“Soft” slavery in Brazil: Was Gilberto Freyre right?

Vol. 27 No. 2 (2007)

Apr-Jun / 2007
Published March 17, 2020
PDF-Portuguese (Português (Brasil))
PDF-Portuguese (Português (Brasil))

How to Cite

Versiani, Flávio Rabelo. 2007. “‘Soft’ Slavery in Brazil: Was Gilberto Freyre Right?”. Brazilian Journal of Political Economy 27 (2):163-83. https://centrodeeconomiapolitica.org/repojs/index.php/journal/article/view/559.

“Soft” slavery in Brazil: Was Gilberto Freyre right?

Flávio Rabelo Versiani
Departamento de Economia, Universidade de Brasília
Brazilian Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 27 No. 2 (2007), Apr-Jun / 2007, Pages 163-183


 This article examines the question of the supposedly benign character of Brazilian slavery, in contrast with slavery in North America. In economic analyses of slavery, coercion toward slaves is viewed as a means to achieve maximum output, especially in large-scale agriculture. In small slave holdings, however, coercion was generally inefficient for that purpose, and positive incentives tended to be preferred. It is argued that, as recent evidence on Brazil has shown that small slave holdings prevailed, in various regions and periods, this may lend empirical support to the notion of a relatively benign slavery, using more incentives than coercion.

JEL Classification: N36.

Keywords: slave work Brazil: slavery Brazil: XIX century