Modern History

Full Texts Multimedia Search Help

Selected Sources Sections Studying History Reformation Early Modern World Everyday Life Absolutism Constitutionalism Colonial North America Colonial Latin America Scientific Revolution Enlightenment Enlightened Despots American Independence French Revolution Industrial Revolution Romanticism Conservative Order Nationalism Liberalism 1848 Revolutions 19C Britain British Empire History 19C France 19C Germany 19C Italy 19C West Europe 19C East Europe Early US US Civil War US Immigration 19C US Culture Canada Australia & New Zealand 19C Latin America Socialism Imperialism Industrial Revolution II Darwin, Freud, Einstein 19C Religion World War I Russian Revolution Age of Anxiety Depression Fascism Nazism Holocaust World War II Bipolar World US Power US Society Western Europe Since 1945 Eastern Europe Since 1945 Decolonization Asia Since 1900 Africa Since 1945 Middle East Since 1945 20C Latin America Modern Social Movements Post War Western Thought Religion Since 1945 Modern Science Pop Culture 21st Century
IHSP Credits

Internet Modern History Sourcebook

Pierre Denis:

from The Coffee Fazenda of Brazil, 1911

The houses of the colonists are not as a rule scattered among the coffee-shrubs; they form, according to the importance of the fazenda, a hamlet or village of regular construction, having nothing of the disorder of a European village. To be precise, it is really only a small city of laborers, just as the colonist is only a rural proletariat. The house is of bricks or mud, often white-washed, and only moderately comfortable, but the climate of Saõ Paulo is extremely mild, and life is passed almost entirely in the open air. As for diet, it is sufficient. Bread is rare, for neither wheat nor rye is a usual crop, but they are replaced by meal prepared from boiled maize, polenta, manioc, and black beans. Each fazenda constitutes a little isolated world, which is all but self-sufficient and from which the colonists rarely issue; the life is laborious. The coffee is planted in long regular lines in the red soil, abundantly watered by the rains, on which a constant struggle must be maintained against the invasion of noxious weeds. The weeding of the plantation is really the chief labor of the colonist. It is repeated six times a year.

When the coffee ripens, towards the end of June, the picking of the crop commences. Sometimes, in a good year, the crop is not all picked until November. The great advantage enjoyed by Saõ Paulo is that the whole crop arrives at maturity almost at the same moment. The crop may thus be harvested in its entirety at one picking...This entails a great reduction in the cost of production and of labor. At the time of picking the colonists are gathered into gangs. They confine themselves to loading the berries on carts, which other laborers drive to the fazenda; there the coffee is soaked, husked, dried, and selected, and then dispatched to Santos, the great export market. All these operations the colonists perform under the supervision of the manager of the fazenda. A bell announces the hour for going to work; another the hour of rest; another the end of the day; the laborers have no illusions of independence.

What really enables the colonists to make both ends meet is the crops they have the right to raise on their own account, sometimes on allotments reserved for the purpose set apart from the coffee, and sometimes between the rows of the coffee-trees. They often think more of the clauses in their contract which relate to these crops than to those which determine their wages in currency. . .It even happens at times that the colonists produce more maize than they consume. They can then sell a few sacks at the nearest market, and add the price to their other resources. In this way crops which are in theory destined solely for their nourishment take on a different aspect from their point of view, yielding them a revenue which is not always to be despised.


Pierre Denis, Brazil (New York: Chas. Scribner's Sons, 1911), passim. Scanned by: J. S. Arkenberg, Dept. of History, Cal. State Fullerton.

This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.

© Paul Halsall, July 1998

The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

© Site Concept and Design: Paul Halsall created 26 Jan 1996: latest revision 6 October 2023 [CV]