trial that “Dios lo encamina para dar orden en toda la christiandad y para reprimir la
potencia del turco por la yndia y enfrenar los hereges de flandes, Inglaterra y alemania, que braman en
oyendo que vuestra majestad ha de poner los pies en Lisboa.” Quoted in: Fernando Jesús Bouza
Alvarez, “Portugal en la politica flamenca de Felipe II: sal, pimienta y rebelion en los
Paises Bajos,” Hispania; revista española de historia 52, no. 2 (1992): 692.
Ibid. See also Jonathan Irvine Israel, The Dutch Republic and the Hispanic World,
1606 –1661 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1982), 25.
See Appendix C, Table C.2, “Volume of shipping through the Øresund.”
sugar, institutions and politics 47

The plans of Philip II and his advisors reached fruition in 1585 with
a general embargo on Dutch and English shipping that lasted until
1590. Historians have debated the effectiveness of this embargo.34 On
the one hand, records for the Øresund tolls indicate a sharp drop in
Dutch shipping following 1580 with a concomitant rise in shipping from
various German and Scandinavian harbors. In fact, Philip II wished for
Hanseatic to replace Dutch shipping, and he ordered Parma to write
to the cities of the League to tell them that Iberian ports were open to
them.35 At the same time, there is ample evidence of Dutch cheating.
An arrest and search of supposedly neutral ships in Andalusia in 1587
led to the seizure of ninety-four disguised ‘Dutch’ vessels. The king took
note of the fraud, as did his memorialists, one of whom wrote that
supposedly ‘Hanseatic’ ships should be checked for Dutch crews.36
Although the illegal trade that most concerned Philip and his advi-
sors was the import in Dutch manufactures and especially the export
of Portuguese salt, the re-export market for Brazilian sugar would
have been affected as well. While there is little evidence from this time,
undoubtedly the 1580s were a difficult time for the trade, at least in
the transportation sector. Habsburg policies toward England and the
Dutch Republic had obvious deleterious effects, in the first case by
inducing English privateering, and in the second by decreasing the
supply of shipping for the re-export phase of the sugar trade. With the
Spanish recapture of Antwerp in 1585, the main wholesale market for
Brazilian sugar went into decline, at least temporarily. Too few records
from this period allow us to quantify the effects on the Brazilian sugar

Jonathan Israel has argued for the effectiveness of the sixteenth century embar-
goes pace views expressed by, among others, Fernand Braudel and Henry Kamen,
who believed that they were not enforceable and were often circumvented. Israel
bases his arguments on the Danish tolls and Amsterdam notarial records summarized
by IJzerman. Given the lack of any statistically reliable database for this period, it is
unlikely that this debate will ever be satisfactorily resolved, but at least regarding the
first embargo, it seems clear that evasion was widespread. Israel, Empires and Entrepôts,
189–201. See also: Nina Ellinger Bang, Tabeller over Skibsfart og Varetransport genem Øresund
1497–1669, 2 vols. (Copenhagen: Gyldenalske Boghandel, 1928); de Vries and van der
Woude, The First Modern Economy, 370–1.
Carlos Gomez-Centurion Jimenez, “Las relaciones hispano-hanseaticas durante
el reinado de Felipe II,” Revista de historía naval 4, no. 15 (1986): 69.
“porque tienen por estilo de nombrar un maestre alemán para que diga que vienen de Alemania
y las urcas en que los dichos maestres alemanes vienen son postiças y traen patentes falsas y hacen
ventas falsas de las dichas urcas para poder con ellas contratar en estos reinos, y las mercadurías que
en las dichas urcas traen realmente son de Holanda y Zelanda, donde se fabrican y hacen, y no de
Alemania como dicen.” quoted in Ibid., 71–2.
48 chapter three

trade, but it must have been quite disruptive. The documented rise of
the London sugar refining industry in this decade is ample testimony
to the re-routing of supply.37
Following the lapse of the first Habsburg embargo in 1590,
Portuguese trade with northern Europe resumed with vigor, although
England remained under the ban. This decade also marked probably
the greatest involvement of non-Portuguese shipping in all phases of
sugar transport. Trade with Brazil had been opened to Catholic foreign-
ers since 1532 with a 10% tariff on exports and imports, and from this
time on Low Countries merchants were active on the Brazilian coast.
Dom Sebastião set the first restriction on foreigners in 1571, allowing
only Portuguese ships to sail to Brazil, but this ban was honored in the
breach. Philip II renewed it in 1591, but foreign shipping remained in
Brazilian waters, either under subterfuge, or with licenses granted by the
crown.38 Probably, with the devastation wrought on Portuguese shipping
by Elizabethan privateers, there was no alternative except to resort to
foreign ships to bring sugar and brazilwood from the Brazilian coast.
German and Dutch ships played a significant role in this trade.39
With the ascension of Philip III to the Habsburg throne, Dutch
trade was once again barred from Habsburg realms in 1598. As with
the previous one, this embargo intended mainly to deprive fisheries in
the Dutch Republic of Portuguese salt and to deprive the Dutch of
markets for their manufactured goods in the Iberian Peninsula. The
success of this embargo is also subject to debate, but it seems certain
that it had some effect since the Spanish put more effort into enforce-
ment. One result was to spur the Dutch to sail in greater numbers to
the coasts of Venezuela and New Granada to collect salt, and to the
West African coast to trade. On the other hand, some of the regular
flow of commodities, including sugar, probably continued through fraud
and contraband trade.40

Kenneth R. Andrews, Elizabethan Privateering: English Privateering during the Spanish
War, 1585 –1603 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1964), 207–9.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 100–3.
Mello, “Os Livros de Saídas,” 21–143; J.W. IJzerman, ed., “Amsterdamsche
bevrachtingscontracten, 1519–1602. Deel 1, De vaart op Spanje en Portugal”, Econo-
misch-Historisch Jaarboek (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1931).
Israel, Empires and Entrepôts, 197–201. Dutch exports continued to reach Iberian
ports, and commodities were traded with the connivance in some cases of Flemish
merchants. In January of 1601, the adelantado of Sanlúcar jailed three hundred factors
and correspondents trading in forbidden Dutch goods. After they were forced to confess
about their counterparts in Seville, authorities there seized thirty persons, the majority
sugar, institutions and politics 49

The second embargo was partially rescinded in 1603–4, when trade

to merchants of the Dutch Republic was permitted with a 30% duty
on all exports and imports. The first embargo on Dutch shipping had
required merchants from other European regions to demonstrate that
their goods were not of Dutch provenance, and that they did not intend
to eventually trade in Dutch ports. However, these forms of evidence
were easily falsified. The edict of Philip III on February 27, 1603 was
an attempt to formalize the Dutch ban through a system of tariffs.
Products from the ‘obedient provinces’ were exempted. Nevertheless,
this system quickly broke down, mainly because of a lack of capacity
for enforcement. Smuggling and falsification were widely used to cir-
cumvent the tariff.41 Overall, though, trade suffered. In spite of a brief
respite in 1603–4, the evidence from the period of 1598 to 1609 shows
a decline of Dutch shipping to the Iberian Peninsula with benefits going
to shippers from German harbors.42
However, the Spanish embargo was not an unmitigated blessing for
the Hansa cities either. The Spanish kings not only tried to bar Dutch
ships from Iberian harbors, but also attempted to strangle Dutch com-
merce by denying it access to the Baltic. Repeatedly, Brussels-based
diplomats under Philip II and Philip III attempted to negotiate with
Scandinavian and Polish rulers to this end, but to no avail. The Hansa
cities were loathe to surrender their political neutrality, and Baltic trade
remained open to Dutch vessels.43 In fact, merchants between the Dutch
Republic and the Hansa cities moved freely. With the interests of the
two areas so interlinked and merchant capital flowing freely, it is dif-
ficult to identify clearly who lost and who benefited from the Spanish
policy of embargoes.44
Hanseatic merchants also hated the system of licenses and certificates
meant to prevent trade items from going back and forth between the
United Provinces and Iberia, finding it cumbersome and damaging.

of them from the southern Netherlands and holding goods valued at 260,000 ducats
(104,000,000 reis). Furthermore, Dunkirk pirates who preyed on Dutch shipping during
the first decade of the 17th century sometimes unloaded their prizes in Lisbon, even
though Spanish authorities forbade this. Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 8–10.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 33–5.
At the start of the embargo, some Dutch shipping was simply re-routed through
Emden, but aware of this fraud, Spanish officials eventually even applied the embargo
to this German port in 1607. Israel, Empires and Entrepôts, 196.
Kellenbenz, Unternehmerkrafte, 17.
Gomez-Centurion Jimenez, “Las Relaciones Hispano-hanseaticas,” 70.
50 chapter three

When the 30%-tariff system was introduced in 1603, these merchants

felt further beleaguered. Spanish protests that the system was meant
to benefit and not hinder trade with north-German merchants did
not convince the German traders. Later in the decade, Hansa cities
sent several merchant missions to the Spanish court to sue for less
Byzantine trade regulations. By 1607 a trade agreement was reached
that gave some relief to the Hansa merchants.45 But a workable trade
advantage obtained at the expense of the United Provinces was to be
short lived. Already in 1608 with the easing of trade restrictions, Dutch
ships were found daily in Lisbon’s harbors.46 A year later, as a Twelve
Year Truce established peace between Spain and the Dutch Republic,
Hansa advantages were nullified.47
Yet another problem for German traders was that in periods of con-
flict, Hansa vessels on the Westfahrt to Lisbon were subject to seizure by
Dutch privateers. The States General of Holland met Spanish embar-
goes with prohibitions of trade of their own, and although these were
not generally so systematically enforced, they led to state-sanctioned
efforts to prevent foreign ships from provisioning Iberian harbors. The
advantages of the removal of Dutch competition were counterbalanced
by the resulting tensions with the Dutch. As in Portugal, Spanish trade
policy in the Baltic—conditioned by dynastic concerns—put pressure
on longstanding and mutually advantageous trade relationships and
defied market logic.
The effects for the sugar trade were pronounced, as the second
embargo of 1598 also marked the beginning of a serious enforcement
of the ban on foreign shipping in Brazilian waters. This started with
Dutch ships, and there is little record of Dutch ships traveling legally
to Brazil after 1598.48 The effects also extended to the metropolis. After
the interlude of 1603, restrictions on the trade in Dutch goods were
extended in 1604 and 1605 to ban all merchants and ships’ captains of

Ibid., 80–3. According to Portuguese records studied by Costa, in the years
1605–1607, among the 92 known foreign ships leaving Lisbon’s harbor, only 5 were
recorded as being from Hamburg. In these years, French and English shipping appeared
to dominate. Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:124–5. Nevertheless, I suspect that this
number for Hamburg ships is far too low. Probably, a good number of the ships listed as
English or French were actually Dutch and German, traveling with false passports.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 12–4.
Kellenbenz, Unternehmerkrafte, 21–24.
For exceptions, see chapter 7. Of course, the lack of records documenting this
trade does not mean that it did not exist, but there is no reason to think there was
widespread evasion.
sugar, institutions and politics 51

Dutch origin from Iberian ports, whether or not they traded in Dutch
goods. This ban applied even to those who had relatives in the rebel
provinces. Lisbon was hit particularly hard, since it had stronger connec-
tions to northern Netherlands ports, and no less than 24 Lisbon-based
merchants were banned.49 Dutch merchants, therefore, were in a poor
position to carry on any trade with Brazil whatsoever.
However, the 1598 embargo did not prevent properly licensed ships
from other nations from stopping in Brazil, and they continued to do so
through the early years of the sixteenth century. In the 1590s the brazil-
wood contract was in the hands of Flemish merchants, and the Flemish
merchant community in Brazil remained strong. In fact, the presence
of Low Countries residents in Olinda was so marked by the 1590s that
Portuguese residents showed xenophobic reactions.50
1605 marked a watershed year after which the Habsburg crown
made serious efforts to restrict all foreigners from Brazilian ports. Partly
this was a reaction to the discovery that the Flemish contract holders
for the brazilwood monopoly had taken cargoes directly to northern
European ports from Pernambuco instead of trans-shipping in Lisbon
as required.51 As a result, Philip III issued an Alvará in 1605 forbidding
the presence of all non-Portuguese in Brazil.52 This time the ban was
enforced. In 1606 the crown took away the brazilwood contract from
Flemish merchants and gave it to Sebastião de Carvalho with a high sal-
ary to guard against corruption. It also sent a military officer, Alexandre
de Moura, to root out Low Countries residents in Pernambuco and
Paraíba. The king repeated warnings against foreigners in Brazil in
1612, 1613, 1615, and 1617. Officials on the spot, however, sometimes
colluded with Low Countries residents and visitors.53 Flemish residents
in Brazil did not entirely disappear. This was obvious from the fact that
in the 1620s there was renewed suspicion in Madrid that they could
form a fifth column and cooperate with Dutch invaders.
Occasionally exemptions were made for foreign captains. Philip II had
foreseen exemptions for foreign shipping in the Brazil trade, and—as

Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 12.
Ibid., 105–6.
Ibid., 107.
A copy is in the: AHU, Livro do Brasil, Cod. 1193 (1605). Subsequently, lists of
‘authorized’ foreign residents seem to have been kept, and these were small in number.
Livro Primeiro do Governo do Brasil, 1607–1633, (Rio de Janeiro: Seção de Publicações do
Serviço de Documentação, 1958), 183–5.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 108–9.
52 chapter three

described above—many foreign ships loaded sugar and brazilwood at

the end of the sixteenth century. But licenses were controlled much more
rigorously after 1605. Now shippers had to receive a passport from the
Conselho da India and pay a bond of 10,000 cruzados to guarantee their
return to Portugal. An attempt to abolish the licenses altogether called
forth too much protest, though. Foreign sailors also sometimes received
licenses to travel on Spanish and Portuguese ships.54
At the expiration of the Truce in 1621, a new Habsburg embargo
was placed on foreign shipping.55 This was the most sustained of all.
Olivares supervised the creation of two institutions to counter the
Dutch at sea and to prohibit their products from entering Iberian
markets. These were the Almirantazgo, formed in1623 in Seville, and
the Consejo, Junta y Tribunal Superior del Almirantazgo, founded in 1625
in Madrid.56 The principle here was to control trade from the center
with rigid and strong instruments of enforcement. In particular, these
institutions tried to remove enforcement from the hands of local offi-
cials and magistrates, who were seen as likely to collude in contraband
trade. The Almirantazgo was not applied to Portugal until 1628, but the
Habsburg crown took measures as early as 1622 to strike the Dutch in
Portuguese harbors. Between 1622 and 1624, Castilian officials went
to Lisbon and Setubal to supervise the ports and arrived later in Porto
and Faro. These measures prompted a veritable chorus of protest from
local Portuguese officials.57 From the Dutch side, a trade that may
have involved more than 800 vessels annually was under threat. Not
surprisingly, after 1621 the collapse of the Iberian routes led Holland
to experience a shipping slump.58
This history of intermittent Habsburg embargoes beginning in 1580
did not result in a consistent response from those affected in the Dutch
Republic. Some officials wished to retaliate, and, in fact, the States
General enacted embargoes of its own from time to time. On the
other hand, many merchants and seamen who relied on income from

Ibid., 106–7.
The motive once again was to weaken the Dutch Republic by attacking their
economic base. See: Jonathan Irvine Israel, “A Conflict of Empires: Spain and the
Netherlands 1618–1648,” Past and Present 76 (1977): 34–74.
Bernardo José López Belinchón, “‘Sacar la Sustancia al Reino.’ comercio, con-
trabando y conversos Portugueses, 1621–1640,” Hispania; revista española de historia 61,
no. 3 (2001): 1029–30.
Israel, Empires and Entrepôts, 204–5.
Israel, “A Conflict of Empires,” 48.
sugar, institutions and politics 53

the carrying trade to the Iberian Peninsula wished to continue to trade

freely. As in the Spanish-Habsburg kingdoms, official policy could not
reconcile political and mercantile interests. But generally, before 1621
the States General and the Dutch Admiralties did not consistently
enforce the occasional rules prohibiting Iberian trade. Until the estab-
lishment of the WIC, mercantile interests prevailed.
From the point of view of the States General around 1580, continued
trade with Spain and Portugal was undesirable. Their greatest fear was
the loss of Dutch shipping through arrest in Iberian harbors, although
they hoped their merchant marine could carry on the Iberian trade
through intermediary ports on the southern French coast. The largest
Dutch cities, especially Amsterdam and Rotterdam did not agree. Their
concern was that, barred from the bulk carrying trade, German cities
would fill the gap in the supply of shipping. In spite of attempted bans,
direct shipping continued. On one day alone in May 1581, not less than
two hundred ships from Zeeland sailed to France, Spain and Portugal.59
After 1585, under English pressure, the issue was taken up again in
the States General. Once again Amsterdam protested against trade
restrictions that would affect the Baltic carrying trade.60 The English
interest prevailed, at least temporarily, and on April 4, 1586, the Earl
of Leicester—then directing foreign policy in the Republic—issued a
decree banning all shipping to Spain and Portugal. In 1587, with the
fall of Leicester, this was reversed.61
Dutch trade with Portugal blossomed in the 1590s, but came under
threat again following the second embargo of 1598. Once again, trade
became an instrument of war. In April of 1599, the States General
issued an edict forbidding all trade in enemy lands, including the south-
ern Netherlands. This time they included provisions to prevent banned
trade from falling into the hands of German or English merchants.
Predictably, the Hansa towns protested, but nevertheless began to
assume a greater volume of the carrying trade to the Iberian Peninsula,
often in partnership with Dutch merchants.62 At the same time the
Colleges of Admiralty had starved themselves of the resources needed
for enforcement of the new trade rules, since their usual income derived
from the licenten levied on trade with the southern ‘obedient provinces.’

Kernkamp, De Handel op den Vijand, 1:117–20.
Ibid., 1:166–74.
Ibid., 1:218–29.
Ibid., 1:235–47.
54 chapter three

Trading with enemy states was too important a part of the economy of
the young Republic to stifle with politically motivated embargoes, and
the States General partially lifted the ban on trade with these regions.63
A similar cycle was played out in 1605. After Spanish officials began to
arrest Dutch ships again in Iberian harbors—following the collapse of
their short-lived tariff policy—the States General retaliated and forbade
shipping to Iberian ports.64
As measures affecting trade passed back and forth, not only the vital
salt and grain carrying trades of the Holland and Zeeland fleets were
at stake, but also the burgeoning ‘rich trades’ of the Dutch Republic.
In regard to the trade in Asian and African goods, the States General
coordinated the activities of merchants who were competing with the
Portuguese. After 1602 they sailed together under the auspices of the
VOC. But by this time, the Dutch had also established themselves as
carriers of Brazilian produce, both in the primary and secondary routes
of redistribution. Furthermore, Amsterdam had developed a sugar
industry, which depended on continued imports of this commodity.
While still not as important as Setubal salt, Brazilian sugar now figured
significantly in the Dutch Republic’s trade relationship with Portugal.
Not surprisingly, during the second embargo, some voices in the
Dutch Republic clamored for a chartered company—patterned on
the VOC—to prosecute trade and persecute the Habsburg interest in
the Atlantic. These demands found their most articulate exposition
through the Antwerp-born merchant Willem Usselincx, a resident of
Middleburg since 1591. Usselincx had in common with many of his
expatriate brethren a strong attachment to Calvinism and a deep hatred
of the Spanish. Nevertheless, his vision for a West India Company
embraced more the idea of agrarian colonies rather than a monopoly
trade company to pry America’s trade from Spanish hands. By 1606,
Usselincx had the ear of the States of Holland, which began to study
the matter.65 The plans of Usselincx in these years came to nothing,
sacrificed to the negotiations for a truce with Spain by the chief politi-
cian in the Republic, the Advocaat van den Lande, Oldenbarnevelt.

Ibid., 1:253–4.
Ibid., 1:306.
For the WIC in general see: Henk den Heijer, De geschiedenis van de WIC (Zutphen:
Walburg, 1994). A recent short summary in English by the same author can be found
in Heijer, “The Dutch West India Company,” 77–112. See also Boxer’s classic account,
although Boxer follows the “Deductie” in erroneously exaggerating the role of the Dutch
in trade with Brazil during the Twelve Year Truce. C.R. Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil,
1624 –1654 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1957).
sugar, institutions and politics 55

Still, ideas for a West India Company showed that the Dutch viewed
Portuguese trade, and Brazilian trade in particular, in a special light.
Officials of the Dutch Republic tended to believe that it should not
be subject to the same restrictions that applied to trade with Spain
in general. In 1600 some Dutch vessels continued to carry sugar and
brazilwood to the Dutch Republic via Lisbon, and the States General
deliberated whether to consider this traffic under the rubric of ‘enemy
shipping.’66 On October 2 of the same year, the States General decided
to grant an exemption, allowing free entry of goods from Brazil. This
was granted as a favor to Portuguese New Christian merchants resi-
dent in Amsterdam, but was extended to any resident merchants who
wished to trade in Africa or on the Brazilian coast.67 Later in the year,
the States General granted several passports for such journeys, some of
which allowed for return sailing via Portugal.68 Nevertheless, the exemp-
tion was understood to allow sugar and brazilwood to enter the Dutch
Republic: sailing to Brazil via Portugal was permitted, but the return
trip to the Dutch Republic was generally meant to be direct so that
taxes on sugar would not benefit the Spanish crown.69

One case was under discussion in August 1600. The ship was Dutch and car-
rying not only a Brazilian cargo but also a Portuguese family picked up in Lisbon
as well. The Holland admiralty asked the States General if it should be considered
enemy shipping in accordance with the edict from the previous year. Nevertheless a
petition for the freedom of the ship and cargo was: “gepresenteert by verscheyden cooplu-
iden, ingesetenen van Amstelredam, soo voor haerselver als uuyt den naem ende van wegen de gemeene
geinteresseerde ingesetenen van dese landen ende coopluiden van de Portugiesche nacie.” Japikse, ed.,
RSG, 1600 –1601, 339.
“De Portugiesche nacie ende heuren handel in dese landen zijn gegunt, ende dat die van deselve
nacie oversulcx vryelijck ende vredelijck sullen genieten d’effecten van de entrecourssen, contracten ende
resolutiën, die van wegen de Vereenichde Provintiën met hen van tijt te tijt respectivelijck sijn gemaect
ende op hare voorgaende remonstrantiën genomen, voorsooveele aengaet de goeden ende coopmanschap-
pen, die sy in dese landen alreede gebrocht hebben ende voorder noch sullen brengen ende vertieren, ende
dat sy dienvolgende oock over Lisbona ofte Portugael op Brasiliën sullen mogen handelen, gelijck dat
gebruckelijck is, ende heure goeden in dese landen brengen, ordonnerende de collegiën ter Admiraliteyt
respective hen hierna te reguleren ende tselve alsoo to gedoogen, sonder den remonstranten daerinne eenige
verhinderinge te doen ofte gedoogen gedaen to wordden.” Ibid., 341.
Ibid., 344–5. Another passport was granted in February 1601 to Jacques Karbeel
and Alexander van den Berge, merchants of Amsterdam, to travel with a Dutch ship
to the Canary Islands and to continue from there with some German and Spanish
sailors to Brazil, and then to return to Tenerife and finally Holland. 694.
Kernkamp, De Handel op den Vijand, 2:279. An incident to this effect can be seen
in the proceedings of the States General. Several ships were taken off the coast of
Portugal in 1602 by a fleet commanded by the Heer van Opdam, arriving from Bra-
zil with cargoes of sugar belonging to “Spaignaerden, Portugesen ende anderen in Spaignen,
Portugael, Brasiliën, tot Antwerpen ende in andere steden ofte plaetssen van den vyant woonende”
Those cargoes and ships found to belong to the enemy were to be sold with the
profits going to the state. Those merchants in the Republic that could guarantee that
56 chapter three

The ad hoc and contradictory nature of trade policies during this

time is reflected by the fact that the Republic’s warships continued to
seize Brazilian cargoes, even as the States General tried to facilitate
their arrival in the Dutch Republic. At the end of 1603, at the request
of the Portuguese merchant community, the States General ruled that
those merchants who lost Brazilian cargoes to the Dutch Admiralty
at sea would be compensated as long as they were legal residents of
the Republic. In spite of the risks, various merchants in the Republic,
Portuguese or otherwise, continued to contemplate trade with Brazil.
Later in the same year, three requests for passports for Brazil came
before the States General, all from companies of Dutch merchants.
Whether these trips were actually made or were successful is not
The Twelve Year Truce of 1609 restored free trade and shipping
only between the United Provinces and the Iberian Peninsula, but
some merchants in the former still considered direct trade with Brazil
to be licit. The States General took a somewhat ambivalent position,
typified by its support of the voyage of Spilbergen to South America
in 1614.71 Generally, though, the Truce put to rest any plans in the
Republic for officially organized direct exploitation or trade in south
Atlantic waters.
In 1618, the political climate changed significantly. In Spain, some
ministers clamored for renewed hostilities against the ‘rebellious prov-
inces.’ In the Dutch Republic, the war party—dominated by militant
Calvinists and expatriate merchants such as Usselincx—clamored for

the cargoes did not belong to the enemy were allowed to claim them, provided that
they paid the same duties to the Admiralty that they would have paid in the Lisbon
Alfândega. Among those affected by the seizure were some of the richest members of
Antwerp’s Portuguese merchant community, along with their correspondents elsewhere:
“Nicolaes Rodriguez Devora, Duarte Ximenex ende Anthonio Faillero, woonende binnen Antwerpen,
mitsgaders Duarte Fernandes, Francisco Pinto de Brito, Hendrick Garcez, Manuel Rodriges Veiga
ende Fernando de Mercado, woonachtich tot Amstelredam, alle coopluyden van Portugesche nacie.”
H.H.P. Rijperman, ed., RSG, 1602–1603, RGP, grote ser. no. 92 (The Hague: Nijhoff,
1950), 215–6, 289.
On Nov. 14 from Martin van de Moere, Johan Samuel and Paulus Bisschop,
Amsterdam merchants; Nov. 15 from Hans van Uffele, from Amsterdam; and Dec.
13 from Jan Jacobsz. Huydecooper, Adriaan Barthout, Joachim Diercsz, Assuerus van
Blokland, Barent Sas, Henrick Ghijsbertsz Delft, and Lucas van der Venne. Rijperman,
ed., RSG, 1602–1603, 630 –1.
On this topic, more in chapter 7. For an account of the voyage: J.C.M. Warn-
sinck, ed., De reis om de wereld van Joris van Spilbergen, 1614–1617, vol. 47, Linschoten
Vereeniging, grote ser. no. 38 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1943).
sugar, institutions and politics 57

an aggressive anti-Spanish policy. With the fall of Oldenbarnevelt in

1618, it seemed clear in the Republic, as in Spain, that the Truce would
not be renewed.72 Almost immediately work began on a charter plan
for a West India Company.
In 1621, the year of the expiration of the Truce, a plan was approved
by the States General, but in a form quite different from that envisioned
by Usselincx. Gone were the projects for agricultural colonies. Instead
the WIC was envisioned as a monopoly company and a military tool
against Spain. The model here was the VOC, which in the twenty
years since its founding had managed to inflict serious damage on the
Portuguese trade empire in the Indian Ocean. Like the VOC, the WIC
would exist as a partnership between private capital and the state. Its
leaders were to be a board of major-shareholder directors (Heeren
Negentien) and the States General, which would provide general direc-
tion for the company.73
Unfortunately for Portugal and Brazil, the WIC set its sights on both
sides of the South Atlantic, as well as the rest of America and the
Pacific islands. It was probably inevitable that the WIC would target
Portuguese possessions in Brazil and Africa, since assets in these regions
were relatively undefended and thinly spread over thousands of miles
of coastline. Additionally, there were still merchants and mariners in
the Dutch Republic who had experience of sailing in Brazilian waters,
and important trade linked the Dutch and Brazilian economies, albeit
through Portugal.74

Heijer, “The Dutch West India Company,” 80–1.
Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil, 14–5. Boxer and others make much of Dutch beliefs
that the Portuguese would welcome Dutch intervention in Brazil, either because they
were New Christians chafing under the Inquisition persecution, or that they hated the
Spanish overlordship of Portugal. There is no doubt that these sorts of ideas circulated
around the Republic, but I think the most telling motive for attacking Brazil was its
vulnerability. Dutch notions of Portugal’s purportedly shallow allegiance to Spain
extended to indigenous people, who many Dutch assumed would greet them as saviors.
A good example of the pro-invasion arguments made during this time is: “Advies tot
aanbeveling van de verovering van Brazilië,” Kroniek van het Historisch Genootschap ser. 6,
27, no. 2 (1871): 228–56. The political and intellectual importance of South America
in the Republic been recently explored by Benjamin Schmidt, Innocence Abroad: The
Dutch Imagination and the New World, 1570 –1670 (Cambridge: Cambridge University
Press, 2001). Nevertheless, no matter the ideas floating around in the pamphlet lit-
erature of the time, the decision to attack Brazil and Portuguese shipping was—no
doubt—practically motivated.
58 chapter three

As it happened, Portugal’s Brazil trade received a short reprieve,

owing to the long interval required to achieve full capitalization for
the WIC. Potential investors balked, fearful of the costs and risk of
challenging the Spanish crown directly at sea. As the Deductie of 1622
shows, many Dutch merchants had grown rich on the Brazil trade
conducted legally through Portugal, and they were not willing to upset
the status quo. Squabbles among the different provinces about their role
in the WIC contributed to the sluggishness of capitalization. Finally,
though, the WIC was capitalized in 1623 with 7,108,000 guilders
(1,033,890,909 reis).75
The activities of the WIC after 1623 were a far cry from the aims
stated in the preamble of “shipping, trade, and commerce with the
West Indies, Africa, and the Americas.”76 Taking Portuguese prizes
soon became its chief activity. The WIC was not able to consolidate
its invasion of Bahia in 1624, but it managed to inflict damage on the
economy of Bahia and forced Spain and Portugal to make enormous
expenditures in the rescue effort.77 In the years following, WIC squad-
rons took a high toll on Portuguese Atlantic shipping. 1628 saw the
Spanish silver fleet fall into the hands of WIC admiral, Piet Heyn. But
that year was also awful for Portuguese shipping. The official chronicler
of the early years of the WIC, de Laet, described the squadron sent
under the command of Dirck Symonsz. This captured a number of
Portuguese caravels—along with a ship laden with goods from Goa—off
the coast of Brazil. The fleet returned home with booty of 1,500 crates
of sugar, not to mention gems, spices and other costly merchandise.78
Total losses to Portuguese shipping in the years 1623 to 1634 amounted
to 428 vessels.79
By the last years of the 1620s, a trade that had been recently thriving
was threatened on many fronts. Not just the traffic in Brazilian products,
but also the trade in bulk commodities was dismantled. In Portuguese

Heijer, “The Dutch West India Company,” 81.
Johannes de Laet, Jaerlyck verhael van de verrichtinghen der gheoctroyeerde West-Indische
Compagnie in derthien boecken, 4 vols. (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1931–1937), 1:7.
Stuart B. Schwartz, “The Voyage of the Vassals: Royal Power, Noble Obligations,
and Merchant Capital before the Portuguese Restoration of Independence, 1624–1640,”
American Historical Review 96, no. 3 (1991): 735–62.
Laet, Jaerlyck verhael, 2:47–56. This would amount to 27,000 arrobas in this year,
since one crate of sugar around this time generally held 18 arrobas.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico 1:206.
sugar, institutions and politics 59

harbors, the Almirantazgo remained a vigilant presence.80 On the seas,

ordinary Portuguese or Dutch shipping that attempted to ply well-used
routes was subject to attacks by Dutch or Spanish admiralties, as well as
Dunkirk privateers. There were still Dutch and Portuguese merchants
and captains who were willing to run this gauntlet in a climate of
high risk but still higher prices. Several freight contracts appear in the
Amsterdam archives dating from the last years of the decade that show
plans to move commodities—including sugar—to and from Portugal.
These contracts envisioned sailing around England and Scotland and
collecting freight in the Algarve, where, presumably, embargo enforce-
ment was less keen.81 These documents may point to an even larger
underground trade, since presumably many merchants trading illegally
would not want to publicize their activities by writing contracts.
Meanwhile, the WIC—freshly capitalized after its stunning capture of
the Spanish silver fleet in Matanzas in 1628—decided to invade Brazil
once again. This time it focused on the rich region around Olinda and
Recife. The invasion of 1630—supported by sixty-seven sail and seven
thousand soldiers—met with greater success than the attempt to hold
Bahia.82 This time the Dutch managed to stay. The basic structure that
had emerged over the course of eighty years of sugar exploitation in
Brazil was permanently altered. Now Brazilian sugar from the newly
formed Dutch Brazilian colony of Nieuw Holland sailed directly in
great quantities to northwestern Europe, instead of through Portugal.
As masters of the richest sugar-producing region in the world, the
WIC faced its own problems with regulating and controlling the sugar
trade: ones that were familiar to Portuguese colonial administrators.
Dutch demand for sugar did not keep pace with increased supply as
sugar flowed directly to the Dutch Republic. Low profitability coupled
with the enormous costs associated with defense caused WIC inves-
tors to eventually abandon Dutch Brazil. However, when the last bits
of Dutch Brazil returned to Portuguese rule in 1654, the Atlantic
sugar economy had undergone a further structural shift. Caribbean

If the Brazil trade suffered in the 1620s as a result of Portugal’s incorporation
into the Spanish empire, Portuguese merchants compensated themselves handsomely
by crawling into every corner of the Spanish Empire and Spain itself, many of them
growing enormously rich in the process. See Studnicki-Gizbert, A Nation upon the Ocean
Sea, especially Chapter 4.
E.M. Koen, “Notarial Records Relating to the Portuguese Jews in Amsterdam up
to 1639,” Studia Rosenthaliana 35, no. 1 (2001): 69, 70, 76, 77, 87.
Heijer, “The Dutch West India Company,” 82.
60 chapter three

competition meant that Brazilian sugar was no longer the dominant

commodity in Atlantic trade.
In the half century to 1630, Brazilian sugar was a commodity
traded relatively freely between different Atlantic empires. However,
two major areas of state involvement affected the trade. States whose
merchants participated in the trade taxed it and organized it in order
to gain revenue. The bulk of the taxation fell in the Portuguese Empire,
although the Portuguese crown otherwise considered the trade to be
‘free.’ Intermittent prohibitions against foreign shipping in Brazil during
this time are best seen in the context of protecting state income. The
crown was concerned that foreigners might deliver sugar from Brazil
directly to markets in northwestern Europe, depriving the crown of
important revenue.
Also, the Brazilian sugar trade was subject to political interference.
In the period to 1621, this arose mostly on the Portuguese side, affected
by Spanish-Habsburg dynastic concerns. Habsburg trade embargoes
were aimed specifically at the Dutch Republic and occurred in the
context of the Eighty Year War. Their effects were generally small,
but from roughly 1598 to 1608 they did partially manage to drive the
Dutch out of the Portuguese trading sphere, making the trade less
‘free’ even though other imperial groups were less directly affected in
their participation. During a twelve-year period of peace beginning in
1609, and a spectacular renewal of Dutch involvement, the Brazilian
sugar trade once again assumed the inter-imperial character it had held
from its inception, even if strictures against direct shipping remained
in place. Finally, political motives once again trumped free trade, even
though a full restructuring of the trade took time to develop. This time
political moves were bilateral. Habsburg embargoes against the Dutch
were renewed over Portuguese protests. On the other side, officials of
the Dutch Republic took the initiative to control the sugar trade, and
trade became ever less free during the third decade of the seventeenth
century. After 1621 the Dutch attempted to seize the Brazilian sugar
supply through attacks on the Portuguese merchant marine and territo-
rial conquest in Brazil. In spite of a false start in Bahia in 1624–5, they
achieved the latter goal with the successful invasion of Pernambuco in
1630. A ‘free’ trade in Brazilian sugar finally fell victim to the politics
of war and a more pronounced mercantilist ideology as embodied in
the WIC.


As the previous chapter showed, the political and institutional setting

for the sugar trade was complex and shifting in the period to 1630.
Brazilian sugar continued to reach markets in northwestern Europe in
ever-greater quantities, but tools of government policy such as trade
restrictions, embargoes and privateering affected the routes along
which sugar was traded. In the years between 1550 and 1630 north-
western cities—including Hamburg, Antwerp and Amsterdam—saw
their fortunes wax and wane as redistribution centers for Brazilian
sugar. Sugar refining also experienced stages of growth and decline in
various entrepôts. In Portugal, levels of traffic through the three main
ports—Lisbon, Porto and Viana—were sensitive to the shifting political
and military situations. The Almirantazgo punished Lisbon to the benefit
of ports where Spanish official vigilance was more relaxed.
The institutional framework for the sugar trade, however, could not
thwart its basic logic. Markets for Brazilian sugar remained primarily
in northwestern Europe, and this is where sugar eventually went, no
matter that crown officials attempted to use trade as a political tool.
While there were undoubtedly winners and losers in the sugar trade,
a certain level of continuity in commodity flow remained. This was
possible because of the merchants and merchant organizations that
facilitated the trade. In particular, they were atomistic, highly mobile
and organized into far-flung correspondent networks. Their organiza-
tion allowed them to react to political and military events reasonably
quickly and to maintain investment even as the structure of the trade
underwent periodic shifts.
Before examining these networks, it is necessary to address a perti-
nent discussion in the scholarly literature. A common assumption in
the historiography of merchant organization in Portugal is that New
Christian immigration to Amsterdam explains the success of that
metropolis in attracting Portuguese exports—especially sugar—after
1600. According to this view, Portuguese Christian merchants of Jewish
ancestry began to move to Amsterdam in ever-greater numbers, arriv-
ing both from Portugal and other northern European cities such as
62 chapter four

Antwerp and Hamburg. They were attracted by Amsterdam’s increasing

importance as a commercial center and also driven from Portugal by
the Inquisition, which mainly targeted so-called ‘New Christians,’ i.e.
the Christian descendants of Iberian Jews who had converted in the
early part of the sixteenth century. This immigration, so the argument
goes, gave Amsterdam a body of merchants who were specialists in the
re-export of Portuguese colonial commodities and well connected with
merchant brethren in the Portuguese ports. Consequently, especially
during the Twelve Year Truce, Amsterdam was able to capture a large
share of Portugal’s colonial commerce and rose to preeminence as the
redistribution center for Portuguese colonial products.1
This argument has much to recommend it. The contribution of
Portuguese New Christians to Amsterdam’s commercial life in the
seventeenth century seems beyond dispute and is well documented by
evidence from Amsterdam’s notarial archives, which continues to be
summarized in the Studia Rosenthaliana.2 Other evidence, particularly from
the records of the Holy Office in Portugal, attests to the far-ranging
family networks of Portuguese New Christian merchants, and their com-
mercial dynamism. For various good reasons, Portuguese New Christian
merchant networks have attracted much scholarly attention.
For many of their ‘Old Christian’ compatriots, converts to Christianity
and their descendants belonged in a special category, and Iberian laws,
as well as the Inquisition, reinforced this sense of separateness. The
fact that some New Christians returned to Judaism in the more tolerant
environment of the Dutch Republic probably did not help to dispel
prejudice against this group.3 Outside of Portugal, New Christians
were sometimes seen as weak in their loyalty to the Portuguese crown.
One cornerstone of the rationale for the WIC’s invasion of Brazil
was the belief that New Christians residing there would form a fifth
column, cooperating with their tolerant invaders in order to shake
off the hated Portuguese overlordship.4 Contemporary scholars have

For a general discussion see: Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans; Jonathan Irvine
Israel, “Sephardic Immigration into the Dutch Republic, 1595–1672,” Studia Rosen-
thaliana 23, no. 2 (1989): 45–53.
Koen, “Notarial Records,” 1, no. 1 (1967). This series has continued through present
The Inquisition did much to promote this view, which supported the widespread
belief that members of society with Jewish blood were predisposed to heresy. Salomon,
Portrait of a New Christian, 34–35.
Boxer, The Dutch in Brazil, 14–5.
merchants and merchant networks 63

debated widely whether the distinctive identity of New Christians was

real or imagined, and it is not necessary to revisit these debates here.
However, in the context of the period dealt with here, it seems that
New Christians have sometimes formed a category of analysis that is
not always appropriate.
It is indisputable that the geographic dispersion of New Christian
families put them in a good position to take advantage of new circuits
of trade, but this does not necessarily mean that there is a single cultural
or ethnic explanation for business practices in the case of the sugar
trade. To be fair, locating business practices in a cultural framework
can provide considerable explanatory power. Avner Greif has done
intriguing work that examines the cultural dimensions of merchant
organization in the Middle Ages. To summarize a complex argument,
Greif has posited two types of merchant organization: collectivist and
individualist. In the first type, merchants traded primarily within their
ethnic group, where their need to retain a good reputation ensured
reciprocal honoring of contracts in the absence of state-sponsored
mechanisms. These merchants also tended to form horizontal trading
structures with merchants acting as each other’s agents in transac-
tions. On the other hand, individualist merchant societies relied on
contract-enforcing institutions associated with individualist societies,
and often traded outside of their ethnic group.5 Greif ’s case studies did
not include the early-modern merchant groups involved in the sugar
trade. Nor has anyone, to my knowledge, applied Greif ’s models spe-
cifically to Portuguese New-Christians merchants. However a number
of historians have suggested a Sephardic monopoly in the sugar trade,
implying a ‘collectivist’ mentality, even if they did not explicitly use
Greif ’s categories.6
But available evidence indicates that sugar traders do not easily
correspond with Greif ’s models, or with any explanation for business
practices that privileges supposed ‘ethnic’ characterizations. Jewish or
New Christian identity may be an interesting category of analysis in
many contexts, but, unfortunately, it fails to explain much about early
Atlantic shipping. Here it is clear that merchants of Sephardic extrac-
tion, although well represented, were by no means the exclusive players.

