Registers and records of Brazilian plantations in the 19th century, especially in the province of São Paulo, provide a unique source for the compilation of historical household budgets. Since the 1840s, coffee planters employed workers – mainly European immigrants – using contracts in which labor and credit were interlinked. Such a system involved methodical bookkeeping of households’ debts and expenditures. Given the distance of the farms from urban centers, the farms also frequently supplied consumption goods to the families, so that the records frequently detail individual items consumed by the families.
In their paper (forthcoming in the HHB Working Paper Series), Bruno Gabriel Witzel de Souza and Leonardo Antonio Santin Gardenal discuss a newly available source of this type, namely the records of farm Ibicaba. Currently located in the municipality of Cordeirópolis, in the state of São Paulo, farm Ibicaba was the first plantation to employ German-speaking and Portuguese sharecroppers since the 1840s. The source here refers to the farm’s records starting in 1891 and spanning until the 1950s. Despite being limited to a single plantation, the authors argue that the historical importance of farm Ibicaba justifies a deeper exploration of its records. The paper further discusses questions of sample selection and the representativeness of the dataset for the rural economy of São Paulo.
Bruno Witzel will present this new source at a new HHB Seminar on Wednesday, May 30th, hosted by the HHB Headquarters in Tor Vergata. He will also discuss some insights from his PhD thesis on immigration and the organization of rural labor markets in Brazil during the period of transition from slavery.
Acknowledgments: The authors would like to thank Theodoro Hayden Carvalhaes for the allowance to conduct a pilot analysis of the farm’s records; and to Paulo Tamiazo, Renato Timm, and Sven Dinklage for the co-organization of a colloquium that commemorated the 200 years of foundation of farm Ibicaba.