Brazil', the largest state of South America, covering nearly half of the South American continent, is little less in area than the whole of Europe; even if it be found that the estimated area, 3,288,000 sq. m., should be reduced to 3,219,000. It has a length of 2660 miles, and a breadth of 2705 miles between extreme points. It borders on every state in South America except Chili. The name was given by early explorers from thinking that the red dyewood (Brazil-wood) found here was identical with the East Indian dyewood known to them as Brasil. Brazil is a triangular-shaped country, occupying the eastern angle of the continent. It lies almost wholly within the tropics, and is still in great part unexplored and unsettled. On the north and west are the great depressions of the Amazon and Paraguay rivers, which comprise large areas of flood-plains and swamps, heavily wooded, and almost uninhabitable. The northern coast is bordered by low, alluvial bottom-lands and sandy plains, full of lakes, and in places very sterile; while the southern angle of the country is rolling campo land, bordered by a low sandy coast. Above its eastern angle a large area of coast-lands and neighbouring plateau is subject to periodical devastating droughts. The interior of the country, however, is a high plateau, with a general elevation of 1000 to 3000 feet, irregularly ridged by mountains and deeply cut by large rivers. The mountainous ranges of the maritime system form the eastern margin of this plateau, the easternmost of which is known as the Sen's do Mar. This range plays an important part in the development of Brazil, for it is a costly barrier to communication with the interior, and turns nearly all the great rivers inland to find outlets through the distant Amazon and La Plata. The mountains are composed almost exclusively of uplifted strata of great geological age, gneiss and metamorphic schists, with granite and other eruptive rocks. The great elevated plains are composed of horizontal strata dating from the Silurian age. Brazil possesses three great river-systems - the Amazon, La Plata, and San Francisco. The Amazon and its tributaries drain fully a half of the country. To the east of the Madeira these tributaries are tableland rivers, broken by rapids and freely navigable for comparatively short distances. West of the Madeira they are lowland rivers, sluggish, bordered by extensive flood-plains, and afford free navigation for long distances. The La Plata system drains nearly one-fifth of the country through its three branches - the Paraguay, Parana, and Uruguay. The first of these is a lowland river, freely navigable for a long distance, while the other two are tableland rivers, full of obstructions, and without free outlets for their upper-level navigation. The San Francisco is a tableland river, flowing north-east between the Goyaz and maritime mountains, and then, breaking through the latter, south-east to the Atlantic. It is not freely navigable because of the Paulo Affonso Falls. The other coast-rivers are generally short. The climate of Brazil varies greatly - the lowlands of the Amazon and a great part of the coast being hot, humid, and unhealthy, while the tablelands and some districts of the coast swept by the trade-winds are temperate and healthy. The vegetation of Brazil is luxuriant and varied. The vast forests of the Amazon contain hundreds of species of trees, draped and festooned by climbing plants, lianas, orchids, etc. Rosewood, Brazil-wood, and others supply valuable timber; whilst tropical fruits are abundant. The number of species of animals is also very large, but the individuals in each are comparatively few. Beasts of prey are the jaguar, puma, tiger-cat, and ocelot; the other animals include the monkey, tapir, capybara, peccary, ant-eater, sloth, and boa-constrictor. Alligators, turtles, porpoises, and manatees swarm in the Amazon; and among birds the parrots and humming-birds are especially numerous. The population of Brazil, according to an official estimate of 1900, was 14,500,000, of whom some 2,000,000 were negroes, 400,000 Indians, and the remainder pretty equally divided between whites and half-breeds. In the coast-towns the whites predominate. The proportion of non-producers is very large, the natural conditions of the country rendering labour but slightly necessary to meet the ordinary requirements of life. The institution of slavery has had much to do with this state of things. The African slave-trade was prohibited in 1831, but did not actually cease until 1854. In 1871 a gradual emancipation law was adopted, and in 1885 a more thorough one; and finally, by the law of 13th May 1888, immediate and unconditional emancipation was decreed. The Roman Catholic is the established religion, and is supported by the state; but all other sects are tolerated. There are, however, less than 30,000 non-Catholics in the country. Education is still in a very backward condition. The language is Portuguese, with dialectal varieties. Since the revolution of 1889, Brazil, as the 'United States of Brazil,' is a federative republic: each of the old provinces, also the federal district around the capital, Rio Janeiro, is a state, and is administered by its own authorities at its own expense: while defence, customs, postage, banking, etc, are the concern of the union. The central executive authority consists of the president, a vice-president, and a ministry. The legislative authority resides in a national congress of two chambers, the chamber of deputies and the senate. Each state has its own administrative, legislative, and judicial authorities. The army is raised by obligatory military service, and consists of about 30,000 men, besides 15,000 gendarmerie. The navy comprises 3 seagoing and 6 coast defence armour-clads, 14 torpedo boats, besides unarmoured cruisers, corvettes, gunboats, and transports, manned in all by 7000 officers and men. The revenue has since 1900 varied from £15,000,000 to £25,000,000; the expenditure has of late years been - nominally at least - covered by the revenue. The debt, external, internal, and floating, is about £110,000,000.
