The history of Rio de Janeiro



The "Treaty of Tordesillas" regulates the territorial claims between Spain and Portugal in the "New World". According to the treaty, Brazil belongs to Portugal.     


The Spanish navigator Vincente Pinzon is the first European to go ashore in Brazil. In the same year, the first Portuguese Pedro Alvares Cabral lands on the coast of Bahia. Cabral named the country "Brasil". It is not clear whether this name derives from the Brazilian wood or goes back to the promised land in the Atlantic "Brasilik", of the Irish Saint Brandan.        


Sugar cane is grown in Brazil. King Joao III establishes 15 capitanias (districts) and lets Portuguese nobles rule them.   


The city "Sao Salvador de Bahia de Todos os Santos" is founded by Tome de Sousa. The city rises to become the capital of the young colony.   


Sao Paulo is founded by the Jesuits. 

1555The French founded the first European settlement on the Ilha do Villegagnon in what is now the urban area of Rio de Janeiro. The French did not recognize the Treaty of Tordesillas and occupied the island in Guanabra Bay. Admiral Nicolas de Villegaignon had a fortress built, but it was conquered by the Portuguese as early as 1560.


The city of São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro is founded by Portugal to prevent territorial claims by the French.


The Dutch attack Salvador de Bahia and occupy the city for nine months.     


The Dutch conquer Olinda, the center of the Brazilian sugar trade. As a result Portugal loses its sugar monopoly.  


After several defeats against Spanish and Portuguese warships, the Dutch withdrew from Brazil. 


Gold is found in the south of Brazil. New settlers are now moving to the south of the country around the cities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The north-east of Brazil is becoming less important. 

1710The French try to conquer Rio de Janeiro but the attack fails and the French are captured.
1711France attacks Rio de Janeiro again and manages to conquer the city. They steal the annual income from the colony of Brazil. As reinforcements of the Portuguese arrived by land and the English Navy set course for Rio, the French sailed back to Brest with their booty.


Rio de Janeiro becomes the capital of the Portuguese colony of Brazil. 


First attempts at independence lead to the "Inconfidencia-Mineira Rebellion". Brazil had to transfer a large amount of gold to Portugal every year and the Europeans controlled all of Brazil's foreign trade. 


Napoleon forces the Portuguese King Joao VI to flee to Brazil.    


The king returns to Portugal to quell a rebellion. 


The Prince Dom Petro proclaims the independence of Brazil and crowns himself as Emperor Dom Petro I.


Portugal signs Brazil’s declaration of independence. 


Coffee is grown in the Sao Paulo area and makes the region rich. Railway lines are being built to bring the beans to the port in Santos. Brazil prohibits the import of slaves from Africa


Slavery will be abolished for good. 


The monarchy is overthrown by the military, Dom Petro II flees to Paris. General Marechal Deodoro da Fonseca becomes the first President of the Republic.       


Deodoro da Fonseca is overthrown by the "naval rebellion". After that, the country is controlled by coffee barons and ranchers, who take turns providing the president. In that year it was also decided to build a new capital.  


Getulio Vargas comes to power through a military coup and wants to establish an "Estado Novo" (New State) that rejects free capitalism but is not communist. Vargas became a dictator and was overthrown by General Eurico Dutra in 1945.      


After Vargascame back to power in 1951, he was forced to resign and committed suicide.    


Kubitschek becomes the new president and decides to build the new capital Brasilia.   


Rio de Janeiro loses its capital function to Brasilia


President Janio Quadros is deposed by Joao Goulart. This marks the beginning of the military dictatorship.       


Antônio Carlos Jobim composes the song "Garota de Ipanema", which becomes world famous as "Girl from Ipanema". 


Since many officials did not want to move from Rio de Janeiro to the sterile capital, a deadline was set. Anyone who did not move to Brasilia by September 7th lost their job or status. 


The first line of the underground goes into operation. 


Brazil is democratic again and Tancredo Neves becomes the new president .   


The Olympic Games take place in Rio de Janeiro. For the games, the subway network was expanded and a promenade was built.


The National Museum of Rio de Janeiro burns down. Countless cultural treasures are lost forever.


Around 6.5 million people live in Rio de Janeiro. The greater Rio de Janeiro area has around 12 million inhabitants.





Rio History