Tuesday, September 04, 2007

on to Dutch and British North Brazil...

I would like to present, this time around, a parallel universe where the Dutch were able to control northeast Brazil for far longer than the 25 or so years they did in this universe. This was my very first serious foray into alternate history, not to emerge again with a vengeance until I thought of British Argentina starting in 2004; see the first couple of blog entries.

I first thought of that idea late in 2001; at the time, I envisaged all of Brazil being taken over (bit by bit) by the Dutch once they had a firm foothold in the northeast in the mid-17th century. By the early 1800s, the British would conquer Brazil from the Dutch just like they did in South Africa at that time. (In that same scenario, I thought of South Africa being settled by the Portuguese and being part of the Portuguese empire until the mid- to late-20th century.) I was having Brazil be a major First World power on par with the US. Alas, that particular scenario didn't survive scrutiny, and I reduced that to the northern half of Brazil becoming Dutch in the mid-1600s and British later on. Of course, that scenario has had far-reaching consequences in that parallel universe, which I like to call Jan Maurits World (JMW) in honour of the popular Dutch governor Jan Maurits who had led the New Holland colony in northeast Brazil in the 1630s and early 1640s. So, here it is...

Just like in this world, the Dutch (through the Dutch West India Company, or WIC) established a foothold in much of the Brazilian northeast starting in 1630 to take the sugar cane plantations from the Portuguese, and founded or renamed cities. There was Mauritsstad, for instance - right by Recife. That perhaps had the best sugar cane plantations in the region. Other places included Frederiksstad (where Paraiba or Joao Pessoa is located now), Fort Schoonenburgh (present-day Fortaleza), and Fort Oranje (present-day Itamaraca, just north of Recife). The POD (or point of departure) comes during the Dutch struggle to capture Salvador (aka Bahia) in 1638, then the capital of colonial Portuguese Brazil. In this universe, the Portuguese defeated the Dutch in Salvador, but in JMW, the Dutch defeated the Portuguese there. As a result, the Dutch were more able to secure their New Holland colony in Brazil against the Portuguese. And so began more complete WIC control over north Brazil.

The Dutch were able to consolidate these gains by not only conquering new areas in northern Brazil, but also by conquering Portuguese posessions along much of the western coast of Africa, to capture more slaves. In terms of conquest campaigns in Africa, this world and JMW were the same. They took control of the Gold Coast (i.e. Ghana), Fernando Po, Annabon, Sao Tome, and Principe Islands, and Angola, among others. The difference between here and JMW, in particular for all but Ghana, is that these places were controlled by the Dutch for much longer (just like north Brazil itself). (The Cape of Good Hope was claimed by the Dutch East India Company starting in 1652, and that was a different enterprise than with the WIC.)

Meanwhile, southern Brazil remained Portuguese, and the capital was moved to Rio de Janeiro, a full century-and-a-half before this world. That part of Brazil is called Pindorama in JMW; northern Brazil is called Brazil.

The consequences in JMW were such that, besides longer-lasting control in northeast Brazil and parts of Africa, the WIC was a much stronger company than it was in this universe. As a result, it lasted as long as the Dutch East India Company, i.e. until the late 1700s. Also, Jews lived for a much longer continuous time frame in northeast Brazil than they did in this universe.

In the 1760s or 1770s, during one of the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the British captured that universe's version of Brazil, due to the rich sugar cane fields, and took over that area (stretching from what we know as Guyana all the way down to Bahia as well as in much of the Amazon Basin). It then evolved much like the Cape and South Africa did in general when the Cape was captured by the British in 1806, except in a more tropical setting. Actually, a cross between South Africa and the English-speaking Caribbean. A fair number of immigrants came flowing in, from Britain and throughout much of Europe and elsewhere, and cities such as Mauritsstad (renamed Mauricia), Fort Schoonenburg, and Salvador became prosperous and significant cities. These immigrants also included indentured servants in the mid- to late-19th century from India and, to a lesser extent, China. Today, the population of that Brazil (what we know of as northern Brazil plus the Guianas) is largely black or mixed black with whites or American Indians; the rest include a white minority of 20-40%, depending on where you're talking about, along with a significant Asian minority, American Indians, and other groups. Of the whites, some are English-speaking, and many others are of Dutch and/or Portuguese descent. The last group is known as Burghers or Brasilianers. Also, JMW's Brazil has a per capita income of US$3000 at current exchange rates. In these respects, that Brazil is much like South Africa, except with maybe less harsh of an apartheid.

The Republic of Pindorama, as the southern half of our universe's Brazil came to be known officially after independence in 1822, has been much the same as in our universe. An exception is that our Uruguay is permanently the State of Cisplatina in JMW, with the capital being Montevideu. This is because with the territory of the Portuguese being reduced, the Portuguese and then the Pindoramans would want to gain more territory, especially that which the Portuguese covet such as our Uruguay. Apart from that, there's roughly the same ethnic composition, per capita income, etc. In terms of per capita income, Brazil and Pindorama are in the same boat.

As for the WIC's African possessions, in Gold Coast, Dutch and English (and Scandinavian)traders controlled that area until the Dutch withdrew in 1874 (leaving Ghana a British crown colony), just like in this universe. Fernando Po and Annabon Islands, along with the African mainland around the Gulf of Guinea, were handed over from the Dutch to the Spanish in exchange for the Amazon Basin. Spanish Equatorial Guinea, as a result, proceeded much like in this universe. Since the Dutch conquest of Sao Tome and Principe, though, these islands have remained Dutch and have been known as Sint Thomas and Prins (and were not permanently taken over by the British at the turn of the 1800s). Angola also has remained Dutch all along in JMW since the Dutch conquests of the 1640s. Angola, and Sint Thomas and Prins, gained their independence from the Netherlands in the 1960s or 1970s.

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