Avner Greif, “On the Interrelations and Economic Implications of Economic,
Social, Political, and Normative Factors: Reflections from Two Late Medieval
See notes 8–10 in the Introduction for a discussion of this historiography.
64 chapter four

Nor does it appear that their business practices were different from those
of other merchant groups. As David Grant Smith has shown, Old and
New Christians in Portugal showed remarkable integration in their eco-
nomic activities, often intermarried and essentially practiced business
in the same way. Leonor Costa, following Smith, has also underplayed
the New- and Old-Christian dichotomy in her study of the founding of
the Companhia Geral do Comércio do Brasil. Here she sees more of a sig-
nificant differentiation between larger and smaller wholesale merchants
as social groups in Portugal.7 To be sure, the ethnicities and religions
that merchants embraced, however fluid, played an important role in
forming business relationships. However, in this case it is impossible
to reduce trade networks to religion or ethnic identity. Returning to
Greif ’s models, it would appear that most Atlantic merchants during
this period, whatever their ethnicity, displayed both collectivist and
individualist characteristics.8
Indeed, the logic of merchant activity in the Brazilian sugar trade was
determined more by circuits of trade than by any particular national or
religious affiliation. Brazil offered a new trans-Atlantic circuit, and mer-
chants organized themselves to meet new opportunities, sending their
younger sons to live in Brazil and arrange shipments of brazilwood and
sugar. Portugal remained in this scheme a natural returning point, since
it was already part of a well-established route linking northern European
shipping with Iberian markets. Furthermore, sugar remained only one
product traded on the circuit comprising Brazil, the Atlantic Islands,
Portugal and northwestern Europe. Profits in trade on this route came
from a wide range of commodities, as seen in Chapter 2. Not surpris-
ingly, merchant communities of a very heterogeneous nature collected
at the staging points of this trade and were tied together through their
common involvement. This chapter offers a descriptive examination
of how an inter-imperial merchant network was constructed through
space and across political and ethnic boundaries.
In regards to Portuguese merchants, specialized portfolios were
exceedingly rare in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and there-

Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:515–28. Smith, “Old Christian Merchants and
the Foundation of the Brazil Company, 1649,” 233–59.
The persistence of family organization—described in this chapter—is a collec-
tivist quality. The widespread use of the correspondence system, which transcended
ethnicity, indicates an individualist base for trade. The latter phenomenon is clearly
linked to increased state-involvement in business practice, a phenomenon discussed
in Chapter 6.
merchants and merchant networks 65

fore it is difficult to speak of Brazil-traders as a special class of mer-

chants. Most large wholesale traders in Portugal, including those also
active in the Carreira da India had some involvement also in the circuits
of Brazilian sugar. Boyajian makes this point clearly in examining the
largest Portuguese merchants, some of whom also became bankers
to the Habsburg court in the 1620s. These Carreira investors included
the large merchant families/networks of Brandão, Fernandes, Gomes
Denis e Solis, Silveira, Tinoco and Vaz de Souza. All of them had
members in Brazil, usually in Bahia or Pernambuco in the period of
1580 to 1640.9
Nor was trading activity restricted to self-proclaimed ‘merchants.’ In
the 1640s, a career civil servant, Antonio Teles da Silva traded sugar
through a Lisbon correspondent while he was serving as governor of
Brazil.10 Unusually, his activities were documented, but dabbling in sugar
trading must have been a fairly common activity for government officials
in Brazil. Also, considering that trading to Brazil required far less of a
capital investment than trading to the East Indies, networks of smaller
investors often stood behind large sugar merchants. Captains on sugar
routes were themselves small investors in the trade and sometimes built
up their capital to become larger ones.11 At least for the period up to
1630, it seems most plausible that investments in the Brazilian sugar
trade were widely distributed.12
Who, then, were the personnel in this trade? In the absence of
account books, the records of the Portuguese Inquisition sometimes
offer a view of the current accounts of merchants who were imprisoned,
since the Holy Office attempted a careful rendering of goods to confis-
cate. One such trial transcript, for Francisco de Palácios, seems fairly
typical in showing both the breadth of merchant networks as well as
portfolio diversity. In 1620, at the age of 21, Palácios’ business activities

These families were all New Christian. James C. Boyajian, Portuguese Trade in
Asia under the Habsburgs, 1580–1640 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993),
Virgínia Rau, “Fortunas ultramarinas e a nobreza portuguesa no século XVII,” in
Estudos sobre história económica e social do antigo regime, ed. Virgínia Rau (Lisbon: Editorial
Presença, 1984), 29–33.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:438–45. The lack of account books for this period
makes it difficult to uncover these networks.
Ibid. Leonor Costa believes that, with the erosion of profits in the 1610s, there was
some concentration of the business among larger merchants, who also integrated their
businesses vertically with mill ownership in Brazil. Her database of freight contracts is
suggestive of this, but not totally convincing, since it is fairly thin.
66 chapter four

as a relatively young merchant had transpired under the auspices of

older relatives or more established merchants. Two of his brothers,
Pedro and Jacome de Palácios lived openly as Jews in Hamburg, where
they were wholesale traders in, among other things, Brazilian sugar.
Another brother, Duarte de Palácios had traded in India, Seville and
Hamburg and was then residing in Amsterdam, also openly as a Jew.
In 1619 Francisco traveled to Hamburg with a license from the Conselho
da Fazenda as a factor for Andre Lopez, the brazilwood contract holder.
There he was to purchase grain in exchange for sales of brazilwood.
After falling out with his patrons, he left secretly for Amsterdam where
he stayed for around eight months before returning to Lisbon, where
he was accused of judaizing.13
His penance was apparently light, since when he was taken again
before the tribunal of the Holy Office in 1630, this time on charges of
sodomy, he was a relatively well-established merchant with a working
capital amounting to many thousands of cruzados. According to his
inventory, he was involved in transactions linking the East Indies, Brazil,
Portugal and northern Europe. He had sent nine barrels of ginger and
other merchandise to Hamburg on account of Pedro van Husen.14
At the same time he was waiting for a shipment from Brazil worth
450,000 reis in goods and money that had been freighted by Pasqual
Bravo in Bahia and was due to arrive on two Portuguese ships. In the
Casa da India he had a quantity of cardamom and some gems. He had
also invested in the fleet that had left for India in the previous year,
sending more than 500,000 reis in cash, of which he had contributed
a fifth of his own capital, and the rest on behalf of Gabriel Gomes
and van Husen in Hamburg. He had sugar in Flanders—or perhaps
Hamburg—in the power of the same Pedro van Husen and valued at
more than 500,000 reis. On the island of Terceira he had another cargo
of sugar, in the hands of Baltasar da Costa Pereira: this one valued at
250,000 reis. He had also diversified into ship owning, and owned an
eighth of a caravel that had traveled to Rio de Janeiro under captain
Francisco Texeira and which was valued at 113,000 reis. Palácios was

IANTT, IL, Processo de Francisco de Palácios, no. 4481. His two trials fall under the
same inventory number. For Pedro de Palácios see Kellenbenz, “Der Brasilienhandel
der Hamburger ‘Portugiesen’,” 316–334.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:405. This merchant shows up in other docu-
ments as a partner/owner with Portuguese merchants from Lisbon, Porto, Viana and
Guimarães of a “Flemish” urca. This was in 1628, at which time he was apparently
living in Porto.
merchants and merchant networks 67

also involved in many financial transactions at this time—summa-

rized from his account books—linking him to merchants in Germany,
Flanders, Portugal, Brazil and Spain. Most of these were loans, letters
of exchange, insurance policies and bottomry loans, i.e. a loan on the
value of a ship or cargo.15
This example shows the structure of one merchant’s investments,
which encompassed Brazilian sugar.16 Other Inquisition documents
indicate that extended networks were quite common. A major move
by the Inquisition against New Christians in the city of Porto around
1618 left scores of trial transcripts of New Christian merchants that
demonstrate their strong family and trade connections with other
merchants throughout Portugal, Brazil and northern Europe.17 One
of these defendants, Paulo Lopes Cunha, named around thirty associ-
ates—the great majority of them merchants—whom he accused of
judaizing. While other defendants may have been more circumspect
in naming all of the members of their commercial networks who were
New Christians, it seems that large networks were the norm.18
Lopes da Cunha denounced many New Christians associates as juda-
izers, but he undoubtedly had commercial contact with Old Christians
as well. As much evidence from the trial transcripts of the Inquisition
archives confirms, Old and New Christians commonly interacted in
commercial transactions. This is often demonstrated in the parts of
the trials devoted to defense or Defensa, and it shows especially in the
Contradittas, in which Old Christians—often merchants and ‘familiars’
of the Inquisition—would confirm the sincerity of the Christian belief

IANTT, IL, Processo de Francisco de Palácios, no. 4481. Palácios after his second trial
was convicted on sodomy charges and sentenced to four years exile in Angola. Given
the death rate for Europeans there, this must have been, as with galley sentences,
tantamount to capital punishment.
A fair number of scholars have by now presented these types of case studies based
on records of the Portuguese inquisition, and these show the patterns of investment
of Francisco de Palácios to be quite common. I will not offer details here, but can
refer the reader to: Smith, “The Mercantile Class of Portugal and Brazil;” two more
recent works by James C. Boyajian, Portuguese Bankers at the Court of Spain, 1626–1650
(New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1983), and Boyajian, Portuguese Trade
in Asia; finally the recent work of Studnicki-Gizbert, A Nation upon the Ocean Sea, also
uncovers far-flung Portuguese trading networks through the records of the Spanish
This event sapped Porto of its dynamism as a commercial center in the early part
of the 1620s, coming at an especially bad time on the eve of resumption of hostilities
with the Dutch Republic. Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:61–2.
IANTT, IC, Processo de Paulo Lopes da Cunha, no. 5385.
68 chapter four

of the defendant and discredit the denunciations of accusers, mostly

defendants themselves in Inquisition trials. Defense mostly involved
ascribing an ulterior motive for damning testimony, and witnesses
for the defense as well as defendants themselves tried to establish the
existence of prejudice by mentioning previous quarrels between the
merchants and their accusers. So, for example, in the trial of Pedro
Aires Vitoria, Bento Novais—an Old Christian merchant—confirmed
the enmity between Vitoria and one of his accusers, Luís da Cunha. Da
Cunha had sent Vitoria to Brazil to sell some flour and buy sugar, but
Vitoria failed to get a good price for the flour in Brazil. This had led
to a public spat between the two.19 While focused on New Christians,
inquisition documents do not support the conclusion that New Christian
commercial networks operated separately from Old Christian ones.
This prevalence of widespread merchant networks is also borne out
in Leonor Costa’s study. She has found forty-six Portugal-based mer-
chants who, in the period before 1640, had at least three correspon-
dents in the Islands or in Brazil. Some of these merchants had many
correspondents, such as Fernão Rodrigues D’Elvas, whose activities
described in the notarial archives show eight correspondents in Brazil
in the period between 1580 and 1601. Another merchant active in the
same period, Rodrigo da Veiga D’Evora, counted nine correspondents
in Madeira, Bahia and Pernambuco.20 Furthermore, the total numbers
of contacts may have been even higher, since Costa has compiled this
list from freight contracts, which typically do not reveal all the inves-
tors involved.
Among those on her list are two who show the fluidity of Brazilian
networks. These are the Porto merchants Domingos Lopes Vitória, with
six correspondents in Bahia and Pernambuco, and Francisco de Cáceres,
with eight correspondents in Pernambuco and Rio de Janeiro. Evidence
from the freight contracts would seem to indicate that these two Porto
merchants kept separate groups of correspondents abroad. Elsewhere,
however, we can see that these two groups of correspondents may have
been interdependent. In the trial of Marcos de Góes, several witnesses

Bento Novais claimed: “. . . e que avera tres annos que Luís da Cunha contraditado
publicamente se queixava co[m] Reo, lhe não dar satisfassam da dita farinha, e que sobre isso ouve
entre elles algumas desaversas e palavras de cuia formalidade se não lembra . . .” Of course, some
witnesses and “familiars” supported charges against defendants. IANTT, IC, Processo
de Pedro Aires Vitoria, no. 3217.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:301–5.
merchants and merchant networks 69

claimed that he arranged numerous shipments of sugar in conjunction

with the two Porto merchants named above. Since they all worked
together, they presumably had access to each other’s correspondents.
Even if correspondents in Brazil tried to form exclusive relationships
with investors in the metropolitan center, the prevailing structure of
diversified portfolios and multiple investors in a single cargo meant that
they were effectively working for other partners, hidden or not.21
Who were the correspondents in Brazil? Costa’s examination of
notarial sources gives the names of a great number of merchants in
Brazil who arranged sales and shipments of cargoes coming from and
going to the metropolis. Many of them probably only resided in Brazil
temporarily. Costa found thirty-six who appear to have been particularly
active, according to the quantity of notarial documents associated with
them. In the period from 1602–1614, for example, Pero Dias Sanches
arranged cargoes for at least eight merchants in Portugal.22 Presumably,
many correspondents moved back to the metropolis once they had
garnered a working capital for themselves. A sojourn in Brazil was not
an uncommon occupation for a junior member of a merchant house,
and many established merchants had begun their careers this way. One
such was Manuel de Medeiros, who established himself as a success-
ful merchant on Lisbon’s merchant row, Rua Nova, via the captaincy
of Espírito Santo, where he had traded sugar as a youth.23 Diogo da
Fonseca, likewise, returned to Porto after trading in Brazil on behalf
of his father, Gonçalo Cardoso.24
Portuguese merchants involved in trading Brazilian sugar were also
well represented in the northwestern European port cities where this
sugar was destined to travel. Unlike Brazil, where a stint of a few years as
a correspondent might mark the beginning of a merchant’s career, some
Portuguese merchants only went to northern Europe if they intended to
stay permanently. This was especially so with New Christian merchants
traveling to Amsterdam, where Judaism was openly practiced. But New

Ibid., and IANTT, IL, Processo de Marcos de Góes, no. 3148.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:296. These at least were projected shipments, as
described in freight contracts. The merchants were Antonio Martins Viegas, Diogo
Fernandes D’Elvas, Diogo Ribeiro, Fernão Rodrigues D’Elvas, Garcia Rodrigues Vaz,
Gaspar Fernandes Penso, Manuel Rodrigues D’Elvas, Manuel Rodrigues Mértola.
IANTT, IL, Processo de Manuel de Medeiros, no. 9974
IANTT, IL, Processo de Diogo da Fonseca, no. 9462. This apparently is not the same
Gonçalo Cardoso who was active as a merchant in Hamburg after 1610. Kellenbenz,
Unternehmerkrafte, 244–5.
70 chapter four

Christians returning from Hamburg or even Antwerp were also vulner-

able to persecution if they returned home. In 1616 officials of the Holy
Office in Portugal worried about the synagogues in Amsterdam and
Hamburg and feared that the New Christian merchants in Antwerp
who had such close relationships with factors and correspondents in
Amsterdam and Hamburg would follow the “laws of Moses” when in
these cities.25 One New Christian merchant in Portugal, Cristovão Lopes,
received advice from two Old Christian friends around this time that
he should send his son to “frandes,” (Flanders) where he might become
a rich merchant. According to these friends, he refused on the grounds
that this area was too uncertain in its adherence to Catholicism.26
Despite the danger of eventual religious persecution, the Portuguese
merchant community in Antwerp was still vigorous and maintained
connections in every part of Portugal’s overseas trade, including the
sugar trade with Brazil. As Pohl has shown, younger merchants seek-
ing to make their names would sometimes take temporary residence
in Antwerp before returning to the Iberian Peninsula or moving on to
other parts. Aside from these up-and-comers, the ‘nation’ in Antwerp
was anchored in several large families. These included the Ximenes
family, who for over a century remained at the apex of Portuguese
society in the city on the Schelde. The Ximenes, with members in
Lisbon, Seville, Cadiz, Florence, Venice, Hamburg and elsewhere,
traded in spices, sugar, grain, gems, wood, textiles, and books. They
also married into prominent Low Countries families and had familial
ties with other successful Portuguese merchant clans, including the
D’Evora, and the D’Andrade.27
Diego Teixeira de Sampaio typifies a merchant life that embraced
much of the physical extent of the sugar trade to Antwerp. Born in

One official claimed: “E consta por duas testemunhas de crédito que muitos dos ditos cristãos-
novos de Anvers vão à dita cidade de Amsterdão e continuam na dita sinagoga e não conversam nem
tratam com os judeus portugueses que vão a ela principalmente no tempo em que os judeus fazem suas
festas e os que vivem em Holanda e Zelandia vão quase todos os sábados à sinagoga, e os que vivem na
mesma cidade de Amsterdão vão três vezes na semana a ela, e é público que nesta cidade de Amsterdão
todos os portugueses são judeus.” Isaías Rosa Pereira, ed., A inquisição em Portugal, (Lisbon:
Vega, 1993), 81–2. According to the mother of Francisco de Palácios, who testified at
his trial, there was even a network of informers, including familiars of the Inquisition
who extorted money from New Christian travelers to Amsterdam, threatening to expose
them as judaizers. IANTT, IL, Processo de Francisco de Palácios, no. 4481.
“tevessem la alguma coisa contra nossa santa fee catholicqua” IANTT, IL, Processo de
Cristovão Lopes, no. 1418.
Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 82–3.
merchants and merchant networks 71

Lisbon in 1581, he began his merchant life in Brazil and had moved
to Antwerp by 1613. There he married into the rich and powerful
Andrade family and he raised enough wealth to be counted among the
richest of the Antwerp Portuguese. In 1646 he moved on to Cologne
and later to Hamburg, where he converted to Judaism.28
As with de Sampaio, members of prominent merchant families in
Antwerp often radiated out into other northwestern European cities.
Holland was frequently the destination. Luís Fernandes was a prominent
sugar trader in the second half of the sixteenth century in Antwerp.
His brother, Duarte, moved to Amsterdam in the 1590s with his son
Manuel Rodrigues da Veiga, who was the first Portuguese resident
attested in the city’s notarial archives.29 Manuel’s brother—also named
Duarte—moved between Rouen, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. This
period marked the beginning of a steady immigration, as many other
families followed similar trajectories. Another early arrival was Garcia
Pimentel, coming to Holland from Venice in 1596.30 These merchants
brought with them a rich world of connections. The trade networks of
da Veiga and Pimentel encompassed between them Portugal, Brazil,
North Africa, Spain, England, the Atlantic islands, and the Levant.31
Trading sugar appeared to be a chief activity of these early immi-
grants in Amsterdam, performed in collaboration with family mem-
bers and correspondents in Antwerp and Portugal.32 Already in 1600,
the States General had taken notice of the trading activities of the
Portugiesche natie, although their numbers were small.33 In 1602 the
Dutch admiralty seized off the coast of Portugal several vessels car-
rying sugar. Subsequent investigation revealed that the ship’s investors

Ibid., 86–87. He was the brother-in-law of Porto merchant Manuel de Andrade:
IANTT, IC, Processo de Manuel de Andrade, no. 8970.
This was in 1595. See: Koen, “Notarial Records,” 1, no. 1 (1967): 111.
Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen. 90–1; Koen, “Notarial Records,” 1, no. 1 (1967):
109. It is my purpose here only to provide a few examples that show typical patterns.
The subject of Sephardic immigration to northern port cities is already very well
documented in the secondary literature.
Koen, “Notarial Records,” 1, no. 2 (1967): 110–2, 118–22; 2, no. 1 (1968): 111–12,
114–15, 117–18, 123; Israel, “Sephardic Immigration,” 49.
For general information about this immigration: Israel, “Sephardic Immigration,”
45–53; Daniel M. Swetschinski, “The growth and composition of the long-distance
trade of England and the Dutch Republic before 1750,” (Brandeis, 1980); and more
recently by the same author: Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans.
Japikse, ed., RSG, 1600–1601, 339, 341. See also: Arend H. Huussen, “The Legal
Position of the Jews in the Dutch Republic,” in Dutch Jewry: Its History and Secular Culture
(1500–2000), ed. Jonathan Israel and Reinier Salverda (Leiden: Brill, 2002), 31.
72 chapter four

were New Christians in Amsterdam, including the above-mentioned

Manuel Rodriges Veiga, as well as Duarte Fernandes, Francisco Pinto
de Brito, Hendrick Garces and Fernando de Mercado. Their Antwerp
partners were members of the prominent D’Evora, Ximenes and
Faillero merchant houses.34
After the expiration of the Twelve Year Truce, New Christian
immigration to Amsterdam accelerated, although numbers remained
relatively small in the period up to 1630. One measure of the popula-
tion is in the number of Portuguese account-holders in Amsterdam’s
Bank of Exchange. In 1609 these numbered just twenty-four. They
had grown to 106 by 1620, and they remained at about that level
until the 1640s, after which Portuguese immigration to Amsterdam
increased substantially. Swetschinski has estimated the entire popula-
tion of Portuguese immigrants of Jewish background in Amsterdam
at around 800 in the 1620s.35 Among the most successful in the 1610s
was Bento Osorio, who deposed to an Amsterdam notary in 1618 that
he had freighted two hundred ships in the previous three years. These
were mostly to collect salt in Portugal as the factor of Andrea Lopes
Pinto, the asiento contract holder for salt and brazilwood at this time.36
Osorio also traded Brazilian sugar clandestinely after the establishment
of the WIC, in which he was a shareholder.37
Portuguese immigration to Hamburg began around the same time
as that to Amsterdam. In spite of a long-standing trade relationship
between the two areas, in 1600 there were practically no permanent
Portuguese residents in Hamburg. Ten years later there were about
20 resident families.38 One of the most prominent of these early
merchants was Ruy Fernandes Cardoso, who in 1612 was the largest
importer of sugar into the city.39 His brother Gonçalo arranged for
shipment from Lisbon, and Gonçalo’s son, Diogo da Fonseca, acted as
their correspondent in Brazil. After 1620 their merchant activities in
Hamburg apparently ceased, and this may be because of the imprison-

Rijperman, ed., RSG, 1602–1603, 215–6, 289.
Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans, 91.
Koen, “Notarial Records,” 13, no. 2 (1979): 238.
Kellenbenz, “Der Brasilienhandel der Hamburger ‘Portugiesen’,” 324.
Kellenbenz, Unternehmerkrafte, 242–3. Hulks or urcas from Hamburg and Lübeck
were frequent visitors to Brazilian harbors, as discussed in the previous chapter, but
their freights were financed by Portuguese merchants in Portugal and Antwerp and a
variety of Flemish and German merchants.
Ibid., 244–5.
merchants and merchant networks 73

ment of Gonçalo and Diogo by the Holy Office in Portugal in 1618.

While Ruy Fernandes also traded in East Indian products, his strong
association with Brazilian sugar imports shows the importance of New
Christian immigration in developing new markets for this product in
northwestern Europe.
Another important sugar merchant in Hamburg at this time was
Gonçalo Lopes Coutinho. He arranged shipments of Brazilian sugar
from Lisbon, Viana and especially Porto, where his brother-in-law
was the very successful Porto merchant, Álvaro de Azevedo. Gonçalo’s
activities extended to ship owning; he was reported in 1624 as part
owner of a ship along with other Portuguese and German merchants.
Later he accepted the invitation of the King of Denmark to inhabit
the newly founded city of Glückstadt, where, among other things, he
started a sugar refinery.40
Portuguese merchants, whether New or Old Christian, in the king-
dom or beyond, were not the only ones to trade Brazilian sugar. The
importance of Portuguese commodities, such as salt, in larger European
trade networks had led to widespread involvement in Portuguese trade
in the major port cities long before the Brazilian sugar trade began.
European merchants from a wide area were poised to engage in the
commercialization of Portuguese colonial products. According to one
study, at least 175 merchants or merchant families from Northwest
Europe resided in Portugal or Portuguese Atlantic colonies—including
Brazil—in the period between 1550 and 1630.41 Records from Madeira
show equal numbers of Portuguese and non-Portuguese merchants
active on the island in the sixteenth century. Of the 146 non-Portuguese
merchants mentioned, 47 indicated Flemish or German provenance.42

Ibid., 251.
Drawing widely from Iberian and Low Countries archives, as well as published
sources, Eddy Stols’ work is still the most comprehensive study of the presence of
foreigners from the southern Netherlands in the Iberian Peninsula or in Spanish and
Portuguese colonies. He compiled a list of 587 Low-Countries merchants involved in
the Iberian trade. Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, Bijlagen, 1–71. A few on his list are from
the northern Netherlands or Germany.
Azevedo e Silva, José Manuel, A Madeira e a construção do mundo Atlântico (séculos
XV–XVII), 2 vols. (Funchal: Centro de Estudos de História do Atlântico Secretaria
Regional do Turismo e Cultura, 1995), I: 400–4. The others were largely from France
and Italy. A few hailed from England. For many of these foreigners—including some
mentioned below—an earlier commercial presence on Madeira, or other Atlantic
Islands, was a convenient starting point for involvement in the Brazilian sugar trade.
Indeed, although Madeiran production declined at the same time that Brazilian produc-
tion soared, the trades were linked. Throughout the period described here, Madeira
74 chapter four

This is a considerable number, offering firm evidence that Portugal’s

main port cities, both in the metropolis and colonies, were often highly
cosmopolitan places.
Some of these merchant families became deeply involved in various
types of Portuguese trade and even in Portuguese political life. One
such merchant was Gaspar Pels, who was born in Antwerp and moved
to Lisbon in 1554. He and his children traded, but his children even-
tually gained crown appointments and even achieved knightly honors
in Portugal.43 Another Low-Countries merchant was João Filter, who
traded in Lisbon between about 1596 and 1643. He did business in
Lisbon, Bahia and Angola, owned a ship that traveled to Brazil, and
freighted others for Brazil, sometimes with partly Flemish crews. He
also had business with the bishop of Bahia and the King, who accorded
him trading privileges in the Angolan slave trade.44
Another firm described by Stols in detail is one centered on Pedro
(Pieter) Clarisse, much of whose correspondence is preserved for the
period of 1605 to 1631. Stemming from an Antwerp merchant family
involved partly in trading luxury fabrics from the Low Countries for
Brazilian sugar, Pieter arrived in Lisbon in 1605. Initially he served as
an apprentice to the Low-Countries merchant, Maximilaan Spanooghe.
Afterwards, he served in the Portuguese merchant house of Antonio
Rodrigues de Veiga, where he began to invest in a small way in Veiga’s
Brazil trade.45 In 1608 and 1609, he was an investor in at least 8 voyages
between Portugal and Brazil—all with Portuguese captains—contrib-
uting a total of 48,925 reis. Aside from his own business, he obtained
capital through credit from his brother Louis in Antwerp as well as
other Antwerp merchants involved in the Portuguese trade. He began
to make a significant profit by the next decade, gaining 197,665 reis in
1610 from a two-year period of trade. By 1613 he was independent
and moved to the Rua das Mudas in Lisbon, and in 1619 he married
the daughter of a Portuguese-German merchant family, Marie Goudick.
He continued to import sugar from Brazil, mostly to Lisbon, through

was an intermediary port of call for Brazilian ships. Not only that, but towards the end
of the sixteenth century, merchants shipping Brazilian sugar sometimes trans-shipped
their product in Madeira and relabeled it to take advantage of the price premium that
accrued to sugar from Madeira during that time: 416–18.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, Bijlagen, 52.
Ibid., Bijlagen, 28.
Ibid., 229.
merchants and merchant networks 75

the 1620s. He counted numerous correspondents in Porto, Brazil and

Inquisition trial transcripts also attest to the persistence of southern
Netherlanders in trade in Portugal, since members of foreign-born
houses sometimes ran into problems with the Holy Office for real or
imagined adherence to heretical doctrines. One such merchant, João
Piper (Pijper), from Limburg, traded with his brothers in Porto in
the 1630s, and his trial shows the presence in Porto of a number of
Flemish and Portuguese correspondents, including Pedro van Justeren47
and Pedro de Pauthere. Piper, born to Catholic parents near Limburg,
moved to Lisbon in 1617 at the age of 13. There he lived with his
uncle, Arnas Ferreira, for one year and then with another Flemish
merchant, Jeronimo da Vadar, until he was 19. Then, working on
commission for other merchants he moved to Hamburg, apparently
with the intention of arranging shipments of grain to Portugal. There
he married a protestant woman under the condition that he convert
to Lutheranism, which he did. The woman died while he was still in
the north, but upon his return to Porto around 1635 he ran afoul of
the inquisition. Although his economic activities are not reported in
detail, he had business relations with the large sugar trader, Balthasar
Pels Sinel, himself of mixed Portuguese and Flemish ancestry. Along
with his brothers, Arnao and Miguel Piper they traded in Porto at
the behest of a Flemish merchant in Lisbon, João Hals, described as
“muito rico.”48
Southern Netherlanders were not alone in residing and trading
in Portugal. A neglected but fascinating merchant correspondence,
transcribed and published a century ago by Uitterdijk, shows the
considerable activities of a Dutch merchant company based in Lisbon
and trading goods between there, Antwerp, and Dutch and Baltic
ports. Gasper Cunertorf and Hans Snel, who resided in Lisbon
where Cunertorf had a Portuguese wife, formed this company. Hans
Snel—rendered Sinel in Portuguese—was eventually the progenitor of
an important Portuguese merchant dynasty and active in the Brazilian

Ibid., 232–7. See also, Bijlagen, 84–91.
Probably the same person as Pedro van Husen, mentioned above.
IANTT, IL, Processo do João Piper, no. 3269. Balthasar Pels Sinel was descended
from the Pels and Snel (Sinel) families described elsewhere in this chapter.
76 chapter four

sugar trade in the seventeenth century.49 The junior member of this

company was Jan Jannsen van Campen who traveled among northern
ports arranging shipments to Portugal and disposed of merchandise
sent from his partners in Lisbon. All three men were from Kampen in
Overijsel, roughly a day’s journey from Amsterdam. Between 1577 and
1582, the years of activity attested in their surviving correspondence,
Jan Jannsen traveled variously between Antwerp, Danzig, Enkhuizen,
Amsterdam and Kampen, mostly arranging for shipments of grain.
Other items sent to the south were ship’s tackle, cloth and clothing,
timber and even church bells entering the export market following
the iconoclastic fury in the Low Countries, when Calvinist reformers
attacked and stripped Catholic churches of their artwork and orna-
mentation. Return cargoes contained both bulk commodities from
Portugal such as wine and salt, but also Portuguese colonial products
such as pepper, brazilwood and sugar. The more valuable cargoes most
often found an outlet in Antwerp, where the company’s correspondent
Adriaan Spelman arranged their re-sale.50
The Kampen company did not neglect to trade in sugar, since they
knew from their Antwerp correspondent “that there is demand and
profit in it.”51 Nevertheless, for them, sugar meant mainly São Tomé
sugar. Of the former they purchased a large quantity in 1577 but feared
sending it to the Low Countries because of the state of the rebellion
there. In 1578 they did send sugar from São Tomé to Antwerp, although
the quantity is not recorded. Later in the same year Snel and Cunertorf
shipped 75 crates of “Thomas suickre” to Spelman, one-third for the com-
pany, and two-thirds on behalf of another merchant who was to give
instructions on its disposal. In 1578 the company also sent to Spelman
“4 vaten melassas” from Brazil, “kosten mit alle onkosten 60R454” (60,454
reis), and they sent brazilwood to Spelman in the same year.52

His daughter, Catarina, married Baltasar Pels, son of Gaspar Pels. Stols, De Spaanse
Brabanders, Bijlagen, 52. Baltasar lived and traded in Porto, but he apparently kept up
his associations with his Flemish relatives and correspondents. He is mentioned in the
inquisition trial of the above-mentioned Limburg-born merchant, João Piper (Pijper),
where it was stated that “Balthezar Pelles Sinel,” though born in Lisbon and trading
in Porto, had at one point resided in Flanders “por hum pouco de tempo aprender
lingua framengo.” IANTT, IL, Processo do João Piper, no. 3269.
J. Nanninga Uitterdijk, Een Kamper handelshuis te Lissabon, 1572–1594 (Zwolle: De
Erven J.J. Tijl, 1904), I–LXXXIX.
“indien wy verstan van Senor Spilman dat dar aftrek end profit op is” Ibid., 26.
Ibid., 37, 50, 153–4, 94.
merchants and merchant networks 77

Otherwise, it is not clear that Snel and Cunertorf bought much

Brazilian sugar during this period of their partnership, although its
price—mostly in Antwerp—is quoted often in their correspondence.
Clearly, though, they witnessed an important growth phase of Brazilian
trade. On one occasion they complained that 38 ships ropes and 148
hawsers that they had imported remained in the patio of the Alfândega
of Lisbon for six weeks waiting for assessment since the scales were
occupied by a great quantity of Brazilian sugar that had arrived appar-
ently all at once.53 The fact that Sinel’s children became major traders
in Brazilian sugar shows how a family firm trading in the sugar of the
Portuguese African islands could make an easy transition to Brazilian
sugar. Presumably many other merchant houses made this lateral move
in the waning decades of the sixteenth century.
As the activities of the merchants in the Kampen documents attest,
the distinction between northern and southern Low Countries mer-
chants was thin.54 The Kampen house operated in a wide geographic
orbit. They shipped to Amsterdam, but their large network of correspon-
dents and the many ports they used throughout northern Europe shows
that their trade did not follow clear-cut national or ‘ethnic’ pathways.55
Nevertheless, clearly there were Dutch merchants trading sugar from
Portugal at an early phase. The activities of the Kampen merchant
house in Lisbon before the arrival of the first New Christian merchants
in Amsterdam show that it was not only New Christian emigration that
prompted Dutch participation in Portuguese ‘rich trades.’
As the sixteenth century progressed, this Dutch involvement in
Portuguese trade increased, as shown in the chapters above. In spite
of political difficulties, some Dutch merchants made their home in

Ibid., 234.
Cunertorf often refers to himself and other Low Countries and Hansa merchants
as “wy Duytschen.” See for example, Ibid., 314.
Other correspondents included: Bonaventura Bodicker who was in Antwerp in
1566 and was practicing business in Danzig by 1572; Johan Cleinhardt who became
Consul of the Hansa “nation” in Lisbon in 1579; Adrian Cornelissen Cuper, a mer-
chant in Armuiden in Zeeland; João Felipe Denís, Portuguese merchant in Antwerp;
Luís Fernandes, Portuguese merchant in Antwerp; Gillis de Greve, Antwerp merchant
who migrated to Hamburg; Gabriel de Haze, merchant in Antwerp; Gillis Hofman
(or van Eyckelberg), merchant in Antwerp; Hans Huisman, Hansa merchant in Ant-
werp; Cornelis Loeffsen who had previously employed Cunretorf in Amsterdam and
traded later in Danzig; Pieter van den Moere, merchant in Antwerp; Adriaan Pauw,
merchant from Amsterdam also active in Emden and Hamburg; Johan van Pelcken,
factor of Danzig merchants in Lisbon in 1569 and later; Andries Stever, merchant in
Danzig. Ibid., CX–CXIV.
78 chapter four

Portugal. Even during periods of embargo, when merchants from or

with connections to the Dutch Republic were officially banned, they
persisted in Portugal and were active in the sugar trade. Two such
people were Cipriaan Joosten Baack and Floris den Otter, resident
in Viana. In 1621 they freighted a ship to Pernambuco, probably the
Anjo Gabriel, captained by Damian de Barros from Viana. There the
Dutch merchants arranged through correspondents for the sale of
various merchandise in exchange for sugar: 13 crates (three white and
ten moscovado) on their behalf and five more consigned to two other
Portuguese merchants from Viana, Francisco Manuel Consuentia and
Joao Álvares. Baack and den Otter did business with their relatives
Hillebrant den Otter and Laurens Joosten Baack in Amsterdam.56 In a
notarial record, three merchants from Amsterdam and one “suikerbak-
ker,” or sugar refiner, testified that they had stayed with den Otter in
Viana, where they had helped him arrange cargoes of merchandise to
go to Brazil, to be traded for sugar.57
The presence of foreign merchants in Portugal is well attested, and
like den Otter and Baack, merchants could always trade in Brazil
through Portuguese correspondents. Evidence for the presence of for-
eigners in Brazil itself is somewhat more ambiguous, especially after
1605 when the royal ban went into effect. However, in the sixteenth
century, foreign involvement in the Brazilian sugar trade clearly led
to a significant presence in Brazil of non-Portuguese merchants, espe-
cially those from the Low Countries. These investors were faced with
the same problems as others in Brazil: whether to focus on trade or
cultivation. Each offered attendant risks. Leaving a plantation to fac-
tors could result in loss from fraud or mismanagement, as happened
to Erasmus Schetz, an early Brazilian mill owner based in Antwerp.58
One of the first engenhos in São Vicente was erected in the 1530s with
capital provided by Jan van Hilst in Lisbon. Later van Hilst owned it
outright with his sons. The Dutchman Willem Joost ten Glommer took
part in a mining expedition into the interior of Brazil in the sixteenth
century. Low countries entrepreneurs from Antwerp to Utrecht owned

GAA, NA, no. 645, 1551–1552.
GAA, NA, no. 747, 125–126. They were Hans Nijs, Gijsbrecht Janssen van
Herdenberch, Carel Wanter and Gerrit Stuyver. The latter, 19 years old in February
of 1622, lived with van Otter for two years between 1619 and 1621.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 104. Schetz was a factor in Antwerp’s Lisbon fac-
tory. He purchased an engenho in São Vicente sometime before 1550 and left it to his
children. Also see: Stols, Os Mercadores Flamengos, 12–13, 20–27.
merchants and merchant networks 79

or operated farms, engenhos, and traded in every part of the Brazilian

coast. These included the Olanda family from Utrecht, early planters
in Pernambuco; Baltasar Volarte, farmer in Porto Calvo; the Brabanter
Pedro de la Ost, landowner in Santo Agostinho, and others. Another
big group of Low Countries merchants settled in Salvador and included
Alberto Framengo, João Adrião, João Poré Montafaux, Guilherme
Martins Pompejo, João Fernades and Julio van den Moere.59
One prominent family, the Hulscher, was especially active in Brazil in
the last part of the sixteenth century. Duarte Osquer and Manuel van
Dale of the Hulscher family were based in Salvador. Duarte Osquer had
four brothers who comprised a network that simultaneously spanned a
vast trade route: João Hulscher in Lisbon, Adam in Hamburg, Hendrik
in Antwerp and Guilherme “Holsquer” in Olinda. He also had a ship
that traveled to Buenos Aires and Córdoba and an engenho on the island
of Itaparica in Salvador.60
The Hulscher brothers apparently worked closely together, employed
Dutch shipping and counted both Portuguese and Low Countries
merchants as correspondents. In 1590 Adam Hulscher freighted an
Amsterdam-based ship—with Claes Claessen as captain—in Hamburg
with the intention of an eventual trip to Brazil. He was to sail to Lisbon
and receive orders there about the trans-Atlantic leg of his journey, pre-
sumably from Adam’s brother, João. The aborted journey was described
to a notary at the behest of an Amsterdam merchant, Pieter Lucas, a
correspondent of Hendrik Hulscher in Antwerp.61 In 1594 they con-
veyed before a notary to Hans de Schot—another Brazil trader—978
quintalen of brazilwood from Rio de Janeiro that had arrived on the
ship of Andries Hoppenhaer in Hamburg and was in the hands of de
Schot’s brother-in-law, Francisco Salvator. They also conveyed goods
from the Canary Islands that had been freighted by João Hulscher or
Thomas van de Walle in a ship captained by Lucas Cornelsz; and they
also sent goods that had been freighted in Brazil by Duarte Hulscher
in Nosse Senhora de Vitoria, captained by Claes van Vosdonck, and den
Sampson, captained by Pauwels Geertsz.62 The geographical dispersion

Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 100–4. A Pieter Jansz, probably from Amsterdam,
sent a shipment of sugar with a ship from Enkhuizen from Brazil around 1591. GAA,
NA, no. 8, 121.
Ibid., 104.
GAA, NA, no. 42, 84V.
GAA, NA, no. 47, 6. There is no explicit indication that these ships did not follow
the prescribed journeys through Lisbon, and it seems most probable that Joao Hulscher
80 chapter four

of these brothers surely offered them great advantages in coordinating

long-distance trade involving numerous ports of call, including Brazil.
Their network of correspondents and their shipping resources were
utterly cosmopolitan.
For merchants without family members residing in strategic ports
of call, correspondents could facilitate Brazilian trade. Hans de Schot,
mentioned above, resided in Amsterdam where he arranged shipping
for Brazilian residents from the Low Countries. Several freight contracts
show the pattern of his trading, which involved ships and captains
from Holland. The contracts were generally loosely prescriptive, and
envisioned ports of call respectively in Portugal, the southern Iberian
coast, Africa, Madeira or the Canary Islands, Brazil, Portugal and
then Holland. The correspondents in these places are not specified,
although in one contract the presence of a “super cargo” on board
is indicated. De Schot clearly intended to maximize his profits with
trading based on information received on the spot in Portugal and
elsewhere. His activities were closely integrated with foreign merchant
houses resident in Brazil.63
Vast geographic networks, like that formed by the Hulscher family,
became more problematic later on. After 1598, the Habsburg crown
meant to create a clear distinction between merchants from the ‘obedi-
ent’ and ‘rebellious’ provinces, the latter of which were neither to trade
nor reside in Portugal or its colonies. However, the close integration and
mobility of merchants from various regions characterized the Brazilian
sugar trade from the beginning. These qualities allowed merchants from
Holland to keep their trade with Brazil going during embargoes. One
merchant company formed in 1600 showed the possibilities clearly.
The company comprised three major investors: Cornelis Snellinck in
Amsterdam, Hieronymus de Vader in Lisbon and the Antwerp merchant
Gasper Basiliers de Jonge. The latter was required to travel to Bahia

coordinated activity from there. Several of the ships indicated had both Portuguese
names and Dutch captains, so it is possible that there was some attempt to conceal
the national origins of the ships and captains.
GAA, NA, no. 47, 96V; no. 48, 21; One contract, from 1598, specifies a journey
from Amsterdam to Danzig to load grain to be shipped to Masagan. From there wine
was to be loaded in the Canaries or Madeira to be taken to Pernambuco where another
cargo, to include brazilwood, would be returned to Portugal. Ibid., no. 50, 39V. Hans
de Schot had business dealings with the Hulscher brothers again in 1595–1597 regard-
ing a shipment of sugar from Duarte Hulscher. GAA, NA no. 52, 101V. Presumably
other investors stood behind him in these freight contracts. For other activities of de
Schot see: GAA, NA, no. 32, 340; no. 49, 271; no. 51, 79.
merchants and merchant networks 81

for five years, which was the intended duration of the company. Behind
these three major investors, who contributed 4,000 guilders (581,818
reis) to the company, stood seven smaller investors from Amsterdam,
Rotterdam and Antwerp, each contributing 1,000 guilders.64 Basiliers,
more of a partner than a factor, was also to receive 8% commission on
export sales from Brazil and 5% on imports. They probably assumed
that if the face of the company comprised Catholic Low Countries
merchants in Portugal and Brazil, they would not meet with the oppo-
sition of crown officials who would be unaware that they operated on
mostly Dutch capital.
It is not known how this company fared, but one of the inves-
tors—Snellinck—appears in Amsterdam’s notarial records throughout
the decade in transactions involving Brazil. In 1604 he received from
Manuel Rodrigo Veiga—one of the first Portuguese New Christians
to take up residence in Amsterdam—262 pounds Flemish to establish
himself as a partner in a voyage to Brazil and Angola. The captains
were Barent Sas and Hendrick Gijsbertsz. In 1604, a ship of which he
was part owner, t’Fortuyn, was seized at sea on a trip between Brazil and
Portugal. In 1605 he was involved in a dispute with a ship’s captain and
its owners over costs related to a voyage that he had freighted to Brazil.
In 1606 he received a summons from a notary to settle an account
over another cargo sent to Brazil, in this case with a Portuguese cor-
respondent, Raphael Fernandes, based in Antwerp. In the same year,
one of the Dutch admiralties seized a ship in whose Brazilian cargo
he had invested.65 He appears to have retired from the Brazil trade
sometime in the middle of this decade.66 Snellinck ran risks in a period
during which both Dutch and Portuguese authorities could threaten
Dutch vessels traveling to Brazil, but he persisted in trading. He was
able to do so because of his far-flung and cosmopolitan network of

Antwerp: Vincent van Hove; Rotterdam: Hendrick Uylkens; Amsterdam: Willem
Willemsz, Willem Aertsz Organist, Hillebrant den Otter, Marten Papenbroeck and
Jacques de Meijere. GAA, NA, no. 33, 390V–392. Snellinck was originally from
Antwerp and had a Portuguese wife from there. Koen, “Notarial Records,” 2, no. 2
(1968): 259.
GAA, NA, no. 98, 21V; no. 196, 91V; no. 35, 254–254V; no. 104, 61V; no. 195,
He claimed in 1617 to have been active as a freighter for Brazil fifteen years
previously. GAA, NA, no. 645, 43V–44.
82 chapter four

At a certain point, having a Portuguese correspondent probably

became a sine qua non for doing business in Brazil, because for a non-
Portuguese merchant to actually reside in Brazil after the Alvará of
1605 was increasingly difficult. Nevertheless, it seems that at least some
Low Countries merchants still managed to live in Brazil. In 1612 Joris
Adriaensz deposed to a notary in Amsterdam that he had lived in Brazil
for eighteen years. At the same time Pieter Beltgens claimed that he
had been there for six years. However, they did not indicate when their
residency had ceased.67 When they and some other Amsterdam mer-
chants were asked again in 1617 to testify regarding norms for weights
of sugar crates in Brazil, no Dutchman younger than 42 claimed to
have lived in Brazil. Probably, by this time, the efforts of the Habsburg
crown to drive foreigners out of the colony had begun to bear fruit.68
A Brazilian document from 1618 entitled Memorial of all foreigners living
in the captaincies of Rio Grande, Paraíba, Itamaracá and Pernambuco, and Bahia
of whom there may be no suspicion lists only 17 ‘authorized’ foreigners, most
of whom by then had been long-time residents in Brazil.69
The examples of merchants and merchant organization discussed
above give only a small sampling of the large merchant networks that
spanned the Atlantic and spread across the Atlantic coast of Europe.
Nevertheless, they lead to some unmistakable conclusions about the
nature of merchant organization in the sugar trade. While family-based
merchant houses and ‘ethnic’ communities of merchants remained
relevant, the trade overall had a strong inter-imperial character.
Merchant networks that traded Brazilian sugar had become atomistic
and dynamic. Their geographic and ethnic dispersion, in particular, was
extremely noteworthy. Sugar networks encompassed Brazil, the Atlantic
Islands, Portuguese port towns, and a variety of trading towns in the
northwestern part of Europe. Contrary to what has sometimes been
assumed, the Brazilian sugar trade was not exclusively the preserve of
New Christians, nor even an exclusive Portuguese undertaking in gen-
eral. Without a doubt, New Christians were a formidable element in
towns such as Antwerp and Amsterdam, but they did not monopolize
Brazilian trade. Demand for and profit from sugar drew many foreigners

GAA, NA, no. 197, 173–174.
GAA, NA, no. 645, 43V–44.
Livro Primeiro do Governo do Brasil, 1607–1633, 183–5.
merchants and merchant networks 83

from northern Europe to Portuguese towns, and in the early decades

of the trade to Brazil itself.
One result of the dynamism of sugar trading networks was to allow
the trade to persist through periods of political interference. When
Habsburg embargoes forbade the shipment of sugar to towns in the
Dutch Republic, merchants in those towns could continue to import
indirectly through their correspondents in Germany or Antwerp.
Likewise, the closing of Brazil to all foreigners in 1605 led to a sharp
decrease of Low Countries residents living there, but they continued
their trade from Portugal, employing Portuguese correspondents in the
colony. In the context of Spain’s long struggle with the Dutch Republic,
merchants were nimble and ready to do business in new towns, when
political circumstances dictated it. The result was to ensure the continu-
ity of Brazilian sugar shipments to northern European markets.


Buying cheap in one place and selling dear in another was the invio-
lable principle of merchant activity, then as today. However, many
variables affected the ability to trade and to gain. When a merchant
considered trading along a particular route, he was—in part—limited
by the extent of his commercial contacts. Beyond this, merchants relied
on the availability of shipping and infrastructure in various ports that
would make their trading possible. These imposed obvious transaction
costs and were an important calculation in their trade.1
This chapter considers transaction costs in the trade in Brazilian
sugar and treats three main themes. The first is the port system and the
ports themselves, since their size and efficiency affected the speed with
which sugar could be delivered to markets. The second is the operating
costs of shipping, which was one of the main expenses for merchants.
These costs were mainly conditioned by the types of vessels used and
the lengths of voyages. Finally, the chapter examines the ownership and
supply of shipping, since the supply of ships contributed to the cost of
transportation in general. Specifically for the Brazilian sugar trade, the
demand for ships in the empire probably exceeded domestic supply.
The chapter concludes by showing how foreign-built ships entered the
Portuguese merchant marine and examines the patterns of ownership
that made this possible. The originality of this chapter—which other-
wise owes a great debt to the monumental work of Leonor Costa—lies
precisely in this latter conclusion. By extending the scope of her study
to Dutch archives I have been able to modify her conclusions to show
important trans-imperial integration even in the area of shipping.

For a theoretical framework on transaction costs, see: Douglass C. North, “Institu-
tions, Transaction Costs, and the Rise of Merchant Empires,” in The Political Economy
of Merchant Empires, ed. James D. Tracy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991);
Russell M. Mennard, “Transport costs and long-range trade, 1300–1800: Was there a
European ‘transport revolution’ in the early modern era?,” in The Political Economy of
Merchant Empires, ed. James D. Tracy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
86 chapter five

The working of the port system, the cost of shipping and the cost
of ships were indispensable pieces of knowledge to merchants in the
early modern period. Along with information about prices in differ-
ent places, this enabled them to adopt profit-making strategies. These
concerns were reflected when they contracted with a captain to carry
freight. Contracts varied somewhat in style from place to place, but
their basic elements were the same. A merchant-freighter agreed to pay
a captain to deliver goods to one place and—usually—to return with
others. These were to be delivered within a set period of time, and
therefore envisioned a maximum turnover time in port. Contracts also
accounted for related incidental expenses, such as tolls. In the event of
disputes, they also allowed for systems of adjudicating conflicts, usually
stipulating that they be judged by a group of respected merchants who
were not interested in the transaction.
Unfortunately for historians, most shipping arrangements transacted
between 1550 and 1630 were by mutual verbal agreement between
parties who knew each other. Merchants hired a notary in only a
minority of cases, and probably usually in a climate of uncertainty
or distrust. It is impossible to know with precision how representative
are the data from freight contracts.2 Also, freight prices could fluctuate
widely, even in the short term. But, although their use for quantifying
trade is limited, freight contracts remain the best source for indicating
patterns of trade and also for showing cost, which is at least loosely
indicated in the freight price. They may also indicate changes in ship-
ping costs over time.
A salient feature of the Brazilian sugar trade was that it was decen-
tralized and operated out of many ports both in the colony and in
Europe. In Portugal, the trade’s growth offered new opportunities
for the kingdom’s northern and smaller harbors, including Porto and
Viana. These had been shut out of the trade routes between Portugal
and Asia but were allowed to trade with Brazil. They were already
well connected with international markets, and furthermore, the wine
estates of their hinterland—Entre Minho e Douro—offered a readily
negotiable commodity for Brazilian markets. Along with Lisbon, these
harbors contributed to the supply of shipping available to merchants.

For a general discussion on Dutch freight contracts see: Winkelman, ed., Bronnen
voor de Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Oostzeehandel, 2:VIII–XIII. For the Portuguese freight
contracts Leonor Costa is excellent: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:23–26, 250–72.
the cost of shipping 87

With three major harbors at their disposal in Portugal, merchants on

the sugar trade were allowed a fair amount of flexibility in deciding
how to move cargoes in the metropolis (See Appendix A).
While it is impossible to say for certain how much sugar went to
which port, there seems little doubt that Lisbon received the most. One
reason was that it had invested in new port infrastructure. The increase
in trade in Brazil may have caused congestion in the Alfândega in its
initial phases, but by the end of the century, unloading appeared to
go smoothly.3 Two Dutch merchants who had shipped sugar through
Lisbon via São Tomé and Brazil in the late 1590s said that sugar, once
arrived in Lisbon, was unloaded in the Alfândega within just a few days.
The total turnover time in Lisbon for unloading and loading a new
cargo did not exceed three weeks, the merchants claimed with approval.4
In fact, the period of 1580 to 1605 marked a major expansion and
improvement in Lisbon’s port infrastructure. Lisbon’s wharfs boasted
an abundance of warehouses and lighters for unloading and loading
cargoes, and a new customs house completed in 1605.5
It is not always clear why merchants chose one port over the other
to ship cargoes, but they must have been mindful of costs when they
decided. The presence of pre-existing merchant networks probably con-
ditioned most decisions. However, when merchants had correspondents
in a variety of port towns and could choose, they no doubt weighed
cost factors as well. For instance, Lisbon’s port was acknowledged to
charge the most taxes on sugar, but its larger size meant that there was
readier access to credit, insurance markets and shipping for re-export
to other European ports. This allowed merchants to turn over cargoes
more rapidly. Viana charged the least taxes on sugar, but its harbor
was silted and the turnaround time must have been substantially longer
since ships had to anchor further away from the docks.
Merchants also considered the turnaround time in Brazilian harbors,
although this was probably a minor factor in their shipping decisions.
As in Portugal, turnaround speed depended on the port infrastructure.
Here the important thing was the centralization of sugar and other

As in once in the late 1570s, when a large arrival of sugar from Brazil tied up the
Alfândega for weeks. Uitterdijk, Een Kamper Handelshuis, 234.
GAA, NA, no. 197, 84. This was the testimony of Cornelis Cornelissen Dogger
and Joris Adriaensz in 1611 in Amsterdam. They claimed to have been active in the
Brazilian sugar trade thirteen years prior.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:37.
88 chapter five

merchandise in warehouses close to the wharf and the presence of

smaller vessels for loading and unloading ships out in the harbor. Little
direct evidence shows how much time ships spent in Brazilian ports, but
the maximum turnaround times that are stipulated in freight contracts
are a useful guide, since they were likely formulated around merchants’
real experiences. Pernambuco offered the fastest turnaround time, with
Bahia coming in second and Rio de Janeiro third. Based on the freight
contracts that mention time in harbor, the average turnaround in these
ports before 1630 was respectively 56, 60 and 69 days.6 Contracts usu-
ally directed one- to three-months’ time for loading, but after 1624,
when the WIC menaced Brazilian harbors, freighters looked for a
much faster turnaround in Brazil, hoping to minimize their exposure
to marauding Dutch warships.7 Although merchants were concerned
with the turnaround time of the ships that they sent to Brazil, their
decisions about which ports to visit were probably ultimately based on
supply of the commodity. The most ships went to the largest areas of
production (see Figure 5.1).
On the trade routes between Portugal and northwestern Europe it
also seems unlikely that port size and infrastructure played the main role
in decisions about where to ship sugar. There were many other factors
for merchants to consider, such as weather and political circumstances.
In comparison to shipping between Portugal, Brazil and the Atlantic
Islands—which could operate more-or-less year-round—harbors and
sea-lanes north of Zeeland could fill with ice and be unavailable for
shipping during the winter and early spring. Merchants also took into
account the possibility that hostile officials might confiscate their car-
goes in certain ports, or that privateers or pirates might claim them
en route.
The turnover time in port was important to a merchant because he
had to pay operating costs for a ship every day until a cargo was com-
pletely loaded and unloaded. These costs, in turn, were determined by
the size and type of ship. Larger ships were more expensive to operate—
in absolute terms—than smaller ones. However, many other factors deter-
mined the costs of shipping, including the exigencies of defense in
dangerous waters. All of these costs, including ordinary expenses—such
as labor and victuals—figured in the total shipping costs for merchants.

Ibid., 329–338.
Ibid., 341.
the cost of shipping 89

Number of Mentions

100 Rio de Janeiro

Espírito Santo
40 Bahia
20 Pernambuco
1580– 1590– 1600– 1610– 1620–
1589 1599 1609 1619 1629

Figure 5.1 Lisbon and Porto notarial contracts mentioning Brazilian

ports of call
Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 2:191–216.

There are very few surviving documents that break down these expenses,
but the total costs probably find a fair reflection in the freight charges
that merchants paid to move cargoes (see Figure 5.1).
Operating costs on sugar voyages could vary widely because there was
no standard type of vessel used. Normally, in early modern shipping
practices, the ratio of value to bulk of a particular commodity played
a large role in determining the type of vessel that would transport it.
In a climate of naval warfare and near constant threat from pirates
and privateers, trade items with a high value-to-bulk ratio were typi-
cally transported in large and well-armed ships, since their sales value
justified the extra expenses that large ships entailed.8 These larger ships
were typical on routes that served the ‘rich trades,’ especially the circuits
connecting Europe and Asia. As an item of transportation, sugar fell
into an intermediary category, with a value-to-bulk ratio that probably
stood somewhere between that of high-value commodities such as pep-
per and low-value commodities, such as salt. It is not surprising, then,
that sugar was transported from Brazil on vessels ranging from the very
small to the very large. Shipping practices responded to a variety of
variables beyond the desire to observe economies of scale.9

Large ships were obviously more expensive to run, although they could achieve a
certain economy of scale, since the staffing requirements of large ships did not increase
proportionally to the increasing tonnage of a ship. Ibid., 350.
The question of how to protect these vessels was hotly debated between merchants
and crown officials, who all wished to protect the sugar trade but disagreed about the
best way to go about it. This thesis does not attempt to explore these debates in detail,
since they are written about fairly extensively. In particular see the work of Costa,
90 chapter five

Although ship sizes on the sugar routes could vary quite dramatically,
contemporary descriptions of ships were often imprecise, and freight
contracts rarely specified the exact tonnage of a ship. Portuguese sources
describe vessels as naus, navios (boat), caravelas, urcas (hulks) and patachos.
Although their construction could vary, one of the major distinctions
among them was their size. Costa has located the main threshold at
about 130 tons. Below this number, ships were generally described as
patachos, navios and, most commonly, caravels. These could be as mod-
est as 35 tons, although a range of 60 to 80 tons may have been most
common. Larger ships were generally described as naus, and they may
have ranged from 130 to 350 tons.10 Hulks (urcas) were similar in size
to naus but these were northern European ships averaging 200 to 300
tons. They were constructed for the Baltic trade in bulk goods, espe-
cially grain. Compared to naus they were slow and flat-bottomed, which
were necessary qualities for shallower Baltic harbors. Their size meant
that they might have been frequently underutilized when employed on
Brazilian routes, since the goods traded on these routes were somewhat
less bulky than the commodities they had been designed to carry.11
Brazilian sugar has often been associated in the scholarly literature
with transportation in caravels. Leonor Costa has challenged that
notion, demonstrating that merchants’ preferences for smaller or larger
vessels were determined both by supply and their perceptions of risk
at sea.12 Speaking only about the primary routes of distribution, she
has presented a schema in which, in the earliest phases of Brazilian
production, transportation was arranged mainly in small ships, navios
or caravels. English privateers wrought devastation on the Portuguese
merchant marine—especially smaller, poorly armed vessels—in Atlantic
waters by in the last decades of the sixteenth century. This led mer-
chants to take advantage of larger vessels supplied in the Low Countries
and in the northern German ports of Lübeck and Hamburg. These
urcas played an important rule until about 1605, when, as a result of
abuses, foreign shipping was banned from Brazil.13 Subsequently, the
caravel once again dominated in Brazilian waters. But in the second

cited frequently above, and Evaldo Cabral de Mello, Olinda restaurada: guerra e açúcar no
Nordeste, 1630–1654 (Rio de Janeiro: Editora Forense-Universitária, 1975).
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:180–186.
Ibid., 1:185–7.
Ibid., 1:190–201.
Costa sees the end of transportation in Hansa hulks in 1601, but these continued
for at least a few more years (See Chapter 3).
the cost of shipping 91

Years Ships probably under Ships probably over 130 Other ships
130 tons: navios, tons: naus mentioned
patachos, caravelas

1580–89 12 7
1590–99 35 6 1
1600–09 79
1610–19 53 18 1
1620–29 50 60 1
Table 5.1 Ship types mentioned in the Lisbon and Porto notarial archives
according to tonnage
Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 2:167–78. From 1615 to 1623 only nine caravels
are named in contracts.

decade of the century, with an increased threat of piracy based in the

Barbary Coast, merchants looked again to larger vessels that might
defend themselves more easily than caravels. At this juncture the nau
made a stronger showing in the Brazil fleet, as Table 5.1 clearly shows.
Then, after the renewal of hostilities between the Iberian crown and
the Dutch Republic, and the establishment of the WIC, the equation
changed once more. Naus might have been able to fight off the small
vessels of the Barbary pirates, but they were no matches for the well-
armed war ships of the WIC. By the time of the capture of Bahia,
many merchants decided to trust their fortunes once again to caravels,
hoping that they might outrun the well-armed Dutch fleet.14
In the redistribution of sugar from Portugal to European northern
harbors it seems almost certain that larger ships—naus or hulks—were
the rule. This route was dominated by traffic in commodities that were
distinguished by a low ratio of value to bulk. Larger ships carried the
commerce in grain and salt, so larger ships were a much more common
type in northern fleets. In the case of Dutch shipping, between 1591
and 1602 alone, 773 notarial contracts from Amsterdam showed trade
linking the Baltic region and Portugal in the same voyage. Most of these
involved ships between 100 and 200 tons, that is to say: medium-large
ships.15 By 1600, the famous fluit—flute or flyboat—was well established

Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:190–201. These arguments are developed at some
length in diverse parts of her work, but for a summary, see: 1:605–7.
IJzerman, ed., Amsterdamsche bevrachtingscontracten, 163–291. Unlike the freight con-
tracts drawn in Lisbon and Porto, Amsterdam freight contracts invariably mention the
tonnage of the vessel, given in lasts. 1 last = 2 tons. Winkelman suggests that these
92 chapter five

in the Dutch merchant marine. By 1619 an Amsterdam merchant

claimed that this type of boat had already been used on the southern
routes for 20 years.16 Besides the fluit, Dutch ships available for journeys
to Portugal would have included the retourschip, katschip, hekboort, bootschip,
boeier, heude, galjoot, and hoeker. This is an elaborate typology, reflecting
an elaborated shipbuilding industry, but in practice the major difference
would have been between smaller and larger ships. The latter would
typically have two decks. The lower was the overloop; the one above was
the verdek, bovenste overloop or boevennet. Some ships had an extra deck,
know as the koebrug.17 During the Twelve Year Truce it appeared that
Dutch ships visiting Portuguese harbors were larger still. As Table 5.2
demonstrates, the majority were over 200 tons. Some in that year were
as large as 320 tons.18

Under 50 lasts 50–100 lasts 100–150 lasts Over 150 lasts

(100 tons) (100–200 tons) (200–300 tons) (300 tons)
Number of 1 21 59 4
Table 5.2 Amsterdam freight contracts for the Baltic trade: Ships
intending to visit Portugal in 1618
Source: Winkelman, ed. Bronnen voor de Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Oostzeehandel,
vol. 6.

The levels of staffing required for these ships varied with their size.
Here as well there are significant differences between the Portuguese
fleets on the routes between Brazil and Portugal, and the Dutch ships
carrying cargoes from Portugal to the north. The evidence for numbers

tonnages are reliable, since both parties in the contracts would have had an interest in
establishing the size of the ship. P.H. Winkelman, ed., Bronnen voor de geschiedenis van de
Nederlandse oostzeehandel in de zeventiende eeuw, 6 vols., RGP, grote ser. no. 133, 184, 165,
186, 178, 186 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1971–83), 2:XX–XXI.
Koen, “Notarial Records,” 14, no. 1 (1980): 82.
Winkelman, ed., Bronnen voor de Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Oostzeehandel, 2:XX.
Ibid., vol. 6, 177. Again, the vast majority of these vessels were contracted to
lower-value bulk commodities, of which salt was the most important. However, some
of these ships may have moved sugar as well, though it is rarely mentioned in these
freight contracts. See also: Richard W. Unger, Dutch Shipbuilding before 1800 (Assen: Van
Gorcum, 1978), 32–40.
the cost of shipping 93

of crew remains somewhat spotty, but Costa has calculated—at least

for the Portugal-Brazil route—a common rate of about five tons per
man (5t/m). According to Costa, larger vessels might have been able
to enjoy an increased ratio of t/m, but she doubts that on the Brazil
routes that this would often have been the case. This was different from
the Carreira da Índia, in which very large vessels predominated and some
economy of scale could be observed.19 Very little evidence survives to
support Costa’s estimates. However, she has found detailed accounting
for one actual voyage of a vessel of 200 tons traveling from Portugal to
Brazil. This had a total crew of 28 including a captain (mestre-capitão)
and a boatswain (contramestre), a pilot, a steward (despensiero), two gun-
ners, eight sailors, six cabin boys (grumetes), four swabbers ( pajens) and
four servants (moços). This implied a ratio of about 7t/m, which would
be expected with such a large vessel.20 Smaller ships, such as caravels,
undoubtedly were less economical in their operating costs, even if they
had other advantages.
A few Dutch sources describing trips to Brazil also mention the man-
power aboard ships on trips to Brazil in the years before 1600. These
were larger than typical Portuguese ships and had a more favorable ratio
of tonnage to men. This may have been in keeping with Dutch ships
in general, since they had won their leading place in global shipping
by building large vessels that were easily manned. Table 5.3 tends to
confirm this, and also supports the belief that larger vessels did enjoy
an economy of scale, even on Brazilian routes. However these ships
may have had unusually large staffs by Dutch standards, considering
that they were probably armed to a greater degree than usual. On
other European routes, Dutch vessels were lightly manned and sailed
in convoy, accompanied by warships. When the oceans were relatively
peaceful, no other merchant marine could compete with the Dutch in
manpower savings.

Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:348–9.
Ibid., 1:356–7.
94 chapter five

Ship Date Lasts Manpower t/m

Blaeuwe Duijff 1595 90 18 men 9t/m
(180 tons) 2 boys
Den gulden Leeuw 1595 150 26 men 10.7t/m
(300 tons) 2 boys
St Pieters Pynas 1595 125 19 men 11.9t/m
(250 tons) 2 boys
Eenhoorn 1596 135 25 men 10t/m
(270 tons) 2 boys
Table 5.3 Freight contracts from the Amsterdam notarial archives for trips
to Brazil: tonnage and manpower
Source: GAA, NA, no. 32, 176; no. 47, 96V; no. 48, 21; no. 50, 39V.

The low operating costs of Dutch ships also shows in the fact that
Dutch ships plying the routes between the Baltic Sea and Portugal
sometimes were prepared to travel considerable distances just on bal-
last. Trips from Portugal to northern harbors were relatively short:
probably around one to two months.21 Given these short routes, and
attendant reduced costs, it is not surprising to find that many merchants
and ship owners found it profitable to make some legs of their voyages
carrying no freight at all.22 This shows that, at least during the Truce,
large Dutch ships could travel at a significant level of underutilization
and still make a profit. In times of war, some of the Dutch advantages
were diminished. When the Dunkirk privateers renewed their attacks
on the merchant marine of the Dutch Republic in the 1620s, the cost
of Dutch shipping rose.23
The size of a ship’s crew had important repercussions for merchant-
freighters, since crews needed to be paid and fed. Costa has suggested
that these costs remained stable for the period described here, and that
they were in keeping with European norms. For voyages to Brazil, the

Uitterdijk, Een Kamper Handelshuis, LXXXVI–LXXXVII. This was already the
case in 1578, where two sea journeys from Lisbon to Amsterdam lasted respectively
27 and 59 days.
IJzerman, ed., Amsterdamsche bevrachtingscontracten, 290–1. See also numerous
examples in Winkelman, ed., Bronnen voor de Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Oostzeehandel.
Pace Israel, this was not a phenomenon from only the period before 1590. Instead, as
the freight contract data from the 1610s shows, many Dutch ships sailed to Portugal
on ballast to collect salt, or sailed to the Baltic on ballast to collect grain, with Portugal
as the eventual destination. Israel, Dutch Primacy, 49.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 299–303. For prizes taken by Dunkirk privateers see:
Ibid., Bijlagen, 171–6.
the cost of shipping 95

diet comprised biscuit, wine, dried meats and fish, olive oil, vinegar,
water and vegetables. Constituting about 4,000 calories, this diet would
have cost about 50–60 reis per person per day, or—for a total crew of
ten to twelve on a caravel—between 500 and 700 reis per day. Freight
contracts frequently stipulated daily charges for delays in getting mer-
chandise on board. And in the case of caravels—with crews typically
in the range of ten to twelve men—these were most often calculated at
1,000 reis per day, which confirms the plausibility of her estimates.24
The compensation of crews beyond their daily rations is an altogether
more complex problem, not least because of an almost complete lack
of account books from captains of ships from this period. Probably
there were different methods of payment, but a few seem likely. For
one, payment almost certainly followed a hierarchy, with valuable crew
members such as the pilot receiving more than cabin boys. In the case
analyzed by Costa—comprising a nau and a crew of 28—compensation
for most of the crew was based on the division of the freight charges
after the completion of the voyage. In this case, after operating expenses
were subtracted, the remaining money was divided into 21 partidas,
or portions. Each sailor received one partida, for example, while the
grumetes received half each. On top of this, the most valuable staff—pilot,
captain, steward and boatswain—received a salary. If this type of
compensation was common—which remains entirely uncertain—the
crew’s interests would have been allied with those of the freighters in
maximizing profit through reducing turnover time in port.25
Additional expenses on voyages had to do with miscellaneous tolls
and customs paid in various ports of call and which fell under the
category of avarias. These were generally considered to be a relatively
small part of the total operating costs of a voyage. Captains gener-
ally collected the costs of avarias separately from merchants alongside
freight charges.26
Altogether, the daily operating costs of Portuguese shipping probably
usually fell into a range between 2,000 and 4,000 reis. Costa believes
the penalty charges for delays in loading that were sometimes stipu-
lated in freight contracts, although imprecise, offer a reasonable guide
to the cost of the crew, including food and pay. If so, this gives a close

Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:352–4.
Ibid., 1:357–9.
Ibid., 1:372–3.
96 chapter five

approximation of the daily cost of running a ship. Nevertheless, it is

not entirely clear how much these costs varied over time. As with freight
charges, they may have been susceptible to short-term fluctuations.27
From the few records she has found where these types of penalties have
been mentioned, it seems that, at least that from 1609 to 1628, daily
operating costs for caravels were not usually estimated above 2,000 reis.
In the case of naus or larger navios, they were probably typically around
4,000. Of course, as she observes, these estimates merely formed the
basis of contracts, and in reality, captains, who were required to pay
expenses from the freight charges they garnered, might have tried to
cut their costs and increase their profit by reducing crew sizes to a
bare minimum.28
The daily operating costs, multiplied by the number of days on a
voyage, determined the bulk of the costs of transportation. Therefore,
along with loading time in a harbor, the length of a journey was an
important variable in determining costs. Part of this equation, of
course, was beyond the control of merchants, who had no influence
over climatological vagaries. Nevertheless, by the beginning of the
Brazilian sugar trade, Atlantic sailing had become routine, and people
could make fairly safe assumptions about the maximum and minimum
sailing times between different Atlantic destinations. Contemporary
observers placed the sailing time from Portugal to northeastern Brazil
at 50 to 60 days and the return trip at 90 to 100 days.29 Needless to
say, individual voyages could be either longer or shorter than these
roughly calculated averages.
A practice that further lengthened travel to and from Brazil was
stopping to trade at the Atlantic islands, especially the Canaries and
Madeira.30 This may have increased the overall operating costs of a trip
to Brazil, but it also potentially increased profits, since merchants traded
goods at every port of call. This type of voyage was a common pattern
both for Portuguese vessels, as well as those of foreigners before 1605
(see Appendix A). When vessels visited the Atlantic islands, and when
time in port in Brazil was calculated, the round trip voyage to and from
the kingdom could occupy the better part of a year. It seems unlikely,

Koen, “Notarial Records,” 13, no. 2 (1979): 239.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:354, 359.
Ibid., 1:344–6.
Ibid., 2:191–216.
the cost of shipping 97

then, that ships frequently made more than one round trip journey in
a year, although, this would have been theoretically possible.
The operating costs for ships described above constituted part of
the freight charges paid by merchants to move merchandise from one
place to the other. Also, through freight charges, merchants indirectly
paid the purchase price of ships themselves. Consequently, the sup-
ply of shipping and the purchase costs of ships had a direct result on
merchants’ expenses. This invites an investigation of ship ownership
and the market for ships in general. There is good evidence for ship
ownership in freight contracts, but the evidence for the capital value
of ships themselves is scant and problematic. Where the value of a
ship is quoted in the available sources—contracts or other types of
documents—it is not always given with an indication of the size, age
or condition of the vessel. Any comparative price analysis must be
taken with caution.
A further complication to understanding how the price of ships
affected merchants was the fact that they were often both customers
and suppliers. The act of carrying cargo implied an expense for a
merchant and income for the ships’ owners. In fact, merchants who
bought the freighting services of a ship were also often ship-owners
themselves, and they sometimes freighted their own ships. Furthermore,
captains, freighters and ship-owners engaged in complicated types of
transactions—such as bottomry contracts—in which the ship itself
served as security on the value of a cargo, a transaction described in
the following chapter.
If merchants were also usually ship owners, it is useful to ask why
they didn’t habitually freight cargoes in their own ships, thereby verti-
cally integrating their operations and saving on freight charges. In fact,
merchants rarely did so because of the structure of ship ownership,
which will be described below. Costa has shown that merchants treated
ship owning and freighting as distinct economic activities, even if in
practice the distinctions were sometimes blurred.31 Prices for ships,
then, were an indirect—though important—variable in determining
transaction costs for freighters of Brazilian sugar.
Demand for ships stimulated industry in a variety of Portuguese
towns. Particularly in the north, more abundant pine forests supplied

Ibid., 1:391–472.
98 chapter five

some of the needs for new ships. In the 1620s, Porto and its hinterland,
including Massarelos and Matosinhos, contributed significantly to the
supply of ships available for the Brazil trade. Lisbon had its own ship-
yards as well as recourse to shipbuilding facilities along a fair stretch
of coastline, where towns such as Peniche and Cascais contributed to
the supply.32
Vessels produced there invariably had multiple owners. Well before
the Brazilian sugar trade, it had been a practice for investors to own
only part of a ship, and this practice continued on Brazilian routes.
In Portugal, ownership of vessels was frequently measured in eighths,
although an investor might own more than one-eighth, or an eighth
share could be further subdivided.33 Álvaro Gomes Bravo claimed to
the inquisition around 1618 that he owned one eighth of a navio, valued
after a trip—probably to Brazil—at 500,000 reis.34 The sugar merchant,
Francisco de Palácios also owned one eighth of a caravela, for which
he paid 113,000 reis.35
Captains were also part owners of ships, in conjunction with mer-
chant investors. Captains usually obtained their share of a ship on
credit, but as both investors and suppliers of transportation they had
opportunities to improve their position. On Brazil routes, captains
received a fixed salary. Apart from this, they were entitled to a por-
tion of the profits of the journey that was divided up among all of
the investors in the ship. But beyond this, captains could sometimes
trade on their own account or act as correspondents for merchants,
assuming that the latter did not mandate that their own super cargoes
sail on board. Captains gained valuable knowledge of the trade and
were able to raise their own capital. In such a manner, captains could
achieve real social mobility, and they sometimes joined the ranks of
wealthy and successful merchants.36
Plural ownership—common throughout Europe—reduced risk for
merchants since, when a ship was lost or captured, the loss was spread

Ibid., 1:454–72.
Ibid., 1:403–9.
IANTT, IC, Processo de Álvaro Gomes Bravo, no. 6900.
IANTT, IL, Processo de Francisco de Palácios, no. 4481. This would place the entire
value of the caravel at about 900,000 reis, which seems a bit high. But it is difficult to
know how large the vessel was. Perhaps he meant that the entire ship cost 113,000
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:438–46.
the cost of shipping 99

over a greater number of investors.37 The geographic dispersal of the

owners seemed to provide no obstacle to the arrangement. The Witte
Hond, a hulk that traveled directly from Brazil to northern Europe
around 1600, provides one example. Its owners were two Danzig
merchants and a merchant from Middleburg. The captain—who was
likely to have been a part owner—was from Hoorn.38
These types of ownership arrangements go a long way towards
explaining why the activities of freighting and ship-owning in the
sugar trade—or in other trades as well—were usually kept separate.
Vertical integration would simply expose an investor to too much risk.
Ship-owners may have occasionally been willing to freight their own
vessels, but they usually took cargoes as well from other merchants,
who would pay the freight charges. This type of diversification of
assets and activities served to reduce risks to a merchant’s portfolio.
One unintended result was to prevent large merchants from gaining
monopoly power over the supply of shipping and having too great an
influence on freight charges.39
When the supply of shipping was limited, there were exceptions to
usual practice. In this circumstance merchants tried to take advantage
of their own cargo space, even if this combination of functions exposed
them to higher risk. This appears to have taken place in Portugal after
1623 when losses to the WIC put greater pressure on the Portuguese
merchant marine. Around this time a number of contracts for ship
ownership contain clauses requiring that cargo space be reserved for
the merchant owners if they needed it.40
What, then, did ships cost? Notaries recorded some ship sales in
Lisbon, and surviving records examined by Costa show considerable
variation in prices for ships between 1580 and 1630. In this period
twelve caravels were sold for between 60,000 and 210,000 reis. Among
the vessels described as navios, there were also twelve sales, with the
vessels valued between 60,000 and 400,000 reis. Ten naus are recorded,
costing between 228,000 and 1,650,000 reis. A further five hulks were
valued between 265,000 and 1,160,000 reis. Most of these figures do
not give a precise picture of ship costs because the condition and age

Ibid., 1:413–24.
Häpke, ed., Niederländische Akten und Urkunden, 2:421–30.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:424–32.
100 chapter five

Date Ship Type of ship Tonnage Price in reis

1608 S. João Baptista Hulk 190 256,000
1614 Jorge Boaventura Hulk 95 304,000
1619 Fenix Nau 80 1,040,000
1619 Broa Nau 80 1,072,000
1620 N.S. Esperança Nau 120 600,000
1621 S. Lourenço Pataxo 110 330,000
1627 S. Pedro Navio 80 360,000
Table 5.4 Sales of ships revealed in Lisbon notarial
archives, 1580–1630
Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:362.

of the ships was not indicated, nor generally was the tonnage.41 The
few records where the tonnage was indicated with precision are given
on Table 5.4. These, unfortunately, are too few and too varied to show
any kind of pattern.
The Portuguese shipbuilding industry was hardly anemic, but it
seems certain that ships were built more cheaply in the Dutch Republic
than in Portugal. While Portugal and Iberian regions such as Galicia
had vigorous shipbuilding industries in the sixteenth and seventeenth
centuries, they were handicapped by their lack of a domestic supply
of some of the integral elements in shipbuilding. Trees large enough
for masts typically came from Scandinavia, and various kinds of ships’
stores were imported from northwestern Europe and the Baltic region.
So dependent was Iberian shipbuilding on these supplies, that even in
time of rigorous embargo, crown authorities saw the need to make
exceptions for these vital items. In 1623, with the termination of the
Truce, the Concelho da Fazenda still petitioned the crown to grant licenses
to buy in Holland “mastos, e mais cousas necessarios” for a warship.42
At the same time, based on their effective use of technology and
energy supplies, the Dutch had developed their shipbuilding industry to
a degree unparalleled elsewhere in Europe.43 The shipbuilding yards of
the Zaanstreek and other places employed sawmills powered by windmills,

Ibid., 1:362.
AHU, Conselho Ultramarino, cod. 35, fol. 13v–14.
Jan de Vries and Ad van der Woude, The First Modern Economy: Success, Failure, and
Perseverance of the Dutch Economy, 1500–1815 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1997), 296–9, 344–5. These advantages slipped away by the middle of the seventeenth
century, as Dutch industrial processes were borrowed by rivals.
the cost of shipping 101

so the Dutch were generally able to keep their labor costs down through
mechanization. Furthermore, their trade position in Scandinavia was
strong enough to afford them Norwegian lumber at a cost that was
even below that available to shipbuilders in Norway. 44 As a result,
Dutch shipyards probably turned out 400 to 500 ships per year in the
period between 1625 and 1700. In Holland during this period, the
industry may have employed almost 5% of the industrial work force.45
Unfortunately, no study has cast detailed light on the cost of ships in
the Netherlands. But the examples in Table 5.5 show the prices of some
Dutch ships that were eventually used on Brazil routes.
The data here are not extensive or detailed enough to permit hard
conclusions about the differences in costs of ships between Portugal and
the Dutch Republic, but they do nothing to dispel the impression that
Dutch ships were substantially cheaper. The N.S. do Rosario sold new
for the equivalent of 3,731,059 reis in 1618, to be used on Brazilian
routes. The ship was 360 tons, so this means that it sold for 10,364