The industries of Brazil are confined almost exclusively to agriculture, mining, and forest products. Stock-raising has totally failed to keep pace with the domestic consumption of jerked-beef, which is largely imported. The coast fisheries have also been neglected, although Brazil is a large consumer of codfish. The forest products are rubber, mate, nuts, cocoa, medicinal plants, cabinet and dye woods, etc. - the first ranking third in importance as an article of export. Of agricultural products, coffee occupies the first place, and furnishes about two-thirds of the total exports of the whole empire. Sugar ranks second. The production of cotton and tobacco has considerably decreased, and that of tapioca has nearly disappeared. Rice, maize, and many other products are easily grown, but have been overshadowed by coffee and sugar, and to some extent discouraged by the high cost of internal transportation. In colonial times the mining industries yielded large results; they are now comparatively unimportant. Gold and diamonds are found in Minas Geraes, Parana, and Bahia, but the annual production at present is not large. Iron ores of superior quality exist in several provinces, but the absence of coal is a serious obstacle. The total exports varied in 1900-3 from £35,000,000 to £44,000,000 a year, the imports from £22,000,000 to £24,000,000. The annual exports to Great Britain vary from £4,000,000 to £5,000,000; the imports (which have declined) have a like range. The inhabitants of the southern provinces of the empire are broadly distinguished by their energy from the more indolent northerners. It is in the southern provinces that the numerous German colonies (comprising some 220,000 Germans) are mostly established. Steam communication with Europe was opened in 1850, and telegraphic communication in 1874. The first railway was opened in 1854; Brazil now possesses some 9800 miles of railway and 17,400 miles of telegraph. The milreis, the unit of the monetary system, fluctuates very much in value - from 2s. 3d. (1890) to 11 3/4d. (1902).
Brazil was discovered by Pinzon in 1500, and taken possession of, for Portugal, by an expedition under Cabral in the same year. In 1808 the royal family of Portugal expelled by the French took refuge in the colony, which became a kingdom in 1815, an empire in 1822. The emperor Dom Pedro II. was expelled in 1889, and a republic established, which has been much perturbed by rebellions. Since 1891 civil war had been going on desultorily in some parts of the republic, especially around Rio Janeiro, in the province of Rio Grande, and in Minas Geraes, which in 1892 declared itself a separate state. In 1893 the capital was bombarded by the navy in rebel hands, but in 1894 the rebellion collapsed. There was a minor rising in 1897 under a religious fanatic; and a more important plot against the government in the same year was frustrated.
See works on Brazil or the Amazon valley by Southey (history, 1819), Agassiz (1870), Hartt (1870), A. R. Wallace (1870), Bates (1873), Mulhall (1877), Fletcher and Kidder (frequently reprinted, Phila), H. H. Smith (1880), and Wells (1886).