The impossible return: Charles Darwin and the slavery in Brazil


  • Antonio Carlos Sequeira Fernandes Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro; Museu Nacional; Departamento de Geologia e Paleontologia
  • Vera Lucia Martins de Moraes Universidade Veiga de Almeida; Curso de História, Área de Ciências Humanas



The presence of traveling naturalists and foreign artists in Brazil, both in its colonial period and in the imperial period, largely enriched the amount of information available about the country. Charles Darwin was one of those travelers who, with a simple and objective approach, contributed to this knowledge by pointing out the exuberance of our flora and fauna just like the others had done and more emphatically. Unlike many travelers, however, he scarcely referred to the political and social issues of the land he visited. From his main texts and correspondence one can obtain little but not less useful remarks about that; worthy of note is Darwin's pointing out the situation of slavery in Brazil, emphasizing the ill-treatment that captives were subjected to, particularly in Rio de Janeiro. With a brief report on the main aspects of its origins and on the presence of Darwin in Brazil, this paper studies the treatment given to the slaves in the first decades of the 19th century taking into account his reports and the negative feeling that would lead him never to want to come back to the country whose natural beauty he had praised so much