Date Ship Type or Price in guilders Tons Source

status (reis)46
1595 St. Jacob 12,800 240 GA, NA, no. 32, 340
1595 Fortuyn 18,200 340 GA, NA, no. 32, 340
(2,642, 640)
1597 ’t Swarte 10,300 GA, NA, no. 77,
Vercken (1,495,560) 68V
1596 Hont 1,500 (16, 529) 80 Koen, “Notarial
Records,” 2, no. 1
(1968), 118.
1618 N.S. do new 25,696 360 GA, NA, no. 611B,
Rosario (3,731,059) 430
Table 5.5 Ship prices in the Netherlands—Brazil or Portugal trade

For Dutch shipbuilding see: Richard W. Unger, Ships and Shipbuilding in the North
Sea and Atlantic, 1400 –1800 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1997), VI; Unger, Dutch Shipbuilding
before 1800, 32–40, and Violet Barbour, “Dutch and English Merchant Shipping in the
Seventeenth Century,” The Economic History Review 2, no. 2 (1930): 271–83.
Vries and Woude, The First Modern Economy, 297.
Exchange calculation is based on an average exchange of 110 groten to 400 reis.
1 guilder = 40 groten. This was a fairly stable exchange rate for the period of 1600 to
1630. Ranging from about 99 groten or stuivers per cruzado (= 400 reis) to 115 or slightly
higher in some years. Most years it stayed in range of 105 to 111 per cruzado. Stols,
De Spaanse Brabanders, 214–5.
102 chapter five

reis per ton. The previous year two Portuguese 80-ton vessels sold
for 1,040,000 and 1,072,000 reis, also for use on Brazilian routes (see
Table 5.4). These cost respectively 13,000 and 13,400 reis per ton, or
roughly 20% more. The Dutch-built ship would also have likely enjoyed
a higher ratio of tonnage to manpower, making it more economical to
sail than the smaller Portuguese vessels.
Given fluid ownership arrangements, how frequently was the demand
for shipping on the Brazil-Portuguese routes met by ships built abroad?
Before 1605 it happened often. As described previously, Dutch and
Hanseatic shipping complemented the Portuguese merchant marine on
colonial routes, especially as many Portuguese caravels fell into the hands
of English privateers in the last two decades of the sixteenth century.
Between 1595 and 1605 at least 34 urcas passed through Pernambuco,
probably all of them carrying at least some sugar.47 The provenance
of most of these ships was German, according to the registers, but this
was mostly likely a fiction, since some ships from the Netherlands used
German papers to evade embargoes. Rather, the ownership structure
of these fleets appeared to be highly convoluted, and Dutch investment
was certainly implicated. The merchants who invested in these trips
were a heterogeneous lot as well, comprising Portuguese in the kingdom
and abroad, as well as northern European merchants.48
Once shipping was legalized between Portugal and the Dutch
Republic during the Twelve Year Truce, there is no doubt that
Portuguese participated in the ownership of Dutch-made vessels on

Mello, “Os Livros de Saídas,” 87–143.
In 1592, Lambert Pietersz a captain from Flushing applied for a license to sail
to Bremen, Brazil and back to the Netherlands. The ship must have been sizeable
since it held ten guns. N. Japikse, ed., RSG, 1590–1592, RGP, grote ser. no. 55 (The
Hague: Nijhoff, 1923), 726. See also several such applications in 1599, including one,
by the Amsterdam merchants Pieter de Hasselaer, Reynier Pauw and Henrick Buyck,
who meant to sail a ship, the “St. Franciscus,” to Brazil and back to the Netherlands.
The ship boasted captains described as Flemish and Brazilian. They planned to sail
with a crew from Portugal or somewhere else. This may very well have been a joint
Portuguese and Dutch investment. N. Japikse, ed., RSG, 1598–1599, RGP, grote ser. no.
71 (The Hague: Nijhoff ), 808–9. But even if not in so in this instance, transnational
investment during this period became very apparent in the following years when some
of the “German” hulks were seized and Portuguese and Dutch investors came forward
to claim the cargoes. Rijperman, ed., RSG, 1602–1603, 108, 215–6, 288–289, 303,
630; H.H.P. Rijperman, ed., RSG, 1604–1606, RGP, grote ser. no. 101 (The Hague:
Nijhoff, 1957), 225–6, 502, 505, 506, 806, 807, 808, 810, 811.
the cost of shipping 103

European routes, and vice versa. The Amsterdam merchants Laurens

Joosten Baeck and Lenardo de Beer sold the 180-ton Sampson in 1618
to two Portuguese merchants: Antonio Martins Viegas in Amsterdam
and Diogo Lopes Pinto in Porto. The ship had traded between Porto
and Amsterdam.49 In 1620 two other merchants, Antonio Luís Antunes
and Francisco Antunes bought a ship the Witte Leeuw from captain Pieter
Jansen Vooren for which they paid 560,000 reis.50
These examples show that Dutch-built shipping had definitely entered
into the Portuguese merchant marine. As the last chapter has indicated,
Dutch and Portuguese merchants both in the Dutch Republic and in
Portugal cooperated in investments, and there was no legal or structural
obstacle to the extension of investments into shipping. The origins of
the captain or the boat were beside the point. The principle of multiple
investors allowed for inter-imperial investment in ships, and this took
place with some frequency where geographically diffused merchants
were united by trade routes.
However, since foreign shipping was explicitly banned from Brazil
after 1605, it is worthwhile asking whether Dutch-made ships entered
into the sugar routes between Brazil and Portugal.51 Portuguese mer-
chants in the Dutch Republic claimed that this was the case. The oft-
quoted Deductie of 1622 stated that, during the Truce, 10 to 15 ships were
built yearly in the Netherlands specifically for the Brazil trade.52 This
assertion may be exaggerated, since it reflected the desire of Portuguese
New Christian and Jewish merchants in Amsterdam to persuade the
admiralties of the Dutch Republic to refrain from confiscating sugar

Koen, “Notarial Records,” 13, no. 2 (1979): 235.
Ibid., 17, no. 1 (1983): 76.
I have dealt with this theme also in: Ebert, “Dutch Trade with Brazil,” 69–73.
The question might also be posed regarding shipping from other nations. However,
given the dynamism of the Dutch shipbuilding sector during this period, their strong
trade relationships with Portugal during the Twelve Year Truce, and the well-known
cheapness of their vessels, it seems prudent to believe that there were no other—or at
least few—viable foreign competitors in the Portuguese market.
“Waerdoor geduirende de voors. twaelff iaeren dese vaert ende handel soo sterck heeft aengenomen,
dat iaerlijcx meer dan 10. 12 ende 15 schepen hier te lande zijn getimmert ende uitgerust geworden,
die van hier over Portugael iaerlijcx 40. 50, iae met duijsenden kisten suijckeren, behalven al het bresili
hout, gember catoenen, huijden ende andere waeren, in grote menichte uijt Bresil hebben hiergevoert . . .”
(“Whereby during the Twelve Years mentioned this trade and trade route have expanded
so much that every year 10 or 12 to 15 ships are built in this country and fitted out
and bring via Portugal every year 40 or 50 thousand crates of sugar, not to mention
all the brazilwood, ginger, cotton, hides and other commodities brought here in great
quantities from Brazil.”) IJzerman, “Deductie,” 100.
104 chapter five

ships. Nevertheless, it seems reasonable to believe that something like

this number of ships of Dutch manufacture were purchased in Portugal
or in the Netherlands for the use of merchants on Brazilian routes. In
some incidents the use of Dutch-built ships invited fraud, since Dutch
captains were generally also investors in the ships that they had arranged
to build and may have been attempted to sail with their ships to Brazil.
Cornelis Adriaensz Minnes, a captain from Rotterdam, claimed to an
Amsterdam notary that he had built a ship in Rotterdam partly at the
behest of the Amsterdam Portuguese merchant, Josef Pinto, who owned
an eighth share. Minnes intended to travel with the ship to Brazil, via
Porto, a trip that was illegal for him.53
However, in most cases these transactions would have been perfectly
legal. Given the risks of illegal travel to Brazil, ships probably changed
names and captains when they went into service on Brazilian routes,
that is, they became Portuguese ships. This happened with the Coninck
David, which traveled from the Dutch Republic around 1621 to Viana
with the captain Huijbert Pietersz. The owner of the ship, with a
5/6th share was the Amsterdam Portuguese merchant, Tomás Nunes
Pina. With the merchandise sold in Viana, it received a Portuguese
captain and crew, was re-christened A Senhora do Carmo and traveled to
Teixeira where it loaded 40 pipes of wine.54 From there it proceeded
to Bahia, sold the wine and loaded 125 crates of sugar and nine vats
of ginger. Returning to Portugal it was seized by the Dutch admiralty,
which was—with the expiration of the Truce—trying again to disrupt
Brazilian traffic. From the point of view of the Dutch admiralty, this
was now a Portuguese ship, whatever its provenance.55
The tight network of merchants operating between Portugal, Brazil
and northwestern Europe allowed ships to change hands easily. In the
Dutch Republic the inter-imperial nature of investment in Brazilian
shipping was well known. As the Truce lapsed in 1621, Dutch confisca-
tions of Brazilian shipping prompted a strong reaction by Portuguese
merchants in Amsterdam, as represented in the Deductie. They claimed
to the States General that Dutch shipping had played a special role in
the Brazilian sugar trade:

GAA, NA, no. 611B, 430. This type of illegal trading is dealt with in Chapter 7.
Two pipes occupied one ton of space.
GAA, NA, no. 646A, 39–41.
the cost of shipping 105

This, in short, is the origin, purpose and nature of this trade, whose profits
have been enjoyed by the land and shall be enjoyed in the future, as we
will indicate. And we will show how different the situation is with all of
the other routes of the Spanish to the West Indies and elsewhere; the
Portuguese to Cabo Verde, São Tomé, Mina, Angola, the Congo, the East
Indies and elsewhere: in which all of the voyages are made with their own
ships, of which your excellencies’ subjects have neither part nor portion,
since they make all these voyages on their own account. In consequence
when these ships are taken at sea, brought here and declared to be just
prizes, this happens without harm or disadvantage to the inhabitants of
these lands. This is quite different with the ships and goods traveling to
and from Brazil, in which we with the Portuguese, and they with us are
inseparably attached and mingled.56
Whether or not ships plying the Brazilian routes were Dutch ships with
Dutch crews and captains, or had become ‘Portuguese,’ the pattern of
transnational investment was indisputable.
The availability of relatively inexpensive Dutch ships to serve on
Brazilian routes during the Twelve Year Truce probably reduced over-
all costs for Portuguese shippers. This is claimed in the Deductie and
confirmed by indirect evidence.57 The contribution of 10 to 15 Dutch
ships per year to the Portuguese merchant marine would have made
a difference. In the year 1612, for example, total sugar production in
Brazil was probably around 672,000 arrobas. At 54 arrobas per cargo
ton, this would have amounted to 12,444 cargo tons of sugar needing
transportation (see Chapter 8, Table 8.1). If even only ten ships of
Dutch provenance, each capable of carrying 200 tons, served that year
on Brazil routes, this means that Dutch-built ships would have been
able to carry 2,000 tons of sugar to Portugal, or 16% of the total. If
more Dutch-built ships were involved, or the average carrying capacity
was larger, the percentage of the total may have been higher. These, of
course, are theoretical calculations, but it is highly credible that cheap
Dutch ships in the Portuguese merchant marine helped to lower the
transaction costs for shipping sugar from Brazil to Portugal. This helps
also to explain the fact that freight charges during this period were
relatively low (see Chapter 8).
The data presented here do not always admit of firm conclusions
regarding the transactions costs in trading Brazilian sugar. In a trade
that was literally born on the winds, there was never any sure way to

IJzerman, “Deductie,” 101.
106 chapter five

predict how long a voyage would last or how much it would cost. Given
these constraints, merchants nevertheless tried to exert some control
over the variables that affected their costs.
As we have seen, one of these involved a choice of ports. The sugar
routes between Brazil and Portugal operated out of a variety of ports.
To a certain extent, this allowed merchants flexibility in deciding where
to land cargoes. In Portugal the northern ports of Viana and Porto
taxed less than Lisbon, but Lisbon offered relatively speedy loading
and unloading. Undoubtedly, Lisbon got the major share of sugar
cargoes between 1550 and 1630. In Brazil, Pernambuco attracted the
most traffic, at least until 1630, and also offered the fasted turnaround
time in harbor, although it is difficult to know if this was a cause or
an effect of its leading role as a producer. Traffic directed to northern
harbors seems to have been contingent on the geographical orienta-
tion of merchant networks and political circumstances, described in
preceding chapters.
Operating expenses of ships were a major part of the transaction
costs of trading sugar. These were tied to their size, and from 1550 to
1630 merchants freighted ships of different sizes based on supply and
their perception of the risks of piracy and privateering at sea. Larger
ships, those above 130 tons, usually offered a more economical ratio
of tonnage to manpower. But for much of the period between 1550
and 1630, smaller ships—caravels—predominated on the sugar routes
between Portugal and Brazil, and the Portuguese shipyards turned
out these vessels in considerable quantities. When sugar moved to the
northwest of Europe it traveled in ships built in the Low Countries
and Germany. Especially during the Twelve Year Truce, Dutch-built
ships probably carried the vast majority of sugar from Lisbon to other
European destinations. These ships were associated with operating costs
that were so low that they frequently performed segments of trading
voyages on ballast.
These same Dutch ships—cheaply built and operated—penetrated
the sea-lanes between Portugal and Brazil during the Twelve Year
Truce. They could do so because the patterns of inter-imperial invest-
ment that linked merchants in Portugal, Brazil and the Dutch Republic
allowed for Dutch ships to be sold in Portuguese markets and effectively
become ‘Portuguese.’ A likely result was that cheap Dutch shipping put
downward pressure on freight charges between Brazil and Portugal.
The savings produced in Dutch shipyards were passed on to sugar
merchants indirectly through lower transaction costs. These benefits
the cost of shipping 107

did not outlast the Truce. When hostilities were renewed, horrified
Portuguese merchants in Amsterdam testified to the damage that would
be done to two economies that were highly interlinked in the Brazilian
sugar trade.


Brazilian sugar entered European markets during a period of long-term

expansion in intercontinental trade. It was itself a strong impetus to
the development of Atlantic trade. The trade in Brazilian sugar had
obvious antecedents in the sugar trade from Madeira and São Tomé.
Although it eventually dwarfed these other trades in its scale, it used
trade patterns that had already been established. Also, merchants could
rely on precedents and techniques to move sugar from the eastern
coast of South America to distant markets in Europe. Some of these
techniques were financial and were coming into common practice just
as Brazilian sugar emerged in world markets.
This chapter looks at the systems of credit and risk management that
made the sugar trade possible. Some of these had been in use since
the middle Ages, pioneered by Italian merchants. But the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries witnessed a number of financial innovations that
lowered transaction costs.1 This had important consequences, for without
these new systems of banking, finance and maritime insurance, a trade
with such a wide geographic scope could not thrive. The Brazilian sugar
trade was a modern trade, not only in its merchant organization, but
also in the financial transactions that allowed it to prosper over politi-
cal boundaries.2 In fact, it was precisely in the area of investment that
the inter-imperial organization of the trade was most manifest. At the
same time, there is no doubt that as the Brazilian sugar trade expanded
dramatically in the latter half of the sixteenth century, it helped to
spread new financial practices.
When sugar was valued in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, it
was valued in the money of account in a particular region. In practice,

For a theoretical framework see: North, “Institutions, Transaction Costs,” 22–40.
Vries and Woude, The First Modern Economy, 368–9. Note the authors’ description
of economic modernity, describing the Dutch economy after about 1585. As this
chapter will reveal, Dutch financial practices were applied to the sugar trade along
with Dutch investment.
110 chapter six

this was usually expressed in relation to the various silver coins that
formed the principal means of exchange in early modern Europe and
the smaller coins related to them that were everywhere in circulation.
In Portugal this was the silver cruzado, comprising four hundred reis
and roughly equivalent to an Italian or Spanish ducat. In the Dutch
Republic, the chief silver coin was the guilder ( ƒ), made up of forty
groten. The exchange rate between groten and reis might fluctuate in this
period from 102/400 to 119/400; these currencies generally maintained
a stable exchange rate with each other in the period discussed here.3
In some cases, sugar was used as a payment in lieu of money: in 1578
The Dutch merchant, Hans Snell, recorded that the exchequer of the
new Portuguese king, Cardinal Antonio, was repaying him a debt in
sugar worth 5,500 arrobas. We can be sure that Hans Snel, who kept
close track of international sugar prices, knew precisely the value of
this merchandise in the money of account.4
The value of sugar might be paid in silver coins, but, fortunately,
its circulation was not always conditioned by the availability of specie.
Although the money supply in Europe was increasing by the middle
of the sixteenth century, it was far from enough to accommodate all
commercial transactions. The shortage of specie was particularly acute
in Brazil, in spite of some contraband movement of Potosí silver into
the colony from the settlements at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata.5
The sixteenth century witnessed a great expansion in the circulation
of paper money and new instruments of payment and credit. These
new techniques for doing business and providing enforcement developed
within merchant communities, with only the fitful involvement of states,
since neither Roman nor Germanic law were well suited to resolve
merchant disputes.6 The developments were centered on Antwerp in
the sixteenth century and then in Amsterdam in the seventeenth. Since
these two cities were also the predominate staples for Brazilian sugar, it

Koen, “Notarial Records,” 1, no. 2 (1967): 110.
Uitterdijk, Een Kamper Handelshuis, 149. There are also numerous references of
payment in sugar dating to the early sixteenth century in: the IANTT. Two indicate
just a few: Corpo Cronológico, Parte I, maço 6, no. 5; maço 6, no. 31.
Stuart B. Schwartz, Sugar Plantations in the Formation of Brazilian Society: Bahia,
1550 –1835 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 204–8.
Douglass C. North, “Institutions, transaction costs, and the rise of merchant
empires,” in The Political Economy of Merchant Empires, ed. James D. Tracy (New York:
Cambridge University Press, 1991), 30–1.
transactions and risk management 111

is hardly surprising that merchants trading in it used these new financial

instruments widely.
Since the middle ages, merchants had tried to avoid traveling with
large quantities of specie, and northern Italians had pioneered tech-
niques to prevent this, culminating in the system of letters of exchange
that allowed merchants to either pay or offset mutual debts with the
aid of cashiers or bankers in the great European fairs. For centuries,
letters of exchange dominated in long distance trade, especially trans-
continental trade routes linking north and south. Sanctioned by the
church, since they were not considered usurious, letters of exchange
also obtained some limited negotiability. Furthermore, these instruments
could hide loans at interest. Since they envisioned delayed payment—the
periods of usance denoting payment at a fair at a distant time—credi-
tors could hide interest payments in the terms of repayment and also
gain from the arbitrage resulting from the currency exchange transac-
tion at the time of the recambium, or final exchange. This possibility of
profit attracted the great Tuscan merchant houses that dominated these
international exchange operations and were present in every European
trade center.7
The letter of exchange was less common in the northern trading
centers as a financial instrument, at least before 1550, but gained in
use after that. By then the role of arbitrage was less important, and
the letters were mainly used just to provide credit and payment in an
international context. By the end of the sixteenth century, letters of
exchange had become common in long distance trade based in north-
western Europe.8
Another medieval Italian merchant institution, the deposit and
clearing bank, staged a late breakthrough in the northwest. Although
these banks underwent crises in the fifteenth century, their advantages
to merchants were manifest, since they allowed the concentration of
payments and large-scale set-offs of debts, effectively increasing the
circulation of money. Such a system had developed in Bruges in the
fourteenth century, but it had not spread. The fifteenth century banking

Herman van der Wee, A History of European Banking (Antwerp: European Investment
Bank: Fonds Mercator, 2000), 97–9.
Herman van der Wee, “Monetary, Credit and Banking Systems,” in The Cambridge
Economic History of Europe, vol. 5, ed. E.E. Rich and C.H. Wilson (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1977), 324.
112 chapter six

crisis, coupled with competition from the Dukes of Burgundy who were
acting as moneychangers, hindered its development. As Antwerp rose
as an important money market in the sixteenth century, the banking
function was taken over rather by the kassiersbedrijf (cash keepers), who
kept deposits and handled financial transactions on behalf of others.
A similar cash-keeping business arose in Amsterdam by the end of
the sixteenth century. A bit later, Amsterdam made the transition to
a nearly modern type of deposit and clearing bank, the wisselbank,
founded in 1609.9
The expansion of trade in the Atlantic world, and the burgeoning
trade centers that arose to serve it in the sixteenth century called for
new types of credit. As van der Wee has clearly shown, the innovation
of the northwest, and particularly Antwerp, was not in institutions, but
in new instruments of credit, which met the exigencies of Atlantic trade.
The main achievement in this area was to improve the negotiability of
credit instruments, particularly promissory notes. The principle of exten-
sion of payment had been well established in northern trading areas
since the late Middle Ages, and IOUs, not bills of exchange, were the
main form of security. Unlike bills of exchange, letters obligatory were
long-term, necessitated by the patterns of trade predominating in the
north. By the late middle ages, these letters obligatory were sometimes
written with bearer’s clauses, but insecurity persisted, since there was
no legal framework to provide protection as the IOU circulated from
hand to hand. The first step towards resolving this problem was taken
with a judicial verdict in Antwerp in 1507 that provided the same legal
protection to bearers as original creditors in collecting from a debtor.
This rule quickly spread, and was institutionalized in 1537 for all of
the Habsburg Netherlands in an imperial edict. Circulation of letters
soon became widespread.10
Antwerp’s merchants took a further step towards negotiability by
applying the principle of ‘assignment’ to the circulation of IOUs. Bills
could circulate up to twenty times, and intermediary bearers ceased to
be responsible once the bill left their hands. Since not all merchants
were intimately connected, a risk persisted that a bearer might not be
able to collect from an original debtor whom he might barely know.
Assignment meant that now all intermediary bearers were jointly

Ibid., 310–15, 323.
Ibid., 325.
transactions and risk management 113

responsible if the original debtor was in default. While bills were not
actually endorsed in the sixteenth century, merchant’s accounts books
or separate letters of assignment could prove the provenance of IOUs.
The principle of assignment, designed to encourage confidence and
honest business practices, received imperial endorsement in an Edict of
31 October 1541. By the end of the sixteenth century it had become
standard business practice in England, the Hansa towns and much of
the Atlantic trading sphere.11 One of the Antwerp merchant bankers
who had petitioned the government to adopt the principle of assign-
ment was none other than Erasmus Schetz, an early Flemish owner
of a Brazilian sugar mill. By the early seventeenth century, assignment
had been adopted for the ever more common bills of exchange, and,
in fact, the innovation of written endorsement for bills of exchange
developed out of this practice.12
Two further innovations of the Antwerp market were ‘discounting’
and futures speculation. As commercial instruments began to circulate
widely and the Antwerp Exchange increasingly took on the aspect of
a money market, money dealers and cash keepers purchased unexpired
IOUs and eventually bills of exchange, for cash, less a premium. By the
early seventeenth century, this form of discount banking had become
common in Antwerp and later elsewhere. The financial nature of the
Antwerp Exchange also invited futures speculation, which, although
not an entirely new phenomenon, grew to be practiced widely by the
middle of the sixteenth century. Purchasers either received goods for
which they would pay later, or received pay for goods to be delivered
at a future date. Both forms of transactions involved bets on the rise
or fall in prices.13
Underlying this great extension of circulating paper in the sixteenth
century was the infusion of specie into European society. Both the pro-
ductivity of European mines as well as the flow of great quantities of
New World silver into Europe offered a greater abundance of money
in the European economy, symbolized by the large silver coins— such
as the ducat and the stuiver—which circulated everywhere. This had
a major effect on the terms of extension of payment, especially in
northwestern Europe. The letter obligatory reflected a new spirit of

Portuguese merchants living in Antwerp used these instruments widely. Pohl, Die
Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 239.
Wee, “Monetary, Credit and Banking Systems,” 326–8.
Discounting was not practiced in Portugal. Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 323.
114 chapter six

generosity with repayment terms sometimes extending up to twelve

months. Merchandise payment terms in the southern Netherlands
ranged generally from two to 12 months, and early payment usually
received a discount. Terms were not so generous in Portugal. There
the ordinary repayment time was three months, and discounting was
not common.14
The increased supply of money also showed in the large amounts of
money available for loans and in fairly low interest rates, as compared
to the previous century. Antwerp merchants might lend money at a
rate of 5 to 6 ¼% per year. Italian banks lent at 3–5%. A century
before it was more in the range of 10 –12%. There were no religious
constraints about lending at interest in the Low Countries, even though
these persisted in the Iberian Peninsula.15
What were the consequences of freer credit and new forms of credit
transactions in Europe for the Brazilian sugar trade? Credit transactions
became commonplace in Brazil and linked Brazilian production with
finance in Europe. A few examples may suffice to show the patterns.
Late in 1618 Antonio Mendes Cardoso, a Portuguese merchant in
Amsterdam, purchased sugar that had arrived from Porto in a shipment
sent by Francisco de Cáceres. Cáceres had shipped for the account of
Francisco de Lemos, also in Portugal. Cardoso arranged to pay Lemos
through his Portuguese agent Luís Pereira de Miranda who, with power
of attorney, signed a bill of exchange to Lemos. The letter stipulated
payment in Bahia, half in six months time and the other half in twelve
months. Cardoso’s relatives in Brazil were to make good on the debt.
While the method of payment was not stipulated, since the debt was
to be collected in Brazil, it would probably be paid in sugar. Cardoso
pledged merchandise as security in the form of a shipment—along with
insurance policies—he was sending as a consignment to a correspondent
in Brazil. This complicated transaction was done with paper money,
and presumably no specie changed hands.16

Ibid., 321–3.
Ibid., 320. Pedreira mentions the persistence of usury laws as a possible structural
impediment to the development of the Portuguese economy. However, it should be
noted, that Portuguese merchants had access to credit markets outside of Portugal.
Pedreira, “ ‘To Have and to Have Not’,” 93–122.
GAA, NA, no. 381, 506–8. The use of a notary to record this transaction prob-
ably indicates some degree of caution on the part of the parties to this transaction.
Perhaps they had not done business before and sought to formalize the exchange with
a notary in case there was any future problem.
transactions and risk management 115

Did the Brazilian sugar trade force further innovation in the develop-
ment of paper instruments for trade? In the period to 1630 no evidence
so far collected has shown this. However, it stands to reason that the
quick incorporation of these credit instruments into the burgeoning
Atlantic trading world only enhanced their popularity. On the other
hand, many of the trades centered in northwestern Europe were carried
out over long distances, even in the inter-European routes. A round-trip
from Portugal to Brazil was no longer than a round trip from Danzig
to Lisbon. Lengthy time and distance, and extended inter-imperial
merchant networks were not unique to the Brazil trade but rather
characteristic of many of the bulk trades that formed the backbone
of the northwestern European commercial economy.
When specie did change hands, it was more likely to be in the
financial centers of Lisbon or Amsterdam, rather than in Brazil. In
1620 two Amsterdam Portuguese merchants partially settled a debt
with a payment of 130,350 reis. Rui Diaz D’Orta paid this amount
to Dr. Francisco Lopes Enriques. However D’Orta paid on behalf of
the debtor, Antonio Ruiz Chaves who lived in Bahia. Chaves did not
send currency from Brazil. Chaves and D’Orta had sent Rouen linen
to Bahia, sold it and purchased sugar for shipment to Portugal. The
payment came from the proceeds of the sugar in Lisbon.17
Just as the sixteenth century witnessed a much greater mobility of
capital through the use of new financial instruments, transaction costs
probably also fell through new techniques of spreading risk. Risks to
shipping in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were abundant, and
vessels carrying sugar, particularly those plying the Brazil-Portuguese
routes were vulnerable. As opposed to cargoes arriving from Asia,
Brazilian cargoes of sugar and brazilwood did not offer profits that
easily justified the use of large and heavily armed and manned ships.
The Portuguese preference for the use of caravels on the Brazil routes
invited the scorn of Padre Vieira who described them as “schools
for cowardice” since they seldom held many guns or those trained to
fire them.18 Dutch merchants were also wary of the costs imposed by

GAA, NA, no. 645, 909. See also many examples of paper transactions in Koen,
“Notarial Records,” including 4, no. 1 (1970): 124; 12, no. 1 (1978): 175, 177–9; 13,
no. 1 (1979): 106; 16, no. 2 (1982): 217.
Schwartz, Sugar Plantations, 180.
116 chapter six

heavy armament in trade routes dominated by a lower ratio of value

to bulk.19
One solution, sending ships together in armed convoy, met with little
favor, at least not in the Atlantic context. Before the founding of the
WIC, Dutch merchants shunned admiralschap, or sailing together.20 In
Portugal the principle of convoy sailing had its advocates, and political
authorities made various attempts starting from almost the beginning
of the sugar trade to encourage this type of transit.21 Almost invari-
ably, merchants and captains resisted these schemes. Sailing in fleets
slowed sailing time to the speed of the slowest vessel. Consequently,
even when ships set out in fleets they did not often observe the dis-
cipline to maintain them.22 A convoy system also increased turnover
time in ports and flooded markets with goods that could not always
absorb them easily. In the case of sugar, even a large entrepôt in the
northwest could suffer when too much reached the warehouses at the
same time. When Piet Heyn arrived in Zeeland with 2,000 crates of
sugar plundered in 1627 from Bahian mills, prices dropped consider-
ably.23 Many merchants and captains preferred to sail alone and take
their chances with pirates and privateers.
Of course, natural catastrophe also took its toll on Atlantic ship-
ping. Early modern ships were ill equipped to deal with the ravages
of winds, waves and unseen shoals. While ships on the Atlantic routes
had a longer life than those sailing to the East Indies, few ships in the
sixteenth or seventeenth centuries made more than a handful of voy-
ages before they were retired.24 Custom dictated that merchants and

Violet Barbour, “Marine Risks and Insurance in the Seventeenth Century,” Journal
of Economic and Business History 1 (1928/29): 563.
Ibid., 565.
AHU, Conselho Ultramarino, Cod. 35, fol. 128, 128v; fol. 165, 165v; fol. 187
and following pages.
A good example is a fleet organized to depart from Pernambuco on the 21st of
August 1618. The fleet consisted of “vinte e tres Vellas, desanove Naos e quatro Caravellas,
hua pera a ilha da Madeira, tres pera esta cidade, e treze Naos; Pera o Porto tres, Viana duas, e pera
Aveiro hua.” Citing the dangers from corsairs in the shipping lanes, authorities required
the captains to sign an agreement to sail in a fleet, with a penalty of 20 cruzados laid
out for breaking rank. A Capitão Môr, Manoel Mendes de Vasconcelos, presided over
the fleet. Seven days under sail, the Viana-destined ship sailed away from the fleet, and
subsequently discipline collapsed totally. Presumably, the desire to profit by being first
into Portuguese harbors outweighed the disincentives of potential capture by pirates or
a 20-cruzado (8,000 reis) fine, AHU, Pernambuco, caixa 1, (November 21, 1618).
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 192–3.
The “Sampson” a ship from Zeeland was considered to be in poor shape after
one trip to India and two to Brazil. In 1593, it nevertheless made a third trip to Brazil,
transactions and risk management 117

captains inspect vessels before undertaking voyages, but complaints

about barely seaworthy vessels formed one of the chief sources of
disputes among merchants.25
One of the most obvious and ancient responses of merchants to risk
at sea was to diversify their portfolios. While a poorly established mer-
chant might not have the capital to invest widely, those who had built
up their capital and credit did not stake it on one type of investment. In
the sugar trade there were few merchants who were only sugar traders.
Rather they traded in a variety of commodities along the routes that
were available to them, hoping—presumably—that if the premium of
arbitrage on one type of merchandise was not favorable, it might be
so on another. And even when merchants did send a large cargo of a
single commodity, they often preferred to minimize the risk of its loss
at sea by freighting it among several vessels.
The practice of merchants in parceling-out their cargos extended
to investments in ship owning. As described in the previous chapter,
multiple investors usually owned ships. This practice arose for various
reasons. On one level, it allowed people to pool their capital in order to
acquire what were very expensive capital goods by the standards of the
time.26 But the level of fractional holding in a ship could also respond to
the perception of risk at sea. Although her database remains too small
to admit any definite conclusions, Costa has found telling trends among
the 114 contracts for ship ownership in the Brazilian trade that she
has examined in the Lisbon and Porto archives for the period between
1580 and 1640. In periods of less risk—including 1615 to 1623—she
has noted fewer owners mentioned per ship in ship-owning contracts.

via Lisbon, on the return voyage its mast was damaged. Nevertheless, after a three-
month voyage it landed a cargo of 500 crates of sugar in Vigo. GAA, NA, no. 75,
5–7. See also: G.V. Scammell, “European seamanship in the great age of discovery,”
Mariner’s Mirror 68 (1982).
As was the case with the unfortunate with “Den Neptunus,” which arrived in Lis-
bon from Brazil in 1596 with a cargo of sugar. The super cargo sent it on to Livorno,
but it made it no further than Cadiz owing to its damaged and leaky condition. In
Cadiz, its sugar was stored in a warehouse, while repairs proceeded at a dilatory pace,
partly since, according to the owners, the workmen observed too many feast days. Alas,
the ship remained too long in Cadiz and was burned under English attack and the
sugar was taken. GAA, NA, no. 54, 130.
For the popularity of investment in shipping by small shareholders in the Dutch
Republic, see: Barbour, “Dutch and English Merchant Shipping,” 278–9. In the Dutch
case, it seems that shipbuilding was simply valued as a good investment.
118 chapter six

As the threat to Portuguese-Brazilian shipping increased after 1623, the

number of investors in single ships seemed to multiply.27
Another common response to marine risks by the sixteenth century
was the purchase of maritime insurance. In fact, maritime insurance was
the earliest form of insurance in general. As with so many other financial
breakthroughs, northern Italians pioneered it, but by the beginning of
the seventeenth century insurance was widespread.28 Investors did not
always buy insurance, depending on the level of risk they perceived,
but in times of heightened maritime risk it was common. A fleet of
80 ships leaving Lisbon for northern Europe in February of 1623, at
a time in which the WIC eagerly sought Portuguese prizes, was said
to be insured “to the nails.”29
Attempts to organize and regulate maritime insurance in Portugal
date to the Middle Ages. The earliest attempt anywhere by a govern-
ment to organize this business may in fact have been in Portugal under
King Denis. In the fourteenth century, King Ferdinand I set up a ship-
ping company with an insurance fund containing a fixed premium for
investors. As a practical matter, use of insurance was initially more
common among the Italians, and the first ever systematic treatise on
maritime insurance, Tractatus de Assecuratioinibus et Sponsionibus Mercatorium
appeared in Italy in 1553. However, its author was Pedro de Santarem,
a Portuguese commercial agent. The increasing importance of insur-
ance in the sixteenth century for commercial life can be seen in the
actions of King-Cardinal Henry, who set up a consulado, or insurance
tribunal, to adjucate disputes. This was temporarily abolished upon the
accession of Philip II, but soon restored: now in the style of Castilian
insurance courts.30
These actions marked a trend. The increasing volume of trade in
the sixteenth century, and the orgy of piracy and privateering that
preyed upon it, led to attempts to regulate and provide a more formal
framework for the insurance market in many places. Antwerp’s insur-
ance market was partly regulated in the sixteenth century with the
main intention that merchants did not take out more than one policy

Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:408–13.
Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 265–6.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 315–6.
T.R. de Souza, “Marine Insurance and Indo-Portuguese Trade History: An Aid
to Maritime Historiography,” The Indian Economic and Social History Review 14, no. 3
(1977): 377–8.
transactions and risk management 119

on a shipment, and that they freight 10% of their cargo at their own
risk.31 In Antwerp, as elsewhere, premiums varied dramatically depend-
ing on the perception of risk. Trips from Portugal to Brazil could cost
at times as much as 24% of the value of the cargo.32 The insurance
business waxed and waned following the vagaries of politics and war,
and premiums rose and fell accordingly. The second half of the six-
teenth century—not a felicitous time for Brabant—witnessed a falling
back of the insurance business in Antwerp, and premiums were high.33
But at the same time, insurance markets were growing in the cities of
London, Dover, Hamburg and Amsterdam, partly because now cargoes
frequently ended up there instead of Antwerp.34
Amsterdam’s insurance market—and its regulatory framework—rose
at the same time as the city moved into economic preeminence.
Insurance probably became common in Holland in the latter half of
the sixteenth century. By 1598 the city of Amsterdam set up a chamber
of assurance to register policies and settle disputes.35 Policies were sold
by official brokers and subject to the rules of the brokers’ guild.36 The
Amsterdam chamber enjoyed a high reputation for secrecy and for
prompt settlement. Merchants especially esteemed the former quality
since they dreaded any public airing of their business practices.37
At least some evidence shows that the particular risks of the Brazilian
sugar trade prompted merchants to seek stronger institutional support in
the Dutch Republic, and the States General took notice. One example
of this process can be seen in the events surrounding the capture by
French pirates of the ship the Hoope which left Rio de Janeiro with a
cargo of sugar at the beginning of 1618.38 Several institutions came
into play in the case of the Hoope: Amsterdam’s insurance courts at

Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 265–6.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 316–7.
Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 267.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 317. Chambers of Assurance appeared in London
in 1601, Rotterdam in 1614, Marseilles in 1669 and Paris in 1671. Barbour, “Marine
Risks and Insurance,” 573.
Violet Barbour, Capitalism in Amsterdam in the 17th Century (Ann Arbour: University
of Michigan Press, 1963), 33.
Koen, “Notarial Records,” 12, no. 1 (1978): 175–76.
Barbour, “Marine Risks and Insurance,” 573–5.
This voyage is mentioned elsewhere in this and other chapters, and is documented
in the following sources: GAA, NA, no. 381: 300; 460: 386–386v; 381: 299, 300, 329,
350, 391, 485, 508. Summaries of some of these documents are also to be found
in Koen, “Notarial Records,” 13, no. 1 (1979): 108; 13, no. 2 (1979): 222–3, 230; 14,
no. 1 (1980): 94; 16, no. 2 (1982): 200; 18, no. 2 (1984): 167, 174.
120 chapter six

the local level and the States General of the Dutch Republic at the
state level. Once news of its capture became known in Europe, the
investors in the cargo, whether in the Dutch Republic or in Portugal
began to seek a payout from their insurers. These cases were decided
through Amsterdam’s insurance courts, and claims on the cargoes were
made in France as late as four years after the seizure of the vessel.39
Furthermore, the case propelled merchants to seek the assistance of the
States General of the Dutch Republic who wrote to the French crown
in an attempt to retrieve the Hoope for its owners once it was known to
be in France, and directed its diplomatic personnel to pursue the case.40
The merchants involved paid for these interventions. This represented
a state, and not just a local, response to merchants’ disputes.
In spite of a developing institutional framework, much maritime
insurance was informally arranged. It came down to merchants insur-
ing other trusted merchant parties to disperse risk without the benefit
of a publicly celebrated contract. Usually the only stipulation was that
the insurer was not a party to the transaction he insured, but even this
caution was not always observed. Furthermore, merchants contracted
with various insurers to insure parts of a cargo. Few insurers took on
responsibility for more than 200 ducats per shipment or ship.41 This
meant that providing insurance was a widely dispersed activity. The
testimony of a single broker in Amsterdam in 1618 revealed that 42 dif-
ferent underwriters, mostly large merchants from Holland and Zeeland,
had contracted services through him.42 Insurance as a highly special-
ized economic activity belonged to the future, since investors typically
included insurance as only a part of their portfolio. A group of large
merchants in Amsterdam hatched a plan in 1628 to form a company

Freighters included: Francisco Coutinho, Luís Pereira de Miranda, Simão de
Leão, Joseph Pinto, Francisco de Cáceres, Diogo Gomes Mendes, Diogo Lopes Pinto,
Manuel Pinto and Pedro and João de la Faya, Gaspar Marcos Mendes, Álvaro Gomes
Bravo. Many of these freighters were based in Amsterdam, but some, such as Cáce-
res, were in Portugal. The latter was imprisoned in 1618 by the Holy Office. Insurers
included: Pieter van Gheel, David de l’Hommel, Hans Willemsse van Elsinck, Valerius
van Gistele de Oude, Jan Smit, Jan Stassart, Albert Schuijt, Henri Thibault, Manuel
Carvalho, Daniel and Jan van Gheel.
The capturing of “de Hoope” also prompted a diplomatic exchange between
the States General and the Kingdom of France, transcribed in, Grote Ser., No. 152.
The Hague: Nijhoff, 1975 J.G. Smit, ed., RSG, 1617–1618, RGP, Grote Ser. 152 (The
Hague: Nijhoff, 1975), 422, 447, 451, 559–60, 579, 583.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 316.
Ebert, “Dutch Trade with Brazil,” 67.
transactions and risk management 121

chartered by the government to monopolize maritime insurance. This

rent-seeking plan was dropped after five years following considerable
protest from merchants from the large Dutch cities.43
The lack of specialization and centralization in insurance markets
fit well with the Brazilian sugar trade, which itself operated from
such a large number of ports. It seems probable that insurance poli-
cies were common for shipments of Brazilian sugar in virtually all of
its export phases, given the risks at sea. Furthermore, insurance was
easily obtained. A merchant’s access to insurance was limited only
by his connections. He could contract in many different cities and
sometimes in more than one for the same shipment. It was possible to
have traffic between Porto and Brazil insured in Madrid, or to insure
a trip from Lisbon to Venice in Antwerp.44 For example, the Antwerp-
based Portuguese merchant, Rodrigo Ximenes insured two cargos of
sugar leaving from Pernambuco on the vessels, Salvator, captained by
Jan Cordts, and St. Jan, captained by Jan Martens. The ships were
probably bound for a Portuguese harbor. The policy was contracted
in Amsterdam.45 The insurer was Cornelis Snellinck, who at this time
was engaged in his own Brazil trade, arranged through partners in
Portugal and Antwerp.46
Portuguese merchants abroad were active in both buying and sell-
ing policies for trips between Brazil and Portugal. Many of Antwerp’s
resident Portuguese merchants served as insurers or insurance brokers.
In 1594, Luís Fernandes, along with Flemish and French merchants
in Antwerp undersigned a policy for a sugar shipment from Bahia
consigned to Lisbon for a merchant, Jehan Dubois, who contracted the
policy through his agent, Julien del Court. The ship, the Faulcon Blancq,
sailed under the Rotterdam captain, Willem Martensz, and was attacked
and sunk by French pirates.47 Portuguese merchants in Antwerp com-
monly insured cargoes going between that city and Portugal or Spain,
as well as voyages on the Portuguese colonial routes, since they tended
to possess the most up-to-date information about risks and dangers.48

Barbour, “Marine Risks and Insurance,” 573–5.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 316–7.
Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 267.
GAA, NA, no. 33, 390v–392.
Pohl, Die Portugiesen in Antwerpen, 268.
Ibid., 269–70. There are no insurance policies in the notarial archives in Lisbon
or Porto, but this does not mean that insurance was not arranged in these commercial
centers. Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:228.
122 chapter six

Insurance policies themselves could circulate as payment. Antonio

Mendez Carlos, a Portuguese merchant in Amsterdam, declared himself
ready to make payment for a debt owed to Francisco de Lemos with
a cargo of merchandise sailing from Zeeland to the Canary Islands
along with the insurance policies that accompanied them, valued at
350 pounds.49
Policies purchased in Amsterdam before 1630 showed that insurance
absorbed the energies of a widely dispersed merchant community, even
if the trend was towards specialization. Table 6.1 shows the structure for
some insurance policies contracted in Amsterdam for voyages between
Brazil and Portugal. The documents reflected in this table do not always
specify all the individual insurers, but at least in a few instances they
identify many insurers in a single policy. The use of multiple insurers was
probably standard practice. These few policies extant in Amsterdam’s
notarial archives do not allow us to assess the frequency of insurance
policies on the Brazil-Portugal route, but given the secrecy that often
attended this business in general, the presence of just a few may hint
at a much more widespread practice.
Even after the expiration of the Twelve Year Truce, insurance poli-
cies were issued from Amsterdam for the sugar trade, and Portuguese
insurers in Amsterdam were involved in some of these transactions.
These kinds of merchant transactions were in opposition to the gov-
ernment’s political objectives, and in particular to those of the WIC.
But these transactions must have continued in some volume, since the
States General forbade them in 1622.50 As Table 6.1 suggests, some
Amsterdam merchants still provided insurance for Portuguese voyages
to Brazil as late as 1629 when the Dutch were openly at war against
Portuguese shipping in the Atlantic. Selling insurance to the enemy
persisted even though it went against the political aims of the WIC
and the States General.

