Patrick Wilcken

Putting Brazil on the Map

The Scramble for the Amazon and the Lost Paradise of Euclides da Cunha


University of Chicago Press 612pp £31.50 order from our bookshop

Vast and poorly charted beyond its main waterways, Amazonia remained a mysterious hinterland to metropolitan elites throughout the colonial era. Its immensity seemed to offer untold promise, and in the 18th century it became the repository for a series of grandiose colonisation schemes. In the 1760s, over twelve thousand French farmers, replete with clowns and musicians for entertainment, were resettled in French Guiana, where they had been promised abundant land and fertile soils; ten thousand died soon after arrival from malaria and yellow fever. Other schemes, such as American oceanographer Matthew Maury’s suggestion of transplanting freed slaves and cotton plantations from the Deep South to the Amazon, were mercifully never realised.

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