GAA, NA, no. 381, 506–508.
Barbour, Capitalism in Amsterdam, 34.
transactions and risk management 123

Year Insurers Insured Ship, Captain Voyage Cargo

1597 Volckert Siouxsz Barent Sas Vliegende Raven, Lisbon-Angola- n/a
(Amsterdam) (Amsterdam) Merten Brazil-Lisbon-
Hermissen Zeeland or
(Hoorn) Holland
1606 Various Insurers in Abraham Tijger, Zeeland-Portugal- n/a,
Amsterdam van Lemens Adriaan van Brazil-Portugal- premium is
(Amsterdam) Santfoort Emden, 22%
(Zeeland) Hamburg or other
“free” places
1614 Jan Jansz Smit, Jorgen Jan Heuft Dolphijn, Dieppe-Brazilian merchandise
Timmerman, Jehan (Rouen) Touchain Pol Coast-Le Havre or
Heijckes, Cornelis Dieppe
Claesz Soeteman,
Willem Cornelisz,
Jacob Lucas Meijaertsz,
Bartholomeus and
Abraham Bisschop,
Lambert van Erp,
Wijbrant Warwijck,
Francois Thijsz, Isaac
Haeck, Hans van Soldt
de Jonge, Godaert
Kerckerinck, Pelgrom
van Os, Elias van Gheel
(all Amsterdam) Jan
Heuft (Rouen)
1616 François Wouters Simão Nosse Senhora Bahia-Porto Sugar,
(Amsterdam) Nunes da Batalha, merchandise
Luís Pereira de Miranda, de Matos Estevão
broker (Amsterdam) (Portugal) Costa
1621 Bartholomeus Munter Diogo Merce de Deus, Pernambuco- n/a
(Amsterdam) Nunes Andre Lopes Porto
Vitoria Anzinho
1629 Ijsbrant Dobbesz, Michiel Nosse Senhora Bahia-Madeira n/a
Gerbrant Dobbesz, Jan Corael de Encarnação,
Parijs de Jonge, Jan van Pedro
der Straeten, Arnoult Gonsalves
van der Hem, Volcard
Croock, Tatich an
Harinckhoeck, Jacob

Table 6.1 Some records of maritime insurance policies in the GAA,

contracted for voyages to Brazil
Sources: GAA, NA, no. 78, 155; no. 104, 209; no. 377, 74; no. 379, 594; no. 611A, 279;
no. 384, 31; no. 399, 169

How can this contradiction be explained? The insurance industry

was competitive and inter-imperial, and did not respond readily to the
mercantilist directives of the States General. Amsterdam and other
cities in Holland and Zeeland were in an unusual position as both
insurance centers serving, among other things, the Brazilian sugar
124 chapter six

trade, and hosts to fleets preying on the same shipping they sometimes
insured. This was so during both periods of open hostility as well as the
Twelve Year Truce.51 There is no doubt that the necessity of insuring
against attacks at sea drove up transaction costs. However, it is less clear
that this provided clear advantages or disadvantages to any particular
group. Many ships transporting sugar were themselves Dutch, or partly
owned by Dutch investors who might suffer from the predations of
their fellow countrymen.52 Furthermore, although Amsterdam was a
large and important market for insurance, it was not the only one. If
Portuguese merchants used the insurance market in Amsterdam, it was
likely because of its excellent reputation and because they already had
an investment presence there, not because there were no other options.
The fact that Portuguese merchants also sold insurance in Amsterdam
further complicates any analysis based on national interest.53 Rather it
seems that insurance policies for Portuguese merchants continued in
Amsterdam after 1621 simply because it was impossible to enforce their
prohibition, given the informal nature of the business, its inter-imperial
dimensions and the still weak institutional context of the business.
Aside from difficulties arising to the business of insurance from
political circumstances was a more endemic problem. The wide invest-
ment and geographic dispersal of insurance markets—as well poor
information—often led to fraud. The notarial archives in Amsterdam
show several such disputes over insurance. News of a ship being cap-
tured or lost at sea could trickle unevenly into European ports and
might reach different insurers at different times. This fact, coupled
with the merchant practice of only first insuring cargoes long after a
voyage was underway, led to accusations of abuses. Around 1619 the
notable Porto-based merchant, Francisco de Cáceres, asked his son in
Amsterdam, Simão Rodrigues de Cáceres, to arrange for an additional
100 Flemish pounds of insurance on the ship the Hoope—mentioned
above—whose arrival in Porto was expected with a cargo of sugar
from Rio de Janeiro. Cáceres the younger placed the order through
his compatriot and correspondent in Amsterdam, José Pinto, who in
turn arranged insurance from Daniel and Jan van Gheel, well-known

Costa has suggest that this amounted to a type of tribute that drove up costs
for Portuguese shippers to the advantage of Dutch merchants: Costa, O transporte no
Atlântico, 1:230.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 317.
Barbour, Capitalism in Amsterdam, 34.
transactions and risk management 125

insurers on the Amsterdam market. News of the capture of the Hoope

by French corsairs arrived soon after in Amsterdam. Simão Rodrigues
de Cáceres and José Pinto were then suspected of fraud, and they swore
to an Amsterdam notary in April of 1619 that the elder Cáceres had
no knowledge of the loss of the ship when he requested additional
insurance on the Amsterdam market.54
Whether purchased in good faith or not, this type of last minute
insurance blurred the distinction between calculated risk dispersal and
betting. Another form of insurance fell unequivocally on the side of
gambling. This was insurance “on good or bad tidings” and could be
arranged between merchants when the return of a ship was in some
doubt towards the end of a trading expedition. Policies could cost
from 12 to 20% of the value of a cargo for inter-European travel, and
upwards of 35% for trips to the colonies. The Antwerp merchant Pedro
Clarisse insured Manuel Matheus in Lisbon at 33% on 10,000 reis of
merchandise loaded on the Santa Cruz, whose arrival was nervously
expected from Bahia. Within a few hours of the writing of the policy,
the ship arrived, netting Clarisse 3,300 reis.55
With medieval antecedents, the loan on bottomry conditions contin-
ued to be practiced in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries alongside
insurance as a means of mitigating risk. This technique combined the
qualities of insurance and finance. Essentially, it was a loan on the value
of a ship or cargo, or both. If a trading journey was completed, the
borrower was required to pay back the loan within a specified period
of time, along with a premium. However, if the cargo or ship were
lost, the risk was to the creditor. In Portugal, these loans existed in both
the Atlantic and Asian trade routes. According to Boyajian, in the Asia
trade it often involved the advance sale of the Asian merchandise at
a fixed price, and so functioned as a type of futures trading, with the
risk for the receiver. Boyajian has estimated the premium on bottomry
contracts in the Asia trade as averaging 25% in the seventeenth century.
He suggests that for slaving or sugar voyages the premium was typically
6–16% and in the Asia trade about 25%.56 These estimates are not
reliable, for in this kind of financing the premium could vary wildly.

GAA, NA, no. 645, 668–669.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 318–9.
Boyajian, Portuguese Trade in Asia, 120–1.
126 chapter six

The Amsterdam notarial records reveal some contracts for loans

on bottomry conditions for vessels traveling to Brazil. In these cases,
premiums were much higher. Premiums rising as high as 50 or 60%
reflect the risk of sailing a Dutch vessel to Brazil during times of
embargo. On the other hand, profit from selling sugar must have been
high enough to warrant the risk, at least for some. Notably among the
examples in Table 6.2, the voyage contracted in 1603 probably reflects
a lower premium while the Spanish trade embargo was temporarily
lifted. Only five of these types of contracts for Brazil travel are found
in the Amsterdam archives for this period, making it hard to generalize
about their frequency or typicality.
In Portugal, bottomry contracts (créditos a risco) were judged by the
state, along with other risk-dispersal techniques, as fostering cowardice
among captains and their crews, since they were protected by insur-
ance.57 These contracts were prohibited for the Indian route in 1609,
and the prohibition was generalized for the entire kingdom in 1623.58
Nevertheless, they persisted. Costa has found seven such contracts in
the notarial archives of Lisbon and Porto in the period up to 1630.59
Again, the frequency of such contracts cannot be easily deduced through
surviving archival records. Costa believes that they became more com-
mon for sugar routes after the WIC invasion of Pernambuco, and found
that premiums sometimes reached 100%, reflecting the greater risk of
sailing during this period.60 Nevertheless, loans on bottomry conditions
were probably made from the beginning of the trade in Brazil.61

The king in 1623 wrote that ships fell to the enemy “sem se defenderem delles como
podorão fazer se tem por cousa certa que a causa disto era de os homens do mar tomarem dinheiro a
responder a risco dos ditos navios e embarcações e cascos delles” Quoted in Costa, O transporte
no Atlântico, 1:234.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 2:191–216.
This is confirmed in the case of a bottomry loan made by Lisbon merchant
Francisco de Palácios to Francisco Borges Veiga from Porto at a rate of 105%. The
loan was on the security of a pataco that was to sail to Angola, Brazil and then Lisbon
around 1630. IANTT, IL, Processo de Francisco de Palácios, No. 4481. Another such loan
was made around 1618 with a premium of 47% on a return trip from Porto to Rio
de Janeiro. IANTT, IL, Processo de Álvaro de Azevedo, no. 728. Also: Costa, O transporte
no Atlântico, 1:231.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 2:191–229. Costa has found around 70.
transactions and risk management 127

Year Lenders Borrowers Ship/ Projected Voyage Cargo Amount/Premium/

1597 Nicolaes Du Dirck Willemss Roode Leeuw/ Zeeland- n/a 1,200 guilders /
Gardijn, Jude Pastoor, Edam Lisbon-North Africa- 60% / 16–20 days
Bovenhuid, Cadiz or Canaries- upon return
Nicolaes Balessel Brazil-Lisbon or
Holland or Zeeland
1597 Claes Sys, Jan Jansz ’t Swart Vercken / n/a 852 guilders /
Hendrick Mieuss Meijns, captain, Zeeland-Lisbon- 50% / 10–12 days
Torgans, both Hoorn Brazil-Lisbon upon return
1600 Duarte Pieter Oosten, St Franciscus / n/a 50 pounds / 50%
Fernandes, Pieter captain, Vlissingen-Madeira- / 8–14 days upon
Belten, Hans van Manuel de Sa, Bahia-Portugal or return
Uffelen master Amsterdam
1603 Jasper Quingeth Jan Jacopsen St Jacop, and St. Jan n/a 2,400 guilders /
Babtista / Amsterdam- 24% in Lisbon, 28 %
Lisbon or Setubal- if Pisa, 30% if
possibly Brazil-possibly Venice / 8–14 days
Portugal or Italy upon return
1620 Jorge Tomás, Manuel São Francisco / n/a 22 Flemish pounds /
Amsterdam, for Fernandes, Amsterdam-Madeira- 45% / 20–30 days
account of Gil captain, Brazil-Lisbon upon return.
Lopes Pinto, Madeira

Table 6.2 Records for loans on bottomry conditions in the GAA—trips

to Brazil
Sources: GAA, NA, no. 625, 539–540; no. 645, 991; no. 76, 208; no. 95, 143; no. 76, 167V; no.
76, 187V; no. 85, 193.

In spite of a more felicitous environment for dispersing risk and

conducting trade over long distances, networks sometimes failed, and
merchants lost their capital. Added to the risk of investments gone sour
were the periodic crackdowns of the Holy Office on the New Christian
communities in Portugal and Brazil. Some merchants recovered, but
others, such as Francisco de Palácios, described in Chapter 4, were
destroyed for good.62 These crackdowns could radiate across Europe
and the Atlantic World, causing hardship for countless associates, as was
the case after the Inquisition’s mass arrests of merchants in Portugal in
1618. That same year Portuguese merchants in Amsterdam claimed that
they had lost 539,071 guilders (78,410,327 reis) to confiscations by the
Holy Office of goods in possession of their correspondents in Portugal. A

IANTT, IL, Processo de Francisco de Palácios, no. 4481.
128 chapter six

majority of these confiscations were of Brazilian sugar.63 Clearly many

networks came under strain, and some probably collapsed.
The Brazilian sugar trade, as did long-distance trade in general,
benefited from several developments in the Early Modern world, and
was itself a part of that development. It began at a propitious time
in the development of financial transactions in Europe. By the time
Brazilian sugar entered European markets, many of the financial tools
that characterize modern capitalism were becoming common, especially
in the areas where sugar was most heavily marketed. Paper money, in
the form of letters of credit and exchange had achieved a high level of
negotiability, owing to the efforts of merchant associations backed by
laws in the towns that served as the chief money markets of Europe,
such as Antwerp and Amsterdam. These financial tools were highly
characteristic of the sugar trade and made it possible to do business
in Brazil, where specie was rare.
The exploding volume of trade in sugar over the Atlantic accom-
panied a period of growth in trade in general. At the same time there
was an expansion in the supply of specie in Europe, and a lowering
of the cost of money. Generous terms of credit were commonplace
by the end of the sixteenth century. The northern European money
markets offered particularly good terms for loans, with discounts and
long periods for repayment. Merchants involved in the sugar trade
took advantage of these credit facilities either directly or through cor-
respondents and relatives.
The sugar trade also benefited from the more widespread techniques
of risk-dispersal, even if they were not always new. Although the sugar
trade expanded during a period of increased access to capital at cheaper
prices, the early phase was also associated with greater risk at sea, owing
to pirates and privateers. Risk management techniques in the form of
diversified portfolios, insurance and loans on bottomry conditions spread
the risk among large numbers of merchants and over political borders.
Amsterdam emerged as a major insurance center in the seventeenth
century, but insurance was still not a highly specialized function, and
merchants could arrange for policies in many different markets. Piracy

ARA, SG (Liassen admiraliteiten) 12561.31: “Declaratie van de schaden bij de
Portugeesen tot Amsterdam resideerende geleeden in Portugal door hun factooren
ende vrienden door de Inquisitie gevangen ofte gevlucht, ende alle de goederen hun
lieden, ende de Voorgs. Portugeesen toecoomende gesequestreert.” Thanks to Victor
Enthoven for directing me towards the latter source.
transactions and risk management 129

and privateering drove costs up for everyone, but these costs were
eventually so widely distributed that it is difficult to say whether there
were clear winners or losers in the insurance markets. At the least, risk
management techniques allowed for the persistence of a valuable long
distance trade through sometimes perilous waters.


This chapter considers the Brazilian sugar trade that took place out-
side of legally sanctioned channels. This was a business that tried to
operate beyond the reach of customs houses and officials, government
regulations, and treaties between governments concerning trade. I
have tried to take a very broad definition of illegal trade and treat it
more as a category of analysis than a precise definition. For purposes
of this analysis I include an assessment first of ‘contraband’ trade, a
category that includes trading along prohibited routes and in prohibited
places, and the evasion of customs rules in various ports. The second
part of the chapter turns to piracy and privateering. I have made the
usual distinction between piracy and privateering in which the latter
is understood as a manifestation of state policy that is authorized with
letters of reprisal. However, I agree with other scholars that the dis-
tinction between piracy and privateering is thin and often a matter of
perspective between the perpetrator and the victim.1
Such a study presents fairly obvious problems of quantification.
In the case of ships seized at sea by political enemies or pirates, it is
possible to estimate roughly the quantities of commodities passing out
of officially sanctioned trade routes, since evidence often survives in
contemporary accounts and insurance claims. However, when insid-
ers were involved in trade fraud, the results are probably impossible
to measure. Smuggling obviously was done as discreetly as possible.
Nevertheless, Dutch and Portuguese archives yield sufficient material to
describe the kinds of fraud that existed on sugar routes. These descrip-
tions follow, even though it is impossible to assert with total confidence
how representative they are.

Anne Pérotin-Dumon states that “the dispute about whether someone should
be called a pirate or not is really about who has the power.” in “The pirate and the
emperor: power and the law on the seas, 1450–1850,” in The Political Economy of Mer-
chant Empires, ed. James D. Tracy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 204.
For a general discussion of violence and power in an economic context see: Frederic
C. Lane, “Economic Consequences of Organized Violence,” Journal of Economic History
18, no. 4 (1958): 401–17.
132 chapter seven

What is the significance of illegal trading in the context of the larger

argument of this work? The same conditions that permitted inter-
imperial integration in the commercialization of Brazilian sugar left
the trade open to fraud and piracy. When merchants decided to evade
the laws of a particular kingdom they presumably did so—not only
because of perceived opportunities—but also based on considerations
of risk of seizure of goods, imprisonment, or damage to their reputa-
tions and future opportunities to trade. The inter-imperial networks that
facilitated the Brazilian sugar trade did not always follow the rules that
were laid down by the states linked by this commodity chain. Indeed,
the market provided its own impetus to patterns of trade, sometimes
in accordance with imperial dictates and sometimes not. It might seem
strange, for example, that merchants in Amsterdam pursued contraband
trade in Brazilian sugar with Portuguese counterparts, even after the
Dutch Republic had launched a war against Brazil through its proxy,
the WIC. But the contradiction vanishes when the perspective of
the state is removed. Merchants were parts of international networks
grounded in personal relationships, experience, shared confidence, and
knowledge of markets. They responded as much to the opportunities
and risks inherent in their own networks as much as to those coming
from the state. This chapter isolates and describes the factors that might
enter into the decisions of individual merchants or groups of merchants
trading ‘illegally’. It also shows that so-called ‘illegal’ trade is a vital part
of the story of the transnational integration of the Atlantic economy.
Indeed the persistence of trade even against state prohibitions and in
times of war is vivid testimony to the limited role of states in organiz-
ing and regulating this trade.
Geographic realities were a highly important variable for the issue
of illegal trade; the Brazilian sugar trade was an Atlantic trade, which
meant that it was very difficult to control. No early-modern European
state had sufficient resources to impose a rigorous system of protection
in an Atlantic economy characterized by a large and decentralized port
system, although several states would attempt it. In the period to 1630
the Spanish had partly managed to achieve a centralized trading system
with the convoy fleet system that brought Zacatecas and Potosí silver
in well-armed order to Seville in most years. The convoy only failed
in 1628 when the silver fleet fell to WIC admiral Piet Heyn, although
the system was otherwise also open to contraband trading.
Silver production was somewhat easier to control, since it was
centralized. Production in Brazil, by contrast, was usually spread out
illegal trade 133

over a massive coastline. Brazilwood, for example, was susceptible to

clandestine trade. Dutch and Flemish smugglers in the years 1590 to
1620 visited the under-populated captaincies of Ilhéus, Cabo Frio and
Maranhão to load brazilwood, and they left compatriots on the coast
who would learn the local languages and arrange for future cargoes.
Brazilwood grew freely on these coasts, and local Portuguese residents
and administrators were often happy to offer assistance in illegal trade.2
For merchants who wished to lower their costs by stealthily avoiding
the legal taxes on the sugar trade or avoiding the legally prescribed
trade routes, the geographic dispersal of the trade was helpful. There
were always possibilities for prohibited shippers to receive a warm
welcome in a small or remote port where the government presence
was limited or non-existent, and collusion between merchants and
government officials to circumvent the rules was sometimes hard to
prevent. Additionally, goods could, in theory, be trans-shipped at an
intermediary port such as one of the Atlantic islands, or just sail directly
to a market elsewhere in Europe to avoid the taxing infrastructure of
the Portuguese metropolis.
In regards to contraband trade, it is also worthwhile to consider the
evolving legal framework for trade in Brazil and the level of enforce-
ment of existing laws that conditioned contraband trade. As discussed
in Chapter 3, trade in Brazil was initially free, at least to other Catholic
lands. Don Sebastian placed restrictions on foreign traders in 1571, at
a fairly early phase of Brazilian production, and these were renewed
under Philip II twenty years later. Still, in practice foreign ships contin-
ued to sail to Brazil in considerable numbers before 1605. In particular,
large ships from Hamburg and other Baltic ports transported sugar to
Portugal, partly to make up for the massive losses of the Portuguese
merchant marine to English privateers.3

Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 136.
Some English merchants continued to trade peacefully with the Portuguese after
the union of the Iberian crowns, especially in the Azores. Scammell reports that two
English ships under Portuguese command sailed to the Azores in 1587 with the inten-
tion to exchange textiles for wine. This was to be traded for slaves in Africa and then
sugar in Brazil, which was to return to London. It is not known if the journey was
completed. This kind of trade could not have been common, for sugar prices were
already declining in England as a result of so much sugar entering via privateers and
pirates. If illegal trade did continue between the Azores and England after 1580 it
was likely oriented towards trade in commodities such as cloth and woad. Scammell,
“The English in the Atlantic Islands,” 310–11. See also: Mello, “Os livros de saídas
das urcas.”
134 chapter seven

These visits were not necessarily illegal; if properly licensed, there

was no obstacle for foreign travel to Brazil. However, it appears that
foreign ships sometimes committed fraud in another way, which prob-
ably contributed to the general ban on foreign shipping in Brazil in
1605. Portuguese officials became concerned that some Hanseatic vessels
had sailed directly back to northern Europe from Brazil, bypassing the
Portuguese metropolis. In 1590, 11 ships sailed to Hamburg directly
from Brazil. By 1602 at least 19 had done so. In 1602, three ships
from Lübeck returned directly back there from Brazil without visiting
a Portuguese port, spawning a lengthy lawsuit.4
These ships had been licensed to trade but had broken the terms of
their licenses by failing to return to Portugal to unload their cargoes.
The Portuguese government was not always able to prevent this abuse.
There was a system of sureties to guarantee that foreign ships would
return to Lisbon, but this did not always work out as prescribed.5 A
Dutch ship’s clerk described his ordeal in Cadiz in 1597 at the hands
of Portuguese customs agents. Two ships, the Roode Leeuw, and Swarte
Vercken planned a trip encompassing Lisbon, Cadiz, North Africa, the
Atlantic Islands and Brazil, a typical trading pattern for this period.
After carrying sugar from Lisbon to Ceuta, the ships anchored in Cadiz
in order to load wine and oil for a journey to Pernambuco. Although
claiming to have licenses to travel to Brazil, the ships were pursued
by a Lisbon customs official, Diego Lopes Caminho, who claimed
that they had not left a surety in Lisbon and should pay 20% of the
value of their outgoing goods. After disputing the charge, the captain
of the Roode Leeuw along with the clerk was imprisoned in Cadiz until
the merchants who had freighted the vessels arrived to pay the surety
and set them free. In this case, things turned out well for Portuguese
tax collectors, but the incident shows that merchants and crews were
sometimes prepared to abuse the legal system for sailing to Brazil.6
It is impossible to know exactly how frequently merchants and cap-

Kellenbenz, “Der Brasilienhandel der Hamburger ‘Portugiesen’,” 317–8.
GAA, NA, no. 197, 173–4.
GAA, NA, no. 79, 8V–12. After the captain and clerk of the “Roode Leeuw” were
imprisoned, the captain of the “het Swarte Vercken” sailed from Cadiz in order to
avoid the same intervention by customs officials. The remaining crewmembers of the
“Roode Leeuw” followed. When the freighters arrived to pay the surety, they found
the ships gone with no clear idea of the destination. In fact they had returned north
and sold the wine and oil in England, claiming that the owners of the cargo were
Spaniards and enemies.
illegal trade 135

tains evaded the rules before 1605, but presumably the majority of ships
leaving Brazil returned to Portugal to unload. The Baltic and North
Sea hulks were of very large capacity, and were probably underutilized
on trips returning from Brazil. These ships were built for the classic
bulk trades in grain and salt. Furthermore, as we have seen, they often
made voyages to Brazil while wintering in southern ports, waiting for
the thaws in the north that would allow return voyages. Profit potentially
could be made every time a cargo was exchanged in a new port, and
so it made sense for northern captains to return to Portugal and load
salt or other commodities, along with sugar, for return voyages. Still,
factors affecting profitability could vary widely even over a short period
of time. From time to time, merchants and captains decided that their
best chances for profit lay in evading the prescribed system of trade.
When European vessels did sail illegally to Brazil in order to engage
in contraband trade, their reception could be mixed. In 1606 Sebastião
da Rocha received an English ship with trade goods off the coast of
Pernambuco in spite of efforts of the governor, Alexandre de Moura,
to prevent the trading. This is revealed in a document that also reports
illicit Dutch and French trading in the region.7 The English continued
to make at least a few contraband voyages to less populated parts of
Brazil after 1610.8 On the other hand, foreigners were not always
welcome to trade on the Brazilian coast. In the 1580s residents of the
Brazilian coast must have been alarmed at the arrival in heavily armed
foreign ships of Hawkins and Drake, even if they professed motives
of peaceful trade.
Among the northern European nations trading illegally with Brazil,
the Dutch deserve special consideration. They were the most heavily
targeted by Habsburg trade policies, which were in force in Brazil after
1580. The beginning of Dutch-flagged shipping in Brazil is not clear,
but probably there was no significant presence of Dutch ships in Brazil
before 1580 when the Spanish and Portuguese crowns were united.
Dutch shipping was subject to a general embargo from 1585 to 1590,
but this was mainly an ineffective measure. There was at least some
trading in the period until 1598 when the embargo was renewed, this
time with stronger enforcement. After 1605, all foreign shipping was

Frédéric Mauro, ed., Le Bresil au XVII e Siecle. Documents inédits relatifs à L’Atlantique
Portugais (Coimbra: University Press, 1963), 225–6.
Scammell, “British Smuggling in the Iberian Americas,” 148.
136 chapter seven

banned from Brazil, but shortly after this—during the Twelve Year
Truce—the Dutch Republic became one of the chief destinations for
Brazilian goods. It is not entirely surprising that some Dutch merchants
attempted to trade directly, even during the Truce. When the Truce
expired in 1621, illegal trade appears to have expanded considerably.
Dutch ships began to appear in Brazilian harbors between 1580
and 1605, although it is not always clear whether they were trading
legally. In the Amsterdam notarial archives at least 19 records make
explicit mention of Dutch ships and shippers traveling or planning to
travel to Brazil before 1598.9 This probably represents only a fraction
of the total, which perhaps was closer to 100.10 Some ships obtained
royal permission to travel.11 However, during periods of lax vigilance,
surely some of them traveled illegally. A projected trip—celebrated in
a bottomry contract in 1597—stipulated that the Edam captain, Dirck
Willemss Pastoor should sail the Roode Leeuw from Zeeland to Lisbon,
North Africa, Cadiz or the Canary Islands, Brazil and then back to
Lisbon. According to the contract, if he heard that his ship might be
subject to arrest he was to return directly to Zeeland or Holland.12 If
they did not or could not obtain permission to sail, captains gathered
as much information about conditions en route as possible in order to
ascertain the level of risk. Captain Claes Claessen from Amsterdam
sailed from Hamburg to Lisbon on a voyage freighted by Adam Hulscher
of Antwerp in 1590. He was to receive further orders from Hulscher’s
correspondent in Lisbon about a projected trip to Brazil but was forced
to return north because of the royal ban on travel there.13 Presumably
officials in Lisbon did not let him sail, perhaps because of the Dutch
origins of the ships and shipper.
Dutch merchants who had a wide international ambit of correspon-
dents could overcome these obstacles. In 1594, the above-mentioned
Adam Hulscher, now in Amsterdam, declared to a notary that he had
done considerable business importing Brazilian goods through, among

GAA, NA, no. 72, 25; no. 208; no. 51, 88; no. 54, 36V; no. 54, 130; no. 95, 143;
no. 8, 21; no. 42, 84V; no. 47, 6; no. 32, 176; no. 47, 96V; no. 48, 21; no. 32, 340; no.
73, 5–7; no. 50, 39V; no. 76, 187V; no. 51, 79; no. 52, 101V; no. 79, 8V–12.
This is the figure given by: E. van den Boogaart, “La expansión holandesa en el
atlántico, 1580–1800,” in Los neerlandeses en el mundo comercial atlántico de la Doble Monarquía
Ibérica, 1590–1621, ed. E. van den Boogaart (Madrid: Niel-Gerond, 1992), 76–77.
GAA, NA, no. 79, 8V–12.
GAA, NA, no. 76, 208.
GAA, NA, no. 42, 84V.
illegal trade 137

others, his brother Evert Hulscher in Brazil. He also had relatives in

the Canary Islands and Antwerp. He freighted goods in both Dutch
and Portuguese ships, but given his connections it seems likely that he
either could try to pass off the former as Flemish or German ships, or
that he was able to obtain licenses.14
After 1598, when a shipping ban against the Dutch was renewed
and enforcement efforts were heightened, Dutch ships could only
travel to Brazil with falsified passports. The re-opening of traffic to
Brazil temporarily in 1603 saw the resumption of some Dutch ship-
ping, but did little to halt a sharply downward trend for the decade.15
Nevertheless, some flow of sugar into Amsterdam was maintained, and
some Amsterdam merchants took part. One prominent name in the
Amsterdam sugar trade in this decade was Cornelis Snellinck, who is
described in Chapter 4. Snellinck sometimes contracted Dutch ships
to make trips to Portugal and Brazil, but he and others seem usually
to have perpetuated the fiction that the ships were German, and these
ships usually sailed from Emden.16
After 1609, when the flow of sugar resumed to the Netherlands
legally, the economic logic of these kinds of journeys was reduced.
But some illegal trade still continued. An account from 1609 vividly
reveals the ambiguous border between contraband trade and piracy.
Amsterdam merchant, Louis del Becque, chartered a large and heavily
armed ship the Lieffde, captained by Pieter Michielsen, to sail to Paraiba
or Pernambuco for trade. En route the Lieffde encountered a Portuguese
caravel leaving Brazil carrying a sugar cargo. Upon boarding, the Dutch
crew learned from the Portuguese mariners that they could not trade
with the Brazilian population without risk to life, ship and goods. The
Dutch captain determined, instead, to trade at sea and took the cargo
of sugar in exchange for some luxury cloths and broadcloth. Later he
arranged a similar exchange for a sugar cargo from another Portuguese
caravel that he encountered on the open sea. The entire crew of the
Lieffde testified to a notary in Amsterdam that these were friendly trans-
actions.17 Others disagreed. Four merchants in Amsterdam testified a

GAA, NA, no. 47, 6.
A few such journeys are indicated in GAA, NA, no. 98, 21V.
GAA, NA, no. 98, 133V; no. 35, 111; no. 104, 209.
GAA, NA, no. 196, 299–301V. Louis del Becque, originally from Lille, had lived
in Amsterdam since 1587 where he was an experienced trader to the Iberian Peninsula.
Koen, “Notarial Records,” 2, no. 2 (1968): 265.
138 chapter seven

few months later to the same notary that the trading coordinated by
Louis del Becque was coerced trade.18 Trans-shipment, they claimed,
was not practiced because Portuguese officials punished it severely.
Furthermore, they had not heard of the Portuguese allowing it to
happen on a friendly basis with vessels of any nation, neither in the
Canary Islands or elsewhere. One merchant, Pieter Dumolijn, claimed
that in Lisbon he had heard complaints about this kind of forced trade
by ships freighted by Louis del Becque.19
Another Dutch trip to the coast of Brazil in 1614 revealed both the
hope of some that the Portuguese would trade freely with illegal Dutch
ships and the frustration of those hopes. The VOC fitted out a fleet of
six ships commanded by Joris van Spilbergen, including two 600-ton
warships and a total of 750 sailors and soldiers. The stated purpose
of the journey, encouraged by the States General, was to explore the
route to the Pacific via the Straits of Magellan. Another hope was to
trade on the southwest coast of America. Although trade with Brazil
did not figure as a major goal of this endeavor, the fleet arrived on
the coast of Brazil at the end of the year seeking fresh provisions.20
Spilbergen knew that his fleet would not be well received in any of
the major ports of Brazil, so he first landed a party on Ilha Grande
near Rio de Janeiro to obtain fresh water. There his landing party was
attacked and several were killed by an armed party of “Portuguese and
mestizos,” while others were taken prisoner.21 In mid-January the ship
sailed southwest to Santos in São Vicente Bay, hoping to obtain more
provisions. Here the reception was mixed, as the Portuguese settlers
regarded the fleet warily. Some provisions were secretly bartered, but
the leaders of the Dutch fleet soon realized that there was no advantage

Pieter Beltgens, Jan Jansz Backer, Jacob Geurts Cleijnsorch and Pieter Dumolijn
deposed at the request of Amsterdam Portuguese merchants Gasper Lopes Homem,
Duarte Fernandes, and Sebastião Rodrigues de Leão, GAA, NA, no. 196, 325–
Dumolijn claimed “dat voor sijn vertreck van Lisboa de clachten aldaer sijn gecommen vant
nemen van de carvelen bij de schepen van Louwys Beeckque ende dat zij haar goet door bedwanck
gelost hadde.” Ibid. These various notarized testimonies probably indicate some kind of
dispute among merchants about del Becque’s activities, which may have hurt Amsterdam
merchants with an interest in ordinary shipping between Brazil and Portugal.
Warnsinck, ed., De reis om de wereld van Joris van Spilbergen, 1614–1617, XXXVI–
Ibid., 8.
illegal trade 139

to staying in Santos and felt that the Portuguese residents seemed intent
only on ‘deceitful’ behavior.22
Incidents such as these cast doubt on the frequently made—but
unsubstantiated—claims in the historical literature that the Dutch mer-
chant marine was heavily involved in the carrying trade in Brazilian
sugar during the Twelve Year Truce. It was inevitable that some Dutch
ships trying to pass as Portuguese would sail to Brazil during the Truce,
but there is no evidence that many did so. Dutch captains faced harsh
penalties if discovered by officials and were not generally likely to have
received an amiable reception in Brazil ports.23 One captain, Engel
Habet sailed the 180–ton ship the Hoope—discussed in Chapter 6—from
Amsterdam to Porto.24 From there he planned to sail to Rio de Janeiro
to buy sugar, and he had even hired a Portuguese crew. Unfortunately
for him, the Portuguese government commandeered his ship to carry
the new governor of Rio de Janeiro along with his family across the
ocean. The governor, Rui Vaz Pinto, discovered the fraud while he was
on board, since there were five Dutchmen traveling along including
Engel Habet and his brother. Once in Rio de Janeiro, Habet and his
constable were imprisoned.25 The significance of the voyage of the Hoope
is clear. Probably it was not completely anomalous, and other Dutch
ships intending to make such journeys may have had better luck. But
illegal travel to Brazil was beset with risks. At the very least, a Portuguese
crew would have to be maintained on such a journey.
Some Dutch ships were actually licensed to travel to Brazil after
1609, but not in significant numbers. According to Stols, in the entire
period from 1609 to 1687, Portuguese officials granted licenses to only

Ibid., 11–20. During one landing party, the Dutch discovered an engenho, that they
learned had been built by none other than the Antwerp merchant Hans de Schot!
Sugar cane grew thick nearby, but the mill’s owners had fled, taking their equipment
with them. “Corts daer nae zijn wy opwaerts geroeyt in de riviere, alwaer wy vonden eene ingenie,
in de welcke zy altemael met hare meubelen ghevlucht waeren, zijnde de selve inghenie groot, sterck,
wel ghebouw’t ende bewoont, hebbende eene kercke ghenaemt Signora de Negues; wy verstonden vande
Portugijsen datse ghebouw’t was van een seecker gheslacht van Antwerpen ghenaemt de Schotsen; hier
ontrent was het seer playsant, ende de plaetse rontomme was rijck van suycker-riet.” 15–6.
One Dutch merchant trying to sail cloth clandestinely in Pernambuco in March
of 1621 failed to find enough buyers. Koen, “Notarial Records,” 20, no. 1 (1986):
This ship is mentioned in the previous chapter in the context of insurance, since
it eventually left Rio with a cargo of sugar and was taken by French pirates.
GAA, NA, no. 381, 300; no. 460, 386–386V; no. 381, 485. They were not the
only ‘framengos’ to be imprisoned in Brazil around this time for illegal trading. See
Livro Primeiro do Governo do Brasil, 1607–1633, 130–3, 168.
140 chapter seven

16 Flemish, 17 Dutch and 48 other foreigners whose nationality cannot

be determined. This permission for foreign traders, captains, sailors
and their boats to travel to Brazil was always temporary and was of
an exceptional nature.26
Habet’s choice of Rio de Janeiro as a destination is telling, since the
regulating presence of the Spanish/Portuguese crown was less present
there than in the busier ports of Pernambuco and Bahia. In another
case—in Espírito Santo in 1617—some customs officials and merchants
conspired to avoid paying dízimos on outgoing sugar cargoes. This inci-
dent came to the attention of the crown, which recommended harsh
punishments.27 Playing loose with the rules must have been common in
smaller ports and could certainly work to the advantage of contraband
traders. Also, some evidence points to trans-shipment initiated by the
Portuguese using the Atlantic Islands. Some ships leaving Brazil would
land in the Azores on São Miguel and Terceira under pretext of storm
or pursuit by pirates, and there they would unload for transshipment to
northern Europe without paying duties.28 Nevertheless, it is impossible
to know how widespread these activities were.
In spite of opportunities for fraud, there were reasons to play by
the rules. The trade in Brazilian sugar was relatively lightly regulated.
Moreover, though sugar production was not as centralized as silver
production in the New World, it did tend to group around a few major
ports, so some controls were possible. Sugar production was usually
riverine, and the bulk of production flowed along rivers through cities
such as Salvador and Recife, where the taxing and regulating author-
ity of the state was well represented. Once departed from Brazil, ships
carrying sugar were required to return to Portugal, but this made
economic sense as well. The nearest European ports were in Portugal,
which itself was a centralized trans-shipment region for both northern
European and Mediterranean markets. Additionally, in spite of the taxes

Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 115.
The crown wrote: “E indo a ella desta reino direito em cadanno tres e quatro navios caregados
de fazendas numqua se arecadarão direitos dellas nem os oficiaes da Alfandega fazião por isso diligencia
alguma por receberem gros sospeittas das pesoas cujas erão as dittas fazendas e quasi se caregarão
em cada hum anno mais de vinte mill cruzadas em asuqeres por liberdade não ouzando della sem os
dittos oficiaes acuidirem disso por parte de minha fazenda tendo obrigacão de o fizer por rezão de seus
cargos e que não ha senhorio de emgenho que mudando nelle dous esteos não tenha gozado de duas
liberdades no que outro sy se tem levado muitos direitos aminha fazenda.” AHU, Espírito Santo,
Papeis Avulsos, Caixa 1, doc. 4.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 65.
illegal trade 141

(at least 20%) that accrued to sugar in the Portuguese metropolis, prices
were usually high enough before 1630 to guarantee a high premium of
arbitrage (see Chapter 8). A less restrictive trade regimen characterized
by high profits did not necessarily invite cheating.
Once the Truce expired—accompanied by the most aggressive
efforts yet by the Habsburg crown to deny imperial products to Dutch
markets—the Dutch had a much greater motivation to trade illegally.
Subsequently, there was a wholesale return to the system of fraudulent
passports. One Amsterdam merchant, Tomás Nunes Pina, continued
to arrange for shipments of Brazilian goods after 1621 through his
Viana factor, Gaspar Caminho Rego, who ostensibly sent them on to
Hamburg.29 Smuggling was also rampant after 1621 and helped to
ensure some commodity flow. During a four-month period, eight Dutch
ships visited ports in the Algarve and Andalusia, with the connivance
of Portuguese merchants from Santiago de Compostela, Antwerp,
Hamburg and Amsterdam.30 Amsterdam notarial records indicate other
illegal Dutch voyages made later in the decade involving trans-ship-
ment of sugar in ports in the Azores. These were ‘intended’ voyages,
documented in freight contracts, so it difficult to say how frequently this
kind of trade was actually conducted.31 Once the WIC was successfully
installed in Pernambuco it seems unlikely that merchants based in the
Dutch Republic would attempt it.
On the other hand, the WIC devoted considerable energies in the
1620s to seizing Brazilian cargoes at sea. Privateers and pirates, another
category of Atlantic entrepreneurs, entered into the illegal sugar trade
because they were otherwise barred from it owing to political circum-
stances. Privateers belonged to states that were at war with Portugal
and were authorized by letters of reprisal (letters of manqué) issued
by their governments to take Brazilmen as prizes. Pirates were traders
who operated either outside of the legal control of their home states,
or belonged to states that officially sanctioned trading based on the

GAA, NA, no. 646A, 130.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 15, see note 87.
See various in Koen, “Notarial Records,” 34, no. 1 (2000); 35, no. 1 (2001). Traf-
ficking in prohibited Dutch products to Portugal and especially Spain was widespread
after the expiration of the truce. This trade was usually mediated by New Christian
merchant houses with branches in Portugal, the Dutch Republic and Spain. Customs
officials were often complicit in this highly lucrative trade. See: Belinchón, “ ‘Sacar la
Sustancia al Reino’,” 1017–50.
142 chapter seven

violent seizure of ships at sea. Both groups found that Atlantic trade
was an easy target.
In regards to privateering, the earliest threat to ships carrying sugar
from Brazil to Portugal in the sixteenth century came from the English.
Alongside the French, the English made some early ventures onto
Brazilian coasts. In 1530–32, William Hawkins of Plymouth visited
Brazil in a 250-ton vessel, having also traded in Guinea. By 1540, he
may have completed two more such trips, returning with African ivory
and brazilwood. The Portuguese responded in the 1530s with measures
to extirpate interlopers in the African trade, but around 1540 a few
other Southampton merchants also visited Brazil.32 This early traffic
seemed to have involved dyewood, and it dwindled after 1540. English
trade ties with Iberia itself remained far more important. Also, trade in
Brazil at this juncture did not really attract the great London merchants,
who were mainly focused on the Antwerp trade.33
By the 1570s, the situation had changed, and once again some English
traders turned towards the idea of direct trade with Brazil. Stirred by
André Thevet’s account of the French colony in Guanabara Bay, and
emboldened by the collapse of the Anglo-Spanish alliance, men such as
Richard Grenville and William and John Hawkins—sons of the above-
mentioned trader—envisioned expeditions into the south Atlantic. These
plans came to fruition with Drake’s celebrated voyage of 1577.34 While
Drake’s goal was not Brazil per se, his success and the unification of the
Iberian monarchies in 1580 led to plans to counter Spanish hegemony
in the southern Atlantic. In 1582 William Hawkins sailed for Brazil
in four heavily armed ships that were also freighted with trade items.
As it turns out, his fleet never made it to the Brazilian coast. Hawkins
learned that a Spanish coast guard protected it, called into action by
Drake’s earlier marauding. In 1583 another warship, led by Edward
Fenton, called in São Vicente, where it engaged a Spanish armada and
later called in Espírito Santo. In both harbors the Portuguese refused to
trade. In 1583 another English ship traded in Olinda, but afterwards the
Spanish coast guard arrested the English factors in that town, seizing

Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, 59. See also: G.V. Scammell, “British Smug-
gling in the Iberian Americas Circa 1500–1750,” Itnerario 14, no. 3/4 (2000): 137–8.
Scammell exaggerates when he calls sixteenth century direct trade between England
and Brazil “flourishing,” 167.
Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, 63.
Ibid., 137–42.
illegal trade 143

their goods. A final trading expedition by the same group of merchants

took place in 1584–5.35 However, these sporadic and mostly unsuccessful
efforts ended in 1585 when war broke out. After this, English activities
in Brazil were confined to privateering.36
English merchant capital turned to this activity wholesale. Legitimate
English traders were damaged by Philip’s confiscation of foreign ship-
ping in Iberian ports in 1585, and this event soon turned into an all-
purpose causus belli for would-be English privateers. From 1585 to 1603,
letters of reprisal issued from the High Court of Admiralty to scores
of venturers, whether they had a legitimate claim from 1585 or not.
During this eighteen-year orgy of English plundering, probably some
100 ships sailed from England per year; in some years as many as 200
sailed. This business was organized primarily from the ports of London
and the coast from Southampton to Bristol, but as the war progressed,
larger boats backed by London’s larger merchant ship owners became
more prominent. Some expeditions were organized on small and lightly
armed vessels; their crews hoped to board a small ship—such as a
caravel—and overwhelm it with superior manpower. Other ventures
involved small fleets of large and well-armed ships, backed by large
London-based merchants.37
As was often the case during this period, the activities of privateer-
ing, piracy and trade were often intertwined. Merchants, captains and
seamen involved in privateering had often formerly traded in Iberian
ports. Those who had engaged in piracy against Portuguese and Spanish
shipping now enthusiastically pursued privateering. Less than scrupulous
captains and crews even took prizes from non-Iberian shipping and
unloaded illegal goods in Irish or North African ports. This situation
led to a flourishing trade between England and North Africa, and it
prompted further privateering and piracy as the Iberian-American sea-
lanes were crossed. Ships that were properly equipped with letters of
reprisal could not always resist a rich Atlantic prize of any nationality,
authorized or not.38

Scammell, “British Smuggling in the Iberian Americas,” The author notes that
these fitful attempts at direct trade in the 1570s and early 1580s were opposed by English
merchants doing business in Lisbon, since they felt it undercut their business. Clearly
English merchant interests regarding sugar and brazilwood were not monolithic.
Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, 161–5.
Ibid., 245–7.
Ibid., 246–7. Merchants in Brazil must have grown wary of all foreign shipping
as a result of English predation. One Dutch captain, Cornelis Jansen, negotiating for
144 chapter seven

While privateering for the English could be a risky business, it was

characterized by a low opportunity cost. England’s regular trade with
Antwerp had fallen since the economic crisis of the 1550s and the
subsequent decline of that entrepôt. Larger English merchants had
subsequently turned partly to importing for the domestic luxury mar-
ket, a demand easily satisfied through privateering. Also, privateering
required manpower, and during the war this was cheap and plentiful.
Population pressure and unemployment at home reached a crisis level
by the 1590s and led many young men to seek employment on ships,
sometimes only with the promise of a share in spoils as wages. This left
only victuals and the ship itself as a major expense on some expeditions,
and it lowered the capital threshold for entry into the business. Not
surprisingly, privateering became a major spur to English shipbuilding
in the last decades of the sixteenth century.39
While typical English prizes might comprise bulk commodities such
as grain and salt, greater value came from luxury goods. Sugar was
the prize par excellence. In just the three years following the defeat of
the Armada, English privateers seized thirty-four sugar-bearing ships,
with a probable value of well over 100,000 pounds sterling in the
English market. The surveyor of the London customs stated in 1593
that “although the Hollanders and the Hamburgers have the only
trade of other commodities that the Spanish trade can afford them,
yet sugars they cannot have now in any quantity but from us, as the
case standeth, by reason of the great quantities taken by reprisal from
Spain and Portugal.” Another observer noted in 1598: “the cheapness
that all Spanish commodities do now bear in England, having no trade
with Spain, that they be for the most part of less price in England than
in Spain or the Indias.”40
Spanish peace with France in 1598 and England in 1604 led to a
temporary reduction of piracy and privateering preying on Brazilian
shipping. However, after 1598 the Dutch—barred from legitimate
Portuguese trade—began to be a threat south of the Equator. As early
as 1599 war parties were arranged by the College of the Admiralty to

freight with Amsterdam merchant Hans de Schot, refused to sail to Brazil to trade
unless he was guaranteed that his freight charge would be paid regardless of whether
he landed or not. He worried that he would be barred because of fear of English
plundering. GAA, NA, no. 72, 25.
Andrews, Trade, Plunder and Settlement, 246–7, 252.
Ibid., 250. Both quotes here.
illegal trade 145

raid Portuguese possessions in Africa and Brazil. One such party of

war ships passed through the Canary Islands and São Tomé in 1599.
From there seven ships were sent to raid the coast of Brazil. This effort
ended disastrously since most of the crew died from a combination of
heat and spoiled provisions.41
The onset of the Twelve Year Truce did not stop Dutch predations
in the southern Atlantic. Some Dutch entrepreneurs did not believe
that the Truce applied to Brazilian waters, and ships from Zeeland
and Holland continued to prey on sugar shipping. This activity affected
both Portuguese merchants and their Dutch counterparts who helped
to finance Portuguese vessels carrying sugar. One result was frequent
protests to the Admiralty Boards in Zeeland and Holland about illegal
cargoes of sugar that were unloaded in various ports in these two prov-
inces. This also fueled sharp diplomatic exchanges during the Truce.
But the matter was never satisfactorily resolved.42
Yet another threat emerged in the Atlantic shipping lanes between
Brazil and Portugal as the Truce went into effect in 1609. Moriscos,
newly expelled from Spain, helped to transform Salé into a major
center of Atlantic piracy. European mariners sometimes joined ranks
with these Muslim pirates.43 Between 1613 and 1621 this North African
pirate state took many European prizes including 447 Dutch ships, 193
French, 120 Iberian and 116 English or Hanseatic.44 The resources
of the Salé pirates were small, and they tended to sail in small ships,
although sometimes they moved in squadrons as large as seventy.
For this reason they favored attacking small, lightly armed ships, and
caravels were notoriously vulnerable.45 Possibly as a result, European
shipbuilders tended to build larger and more heavily armed vessels for
Atlantic trade after 1615.46 This was also a major impetus for calls for
ships from Brazil to sail in armed convoy.47

GAA, NA, no. 198, 329–329V.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 111.
This was apparently the case with a Dutch ship that was seized by a Dutch
pirate working from the Barbary Coast in 1612. GAA, NA, no. 197, 422. See also:
Ibid., 311.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:79.
Ibid., 196; Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 309–10; Pauline Croft, “English Mariners
Trading to Spain and Portugal, 1558–1625,” The Mariner’s Mirror 69, no. 3 (1983):
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:198.
One fleet in 1618 was attempted. AHU, Pernambuco, caixa 1, (November 21,
1618). The Conselho Ultramarino discussed another proposal in 1623 as a response
146 chapter seven

French and English pirates also operated in Brazilian waters, although

probably not in great numbers. In 1616 a French pirate vessel—appar-
ently operating out of the Caribbean under a “kapitein Grin”—seized
a Portuguese boat laden with sugar that was traveling from Salvador to
Viana. After a two-hour battle just 40 miles from the Portuguese coast,
the victorious pirates took the ship along with its crew to St. Maarten.48
As described above, the Hoope, fraudulently sailed from Porto to Rio de
Janeiro. On the return to Porto in February 1618, she was seized by two
French pirate ships and lost her cargo of 560 crates of sugar, 100 hides
and 50 tons of conserves.49 Sometimes the predators turned on each
other. Hans de Schot freighted a ship—apparently Portuguese—Nossa
Senora a Rozaro that had sailed from Brazil to Portugal around 1596. He
abandoned the ship to his insurers, declaring that it had been seized
in turn by English and French privateers.50
Although the patterns of privateering and piracy are evident, it is
more difficult to quantify their effects. Andrews has compiled some
statistics for Elizabethan piracy. As mentioned above, he suggests that
the total value of sugar seized in the three years after the Armada was
well over £100,000 sterling in the English market. Another privateering
expedition of three ships led by James Lancaster occupied Recife in
April 1595. After taking several prizes at sea, he arrived in Pernambuco
and spent one month loading his ships as well as three Dutchmen and
five French privateers he found there. The total value of the goods
returned was likely over £50,000 sterling.51 This was probably the
zenith of English predations, but in 1598 they still took at least 11
prizes, of which four were specifically designated as Brazilmen that
included cargoes of sugar.52
One result was to drastically increase the both the supply of and
demand for sugar in England. For at least a brief period, sugar was

to “muitos coçarios que nella andão.” AHU, Conselho Ultramarino, Codigo 35, Fol. 187
and subsequent.
GAA, NA, no. 379, 604.
GAA, NA, no. 381, 485.
GAA, NA, no. 49, 271. The insurers were: Heyndrick Hudde, Romboult Jacobs,
Gysbregt Bruininx, Berent Rutgersz, Francois Wolfaertsz, Cornelis Schellinger, Heyn-
drick Ruyter, Hans de Laet, Hans van Gheel, Adriaen du Yardin, Jacob Foreest, Fonger
Sierixz, Claes Andriesz, Pieter Herritsz, Delff and Jan Cornelis Vischer.
Andrews, Elizabethan Privateering, 210–12.
Ibid., 266–72.
illegal trade 147

cheap and plentiful as imports increased nearly five-fold.53 Although

prices were depressed, this gave a large impetus to a refining industry
in London. Its growth slowed once privateering was halted, but while
it lasted, the sugar boom must have increased demand, even if it was
still not an article of mass consumption.54
Additionally, for those nations that practiced it, privateering helped
the development of navies and merchant marines. Privateering also
helped the flow of commercial capital from one place to the other, but
unfortunately this type of development seldom benefited one country
solely, at least not for long. With ships of so many different nations seek-
ing prizes in the Atlantic, one nation’s privateers could easily become
another’s victims.
A more common result of privateering and piracy was undoubtedly to
wreak havoc with prices in the short term. When Piet Heyn plundered
Bahia in 1627 he seized 2000 crates of sugar. By June sugar prices in
Lisbon rose 25 to 50%. A chain reaction saw sugar rise in price in
Antwerp and especially in Hamburg. However, once the booty was
brought to Zeeland and sold, prices fell, especially in nearby Antwerp.
Lower prices eventually returned to Lisbon.55 European prices for sugar
at various links along the commodity chain showed convergence, but
at a long rhythm. Short-term swings in prices created winners and
losers among merchants, and they must have contributed to a climate
of uncertainty. Given the relatively long periods of transport, it was
difficult for merchants to respond rapidly to shifts in the market. Even
those merchants whose ships were not seized suffered from the height-
ened risks and costs imposed by illegal trade.
On the most obvious level, piracy and privateering devastated mer-
chant shipping. In the case of the sugar trade, the Portuguese merchant
marine suffered frightful losses during the war with England, and again
after 1625 when the WIC was active. Probably during these periods the
loss of ships ran far ahead of the ability of the Portuguese shipyards to
replace them. This can be seen in the movement of northern European
shipping into the sea-lanes between Portugal and Brazil, where there
were not enough Portuguese ships to load the sugar stored in Brazilian

Scammell, “British Smuggling in the Iberian Americas,” 145–6.
Andrews, Elizabethan Privateering, 207–9.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 192–3.
148 chapter seven

warehouses. This is further evidence of inter-imperial integration in the

sugar trade. However, periods of heavy depredation on the shipping
for Brazilian sugar raised transaction costs sharply. Portuguese losses
after 1625 were reflected in high freight charges as a loss of supply of
shipping drove costs upwards (see Appendix C).
Illegal trading happened when merchants or crews avoided the taxing
authority of the Portuguese crown, violated strictures against the pres-
ence of foreigners in Brazil, or sailed on forbidden routes. The evidence
does not generally allow a determination of how common this kind of
trading was, but it does permit a qualitative assessment of these kinds
of activities. Illegal voyages from Brazil directly to northwestern Europe
occurred often enough before 1605 to prompt the crown in that year
to permanently forbid foreigners in the colony. Contraband trading
appears to have been less common after 1605 although it resumed to
some degree after the WIC began serious offensive operations against
the Brazilian sugar trade in 1624. Contraband trading networks also
demonstrate the inter-imperial integration of the sugar trade.
Both piracy and privateering also occurred within the context of
an integrated, inter-imperial market for Brazilian sugar, although
these activities drove up transaction costs in the Brazilian sugar trade.
Privateering arose when certain merchants, ships and crews were forbid-
den to trade sugar, usually a result of wars between the states whose
merchants were involved in this trade. Indeed, state policy in times of
war fostered privateering. For the Brazilian sugar trade until 1630, the
two major protagonists in seizing Brazilian shipping were the Kingdom
of England and the Dutch Republic who plundered Brazilian trade as
a specific aim of war. Ironically this ensured commodity flow along its
customary channels, as sugar then continued to reach its traditional
markets in northwestern Europe. However, when privateering happened
on a large scale it often caused violent fluctuations in prices. Piracy
was a more endemic, but serious, threat. The organization of piracy
is opaque, but it also involved cosmopolitan groups of merchants, and
it blended at times into the activity of contraband trading.
Although illegal trading did take place, there are no good reasons to
assume that it was widespread, at least during the first two decades of
the seventeenth century. This is because in peacetime the geographi-
cal structure of the trade complemented its legal framework, and the
ordinary costs of doing business were not prohibitively high. Since
Portugal was on the route to Brazil from northwestern Europe, it made
sense to stop there and to coordinate the trade from its geographic
illegal trade 149

center, where information was also most current. A stop in Portugal

also allowed merchants to buy and sell other goods that were typically
traded along these routes. Of course the crown taxed the trade, but
taxes were not so onerous as to prevent sugar merchants from making
a healthy profit, as discussed in the next chapter.


The presumption in the preceding chapters has been that possibilities

for profit drove merchant involvement in the Brazilian sugar trade.
What remains to be seen is how profitable the trade actually was.
Making profit estimates for an early modern trade with fragmentary
information is a tricky business, and my attempt to do so in this chapter
constitutes no more than an informed guess. Overheads in merchant
firms and other types of transaction costs are opaque in this period.
Nevertheless, the groundwork has been laid in the preceding chapters
for a reasonable estimate of profit ranges for the sugar trade. Chapters
3 and 5 described some of the principle transaction costs of the trade.
This chapter focuses on the premium of arbitrage by looking at sugar
prices in the various metropoles that imported it. Comparing prices in
different markets and gauging the cost of moving sugar is the funda-
mental starting point to estimate profitability.
The other objective of this chapter is to place sugar in a macro-
economic context. I have argued that the Brazilian sugar trade was an
inter-imperial phenomenon, particularly in its investment structure and
in the merchant community that engaged in it. However, in at least
one aspect the trade can be studied in the context of early modern
states. This was in the revenue that sugar brought to the states through
which it was traded. Here I will look at the value of sugar taxes in the
Kingdom of Portugal and the Dutch Republic, offering some compari-
sons in order to suggest its importance to their respective economies.
I will also try to describe the importance of the sugar trade in general
to these economies.
The starting point for any study of the economy of Brazilian sugar is
production, but, unfortunately, we have little reliable information on this
subject. Estimates of Brazilian production have varied widely. Schwartz
has argued that production fell typically between 3,000 and 4,000 arrobas
per year for most engenhos, excepting the very largest.1 If this is so, one

Schwartz, Sugar Plantations, 167. In spite of claims made by contemporaries such
as Ambrósio Fernandes Brandão that large mills could produce between 10,000 and
152 chapter eight

measure of production can be obtained by counting the number of

engenhos in Brazil. Here estimates also vary but confirm strong growth
between 1580 and about 1600, and then another period of growth
lasting from 1614 through 1630.2 In the first period, the number of
engenhos probably expanded from about 100 to 200 and then reached
about 350 by the end of the 1620s. At 3,500 arrobas per engenho, this
suggests the following figures for Brazilian production.

Year Number of Mills Production in Cargo Tons (54 arrobas per ton)
1583 115 402,500 7,453
1612 192 672,000 12,444
1629 346 1,211,000 22,425
Table 8.1 Brazilian production in arrobas
Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:174.

What then was the value of this crop? Evidence of sugar prices in
the earliest phases of the production of Brazilian sugar comes from a
variety of sources, but the series is riddled with gaps. No satisfactory
record of sugar prices exists to cover all of the years detailed in this
study, and these problems of lacunae in the documentary evidence are
probably insurmountable. Still, there are several useful sources. These
include price quotes from merchants themselves, which are lamentably
few in number. There are also institutional sources, such as figures from
customs houses or brokers’ guilds. These allow the building of series
showing the movement of prices of sugar over time. In some years these
sugar prices can be confirmed by a large number of observations. In
other years there is no information, and in others still the sugar price
quoted rests upon a single observation. In the latter situation, much of
the seasonality of the working of the sugar market is clearly lost.
In fact, when the evidence permits a closer view, it appears that
sugar markets were often distinguished by strong short-term fluctua-
tions in prices. This should come as no surprise. One possible reason is
that, given the limitations of demand, sugar prices responded quickly

12,000 per year, Schwartz has found that this very rarely occurred. Costa has also
found these estimates plausible and calculates on the basis of 3,500 per engenho. Costa,
O transporte no Atlântico, 1:174.
These are estimates based on a variety of sources, sometimes conflicting. Costa,
O transporte no Atlântico, 1:169; Schwartz, Sugar Plantations, 168.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 153

to over-saturation. It seems that if too much sugar arrived on the

market at once, prices could quickly drop. This situation was common
to other commodities in early modern trade, which explains the rush
of merchants to be the first to market when prices were high. The
first ships to reach northern markets with the dried fruit harvests of
Andalusia and the Algarve could make a tidy profit, but those arriving
weeks later were at a disadvantage.3 Prices for grain in Iberia showed
the same propensity to fluctuate. Of course, merchants in an entrepôt
with a warehouse at their disposal might just sit on their merchandise
and wait for a return of high prices. Sugar, properly stored, did not
deteriorate too quickly. But given the large number of people trading
sugar and the difficulties of coordination, this could be a risky propo-
sition. In 1618, seven Portuguese merchants in Amsterdam served a
notice on Jan Bicker, who was in possession of some sugar in which
they had an interest. They had repeatedly asked him to sell it and took
legal proceedings to force him to do so as prices were dropping and
he still refused to sell.4
Behind these fluctuations in prices was, of course, consumer demand.
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto has hypothesized that the market for sugar
was supply driven, i.e. that the increase in sugar in European markets
itself stimulated demand.5 Recent work by Eddy Stols also documents
European consumption of sugar in the sixteenth and seventeenth centu-
ries. But still too little is known for sure about how the consumer market
for sugar operated in its earliest phases. In the long term, there was
clearly an expansion of demand, probably related to economic growth
in northwestern Europe and the expansion of elite urban classes.6
Nevertheless, consumer demand operated indirectly. Sugar passed
through an industrial process; it was refined in the entrepôt towns where
it was collected. Sugar refiners were the first purchasers, and only later
was sugar either consumed in the towns where it was produced or
shipped to nearby towns and over long distances within Europe. Years
could separate the harvesting of sugar in Brazil and its appearance on

Koen, “Notarial Records,” 10, no. 2 (1976): 215.
Ibid., 13, no. 2 (1979): 239–40. This was on December 3, on which day the price
for moscovado per pound was 15 groten (55 reis) and panela 10 (36 reis). One week later
moscovado sold for 13 ½ (49 reis), while panela was down to 9 (33 reis).
Felipe Fernández-Armesto, Near a Thousand Tables: A History of Food (New York:
The Free Press, 2002), 157.
Eddy Stols, “The Expansion of the Sugar Market in Western Europe,” in Tropical
Babylons: Sugar and the Making of the Atlantic World, 1450–1680, ed. Stuart B. Schwartz
(Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2004).
154 chapter eight

the tables of elite households. Consequently, short-term fluctuations

in price were also related to the capacity of sugar refiners to absorb
sugar in their factories.7
The other variable influencing price fluctuations was political and
military conflict as well as piracy that affected the trade. The last chapter
discussed the plundering of the Bahian sugar mills by the WIC squad-
ron led by Piet Heyn in 1627, which temporarily raised the price of
sugar in Lisbon by 25 to 50%.8 A similar case had occurred a few years
previously when Bahia was temporarily occupied by the WIC. Pedro
Clarisse, a Flemish merchant in Lisbon, left a record of the fluctuations
in price during this period. Table 8.2 shows prices rising towards the
end of 1624 and then falling back at the end of 1625 to nearly the
same prices quoted for the beginning of 1624. Here we can clearly see
the dearth of sugar in Lisbon caused by the invasion of Bahia in May
of 1624 and its subsequent recovery as the region was reconquered in
May of the following year. According to the higher prices quoted by
Clarisse, in this two-year period the value of white sugar rose by about
43% before sinking. For moscovado and panela the increases were more
dramatic still, 60% and 56%, respectively.
Clarisse’s price quotes for this period reveal another particularity.
There was a possibility of a range of prices for what was—ostensibly—
the same product at the same time. There may be several explanations
for this. One is that sugar was known to be of different grades and

Date White Moscovado Panela

6–1–1624 1,300–1,400 820–840 600–610
8–10–1624 1,500–1,650 1,100–1,050 700
8–24–1624 1,450–1,500 980–1000 680–700
11–16–1624 1,500–1,750 1,060–1,120 760–800
12–28–1624 1,600–1,850 1,230–1,280 800–820
1–2–1625 1,700–2,000 1,300–1,340 930–950
3–17–1625 1,700–2,000 1,300–1,330 920–950
8–2–1625 1,400–1,550 950–1,000
11–22–1625 1,100–1,350 800–880
Table 8.2 Lisbon sugar prices in 1624 and 1625 as quoted by a merchant,
reis per arroba
Source: Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, Bijlagen, 203–7.

Poelwijk, ‘In dienste vant suyckerbacken’, 258–62.
Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, 192–3.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 155

qualities within the looser categorizations of branco, moscovado, and panela.9

Another is the state of the sugar after shipping. Sugar that was wet or
had otherwise deteriorated on the sea voyage was a source of frequent
conflict between merchants who bought and sold.10 Just as sugar from
different regions was valued differently according to reputation, there is
some evidence that sugar from Brazil also held different values depend-
ing on its origin. In this case it is probable that sugar from Pernambuco
was valued the most, sugar from Bahia slightly less, and sugar from
Rio de Janeiro the least.11

Date Madeira (white) São Tomé (white) Brazil (moscovado

and white)
11–8–1577 2,600 620–630 1,300–1,400
1–8–1578 2,300–2,400 640 1,200–1,300
2–4–1578 2,400 650–660 1,400–1,500
2–15–1578 2,200 660 1,300–1,500
3–26–1578 2,400–2,500 660 1,400–1,500
7–26–1578 2,800 700 1,400–1,600
9–24–1579 750–770 1,800
5–24–1580 3,000
12–14–1580 920 1,400–1,650
4–30–1582 2,900–3,000 950 1,150–1,850
Table 8.3 Price differences in Lisbon according to source: Prices of
Madeira, São Tomé and Brazilian sugar as quoted by a Lisbon merchant
house (reis per arroba)
Source: Uitterdijk, J.N., Een Kamper Handelshuis, 40, 49, 57, 72, 94, 130, 250, 262, 310,
323, 374. Prices quoted in this source do not distinguish between the different grades of
sugar, but usually offer different prices, “according to quality (daer nae hy guydt is).” Since
the prices given for each sugar from a single productive region generally fall within a
close range, I think it is safe to assume that they are quoting prices for the so-called
machos, i.e. white and moscovado. Only twice is Brazilian panela quoted specifically, in
December 1580, at 1,200 reis and April 30, 1582 at 1,050. See Table 8.5.

In Antwerp in the sixteenth century merchants used the expression “gegharbrileirt”
to designate the best quality within a type of merchandise, worth a premium in price.
See examples in: Uitterdijk, Een Kamper Handelshuis, 103.
One case purportedly led to a conflict between Álvaro de Azevedo and Paulo
Lopes da Cunha around 1609. A ship arrived from Brazil and sprung a leak in Lisbon
harbor, wetting the sugar crates. They were retrieved as quickly as possible and sold
in auction in the Alfândega. IANTT, IL, Processo de Álvaro de Azevedo, No. 728. See also
Koen, “Notarial Records,” 11, no. 2 (1977): 227.
In 1610 this appeared to be the case for sugar purchased in Porto. Where the
price for moscovado from Bahia was 1,225 reis per arroba, but only 1,200 from Rio de
Janeiro. GAA, NA, no. 258, 5V–6.
156 chapter eight

Given all of the variables, analysis for sugar costs must be taken
with a great deal of caution. The tables that follow are an attempt
to gather the current information available about wholesale prices for
Brazilian sugar, and to provide the range of quoted prices in various
Brazilian and European centers in the first eighty years of the trade.
These tables present—as far as I am aware—the most comprehensive
summary of Brazilian wholesale sugar prices collected so far, but prob-
lems in analysis remain.12
Let us begin with a look at the price of sugar in Brazilian mills
(table 8.4). Here the available data give a very limited impression.
Nevertheless, it appears that prices may have increased until about
1611, after which they began a steady decline, leveling off in the 1620s
in the range of 800 to 900 reis per arroba. 1623 appears to have been a
low mark, as comments from contemporaries in Brazil confirm. This
may have been the result of a generalized depression coinciding with
the outbreak of the Thirty Year’s War in 1618. War and uncertainty
in Germany certainly would have had an effect on the demand for
sugar, significant quantities of which traveled to German states.13 At
any rate, soon after, sugar prices rose again. When the WIC began to
devastate various sectors of the Brazilian sugar economy after 1624,
there was a serious scarcity in both the supply of sugar and shipping
to carry it to Europe.

To show just one example, the two sources available for Lisbon sugar prices in
the year 1618 are highly disparate (see Table 8.4). Leonor Costa records the lower
price—1,100 reis per arroba—for white sugar, based on records reporting the price
in the Lisbon Alfândega. At the same time the Lisbon-based merchant, Pedro Clarisse,
quoted a range of 1,720 to 1,780 reis for white sugar during that year. This represents
a difference of value in the range of 36–38%. As indicated above, in the wartime
years of 1624–1625 this was not an unheard-of range, since prices often fluctuated
wildly. But 1618 was a time of peace. Furthermore, Schwartz records that Brazilian
sugar commanded 1,000 reis per arroba on Brazilian wharfs in 1618. Using the lower
estimate of sugar value in Lisbon has led Costa to conclude that the premium of
arbitrage for transporting sugar from Brazil to Portugal plummeted around the years
1618. Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:243–5. However, if the prices given by Pedro
Clarisse in 1618 are a more accurate estimation of average prices, then the picture
was not so dire for sugar traders. Furthermore, a lack of information about the prices
of moscovado and panela in Brazilian mills frustrates analysis. It could very well be that
the arbitrage margins on these sugars were even higher than for white sugar.
Schwartz, Sugar Plantations, 171–2. Although, paradoxically, much sugar began to
be diverted to Hamburg after the cessation of the Twelve Year Truce.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 157

Year White Moscovado

1550 400
1552 400
1572 450
1576 630
1578 880
1584 800
1592 800
1596 865
1597 910
1598 950
1601 800 550
1604 800 550
1607 1,100
1608 1,083
1611 1,287
1613 1,147
1614 1,000 640
1618 800–1,000 500–600
1619 700
1620 955
1621 800 550
1622 850
1623 580–600
1625 675–800 500
1626 600–800 360
1627 730–1,060 550
1628 800–896
1629 800–810
1630 673–780
Table 8.4 Wholesale sugar prices in Brazil: reis per arroba
Sources: Schwartz, Sugar Plantations, 498–9; Mauro, Portugal, o Brasil e o Atlântico, vol. 1,
Apêndice, “Preço do açúcar no Brasil.”

While not apparent from the available data, Brazil, no doubt, also
experienced short-term fluctuations in price. Here European demand
played more of an indirect role. Brazil was insulated from prices in
Amsterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg by a sailing distance of many
months and—although it was prices in these entrepôts that mainly
conditioned the asking price in Brazilian warehouses—fluctuations in
northern European demand probably affected Brazil at slower and
more protracted rhythms. The causes for short-term shifts were prob-
ably more related to organization of the trade in Brazil itself. After the
158 chapter eight

safra, as warehouses filled on the harbors of Recife, Rio de Janeiro and

Salvador, prices undoubtedly dropped. Conversely, the appearance of
many ships at once to collect sugar surely put upward pressure on the
price. A lack of ships, owing to war or piracy would have precisely the
opposite effect.14 Other structural aspects of the trade militated against
short-term fluctuations and facilitated faster price convergence across
the Atlantic. These included the practices before 1630 of year-round
shipping and avoiding convoy sailing. Other practices used by merchants
to avoid risk, such as parceling out their cargoes in a variety of ships,
probably helped to even-out demand.15 Smaller ships and persistent
underutilization of cargo space also helped to maintain a relative scarcity
of goods in Brazil. This worked to the advantage of merchants, who
resisted crown schemes to substitute larger ships for smaller ones16
Some have seen a period of lower prices arriving earlier than 1618
in Brazil, since legislation protecting mill owners from excessive debt
on the part of sugar traders was enacted as early as 1612.17 However,
growers apparently complained about having their assets seized by
merchants even before 1612 when prices for sugar were still very high.
Planter complaints may simply indicate that at this time the profit from
sugar was not chiefly in production. When the crown responded in
1612 to these complaints with a moratorium on debt—which anyway
was rescinded in 1614—it was probably not intended to boost one
sector over another. Rather it was meant to keep production going,
since it was taxed.18

Ibid., 169.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:318.
Mello, Olinda restaurada, 49.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:59–60; Schwartz, Sugar Plantations, 195.
See Claudinei Magno Magre Mendes, “A coroa Portuguesa e a colonização do
Brasil. Aspectos da atuação do estado na constituiçao da colônia,” História 16 (1997):
supply, demand, prices and profitability 159

Year White Moscovado Panela Source

1577 1,400 1,300 1
1578 1,400–1,600 1,200–1,500 1
1579 1,800 1
1580 1,650 1,400 1,200 1
1582 1,850 1,150 1,050 1, 2
1609 1,850 1,200 920 3
1610* 2,020 1,340–1,450 1,000 2, 3
1611 1,270 3
1612 1,600–1,800 1,240–1,330 870–930 3
1613 1,500–1,800 1,100–1,240 720–800 3
1614 1,000 850 470 2, 3
1615 1,700–1,800 1,050 650 3
1617 1,150 4
1618 1,100–1,780 3, 4
1619 1,100–1,200 4, 5
1620 1,100 4
1621 1,100–1,550 900–1,200 550–650 3, 4
1622 900–1,200 800–850 520–540 3, 4
1623 800 670–810 450–600 3, 4
1624 800–1,850 820–1,280 600–820 3, 4
1625 1,100–2,000 800–1,340 920–950 3, 4
1626 1,016–2,000 1,050–1,350 800 3, 4
1627 1,400–3,000 1,400–2,000 1,000–1,600 3, 4
1628 1,600 4
1630 1,890 1,340 750 3
Table 8.5 Wholesale Brazilian sugar prices in Lisbon: reis per arroba
1. Uitterdijk, J.N., Een Kamper Handelshuis, 40, 49, 57, 72, 94, 130, 250, 262, 310, 323,
2. Mauro, Portugal, o Brasil e o Atlântico, vol. 1, Apêndice, “Preço do açúcar em
3. Stols, Bijlagen, 203–7.
4. Costa, 1:241.
5. IANTT, IL, Processo de Marcos de Góes, No. 3148.
A Dutch source for the year 1610 gives Porto prices as 1,850 for white, and 1,200–1,225
for moscovado. GAA, NA, no. 258, 5V–6 (1610–6–16). The sugar may have arrived in
Portugal the previous year.

Sugar prices in Lisbon showed different characteristics than those of

Brazil (see Table 8.5). Here merchants were only a few weeks behind the
latest news about prices in northwestern Europe, and this undoubtedly
meant that prices fluctuated more over the course of any given year.
160 chapter eight

Consequently, in the price data, years for which only one price appears
must be taken with great caution. Where the price data comes from
merchant sources and reveals greater fluctuation over the course of a
single year, it undoubtedly shows real conditions with greater verisimili-
tude. Nevertheless, the Lisbon data show prices moving roughly in sync
with those in Brazil. For white sugar, prices seemed to rise consistently,
reaching a high point around 1610 after which they declined slightly
until about 1618 and remained low until the mid 1620s. After this,
prices rose again, presumably because of scarcity.
The same trends appear for moscovado and panela sugar, although the
data for panela does not provide for firm conclusions. One interesting
observation is that the ratio of value between the three grades of sugar
changed significantly, sometimes from year to year. Different sources
may account for some of the change, but even when the prices come
from the same source the difference is notable. In 1612 and 1613, the
highest price for white sugar recorded by Pedro Clarisse remained
1,800 reis. However, the highest price for moscovado descended from
1,330 to 1,240 reis.
As with Brazil and Lisbon, price information for northwestern
Europe also remains highly fragmentary. One source is the price cur-
rents published by the middle of the sixteenth century in Antwerp as
an aid to the brokers’ guilds.19 For the earliest period, however, these
documents do not always survive. Price currents appeared regularly in
Amsterdam by the end of the sixteenth century, and these provided
the basis for the data famously collected by Posthumus on prices in
Amsterdam. Herman van der Wee’s monumental work on the history
of the Antwerp economy did included sugar prices, but these, unfortu-
nately did not distinguish between grades of sugar, and therefore are of
limited use for the wholesale trade.20 Other municipal sources provide
general trends, but also fail to explain the wholesale prices of sugar.
Donald J. Harreld has analyzed a series of documents from Antwerp
from 1543 to 1545 that constituted the records of the merchant who

John J. McCusker and C. Gravesteijn, The beginnings of commercial and financial
journalism: the commodity price currents, exchange rate currents, and money currents of early modern
Europe (Amsterdam: Nederlands Economisch Historisch Archief, 1991), 51–2.
Prices are quoted for the St. Bavo Fair in October. It is not clear where the sugar
comes from, what grade it is, nor even if it is refined, which I suspect. The high price
of 60 Brabant groten (218 reis) per pound given in 1600 may very well have been for
sugar from Madeira. Van der Wee’s statistics end in 1600. Herman van der Wee,
The Growth of the Antwerp Market and the European Economy, 2 vols. (The Hague: Nijhoff,
1963), 1:319–21.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 161

had farmed the Hundredth Penny Tax. Harreld has discovered many
price quotes for São Tomé sugar in this period, including 506 registers
that refer to a weight of sugar and a price. Nevertheless, since this
particular tax applied to Antwerp’s exports of sugar, it means that it
was already refined in Antwerp’s refineries. These prices shed little
light then on the price of raw sugar on Antwerp’s markets, but confirm
that prices for sugar—even when refined—fluctuated significantly in
the short term.21

Year White Moscovado Panela Source

1578 20 1
1581 12 ½ 2
1607 21–22 15 ½–16 8 3
(2,134–2,236) (1,575–1,626) (813)
1613 19–21 11 3
(1,931–2,134) (1,118)
1615 15 ½ 4
1618 18 ½ 14 1/2 3
(1,880) (1,474)
1619 12 3
1621 15 1/2 3
1622 14 ½–15 ½ 11–11 ½ 7 ½–7 ¾ 3
(1,474–1,575) (1,118–1,169) (762–788)
1624 18–20 14–16 12–14 3
(1,830–2,032) (1,423–1,626) (1,220–1,423)
1626 19–20 17 1/2 3
(1,931–2,032) (1,779)
1627 27 22 ½–23 ½ 3
(2,744) (2,287–2,389)
Table 8.6 Wholesale sugar prices in Antwerp, groten per pound (reis per arroba)
1. Pohl, Zuckereinfuhr, 348–73.
2. Uitterdijk, J.N., Een Kamper Handelshuis te Lissabon, 1572–1594, 348.
3. Stols, Spaanse Brabanders, Bijlagen, 203–7.
4. Koen, ed. “Amsterdam Notarial Records,” 10, no. 2 (1976), 214.

Harreld, “Antwerp Sugar Prices,” 611–17. I doubt that the very rich Antwerp
archives have been exhausted for commodities price information, and, hopefully, further
research there will yield more substantive data on sugar prices.
162 chapter eight

The limited data for Brazilian sugar in Antwerp, shown in Table 8.6,
do hint at price convergence between Antwerp, Lisbon and Brazil.22
The trend again is a rise towards 1610; a subsequent fall, especially
after 1618; and recovery by the middle of the 1620s. Additionally, these
prices follow those in nearby Amsterdam, as a later table will show. The
dense network of commercial relationships connecting the two trading
cities—including the Portuguese merchant houses—contributed to the
coordinated movement of prices. As seen in the previous tables, the
Antwerp data does not indicate short-term fluctuations in prices, which
most certainly existed in reality.
Another lacuna requires explanation. This is the lack of data for the
years between 1581 and 1607. But it should come as no surprise. After
the capture of Antwerp by Parma in 1585, the role of Antwerp as the
preeminent sugar staple was over. Although sugar imports to Antwerp
resumed in the following century, the sugar industry in the city on the
Schelde was severely disrupted for several decades.23
Sugar prices in Amsterdam for the period until 1630 remain little
known. The famous Prijsgeschiedenis of Posthumus—based on the afore-
mentioned price currents of the brokers’ guild—only offers consistent
series for the years beginning in 1624.24 Nevertheless, Table 8.7 also
includes mentions of sugar prices from the Amsterdam notarial archives,
as summarized in the Studia Rosenthaliana.25

A conversion of the Antwerp prices for sugar into a calculation of reis per arroba
allows a comparison of the change in the value of the commodity from Lisbon to
Antwerp. Stols counts 32 pounds to the arroba for Hamburg and Antwerp. Obviously
there was no standardization during this period. I have based conversions in the sugar
price tables for Antwerp and Hamburg at 28 pounds to the arroba for the sake of
consistency since the Amsterdam calculation is based on a pond value of 0.494 kilogram
and an arroba of 14.69 kilogram, i.e., 1 arroba = 28 pounds. Stols’ table of sugar prices
quoted by Clarisse indicates that the price is given in stuivers per pound, which I have
listed as groten per pound without changing the values. The quotes provided by Stols
seemed extremely high to me compared to other quotes coming from merchants, and
I am convinced that he simply made a mistake listing these quotes as stuivers instead
of groten. See: Stols, De Spaanse Brabanders, Bijlagen, 203–7. For a recent summary
of weights and measures pertaining to Dutch shipping, see: Johannes Postma and
Victor Enthoven, eds., Riches from Atlantic Commerce: Dutch Transatlantic Trade and Shipping,
1585–1817, (The Hague: Brill, 2003), 461–5.
In 1590, only 30 crates of sugar were imported into Antwerp. Pohl, “Die Zuck-
ereinfuhr nach Antwerpen,” 354.
N.W. Posthumus, Nederlandsche prijsgeschiedenis, 2 vols. (The Hague: Brill, 1943),
1:119, 122.
I have found only a handful of sugar price quotes out of the roughly 4,000 records
that have been summarized so far in this series, including those until the year 1628.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 163

Year White Moscovado Panela Source

1609 21 ½ 16 ½ Posthumus and
(2,185) (1,677) Koen 5, no. 1
(1971) 116–7;
1611 13 ¾ (wet) Koen 5, no. 2
(1,397) (1971) 227
1615 14 ½ Koen 10, no. 1
(1,474) (1976) 99–100
1617 21 13 8 Koen 11, no. 1
(2,134) (1,321) (813) (1977) 90–91; 11,
no. 2 (1977) 227
1618 20 13 ½–15 9–10 Koen, 13, no. 2
(2,032) (1,372–1,525) (915–1,016) (1979) 239.
1619 19 ½ 16 Posthumus
(1,982) (1,626)
1624 17 ½ 13 “
(1,779) (1,321)
1625 19 15 “
(1,931) (1,524)
1626 20 ½ 16.8 “
(2,084) (1,708)
1628 23 17.6 “
(2,338) (1,789)
Table 8.7 Wholesale sugar prices in Amsterdam, groten per pound
(reis per arroba)
Sources: Koen, E.M., ed., Notarial Records (see issue and page numbers above); and
Posthumus, N.W., Nederlandsche Prijsgeschiedenis, 1:119, 122. Posthumus offers the figures
as a percentage of a guilder. I have converted them to groten (groot = .025 guilder) and
rounded them off to the nearest half groot.

These figures, although limited, suggest a similar fall in value of sugar

in the period from 1619 to 1624, although not to the degree seen in
Brazil or Lisbon. Nor is the increase in prices so marked towards the end
of the 1620s. The shifts in prices may have been milder in Amsterdam
than in the south. Given the small amount of available data, this asser-
tion may be difficult to verify or to interpret. But if Amsterdam sugar
prices did not fall as much as those in Lisbon and Antwerp, there is at
least one possible explanation. After 1621 the supply of Brazilian sugar
to Amsterdam must have diminished, owing to the Spanish embargoes.
A diminished supply probably kept some upwards pressure on prices,
in spite of depression in Europe in general. As the decade progressed
164 chapter eight

and the Almirantazgo tightened the noose around illegal trade, this pres-
sure on prices surely remained, in spite of the sugar prizes brought to
Amsterdam by the WIC war fleets. Price convergence was affected by
the political actions of the states along the commodity chain.

Year White Moscovado Panela

1623 13–16 11 8
(1,321–1,626) (1,118) (813)
1624 14–17 11 ½ 8½
(1,423–1,728) (1,169) (864)
1626 17–23 14–18 10 ½–13
(1,728–2,338) (1,423–1,830) (1,067–1,321)
1627 24–27 22 ½–24 13 ½–21
(2,439–2,744) (2,287–2,439) (1,372–2,134)
Table 8.8 Wholesale sugar prices in Hamburg: groten per pound
(reis per arroba)
Source: Stols, Spaanse Brabanders, Bijlagen, 203–7.

Data for sugar prices in Hamburg are limited to the 1620s, shown
here in Table 8.8. The series is probably too small to be of much value,
but it still shows the general rise in prices seen in all other markets in
Europe towards the end of this decade. Hamburg probably benefited
from increased imports during this period as a result of the disrup-
tion to the Amsterdam sugar staple with the lapse of the Twelve Year
A comparison of price data for Europe and Brazil, assembled in
Figure 8.1, confirms two main points, already suggested above. One is
that prices for sugar in Europe were relatively closely coordinated in
their movements. This is consistent with a ‘free’ market for sugar and an
inter-imperial organization in the wholesale sector. Secondly, sugar prices
remained high in Europe compared to Brazil. This indicates that the
premium of arbitrage in moving Brazilian sugar to Europe was usually
substantial. As discussed above, profit from arbitrage owed to a variety
of factors whose relative importance may have changed from period
to period. The larger trend driving profit until was the most likely the
growth of demand. As the data above suggest, increased production in
Brazil did not generally lead to lower prices in Brazil or Europe.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 165

3000 Bahia
Reis per Arroba

1000 Antwerp
500 Hamburg

16 0
16 2
16 4
16 6
16 7
16 8
16 0

16 3
16 4
16 6
16 8
16 2









Figure 8.1 Sugar prices in Brazil and Europe

Source: Tables 8.4–8.8. I have omitted the Lisbon data quoted above for the years
1614 or 1617 from this figure, since I am strongly convinced that they are too low to
be representative.

The evidence presented here, while still incomplete, also suggests

some degree of price convergence in the Atlantic economy by the
beginning of the seventeenth century. In the case of European markets,
this is very likely the case. Shipping between the Iberian Peninsula and
northern European markets was vigorous and constant, as we have
seen, and the movement of commodities between markets was highly
resistant to political interference such as embargoes. If prices did indeed
move closely together between Lisbon, Amsterdam and Antwerp, this
should come as no surprise. Atlantic transportation may have been
more hazardous and irregular, but even sugar moved by contraband
traders, pirates and privateers also made its way to the main European
markets, so even ‘illegal’ trade may have contributed to price conver-
gence. However, it may be wrong to speak of the Law of One Price in
a sixteenth- or seventeenth-century context, and short-term fluctuations
in price remained a persistent feature of the early modern Atlantic
trading economy. The data presented above indicates some degree of
integration in the South Atlantic economy as a whole, although more
evidence is still needed.
Merchants profited by buying cheap and selling dear, but against
these potential gains in arbitrage had to be counted the costs of trans-
portation, including insurance costs. Uncovering these variables creates
thorny problems for modern historians, just as managing them did for
sixteenth- and seventeenth-century merchants. Freight charges offer a
rough indication of the transportation costs of merchants, but—as with
price data—must be evaluated with extreme caution. One problem
with freight charges was their propensity for short-term fluctuation. In
166 chapter eight

1618, three Amsterdam brokers, who were mainly involved in freight

contracts, testified to a notary that there was a significant short-term
variation in freight prices, depending on the place and time.26
Nevertheless, in spite of the likelihood of short-term fluctuations,
freight contracts offer some indication of the long-term trends in costs
associated with transporting Brazilian sugar. The data in Appendix
C for the Brazil-Portugal route, gathered by Costa, are extensive
enough to show these trends. The nature of these contracts makes
them particularly valuable for analysis. The trade itself had a relatively
uncomplicated structure: on the return route from Brazil, sugar was
paramount. Although brazilwood and a few other items also returned
from Brazil in some quantity, their mention in freight contracts is not
nearly so pronounced as that of sugar, and freight charges were almost
always based on a price per ton of sugar shipped.27 This allows for a
consistency in the data that is not matched for freight contracts that
mention sugar shipped between European destinations.
Further consistency is possible because of the practice among shippers
in Brazilian routes to measure a ton in 54 arrobas of sugar. Although
the number of arrobas per crate tended to increase after 1618, the
contemporary practice of understanding a ton in terms of a maximum
weight of sugar was still generalized. As crate sizes increased, shippers
simply packed a smaller number of heavier crates per ton of space. This
practice was widespread, as some Low Countries Brazil traders testified
to an Amsterdam notary in 1618. Merchants who paid freight charges
for sugar, they claimed, understood that they were paying a charge per
54 arrobas of sugar.28 Also, no matter what the merchandise carried to
Brazil, the staffing of a ship was oriented by the exigencies of loading
sugar in the colony, as well as sailing and defending the vessel. The
freight calculation, then, took in the costs of shipping mainly sugar.29
Perception of risk probably formed the chief variable affecting
short-term changes in costs of shipping. When squadrons of enemy
fleets infested the Atlantic, the risks to shipping were reflected in freight
charges. The data collected in Figure 8.2 show this clearly. The first

Koen, “Notarial Records,” 13, no. 2 (1979): 239.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:307–9.
GAA, NA, no. 645, 43V–44. Costa confirms this from multiple sources. Costa,
O transporte no Atlântico, 1:310.
Costa’s scholarship on the financial structure of shipping arrangements is also
magisterial. See especially Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:369–81.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 167

Reis per Ton
(54 arrobas)












Figure 8.2 Freight charges, Brazil to Portugal

Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:371.

data available for freight charges on the Brazil routes correspond

with the beginning of attacks on the Portuguese merchant marine by
Elizabethan warships. Freight charges rose precipitously until the first
years of the seventeenth century. Peace with England in 1603 may
have contributed to a decline, but Dutch warships still seized some
Brazilmen, and the Portuguese sugar fleet had suffered from losses that
could not be quickly recouped. Furthermore, after 1605, no foreign
shipping was available to supplement the Portuguese merchant marine.
Freight charges declined during the Truce, but rose after 1625 with
Dutch attacks under the WIC.
By the second decade of the sixteenth century, shipping charges
had abated. The Twelve Year Truce remains the most obvious cause,
decreasing the cost of shipping. As sailing become more regular and
less risky, ship-owners could amortize the cost of their capital goods
over multiple journeys. This undoubtedly sent down the cost of freight
charges. A declining cost of ships in Portugal may have also contrib-
uted. Since the market for ships during the Truce had clearly become
internationalized, supplies from the Netherlands likely supplemented the
Portuguese merchant marine, as argued in Chapter 5. Consequently,
during this period, freight charges remained low and stable, staying
mainly between 8,800–9,500. This was a substantial improvement from
the year 1598, when charges were as high as 11,000 reis per ton.
Higher freight rates, alas, returned with a vengeance following the
expiration of the Truce. The effect was not immediate, since the WIC
spent several years acquiring the requisite level of capitalization. The
turning point came in 1624, with the invasion of Bahia, and the fol-
lowing years, when WIC squadrons actively sought prizes in Brazilian
168 chapter eight

waters. Unfortunately for Portuguese shippers, freight charges during

these years may have induced nostalgia for the days of Elizabethan
privateering. Costa based her values for the years 1626–1628 on aver-
ages from 55 observations in the Lisbon and Porto notarial archives.30
The relatively large number of notarial documents from this period
shows that risk not only prompted higher freight charges, but also sent
shippers and ship owners to the notary in droves to formalize their
shipping arrangements as added protection.
Once sugar reached Portugal, its shipping arrangements to other
European destinations become structurally far more complicated.
Consequently, it is difficult to interpret freight charges for sugar, or even
to talk of freight charges for sugar per se in European shipping. As noted
above, ships returning to Portugal from Brazil mainly had their holds
packed with sugar. But in ships leaving Portugal for other destinations,
cargoes were very likely mixed. Travel times between European ports
were also shorter, and the range of possible destinations within certain
main routes was also large. Furthermore, the ships that moved sugar out
of Portugal bore foreign flags. Many of the freight contracts for trips
to Portugal celebrated in Amsterdam do not stipulate return cargoes,
leaving the choice to the captain or correspondents on the spot.31 Also,
in inter-European trade routes, the supply of shipping was always far
greater than the shipping demand generated by sugar alone. Even dur-
ing periods when the ultra-cheap Dutch merchant marine was banned
from Portuguese harbors, ships from the Hansa cities were always ready
to collect freight in their stead.
Aside from the scarcity of information about freight charges for
Brazilian sugar on European routes, the form of the existing informa-
tion stymies attempts to provide a systematic analysis. In some cases
freight was charged per last—or ton. In others it was charged per
crate of sugar, without a clear definition of the weight of the crates.
Sometimes freight was charged on a variety of goods shipped together,
including sugar, oil and other products. This bewildering multiplicity
of arrangements can be noted in Appendix C, Table C2.
While shipping practices were probably too disparate to admit sys-
tematic analysis, some larger points emerge. In the years 1609–1611,

The data for these years incorporate a high number of observations, which lends
them a very strong credibility as well. Ibid., 1:371.
Although many hundreds in the period to 1630 do stipulate return cargoes:
mainly of salt.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 169

freight charged per last of sugar moved from Portugal to the Dutch
Republic hovered between 27 and 39 guilders (1,964–2,836 reis per ton).
By 1627 the cost of shipping had nearly tripled, with freight charged
for the same route from 65 to 84 guilders (4,727–6,109 reis per ton).
Once again, risk explains the difference. These latter journeys were
contracted for contraband trade, sailing around Scotland and England to
avoid the Dunkirk privateers who were notoriously active in these years.
Their captains intended to land—probably with foreign passports—in
the Algarve, which was under less scrutiny by crown authorities. This
type of shipping, still being planned some years after the creation of
the WIC, could only be carried out at considerable risk.
A further point revealed in Table C2 (Appendix C) is the relative
cheapness of inter-European transportation of sugar. The few examples
from the years 1610–11 offer a comparison. Here freight is charged
per last, which is calculated as eight or ten crates per last. A last was
more-or-less double a Portuguese ton, and, as Costa has shown, the
practice during this period in Portugal was to charge freight per 54-arroba
ton. This amount of cargo space held generally four crates of sugar
in the period until 1621. So the Dutch show some approximation of
Portuguese freighting practices. If a ship had freighted eight crates
(around 13.5 arrobas per crate) per ton, then the total weight per ton
would be 108 arrobas. Consequently the freight charge in 1611 from
Rotterdam to Viana and back to Amsterdam with a cargo of sugar
would have been 14 guilders per 54 arrobas (i.e. one Portuguese ton of
sugar cargo). This translates into 2,032 reis per ton, based on average
peacetime values, shown in Table C2 (The average freight charge for
the Brazilian leg of the journey in that year was 9,000 reis per ton.). If
the Dutch were able to pack 10 crates into a last, as was stipulated in
one contract in 1610, the savings would have been even greater. This
should come as no surprise. The round trip from the Low Countries to
Portugal was significantly shorter than that between Brazil and Portugal.
It is true that Dutch ships were larger and therefore required a larger
crew, but the Dutch were still renowned for the economy of their ship-
ping. A merchant marine that had developed to move vast quantities
of grain and salt back and forth between the Iberian Peninsula and
northwestern Europe could easily absorb the shipping requirements of
a relatively small amount of sugar moving north from Portugal.
What, then, did freighters earn on shipping sugar? Without system-
atic evidence from merchant’s account books, this question remains
impossible to answer. However, it seems certain that price margins on
170 chapter eight

freighting sugar were highly variable both in times of war and peace.32
Freight charges between these two regions were generally stable during
the years of the Truce (1610–1621), averaging 9,127 reis per 54-arroba
ton (see Appendix C). So if this cost is weighed against the higher quotes
for sugar in this period, it appears that profitability was a distinct pos-
sibility throughout the Truce, as seen in Table 8.9. This remains only
an exercise, since none of the figures below come from actual voyages
undertaken. Also, they do not reflect the expense of taxes in Lisbon, or
other risk-management costs. However, assuming that these taxes were
about 30%, the potential price margins for sugar after taxes remained
high, ranging from 12–43%.33 If merchants used the ports of Viana
or Porto, the earnings may have been greater.

Year Price, Price, Adjusted price difference Margins

Brazil Lisbon (–freight charge 9,127 per ton)
1613 61,938 97,200 26,135 42%
1618 54,000 96,120 32,993 61%
1619 37,800 64,800 17,873 47%
1621 43,200 83,700 31,373 73%
Table 8.9 Price margins less freight per 54-arroba ton of white sugar
shipped from Brazil to Lisbon in reis
Source: See Tables 8.4, 8.5 above.

A similar calculation (Table 8.10) shows the premium of arbitrage—

also high— from Lisbon to Amsterdam. This table is also based on the
higher price quotes for sugar in Lisbon during the Twelve Year Truce.
If, in fact, sugar could be obtained more cheaply in Lisbon than these

Costa has estimated that the premium of arbitrage for sugar shipped from Brazil
to Portugal remained high until around 1610, after which it dropped for nearly a decade
and a half. She only sees a return to profitability in the years following the invasion
of Bahia, with the return of high prices in Lisbon. This has led Costa to assume that
profitability in shipping sugar during this period must have accrued in the re-distribu-
tion routes. Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:239–48. Using higher figures for prices in
sugar during this period contradict this assessment.
I am assuming that taxes in Lisbon were paid on current wholesale values of
sugar in Lisbon. It is possible that sugar was often undervalued for this purpose as
some of the Alfândega data seems to suggest (see previous arguments in this chapter).
In that case, profits for traders were even higher.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 171

figures suggest, then the premium would have been even greater.34 But
even with these relatively high prices in Lisbon, the margin obtained by
moving sugar north was considerable. Although the gap between prices
in the two entrepôts was smaller than that between Brazil and Lisbon,
shipping was much cheaper. Presumably there was greater convergence
between these two European markets. Detailed information about freight
charges for freighting sugar from Portugal to the Dutch Republic during
the Truce is lacking, as we have seen, but this table assumes average
freight rates for the period at 2,032 reis per ton, as described above.
Likewise, the value of the convooien en licenten charged in Amsterdam on
sugar are not known for this period, but shippers could still profit even
if these taxes were 5%, which is very plausible.

Year Price- Price- Adjusted price difference Margins

(type of sugar) Lisbon Amsterdam (–2,032 reis freight charge)
1609 (white) 99,900 117,990 16,058 16%
1615 (moscovado) 56,700 79,596 20,864 37%
1618 (white) 96,120 109,728 11,576 12%
Table 8.10 Price margins less freight per 54-arroba ton of sugar shipped
from Lisbon to Amsterdam in reis
Source: see Tables 8.5 and 8.7 above.

These theoretical calculations of the premium of arbitrage suggest

that for successful voyages, sugar profits could be quite substantial. Of
course, shipping at sea was risky, and so all investments had the quality
of a roll of the dice. In particular on the Brazilian routes of the trade,
risk was high, as piracy or privateering was a significant risk in every
decade until 1630. Very good profit appears also to have been possible
on the leg from Lisbon to northwestern European towns. It seems
doubtful that, even during the Truce, investors would have bothered
with this trade without a strong expectation of significant remuneration
for voyages successfully completed.

As an exercise, we may look at Costa’s figure for sugar in Lisbon in 1618 at 1,100
reis per arroba. At this price, a ton shipped to Amsterdam would have netted 48,296
reis after freight charges. This represents a profit of 48,296 reis, or 81%. Given the
quantity and utter regularity of shipping between Portugal and the Dutch Republic,
i.e. their price integration, there is no way that this price imbalance could have been
sustained over the long term.
172 chapter eight

The final calculation of profit was possible only after subtracting

insurance costs. And the margins suggested above indicate that mer-
chants could buy expensive policies and still make a profit. Shipping and
insurance practices helped to broaden the base of merchants supporting
the risk of trans-Atlantic journeys, but they added their own burdens
by increasing costs substantially. However, the evidence of insurance
policies and bottomry contracts that charged premiums that ranged
from 30% and above—even during times of peace—are likely another
indicator of the profitability of the trade. Some merchants shunned
insurance, hoping for a larger payoff, while others sought security along
with a smaller return.
Given its profitability, governments had good reason to support this
trade. The Habsburg crown in the seventeenth century became ever
more dependent on income from external trade, at least in Portugal.
It had little flexibility in increasing Portuguese sisas, or sales taxes,
which were collected by the provinces. Consequently Alfândega receipts
became crucial and—at least in the period up to about 1605—showed
a tendency to increase, as seen in Table 8.11. The crown exploited its
flexibility in taxing external commerce, as witnessed by the consulado, the
3% tax imposed on imports by Philip II in 1593.35 In 1619, the revenue
of the Portuguese empire was 972,186 cruzados. Customs receipts made
up 17% of this income. It seems likely that a majority of this revenue
was due to imports of Brazilian sugar.

1588 1593 1605 1607 1619 1625 1627

Alfândega 125,150* 154,654 200,000 186,500 170,000 187,230 93,646

Almoxarifados** 226,087 225,381 210,000 200,728 194,082 201,112 201,112
Portugal-Total 496,126 492,671 n/a 679,228 736,826 708,730 546,668
Empire Total 967,119 1,018,391 n/a 1,672,270 972,186 894,824+ 733,882±

Table 8.11 Royal revenues: Habsburg Portugal, cruzados

Source: Hespanha, As vésperas do leviathan: instituições e poder político Portugal-Séc.
XVII, 149–155.
* 105,000 from Lisbon alone.
** Royal taxes on bread, wine, oil, etc.
+ No receipts from Mina.
± Does not include revenues from “próprios” and “mestrados.”

Hespanha, As vésperas do leviathan, 142.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 173

If revenue from the Brazilian sugar trade assumed increasing impor-

tance in the first two decades of the sixteenth century, the loss of revenue
after 1621 was painful. The threat to Portuguese shipping from the WIC
damaged the royal fisc. Total revenues from the empire are not known
for 1627, but in that year customs income had fallen nearly by half to
93,646 cruzados. Furthermore, the Spanish war against the ‘rebellious
provinces’ hurt Portugal disproportionately. While Portugal’s finances
were badly injured by the loss to shipping prompted by embargoes and
Dutch privateering, Castile could better bear the loss of revenue, since
it drew upon a larger population and agricultural hinterland. In 1607,
income from Brazil provided perhaps only 4.5% of the total revenue
of the Habsburg Crown, valued at 5.6 tons of silver.36
Sugar’s importance to the overall economy of northwestern Europe
may be more difficult to place. However, it seems that—in the period
before 1630—its impact in any single place was relatively small. This is
almost certainly the case with Hamburg and Antwerp. Hamburg prob-
ably was only taking a fraction of Brazilian production before 1621. In
1612, the town counted its sugar imports from all merchants, finding
2,203 crates, i.e. 29,740 arrobas (13.5 arrobas per crate). This was about
4% of likely production in Brazil that year, but the Portuguese mer-
chant community in Hamburg was just getting established.37 Antwerp
imported more. In the same year, the Feitoria de Flandres in Antwerp
counted 2,441 crates of sugar imports. This would have amounted to
about 32,953 arrobas, or about 5% of Brazilian production. However,
this counts only the sugar that was imported by Portuguese merchants,
taxed by an avaria. The following year the Portuguese merchants alone
imported 5,157 crates, or 10% of Brazilian output. In subsequent years
Hamburg and Antwerp imports probably accounted between them
for 20 to 25% of Brazilian production. Although data is lacking, this
percentage probably grew after 1621.

F.N. de Carvalho, H. Johnson, and M.B.N. da Silva, Nova História da Expansão
Portuguesa: O Império Luso-Brasileiro, 1500–1620 (Lisbon: Editorial Estampa, 1992), 296;
John Lynch, The Hispanic World in Crisis and Change, 1598–1700 (Oxford: Blackwell,
1992), 478.
The rest would have gone to Italy, England and other German towns. Of course,
some sugar stayed in Portugal, although it is difficult to say how much. The market
there would have been relatively small, although sugar consumption was increasing
in urban areas. Kellenbenz, Sephardim an der unteren Elbe, 478; Pohl, “Die Zuckerein-
fuhr nach Antwerpen,” 33; Stols, “The Expansion of the Sugar Market in Western
Europe,” 237–88.
174 chapter eight

How significant was sugar to the economy of the Dutch Republic, its
largest importer? At the peak period of trade, during the Twelve Year
Truce, probably at least half of all Portuguese sugar exports went to
Amsterdam. For the year 1612, this would have equaled 336,000 arrobas,
or 9,408,000 Dutch ponden. At 20 groten per pound (see Table 8.7), this
means that Brazilian sugar shipped from Portugal to Amsterdam had a
gross value of 4,704,000 guilders (684,218,181 reis).38 If accurate, that
was not a negligible amount. At a margin of 14%, merchants would
have yielded 658,560 guilders (95,790,545 reis) upon resale in the Dutch
Republic. This is close to the average annual profits of the VOC during
the 1620s, calculated at 750,000 guilders per year.39
The importance of sugar at this stage in European history must
be taken in context. Portugal was comparatively underdeveloped in
domestic industry and agriculture, and so the sugar trade—like all of
its overseas trade—loomed large as a source of wealth in the kingdom.
In the Dutch Republic this trade existed alongside thriving agriculture,
a diversified maritime sector, and a host of domestic industries. Profits
from the sugar trade only represented a small fraction of the wealth
created by the Dutch economy. For example, in the year 1630, woolen
cloth production from Leiden alone was probably worth 4 million
guilders. The gross value of the Dutch herring catch in the same year
may have been about 3 million guilders.40
But, unlike the herring and woolen cloth industries, the Brazilian
sugar trade was international, and the profit made by resale in the
Netherlands was only one aspect of the total profit made in the trade.
Given its overall value, it is not surprising that it prompted merchants

Strong confirmation for my estimate comes from the statement of Portuguese
merchants in Amsterdam in 1621 that sugar paid between 35,000 and 40,000 annu-
ally on the municipal scales. Since it was taxed here at 1% or less, that indicates
an annual import worth 4,000,000 guilders or more. See: “Deductie” in IJzerman,
“Deductie,” 103. Of course, the “Deductie” must be used with caution. Also note
that in 1618 Portuguese merchants in Amsterdam claimed that they had lost 539,071
guilders (78,410,327 reis) to confiscations by the Holy Office of goods in possession
of their correspondents in Portugal. A majority of these were sugar: “Declaratie van
de schaden” ARA, SG (Liassen admiraliteiten) 12561.31.
Actual revenues for the VOC in these years averaged 4,750,000 guilders
(690,909,091 reis). But expenses (4,000,000) were also high. Note that the value of
the silver from the Spanish silver fleet captured by Piet Heyn in 1628 was 11.5 mil-
lion guilders, equivalent to more than twice the average annual revenue of the VOC
around that time. Vries and Woude, The First Modern Economy, 390–9.
Ibid., 267, 286.
supply, demand, prices and profitability 175

from the Dutch Republic—and elsewhere—to move to Portugal, just

as Portuguese merchants went to northwestern Europe in order to
trade sugar. Furthermore sugar profits did not end with the wholesale
trade, given Amsterdam’s position as a leading refining center. As the
Amsterdam suikerbackers added value to sugar and sold it on domestic
and international markets, more wealth was created. Whatever the real
value to the Dutch economy, the perception of profits to be made from
sugar was high. This explains motivation behind the creation of the
WIC. Although initially wary, investors in the Dutch Republic eventu-
ally contributed 7,108,161 guilders (1,033,914,327 reis) to capitalize a
company that was largely conceived to import Brazilian sugar.
The period from 1550 to 1630 was a period of increase in both the
supply of and demand for Brazilian sugar. Sugar’s modest place in
the overall economy of northwestern Europe shows that before 1630
European demand was still limited to elite or middle-class households.
Sugar had not yet become an item of mass consumption in this region,
as it would in the following century. Still, it was a period of expansion in
production and trade. In the eighty-year period discussed here Brazilian
production grew significantly. Supply actually tripled between 1583 and
1629. And as the data presented in this chapter suggest, the demand
for Brazilian sugar also grew from 1550 to 1630, though not always
steadily. From 1618 to 1624 prices were low in Brazil, Portugal and
northwestern Europe, owing to a general European economic malaise
that depressed demand. But supply seemed not to overtake demand.
The proof of this is the high prices that sugar generally commanded
in European markets. Prices could vary over the short term, but sugar
generally remained quite profitable in the period until 1630.
Profits came in the premium of arbitrage, both between Brazil and
Portugal and Portugal and other European markets. Trading across
the Atlantic always presented risk, which merchants tried to mitigate
through insurance policies and other risk-reducing practices. But the
price differential between different markets was usually great enough
that merchants could absorb the costs that these practices imposed and
still make a very decent profit. Sometimes transaction costs—embodied
in freight contracts and insurance premiums—rose dramatically higher,
but usually then the stakes were also higher. When risks were particu-
larly high at sea, less sugar reached European markets. Demand and
prices increased. Merchants with a high appetite for risk could make
very good profits if they were lucky. But even when the trade operated
on a more even keel—such as during the Twelve Year Truce—profits
176 chapter eight

were still relatively high. This profitability is what drove the Brazilian
sugar trade, and European governments recognized this when they
taxed it or otherwise tried to regulate it. It is no wonder that the lure
of profits from sugar prompted significant movements of merchants
from one country to another.

When Brazil began to produce sugar for European markets after 1550,
sugar was already a proven moneymaker for merchants who had been
shipping it for decades from São Tomé and Madeira. In the subsequent
eight decades, Brazilian sugar would come to dominate the market, and
although production in Brazil rose steadily during this time, markets
grew as well, evidenced by the high profitability of sugar throughout
these years in wholesale markets.
The demand for Brazilian sugar was satisfied during a politically
turbulent period and it overcame a variety of obstacles. Sugar pro-
duction was an Iberian initiative, but the wholesale markets for sugar
were in northwestern Europe. As it happened, in the second half of
the sixteenth century dynastic politics set the unified Iberian crown in
a military and political struggle against much of northwestern Europe,
and especially the Low Countries, its economic heart. Consequently,
one important context for the trade was the Eighty Year War between
Habsburg Spain and the Dutch Republic. During a pause in this
struggle—the Twelve Year Truce—the Brazilian sugar trade flourished
like never before.
Nevertheless, neither European political struggles nor mercantilist-
type state policies primarily shaped the course of the Brazilian sugar
trade in the period to 1630. This is partly because the trade was rela-
tively free, and not generally subject to state-based control or mono-
polies. But even when certain states tried to prevent it, Brazilian sugar
tended to flow through Portugal to its main markets in northwestern
Europe. In spite of occasional embargoes and the disruption of tra-
ditional markets in the Low Countries as a result of the Eighty Year
War, the sugar trade showed remarkable resilience. This was partly
the result of the dynamism of the highly multilocal merchant net-
works that facilitated it. Portuguese trade with northwestern Europe
spawned reciprocal migrations of merchants. Merchant houses formed
inter-imperial networks of correspondents and relatives with a vast geo-
graphic reach, allowing for flexibility and responsiveness when dealing
with sugar markets. Merchant mobility and inter-imperial organization
meant that the sugar trade could persist in spite of political crises. In
178 conclusion

spite of restriction in the transportation sector, the investment structure

of the trade was fully internationalized.
This internationalization was at least partly possible because of con-
tinued innovations in the system of commercial capitalism. Transaction
costs in the sugar trade fell because of the development in the sixteenth
century of ‘modern’ forms of financial transaction and risk manage-
ment, including a dramatic increase in the availability of credit and
the negotiability of paper currency in European markets. These new
forms of financial transactions were used in Brazil as well and allowed
widespread access to investment in the sugar trade. At the same time,
techniques of risk management—such as insurance policies and bot-
tomry contracts—evolved during this time and helped to provide conti-
nuity to a trade that was often beset by a high level of maritime risk.
The chartering of the WIC in 1621 marked a full-bore assault on
this inter-imperial system, and may also indicate an epoch in which
some states pursued consciously mercantilist trade policies with greater
vigor. This assault finally had a major effect on the sugar trade after
1630, when the WIC occupied Pernambuco. The portion of Brazilian
sugar production controlled by the WIC was now to be traded under
monopoly auspices.
While it moves beyond the scope of this study, it may be worthwhile
to assess the success of mercantilist policy in the Brazilian sugar trade,
as applied following 1630. In the case of Dutch Brazil, the WIC did
not manage to ship Brazilian sugar under an exclusive system following
its takeover of Pernambuco. The majority of sugar in Dutch Brazil
was still shipped by private traders, although the WIC taxed this trade
as a rent-seeking institution. Later in the century Portugal sought to
extend mercantilist practice to Brazil with its own monopoly ‘Brazil
Company’ and was similarly bedeviled. Private, competitive shipping
and an international investment structure—key elements of the Brazilian
sugar trade in its first eighty years—were not easily overthrown.
Part of the freedom of the Brazilian sugar trade derived from its
geographical openness. In this aspect, the present study has important
implications for early Atlantic studies in general. In spite of their best
efforts, early modern European states could not completely control their
Atlantic maritime traffic. Sugar routes—as well as Atlantic routes in
general—were vulnerable to contraband trade, piracy and privateer-
ing during times of war. These activities undoubtedly imposed costs
on the sugar trade, but they demonstrate the propensity of merchants
to selectively follow imperial dictates when they contradicted market
conclusion 179

logic. Given the cosmopolitan nature of their networks, they had the
means to do so.
At the same time, at least during the Twelve Year Truce, there is no
evidence to show that contraband trading was widespread. Although
Brazil’s vast coastline invited illegal access, most sugar was channeled
through specific ports where controls were in place. More importantly,
the system of controls and taxation was not at great odds with the
structure of the market. Portugal remained the logical returning point
from Brazil, given its position in the center of trade networks. And
taxation in the metropolis was not so high that it prevented merchants
from making good profits.
These high profits were the driving force in the sugar trade until
1630. When voyages were successful, price margins less freight in the
sugar trade were very high. The trade not only enriched merchants, but
it also contributed to the income of states; in Portugal, sugar receipts
formed the largest part of customs income.
The trade in Brazilian sugar—the first major Atlantic trade—was an
inter-imperial phenomenon. This showed in the merchants who drove
it, the investment structure that facilitated it, and the merchant marine
that carried it. The early modern European states that benefited from
the sugar trade—especially Portugal—taxed it, but generally left it free.
Therefore it is wrong to identify the first age of Atlantic commerce as
‘mercantilist,’ or to identify the Brazilian sugar trade as a particularly
Portuguese or Sephardic enterprise.
The international nature of the trade, and the merchant networks
that facilitated it, allowed it to prosper during a turbulent political
period. The greatest demand for sugar was in the Low Countries,
and the political rebellions that broke out there in the 1550s could
not help but affect the rhythms of the trade. But they did not alter its
basic geographic orientation: most of the supply continued to move
from Brazil to Portugal to northwestern Europe. During a pause in
the Eighty Year War, free trade blossomed between Portugal and the
Dutch Republic.
Hopefully this study will continue to lead to a wider interpretation
of the early Atlantic world. In particular, it strongly suggests that
mercantilism in the creation of the Atlantic world was generally more
normative than descriptive. This fact has all too often been obscured
through analytical categories and national narratives that are ill sup-
ported by evidence. Not only that, but this work suggests a level of
integration in the early Atlantic world that is usually posited only for
180 conclusion

the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Most would agree that
the economy of the present day is marked by the mobility of capital
and the internationalization of finance. The story of the Brazilian
sugar trade challenges us to admit that the antecedents of modern
globalization are distant.



One of the most significant decisions for a merchant was his choice of
ports for trade. Aside from the obvious need to have a partner in that
port, the decision was influenced by the availability of both commodi-
ties for trade and a port infrastructure that allowed him to move this
commodity expeditiously. Ports in Brazil served the largest sugar produc-
ing areas, and consequently it is not surprising that Pernambuco and
Bahia attracted the most traffic. The evidence from notarized contracts
celebrated in Lisbon and Porto confirms this abundantly. The numbers
of contracts fluctuate significantly from year to year and they cannot
show absolute traffic. But taken in ten-year increments they indicate
a remarkable orientation towards these two major ports, with Rio de
Janeiro and Espírito Santo following at a significant lag.

Year Bahia Pernambuco Espírito Rio de Total Total

Santo Janeiro Brazil Contracts

1580–89 8 8 1 0 19 37
1590–99 11 26 5 3 44 71
1600–09 34 43 2 5 82 144
1610–19 24 38 0 6 74 165
1620–29 34 64 0 12 114 191
Totals 111 179 8 26 333 608

Table A.1 Lisbon and Porto notarial contracts mentioning Brazilian ports
of call, 1580–1630
Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 2:191–216. Note: these are not all freight contracts,
but rather all contracts in which a voyage was implicit. Some contracts mentioned
either only Brazil as a destination, or multiple ports of call in Brazil.

The relative importance of ports in the metropolis is also apparent

from a variety of sources. As Costa has argued, it seems certain that
in the period described in this work Lisbon did not lose its preemi-
nence. From 1602 to 1607 Lisbon contributed possibly some 84% of
182 appendix a

the kingdom’s customs income.1 Some twenty years later when the
crown wished to levy an exceptional tax on merchants for the rescue
of Pernambuco it still assumed that nearly 60% of the revenue would
come from Lisbon alone.2
Freight contracts celebrated in Amsterdam for the Baltic-Portuguese
trade in the second decade of the seventeenth century also point to the
preeminence of Lisbon. Generally, since this trade was heavily oriented
towards salt, Setubal received pride of place as the most visited har-
bor. But among the other ports, stops in Lisbon were anticipated most
frequently. In 1619, Lisbon surpassed Setubal as the port-of-call most
contracted. Nevertheless, in many cases contracts left the exact port-of-
call open, mentioning several stops in Portugal as possibilities.
Nevertheless, even if Lisbon remained the most important port, the
Brazilian sugar trade gave a new life to merchant activity in Porto and
Viana. For Viana, involvement in the Brazilian sugar trade began early,
and already in 1566 several Vianese ships were recorded as having
transported Brazilian sugar. That number may have risen to as many
as several dozen per annum in subsequent decades. In the year 1617,
Viana may have accounted for about one fifth of sugar imports into
Portugal.3 During this period the relatively low level of its customs

Year Total Visits Places Named in Contracts

Lisbon Setubal Porto Viana
1614 58 12 42 13 10
1615 54 13 44 4 0
1616 67 5 65 1 2
1617 89 21 87 7 1
1618 85 56 62 13 2
1619 80 54 38 20 17
Table A.2 Amsterdam freight contracts, including Baltic-Portuguese
trade, 1614–1619
Source: P.H. Winkelman, ed. Bronnen voor de Geschiedenis van de Nederlandse Oostzeehandel,
vols. 5–6.

Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:102–3.
Ibid., 1:101.
Moreira, Os Mercadores de Viana, 24–6. The Vianese had a particularly strong asso-
ciation with Pernambuco, according to Fernão Cardim, a Jesuit observer in 1584.
appendix a 183

taxation must have helped to boost its fortunes. However, the cost
advantages of Viana had to be weighed against the difficulties of her
harbor, which was too silted to admit large vessels.4
While Viana probably remained in most years only the third larg-
est importer of Brazilian sugar, the importance of this product to
the economic life of the port is hard to over-estimate. In 1598, sugar
accounted for 85% of all of the sisa receipts in the town. This number
rose to 87% in 1631.5 Of 120 freight contracts examined by Moreira,
76% of them—91 in total—refer to planned trips to Brazil.6
Mauro has also emphasized that the period from 1550 to 1620
marked the reemergence of the northern ports. But, in his view, this
happened at the expense of Lisbon.7 The Carreira da Índia, which was
centered on Lisbon, had dominated the earlier phase of Portuguese
overseas expansion, generating the preponderance of wealth. This was
a monopoly venture. Mauro argues that, with the emergence of the free
Brazilian sugar trade, the northern ports enjoyed resurgence, since they
were effective redistribution centers for northern destinations. Viana and
Porto, as well as smaller ports such as Caminha, Aveiro and Vila do
Conde had always possessed merchant communities as well as impor-
tant fishing fleets. When new opportunities beckoned, merchants were
quick to seize them, sending their sons to Brazil to become lavradores
and senhores do engenho as well as factors and correspondents for sugar
trading.8 At the same time, ships that had been employed in fishing
were converted for use in trans-Atlantic trading expeditions.
Mauro was correct to show that sugar revitalized northern ports, but
as Costa has shown, he incorrectly assumed that this growth came at the
expense of Lisbon.9 She has, rather, emphasized the interdependency
of all of the Portuguese harbors (see Tables A.3 and A.4). Her evidence
from notarial contracts offers a compelling argument that this was so.
Many of the contracts that she has analyzed show that—on Brazil
voyages—a ship might leave one harbor in the metropolis and return

According to one English trader it could only be entered with “a fair wind and
a fair weather, a smooth and calm water, a spring tide, and that there hath no great
water lately fallen on the land . . . for that the said port is as aforesaid full of rocks,
shelves and sands.” Quote in Croft, “English Mariners,” 261.
Moreira, Os Mercadores de Viana, 26.
Ibid., 61.
Mauro, Portugal, o Brasil e o Atlântico, 2:255–7.
Moreira, Os Mercadores de Viana, 13–23.
Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:106.
184 appendix a

to another. In many cases the contracts were loosely prescriptive and

captains or agents on board were expected to determine their destina-
tion based on information received once the journey was in progress. It
seems apparent that a departure and return to the same port was not
an invariable rule on trading trips to Brazil. This implies the existence
of merchant networks that embraced all of the Portuguese ports, and
demonstrates that capital and goods moved freely between them.10

Departure: Return: Return: Return: Return: Return:

Lisbon or Lisbon Porto Viana Porto or elsewhere
environs Viana or not
(Seisimbra, mentioned

1580–89 14 14 0 0 0
1590–99 37 20 0 10 5 2
1600–09 52 7 0 36 0 9
1610–19 28 6 1 2 4 15
1620–29 54 40 0 0 1 13

Table A.3 Voyages from Lisbon to Brazil in Lisbon notarial contracts:

return ports
Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 2:191–216.

Departure from Return to Return to Return to Porto Return

Porto Porto Lisbon or Viana elsewhere or
not mentioned
1580–89 3 2 0 1 0
1590–99 5 2 1 1 1
1600–09 26 14 1 10 1
1610–19 45 33 1 3 8
1620–29 56 46 1 0 9
Table A.4 Voyages from Porto to Brazil in Porto notarial contracts:
return ports
Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 2:191–216.

I take this argument from Costa, but I am using her data in a different way,
especially in regard to periodization. I believe that this data is far too thin to interpret
quantitatively. Rather it shows some typical patterns of trade.
appendix a 185

The other indispensable link in the portuary structure of the sugar

trade was the role of the Atlantic islands as intermediary ports-of-call.
These served both as markets for goods from mainland Europe and
especially as suppliers of wine or grain, which were important sales
commodities in Brazil. Indeed, it seems that merchants who were well
connected often tried to arrange as many different trading transactions
as possible on a single voyage. Typically a trade contract provided for a
departure from a port in the metropolis, a stop in Madeira, the Canary
Islands or the Azores, to load wine or grain, a voyage on to Brazil, and
then a direct return to the metropolis (see Table A.5).

Departure: Port of Call: Port of Call: Port of Call:

Portugal Madeira Canary Islands The Azores
1580–89 17 2 2 0
1590–99 42 12 1 3
1600–09 79 23 27 6
1610–19 73 2 26 3
1620–29 110 16 31 9
Total 321 55 87 21
Table A.5 Voyages from Portugal to Brazil in Lisbon and Porto notarial
contracts: Atlantic Islands
Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 2:191–216.

A few of the freight contracts drafted for Hans de Schot in the 1590s
show that foreigners in the Brazil trade before 1605 also adhered to this
pattern that encompassed the Atlantic Islands, as well as other ports.
In 1595 de Schot freighted the ship Den gulden Leeuw, captained by Ben
Jans of Enkhuizen. This large ship—of 300 tons—was to load grain
in Danzig for sale in North Africa, a typical circuit for Baltic grain.
However, de Schot instructed the shipper then to load wine in Cadiz,
the Canary Islands or Madeira and then to sail to Bahia or Pernambuco
for merchandise—presumably sugar—to return to Portugal.11 In the
next few years he freighted several more Dutch ships for nearly identi-
cal patterns of trade.12 In at least one case, he mentioned that a super
cargo would travel on board to make the local arrangements.13

GAA, NA, no. 47, 96V.
GAA, NA, no. 48, 21; no. 50, 39V; no. 51, 79.
GAA, NA, no. 50, 39V.



Lisbon Setubal Porto Viana Aveiro Total

1594 26 66 2 0 1 69
1595 31 122 0 0 1 125
1596 12 21 1 1 9 31
1597 62 54 22 14 1 76
1598 71 59 18 7 25 102
1599 0 6 0 0 10 10
1600 2 17 1 0 13 24
Totals 204 345 44 22 60 437
Table B.1 Portuguese ports of call anticipated in Amsterdam freight
contracts involving Baltic trade, 1594–1600
Source: Winkelman, ed. Bronnen voor de geschiedenis van de nederlandse oostzeehandel, vol. 2.
These records come from Franssen Bruyningh, who was the notary whose records have
survived in the greatest number for this period. As luck would have it, he was also
sought out especially for freight contracts involving Baltic trade. There are very few
contracts from other notaries in these years for Amsterdam-Baltic Trade.
* Since contracts often mention more than one port of call, the totals are generally
less than the sum of all the ports mentioned.

Netherlands Northwestern Western Eastern Denmark Other Total

(Holland) Germany Hansa Hansa
1558 (2) 2 9 13
1560 (32) 3 2 11 56
1562 (59) 2 15 14 97
1563 (65) 10 24 13 125
1564 (20) 1 17 42
1565 (37) 1 44
188 appendix b

Table B.2 (cont.)

Netherlands Northwestern Western Eastern Denmark Other Total

(Holland) Germany Hansa Hansa
1566 (41) 1 3 54
1567 (86) 3 2 13 118
1568 (54) 4 6 73
1569 (2) 1 4
1574 (21) 17 12 36 3 1 90
1575 (11) 7 17 28 7 1 71
1576 (38) 24 31 36 8 3 142
1577 (44) 19 47 30 15 3 175
1578 (101) 26 49 38 9 3 261
1579 (103) 13 29 19 9 200
1580 (61) 3 6 15 6 113
1581 (66) 9 37 21 9 167
1582 (62) 17 23 22 3 2 139
1583 (66) 2 22 22 4 124
1584 (80) 3 23 22 6 1 145
1585 (44) 1 34 24 8 114
1586 (18) 1 31 17 7 74
1587 (11) 3 53 29 9 106
1588 (2) 55 27 8 93
1589 (2) 2 57 14 8 2 86
1590 (78) 5 71 28 15 215
appendix b 189

Table B.2 (cont.)

Netherlands Northwestern Western Eastern Denmark Other Total
(Holland) Germany Hansa Hansa
1591 (139) 5 56 27 19 273
1592 (45) 6 40 18 9 125
1593 (71) 3 39 15 5 141
1594 (74) 46 19 8 166
1595 (165) 5 31 19 2 253
1596 (119) 1 20 7 10 172
1597 (21) 11 28 7 5 81
1598 (85) 9 18 19 6 159
1599 (6) 37 51 34 14 145
1600 (23) 45 42 36 22 3 175
1601 (36) 17 34 27 14 1 137
1602 (6) 6 31 23 5 75
1603 (23) 4 32 29 10 102
1604 (24) 12 41 21 14 116
1605 (1) 13 29 21 8 73
1606 38 20 8 2 69
1607 65 25 15 1 108
1608 (19) 2 63 29 13 2 134
1609 (56) 31 9 9 1 118
1610 (83) 1 34 3 2 137
1611 (123) 37 11 2 181
1612 (48) 2 11 5 3 74
190 appendix b

Table B.2 (cont.)

Netherlands Northwestern Western Eastern Denmark Other Total
(Holland) Germany Hansa Hansa

1613 (141) 1 19 7 1 1 186

1614 (123) 4 23 6 3 1 179
1615 (94) 2 16 2 125
1616 (126) 2 14 4 1 156
1617 (189) 11 219
1618 (155) 1 10 1 178
1619 (107) 1 13 1 128
1620 (76) 8 2 4 95
1621 (27) 1 14 5 2 52
1622 3 17 17 8 1 47
1623 (1) 25 34 13 2 77
1624 14 35 6 1 57
1625 10 6 4 1 22
1626 23 4 27
1627 (1) 19 1 21
1628 6 2 8
1629 10 1 11
1630 (3) 16 1 2 22
Table B.2 Volume of shipping through the Øresund—Ships arriving
directly from Portugal by national origin
Source: Bang, N.E., Tabeller over Skibsfart og Varetransport genem Øresund 1497–1669. Vol. 1.
1928, Copenhagen: Gyldenalske Boghandel. Ships traveling directly into the Baltic Sea
from Portugal were most likely to be carrying salt.


1580 5800
1585 6400
1586 6500
1587 8000
1588 8700
1589 8500
1590 8000
1591 9500
1592 9000
1593 9600
1594 9750
1595 10500
1596 10000
1598 11000
1599 10600
1600 10700
1601 10750
1602 10350
1603 10300
1604 9600
1605 10200
1606 10100
1607 10000
1608 10000
1609 9800
1610 10000
1611 9000
1612 8280
1613 9000
1614 8800
1615 8800
1616 9160
1617 8820
192 appendix c

Table C.1 (cont.)

1618 9500
1619 9500
1620 9000
1621 9660
1623 7600
1624 10000
1626 12500
1627 15000
1628 14950
1630 15000
Table C.1 Freight charges: Brazil to Portugal, reis per ton
Source: Costa, O transporte no Atlântico, 1:371.

Date Quantity Origin Destination Return Ship size Freight Charge

in lasts
12–5– A’dam Aveiro A’dam 45 4 gld. per chest
1608 of sugar
5–15– full cargo/ A’dam Viana A’dam 70 1,650 gld. total
1609 minimum
60 lasts
7–28– A’dam/ Algarve A’dam 106 30 gld. per
1609 Danzig Condado* last
9–18– A’dam Lisbon/ A’dam 120 27 gld. per last, i.e.
1609 Porto/ 152 arrobas sumac,
Viana or 170 arrobas sugar, 4
Condado pipes wine
3–3– A’dam Porto/ A’dam/ 140 30 gld. per last,
1610 Viana Dunkirk i.e. per 10 large
(Antwerp) or small crates of
7–13– A’dam Algarve A’dam/ 50 27 gld. per last,
1610 Dunkirk i.e. 10 crates sugar
(Antwerp) per last
4–7– Rotterdam Viana A’dam 40 28 gld. per last,
1611 i.e. 8 crates sugar
per last
10–26– 100 Texel Viana A’dam 60 380 gld. for 100
1611 crates (A’dam) crates, includes
freight for outward
appendix c 193

Table C.2 (cont.)

Date Quantity Origin Destination Return Ship size Freight Charge
in lasts

4–20– 200 A’dam Viana A’dam 55 740 gld. total, i.e.

1612 crates both ways
9–1– 150 A’dam Viana A’dam 60 3 gld. 13 st. per
1612 crates crate of sugar
11–13– 650 A’dam Viana Livorno, 120 Italy: 9 gld, 10 st.
1617 crates France, per crate; France
Holland or or Holland: 4 gld.;
Hamburg Hamburg: 4 ½
9–10– A’dam Vila do A’dam 32 1,100 gld. total
1620 Conde/
3–23– A’dam/ Algarve A’dam 75 60 gld. per
1623 Calais or last/4,000 pounds
Dover sugar per last
3–17– A’dam Aveiro/ A’dam 50 65 gld. per last,
1626 Porto 8 crates of sugar
per last
7–25– A’dam Faro (sailing A’dam 80 84 gld. per last,
1627 around 8 crates of sugar
England and per last
8–2– A’dam Faro A’dam 50 84 gld. per last,
1627 8 crates of sugar
per last
8–27– A’dam Faro A’dam 40 80 gld. per last,
1627 8 crates of sugar
per last
9–1– A’dam Algarve A’dam 40 80 gld. per last,
1627 8 crates of sugar
per last
11–24– A’dam Faro A’dam 25 85 gld. per last, 8
1627 crates of sugar per

Table C.2 Freight charges for sugar, Portugal to the Dutch Republic
Source: Koen, “Notarial Records,” 4, no. 2 (1970): 254; 5, no. 1 (1971): 107–8, 115,
119–20; 5, no. 2 (1971): 230–1, 235; 6, no. 1 (1972): 107–8, 114; 11, no. 2 (1977):
160; 17, no. 1 (1983): 78; 23, no. 1 (1989): 207; 32, no. 1 (1998): 88; 35, no. 1 (2001):
69, 70, 76, 77, 87.
* The Condaet or Condado was technically the region between the rivers Guadiana
and Guadalquivir in Andalusia, but also sometimes meant the Algarve. Contracts for
the southern coast of Spain and Portugal were quite often loosely prescriptive, suggest-
ing that the captain visit a number of ports until he got a full cargo. Koen, “Notarial
Records,” 1, no. 2 (1967): 113.


Nationaal Archief, The Hague (formerly: Algemeen Rijksarchief )

Staten Generaal
Liassen admiraliteiten

Gemeentearchief Amsterdam
Notarieel Archief

Instituto dos Arquivos Nacionais, Torre do Tombo, Lisbon

Inquisição de Coimbra
Inquisição de Lisboa
Corpo Cronológico
Feitoria de Flandres
Livros de Avarias

Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino, Lisbon

Conselho Ultramarino
Livro do Brasil
Papeis avulsos
Espírito Santo


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Adriaensz, Joris 82, 87 n. 4 Bottomry; loans 29 n. 39, 67, 111,

Adrião, João 79 114, 125–128; contracts 15, 67, 97,
Alfândega (Customs House) 1, 41, 87 125–126, 126 n. 60, 128, 136, 172,
Algarve 42, 59, 141, 153, 169, 178
192–193 Bravo, Pasqual 66
Almirantazgo 52, 59, 61, 164 Bravo, Álvaro Gomes 98, 120 n. 39
Álvares, João 78 Brazil, sugar production 39, 105, 140,
Amsterdam 31 n. 45, 38, 61, 71–72; 177–178; foreign residents 51 n. 52;
immigration to 38, 61, 72 prohibitions against foreigners 13,
Angola 67 n. 15, 74, 81, 105, 126, 48, 50–52, 82; ports 14, 51, 85–86,
126 n. 60 88–89, 106, 121, 139, 181; illegal
Antwerp 5 n. 5, 12, 14, 17, 19 n. 1, trade 47, 131–133, 136–137, 147,
21 n. 12, 22–25, 29–30, 30 n. 43, 164–165; Dutch invasions 39, 105,
31, 31 n. 45, 32, 32 n. 52, 33 n. 52, 140, 177–178
37–38, 44, 44 n. 23, 47, 54, 61–62, Brazilwood 24, 40, 48, 51–52, 55, 64,
70–72, 72 n. 38, 74–77, 77 n. 55, 66, 72, 76, 79, 80 n. 63, 103 n. 52,
78–81, 81 n. 64, 82–83, 110, 111 115, 133, 142, 143 n. 35, 166
n. 7, 112–113, 113 n. 11, 114, 119, Brito, Francisco Pinto de 56 n. 69, 72
121, 125, 127–128, 136–137, 139 Bruges 21–25, 32, 111
n. 22, 141–142, 144, 147, 155 n. 9,
157, 160, 160 n. 20, 161 n. 21, 162, Cabo Frio 39, 133
162 nn. 22–23, 163, 165, 173 Cáceres, Francisco de 68, 114, 120
Arroba. See Measurements n. 39, 124
Atlantic Trade; historiography 5, Cáceres, Simão Rodrigues de 124–125
61, 63 n. 6; 118 n. 30; integration Cadiz 70, 117 n. 25, 127, 134, 134
in 64, 132, 148; inter-imperial n. 6, 136, 185
cooperation in 165, 179 Caminho, Diego Lopes 134
Azevedo, Álvaro de 73, 155 n. 10 Canary Islands 55 n. 68, 79–80, 122,
Azores (São Miguel and Terceira) 28, 136–138, 145, 185
42, 133 n. 3, 140–141, 185 Cardoso, Antonio Mendes 114
Cardoso, Gonçalo 69, 69 n. 24, 72
Baack, Cipriaan Joosten 78 Cardoso, Ruy Fernandes 72–73
Baack, Laurens Joosten 78 Carlos, Antonio Mendez 122
Baeck, Laurens Joosten 103 Carreira da India 28, 65, 93, 183
Bahia 12, 44, 58–59, 65–66, 68, 74, Carvalho, Sebastião 51
82, 88, 91, 104, 114–116, 121, 125, Casa da Mina 29, 29 n. 39
140, 147, 154–155, 167, 181 Cascais 98
Banks; wisselbank, kassiersbedrijf 112 Chaves, Antonio Ruiz 115
Barbary (Salé); pirates 1, 91 Claessen, Claes 79, 136
Barros, Damian de 78 Clarisse, Pieter (Pedro) 25, 74, 125,
Basiliers de Jonge, Gasper 80 154, 156 n. 12, 160
Bavaria 17 Cologne 17, 25, 29–31, 71
Becque, Louis del 137, 137 n. 17, Companhia Geral do Comércio do Brasil 4
138 n. 4, 64
Beer, Lenardo de 103 Concelho Ultramarino 41
Beltgens, Pieter 82, 138 n. 18 Conselho da Fazenda 41, 66
Bolsa. See Merchant Consuentia, Francisco Manuel 78
206 index

Cordts, Jan 121 111–112, 128, 178; futures

Costs; transportation 14, 85, 96, 165; speculation 113; discounting 113,
protection 168; freight charges 14, 113 n. 13, 114; terms of payment 113;
170; See also Taxes, Ships, Transaction portfolio diversification 65
Costs Flanders 19, 21, 21 n. 12, 22, 41, 41
Court, Julien del 121 n. 6, 66–67, 70, 76 n. 49
Coutinho, Gonçalo Lopes 73 Florence 70
Cunertorf, Gasper 75–77, 77 n. 54 Fonseca, Diogo da 69, 69 n. 24, 72
Cunha, Luís da 68, 68 n. 19 Framengo, Alberto 79
Cunha, Paulo Lopes 67, 67 n. 18, 155 France 9, 12, 20, 26, 35, 53, 73 n. 42,
n. 10 120, 120 n. 40, 144
Freight charges. See Ships
D’Andrade (merchant house) 69, 74,
77 Garces, Hendrick 56 n. 69, 72, 81
D’Elvas, Fernão Rodrigues 68, 69 n. 22 Geertsz, Pauwels 79
D’Evora (merchant house) 30 Germany 2, 17, 19–20, 24, 30, 38, 67,
D’Evora, Rodrigo da Veiga 68 73 n. 41, 83, 106, 156
D’Orta, Rui Diaz 115 Gheel, Daniel van 120 n. 39
Danzig 2, 25–27, 34, 76–77, 77 n. 55, Gheel, Jan van 120 n. 39, 124
80 n. 63, 99, 115, 185 Gijsbertsz, Hendrick 81
Denmark 73 Glommer, Willem Joost ten 78
Drake, Francis 135 Glückstadt 73
Dubois, Jehan 121 Góes, Marcos de 43 n. 14, 68, 159
Dumolijn, Pieter 138, 138 nn. 18–19 Gomes, Gabriel 66
Dutch Republic 13; taxes 1, 13–14, Goudick, Marie 74
16, 41–43; trade policy 44, 50; see
also Staten Generaal Habet, Engel 139
Habsburg Monarchy 43; trade policies,
Eighty Year War 27, 40, 46, 60, 177 war against England 56, 135, 178;
Emden 27, 49 n. 42, 77 n. 55, 123, war against the Dutch Republic 40,
137 47–48, 52, 54, 60, 83
Engenho. See Sugar Hals, João 75
Enkhuizen 76, 79 n. 59, 185 Hamburg 5 n. 5, 12, 27, 30–31, 34,
Enriques, Francisco Lopes 115 38, 50 n. 45, 61–62, 66, 69 n. 24,
Entre Minho e Douro (Portuguese 70–72, 72 n. 38, 73, 75, 77 n. 55, 79,
province) 86 90, 119, 133–134, 136, 141, 147, 156
Espírito Santo 69, 140, 140 n. 27, n. 13, 157, 162 n. 22, 164, 173
142, 181 Hansa League 26–27, 34, 49–50, 113,
168, 187–190
Faillero (merchant house) 72 Hawkins, William 142
Fernandes, João 79 Heyn, Piet 58, 116, 132, 147, 154,
Fernandes, Duarte 56 n. 69, 72, 138 174 n. 39
n. 18 Hilst, Jan van 78
Fernandes, Luís 71, 77 n. 55, 121 Holland 17, 34, 36, 44, 46, 50, 52, 54,
Fernandes, Raphael 81 55 nn. 66, 68, 59, 71, 80, 100–101,
Filter, João 74 119–120, 123, 136, 145
Finance; credit 1, 5 n. 5, 6, 15, 34, 74, Holy Office, (Portuguese Inquisition)
87, 98, 109–111, 111 n. 8, 112, 113 trial records 16, 43 n. 14, 65,
n. 12, 114, 114 n. 15, 115, 117, 128, 67–68, 75, 98; effects on trade 7, 57
178; letters of credit (IOU’s, letters n. 74, 62, 127
obligatory) 1, 128; letters of Hoppenhaer, Andries 79
exchange 42, 67, 111; interest 9, Hulscher, Adam 79, 136
11, 53–54, 92 n. 15, 111, 114, 124, Hulscher, Duarte Osquer 79
138 n. 19, 153; negotiability 15, Hulscher, Guilherme 79
index 207

Hulscher, Hendrick 79 Martensz, Willem 121

Hulscher, João 79, 79 n. 62 Massarelos 98
Hulscher, Manuel van Dale 79 Matheus, Manuel 125
Husen, Pedro van 66, 75 n. 47 Matosinhos 98
Medeiros, Manuel de 69
Ilhéus 133 Mercado, Fernando de 72
Insurance; policies 67, 114, 121, Mercantilism 8, 8 n. 12, 9, 11, 13, 179
121 n. 48, 122–124, 172, 175, 178; Merchants; networks 14–15, 62–65,
courts 118–120; fraud 41, 47, 48, 68–69, 71, 73, 75, 77, 79, 179, 184;
49 n. 42, 78, 104, 124–125, 131–132, nations 6–7, 138; disputes 24, 41,
134, 139–141, 146; policies on ‘good 86, 110, 117–120, 124;
tidings’ 125; brokers 22, 42, 119, arbitration 119; network failure
121, 152, 160, 162, 166; see also 10, 12, 127
Bottomry Measurements and weights; last 2,
17, 22, 26, 31 n. 45, 34, 58–59, 79,
Jannsen, Jan 76 90, 102–103, 106, 125, 144, 154,
Jews; Cristãos Novos 6–7, 61–64, 66, 179; 168–169; ton 1–2, 20, 26, 28 n. 54,
in Amsterdam 6 n. 8, 59 n. 81 32–33, 90–93, 102, 104 n. 54, 105,
139, 144, 166–170, 171 n. 34, 173,
Kampen 76–77 185; pipa 1–2; arroba 3, 24, 43–44,
58 n. 78, 105, 110, 151–152, 155
Last. See Measurements n. 11, 156, 162 n. 72, 166, 169–170,
Laet, Johannes de 58, 58 n. 78 171 n. 34, 173; kilogram 1, 3, 82,
Leicester, Earl of 53 162 n. 22
Lemos, Francisco de 122 Michielsen, Pieter 137
Letters (Bills) of Exchange. See Finance Minnes, Cornelis Adriaensz 104
Letters of Credit (IOUs). See Finance Miranda, Luís Pereira de 114, 120 n. 39
Lisbon 4, 16, 18–19, 21 n. 10, 25–26, Moere, Julio van den 79
28–29, 29 n. 39, 31–32, 34–35, 40, Montafaux, João Poré 79
42, 43, 43 n. 17, 45, 49 n. 40, 50–52, Moura, Alexandre de 51, 135
55, 55 n. 66, 61, 65–66, 66 n. 14,
69–76, 76 n. 49, 77, 77 n. 55, 78, Nieuw Holland (Dutch Brazil) 59, 178
78 n. 58, 79, 79 n. 62, 80, 86–87, Notaries 4, 16, 62, 68–69, 71–72,
91 n. 15, 94 n. 21, 98–99, 106, 115, 78–79, 81–82, 86, 91, 99, 104, 122,
117, 117 n. 25, 118, 121, 121 n. 48, 124–126, 136, 138, 141, 162, 166,
125–126, 126 n. 60, 136, 138, 168, 181, 185
143 n. 35, 147, 154, 155 n. 10, 156 Novais, Bento 68, 68 n. 19
n. 12, 159–160, 162, 162 n. 22, 162,
165, 168, 170, 170 nn. 32–33, 171, Oldenbarnevelt, Johan van 54, 57
171 n. 34, 181–183, 187, 192 Olinda 51, 59, 79, 142
London 6–7, 25, 31–32, 34, 48, 119, Osorio, Bento 72
119 n. 34, 133 n. 3, 142–144, 147 Ost, Pedro de la 79
Lopes, Cristovão 70, 70 n. 26 Otter, Floris den 78
Lopez, Andre 66, 72, 123 Otter, Hillebrant den 78, 81 n. 64
Lucas, Pieter 79
Lübeck 26, 72 n. 38, 90, 134 Palácios, Duarte de 66
Palácios, Francisco de 65–66, 67 n. 16,
Madeira 2, 10 n. 19, 23–24, 28, 70 n. 25, 98, 126 n. 60, 127
29 n. 37, 30, 31 n. 46, 32, 41, 42, 68, Palácios, Jacome de 66
73, 73 n. 42, 73 n. 42, 74, 80, 80 Paraíba 51, 137
n. 63, 96, 109, 160 n. 20, 177, 185 Pastoor, Dirck Willemsz 136
Madrid 51–52, 121 Pauthere, Pedro de 75
Maranhão 133 Pels, Gaspar 74, 76 n. 49
Martens, Jan 121 Peniche 98
208 index

Pereira, Baltasar da 66 n. 23, 169, 192, Dutch 27, 173.

Pernambuco 1, 51, 65, 68, 78–79, See also Piracy
82, 88, 102, 106, 121, 126, 134–135, Profit, margins 16, 169–170, 172, 179;
137, 140–141, 146, 155, 178, premium of arbitrage 117, 141,
181–182, 185 151, 156 n. 12, 164, 170, 170 n. 32,
Philip II (of Spain) 43, 46, 46 n. 31, 171, 175
47–48, 49, 51, 133, 172
Philip III (of Spain) 48–49, 51 Recife 1, 59, 140, 146, 158
Pietersz, Huijbert 104 Rego, Gaspar Caminho 141
Pimentel, Garcia 71 Rio de Janeiro 66, 68, 79, 88, 119,
Pina, Tomás Nunes 104, 141 124, 126 n. 60, 138–140, 146, 155,
Pinto, Andrea Lopes 72 155 n. 11, 158, 181
Pinto, Diogo Lopes 103, 120 n. 39 Rocha, Sebastião da 135
Pinto, José 124–125 Rotterdam 27, 36, 44, 53, 71, 81, 81
Pinto, Rui Vaz (governor of Rio de n. 64, 104, 119 n. 34, 121, 169
Janeiro) 139 Rouen 71, 115
Piper (Pijper), João 75
Piper, Arnao 75 Sampaio, Diego Teixeira de 70
Piper, Miguel 75 Sanches, Pero Dias 69
Pipa. See Measurements Santarem, Pedro de 118
Piracy; English 27, 31, 31 n. 45, 32, Santo Agostinho 79
32 n. 52, 33, 47, 50 n. 45, 53, 90, São Tomé 2, 23, 24, 30, 76, 87, 105,
102, 117 nn. 25–26, 133, 133 n. 3, 109, 145, 161, 177
135, 142, 143, 143 n. 38, 144, 144 São Vicente 78, 78 n. 58, 138, 142
n. 38, 145–146; French 10, 19 n. 1, Sas, Barent 56 n. 70, 81
36, 50 n. 45, 53, 119–121, 125, 135, Schetz, Erasmus 78, 113
139 n. 24, 142, 145–146; Barbary 1, Schot, Hans de 79–80, 80 n. 63, 139
33, 91, 145 n. 43 n. 22, 144 n. 38, 146, 185
Pompejo, Guilherme Martins 79 Sebastião (King of Portugal) 48, 51,
Porto 1–2, 4, 4 n. 3, 43 n. 14, 52, 135, 138 n. 18
61, 66 n. 14, 67, 67 n. 17, 68–69, 71 Setubal 30, 35–36, 42, 52, 54, 182
n. 28, 73, 75, 76 n. 49, 79, 86, Seville 25, 29, 48 n. 40, 52, 66, 70,
91 n. 15, 98, 103, 104, 106, 114, 132
117, 121, 121 n. 48, 124, 126, 126 Ships 1–3, 5, 12, 14, 20, 24, 24
n. 60, 139, 146, 155 n. 11, 168, 170, n. 21, 26–28, 31, 31 n. 46, 32–36, 40,
181–183 46–50, 50 n. 45, 51–54, 55 n. 69, 66,
Porto Calvo 79 72, 74 n. 42, 77, 79 n. 62, 80, 80 n. 62,
Ports (harbors) 13, 19 n. 1, 25–27, 31, 85–89, 89 n. 8, 90–92, 92 n. 18,
36, 44, 47, 49–50, 52–54, 59, 72 93–94, 94 n. 22, 95, 97–101, 101
n. 38, 86–88, 90–92, 94, 106, 116 n. 44, 102–103, 103 n. 52, 104–106,
n. 22, 136, 142, 158, 168, 183; 115–118, 121, 124, 126 n. 57, 131,
facilities 42, 98, 128, tolls and 133, 133 n. 3, 134 n. 6, 135–148,
customs (avarias); 95; silting 44; 153, 158, 167–169, 182–183, 185;
turnaround time in 87, 106 operating costs 85, 88–89, 93–97,
Prices 1, 11, 15, 44 n. 23, 86, 110, 106; freight charges 33, 44 n. 22,
116, 133 n. 3, 147, 151, 151–154, 89, 95–97, 99, 105–106, 148, 165–168,
156, 156 n. 12, 160, 162–163, 170 170–171, 171 n. 34 freight
n. 32, 175; of sugar 158, 160–161, contracts 59, 65 n. 12, 68, 69
162 n. 22, 164; convergence 158, n. 22, 80, 80 n. 63, 86, 86 n. 2, 88,
162, 164–165, 171 90, 91 n. 15, 92 n. 18, 95, 97, 141,
Privateering 15, 27, 33, 47, 61, 106, 166, 168, 175, 182–183, 185; cost of
118, 129, 131, 142–144, 146–148, ships 86, 101, 167; captains 27,
168, 171, 173, 178; English 47, 50; crews 28, 94, 148; patterns of
Dunkirk 33, 49 n. 40, 59, 94, 94 investment 67 n. 16; types; 85, 91
index 209

tonnage 89 n. 8, 90, 91 n. 15, 93, Texeira, Francisco 66

100, 102, 106; cargoes 20, 31–32, Tonnage. See Ships
40, 55 n. 69, 69, 87, 92, 98–99, 158, Trade Commodities; wine 1, 10 n. 19,
168; value to bulk ratios of 25–26, 28 n. 34, 31–32, 76, 80 n. 63,
cargoes 89, 91, 116; supply of 86, 95, 104, 133 n. 3, 134, 134 n. 6,
shipping 47, 53, 85–86, 97, 99, 148, 172, 185, 192; spices 20, 24, 30, 58,
168; shipwreck 98, 124–5 70; cloth 28, 31, 76, 133 n. 3, 137,
Silva, Antonio Teles da 65 139 n. 23, 174; oil 25, 31, 95, 134,
Sinel (Snel), Balthasar Pels 75, 75 n. 48, 77 134 n. 6, 168, 172; timber 26, 76;
Snel, Hans 75–77, 110 grain 2, 19–20, 25–26, 28, 28 n. 34,
Snellinck, Cornelis 80–81, 81 n. 64, 30, 34–35, 54, 66, 70, 75, 76, 80 n.
121, 137 63, 90–91, 94 n. 22, 135, 144, 153,
Spanooghe, Maximilaan 74 169, 185
Spelman, Adriaan 76 Trade; Atlantic routes 116, 178; Baltic
Spilbergen, Joris van 56, 138 routes 27, 28 n. 34, 37, 49, 90, 92,
Staten Generaal (States General) 43, 187; North Sea routes 25–28, 35,
45, 50, 52–57, 71, 104, 119–123, 138 135; Asian routes 19–20, 54, 125;
Sugar; white 3, 43, 45 n. 29, 78, illegal and contraband 10 n. 19,
154–155, 156 n. 12, 157, 159–161, 15, 47–48, 52, 131–133, 135–137,
163–164, 170–171; moscovado 3, 140, 165, 169, 178, 133 n. 3, 147,
78, 153 n. 4, 154–155, 155 n. 11, 156 164–165; free 11–12, 39–41, 46, 49,
n. 12, 157, 159, 160–161, 163, 164, 53, 55, 55 n. 66, 56, 60, 114, 123,
171; panela 3, 153 n. 4, 154–155, 133–134, 138, 164, 177, 178–179,
156 n. 12, 159–161, 163–164; 183–184; slave 74, 133 n. 3; bulk
crates 1–2, 24, 32, 43, 58, 76, 78, trades 19–20, 24, 30, 36, 38, 115,
82, 103 n. 52, 104, 116, 117 n. 24, 135; moedernegotie 36; see also
146–147, 155 n. 10, 162 n. 23, 166, Mercantilism 8, 8 n. 12, 9, 11, 13, 179
168, 169, 173, 192–193; prices 1, Transaction costs 14–16, 85, 85 n.
11, 15, 43 n. 17, 44 n. 23, 45 n. 29, 1, 97, 105, 106, 109, 115, 124, 148,
59, 86, 97, 99, 101, 110, 113, 116, 151, 175, 178
128, 133 n. 3, 141, 147–148, Twelve Year Truce 35, 38, 50, 54
151–156, 156 n. 12, 157–160, n. 65, 56, 62, 72, 92, 102, 103 n. 51,
160 n. 20, 161, 161 n. 21, 162, 162 105–106, 122, 124, 136, 139, 145,
n. 22, 163–166, 170 n. 32, 171, 175; 156 n. 13, 164, 167, 170, 174, 175,
demand 11, 15, 19, 25, 28, 34–35, 177, 179
54, 59, 76, 82, 85, 97, 102, 144,
146–147, 151–153, 156–158, 164, Usselincx, Willem 9, 54, 56–57
168, 175, 177, 179; supply 11, Utrecht 78–79
14–15, 25, 35, 47–48, 53, 59–60,
85–86, 88, 90, 97–100, 106, 110, Vadar, Jeronimo da 75
114, 128, 146, 148, 151, 153, 156, Vader, Hieronymus de 80
163, 168, 175, 179; from Brazil 3, Vasconcelos, Luís Mendes 35
11, 25, 26, 45 n. 27, 60, 74, 87 n. 3, Veiga, Antonio Rodrigues de 74
105, 142, 155, 156 n. 12; from São Veiga, Manuel Rodrigues da 71–72, 81
Tomé 24, 76; from Madeira 24, Venice 41 n. 6, 70–71, 121, 127
41, 109; 74 n. 42, 160 n. 20; weight Viana do Castelo 4 n. 3
of crates 161, 166, 168–169; Viegas, Antonio Martins 69 n. 22,
damage during transport 57–58, 103
107, 132; plantations (Engenhos) 41, Vieira, Padre Antonio 115
78, 79, 151, 152 Vitória, Domingos Lopes 68
Vitoria, Pedro Aires 68
Taxes 45, 45 n. 27; Dízima 41–43; VOC (Vereignegte Oost-Insische
Convooien en Licenten 44–45, 171; state Compagnie) 9, 54, 57, 138, 174,
income from 16, 60 174 n. 39
210 index

Volarte, Baltasar 79 Ximenes (merchant house) 30, 70, 72

Vooren, Pieter Jansen 103 Ximenes, Rodrigo 121
Vosdonck, Claes van 79
Zeeland 17, 34, 36, 38, 44–46, 53–54,
Walle, Thomas van de 79 77 n. 55, 88, 116, 116 n. 24, 120,
WIC (West-Indische Compagnie) ix, 122, 123, 127, 136, 145, 147
5, 9, 12, 40, 53, 54 n. 65, 57–60, 72,
88, 91, 99, 116, 118, 122, 126, 132,
141, 147–148, 154, 156, 164, 167,
169, 173, 175, 178
The Atlantic World
ISSN 1570–0542

1. Postma, J. & V. Enthoven (eds.). Riches from Atlantic Commerce. Dutch

Transatlantic Trade and Shipping, 1585-1817. 2003.
ISBN 90 04 12562 0
2. Curto, J.C. Enslaving Spirits. The Portuguese-Brazilian Alcohol Trade at
Luanda and its Hinterland, c. 1550-1830. 2004. ISBN 90 04 13175 2
3. Jacobs, J. New Netherland. A Dutch Colony in Seventeenth-Century
America. 2004. ISBN 90 04 12906 5
4. Goodfriend, J.D. (ed.). Revisiting New Netherland. Perspectives on Early
Dutch America. 2005. ISBN 90 04 14507 9
5. Macinnes, A.I. & A.H. Williamson (eds.). Shaping the Stuart World, 1603-
1714. The Atlantic Connection. 2006. ISBN 90 04 14711 X
6. Haggerty, S. The British-Atlantic Trading Community, 1760-1810. Men,
Women, and the Distribution of Goods. 2006. ISBN 90 04 15018 8
7. Kleijwegt, M. (ed.). The Faces of Freedom. The Manumission and Eman-
cipation of Slaves in Old World and New World Slavery. 2006.
ISBN 90 04 15082 X
8. Emmer, P.C., O. Pétré-Grenouilleau & J. Roitman (eds.). A Deus ex
Machina Revisited. Atlantic Colonial Trade and European Economic
Development. 2006. ISBN 90 04 15102 8
9. Fur, G. Colonialism in the Margins. Cultural Encounters in New Sweden
and Lapland. 2006. ISBN 978 90 04 15316 5
10. McIntyre, K.K. & R.E. Phillips (eds.). Woman and Art in Early Modern
Latin America. 2007. ISBN 978 90 04 15392 9
11. Roper, L.H. & B. Van Ruymbeke (eds.). Constructing Early Modern Em-
pires. Proprietary Ventures in the Atlantic World, 1500-1750. 2007.
ISBN 978 90 04 15676 0
12. Newson, L.A. & S. Minchin. From Capture to Sale. The Portuguese Slave
Trade to Spanish South America in the Early Seventeenth Century.
2007. ISBN 978 90 04 15679 1
13. Evans, C. & G. Rydén. Baltic Iron in the Atlantic World in the Eighteenth Cen-
tury. 2007. ISBN 978 90 04 16153 5
14. Frijhoff, W. Transl. by M. Heerspink Scholz. Fulfilling God’s Mission: The
Two Worlds of Dominie Everardus Bogardus, 1607-1647. 2007.
ISBN 978 90 04 16211 2
15. Goodfriend J.D., B. Schmidt & A. Stott (eds.). Going Dutch: The Dutch
Presence in America 1609-2009. 2008. ISBN 978 90 04 16368 3
16. Ebert, C. Between Empires: Brazilian Sugar in the Early Atlantic Economy,
1550-1630. 2008. ISBN 978 90 04 16768 1